Out of the Shed: A Triang Minic task force … and friends

My first 1:1200th-scale warships were all metal die-casts made by Triang, and I found them when I was sorting through the crates that were stored in our now-defunct shed.

This ‘task force’ comprised three Centaur-class Aircraft Carriers, two Superb-class Cruisers, and three Daring-class Destroyers.

At some point I tried to repaint the last five ships, but this new paint job does not seem to have withstood the trials and tribulations of storage very well.

I also found some plastic America warships that were used to increase the size of the ‘task force’. These appear to be a Forrest Sherman-class Destroyer that is missing its aft funnel, a Fletcher-class destroyer, and a Destroyer Escort.

None of these ships fits in very well with my current 1:1200th-scale wargames fleet, but they could easily find a place in a post-War Cold War fleet.

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I have been to … Lullingstone Roman Villa

Sue and I recently paid a visit to Lullingstone Roman Villa, near the village of Eynsford in Kent.

The villa was built during the Roman occupation of Britain, and it is believed that its construction began at some point towards the end of the first century AD. The site was occupied until the fifth century, when it was destroyed by fire, and in the intervening period it underwent several periods of expansion and rebuilding.

The first remains of the building were re-discovered in 1750 when some workers who were erecting a fence dug post holes through a mosaic floor, and further evidence was revealed in 1939 when a large tree was blown down and its roots unearthed fragments of mosaic tiles. A large-scale archaeological dig took place from 1949 to 1961, and resulted in several major discoveries, the most important of which was probably the Chi-Rho fresco, which contains the only known Christian painting in Great Britain that dates from the Roman era.

The remains of the villa are housed in a specially built building that allows visitors to see the villa’s layout very clearly.

A model of the villa as it would have looked towards the end of the Roman occupation of Great Britain.

Many of the artifacts found during the excavation of the site are displayed in glass cabinets …

… and in reconstructions of parts the interior of the villa.

The remains of two human burials are also on display. The adult body was encased in a lead coffin, the top of which is decorated with scallop shells …

… but the child’s body seems to have been interred without any semblance of a proper or religious burial.

The floor mosaic was very impressive.

The part of the mosaic which was on the floor of the villa’s dining room depicts the ‘Rape of Europa’ when the god Jupiter – disguised as a bull – abducted the Princess Europa.

The other part of the mosaic is in the adjacent audience room, and show Bellerophon killing the Chimera. The scene is surrounded by images of four dolphins (which might represent Neptune or Christ) and two scallop shells.

The site is now maintained and managed by English Heritage.


I have been to … Eynsford Castle

On the same day that we visited Lullingstone Roman Villa, Sue and I also visited the nearby Eynsford Castle.

The castle was built in period 1085 to 1088 from local squared flint, and was occupied until the fourteenth century, when is was ransacked and subsequently left to decay. It does not appear to have undergone any major re-building during its occupation, and its layout remained unchanged.

The walls are near four feet thick when built were approximately forty feet in height. The walls follow a rather irregular plan (almost the shape of squashed Norman kite-shaped shield) …

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

… and the area within is approximately three quarters of an acre. In the centre of the castle is the remains of a hall. The castle was originally surrounded by a wet moat, which was probably filled from the nearby River Darent.


The entrance to Eynsford Castle


The walls of the Castle

The three large holes in the wall were the location of the garderobes (i.e. the latrines).


The remains of the Castle’s Hall


The Eynsford Castle site is currently maintained by English Heritage.

I have been to … Upnor Castle, Kent

Sue and I are both members of English Heritage, and over recent weeks we have visited several of their properties, including Lullingstone Roman Villa and Eynsford Castle. One property that we had not visited was Upnor Castle, which is situated on the River Medway near Strood on the opposite bank of the river from the former Chatham Naval Dockyard.

The drive to Upnor took us under forty minutes, and we parked in the village car park. From there we walked along a short path through some trees … and out into the High Street.

We walked down the High Street towards the River Medway, passing some wonderful examples of local building styles.

Where the road ends there is a house with a unique gazebo at the end of the garden …

… opposite which is the entrance to Upnor Castle.


A brief history of Upnor CastleThe building of the castle began in 1559 when the newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth I ordered that a bulwark be built at Upnor. The original fortification was designed by Sir Richard Lee (the foremost English military engineer of his day) and the work was overseen by his deputy, Humphrey Locke, and Richard Watts, a former Mayor of Rochester and subsequently paymaster, clerk-of-the-store, and purveyor of Upnor Castle.

The work took some time to complete, and it was not finished until 1567. BY 1587 England was at war with Spain and at the suggestion of the castle’s master Gunner a chain was stretched from the castle across the River Medway to the other bank of the river. This was to prevent any enemy ships sailing up the river in order to attack English ships that were moored at Chatham. At the time of the possible Spanish invasion in 1588 the castle’s garrison included a Master Gunner and six gunners, and by 1596 it had expanded to include eighty trained men … who cost 8d per day in pay.

In 1600 a wooden palisade was erected on the seaward side of the castle to protect the bastion and the defences were further enhanced by a the digging of a ditch on the landward side. The was 18′ deep and 32′ wide. At the same time extensive repairs were carried out to the Castle. the stone being ‘robbed’ (i.e. salvaged) from the derelict Rochester Castle.

During the English Civil War the castle was held by Parliament and served as a prison for captured Royalist officers. It was temporarily captured by Royalist forces during the Kentish Rising of 1648, but was soon recaptured … and more repairs were undertaken. Even more repairs were required after a serious fire broke out in the Gatehouse in early 1653.

When the Second Dutch War broke out the castle’s garrison was brought up to strength even though the English Government felt that the Dutch Navy had been neutralised after a series of naval victories. A significant number of Royal Navy ships were therefore moored in the River Medway in and around Chatham rather than being kept at sea, relying upon the coastal and river defences to protect them.

In June 1667 the Dutch fleet, under the command of Admiral de Ruyter, sailed up the River Thames as far as Gravesend. They then attacked and destroyed the unfinished fort at Sheerness at the entrance to the River Medway. They followed this success up with an attack on on the Royal Charles, which was moored behind a chain that had been stretched between Hoo Ness and Gillingham. The chain failed to stop the Dutch advance up the river, and on the following day the Dutch sailed upriver again, this time to attack the ships at Chatham.

By this time the Duke of Albemarle (the former General Monck) had arrived to take command of the defences, and he ordered several artillery batteries to be set up along the River Medway, including an eight-gun one alongside Upnor Castle. Fire from the castle and these batteries did not prevent the Dutch from setting fire to several ships moored at Chatham, but it did prevent them from making any further progress upriver.

In the aftermath of the Second Dutch War Upnor Castle was seen as a vital part of the Chatham defences, but as newer fortifications were built, its importance declined, and by 1668 it was no longer regarded as suitable and was converted into a store and powder magazine. In 1827 its role changed again and it became an Ordnance Laboratory, and in 1891 it was passed from the War Office to the Admiralty. During the Second World War the castle was part of the Royal Navy Magazine Establishment,and in 1945 it became a museum.


Our route around Upnor CastleWe entered the castle …

via the Gatehouse.

We entered the Courtyard, and to the right we could see a large oak tree that is reputed to have grown from an acorn that was brought back from the Crimea.

To our left we saw the stump of a matching oak tree as well as the tiny entrance to the Sallyport to its left.

We then entered the Main Building …

… which contained a number of cannon barrels, …

… some examples of powder barrels, …

… several small artillery pieces (including a small calibre quick-firing gun mounted on a very unusual pole carriage …

… and a 7-pounder Rifled Muzzle Loading Mountain Gun), …

… and a display that tells the story of the 1667 Dutch attack using lighting techniques and a recorded commentary.

The display includes a very nice model of Upnor Castle which appears to be garrisoned with 15mm-scale Essex Miniatures.

We then made our way down a very steep wooden spiral staircase …

… and out onto the Bastion.

Two smooth-bore cannons were emplaced on the bastion and gave a good idea as to how the castle’s guns commanded this narrow stretch of the River Medway.

We then walked through a gateway at the bottom of the North Tower, …

… along a bricked-lined passageway …

… that took us out through a further gateway …

… and outside onto the North Platform.

From there we made our way back through the gateway in the north wall of the castle and into the Courtyard.

Between the North Tower and the Main Building two more smooth-bore cannon were on display …

… and these were matched by a further cannon that was emplaced between the Main Building and the South Tower.

During our visit to Upnor Castle we also climbed up to the top of the gatehouse and up to the second floor of the Main Building. There was not a great deal to see in the Gatehouse except for the clock mechanism that powers the castle’s clock, and the second floor of the Main Building was set up for use as a wedding venue. (The castle is licenced for use as a venue for civil weddings.)


We would certainly recommend a visit to Upnor Castle. There is lots to see, it is not too difficult to reach by car, and it is close to other tourist attractions such as Rochester Castle, Rochester Cathedral, Chatham Dockyard, Fort Amhurst, and the Royal Engineers Museum.

Another diversion

Having just finished painting my last model ships for my forthcoming COW (Conference of Wargamers) session, I really should be play-testing the rules … but I cannot stop thinking about how much fun I had fighting the Battle of Nerfburg Heath, and how much I wanted to try out the minor tweaks and changes I had made to the rules I had written.

Being weak-willed and prone to doing things that I know that I ought not to be doing, I set up another small scenario from the Hexland vs. Gross-Schism conflict to try out my ‘improved’ rules.


THE BATTLE OF THE NORTHERN PASS
Having seen his forces trounced in the Battle of Nerfburg Heath, the Prince of Hexland became even more determined to seize the lands of the Archbishopric of Grosse-Schism. He summoned the truculent General von Trumpf and ordered him to use whatever force was necessary to defeat the forces defending Grosse-Schism. Von Trumpf was a devious fellow, and decided that as the direct approach had failed, an indirect approach might be more successful. He therefore put together yet another small force drawn from the units of the Hexland Army, and marched northward with the intention of invading Grosse-Schism by swinging around its border and invading via the Northern Pass.

The Archbishop was concerned that the Hexlanders might mount another invasion, especially as the troops that had come to his aid had now gone back back to their home countries. He quickly called for volunteers as well as recruits from abroad, and within a few weeks a small contingent of former soldiers from the British and Hannoverian armies arrived in Gross-Schism. They formed a small ‘British Legion’ as well as helping to train the Gross-Schism volunteers.

As his troops neared the Northern Pass, news reached von Trumpf that a small unit of the newly established Gross-Schism Army was guarding the pass. The numbers were small, and locals described them as being dressed in old and tattered uniforms. ‘Scum. At worst they will be a few woodsmen and hunters; at best they will be untrained militia‘, thought von Trumpf to himself, and that night, whilst his men were preparing for the forthcoming advance into Grosse-Schism, he told them that they would have no problem brushing aside the troops that opposed them. ‘You are many, and they are not; you are trained soldiers, and they are not. Tomorrow we march … for the glory of Hexland!’ (‘and von Trumpf‘, he thought to himself).


Zones of Control: Another progress report

I am continuing to read through this very interesting book, although I do find that it is something that I can only do when my mind is clear and I’m not feeling too tired, otherwise I find myself reading and re-reading articles so that I can understand them!

PART IV: THE BLEEDING EDGE

  • Wargaming Futures: Naturalizing the New American Way of War by Luke Caldwell and Tim Lenoir
  • Creating Persian Incursion by Larry Bond
  • Modeling the Second Battle of Fallujah by Laurent Closier
  • Playing with Toy Soldiers: Authenticity and Metagaming in World War I Video Games by Andrew Wackerfuss
  • America’s Army by Marcus Schulzke
  • We the Soldiers: Player Complicity and Ethical Gameplay in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare by Miguel Sicart
  • Upending Militarized Masculinity in Spec Ops: The Line by Soraya Murray

PART V: SYSTEMS AND SITUATIONS

  • Wargames as Writing Systems by Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi
  • Playing Defense: Gender, Just War, and Game Design by Elizabeth Losh
  • Debord’s Nostalgic Algorithm by Alexander R. Galloway
  • The Ludic Science Club Crosses the Berezina by Richard Barbrook
  • War Games by David Levinthal
  • Troubling the Magic Circle: Miniature War in Iraq by Brian Conley

PART VI: THE WAR ROOM

  • Wargames as an Academic Instrument by Philip Sabin
  • Lessons from the Hexagon: Wargames and the Military Historian by Robert M. Citino
  • Simulation Literacy: The Case for Wargames in the History Classroom by Rob MacDougall and Lisa Faden
  • The Amateur Designer: For Fun and Profit by Charles Vasey
  • Struggling with Deep Play: Utilizing Twilight Struggle for Historical Inquiry by Jeremy Antley
  • Model-Driven Military Wargame Design and Evaluation by Alexander H. Levis and Robert J. Elder

PART VII: IRREGULARITIES

  • Gaming the Nonkinetic by Rex Brynen
  • Inhabited Models and Irregular Warfare Games: An Approach to Educational and Analytical Gaming at the US Department of Defense by Elizabeth M. Bartels
  • Chess, Go, and Vietnam: Gaming Modern Insurgency by Brian Train and Volko Ruhnke
  • Irregular Warfare: The Kobayashi Maru of the Wargaming World by Yuna Huh Wong
  • A Mighty Fortress is Our God: When Military Action Meets Religious Strife by Ed Beach
  • Cultural Wargaming: Understanding Cross-Cultural Communications Using Wargames by Jim Wallman

PART VIII: OTHER THEATERS

  • Wargaming (as) Literature by Esther MacCallum-Stewart
  • Tristram Shandy: Toby and Trim’s Wargames and the Bowling Green by Bill McDonald
  • Third Reich and The Third Reich by John Prados
  • How Star Fleet Battles Happened by Stephen V. Cole
  • Total Global Domination: Games Workshop and Warhammer 40,000 by Ian Sturrock and James Wallis
  • When the Drums Begin to Roll by Larry Brom
  • War Re-created: Twentieth-Century War Reenactors and the Private Event by Jenny Thompson

PART IX: FIGHT THE FUTURE

  • War, Mathematics, and Simulation: Drones and (Losing) Control of Battlespace by Patrick Crogan
  • How to Sell Wargames to the Non-Wargamer by Michael Peck
  • Wargaming the Cyber Frontier by Joseph Miranda
  • The Unfulfilled Promise of Digital Wargames by Greg Costikyan
  • Civilian Casualties: Shifting Perspective in This War of Mine by Kacper Kwiatkowski
  • Practicing a New Wargame by Mary Flanagan

La Ultima Cruzada: Paperback and eBook editions … are now available

As I intimated in a recent blog entry, over recent weeks I have been thinking about releasing both paperback and eBook editions of LA ULTIMA CRUZADA.

The work required to do this took somewhat more time and effort than I had expected, but that task is now over and both editions are now available. They can currently be purchased from Lulu.com for £14.99 (paperback) and £4.99 (eBook), but should be available from Amazon etc., within the next fortnight or so.