Sunday 31 March 2013

(Plane Month) La Guerra de la Sed

Suffering that debilitating male disease known as a runny nose (aka the sniffles) I have bravely been sat in front of the television and laptop today rather than finishing off my half painted Blackburn Kangaroo. However all is not lost as I have been investigating the possibility of undertaking a small AirWar: 1918 project - the Chaco War 1932-35.

The Chaco War was the bloodiest military conflict in South America during the 20th century fought between two of South America's poorest countries Bolivia and Paraguay. The war was for control of the northern part of the Gran Chaco region (known as Chaco Boreal), which was thought to be rich in oil (which it didn't). It is also referred to as La Guerra de la Sed ("The War of the Thirst") for being fought in the semi-arid Chaco.

Whilst air combat was not as commonplace as in WWI, the Chaco War did see dogfights and there is an interesting mix of interwar designs in action. The only issue is how practical an idea is it and what models are available? I have been looking at 1/144th as my preferred scale given that is what I am using for WWI and WWII.

Cuerpo de Aviación Boliviano (Bolivian Air Force):

Breguet 19: despite 2700 of these being made during the Inter-war period, no one produces a model in 1/144th. That said it did not do a lot in the Gran Chaco War.

Curtiss Falcon: also appears to be unavailable in 1/144th,

Curtiss Hawk: is available via Artic Skunk (Shapeways).

Curtiss Osprey: is also available via Artic Skunk (Shapeways).

Vickers Type 143 Scout: sadly not available though I suspect there might be something out there that could be converted to act as a Scout (maybe a Bulldog?)

Vickers Type 149 Vespa III: also not available.

Fuerza Aereas del Ejercito Nacional Paraguayo (Paraguayan Air Force):

Fiat C.R.20 bis: available from Artic Skunk (Shapeways).

Potez 25: also available from Artic Skunk (Shapeways) in 1/144th.

Wibault 73: unsurprisingly not available.

Initial air battles featured the Scouts, Vespas and Wilbauts before being replaced by the Curtiss models and Fiats. The Potezs' served throughout the war. There were other aircraft in both air forces but do not appear to have taken part in air operations.

Looking at the models available it would appear that the later air operations are the more gameable with two of the Curtiss and the Fiat and Potez available in miniature. However one should not give up hope given the proliferation of 3D print designers making all sorts of weird and wonderful aircraft and Gran Chaco is certainly interesting enough that hopefully one day someone will take a punt at producing the missing aircraft.

Saturday 30 March 2013

(Plane Month) Airship Squadron (EhVK) Sikorsky Ilya Muromets

I finished the Der Kampfflieger (Shapeways) Sikorsky Ilya Muromets Type V this morning, a very impressive beast in 1/144th. The wingspan is 205mm!

The Ilya Muromets served throughout the war  and into the Russian Civil War, launching bombing raids on German line positions in February 1915.

Only one plane was lost to enemy aircraft when in September 1916 when it was attacked by four German Albatros. It did however manage to shot down three of the German planes in the engagement!

Painting the model is fairly straight forward, though all the struts made my eyes go a bit funny! I used Vallejo Bone as the overall linen colour, the decals are from 1/144 Direct.

Friday 29 March 2013

(Plane Month) 3 Naval Squadron Sopwith Pup's

As promised, here are the two 1/144th Der Kampflieger (Shapeways) Sopwith Scouts (or Pups as they were commonly known) painted up as machines from B Flight of 3 Naval Squadron RNAS serving at Marieux, France during "Bloody April" in 1917.

Nice little models I was tempted to paint them up as Imperial Russian, but despite finding a photo of a model of a Workers and Peasants Red Air Fleet Pup, I could not find confirmation anywhere that the Imperial Russian Air Service flew the Pup. So I played safe and painted them up as two RNAS planes, the Navy being a tad more colourful than the Army.

This particular plane is that of Canadian Flt Cdr Lloyd Breadner and should have the name "Happy" painted under the cockpit (but my hand is not that steady). Breadner scored five victories during "Bloody April" in this machine.

The second Pup is that of Flt Cdr Joe Fall and is named "Betty" (named after his wife or girlfriend). Fall shot down three enemy aircraft between 23rd April and 1st May in this plane. I wasn't 100% certain"Betty" should have the white stripe atop the wing as "Happy" has and I could not find a definitive source either way. I decided to add it for a splash of colour and to tie it in with Breadner's plane.

As well as considering painting them up as Russian planes, I had a flight of fancy for a while to paint one up as a captured Pup. The Germans did like the plane which was easy to fly. Perhaps I'll add a third Pup to my next Shapeways order...

Thursday 28 March 2013

(Plane Month) Here Come the (Big) Boys

In between watching paint dry on a couple of Sopwith Pups (which I hope to finish today) I've been drooling over my latest Shapeways' planes order - three WW1 bombers. The great thing about the casting material that Shapeways use is its lightness and allows 1/144th models of beasts like these to be made with little concern about mounting them (something that is causing my Skytrex Handley Page to remain unmade in its box).

First off is the Vickers Vimy. Technically the Vimy did not enter service until 1919 soldiering through as a bomber until 1929, though still seeing service up to 1938 as a searchlight target. I need to have a think about how I intend to paint the model, whether to go historical RAF 1920's or paint her up for a Plan 1919 Great war continuation. The Vimy did see service in the Chinese Civil War, but unfortunately the model used was the civilian variant which had a wider fuselage and a different nose so that is not an option.

Next is the wonderfully named Blackburn Kangaroo, a reconnaissance torpedo bomber. Only twenty were built but they saw service for six months in 1918, sinking German U-Boat UC-70 off North Yorkshire. This is such a quirky looking aircraft and I am really taken with the model.

Finally we have a plane that dwarfs both of the above, the massive Sikorsky Ilya Muromets. This is one hell of a model and I am really chuffed that I have it in my collection. The plane flew throughout the war and also saw service, on both sides, of the Russian Civil War. Looking forward to painting this and bombing the German invader/Red menance!

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Quantity Has a Quality...

Well it should have been some more planes today but SWMBO had me utilising my carpentry skills (hah!) converting a chest of draws into a small computer desk! All I can say is that it hasn't fallen over yet!

However all was not lost on the hobby front as the nice postie delivered a big box from North Star. I hadn't planned taking advantage of their latest sale (they are a bit like DFS Sofas for frequency) but they were selling boxes of Plastic Soldier Company 20mm T34's for £8, a saving of almost 40% on the RRP it would have been foolish not to avail myself of such a saving so I bought a couple of boxes to go with the one SWMBO bought me last year. I also picked up a couple of boxes of T70's as well with a similar saving. I am determined Ostfront will be brought to Bristol this summer and I now have a good selection of Soviet armour.

Of course this has caused a little metal problem in that I already have a couple of Armourfast T34's made up and a couple more unmade. I'm not sure how compatible they are but I have a feeling they might not be the best match and have been pondering (whilst sawing off kilter) alternative uses. I did consider painting them as captured German or Finnish vehicles but am not really taken with this idea, the most sensible alternatives appear to be a Middle Eastern army such as Suez Egyptian or North Korean.

At the moment the latter is winning hands down as I am enjoying and have a Hobby Master M46 pre-paint on the shelf above my computer bought to use as an ornament but it could happily make the transition to tabletop. The only question would be what miniatures to use. Imex plastics are one idea, they are quite nice and are cheap, but the Reiver Castings metal Korean War figures not only include British and Commonwealth figures, but they are all in winter kit which is synonymus with the theatre (and just gives it a slightly different look to WW2). I've got enough on my plate this year but it is something to ponder as the year goes on and might make for a good summer 2014 project.

Planes tomorrow...

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Steampunk Goodness Aplenty!

Last month I was considering the various merits of the two forthcoming Steampunk ranges from North Star and West Wind. The latter's Empire of the Dead: Requiem Kickstarter ended this morning, successfully funded and promising a massive expansion in both Steampunk miniatures and models, many of which will have historical applications.

It is quite amazing to see what West Wind will be releasing this year. There are supernatural Police, Captain Nemo and crew, various gangs including a Chinese Tong, servants, period writers, loads of Steampunk inspired baddies, literary characters both good and bad as well as an undead Holmes and Watson!

In addition to the figures there is a mass of vehicles including a Time Machine, Steam Gyrocopter, Police Black Mariah, Hansom Cab and an Omnibus. Lots to get very excited about and even if you didn't take part it is well worth having a look at the wonderful concept illustrations on the Kickstarter page. So many models will be highly useful for historical games.

Given my love of the gene I was unable to resist, I won't tell you what level as SWMBO might see, but I suspect will be painting Victorian and Steampunk miniatures for a long time to come (I'm even mentally planning a two level 4 foot square terrain board with sewers underneath!).

Monday 25 March 2013

(Plane Month) Instant Mold to the Rescue

Back at the tail end of 2011 I posted about a product called Instant Mold, a silicone moulding material that softens in hot water and can be used to mould items in epoxy putty like Green Stuff. I picked some up a couple of months later but had not got around to using it until this weekend.

Building up two Revell 1/144th Spitfire MkI's I found the second model didn't have a canopy. Having picked these up off eBay a while back I was a bit scuppered in returning the item and given the cost anyway it would have cost more in postage to return the faulty goods. Enter Instant Mold...

Using the first Spitfire I'm made up, I pressed the softened silcone stick over the canopy and surrounding area. Once it had cooled I carefully peeled the mould off and filled it with Green Stuff.

The next day I popped the Green Stuff out of the mould. As you can see, it has produced a decent Green Stuff canopy (apologies for the blurry photo).

I then carefully trimmed away the excess Green Stuff and glued it to the model.

All in all a successful rescue and I am really impressed with the Instant Mold and am planning to try it out on some alternative pieces in due course. It is certainly worth having it in the tool box and the good thing is that it is re-useable, just drop it back in hot water to soften it and use again.

Sunday 24 March 2013

Landkreuzer P 1000 Ratte

A little while back I picked up a 1/600th Takara Landkreuzer P1000 off eBay. The 1000 metric ton Krupp P-1000 Ratte, started construction but was canceled before completion. It would have carried two 280 mm guns (mounted in the same type of gun turret used in Gneisenau class warships), a single 128 mm gun, eight 20 mm Flak 38 anti-aircraft guns and two 15 mm Mauser MG 151/15 guns.

The Takara model comes pre-painted and it is just a case of attaching the turrets etc. I was looking at using it in some kind of Land Ironclads: 1946 variant game, though given the lack of Allied initiatives of a similar type it may be better to go down the Ogre game route or little things shooting a big thing...

Having made the model up I've placed it on a standard 40mm x 40mm Land Ironclads base, which shows the size of the model but is a little too small for it. I'll probably mount it on a 60mm square on going forward and supplement it with some 1/600th Pico Armour historical models.

There was also a preprototype ultra-heavy tank, the Landkreuzer P. 1500 Monster, meant as a mobile platform for the Krupp 800mm Schwerer Gustav artillery piece, not sure if anyone makes a 1/600th version, but it would look impressive...

Saturday 23 March 2013

Goblin Aid for the Goblinmaster!

By now, no doubt many of you have heard the shocking news that renown fantasy miniature sculptor Kev "Goblinmaster" Adams was badly assaulted during a burglary on his home. The good news is he has been discharged from hospital, although he will need further visits including some reconstructive surgery on his face.

Obviously this will impact his functionality as he recovers and it is heartening to see the gaming community rally round with the creation of Goblin Aid, a fundraising initiative to help Kev out at this time.

There is more on the Goblin Aid Facebook page here, including a brief message from Kev. If, like me you have some Kev Adams goblins in your collection, please check it out.

Friday 22 March 2013

Stargate SG Team

When I picked up the Terminator Heavy Weapons from Forlorn Hope last month I also purchased a pack of the old Grenadier Future Wars Corporate Guards, now sold by em-4.

I wasn't quite sure what I would use them for until I started re-watching the first series of Stargate SG-1 and I was taken by the similarity of the figures with the original uniforms worn in the series, as well as the Mp-5 type smg.

Consequently I decided to paint them up as an SG Team for use with the old Eureka Stargate Jaffa I have hidden away somewhere. I appreciate I am one short of a full team so will keep my eyes peeled for a suitable fourth team member.

Of course they can also do double duty as para-military guards or  similar. The only modification I made was to snip off the 'daysticks' the miniatures were carrying hanging from their waists.

Now where is that old Monolith Stargate I bought at Salute a few years back?

Thursday 21 March 2013

Achtung! Cthulhu

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. Move Call of Cthulhu from its standard 1920's setting to the 1940's and introduce Nazis. This is the premise of Achtung! Cthulhu, Modiphius Enetrtainment's new Cthulhu based role-playing game that is being funded on Kickstarter.

Whilst I'm not particularly interested in the RPG itself, the background and imagery are captivating as can be seen on this promotional video...

I have been wondering whether to join in for the PDF's as I think there is an excellent miniatures game here, probably using the Strange Aeons rules I bought a little while back. This idea has been reinforced by the concept illustration for one of the planned Acthung! Cthulhu miniatures - a Deep One Commando...

So simple an idea, it is brilliant and with my Reaper Bones Cthulhu coming sometime soon, surely a bazooka is the best way of taking him down?!

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Walter Tull Military Cross Petition

Walter Tull is a truly fascinating historical character from the early twentieth century.

The first black outfield English professional footballer and also the first black commissioned officer in the British Army (contrary to Military Law at the time). He served at the Somme and in Italy (where he was mentioned in despatches and recommended for the Military Cross).

Subsequently he was killed in action near the village of Favreuil in the Pas-de-Calais during the German Spring Offensive of March 1918 .

Whilst no one denies his bravery or service, the recommendation for the Military Cross was rejected (as) "he was not awarded the cross because, as a British citizen of non-European descent, he should not have been commissioned at all."

A campaign was launched in 2008 to award Second Lieutenant Tull the Military Cross posthumously. Unfortunately the Military Cross was not authorised to be awarded posthumously until 1979, and the change did not include any provision for retrospective awards.

However that has not stopped campaigners and a petition has been launched requesting the Prime Minister to change the rules on posthumous awards and ensure Walter Tull is awarded the medal he was denied solely due to the colour of his skin.

In this day and age of vapid celebrities the story of men like Walter Tull deserves to be celebrated and promoted and if you wish to sign the petition to add your support to the campaign please click here.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

VSF Armoured Steam Car

I finally finished another of those pesky items that has been sat too log on my workbench earlier today, this Ironclad Miniatures three-wheeled armoured car which will form part of my Redcoats on Mars project.

The model is fairly straight forward to make comprising of just eight pieces. Detail is nice and the only complaint I have is that the resin axles are a little weak for the white metal wheels. If I was making another up I would look to drill and pin the wheels into the hull for greater strength.

I painted the model up in a three colour grey camouflage inspired by WW1 battleships. I then painted Army Painter Dark Tone dip before matt varnish and drybrushing some Terracotta Martian dust on the models. I think the dip technique works very well, the only lesson learned this time is to cover the model drying to avoid any dust or errant static flock settling on it! The Union Flag decals were bought from who also stock a wide range of useful AFV and aeroplane decals.

Monday 18 March 2013

Thistle Alley

Along with wargaming and military history, my other great passion is rock music whether heavy or prog (or both). Occasionally the two cross which has led to this blog entry.

Ex-Marillion lead singer Fish is currently writing his new album and one of the songs, High Wood, is about the Battle of the Somme and the Royal Scots participation in it. Whereas most artists keep the creative process a tightly guarded secret, Fish is a great one for sharing and has been posting about the development of the song and its lyrics, as well as the background to it, on his Facebook page.

I was especially taken by yesterday's post and felt like sharing it to an audience who it likely wouldn't reach. Even if his music is not your cup of tea, hopefully his words are of interest...

Fish's post:

“Thistle Alley” is part 4 of the “High Wood” suite, the darkest and heaviest of the sections addressing the main assaults and the deadly war of attrition that occurred there in late 1916.

My maternal grandfather, William Paterson, was serving with the 8th Battalion Royal Scots at that time and as a pre conflict miner he was with the entrenchment sections allocated to trench digging duties. My friend Simon Moston who studies WW1 and is a battlefield guide did some research and discovered that William was actually involved at High Wood and his battalion dug a serving trench that enabled troops to move closer to the enemy before the jump off to an attack. The trench he is acknowledged in regimental records as having been involved with was “Thistle Alley”.

A lot of the digging occurred under machine gun/ shellfire, gas attacks and at night and by the time they were digging these jump off trenches the battle had been underway for some months.This meant that the soldiers were digging through what was essentially a graveyard, not helped by continuing explosives exhuming and dispersing bodies. It must have been truly hellish!

A mine was dug over many weeks and detonated in the latter stages of the battle in an attempt to silence a machine gun stronghold that dominated a corner of what remained of the wood and the surrounding area.

Tanks were also used here for the first time in the war but were relatively useless in the stump filled terrain and between breakdowns and damage from shellfire contributed little.

Aircraft were starting to play a part and between observation duties and ground assault support made a mark in the proceedings.

Principal combatants were still the infantry, the boots on the ground, who took the brunt of the fight and the casualties numbering tens of thousands.

William went on to be attached to the 154th Machine Gun Corps and as such would have been involved with the main assaults. I am still looking into his history with the help of Simon and others.. He did return from France in 1919 and never spoke of what he saw.

It is estimated that the bodies of 8000 men, eviscerated by explosives, were never found and remain in the 6 acre area of the High Wood.

The wood eventually fell to the British in September 1916.

“Ghastly by day, ghostly by night. The rottenest place on the Somme.” 

Corporal H.F.Hooton

Thistle Alley

Rockets are flying, signal distress over no man’s land,

With hopes they are fading, splutter and die in a leaden sky,

The wounded resignation, the corpses on the wire, a frozen tableaux flickers in the light,

Flares are falling, chasing the shadows, nervous eyes, huddled in silence,

Hugging the earth, biding time

Motionless as spiders caught out on a killing floor, muffled picks and shovels hold their still,

Praying for the darkness to return and hide the graves they are opening, the graves they are digging.

A storm of fire and metal tears the wood asunder, shatters stumps of scorched and splintered trees,

Cowering in the mud within the roots, incessant thunder, tormented shredded souls are torn apart.

Deep beneath the surface the chalk yields to the chisels, bloodied fingers tear the face away,

Hollowing the chambers along dark Stygian tunnels, hooded candles light the spectres way.

Dragons crawl the ridges towards the spires on new horizons, ploughing through the charnel pits and gore,

The spawn of death’s invention, a victory their burden, the promise stalls and wallows in the mire,

High above the stage, a chorus of dark angels, a circus joins the theatre of war,

The props are in position, fuses primed and ready; the wires pulse the signal cue the mine exploding

The graves are opening.

The dead they are rising, fear haunted faces, gaunt and grey,

Ghosts are gathering, the Dance Macabre, the hellish fray

Heaven above Thistle Alley below

Whistles are blowing, the maxims are waiting

To carve the flesh, shatter skulls and crush the bone

Guns stuttering relentless rake the lines,

The gas that whispers in the confines of the trenches

To choke the life of those who dare to hide.

Heaven above, Thistle Alley below

Motionless survivors bloody on the killing floor, praying for the darkness to return,

Praying for the darkness to return and hide the graves of the living.

Sunday 17 March 2013

They Used Dark Forces...

Alongside Andrew Salmon's book on British and Australian forces in Korea (see sidebar) I've been reading Ian Tregillis' Bitter Seeds, a novel set in WW2 pitting German and British supernatural agencies against each other. Of course this gets the old wargame brain thinking about gaming possibilities and whilst Weird War Two is popular enough, it has largely focused on weird science or horror, rather than dark magic (necromancy excepted).

Tregillis' book is not the only magically based WW2 media, Graham Masterton's Devils of D-Day and the end of Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks (see below) marry witchcraft and World War Two, albeit with different audiences in mind. There is also a reference in Harry Potter and the Deathly Harrows to a "global wizarding war" that parallels WW2 and sees Dumbledore defeat the Dark Wizard Grindelwald who, with army of dark wizards and witches attempts to create an international wizard empire.

Potentially some form of Hexekrieg game could be a lot of fun, perhaps drawing on myths and legends of the combatants. Something to ponder for another day methinks...

Saturday 16 March 2013

Spitfire: Portrait of a Legend

Recently I finished Leo McKinstry's Spitfire: Portrait of a Legend, I picked the Kindle version up cheap  a while back and had only just got around to reading if it. It is one of a trilogy of books by McKinstry on iconic British planes from WW2, the others cover the Hurricane and Lancaster.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect but was very impressed by a hugely readable and enjoyable book. McKinstry effectively splits the volume into three parts; the development and political background to the Spitfire, its role in the Battle of Britain and development and role after 1940.

The section on the development and the political infighting at the Air Ministry and Westminster was fascinating, Yes Minster buffoonery is tempered by the fact that it shows how fortunate we were that strong individuals ensured that not only did we have an air defence in 1940 (the bomber own air force concept was very popular) but shows that individuals lampooned by history such as Neville Chamberlain are owed a level of appreciation that they do not get. It was also interesting to note that Churchill favoured the Boulton Paul Defiant over the Spitfire!

The Battle of Britain features a lot of first hand accounts, including German ones, placed in the context of the battle as well as he performance of the aircraft. After 1940 McKinsty covers the development of the Spitfire through its various marks as the enemy threat alters, as well as service in the fighter sweeps over France, at Malta, D-Day and the Far East, before rounding off with an epilogue cover post-war use and action over Egypt, Malaya and Korea.

I was expecting that I would just dip into this book whilst reading others but once started found it hard to put down, it is that good. If you have any interest in air warfare or general military history it is certainly well worth reading even if you already have a basic knowledge of the subject.

Friday 15 March 2013

ONESS Jetkopter Fliegen!

Following on from the ONESS Panzers and Panzergreandiers I painted for Iron Cow, I finished off some air support in the form of a flight of Adler VTOL's yesterday. I love VTOL's in Iron Cow, short life spans but they zip across the board bringing death and destruction to the enemy!

The models are GZG and I must say I was very disappointed with some awful mould lines down the centre of the models which made two almost unusable. Normally I would return them for replacements but I attacked them with file and scalpel and the end result was passable. Given the normally high standards from GZG I'm not going to bitch about it and I know Jon would have had replacements in the post the same day if I'd have contacted him.

The models are painted in the same colours as the ground forces, albeit with a red "Von Richthofen" stripe and some old Skytex Maltese Cross decals I have had for donkeys years. They are not perfect but do the job here.

Not quite sure whether these qualify for "Plane Month" back to the Western Front next I think...

Thursday 14 March 2013

(Plane Month) 2 Squadron AFC Airco DH.5's

These are two Shapeways Airco DH.5's from the der Kampfflieger store. Not the most successful or WWI aeroplanes it is an interesting looking beast with the "back stagger" on the wings which is why I bought a couple...

Unfortunately only the Royal Flying Corps and Australian Flying Corps used the DH.5 and it only saw active service in France. Imperial colour schemes of the period are extremely uninspiring PC10 all over so there was little latitude in painting the models. Roundels are Dom's Decals, everything else handpainted.

The Aussies used them for extremely dangerous ground attack missions during the Battle of Cambria so I decided to paint the models up as 2 Squadron AFC, this model being that of Lieutenant W.A.Robertson.

The second model is that of Lieutenant R.W. MacKenzie who is credited with shooting down at least on Albatross Scout during the battle and driving another to crash in a shell hole.