Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Still in the Boxes... more rarities?

 Since I haven't yet tidied up the ex-Eric Knowles boxes or put them back in The Upstairs Cupboard, I did a little more digging around, and came up with these, which might be of interest to people, like me, who care for fossils:

Here are some very dashing Scots Greys - I can almost hear the cinema organ. From the general style, I would guess these might be Alberkens (the official catalogue number is BNC 2, which I have never seen, even in a photo), but these are mounted on sheet metal bases, and - though badly faded now - the paint job seems to have been pretty fancy at one time. No markings - someone did a unit of these for Eric.
For comparison here are some French cuirassiers: (L to R) a couple of Greenwood & Ball, a Hinton Hunt OPC (FN 102) and an Alberken OPC (FNC 3). The Greenwood & Balls mostly have sheet metal bases, and appear to have been improved - I can hear the shouts of "Tradition!" from here... 

...but no - hold your horses (!) - one of them still has the original, cast base, which says "MADE IN ENGLAND by Greenwood & Ball" - this doesn't show up too well in my picture, but, if you want to see it more clearly, place a piece of thin paper against the computer screen, and rub gently with a soft pencil...
So, having established that there are some (tweaked) G&Bs present, here are a couple more - this time dragoons, again with sheet metal bases. These figures are very slightly tall and lean in comparison with Hinton Hunt (for example), but fit in reasonably well, as the pictures show, so - if you are more knowledgeable than I am about G&B (and most carbon-based life forms are) - then you can have a guess what period and range these come from. They seem too big for the three-quarter-inch diorama series. Anyway, G&B they certainly are, and 20mm too.
Here's a one-off - this is another of these improved OPC mounted figures which I suspect are both cast and enhanced by Mr Gilder - note that this is another of these distinctive, Airfix-style horses. This is very similar to the tweaked Grenadier à Cheval which started this whole study project, but this chap has gold epaulettes and a bicorn, and he has no musket, so I think he's supposed to be an officer for the mounted grenadiers. Because you won't see many of these around, I've done 3 views of him.

Good grief - I thought I was ugly until I saw him. A number of the PG (?) figures show some corrosion of the areas of the figure which were treated with flesh-coloured paint - I've seen this quite a lot on old figures - I wonder what the paint was? Some lead in the pigment?

I also dug out, for a photograph, some samples of an ex-Eric unit of the 2eme Eclaireurs de la Garde, which have unmarked bases (in fact the bases may be sheet metal), and they look sort of like Alberken, though I suggest that they don't look very like the official FNC 4. I have plans to restore these fellows back to duty condition, though the 2eme Eclaireurs had a very limited service record, and have a very good chance of not being required for action very often.

I hope you enjoyed that lot - time for me to get properly tidied up and get on with a sensible weekend - I hope to paint some WSS figures today, but we seem to have a North-East wind again, and the attic is perishing cold!

***** Late Edit *****

"I wonder what history will say about them, eh? You couldn't pass me the loofah, could you, Soult?"
Completely different topic - my DVD for the 1970 Waterloo movie has to be just about my greatest buy ever - I think I paid £3.90 for it, years ago, and I must have watched it over a hundred times. However, I observe that there is a BluRay version available. Now, I use a BluRay player, which definitely improves the quality of the picture from my DVD, but I was thinking about buying the BluRay disc. Some of the reviews on Amazon are really pretty terrible - subtitles in random languages, all sorts of issues.

A question: does anyone have a BluRay disc of Waterloo, and is it any good? I see there is a "Special Edition" to be released on 14th June this year - I feel I ought to get a copy!


Tuesday, 4 May 2021

A Little More Paleontology - Shades of Gilder

 Following on from my failure to identify the correct provenance of the French Grenadiers à Cheval in my Box "J" (ex-Eric Knowles French Cav), I was sure that I had some more cavalrymen from this purchase with a very similar horse. Today I found them - in Box "K", which of course is the ex-EK Brit Cav.

Quite a few hussars. Definitely the same horse. However, where the Grenadiers had nothing at all marked on the bases, I found that the hussars did. Since I now had a little momentum going, I also checked out some OPC French Chasseurs à Cheval - very plain - which I had also approximately identified as Alberken. Here's what I found today...

Here are the two figures with similar horses - the unknown Grenadier à Cheval (from my recent post) on the left, the unknown hussar I unearthed today on the right
The bases of the hussars are clearly marked with a simple annotation - "PG". Well, well.

OK - slight detour - another unidentified figure, of which I also got a few from the Eric Knowles hoard. The sticky-up tail looks a bit more Alberken to my inexpert eyes - very simple figure - no weapons in hand, no carbine.
...and this figure, too, has PG cast on the underside of the base.

However, the figure is not at all like the known OPC Alberken Chasseur à Cheval, FNC01, shown here, so what I have is clearly something else. [Photo borrowed without permission from Lazy Limey's Wargaming Place - an excellent and much-missed blog]

So what? Well - not sure, really. I believe these figures are not Alberkens or Minifigs as we know them, but - knowing of Eric's close ties with Gilder - my guess is that these are probably Peter's work. Anyone know anything about these? They seem to be simpler and probably earlier than any Alberken figures I know of - any clues?

Monday, 3 May 2021

The Armourer Visits - another stream of consciousness...

 I was sorting out The Cupboard the other day, to get the French soldiers into a logical order (which helps a lot with setting up and putting away - any Chief of Staff will tell you), and to make space for new and impending arrivals. While thus employed, I removed a couple of small trays of odd bits and pieces which some untidy beggar seems to have left in there, and I found a little stand of Spanish guerrilleros, which has been in there since September 2018 (I checked), waiting for me to repair a sword that I broke.

I have to say at this point that breakages here are very few and far between - probably because I am extremely timid about roughing up my troops (a legacy of being the owner of delicate Les Higgins figures for so many decades), and they spend their lives glued onto MDF bases, which are magnetised and mounted on permanently allocated sabots; I don't remove casualties and the armies spend their off-table time locked in The Cupboard or in specially-prepared A4 box files. [I think I was severely traumatised at the beginnings of my wargaming career, when at my local club it was considered macho behaviour to shove handfuls of figures around in heaps - fortunately they were mostly S-Range Minifigs, as I recall, which can stand a great deal of rough handling.]

The repaired sword - Alfonso is as pleased as anything. His neighbours, I think, are SHQ - there are also Falcata figures among the partida bands. Qualiticast alloy does not bend, I learned.

 Anyway, I had a breakage in 2018, and I remember doing it, and I've been wondering ever since what is the best means of repair, since this is not a strong part of my act. The basic problem is that the broken figure was a Qualiticast casting; they always seem to have used a hard, brittle alloy. Normally they do not break, but I caught a sword with my finger when I was tidying away one evening, and it just snapped off. Didn't bend, just went "ping" and snapped off, about 2mm from the hilt. [Before everyone rushes to tell me how I should fix it, thank you, but please read on...]

I eventually developed a plan for fixing it after reading an article from Archaeology Today about Bronze Age weapons someone had dug up. Glossing over the fact that Archaeology Today seems a strange title to me, what struck me was that these bronze swords were cast with a tang (aha!), a pointy bit which was fixed into the handle. That could be the correct approach for repair of a White Metal Age Qualiticast sword, I decided, though of course it took me a couple of years to get around to it.

Anyway, that's what I did. I filed the broken stub of blade off the hilt, drilled a hole (rather bravely, I thought) in the hilt, heading up into the chap's wrist, and spent a while filing the broken end of the blade into a short tang, as described, such as would fit into the hole. Some superglue, then an extra couple of thin coats of superglue to build it up a bit, paint and varnish and you're done - next gentleman, please. I shall look after it, of course, but you can't really tell it was broken. Good. Result. 

I remembered that the game when Alfonso got his sword broken was a demonstration for the benefit of my aunt (no, really), and was one of two pre-production runs-out for what became the Ramekin mod I use with Command & Colors. Ramekin started life as a simplification of C&C, for the benefit of novice generals. It became rather awkwardly obvious that the simplified game, for a large battle, ran a lot faster and was at least as much fun as the official rules. And the rest, as they almost say, would be history if only anyone knew about it and was interested.

I also remembered that this Battle of Alfonso's Sword was a fictitious game which I've always intended to revisit, so that may be coming up shortly. Watch this space.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Some Figure Paleontology - Back in the Old Boxes...

 On the phone yesterday with Stryker, the topic of vintage Hinton Hunts came up, as it tends to. In particular, I was interested in the Hinton Hunt French Napoleonic Grenadier à Cheval, which was made in 2-piece and OPC forms. I was vaguely aware (that's "vague" by normal standards, not necessarily mine) that I have a decrepit unit of ex-Eric Knowles OPC Gr-à-Ch in one of the Old Boxes, so I determined to have a dig in there and see what I actually have. Knowledge is power.

I was pretty sure that my unit was mixed - I thought that most of them are Alberkens - or 20mm Minifigs of some sort (I'm not good at distinguishing between these - I have always sort of assumed that the ones which look a bit like Hintons are Alberkens, and that the ones which don't aren't). I also knew that some of them were different, and assumed that they must be Hintons.

Having got my coffee level to the required threshold, I tied a rope around my waist, donned my head torch and set off on my adventure. Box "J" is the one containing ex-Eric French cavalry - I tell you so that you may remind me next time I do this. In there I was surprised to find that my Gr-à-Ch are not Hinton Hunts at all, but are all what I had assumed to be Alberkens (I would welcome any more definite identification). They come in two varieties, as I shall attempt to show. I gave them a good wash, and attempted some photos.

Here, on the left, is a single example of the original figure, with two examples of the modified one. Someone, as you will see, has had a serious go at the modifications - replacement sword blade and scabbard, an added musket and a superior paint job. Definitely the same horse, though.

From the front, the difference is surprising - the figures on the right are much wider, have a sword arm which is away from the body and are much more detailed. Hmmm.

I've now checked a couple of places online, and it seems that the Alberken OPC Gr-à-Ch was a pretty close copy of the HH model, which these patently are not. Maybe Minifigs produced a separate design? Maybe these are something else altogether? I am interested by the very different stature, the replacement sword-blade, stuck-on musket and (I think) scabbard. Has someone just smartened these up, or am I looking at two different generations of the same figure? Interesting. The horse, which is definitely not an HH clone, has an unusual configuration - the hindquarters are a bit low-slung (short back legs - what my Grandma used to call "Ducks' Disease") and I am not at all convinced about my previous assumptions about Alberken/Minifigs.

I am happy to accept that I'm probably not going to be able to do much with these, but would like to know what they are, and who is likely to have done the modifications. Just out of interest, like.

Speaking of ex-Eric soldiers, I have now washed and cleaned up the next "cannonfodder" refurb batch, being Hinton Hunt French line infantry from exactly that source. They are now on bottletops, and in project boxes, ready for work, but I shall not start them immediately. I intend to get to them before four years, however.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Hooptedoodle #395 - Just the Thing for the Grand Duke's Study

 My wife has been clearing her late mother's house recently, preparing to sell the place. This has not been especially easy in a time of lockdown, and the closure of the charity shops has been a major problem in the disposal of household trivia. Some of the larger and more valuable items have been sold through local social media pages, and a lot has been given away. One item I was interested in for myself was a wall clock.

I've always had a thing about clocks - I associate chiming clocks with sunlit afternoons at my Posh Auntie May's house in West Kirby when I was a kid. There is something soothing about them. They go with the smells of furniture polish and coffee. The clock in question is built in a traditional style, but it is probably only about 45 years old. For a featured clock in a hallway or similar I think I'd prefer something genuinely old - with ghosts and all that. Still, this is a proper, wind-up clock with a pendulum. Not a battery in sight. It keeps good time, and really is perfect for the Grand Duke's study.

I paid the advertised price and hung it on the wall.

Very good thus far. The tick is pleasing, and is actually no louder than the noise the battery clock which preceded it made.

And, of course, it chimes - how long that stays switched on is a matter of wait and see, but at the moment I'm enjoying it.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Slow and Steady Does It

 I have a number of refurb jobs on the go at the moment - quite a lot of them, in fact - and I find it satisfying when I complete one, but increasingly I find that the unfinished ones nag at me. It's not that I was better organised when I was younger, it's just that I seem to worry about it more now. Perhaps I have less confidence in there being plenty of time? - Let's not go there.

I'm spending a few weeks - during the start of the Spring temperate painting season - clearing off some of the Napoleonic backlog, to clear the mind and free up some boxes for re-use. One of these has been on the go for about 4 years - a pile of old, rather bashed figures I got very cheaply from the worthy Steve Cooney, which I lined up for one of my "cannonfodder" projects. This is not intended as any kind of a poke at Steve, I hasten to add - I knew exactly what I was getting into when I took them on! This batch consisted of old Der Kriegsspieler castings, and - Steve being Steve - he had taken his soldering iron to bayonets, gaiters, bases...

Five additional battalions; the rank and file are mostly tweaked Der Kriegsspielers, from many years ago. There are SHQ, Hinton Hunt and Schilling among the command figures. I was short of grenadiers, so recruited some Alberken Old Guard to make up the numbers - I had some misgivings about these, since the castings are relatively crude, but they came out all right, I think!

These chaps are never going to win any prizes for beauty, and have actually been quite a lot of work to paint up, but in the end they are pretty much what I was aiming for - hoping for the old Featherstone objective of "looking good in the mass".

During the intervening 4 years, I have had an occasional peep at their current state, noted that the Refurb Fairies had once again failed to come to help out, and I had rather quailed at the prospect of resuming work on them, but this has all been cowardice. Since I set my mind to finishing them, I've rather enjoyed the painting sessions, though I've listened to an awful lot of BBC Radio 3 and drunk a lot of black tea in the process.

So I have added 2 battalions of the 65e Ligne and 3 battalions of the 22e to Brennier's (Sixth) Divn of the Armée de Portugal, circa 1812. I already have one battalion of the 17e Léger and a solitary battalion of the Regiment de Prusse, so I only need the missing light battalion, a couple of groups of combined voltigeurs and some staff, and I need to allocate one of the spare foot artillery batteries to them, and the Division is done.

In the unlikely circumstance of anyone being interested, I must explain [to myself, really], that it has taken me about 3 months to break my new house rule of no 3rd battalions. The 22e really do need a 3rd battalion, or their brigade will be a runt. I have, however, stuck to my existing rule that 3rd battalions don't get flags [that'll teach them].

Finishing little projects is good - even sub-projects. Must nurture my enthusiasm... 

Thanks to Steve for supplying the figures back in 2017 - worked out fine, and his boys will fight on.


Saturday, 24 April 2021

Hooptedoodle #394 - Auprès de Ma Blonde

 Here we go - a song from the time of Louis XIV, reckoned to date from the Franco-Dutch War of 1672-78, and much loved as a marching song by French soldiers right up to modern times. The informal performance here is by the remarkable Olivia Chaney, who is English, though her accent is spot-on. I'm very much in favour of Olivia, generally.

I was taught this song by my mother when I was a toddler. Years later, in my French class at school, we were asked if anyone knew any French songs, and I offered this, for which I was put on detention by our teacher (the Headmaster, as it happens), because the song was inappropriate. When I protested that it was a very old song, and told him where I had learned it, he said it had been inappropriate for a very long time, and my mother could take a detention too.

The romantic drama in the verses has been hand-polished over the centuries, I am sure, but the chorus is straightforward enough:

Next to my blonde, who does it well, does it well, does it well;
Next to my blonde, who makes me sleep well.

The Headmaster, Bill Pobjoy, has been dead for years - his biggest claim to fame was the fact that he expelled one John Winston Lennon from the school (before my time, I hasten to add), of which he was always rather proud. In truth, I think old JWL needed to be expelled. 

***** Late Edit *****

My old friend Norman, who is something of an expert on all things to do with the Beatles, has gently taken me to task over the Lennon episode - he points out that, strictly, JWL was not expelled, but the school arranged for him to transfer to Liverpool Art College. Technically, that is correct, and there are a number of books which testify to this now (some of them almost certainly written by Norman), but there is no doubt that there was no way that Lennon was going to be allowed to stay - the place at the Art College was engineered (partly under pressure from one of the teaching staff, Philip Burnett, who was convinced that Lennon was a mad genius), but JWL was very firmly escorted to the exit.

A digression follows - possibly an unnecessary one, but fairly conclusive in my mind.

It was the practice at the school for successful or prominent Old Boys (former pupils) to return from time to time, to give an address to the senior school (this was a boys' school, by the way). On one such occasion, Peter Shore, who after many years of active work for the Labour Party had finally been elected, a few years before, as MP for Stepney, came to speak to the 5th and 6th forms about his life in politics. The talk was pretty boring, I regret to recall, but it was also heavily Socialist, which caused very apparent unease to Mr Pobjoy, who shared the platform with our guest speaker.

Shore finished off his talk with an unbelievably weak call to glory (this was mid-1960s): "...and let us work to make sure that the Britain of the Beatles is a Labour Britain!".

There was a smattering of routine applause, then the headmaster, po-faced, stood to offer very taut thanks to our guest, and added the message that one of the Beatles had been a pupil at the school, and that he was pleased to say that he had expelled him. Dead silence - we all filed out, listening for pins dropping, to return to our classes.

It goes without saying that no musicians were ever invited to speak.

Peter Shore, MP

I raise the matter only to give the unofficial, but obviously whole-hearted, view of the individual involved. Further claptrap: Peter Shore went on to hold a number of Shadow posts in Labour Opposition cabinets, and held some real offices in Harold Wilson's government. His political career is thought to have been hindered by his lengthy devotion to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (to which he became strongly opposed in later life). He died, Wikipedia tells me, in 2001. As a side issue, I am delighted to note that his father-in-law was the Canadian-born historian and academic, EM Wrong. A finer name for a historian never existed, surely. This is straight out of Monty Python.

Enough - I hope that gets Norman off my back.