A ‘What if?’

After I had written the blog entry about the Beardmore Aviation Ship, I began thinking about the design and wondering if it might have developed into a full-blown aircraft carrier. In my ‘what if?’ design I assumed that by raising the deck level the hangers could be incorporated into the ship’s hull rather than its superstructure. This would have allowed more aircraft to be carried and made the ship less prone to shipping water over the bows in heavy seas. I also assumed that the superstructure would have been considerably reduced in size and concentrated on the starboard side. The resulting ship looked like this:

Now I am no ship designer, but it seems to me that the design could have been developed along these lines, and if it had, it might well have meant that the Royal Navy would have had the beginnings of an aircraft carrier force available by the time of the Battle of Jutland.

The Beardmore Aviation Ship

One early seaplane and aircraft carrier that is mentioned in passing in WORLD WAR I SEAPLANE AND AIRCRAFT CARRIERS is the Beardmore Aviation Ship. It was designed in 1912 but never built … but if it had been, it might well have played an important part in the development of naval aviation.

The design would have proved impractical (the twin superstructures would have created dangerous vortices, particularly over the rear deck), but the concept of a ship with full-length flying-off and landing-on deck was ahead of its time.

William Beardmore and Company was a Scottish engineering and shipbuilding company that was based in Glasgow and Clydeside area. It was founded in 1886, and at one point employed about 40,000 people. Amongst its products were:

  • Forged steel castings, armour plate, and naval guns
  • Merchant ships and warships
  • Steam railway locomotives
  • Aircraft (both fixed-wing and airships)
  • Road vehicles (including engines, lorries, taxis, motor cars, and motorcycles)

The company went into decline in the 1930s, and was gradually broken up and its constituent parts either sold off or absorbed into other companies.

World War I Seaplane and Aircraft Carriers

During my recent visit to the local branch of Waterstones bookshop I bought a copy of WORLD WAR I SEAPLANE AND AIRCRAFT CARRIERS.

The use of aircraft by various navies during the First World War has always interested me, and this book is quite a good, brief introduction to the topic. It includes a section that looks at the way in which the major navies introduced and developed the use of aircraft at sea, and a second section that gives a brief history of the operational use of seaplane and aircraft carriers. The third section covers the technical characteristics as well as a short service history of each of the vessels used as a seaplane and aircraft carrier.

My particular favourites included HMS Furious after her landing deck was added but before she was converted into a full-blown, flush-deck aircraft carrier …

and the French Foudre, which was converted from a torpedo boat carrier.

WORLD WAR I SEAPLANE AND AIRCRAFT CARRIERS was written by Mark Lardas and illustrated by Paul Wright. It was published in 2016 by Osprey Publishing as No.238 in their ‘New Vanguard’ series (ISBN 978 1 4728 1378 7).

I don’t know why I bought them … but I’m sure I’ll find a use for them

How many time have we thought something along these lines? Too many, I suspect!

Yesterday, during a visit to the nearest branch of Waterstones bookshop, I saw that they were selling sets of magnetic playing card fridge magnets at less than half the normal price … so I bought two sets for £3.00 each.

They were a bargain … and I’m sure that I’ll find a use for them, even if I can’t think of one as yet!

The death of General Gordon.

One hundred and thirty two years ago today, the Mahdist forces entered Khartoum. During the defence of his headquarters, General Charles ‘Chinese’ Gordon was killed.

Charles George Gordon was born in Woolwich on 28th January, 1833. (The family home faced westwards toward Woolwich Common, and was demolished as part of an urban regeneration scheme.)

His father was Major General Henry William Gordon, and after attending school in Taunton, Somerset, Charles attended the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, to train as an officer in the Royal Engineers.

He graduated as a Second Lieutenant in June 1852, and was promoted to be a full Lieutenant in January 1854.

He served in the Crimea before commanding the Ever Victorious Army during the Taiping Rebellion in China. After a spell in Gravesend, Kent, where he was in charge of the improvements to London’s defences, he went to the Sudan for the first time. During his time there he did much to suppress the slave trade and to improve conditions for the population.

When the situation in the Sudan worsened after the Mahdist uprising, Gordon was asked to return there to ensure the safe extraction of Egyptian troops and civilians. He chose to disobey his orders, and decided to defend the capital of the Sudan, Khartoum. After a siege that lasted many months, the Mahdists finally broke through the city’s defences, and General Gordon was killed during the fighting.

Risk: Europe

I have played RISK on and off for many years, and when the LORD OF THE RINGS version was published, I bought a copy. I have yet to play that edition, although I have used the board in a simple campaign game and the figures to play-test my PORTABLE ANCIENTS WARGAME rules.

Until recently I was totally unaware that a RISK: EUROPE edition – which is set in the Middle Ages – existed, but I managed to find one on sale online, and I now own a copy.

I am not quite sure when I will get around to trying the game out, but I suspect that I may well use the components separately before I do so. In the meantime it can sit atop one of my storage cupboards, alongside its older compatriots.

Other people’s Portable Wargame battle reports: An operational-level battle

Whilst I have been driving hither and thither attending Masonic meetings, Archduke Piccolo has uploaded a battle report to his blog that uses a modified version of the PORTABLE WARGAME to re-fight the battle of Sidi Rezegh.

As I am currently thinking about a similar modification to the rules, I found this a very useful battle report to read. Furthermore, it reads like an official history … which is what I want my operational-level battle reports to be like.

Read and enjoy … I don’t think that you will be disappointed!

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Archduke Piccolo.

Looking back

I wrote my first blog entry on 18th September 2008, and this is the 3,534th entry I have written since then! In that time my blog has been viewed over two and a half million times(!) and the average number of ‘visits’ per day is just under 408.

Early on I decided to save all my blog entries in the form of a diary, and over recent days I have been looking back at those blog entries with a view to seeing if there are any mini-campaigns, ideas, or projects that I had forgotten about. Surprisingly there were … and in particular the mini-campaigns stood out as being simple to set up, quick to fight, and enjoyable to stage. Re-reading the battle reports were a real fillip to my rather jaded wargaming palette, and the sooner I can start another min-campaign, the better! (I have a couple of writing projects to finish first, but the joy of mini-campaigns is that they can easily fit in with other projects without causing too much disruption.)

The only problem that I can foresee is deciding where and when to set my next mini-campaign … but in truth, who knows and who cares … just as long as I have some fun?

Never read your reviews

I was once told by an actor of my acquaintance never to read reviews of any work that I had done as they would either over-inflate my ego … or do it irreparable harm. How right they are!

Looking at the reviews of my PORTABLE WARGAME and DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME books on Amazon, I discovered that almost all the reviews gave my books three stars or better. No bad, I thought … and then I saw that one reviewer had given them a one-star rating … so I read their review. This is what it said:

I bought the pair of books at the same time after they had good reviews. Upon reading them I found the rules to be overly simplified and too generic to be of interest. The book goes into great detail as to why he chose the rules and is really just extra padding to the book that should really have been a couple of sheets of A4 given out free in a magazine.

At first I was very disappointed … and then I thought about what the reviewer had written.

The rules were criticised for being ‘overly simple and too generic‘ and yet the blurb about the rules on Amazon states that ‘The Portable Wargame has been developed over the past ten years to meet the needs of wargamers who want a fast, easy to learn, simple to use set of wargames rules.’ Is it me, or are the rules being criticised for doing what they were designed to do?

Now I know that not everyone wants to understand the thinking that the rule writer has gone through when writing a set of rules, but I know that some do, which is why I included it. It isn’t ‘extra padding‘; it serves a purpose … and from the feedback I have had, a lot of users have found that it has helped them to a better understanding of the rules and enabled them to develop their own versions.

When I first read this review, my heart sank. I am a realist and didn’t expect everyone to rate my books as five-star, (that would have been nice, but …) but to rate it as only worth one-star really felt like a kick in the guts. Then I re-read the review, and thought about what had been written … and realised that at no point did the review state anything along the lines of ‘I’ve fought several tabletop battles with these rules and …‘. I came to the conclusion that the reviewer had looked through the books, decided that the rules were not for him, and had chosen to write a review that reflected that. An honest opinion, written in these circumstances, is perfectly valid, even if it seems a bit harsh.

My actor friend was right; I should never read any reviews of work I have done … but it is very difficult not to!

Interestingly, the same reviewer wrote the following about Neil Thomas’s ONE-HOUR WARGAMES (which they gave four-stars!):

I was a little disappointed with this book. The rules for the different areas are basically the same, and come down to roll a single dice and do that much damage to the enemy unit with each unit taking 15 damage before leaving the battle. The best part of the book that saves it are the 30 scenarios that are included.

After spending more time with this book you begin to see that the differences between the different rules make the required feel for the era but keep the same core mechanics. It is possible to play several battles in different eras during an evening.

The Battleship Holiday: The Naval Treaties and Capital Ship Design

I’ve always had an interest in ship design – particularly warship design – and when I realised that this book had been published some months ago, I decided to buy a copy.

The book’s contents are:

  • Acknowledgements
  • Author’s Notes
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Part I: The Path to the Battleship Holiday
    • Chapter 1: The Last generation: 1906 – 1914
    • Chapter 2: The Pudding in Which One Finds the Proof: The First World War – 1914 – 1916
    • Chapter 3: The Art and Practice of Main-Battery Fire control in 1916
    • Chapter 4: Seeing It Through to the End: The First World War – 1916 – 1918
    • Chapter 5: The Washington Naval Treaty: 1918 – 1923
    • An Interim Conclusion (or Jutland: What Was and Was Not Learned)
  • Part II: A Short Holiday and its Aftermath
    • Chapter 6: The Make-Ups: 1922 – 1927
    • Chapter 7: The Fabric Begins to Fray: 1927 – 1929
    • Chapter 8: The Fraying Accelerates: 1929 – 1936
    • Chapter 9: The New Generation: 1934 – 1949
    • Chapter 10: Feet to the Fire: 1936 – 1945
    • Chapter 11: The Long Good-Bye (Covered Concisely): 1946 – 2006?
  • Afterword
  • Appendix: New-Generation Battleships
  • Notes
  • Sources
  • Index

As can be seen from the contents, this is much more than just a book about the Washington Treaty and its effects. It is a history of battleship design from the Dreadnought to the present day, and shows how the interaction between the competing pressures (political, military, and economic) affected the designs of the battleships that were used during the Second World War.

THE BATTLESHIP HOLIDAY: THE NAVAL TREATIES AND CAPITAL SHIP DESIGN was written by Robert C Stern and published in November 2017 by Seaforth Publishing (ISBN 978 1 84832 344 5).