Saturday 30 June 2012

Armed Forces Day 2012

Today is UK Armed Forces Day 2012, when we celebrate Britain's armed forces past and present. Fortunately my son-in-law is safely at home this year (well probably on the golf course) not having to contend with Libyan rockets or dishonest politicians as in previous years so I have turned my thoughts to the past.

I recently did some genealogy research of the Blease line, managing to get back ten generations I did discover that whilst most of my family had been shipwrights in the Merchant Navy some relatives had joined the army.

Two cousins of my Grandfather (born 1905) served in the Great War, George Blease (born in 1893) and Charles Blease (born in 1897).

George volunteered for service, joining The King's (Liverpool) Regiment in September 1916. Unfortunately he had never been a well individual suffering regular bouts of illness in his civilian job as a clerk. Initially he served as a clerk for the Regiment assisting in recruitment before transferring to the Labour Corps in April 1917, initially the 551st Company, then the 555th. Neither saw service outside the UK but reading George's medical history, that eventually led to him being discharged from military service in September 1918, I could not help be proud that despite being physically unfit he tried to do his bit.

His younger brother, Charles, also joined the The King's (Liverpool) Regiment, serving in the 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion that served in France from 1915. Like many soldiers who served in the Great War, Charles' service records appear to have been destroyed by German bombing in WW2 and the only surviving record of his service is his gravestone in the Villers-Guislain Communal Cemetery. However from this I was able to find his service number and unit details, and from that was able to track down a copy of the 4th Battalion's War Diary.

The diary is fascinating reading but extremely sobering, especially when I came to the entry for 21st September 1918; "Fine - Battalion sends forward fighting patrols to assist attack made by (unclear)  -Casualties, 1 killed, 6 wounded 4 missing - 3 ors leave to UK." That one killed was Charles Blease.

Unfortunately I did not have this information when I was in France last year, which is a shame as the grave is only a few miles from Albert which Saul and I visited, but when we return to France we plan to make a visit.

Whether there are any other relatives that served in the World Wars (outside the Merchant Navy), I have yet to ascertain. My Grandfather was one of twelve children and his cousins had several brothers and sisters themselves so it seems likely. Unfortunately there are big gaps in the online records, (especially birth, marriage and death records) so some family lines just peter out and odd names cannot be confirmed as to being relatives...

An example of this is Corporal Albert Blease who served with the King's Regiment in Burma being killed in action in January 1944. Albert is a very common name in the Blease line but I cannot trace his birth or baptism records, so despite being of the correct age to have been a son of one of my Grandfather's brothers or his cousins we will probably never know.

Regardless I think it is appropriate to remember his service today, as well as that of Charles and George and any other family members who did their bit to preserve our nation's freedom.

Friday 22 June 2012

Spending My Winnings...

Flush with my $100 voucher I sat down on the Wargames Factory website last night plotting what to spend it on before encountering a major problem - USPS postage rates. A few months back I'd looked at buying some of Wargames Factory's Horse Sprue Bundles (an excellent 12 horses for just $3.50) but baulked at the shipping costs that was more than the cost of the models.

I had a similar problem last night, shipping from the US isn't cheap and once the parcel gets over a certain weight (4 pounds) it is phenomenal. In the end almost half my voucher went towards the USPS postage charge! I'm not blaming Wargames Factory, the USPS costs are what they are, but it was a shock.

So what did I go for in the end? Well determined to make best use of the voucher I went with the old communist maxim of 'quantity has a quality all of its own' and ordered three of Horse Sprue Bundles to use to make some more centaurs and eight of the Persian Infantry bundles (12 infantry figures for just $2.40). I am not sure whether they will be painted up as Persians (I never planned to expand the Greek project to include the Persian Wars), fantasy Middle-Eastern types or even Martians (see here). I also added a box of the new Samurai Cavalry...

Whilst the postage costs took a little of the gloss of spending the voucher I'm taking a pragmatic view in that I've a box of 96 infantry, 12 cavalry and 36 horses crossing the Atlantic which cost me just $0.06 (the extra I had to pay over the voucher!)

Amusingly I received a shipping email from Wargames Factory tonight with my USPS shipping reference number. Entering it on the USPS website a message flashed up: "Your item was delivered at 3:08 pm on March 29, 2011". Obviously the ability of USPS to travel backwards in time is reflected in what they charge! :-)

Thursday 21 June 2012

And The Winner Is...

Remember the old military maxim "no plan survives contact with the enemy"?, well for wargamers that should read "no project survives contact with shiny new figures". Despite only having the shields to finish on two phalanxes of hoplites I've been distracted sticking Zulus together. Unfortunately the FLGS didn't have the can of brown spray I needed to paint the first couple of regiments otherwise you'd be reading posts about UThulwana and InGobamakhosi!

Anyway despite rapidly getting nowhere you may remember the Cenaturides I made last month. Well as suggested I sent the picture into Wargames Factory and I was chuffed to find out today that they won Best Cavalry Unit in the Wargames Factory Mash-Up competition which apparently means I have $100 to spend in their webstore (just in time for the new Samurai cavalry!).

Some of the entries are really top quality and show a lot of creative thought (especially the Undead Samurai and Savage Orc), demonstrating what a flexible medium hard plastic for conversion projects.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Oh Dear...

The Zulu and British starter armies turned up today - that's a lot of plastic! To compound the issue I made the mistake of going on eBay and enthusiasm got the better of me...

I now own 288 Zulus, 84 British line, 20 Natal Native Contingent and some odds and sods - oh dear...

Saturday 9 June 2012

Happy Birthday Donald Duck!

Apparently it is Donald's 78th birthday today so I thought we'd celebrate with a collection of films showing his wartime service...

And his Oscar winning 1942 anti-Nazi propoganda film Der Fuehrer's Face:

Thursday 7 June 2012

Steady In The Ranks!!!

I caught myself badly infected with "shinyitis" last night, filling my shopping basket on Amazon with lots of "must have" books on the Zulu War. I'd just finished reading Saul David's Great Battle: The Battle of Isandlwana e-Book and having spent far too long on Empress Miniatures looking at some of the Imperial volunteer and auxiliary units I felt Ian Knight's Osprey Elite British Forces in Zululand, 1879, would be a good volume to have. Ian Castle's Osprey MAA Zulu Wars: Volunteers, Irregulars and Auxiliaries also looked very useful but £50 for an OOP Osprey is too much. I then caught myself and emptied the rapidly filling shopping basket which not only was adding a hefty bill to what I plan to be a relatively small, self-contained project, but also realising I hadn't bothered to even check what books I had on the subject!

I knew I had a copy of Donald R. Morris' The Washing of the Spears and thought Ian Knight's Brave Men's Blood spotted on Amazon looked familiar (it was, I already had it) but I also discovered (or should that be re-discovered) a useful mini-collection of Anglo-Zulu War books I had collected years ago when I was first interested in subject.

So in addition to the two volumes above I also already have:

Osprey MAA57 The Zulu War by Angus McBride
The Zulu War by Michael Barthorp
The South African Campaign of 1879 by J.P.Mackinnon and S.H.Shadbolt
Captain Carey's Blunder by Donald Featherstone

As well as some generic colonial volumes including useful sections on the war:

The Colonial Wars Sourcebook by Philip J. Haythornwaite
Victorian Colonial Warfare - Africa by Donald Featherstone
Front Line Artists by Peter Johnson

Ok, I did go back to Amazon to pick up a second hand copy of Saul David's Zulu: The Heroism and Tragedy of the Zulu War of 1879, as it is a bit of a revisionist history, but I have decided that I really don't need to add to the library (especially when I also have a few books on the First Boer War and they'd make a useful third force who can fight both the British and the Zulus...)

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Usuthu! Usuthu!

Back in 1979 I went on a scout camp to Llangynidr, the highlight being a a visit to the South Wales Borders museum on a day trip to Brecon. I can't remember a great deal about the small, musty museum but I think it had a number of Zulu shields and weapons. I did buy some photos of paintings of the Zulu War including the two De Neuville paintings of Coghill and Melvill's attempt to rescue the colours of the 24th which adorned the back of my childhood bedroom door along with a print of Fripp's Battle of Isandhlwana.

A few years later I considered wargaming the period buying a pile of 15mm Minifigs, some Hovels Kraal huts and joining the Victorian Military Society but the idea waned as no one else was interested.

Fast forward thirty odd years and with a birthday present of some cash from my Mum and Warlord hosting a 20% off boxed sets for the Jubilee I decided that I would splash out on a British and a Zulu plastic starter army. This means I am going to find it hard to argue I haven't broken my 'no new periods' rule but I am considering the redcoats doing double duty on Mars and the Zulus maybe popping over the Middle Earth as warriors from Far Harad so....

Rules wise I have not set my focus on anything. I have some ideas of what I'd like to do. I am considering sabot basing the figures so I can using them individually for skirmishes like The Sword and the Flame and element based for larger scale games.

I might have a look at what was done in Black Powder but my gut feeling is leaning me towards modifying David Manley's Don't Throw That Bloody Spear At Me Sudan rules maybe with a Pony Wars style random Zulu generator. I have David Bickley's Washing of the Spears which seem to fit the bill with a Zulu generator but does suffer from being one of the worst laid out sets of rules in recent years which makes them hard to follow (as well as having some gaps such as references to a Boer Army list that begin half way through the rules then disappear by the end). I might give them another look though as his ACW rules published by Foundry seemed fun enough in an old school way.

Whatever, there will be no rush, the snap purchase was to take advantage of the 20% off sale and I have no plans to start working on the figures before the autumn, immediate plans are to finish the Athenians, Orcs and start the Spartans over the summer (if we get one). I'll also need to watch Zulu and Zulu Dawn a few more times!

Saturday 2 June 2012

Another Year Older...

Celebrating being another year older today, SWMBO has come up trumps with my Airfix Spitfire birthday cake (available from Sainsbury's) which I think is pretty cool. I was a bit disappointed it didn't contain a real Airfix Spitfire but I suppose somebody would try and eat it...

Present wise no white metal or plastic but some great DVD's including a five set box of Kurosawa Samurai films and a Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia which should all be useful from a gaming point of view. Saul recorded me a song!

Friday 1 June 2012


Ever since Foundry released their Ancient Greek range many years back now I have had an itch that needed scratching. No, not hoplites or the 300, but Centaurs. I'm not 100% sure why, I would guess it might originate with the Centaur model that came in the Citadel Runequest box set, whatever I have had this itch to take some hoplites and convert them into centaurs for sometime.

Anyhow having impulsively purchased the Wargames Factory Amazons at Salute it occurred to me being hard plastic, the upper bodies of the amazons could be used with some plastic horses to make some Centaurs (or more accurately Centaurides as they are female).

For the horses I used those from the Wargames Factory Persian Cavalry set (the horse sprues are available separately direct from the manufacturer but overseas postage scuppered the idea of buying them direct), and quite minimal filling was needed to merge the Amazon torsos with the horse bodies. The horses are four part, head, tail and two body halves so it was a simple job to make the horses sans heads and add the Amazon bodies. The Amazons are one piece bodies so the legs needed snipping off but this meant that the pelvic area could be utilised to form the connection with the horse parts.

The heads, shields and weapons all come from the Amazon box which is chock full of extras (the peltast shields have been added to some Foundry figures for a forthcoming Athenian unit), the only non Wargames Factory bits are the slotta bases and shield decals from Warlord.

Overall I am very happy with them, the only problem is that I have no real plan regarding use, though that Tribes of Legend looks interesting...