Sunday 31 July 2011

Touring The Somme

Whilst on our hols in Northern France, Saul and I decided to undertake a Somme battlefield tour using the abridged Holt guide in WHSmith's Battlefields of Northern France magazine that I bought last year.

We started at the town of Albert with its famous Bailique and visited the Somme Trench Museum located in the underground tunnels built in the 1930's to protect civilians from bombardment in any future war. This is an amazing museum and chock full of items recovered from the battlefield, all very evocative.

The tour itself started with a trip to the Lochnagar Crater with a stop en route at the Bapaume Post Cemetery. The crater is absolutely jaw dropping, 300 foot wide and 90 foot deep and almost incomprehensible looking at it now. The site also gives you a good view across No Mans Land from what were the German frontlines to where the British attacks started (one thing we did notice on our tour was that whilst this was by no means a war of movement, the distances covered by the troops on foot were a lot more than we previously imagined).

We then drove on towards Longueval stopping at the Flat Iron Cemetery by Mametz Wood and the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery with the New Zealand Memorial. Just outside Longueval is the new Bristol's Own Cross Memorial for the troops of the 12th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment and after passing through the village the new erected Footballer's Battalions Memorial which its wonderful quote by Millwall player Jack Borthwick's quote that "this is worse than a whole season of cup ties".

Just outside Longueval is the Delville Wood Memorial and South African museum which was really interesting including exhibits not only on WWI but WWII, Korea and even the South African Border War and the guerilla war fought by the ANC's Umkhonto we Sizwe against the Apartheid Government.

We then did a slightly circulatory route to Thiepval as the maps we were using were rubbish(!) but we stopped en route at the Australian Windmill Memorial and Tank Corps Memorial. The Thiepval Memorial and visitor centre is very moving, the memorial listing the names of over 73,000 British and Commonwealth troops who fell on the Somme and have no known grave.

I had intended to end the tour there but decided to have a look at the Newfoundland Memorial Park at Beaumont-Hamel and we were both really glad we did as it was the highlight of the day. We'd already visited Vimy Ridge which has parts of the battlefield preserved but Beaumont-Hamel is an amazing site with the only remaining trenches from the Somme, covering a wide area and giving you an incredible perspective on the distances etc the troops had to cover between trench lines. It is a truly poignant place and the fact that the 1st Newfoundlanders suffered so badly as they had to launch their attack from further back than planned as the new Wellington trench (subsequently used successfully by the 51st Highlanders) had not been completed fully brought home as you walk across No Mans Land toward the German trenches.

Overall it was a really fascinating day and one we will not forget. If you ever get the chance to visit Northern France, a day driving around the battlefield is a highly recommended. I have posted some more photos on my Facebook page here.

The Blake's 7 Mini Project...

Readers of a certain age and nationality will recall with much fondness the wonderful British SF series Blake's 7 which ran for four seasons from 1978. It may have suffered from a low budget but I always admired the fantastic work undertaken by Mat Irvine creating many of the amazing model spaceships used throughout the series (often from the most unexpected household junk).

Anyhow, you may have seen the wonderful Shapeways models on SteelonSandBlog and as previously commented I knew I would not be able to resist getting some as a mini-project. They arrived whilst I was on holiday and I've only managed to get around to having a proper look at them today, suffice to say I'm a happy bunny!!

I managed to grab a few minutes today to undercoat them and plan over the next month to paint them all up and post them on the blog in between some more WWI planes and the Greeks I made on holiday. In the meantime here is the Blake's 7 theme for you all to enjoy, possibly the best TV SF theme ever?

Monday 25 July 2011

Back In Blighty!

Got home late this afternoon from a week in France and a weekend at the High Voltage festival and am bloody knackered - I think I need a holiday! :-)

We visited a number of interesting historical sites including Agincourt, Crecy and Vimy Ridge, as well as doing an all day tour of the Somme with Saul - I'll upload some of the more interesting photos in due course.

I did manage to make up some of my Immortal Miniatures Greeks but this took me longer than anticipated so I have only stuck together three Athenian phalanxes and haven't started on the Spartans yet, hopefully I'll get on with these after this week's working away though this will mean ignoring the box from Shapeways that arrived whilst I was away...

Thursday 14 July 2011

Hats Off To Mantic...

You may recall I picked up Mantic's Dwarf King's Hold: Undead Rising at Salute which is a cracking little game and well worth picking up. Anyway, the second Dwarf King's Hold game is being released soon in the form of Dwarf King's Hold: Green Menace which whilst stand alone featuring Orcs and Elves can be combined with the original game.

As part of the promotion Mantic have released a bundle of the two games with an exclusive scenario and limited edition Dwarf Driller. All well and good for new customers but somewhat annoying for those like me who already bought Undead Rising...

However, in response to customer feedback over this (including myself on their Facebook page) Mantic have now put up the option of a Green Menace pre-order including the additional bits from the bundle. This has to be ordered before Green Menace is released, but hats off to Mantic to responding so promptly and favourably and making sure existing customers didn't miss out.

I'm really looking forward to Green Menace and I will say if you haven't got the original game, the Dwarf King's Hold bundle with both games and added extras is well worth getting, it is a wonderfully simple but challenging game and a great one to play with either fellow grognards or the kids...

Wednesday 13 July 2011

The Redneck War

The internet is truly a wonderful thing, from researching how the unions in Wisconsin are organising themselves against the local governor for work I ended up finding out the largest armed insurrection in the United States since the Civil War, which ended with the employment of Federal troops and the aerial bombing of its own citizens by the Washington government less than 100 years ago in 1921.

The Redneck War, or West Virginia Mine War, and the Battle of Blair Mountain makes for fascinating reading and given the popularity of 1920's pulp wargaming could make for some really interesting skirmish games.

The battle is not widely know outside West Virginia and it is a shame to note that given the continual pressures on the heritage of battlefields across Europe and America, that the local mining companies wish to  employ mountaintop removal techniques to reach the coal underneath, destroying this unique heritage site.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Morituri Te Salutant!

Warhammer Historical appear to be on something of a roll this year after the single release of WAB2 in 2009, they've not only knocked out Kampfgruppe Normandy this year but now followed it up with Waterloo and Gladiator.

The latter has piqued my interest given my fascination with the genre, especially as it appears to not only deal with one-on-one combat (which usually becomes a dice rolling contest) but more expansive multiple-figure battles, introduces elephants, as well as naval gladitorial games (which might convert to Viking naval battles), with chariot racing thrown in to boot.

The sample spreads (see below) look really nice and it appears that the acclaimed LOTR combat system is being used (which is great if it is). I am going to resist the urge to buy this now, despite it being a good price at £20 as I've enough on the go at present and am just going to add it to my Amazon wish list!! :-)

Monday 11 July 2011

It's All Greek To Me...

With a long overdue summer break to foreign shores coming up I have decided to take a leaf out of the Jim's Wargames Workbench book and take some toy soldiers with me to prepare for painting, so I'll be soon taking a break from supergluing my fingers together (Neiuport 27? What a stupid design!) and getting high gluing my boxes of Immortal plastic Greeks together (note to self, open window!)

As Saul will be studying Sparta as well as the Lysistrata when he goes back to school in September it seemed a good idea to advance the Peloponnesian War project a bit. We'll probably be using Clash of Empires and army lists for both Sparta and Greek Hoplite army lists are available on their website. That said I have cheated and to start with I've noted down the contents of the 1st Corps Clash of Empires army deals to use as a starting template (this may be lazy but I can't be bothered with points balance armies and  I find working out armies from lists extremely boring, you can blame WHFB for that...).

Obviously I'll need to buy some metal figures as well, but it should give me something productive to do in the evenings other than drink the local vin du plonk.

Sunday 10 July 2011

End Of The News Of The World

I'm not sure how the News of the World phone hacking scandal is being reported worldwide but as a result of the furore today marks the end of the 168 year old Sunday newspaper as News International have decided to cease its publication. The paper is not one bought in the Blease household but it does seem a shame that such an institution is binned in such a manner.

Anyhow, the main reason for bringing it to your attention is that in the last issue they have run a nice feature on HMS Liverpool, on which my son-in-law is serving, which is currently in action off the coast of Libya which might be of interest to some of you.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Dr. Zac Diagnoses My Condition...

At last my condition has a name - Gamer Distraction Syndrome! In his blog today, Zac Belado has diagnosed what thousands of wargamers suffer from and has given it a name. It's not just the impulse purchasing and continuous stream of starting new projects that is our problem, many of us cannot stay on track with an existing project.

I've tried to address this by having project months (and how I envy Tas whose month has gone on for four months and shows no abating!), but even this falls foul to Gamer Distraction Syndrome. For example, yesterday I said it was back to the aeroplanes right? So why did I then start sticking together the Mantic dwarves from Dwarf Kings Hold?!!! Whatever, at least I now know I have a condition, what it is called, that I am not alone and that the only cure is self-control!!!

To this end I have cleared the dwarves, 20mm moderns and other unfinished detrius from my working area and have started gluing a couple of SPAD S.VII's together though I do keep humming this Peter Gabriel song... Help!! :-)

Monday 4 July 2011

10 Squadron 'Black Flight' Sopwith Triplanes

Back to the aeroplanes this month as I need to finish off the last few so we can get the 2nd edition of AirWar: 1918 out. With this in mind I finished off the two 1/144th Der Kampfflieger Sopwith Triplanes I bought from Shapeways.

I had read a number of negative comments on the Wings of War forum about the models, more specifically the material they are made out of (described by Shapeways as White Strong and Flexible) but as you can see here it paints up nicely enough and the end result is more than acceptable.

I painted the models up as two of the famous 'Black Flight' of 10 Squadron RNAS (namely the planes flown by Raymond Collishaw and Gerald Nash). Whereas the the RFC painted their planes PC10, the Naval Air Service painted their's PC12 which apparently had a more brown hue. There is a LOT of debate about exactly how red/brown/green this colour was but in the end I went with Tamiya XF-68 Nato Brown. The roundels are from (the ever reliable) Dom's Decals, whilst the lettering (which was a real bitch, these are the second C and third N) from Fox Transfers. There should also be letters on the fuselage but I didn't trust myself to paint it neatly enough at the size required.

Focus now needs to be on the French and Germans (with an odd Italian)...

Sunday 3 July 2011

History Through The Ages

Yesterday the extended family congregated at the History Through The Ages event organised by The Sealed Knot and Battle of Cheriton Project. Whilst I have never felt the urge to dress up in period costume myself and hit someone over the head with a replica weapon, I must confess I do enjoy a good re-enactment, especially English Civil War ones that have a fair number of re-enactors.

The main event was a re-enactment of the Battle of Cheriton, which was nicely done with one a couple of regiments of foot a side, a few cannon and three cavalry (even these three demonstrate how intimidating cavalry are when they gallop past you despite the protection of two safety ropes!)

It was also nice to be able to wander around the EWC camp after the battle and the re-enactors there acting in period were very interesting, the kids being fascinated by the foot powered lathe and solar watch, and the women with 'Napier's Bones' (ok, I was quite fascinated with this too).

Aside from the Sealed Knot, there were a number of other small re-enactment groups including a small household contingent from the Wars of the Roses, who again had an interesting encampment and undertook a brief skirmish between themselves which demonstrated how simply a bill could trap an opponent's weapon, allowing you to swiftly stick your dagger in his throat!

There was a also a WW2 British paras re-enactment group (who kindly let the kids hold and examine their weapons) and a small Napoleonic group with British and French.

There were a number of trade tents including one selling Warlord Games ECW figures (the heat must have got to SWMBO as she was encouraging me to buy some at one stage!).  I did resist but took the opportunity to join the Battlefields Trust which I had been meaning to do for ages and as well as getting a year's membership they gave me a pile of back issues of their Battlefield magazine (which is really interesting) and a signed copy of Julian Humphrys' Enemies At The Gate.

All in all a good day, there are some more photos of the re-enactors on my Facebook page amongst pictures of the kids and Barney the dog eating an ice cream if you are interested!