Sunday, January 21, 2018

"The Cretan Runner" - a review..

..this was a recommendation by Big Lee on his blog [clicky] and as I've always had an interest in the war in the Mediterranean, and have always wanted to go to Crete, I book marked it for a future read, and was more than happy to find I had been given it for Christmas...

Fascinating book, dealing with the war time resistance on Crete..  George was a runner for the British SOE officers on Crete (Patrick Leigh Fermor [clicky] being probably the best known) and the book details life on the run and in hiding..  My assessment was it was a truly exhausting and scary existence..  food was short, they lived in caves, and all the time being hunted by the Germans assisted by (gratifyingly few it seemed to me) traitors and informers..

He details air drops, the picks up by caique at night on deserted beaches, the endless route marches across the mountains sometimes taking days, and at one point is extracted to Cairo for a period of training before he decides to go back and continue his war in Crete...

As I said a fascinating story, and interesting guy, with a good sense of humour...  after the war he jailed by the Greeks as a deserter (despite his MBE from the British!) and was a year and a half in prison before his old comrades on the British side managed to secure his release..  always impoverished, Leigh Fermor persuaded him to release the book, and also edited it, and indeed this one has a number of comments and foot notes by him..  amazing stuff..    T

The book gives  good view of  how the British and their Cretan allies operated on the island, what I'd now like to know more about is why they were there as the British clearly saw it as very important in military terms... I'd love to read about what was in those messages!  

Steve the Wargamer rates this one 8/10.

Monday, January 01, 2018

2017.. a review...

Here we are again... and while I'm still (still [clicky] ) not really a blowing the trumpet, review your triumphs, etc etc type of person (I leave that to the business corporate types I work with), like my 'end of the year' review on the sailing blog it is kind of nice to cast my eyes over the year gone and remind myself of the ups and downs.... and besides who am I to argue with the mass of the bloggerati who, to a man/woman, appear to be doing the same thing?!

So by way of a joining up of the threads, and a bringing to a close of the last year, let's push on...

First, how did I do against my expectations [clicky]?? Note: I never make 'resolutions' only set  'expectations', and thus my failing to meet them yet again is not too demoralising or depressing an event...
  • I intend painting more this year (it would be difficult to paint less)

    So in 2015 I'd painted 73 points worth, which was my target for 2016 and which I utterly and totally failed (I painted one wagon!).. but 2017 was considerably better, and with remarkably little effort (it seemed ) I scored 78 points on the Olley painting measure... blimus! All of these were painted in the first quarter of the year which is fairly typical as in the summer I'm sailing and otherwise occupied...

    1. 21st Virginia [clicky] - ACW - 20 foot, 20mm @ 1 pts/foot - 20 pts total
    2. 13th Indiana [clicky] - ACW - 20 foot, 20mm @ 1 pts/foot - 20 pts total
    3. Arab dhow and crew [clicky] - Sudan - 10 foot, 15mm @ 1 pts/foot + dhow @ 10 pts - 20 pts total
    4. Lord Charles Gerard's Regiment of Foote [clicky] - ECW - 18 foot, 20mm @ 1 pts/foot - 18 pts total

    ...even more amazingly I can also report that I have another fairly hefty 'points bomb' to drop as soon as I've completed varnishing and basing the items in question..  the following have almost all been done - just the British gun crews and guns, and the French guns, and the large steamer to do - the rest are done... double blimus!



  • complete the Sudan re-basing

    No progress in 2017 on this one - I need to take stock and get to... to be fair I think I was a bit burned out after the mahoosive AWI rebase project..

  • kick off the English Civil War project

    Hmmm..  I am disinclined to say I met this fully but I did indeed kick off the project


    ...not only that but I also have officers painted and ready to join the forces...   so what were the problems and why has this little project not yet leapt kicking and screaming on to the wargame table? One, figures, the Tumbling Dice figures were a right royal pain in the nether regions to put together - I'm not a modeller and having to stick the heads on was a chore... which lead me to question two, the scale..  I'm not a one to pay hundreds for bare lead and the available choice was limited in 20mm, too expensive in 25mm, and lead (gettit, gettit? ) me to have a look at the 15's and the exquisite Peter Pig range...  then at Warfare a discussion with Sean at Newline leads me to hope that there may be a new 20mm range...  bottom line...  no idea.. we'll see... 

  • Salute?

    As expected DG declined the offer, and in the end I couldn't get myself motivated to go up on my own...  this year may be different as I've already read of some interesting games that are being put on...
...there you go... once again, I can report that all targets and goals were achieved ...! Hurrah!!

I've got to say that unlike 2016, 2017 was a better year..  work continues to gobble up increasing amounts of what used to be down time, the boat, family (and none of that is is listed in terms of priority by the way) and grandson also all demand time. I still find it very difficult at times to summon up the enthusiasm (no, energy) to sit down at the painting table, or set the table up for a game, when it's much easier to open a beer, light a cigar, and read a good book... Having said that, however, this is still a hugely enjoyable hobby for me, and it's not a job, and I come here to relax not stress, so as I still managed a fair number of good things, I'll say it was an OK+ year...  the trips to Roundway [clicky] and the Hotel des Invalides [clicky] were standout

There were 45 posts in 2017 including this one (c/w 58 in 2016, 69 in 2015, 68 in 2014, 84 in '13, 85, in '12) which is OK but continues what appears to be a downward trend....  not just me though, with a few notable exceptions my perception is that activity in the blogosphere seems down across the board coupled with a greater output on Facebook...  I'm happy with Blogger, I like to write and it suits my ordered mind, Facebook is great but seems more ephemeral and throw away - having said that I enjoy reading it and finding what people are doing - it's also a handy way of keeping track of the manufacturers and what they are doing...  What was a bit of a surprise is that 2 of my top 10 posts of "all time"* were written during 2017.. they were the the articles on Kernstown [clicky] and the 13th Indiana (link above)

*(by page views - though in light of the sheer number of Russian crawler bots out there I wonder how many were real people..)

Eight table top games in 2017 (c/w four in 2016);
  1. "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 11 - "Surprise Attack" - ACW
  2. "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 11 - "Surprise Attack" - Redux - ACW
  3. "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 12 - "An Unfortunate Oversight" (the John Corrigan Memorial game) - AWI
  4. Smoke on the Water - ACW naval
  5. "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 13 - "Escape" - Sudan 
  6. ACW Naval set to
  7. "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 14 - "Static Defence" - WWII skirmish (played twice)
....the "One Hour Wargames" book (continues to be the best £10 I ever spent - oodles of small and immensely playable scenario's), we had a good range of periods (tick), almost all face to face with DG (tick), two solo games (#2 and #4), and all games excellent apart from the first time we played #7 (the link is the the second game which was much better)

...apropos of absolutely nothing, 52 books were read in 2017, compared with 54 books last year, and 46 in 2015 so there's a definite feeling that was what I was mostly doing...

Favourite books this year?

Fiction - these were my 'perfect 10's' of the year

Without a doubt the best one in the series...  Yeoman has survived the debacle in Crete and on returning to England he is made an instructor at one of the RAF training schools - he is bored out of his mind and worse doesn't get on with his CO - when he finds that one of his fellow officers has been assigned to the Mediterranean theatre he offers to swap and as a result finds himself a few months later flying a Spitfire from an aircraft carrier at maximum range from Malta where he is then engaged in the ferocious (there is no other word for it) air battles for the control of  the island - Jackson gives a fantastic description of life on the island during the height of their blitz (both military and civilian) and paints the picture of why the island was so important and why Hitler decided not to invade when he had the island on its knees....  excellent!
See post here [clicky]
Review here [clicky]..
Robert Radcliffe is a bit of an unknown, but one of those people who know how to tell a story in such a way you can't put the book down..  a few years ago I read the first two books in a WWII trilogy he was writing.. Under an English Heaven [clicky] and Upon Dark Waters [clicky], but the third wasn't released so I kind of lost track (it's now out so Beneath Another Sun [clicky] is now on my "to read" list).

Those first two books were superb (about Bomber Command and the Battle of the Atlantic) and then I spotted this which is the first in a trilogy about the Parachute regiment..  it ranges far and wide and actually starts at Arnhem but through a series of flashbacks of the two main protagonists (a hostilities only doctor who volunteers for the parachute battalion, and a Tyrolean half English/half Italian volunteer..  don't ask! )  we get in addition to Arnhem, Dunkirk, the concentration camps, Italian resistance, the early operations of the British commando and parachute troops (their successes and their failures), life in the Stalag's, and a whole lot more - well worth reading!

Prompted by the excellent "Airborne", I was prompted to go back and read those original two books I read all those years ago... have to say I was not disappointed, despite only being able to find number 2, a swift Kindle purchase saw me launched into volume 1. Radcliffe wrote three WWII books loosely linked, but on different subjects - some of the characters in one book may appear briefly in another, but in essence they are all stand alone and can be read in isolation. This one, the first one, is based about the American bomber offensive in Europe and the truly terrible time they had of day light bombing deep into Germany prior to the existence of good long range fighter cover...  so the book is about an American bomber wing based in eastern England, about the sorties, the casualties, the hideous attrition, the relationships they form with local people, their mental state, their physical state..  absolutely excellent...  read this, and then read Deighton's "Goodbye Mickey Mouse" for some of the best (fictional) insight into the American bomber offensives..
..for the third book - only recently released despite having been finished for some time, Radcliffe shifts focus to the fall of Singapore...  in one of the blurbs he wrote that the reason the book wasn't originally published at the time of the first two was because his publisher told him it was too grim reading..  so for this one he self published..  glad he did as it too is an excellent read though shocking.. the story is based round an RAF pilot who after completing training in one of the northern England squadrons ends up being posted to Singapore in time for the defeat..  he is captured, and put to work on the Burma railroad, and the book is about what it was like to be a prisoner, the conditions, the disease, the filth, the lack of food, the brutal and inhumane treatment, and the work...  very, very, dark, but a hugely readable book as he also describes what life would have been like for family and wives/girlfriends...


..so an outstanding year for good stories - a hugely close call but on on balance I think the Conn Iggulden book takes it..  monumental I thought, but not everyone would agree..  I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading the entire Radcliffe WWII series though, and I already have the second of the Airborne series on pre-order...

For non-fiction,this was the standout in a year when not a lot of non-fiction was read...

Readers of the blog will know that I'm a huge fan of the "One Hour Wargames" book, and DG spotted this one at Warfare. Now it covers a period of European warfare that I'm not particularly interested in - during this period I'm focused more on America and the Civil War - BUT, as DG pointed out there are some excellent rules/examples, they are a development/flavour of the more simpler rules in OHW, there are a plenitude of scenario's/battles, and as I subsequently found when I ordered it on Kindle (currently only £7.80!!) a good potted history of the major wars of the period (Franco Prussian, Schleswig incidents, Crimea, Italian unification etc.)..  Brilliant and an absolute bargain..

...but this was also very good..

Not often this happens but while browsing in my local bookshop I picked this up, started reading it, and had to buy it... the pilot experience of the war in the air during WWI from the perspective of both sides...

See blog post [clicky] for review...

The worst lowest scoring book was...

Bit disappointed with this if I'm to be honest, and that despite it being a classic..  Afraid I found it a little tedious, and actually gave up half way through...  The problem was, I think, a basic mismatch between what I was expecting and what was actually delivered.... what I was expecting was a little more detail on the troops, their equipment. weapons, experience, tactics etc (as in "All the Kings Men") but what we actually get is a military history of the war as per the strap line...  Just one small chapter at the beginning, the rest of it is pure strategy...  So no score - that's not fair given the fact I didn't finish it..  

This year?? Well I intend to
  1. try to keep up my painting efforts.. 
  2. complete the Sudan re-basing, 
  3. re-boot the English Civil War project, 
  4. read more non-fiction... 
  5. a few more games would be good, but 2017 felt about right.
  6. Salute is just over the horizon, and given I missed Colours in 2017 I am fairly keen to make the trip
  7. More battlefield walks - Tangmere is just up the road and I'd like to take grandson - I also have a yen to visit Edgehill but that will be a slightly more adventurous trip (due to distance).. Bovington is also now on my bucket list....
Happy New Year to all my reader - may the dice roll as required, and your brushes always keep a sharp tip...

Friday, December 22, 2017

Happy Christmas..

...to all my reader... 

I hope you have a relaxing break, that the cheese is tangy, the port warming, and the beer cool, dark and fruity... 

Stay tuned for a progress report on the ACW ships, some officers for the ECW project, and the reinforcements for the WWII skirmish project....

Lobster pot Christmas tree at my local fishing village - 2017

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Signs of winter...

...Warfare had the beneficial effect I was hoping for seemingly... there are signs of activity from the loft...  creaking floorboards mostly... 

First off, new order from Peter Pig arrived...

French anti tank guns (two) - 25mm early war jobbies - with crew..  for those coming along after me, you only need one bag of crew per two guns...


...and some American Civil War naval reinforcements.. as much as I love the Monitor and Merrimac/Virginia, you can only play that so many times so I thought to get a few extra's to spice up the mix..  small gunboat, large side wheel'er (which is fantastic by the way) and a couple of mid sized side wheel'ers - the intent is that these can be used for either side depending on scenario as they are fairly un-specific


...by the by - one thing that I did learn was just how big the Virginia was! These are same scale..


...now you can see why the Confederates worked so hard to recover the ship after the Federal forces had burnt her to the waterline and sunk her for good measure...


...ready for undercoating (now done by the way)...  gun crews (British French and German WWII), anti tank guns (British 2pdr's/French 25mm's and German 37mm's) and the assembled ships, oh, and one remaining mounted English Civil War officer figure who missed the last undercoating session...


...on the back row there are a selection of ready undercoated officers - for the first time since March (!) [clicky] paint brushes were wielded, and these are now done, pictures once they're based.....

Last of all, following the last WWII game [clicky] it was noted by DG and myself that it would be damn useful if you didn't have to move each base one at a time so I sent off for some of these from Warbases [clicky] These are from their "1p tray" range and are perfect...  I like them so much I'm not sure I even want to paint them (but probably will )


...more than enough to be going on with I think... 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Warfare 2017

I was more than looking forward to this as for various reasons previously and tediously mentioned this was my first wargame show of the year and I had cash to spend..  I also have a great liking for this little show, it always has a good vibe about it...

Having arrived then, and managed to figure out the truly anarchic car park payment system, first point of call as ever was the bring and buy (it's just inside the entrance) nothing majorly of interest, but they have also started putting a few traders in their and the Aventine Miniatures [clicky] stand definitely caught the eye.. look at these babies ! (click to embiggen any of the piccies in the post)



..I love elephants..   Achaemenid Persian?


...and I particularly like the red ears! Very effective..  Cartheginian I think, perhaps Seleucid...?


Anyway - on in to the main hall to check the traders..

...and no Peter Pig! Quelle domage....  was planning to have spent a fair amount of dosh with them - wanted anti tank guns, but also some more American Civil War ironclads/ships..  no matter I spent the cash with Forged in Battle for British and German anti tank guns...  (and then spent some with Peter Pig online for the other bits I was missing and some more ships)...

DG also got very excited by the Neil Thomas "Wargaming: Nineteenth Century Europe 1815-1878" book (we're fans of his as a result of "One Hour Wargames") which was on special offer at the David Lanchester Books stand - only £10...  I was sorely tempted, but the book covers a period of European warfare I don't have a huge interest in....  though DG pointed out it was full of luscious maps, rules, and other enticements...  so I thought about it...   and then bought it on Kindle (£9.19 in their Black Friday sale!)..  by the way One Hour Wargames is available on Kindle for less than a fiver...  foolish, if not ridiculous, not to at that price....

...I did have a chat with Sean at Newline Design's however, as I overhead another conversation he was having where this chap was persuading him to start an English Civil War range...  to be blunt I told him, do that in 20mm and I would bite your arm off...  turns out the other chap is a professional painter and was looking for 10mm, but he thinks that the new rules Simon Miller (of  Too the Strongest fame) is putting out will provide a strong fillip to the period...  hope Sean does, I like his figures and I like his prices...

...and then on to the games.....  Warfare is mainly a competition show with a trade fair attached, but there were still some fine examples of the wargaming art for those who cared to seek them out... so in my usual descending order....

In 3rd place..

The "Combined Oppo's" group (they're all ex-services, and are loosely based round Plymouth/west country) put on this Samurai large skirmish game - what won me over was the (scratch built) castle...  in fact most of the terrain was scratch built and they were telling me the river sections were only done the night before they came down..!



...the group is trying to persuade the builder to extend it, as they want to do a kind of Japanese based Dungeons and Dragons/role playing game.. apparently he's not keen... 



In second place, "Cheriton" by the Last Chance Wargamers

Not a particularly good looking game..


...quite plain in fact....



...what made it for me was that one, it was English Civil War, two, it was my local battlefield, but three they had done an ENORMOUS amount of research to fully identify where the battle had actually taken place..  long time readers of the blog will know I've walked the battlefield at least three times, and both authors I referred to disagreed where it actually was..  these guys have investigated a huge quantity of original documents in the UK and also Australia and the US (!) so I've included it here for interest... b.t.w, they have written it up as an article for Arquebusier magazine and there may be a book in the future....






...and in first place

..this lovely American Civil War game by Earlswood Wargames Club depicting part of the Gettysburg battle ("Lee's Right Hook")..  all figures were from the redoubt range, and superbly painted - difficult to beat the spectacle!



...love Zouaves (as you know) and these were very, very good...





...I have a similar signal tower in my collection!


...and that was it - roll on the next show season...