Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Warship 2017

The latest copy of WARSHIP was delivered last Friday. This is Volume XXXIX of this annual publication, and it is edited by John Jordan and published by Conway (ISBN 978 1 8944 6472 0).

This year's edition of the annual includes:
  • Editorial by John Jordan
  • The Japanese Battleships Kawachi and Settsu by Kathrin Milanovich
  • The British Armour Plate Pool Agreement of 1903 by David Boursnell
  • From Eritrea to Courbet by John Jordan
  • DDL: The Australian Light Destroyer Project of the early 1970s by Mark Briggs
  • From Elba to Europa by Michele Cosentino
  • Modern Mine Countermeasures by Conrad Waters
  • The Light Aircraft Carrier Ibuki Class by Hans Lengerer
  • HACS: Debacle or Just In Time? by Peter Marland
  • HMS Surrey: Britain's Last Treaty Cruiser by David Murfin
  • After the Kaiser: The Imperial German Navy's Light Cruisers after 1918 by Aidan Dodson
  • The US Navy's Last Monitors by A D Baker III
  • Warship Notes
  • Naval Books of the Year
  • Warship Gallery
Yet again this year's annual is full of interesting really articles, and I look forward to reading them over the next few days and weeks. In particular I want to spend some time reading Aidan Dodson's After the Kaiser: The Imperial German Navy's Light Cruisers after 1918. It is often forgotten that quite a few of the Light Cruisers that Germany built before and during the First World War were still in service – albeit in secondary roles – during the Second World War. For example, the former SMS Niobe became the Croatian Navy cruiser and training ship Dalmacija after serving in Yugoslav Navy as Dalmacija, then the Royal Italian Navy as Cattaro (she was seized after the invasion of Yugoslavia), then in the Kriegsmarine as Niobe for a second time, before being handed over to the Croatians! ...

... and SMS Ancona ended its life as a Flak Ship with Naval Flak Group 233 in and around Wilhelmshaven.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Another tragedy

My wife and I were getting ready to go to bed last night when the first news of an 'incident' in Manchester began to feature on the two main news channels. The situation was somewhat confused, and we both hoped that whatever the cause, it would turn out to be nothing serious.

We were both wrong.

When we woke up at 7.30am this morning and saw the news, we were both saddened to find that at least twenty two people (including the bomber) are dead, and nearly sixty people were seriously injured.

I cannot conceive of what would induce someone to think that killing oneself – and a lot of innocent people – with a bomb is going to change a single thing in this world other than to cause massive grief and sorrow to the families of the victims. This has been shown time and time again ... and yet despite this some people still think that self-immolation that causes the deaths of others serves some sort of higher cause. In my opinion, it does not.

Needless to say our thoughts and condolences go out to the families of everyone who was killed or injured in this incident, and we offer our support to all of those who have been affected by it, whether they were event attendees or responders.

It has been pointed out in the media that yesterday was the fourth anniversary of the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, South East London, and the two incidents have been tentatively linked.

As I live only about a mile from the scene of the murder, I was aware of the fact that at some time during the past week the memorial to Lee had been vandalised, and that yesterday there was a ceremony at the memorial in remembrance of him. I hope against hope that the date chosen for yesterday's attack was purely coincidental, as is the fact that Lee came from Middleton in Greater Manchester.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Nugget 300

The editor of THE NUGGET sent the latest issue of the journal to me on Saturday, and I am taking it to the printer later today. This should mean that it will be printed and posted out to members of Wargame Developments by the end of the week.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the ninth and last issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2016-2017 subscription year ... and is the three hundredth to be published. This is an important milestone in the history of Wargame Developments and THE NUGGET, and this issue will be published just a month before the 38th annual COW (Conference of Wargamers) takes place at Knuston Hall, Northamptonshire.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Scenarios for All Ages

Whilst writing the chapter about scenarios for my forthcoming DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME book, I realised that I had somehow 'lost' my copy of Charles Stuart Grant and Stuart Asquith's SCENARIOS FOR ALL AGES.

This book was published by CSG Publications (Wargaming) in 1996 (ISBN 0 9525146 5 6) and is still available from John Curry's 'History of Wargaming' Project ... which is where I bought my replacement copy.

The book contains fifty two different scenarios, many of which are convertible for use with THE PORTABLE WARGAME. This is an excellent book, and now that Charles Stuart Grant's earlier SCENARIOS FOR WARGAMERS and PROGRAMMED WARGAMES SCENARIOS only seem to be available on the second-hand market at quite ridiculous prices, it serves as an easily available and affordable source of scenarios for wargamers.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Miniature Wargames Issue 410

The May issue of MINIATURE WARGAMES magazine was delivered a few days ago, but I have been so busy that I have only just managed to read through it.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Welcome (i.e. the editorial) by John Treadaway
  • Forward observer
  • Send three and fourpence: 'Get to the chopper!': A chat and a game with Brian Kenny, AvP (Alien vs. Predator) Unleashed Team by Conrad Kinch
  • Rules of Engagement: Asymmetric Warfare on the North West Frontier and modern conflicts by Andy Copestake
  • Some you win, some Zulus: A card-based system for producing the element of surprise in late nineteenth century colonial wargames by Andrew Rolph
  • Recce!: An Airfix Battles scenario by Alan Paull
  • Darker Horizons
    • Fantasy Facts
    • The Army of Gondolin: Painting a realistic Elven army (Part One) by Graham Green
    • Designing ulterior motives: A chat with the author of the latest add-on to Frostgrave by John Treadaway and Joe McCullough
  • Salute 2017: Show report by John Treadaway
  • Recce
  • Big Boys' Toys: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Club Spotlight: Falkirk District Wargames Club by Douglas Thompson
  • Club Directory
I was rather disappointed with this issue, and it pretty well confirmed my decision to cancel my subscription when it is next due. The only two articles I really enjoyed reading were those written by Andrew Rolph and Alan Paul (both of whom I have met at recent COWs) ... and when I saw that one article in the Darker Horizons section was subtitled 'Painting a realistic Eleven army', I nearly fell off my chair!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Retail therapy ... at Falconwood Transport & Military Bookshop

As I reported in yesterday's blog entry, I drove our visitor to North Greenwich underground station via Falconwood Transport & Military Bookshop. There we were both able to indulge in some retail therapy, and I came away with a copy of an AFTER THE BATTLE magazine ...

... and a book entitled GUIDE TO SIEGE WARGAMING by Stuart Asquith.

The former covers the four Battles of Kharkov as well as containing articles about Battery Maxim Gorkii I and re-enacting Operation Anglo. Stuart Asquith's book was one of a series published under the aegis of MILITARY MODELLING magazine by Argus Books (ISBN 1 85486 009 7) in 1990. Although I have owned the others in this series, this was one I had never bough before, and it was on sale at what I thought was a bargain price ... so I bought it!

I thoroughly recommend that anyone visiting this part of south east London should pay a visit to Falconwood Transport & Military Bookshop. It is usually open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and can be found at 5 Falconwood Parade, Welling, Kent, DA16 2PL.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Here's hoping for a restful few days!

The last four days have been a bit busy with lots of non-wargaming activity, but with a bit of luck I hope that the next few days will be a little less hectic.

On Sunday Sue and I spent the morning at the Bluewater Shopping Centre, where I had an eye test. The results were encouraging (my eyesight has not degenerated very much over the past ten years) but I did end up buying two new pairs of glasses; one for normal every-day wear and one for close work such as reading and painting toy soldiers.

On Monday morning we went looking new sofa for our conservatory. Our search involved a visit to Orpinton in Kent which proved to be fruitless. After lunch I then went up to Freemasons Hall in Central London to attend a meeting of the London Lodge of which I am a member. This started at 4.00pm and ended at just after 6.00pm, which gave us plenty of time to get to the Kingsway Hall Hotel for a pre-dinner drink. The after meeting dinner ended by 9.00pm, and after an uneventful journey I was home at 10.00pm.

The hunt for a new sofa continued on Tuesday morning. We began by visiting a couple of furniture stores in Chatham, Kent, but yet again our efforts went unrewarded. After lunch we concentrated our search in Charlton in South East London where we finally found what we were looking for. I just about managed to load the new sofa into the back of my car to get it home, and had managed to unload it by the time I had to leave to go to Cheshunt for a Lodge Committee Meeting followed by a Lodge of Instruction meeting.

By early on Wednesday morning the new sofa was in its place in our conservatory, and well before midday Sue and I were in a supermarket in Welling, Kent, buying some much-needed food supplies. We had eaten lunch at home by 1.30pm, and an hour or so later I was on my way to North Greenwich underground station to pick up an old friend and fellow Freemason prior to us going to a Lodge Meeting in Cheshunt. We were held up by a combination of bad weather, heavy traffic and vehicle breakdowns, and we did not arrive at the Halsey Masonic Centre until 4.35pm ... only to find that quite a few other attendees had also been delayed.

The meeting was an Installation, and I did my small part in helping to place another old friend into the Chair of my Mother Lodge. There was a special surprise for me towards the end of the meeting when the current Provincial Grand Orator presented me with the dress and undress aprons he has worn for the past eight years. I will therefore be able to wear them with pride when I am formally invested as his replacement in September.

The journey home from Cheshunt was somewhat less fraught than the journey there, and my guest and I reached home not long after 10.30pm. We then spent the next hour having a relaxing chat and a drink, but by midnight we were all feeling very tired, and not long afterwards everyone was in bed and asleep. We were all awake by 8.00am, and by 9.30pm we had all eaten a very pleasant cooked breakfast. Our guest took his leave just after 11.00am, and I drove him to North Greenwich underground station via the Falconwood Transport & Military Bookshop, where we stopped for a spell of retail therapy. I was back home by just after 12.30am, and after a short break for a drink, Sue and I went out into our garden to fix one of the bird feeder stations which had fallen over during a rainstorm.

With a bit of luck we should now be able to relax a bit for a day or so, and I may even manage to do some more work on my DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME book.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 17th May 1937

After the resignation of Largo Caballero, Dr Juan Negrin (a Socialist) became Prime Minister.

Dr Juan Negrin.
His new Government was dominated by Communists.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Developing The Portable Wargame: Latest update

Thanks to the feedback I have had from my small team of play-testers and proof-readers, work on DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME continues apace, and with luck it should be ready for publication by the end of this month. Final checking and the need to finish one chapter – for which I have to borrow some figures – are the only things that I can foresee that will hold up this process.

At present the contents look like this:
  • Introduction
  • Pinning and Unpinning Units
  • The Two Kills Option
  • Army Lists, Balanced, and Unbalanced Forces
  • Big Board – and Small Board – Gridded Wargames
  • A few observations about Portable Wargame Rules: Ancients
  • Portable Wargame Rules: Ancients
  • Army Lists for The Portable Wargame: Ancient Army Lists
  • The Portable Wargame in Action: Some example from the Ancients Rules
  • A few observations about the Developed Portable Wargame Rules: Early and Mid Twentieth Century
  • Developed Portable Wargame Rules: Early and Mid Twentieth Century
  • Adding another dimension: Some thoughts about Air Combat Rules
  • Portable Wargame: Air Combat Rules
  • The Portable Wargame in Action: Some examples from the Air Combat Rules
  • Simple Mini-Campaigns
  • Scenarios
  • Bibliography
  • Endnotes

Monday, 15 May 2017

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 15th May 1937

Largo Caballero resigned as Prime Minister of the Republic.

Largo Caballero.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Dictionary of Imaginary Places

During my recent rip to the local Royal Mail delivery office to collect my second copy TRAVEL BATTLE, I also collected a parcel from Germany that contained a copy of THE DICTIONARY OF IMAGINARY PLACES.

I had read a short review of this book online, and decided that for someone like me who has an interest in imagi-nations, it was an absolute 'must have'. My copy is 755 pages long, was published in 2000 by Turtleback Books (ISBN 978 0 613 56311 6), and was compiled by Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi. I opted for the edition that was produced in what is termed 'School and Library Binding' as this is a big book and I wanted to make sure that I would never have any problems with it falling apart over years to come.

As to the content ... well as one would expect, many famous imaginary places are included within its pages (e.g. Ruritania, Nania, Middle Earth, Earthsea, Hogwarts, Utopia, Atlantis, Arkham) and some that are by no means as well known (e.g. Cacklogallinia, the island in the Caribbean). What is also interesting is what is missing. This list includes such places as:
  • Graustark, and its neighbours Axphain and Dawsbergen (as featured in the GRAUSTARK novels by George Barr McCutcheon)
  • Borduria, Syldavia, San Theodoros, and Nuevo Rico (as featured in the Tintin books by Herge)
  • Costaguana and Sulaco (as featured in Joseph Conrad's NOSTROMO)
  • Eastasia, Eurasia, and Oceania (as featured in George Orwell's 1984)
  • Maltovia and Lovitzna (as featured in Captain W E John's book BIGGLES GOES TO WAR)
  • Melniboné (as featured in Michael Moorcock's ETERNAL CHAMPION stories)
  • The nations of Hyboria (as featured in Robert E Howard's many stories)
  • Barsoom (as featured in the science fiction stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs)
  • Laurania (as featured in Winston S Churchill's only novel, SAVROLA)
Bearing in mind the date of the book's publication, it is less surprising to see that George R R Martin's Westeros doesn't seem to get an entry, but I would have thought that Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld's Ankh-Morpork might have done.

The big plus this book has for me is its maps. There are 150 of them, all drawn in black and white and all full of potential inspiration for the users of imagi-nations! One map in particular caught my eye. It was of the Karain Continent, which was situated in the South Pacific. Most of the coastal areas were under the control of the British, French and Germans, but the remainder was an independent nation populated by different tribal groups. It all sounded very reminiscent of Eric Knowles's MADASAHATTA, a place that I know well from the year-long campaign he ran – and I took part in – many years ago.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Travel Battle: My second copy has finally arrived!

After a somewhat tortuous journey, my second copy of TRAVEL BATTLE has finally arrived!

It was sent to me by Perry Miniatures two days after the game was released at SALUTE ... but somehow the Royal Mail could not find my address and returned it to them. I sent an email to Perry Miniatures asking where my game was ... at which point I discovered that the house number had been left off the original address label. A couple of days later Alan Perry contacted me again, and informed me that the original parcel had been returned to them and that he had was sending it back with the correct address on it.

The Royal Mail attempted to deliver the game to me last Friday ... but by the time I managed to get down two flights of stairs from the top floor of our house to the front door, the postman had gone, leaving a card behind that informed me that I could collect the parcel from our local delivery office next day. Unfortunately I was unable to get there on Saturday, but when I did get there on Monday, they couldn't find the parcel. It transpired that they had decided to send it out again to be delivered, and whilst I was at the delivery office trying to collect it, the postman was at my house trying to deliver it!

I finally managed to go back to collect it yesterday, and it is now sitting in my wargames/toy room waiting to be opened.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

It happened yesterday ... in 1940!

A chance comment by one of my regular blog readers – Geordie an Exiled FoG – made me realise that I missed a very important anniversary yesterday ... the German invasion of France and the Low Countries!

It had a traumatic effect on the political leadership of the UK, and by just after 6.00pm Neville Chamberlain had been to Buckingham Palace and resigned as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. King George VI then asked Winston Churchill to form a new government, a task that Churchill willingly accepted. (It is perhaps worth noting that Neville Chamberlain was already unwell at the time of his resignation as Prime Minister, and that he died of bowel cancer on 9th November 1940, aged 71.)

The Dutch and Belgians had far more important things to occupy them. In the Netherlands fighting was taking place in and around The Hague, Rotterdam, Zeeland, and Maastricht, whilst in Belgium a select group of German airborne troops had landed on Fort Eben-Emael and were in the process of capturing it. By the evening of 10th May 1940, most of Luxembourg – with the exception of the south – had been occupied by German forces and the Grand Duchess Charlotte and her government had fled abroad.

The so-called Phoney War was over!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Hugh Thomas (21st October 1931 – 6th May 2017)

Hugh Swynnerton Thomas, Baron Thomas of Swynnerton, died a few days ago. He was a leading British historian of the history of Cuba and the empire of Charles V, and the writer of what to me (and many others) was the best history of the Spanish Civil War.

His book – THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR – was first published in 1961, and soon became accepted as the English language history of the war.

I read it when I first went to Spain in 1966 ... not knowing at the time that I risked imprisonment by taking it into Spain, where Franco had banned it because it was 'illegal propaganda' that helped in 'spreading communism'. (These were the charges faced by one Octavio Jordá, who was found with a suitcase full of Spanish language editions of the book when he was crossing the border between France and Spain.)

I subsequently read each of the new editions when they were published, and it was his books that first inspired me to do my own researches into the causes and course of the war. The end result was LA ULTIMA CRUZADA: A WARGAMERS GUIDE TO THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR, which was first published in the 1980s and republished in a heavily revised version in 1993.

I was interested to discover recently that at the time the Hugh Thomas wrote his book, he spoke and read no Spanish, and had translated sources for himself using a dictionary ... just as I had done when I began work on my book.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Vive l'Empereur! Another return to my Napoleonic project

I have been planning to get back to work on my Napoleonic project for some time ... but until now I have not managed it!

I have begun work on renovating, varnishing, and basing a batch of eighteen French Napoleonic Foot Artillery figures. This will enable me to form nine additional French Artillery units, which will be more than enough for my needs. I also have some Horse and Veteran Artillery figures ready to follow them, and by the time that they are finished I will be able to include them in the French Order of Battle. The former will be used to support my French Cavalry units and the latter will be used as garrison troops.

Until recently I had not realised how long I have been working on and off on this project. The original intention had been to use my collection for a re-fight of the Battle of Waterloo ... but I am almost two years late already! Admittedly the collection has grown somewhat in the meantime, and is probably between twice and three times its original size. As of today the numbers of figures that have been completely renovated, varnished, and based are:
  • Dutch-Belgians: 49
  • Brunswick: 25
  • Hanover: 37
  • Prussia: 163
  • Britain: 230
  • France: 373
  • Total: 877
I have not included the current batch of figures that I have just begun work on in these figures, nor any of the other French figures I have yet to do. I also have a small Russian army (the figures have been acquired via eBay and are from the Del Prado RELIVE AUSTERLITZ! range of pre-painted 25/28mm figures) to add to the collection as well as some odds and ends that include a few Austrian and Italian figures. I estimate that when finished I will have close to 1,000 figures in my collection.

It will come as no surprise to regular readers that I hope to write and publish a set of rules entitled THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME at some time in the future. It will use the same basic mechanisms but with a few changes that reflect certain aspects of Napoleonic warfare. For example, units will mostly have two bases as this allows them to be arranged to show what formation the unit is in.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Looking at alternatives

In my recent blog entry about the latest issue of MINIATURE WARGAMES I wrote about the possibility of me cancelling my current subscription and looking at the two alternatives, WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED ...


I therefore bought copies of the latest issues of those two magazines to see it either of them might be a viable alternative for me to subscribe to.

Both magazines have monthly themes, but it was very apparent that they approached this concept in rather different ways. WAGAMES ILLUSTRATED's theme for its May 2017 issue was Samurai ... something that does not particularly interest me. Reading the magazine I was struck by the fact that it is very image-heavy, and some of the actual articles seemed a bit lightweight. That said, the article about TRAVEL BATTLE was interesting, and besides explaining its origins, it hinted at things to come ... in particular, the possibility of a World War II and Colonial Sudan versions. I had hopes that the article about wargaming the Indian Mutiny/Great Rebellion would interest me as well, but other than a short historical outline and lots of colour photographs, it seemed to be devoted to where to buy the figures and scenery you needed, and what rules to use. My overall impression of this issue of WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED was that the whole thing was very glossy, very commercial, and aimed very much at a different segment of the hobby than the one I inhabit.

WARGAMES, SOLDIERS & STRATEGY's theme for May/June 2017 was technical innovation during World War I, but it was interesting to note that only seven of the twenty two articles/sections of the magazine were devoted to the theme as opposed to five from fifteen in WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED.

My first impression of WARGAMES, SOLDIERS & STRATEGY was that there was far more text and fewer colour photographs than there were in WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED. My second impression was that there was far more in this issue that grabbed my interest ... and that was not exclusively due to the theme being more to my liking. Both Richard Clarke and Henry Hyde had written articles that I really enjoyed reading, and I found that Adrian McWalter's scenario about defending a position against overwhelming odds gave me ideas about staging such an action at some time in the not too distant future. Likewise Mark Backhouse's description of what was – in effect – a mini-campaign about the English Civil War siege of Portsmouth gave me food for thought, and I could envisage adapting it for a later period, such as a French invasion in the early to mid nineteenth century.

On the basis of these two issues I can see myself switching my allegiance – and subscription – to WARGAMES, SOLDIERS & STRATEGY if things don't improve on the MINIATURE WARGAMES front. Even if I don't switch, I can envisage buying WARGAMES, SOLDIERS & STRATEGY on a fairly regular basis from now on, especially if a particular theme appeals to me.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Developing The Portable Wargame: A progress report

Despite lots of diversions, I have been continuing to work on DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME. At present it contains the following chapters and sections:
  • Introduction
  • Pinning and Unpinning Units
  • The Two Kills Option
  • Army Lists, Balanced, and Unbalanced Forces
  • Big Board – and Small Board – Gridded Wargames
  • A few observations about Portable Wargame Rules: Ancients
  • Portable Wargame Rules: Ancients
  • Examples of generic Portable Wargame: Ancient Army Lists
  • The Portable Wargame in Action: Some example from the Ancients Rules
  • A few observations about the Developed Portable Wargame Rules: Early and Mid Twentieth Century
  • Developed Portable Wargame Rules: Early and Mid Twentieth Century
  • Adding another dimension: Some thoughts about Air Combat Rules
  • Portable Wargame: Air Combat Rules
  • The Portable Wargame in Action: Some examples from the Air Combat Rules
  • A Simple Mini-Campaign
  • Bibliography
  • Endnotes
The rules have been or are currently being play-tested, and with luck the text of the book should be finished by the end of the month. It will then have to be error checked and proof-read, and once that is done, it will be published.

Sales of THE PORTABLE WARGAME continue to be healthy, and according to the latest sales figures, a total of 423 copies have been sold in the various formats available:
  • 183 eBooks
  • 51 Hardbacks
  • 189 Paperbacks

The book has now sold in at least fourteen countries (the figures for the EU are not split down by country), including Zambia! This is not at all bad considering that the only publicity the books has had is by blog (mine and various other people's), purchaser reviews on Amazon, and related topics raised on TMP (The Miniatures Page). The book has yet to be reviewed in one of the glossy wargame magazines, and one wonders whether or not it will be. (Copies have been sent to reviewers, and I know that at least one review has been written, but none have yet been published.)

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 7th May 1937

The Nationalist motor torpedo boat Javier Quiroga sank off Gibraltar as a result of a collision with the Candido Perez.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Freemasonry in 'War and Peace'

I must admit to never, ever having read Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE, although in mitigation I can state that I have read Victor Hugo's LES MISERABLES! I was therefore very interested to watch the BBC adaptation of the book when it appeared on DVD.

One thing that I had not realised was the importance that Freemasonry played in the life of Pierre, Prince Bezukhov, and was I very interested to listen to the arguments put forward by Tolstoy in support of Freemasonry and to see the Initiation ceremony that was portrayed.

It was very different for that used in most UK Lodges, although I understand it is very similar to that used in the Swedish Rite, the version of Masonic ritual used across most of the Scandinavian countries.

At the end of April I was informed that I have been promoted within Freemasonry in Hertfordshire to the rank of Provincial Grand Orator. For those of you who are Freemasons, you will understand that this is a signal honour. For those of you who aren't, the new role I will be taking up in September will involve me visiting numerous Lodges in Hertfordshire to deliver talks on Masonic subjects and to be more heavily involved in Masonic historical research. I will also be expected to deliver Orations (short talks that are used as a starting point for discussions in Lodge Meetings) and to support the work of the Provincial Grand Master and his team at ceremonies such as the Consecration of new Lodges and Banner Dedications. How much this will impact on my wargaming and blogging I have yet to discover, but I hope that any impact will be minimal.

Friday, 5 May 2017

My Way: A film about the 1930s and 1940s by Kang Je-Kyu

During one of my periodic trawls through the cheap foreign DVDs on sale in the ASDA outlet store in Dartford, I came across a film entitled MY WAY which had an intriguing cover illustration ... what were two obviously East Asian men in Wehrmacht uniforms! As it was only £3.00 I bought it, and now that I have had a chance to watch it, the tale it tells was even more implausible than I imagined it would be ... even though it is based on a true story!

The story is based on the life of a Korean man named Yang Kyoungjong, who was captured by Americans troops on D-Day. It transpired that he had been forcibly conscripted into the Japanese Imperial Army (Korea was under Japanese control at the time), had fought against the Russians in China during the Nomonhan Incident, where he had been captured. Whilst in a forced labour camp, he was then 'recruited' into the Red Army to fight the Germans after their invasion of Russia in 1941. He was captured by the Germans during the Third Battle of Kharkov, and like a lot of former Red Army soldiers he changed sides again and became a member of an Eastern Battalion serving in the Wehrmacht in Normandy. He was captured by American paratroops on the Cotentin Peninsula on D-Day, and eventually sent to a POW camp in the United States. When he was released he remained in the US, and settled in Illinois. He died there in 1992.

Yang Kyoungjong at the time of his capture on D-Day.
The film has two main heroes, both of whom are marathon runners. One is Korean – Kim Jun-shik – and the other is Japanese – Tatsuo Hasegawa – and from an early age they are deadly rivals. Matters come to a head when Kim Jun-shik wins the run-offs for a place in the Japanese Olympic team, only to be disqualified so that Tatsuo Hasegawa – who came second – can be awarded the victory and the team place. In the ensuing riot a whole group of Korean young men, including Kim Jun-shik, are arrested and forcibly recruited into the Imperial Japanese Army and sent to China.

The Koreans are treated as second-class soldiers by the Japanese they serve with, and are subjected to all sorts of punishments for perceived indiscipline. Their regiment is unable to stem a Russian advance during the Nomonhan Incident, and their Colonel is given no choice other than to commit to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) by his replacement, Tatsuo Hasegawa.

The Imperial Japanese Army falls back in the face of a Russian tank-led attack.
Tatsuo Hasegawa then begin to prepare to attack the Russians, and chooses a number of the Koreans to take part in a suicide mission to destroy Russian tanks. When Kim Jun-shik refuses to 'volunteer' he is beated up and his execution for mutiny is ordered. With the help of some of his fellow Koreans, he escapes, but when he sees that the Russians are mounting a massive surprise attack he returns to warn his fellow soldiers. Despite suicidal attacks on the advancing Russian tanks, the Imperial Japanese troops – including Kim Jun-shik and Tatsuo Hasegawa – are either killed or captured.

The Imperial Japanese Army's attempts to stop Russian tanks with waves of suicide bombers are doomed to failure.
Whilst in a Russian forced labour camp the two men continue to fight each other, and this culminates in a riot, as a result of which they are both sentenced to be shot. They are only saved by the arrival of a group of NKVD troops who have orders to forcibly 'recruit' the prisoners into the Red Army. They are all sent to fight the Germans, and in scenes very reminiscent of those in the early part of ENEMY AT THE GATES, they make human wave attacks on German defensive positions whilst an NKVD blocking detachment shoots down anyone who falls back or fails to charge.

Kim Jun-shik rescues Tatsuo Hasegawa, who has been injured during the fighting, and they both try to escape to German territory. Whilst trying to get help, Kim Jun-shik is captured and it seems that Tatsuo Hasegawa is found and after being treated for his injuries, he is recruited into a Wehrmacht Eastern Battalion. By chance the two men meet again in Normandy, and a friendship develops between them. They plan to try to escape, but before they can the D-Day invasion begins. Both manage to get away from their compatriots, but during their escape Kim Jun-shik is mortally wounded and forces Tatsuo Hasegawa to take his dog-tags to make sure that the American will not kill him if they find out that he is Japanese.

The film ends with Tatsuo Hasegawa running in the marathon at the 1948 London Olympics ... as Kim Jun-shik.

There are a lot of battle scenes in this film, some of them more believable than others. The Russian BT Tanks are quite convincing mock-ups (they have too many wheels and look as if the chassis used were probably based on obsolete American tanks) but the battle scenes they appear in are more than a little unbelievable. The same is not so true of the fighting depicted on the Eastern Front – which looks very gritty and brutal – and some of the D-Day scenes use a quite reasonable mix of CGI and live action.

Not a great film, and the real story it is based on is – in my opinion – would have made a better film, but for £3.00 I don't feel that my money was wasted and it occupied an afternoon when the weather was bad and I didn't feel in the mood to do anything other than watch TV.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Travel Battle Campaign Maps: A more randomised version

When I created my first set of mini-campaign maps they retained a degree of symmetry that was somewhat obvious. I have therefore been experimenting with a slightly more randomised placement of the two boards using the following method:
  • Each board (A and B) was copied in four different orientations (1, 2, 3, and 4).
  • Starting with board A in the top left-hand corner of the mini-campaign map, a D6 die was thrown (1 = 1; 2 = 2; 3= 3; 4= 4; 5 and 6 = re-roll the D6 die) to select which of the orientations of board A to use (e.g. A3).
  • In the space to the right of the first board placed on the min-campaign map, the same method was used to chose the which of the four orientations of board B to place there (e.g. B1).
  • Alternating with A and then B, this method was used to place the next two boards on the mini-campaign map.
  • The second row of boards added to the mini-campaign map started with one of the board Bs, followed by a board A etc.
  • The third row of boards added to the mini-campaign map started with one of the board As, followed by a board B etc.
  • The fourth row of boards added to the mini-campaign map was created in exactly the same way as the second row.
The resulting map is more randomised and looks like this:

You will note that I have changed the colour scheme to make this map look more southern than northern European.

TRAVEL BATTLE was designed and manufactured by Perry Miniatures, and the materials I have produced above are in no way intended to infringe their copyright, and have been created for my own use and amusement.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 3rd – 8th May 1937

Street-fighting broke out in Barcelona; the CNT (Confederacion Nacional de Trabajo [the Anarcho-Syndicalist Trades Union]) and POUM battled with the Communists supported by the Generalitat.

A POUM poster.
A column of POUM militiamen about to depart for the front early in the war.
The tall figure (indicated by the red circle) is thought to be the writer George Orwell (whose real name was Eric Blair). He fought for some time in a POUM militia column, and wrote about his experiences in his book 'Homage to Catalonia'
A rather unclear enlargement of the above photograph that shows the figure that has been identified as being the writer George Orwell.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Travel Battle Campaign Maps: A couple of examples

I managed to spend an hour or so looking at the various combinations the TRAVEL BATTLE boards could be placed in, and produced the following mini-campaign map.

This showed that the concept worked, but I wasn't totally happy with the resultant map ... so I had another go and was much more satisfied with the result.

In particular the road system on the second map seemed to make more sense (a few less 'roads to nowhere'!), and there were areas where clusters of hills created obvious barriers to movement and manoeuvre. All I need now is my second game and I can begin to start thinking about running a mini-campaign of some sort.

TRAVEL BATTLE was designed and manufactured by Perry Miniatures, and the materials I have produced above are in no way intended to infringe their copyright, and have been created for my own use and amusement.

Monday, 1 May 2017

A simple idea ... that seems to have become somewhat more complex

I am still waiting for my second copy of TRAVEL BATTLE to arrive, and over the past few days I've been thinking about whether or not I should paint the boards or leave them as they are.

To help me decided, I had what I though was a simple idea; draw out each board and colour them to see what they would look like. I sat down at my computer to draw some simple images of each of the two boards that come with the game ... and some four hours later I had created the following:

I then coloured them in using a very simple colour scheme, and the results looked like this:

I then placed the two boards together ...

... and then swapped then over.

The affect of this simple change of position was quite startling. In the top combination there was an obvious choke-point between the two hills in the centre of the map, whereas in the second the terrain seemed much more open in the centre of the map.

I hope to spend some more time over the next few days looking at the various combinations the boards can be placed in, and seeing if it is possible to produce a mini-campaign map using these different combinations together.

TRAVEL BATTLE was designed and manufactured by Perry Miniatures, and the materials I have produced above are in no way intended to infringe their copyright, and have been created for my own use and amusement.