Sunday, 23 April 2017

SALUTE2017: First reactions

I sat down this morning to write a detailed blog entry about my first visit to SALUTE in five years ... but when I realised that I had over one hundred photographs to add to it I decided to take my time and to write a short 'first reactions' blog entry first.

My overall impression was good. It has improved considerably since the last time I went, both in terms of organisation and content. I still had to queue to get in ... but this took place in an area right next to the hall and was properly marshalled. Once inside I was struck by the sheer number and variety of games that were being staged and the fact that there were far more participation games available.

The trade stands seemed to be doing good business, and there was lots of room to walk around between the stands and the games. I particularly wanted to visit the Perry brothers stand to look at their new TRAVEL BATTLE game and the Continental Wars Society stand to chat to Ian Dury and company. I managed both ... and walked away with a review copy of the game and a box full of plastic and diecast military vehicle.

I will be writing a review of the TRAVEL BATTLE game as soon as I can. It seems to have had a mixed reception, with some wargamers being very enthusiastic about it whilst others have expressed views that it is too expensive and rather limited. I am going to reserve my judgement until I have properly reviewed the game.

I managed to meet quite a few people whilst I was at SALUTE, including several other bloggers (Legatus Hedlius, Alastair, TamsinP, Ray Rousell, Postie et al), a few old friends, and some of my regular blog readers. This social side to the hobby is one aspect of wargaming that is often overlooked, but informal meetings at shows like SALUTE really do cement the online friendships that have developed over the past few years.

Will I go to SALUTE2018? Well based on yesterday's show, the answer is a resounding 'YES' ... assuming, of course, that I am in the UK at the time!

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 23rd April 1937

The Madrid Defence Junta was dissolved.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Here's hoping for a somewhat less eventful day today!

It is about 7.30am as I sit down to write this blog entry, and thanks to our cat – who wanted to be fed and made sure that I was awake at 6.30pm by gently 'batting' my forehead with her paw – I've been awake for just about an hour. So far I've managed to put my camera on charge to make sure that the batteries will not run out during my visit to SALUTE, and I've also installed a new SD card. I am going to have breakfast once I have finished writing this blog entry, and with luck I should be on my way to the ExCel Centre by 9.00am.

I am hoping that today is going to present me with fewer problems than yesterday did. It all started when I was on my way to central London by train. I arrived at Woolwich Arsenal Station to find that a direct service to Charing Cross Station was due in because it had been 'slightly' delayed. As the journey to London by mainline train is much quicker than the alternative DLR/Underground service, I jumped on the train as soon as it arrived.

Big mistake!

At every station on the way towards the centre of London we were held up because other trains were ahead of us. In fact it took thirty minutes to get from Woolwich to Blackheath (it should have taken about ten minutes) and by the time we reached London Bridge Station we were so far behind schedule that the train terminated there and we all had to get off and change to another train to complete our journey. That in itself wasn't a major problem, just an inconvenience. What happened next - however - was a major inconvenience.

Having reached Freemasons Hall late, I only missed a few preliminaries to the rehearsal for the meeting that was due to start at 5.00pm. The rehearsal was fine, and I went over to a nearby pub with a couple of the other attendees for a quick drink before the meeting was due to start. On the way back to Freemasons Hall I noticed that my brand new shoes felt as if they were getting very loose ... but thought nothing more about it. What I had not realised was that they were beginning to fall apart, and by 7.00pm - when the meeting ended - the top and soles of both left and right shoe were only attached at the toe and the heel!

I would like to say that I dashed up Long Acre to the nearest shoe shop to buy a new pair ... but dashing was the last thing I was able to do! Luckily for me the sales assistants in the nearby branch of Marks and Spencer lived up to their job description and kindly assisted me to find the only pair of shoes that they had in stock that fitted my size 11, extra-wide-fitting feet. £59.00 changed hands ... and I was able to walk again without worrying that the two halves of my shoes were about to part company!

I managed not to miss the after-meeting dinner (which was excellent) and got back to Woolwich a few minutes after 10.00pm ... just in time to see the bus I needed to catch drive off as I got to the bus stop. Luckily the service is not too infrequent, and by just after 10.30pm I was home.

As the song title says 'Things can only get better'; I hope that this statement is true!

Friday, 21 April 2017

A busy couple of days ahead

This afternoon I am off to central London to take part in a Masonic meeting at Freemasons Hall (AKA Great Queen Street or GQS). The Lodge I am visiting is one that a friend of mine belongs to, and I am going along to help install the Lodge's new Worshipful Master. The Lodge recently and somewhat suddenly 'lost' the outgoing Worshipful Master, the Immediate Past Master, and the Director of Ceremonies, and were thus left in the unenviable situation of not having anyone who could deliver the necessary Installation ritual. A member of my Mother Lodge – who is also a very good friend of mine and a fellow wargamer – offered to help out by acting as the Installing Master, and I volunteered to be the Inner Guard. As a result the new Worshipful Master should be Installed by 7.00pm this evening.

This may sound like a lot of gobbledygook to non-Masons ... but in light of the recent 'Inside the Freemasons' programme on Sky TV, I hope that it will make some sense to some of my regular blog readers, and to pique the interest of others.

On Saturday I will be going to SALUTE2017 at London's ExCel Centre in Docklands. I have already bought my ticket online, and I am torn between trying to get there early – and risking having to queue with hundreds of other wargamers who have pre-booked tickets – or going slightly later and not having to stand around waiting to go in. As I don't have a list of things that I want/need to buy, I may well opt to go slightly later so as to avoid the rush.

It is my intention to take lots of photos of the wargames that are on show and to try to visit the Continental Wars Society stand (to have a chat with one or two people who I know use THE PORTABLE WARGAME rules), the Perry stand (for a look at the new Travel Wargame), and the Bloggers Meet Up at 1.00pm. The latter is an informal get-together and gives a number of the UK's wargame bloggers a chance to actually meet and talk to each other face-to-face. I've been to other meet-ups at other shows, and it is great to actually put faces and names to my fellow bloggers.

If any of my regular blog readers is at SALUTE2017 on Saturday and sees me, please say 'Hello' and have a chat. I'll be one of the sad-looking, older, 'Johnny-no-mates' wargamers walking about the show on my own with a camera ... so I'll be easy to spot!

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Developing The Portable Wargame: Another update

I have been beavering away over the past few days, and have finally finished drafting and play-testing the Air Combat rules.

They are somewhat different from the way they started out, and now include six aircraft types:
  • Reconnaissance Aircraft
  • Single-seater Fighters
  • Two-seater Fighters
  • Ground Attack Aircraft
  • Light Bombers
  • Medium Bombers
A 1:100th scale Axis & Allies Air Force Miniatures: Angels 20 Messerschmidtt Bf 109 'flying' across the tabletop on a flying stand.
I am also making slow progress on the re-drafting of my PORTABLE WARGAME: ANCIENTS rules. They are currently being play-tested by a number of wargamers who have considerably more experience with the period than I have, and their feedback is both stimulating and thought-provoking. I suspect that this is going to be the hardest part of the book for me to both write and to finish ... but I hope that the end result will be worth waiting for.

One section of the book that I have almost finished is the mini-campaign section. I have extolled the virtues of mini-campaigns and have included a simple mini-campaign that I have developed from one that I first created ten years ago. It is about a revolution and uses a linear campaign track on which the players (representing the Revolutionaries and the Government) move backwards and forwards depending upon how successful they are.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 19th April 1937

The Falange and Carlists Movement were united and became the FET (Falange Espanola Tradicionalista y de las Junta de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista).

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Icelandic Coast Guard

Last year when Sue and visited Iceland I took a lot of photos of ships of the Icelandic Coast Guard with the intention of writing a blog entry about them ... but somehow I never quite got around to it until now.

The Icelandic Coast Guard (Landhelgisgæsla Íslands, Landhelgisgæslan or Gæslan) is responsible for Iceland's coastal defence as well as undertaking a maritime and aeronautical search and rescue role. It was founded on 1st July, 1926 and its first ship was the Óðinn. By July 1929 a further ship (the Ægir) had been added to the fleet, and subsequently a number of converted trawlers were brought into service.

The Icelandic Coast Guard became well-known in the UK as a result of the so-called Cod Wars between 1972 and 1975, when they tried to enforce the new 200 nautical mile fishing limits. There were numerous instances where ships of the Icelandic Coast Guard cut the trawl wires of British and West German trawlers, and this led to several confrontations with warships of the Royal Navy ... during which the latter did not always come off best.

Because of the environment in which the Icelandic Coast Guard has to operate, its ships have always been designed to cope with very heavy seas. At present its fleet consist of three offshore patrol vessels (OPV) (named Þór, Týr, and Ægir), a coastal hydrographic/patrol vessel (named Baldur), and an Fast RHIB.

ICGV Þór (Thor)

Þór was designed by Rolls Royce and constructed by the ASMAR Naval Shipyard in Talcahuano, Chile. She is very similar to the Norwegian Coast Guard ship Harstad, which was also designed by Rolls Royce. Þór was delivered in September 2011 and went into service soon afterwards.

Her characteristics are as follows:
  • Displacement: 3,920 tonnes
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 93.80m (307.7 ft)
    • Beam: 16m (52.0 ft)
    • Draught: 5.80 m (19.0 ft)
  • Propulsion: 2 x 4,500 kW Rolls Royce Bergen diesel engines driving 2 propellers; 3 x 450 kW tunnel thrusters (two forward and and one aft); 1 x 883 kW retractable azimuth thruster
  • Speed: 20.1 knots
  • Complement: 48
  • Armament: 1 x Bofors 40 mm gun; 2 x 12.7 mm machine guns
  • Sensors: 1 x S-band radar; 2 x X-band radar; Synthetic aperture sonar
  • Aviation facilities: Helicopter in-flight refuelling capabilities (HIFR)

ICGV Ægir-class

The two other main vessels of the Icelandic Coast Guard are the Ægir-class sister-ships Ægir and Týr. They were built in the late 1960s in Denmark by built Aalborg Værft a/s. The hull design was based on that of a deep sea trawler.

The characteristics of the two ships are as follows:
  • Displacement: 1,146 tonnes
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 69.82m (229.18 ft )
    • Beam: 10m (33.0 ft )
    • Draught: 5.8 m (19.0 ft )
  • Propulsion: 2 x M.A.N. Diesel engines (total 6330 kW) driving two controlled pitch propellers; Three auxilliary Caterpillar diesel engines (1 x 216 kW, 1 x 265 kW and 1 x 350 kW); One 245 kW bow thruster
  • Speed: 19 knots
  • Complement: 16 to 19
  • Armament: 1 x Bofors 40 mm gun plus various small arms
  • Sensors: Sperry E/F-band surface search radar; Furuno I-band navigation radar; Hull-mounted high-frequency active search sonar
  • Aviation facilities: Can operate a helicopter (Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma)

The sister-ships are very similar, but can be easily distinguished from one another by the shield on the Bofors 40mm guns; Ægir‘s mounting is open and Týr’s is enclosed.

Both ships have enclosed crows nests, which are very necessary in the inhospitable weather conditions that they operate in.

ICGV Óðinn (Odin)

Although decommissioned in 2006, the Óðinn (not the original one that was introduced into service in 1926!) has been preserved as part of the Reykjavik Maritime Museum.

She was built in 1960 and her characteristics are as follows:
  • Displacement: 925 tonnes
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 63.68m (209 ft)
    • Beam: 10m (33 ft)
    • Draught: 5.5m (18 ft)
  • Propulsion: 2 x Burmeister & Wain V.B.F 62 diesel engines (2096 kW)
  • Speed: 18 knots
  • Complement: 19
  • Armament: 1 x Bofors 40 mm L60 MKIII gun (originally 1 x 57 mm Hotchkiss QF gun)
  • Sensors: Sperry E/F-band surface search radar; Furuno I-band navigation radar
  • Aircraft facilities: Could operate one helicopter

Óðinn has had her Bofors 40mm gun removed and replaced by a 57mm Hotchkiss QF gun.

Like the two Ægir-class ships, Óðinn was also fitted with a fully enclosed crows nest.

Monday, 17 April 2017

I have been to ... the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival

As it was Easter Sunday yesterday Sue and I decided to take a bit of a break from the normal humdrum retired lives we lead and to pay a visit to Woolwich to see the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival.

This event is a follow-up to the Tall Ships Festival that took place in 2014, and was based at Woolwich (on the waterfront in the old Royal Arsenal) and Greenwich (in and around the old Royal Naval Hospital/College and the Cutty Sark), with approximately half the ships taking part in the Festival being based in each. Besides the ships there were all sorts of other attractions at the venues, ranging from a farmer's market, helter-skelter, and carousel to historical re-enactors and a music/dance Festival.

As we expected the area around the Woolwich venue to be crowded, we used the local bus service to take us to the gates of the old Royal Arsenal site. (This is currently undergoing a massive redevelopment, and now includes housing, pubs, restaurants, shops, and banks as well as a station on the as-yet-to-be-finished Elizabeth Line that will connect East and West London.)

We ate lunch in the Guard House pub/restaurant which is situated near the gates onto the site ...

... and were very glad that we booked a table as it was very busy. After lunch we than had a walk around.

The first place that we stopped was the Local Heritage Centre, which now houses a small but interesting exhibition about the Royal Arsenal and the Royal Artillery. It also houses the local family history records, and is currently staging a display about the growth of part of the Woolwich/Plumstead area from 1750 until the present day.

We resisted the desire to go on the carousel, the helter-skelter, and the small Ferris wheel; instead we had a long look around the area set aside for the historical re-enactors. These included the Artillery Society Living History group ...

... and the Hearts of Oak naval re-enactors group. The latter had a display about medical care aboard ships during the Napoleonic era and a very small replica cannon that children (and some adults!) could learn to load and fire.

We then made our way down to the waterfront to find a suitable place to watch the final event of the Festival ... the Tall Ships sailing down the River Thames to the sea. We found a place not far from where the Artillery Society Living History group set up their field gun to fire a salute to the first Tall Ship to sail past.

The sail past was supposed to start at 5.00pm at Greenwich and to reach Woolwich by 5.45pm. Needless to say it was late, and the first ships didn't begin to sail past us until after 6.00pm. By then the light was beginning to go and the air temperature was dropping, and when my camera battery gave out at 7.45pm (I really should have charged it before I went out!) only about half of the ships taking part had reached and passed Woolwich.

The ships that I did manage to photograph are shown below.

Nao Victoria: An exact copy of one of the ships that set out in 1522 to circumnavigate the world.

Santa Maria Manuela: A former Portuguese steel fishing vessel, she is now used as a sail training ship.

A Thames Barge: Not part of the Tall Ships sail past, but it was nice to see it!

Morgenster: A former Dutch herring lugger, she is now used as a sail training ship in the Netherlands.

Blue Clipper: Built in Sweden and owned by the Hennessy bandy company.

Vera Cruz: A modern caravel that is used by the Portuguese Sailing Training Association.

Thor Heyerdahl: A topsail schooner used by the German High Seas High School since 1996.

Artemis: A triple masted barque. She was build in Norway and used as a whaler before being converted into a freighter. She was then restored and is now based in the Netherlands.

Iris: A traditional Dutch herring lugger.

Earl of Pembroke: A square-rigged ship that is similar in design to Captain Cook's Endeavour ... which was itself originally named Earl of Pembroke. It was originally used to carry cargoes of wood in the Baltic.

Jantje: Originally a cod fishing vesel, she was rebuilt as a brigantine in 1969.

Hendrika Bartels: Originally a herring lugger, she was later lengthened to enable her to operate as a cargo vessel.

JR Tolkien: Originally built in East Germany as a diesel-electric-powered sea-going tug! She was purchased in 1995 and converted into a schooner.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Developing The Portable Wargame: A further update

I have been working solidly on this book over the past few days, and have begun to make significant progress. Luckily I have had the help of several people who have been reading the draft rules and fighting play-test games using them. Their feedback has been very helpful and has led to several revisions being made to the text and clarifications added where necessary.

As well as creating the first of several diagrams that will be included in the book, I have begun writing the chapter about mini-campaigns. I have also begun taking some of the photographs that I want to use to illustrate some of the mechanisms I have used.

Over the Easter weekend I intend to carry on working on the book, but I don't expect to finish writing the text by Tuesday. Sue and I have organised a visit to Woolwich on Sunday to watch the Tall Ships that have been based in Greenwich for the last week as they sail down the River Thames towards the sea, and this will provide a much-needed break ... and something different to blog about!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Developing The Portable Wargame: An update

Despite a number of necessary diversions over the past few days (e.g. having the gas boiler services, taking my wife to the dentist etc.), I have been labouring away at my next book, DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME.

At present the book contains three sets of rules. They are:
  • DEVELOPED PORTABLE WARGAME RULES: EARLY AND MID TWENTIETH CENTURY (These are a revised and expanded version on the rules in my first book, and are aimed at players who want to fight battles on larger tabletops and/or who want a bit more detail.)
  • PORTABLE WARGAME: AIR COMBAT rules (These are designed to be a stand-alone set of simple air combat rules that will work with the both versions of my PORTABLE WARGAME RULES: EARLY AND MID TWENTIETH CENTURY rules.)
I do not intend to provide full blow-by-blow battle reports for each set of rules in this book, but I will include illustrative examples of the various mechanisms.

I will keep regular blog readers aware of the progress I make on this book as and when it happens.