A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Sunday, 30 December 2012

Hooptedoodle #75 – The Purple Speedo


This is a real phoney war period. The Christmas visitors have gone, it’s not time to put away the decorations yet (though I’ve thought about it), and there is not much to do except maybe a quick supermarket trip to top up on groceries before everything shuts again for New Year. Not an easy time to settle to get on with anything on the hobby front – I’ve made a good start with volume 1 of John H Gill’s 1809 Danube trilogy (excellent), I’ve got my third Spanish regular foot battery painted up and based (not interesting enough for a picture), and I’ve got a couple more ECW foot units cleaned up ready for painting, but I haven’t dug out the boards for the wargame table.

In a day or two I’m going to paint a French colonel of dragoons to head up a cavalry brigade, and I have some notes for the start of the next two weeks of my solo campaign. There is an opportunity for a cavalry skirmish coming up, which might be interesting, and my new colonel might find himself fighting as soon as the varnish is dry.

Since we have some brochures lying about, and since the weather yesterday was real Black Dog stuff, I stirred up some preliminary discussion about what we might do for a holiday next Summer – with the faint echo of my post about the Hotel Palumbo still lingering in my head. As ever with these discussions, we have a bigger list of things we do not want to do than of things we do, but we’ve made a start, which is good. One problem I have is that the UK holiday industry is built around catering for vast numbers of people who work in cities, and who wish to go somewhere warmer and more relaxing to vegetate for a week or two. I don’t really fit in – I’m lucky enough to have a fairly quiet life in a rural, seaside area, so that a fortnight on the Brittany coast, for example, would be a bit wasted on me – apart from the food, of course.

Once my son had gone to bed, we got sidetracked into tales of past holidays, and once again I produced my tale of the Purple Speedo, which I enjoyed sufficiently to think about posting here. I probably enjoyed the tale more than my wife, to be honest, but she quite enjoys the consistency checking, to ensure the story has not altered since the many other times I have told it. Time for a pointless yarn... [or should that be yawn?]

[wavy lines....  sweeping arpeggios on a harp.......]

This story dates from an age before I divorced my first wife and before the Berlin Wall came down – strangely, I can see certain parallels in these two events. Twice in the late 1980s my first family went on holiday to old Yugoslavia – first to Istria, in what is now again Croatia, and later to Slovenia. The trip to Croatia was all new and all a bit intimidating, starting right from the flight from Edinburgh to Pula.

We were made very welcome on some kind of Russian Boeing-clone. The flight attendants were tough and capable – not unlike the New Zealand All-Blacks’ front row, and that was the females – but there was a faintly agricultural feel to the aircraft. My 3 sons and I were seated at a plywood table of the sort you might find in an old caravan – we faced each other across it, and I was looking backwards along the full length of the fuselage. I was opposite the main door, which consisted mostly of non-upholstered spars and framework, with a big handle in the middle. Like a giant piece of Meccano. The safety briefing got off to a bad start when the stewardess went to get the dummy seat-belt out of an overhead locker, and the door of the locker fell off with a resounding thump, which seemed a poor testimony to the quality of engineering and maintenance, and had me looking sideways at the Meccano door.


My backward facing seat gave me a remarkable view of the ground rushing away from me through the side windows, not to mention a very conspicuous bend in the fuselage, during take-off, but otherwise our flight was comfortable and routine. When we arrived at Pula, all the window blinds had to be lowered on approach, so that we could not see the military aircraft parked at one end of the airfield. Landing blindfolded seemed a bit dramatic, but apparently this was a temporary measure – the previous weekend on this same flight an ill-advised enthusiast had tried to take photographs of the military aircraft and, as far as we could learn, he was still in prison. Thus we obediently followed the (pistol armed) immigration officials into the airport building – clearly, this was not quite like visiting the Isle of Man.



The hotel was pretty good. It was big and modern, but excellent value for money, and the service was terrific – the tourist industry in Istria was a huge earner for Yugoslavia at that time. We were at Rovinj, the port of Rovigno from the old Venetian Republic. The old town was fascinating – the oldest inhabitants seemed to have Italian as a first language, which had me racking my brains, trying to remember just when they stopped being Italians, but I had a feeling that was probably not a good question to ask. There wasn’t a great deal to do. I spent some time wandering around the harbour and the old town, but apart from state-owned shops selling lace and fairly tatty filigree silver work there was little else to look at, and history seemed to have started in 1946 or so, so there was not much in the way of museums.

So it was swimming and sunbathing. I had my running kit with me, but the air in the forests by the sea was humid to the point of being rather like treacle pudding, and it was very, very hot, and the running stopped after two half-hearted attempts.

Almost all the tourists were friendly, middle-class Germans, and it was all very pleasant and relaxing around the hotel. Our hotel had a small, open-air children’s pool, in which the kids could safely be left unsupervised, but it was full of babies [aaargh!], which always makes me worry a bit about the purity of the water, and the astonishing range of insect life made the water like some kind of exotic bouillabaisse by mid afternoon. So we used to walk through the gardens to the much larger pool at the neighbouring hotel, which we were allowed to use, but there was a very strict rule that you had to wear a bathing cap. Since we knew about this in advance, we had brought a fine selection of coloured Speedo caps from Britain with us – my sons and I had one each in light blue, dark blue, yellow and purple. Fantastic.


On our first full day, I took my two younger boys down to the big pool, the eldest having already been down there for an hour or so. When we got down there, the eldest lad decided he had had enough, and I took the other two in for a swim. We found we were short of one cap, so I asked son no.1 to leave his (purple) cap with us, and he put it on the side of the pool while I got his brothers set up with theirs. When I got around to putting on the purple cap, I found it was no longer there, and there was a fellow right next to me in the water, wearing it.

I was flummoxed. If ever I have been flummoxed, this was that occasion. I indicated the gentleman’s hat.

“Excuse me – sorry to bother you – is that your hat?”

“Hat! – Hat!” said the man, beaming and pointing at it.

I tried in my tottering German, same result – “Hat! Hat!” and a big smile.

I confess that at this point I began to shout at him. Meanwhile, some very large ladies in white coats – possibly their daughters were flight attendants – were also shouting, and pointing at me, making it very clear that I would have to have a cap or they would remove me from the pool in small pieces. This was getting very embarrassing, but it reached a wonderful climax as I was approached by an Englishman who had a moustache like David Niven’s, and a voice to match.

“Excuse me, old fellow – are you British? Look – we don’t want any trouble, do we? I’m afraid you will have to rent a cap from the attendants or you will have to leave.”

“I have a hat,” I explained, “that purple one – I think this gentleman has taken it...”

But when I looked around, of course, the hat and the gentleman had gone. David Niven raised a rehearsed eyebrow, and – I regret to say – thus provided a perfect focus for my hatred of everyone and everything on the planet, and I expressed myself to him in sufficiently short words to make it difficult for me to remain in the pool. Ultimately, I had either to retire with what was left of my dignity or else pay about 3 Deutschmarks’ worth of dinars for a very secondhand clear plastic shower cap, and swim around looking like a clown. I retrieved my sons and – breathing righteous indignation – stormed back to the hotel room. I hated Croatia already.

Back at the room, my eldest son commented that we were back very early.

“Someone took my swimming cap.”

“Which cap? – that one?”

And there, as you will have guessed, was the purple Speedo, on the dresser. My son, seeing the cap still lying on the poolside while I kitted out his brothers, had decided I did not need it and had taken it with him. I could feel the long, donkey’s ears growing out of my head, and started to think wildly how I could avoid bumping into David Niven’s brother and the innocent hat-nicking suspect during the next two weeks. I did not arrive at a solution in time. That very evening, in a dining hall catering for about 1200 people, the man with the purple swimming hat turned out to be at the next table – you wouldn’t expect that now, would you? He was disabled, in a wheel chair, and deaf, which is presumably what had made our discussion difficult.

Too late, I attempted to hide behind the menu card – he had spotted me.

“Hat!” he said, waving gaily and giving me a cheery thumbs-up sign, pointing at his head.

I smiled back, feebly, and returned the thumbs-up. My family laughed about it for weeks – in fact I still laugh at the recollection all these years later, but never without a spasm of embarrassment.



Thursday, 27 December 2012

Hooptedoodle #74a - Fantasy Christmas Venue No.1



Thinking around the general theme of running away for Christmas, I immediately came back to a fantasy I’ve had for years. Flight to Naples, limo from the airport to the Hotel Palumbo, Ravello. My mobile will be switched off for a while.

Of course it would be ridiculously expensive, and to tell the truth I don’t even know if they open at Christmas [yes – I think they do, but they are booked up for years]. Ravello is on the cliffs above the Amalfi Drive, on the Gulf of Salerno – comfortably away from the crazy traffic on the coast road, about 1000 feet up, and the Palumbo has views right along the coast, over Maiori and Minori towards Vietri sul Mare.


A few books to read, a glass of brandy on the balcony, maybe even the occasional walk as far as the main square (now pedestrianised), just to work up an appetite for dinner. The odd snooze in the afternoon. Hmmm.

Of course we’d have to take a suitcase full of Lego for my son, or he’d be bored out of his mind, and it really isn’t a very practical proposition, but on a cold, wet morning in the Scottish Borders it will do until I think of something else.

The “Venue No.1” heading for this post does not mean this will be a series, and, no, I’ve never stayed there (don’t be silly), but I have ogled the place for years, off and on, and I did once walk into the reception area and ask for a brochure. Have a look at their website here...

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Hooptedoodle #74 - La Duchesse Veuve Culdechat



This Christmas season at Chateau Foy we have been honoured, once again, by a visit from la Duchesse Veuve Culdechat, the cherished mother of my dear wife, the Contesse.

As ever, it has been a joy to have the company of the old lady and – as ever – it has been a welcome opportunity to receive some timely reminders of the areas in which our hospitality and the comfort of our humble abode fall short of what might be expected in more esteemed circles.

A bed-chamber in the Guest Wing at Chateau Foy - too chilly for comfort

La Veuve is very partial to unattainable levels of heat in the home, for example, and is deeply suspicious of any food which is unfamiliar, or which might possibly reflect some undesirably foreign influence. She has unusually extreme views on a wide range of topics, any of which she is prepared to share at any time, regardless of the context or occasion (somehow it is never too much trouble – a selfless habit acquired during a lifetime of endless giving and suffering in the interests of others, bless her). These views are remarkably uniform in being based mainly on articles in certain right-wing newspapers which she has failed to understand fully – possibly as a result of the time pressures inherent in caring for so many others, and also as a sad consequence of the short attention span with which Nature – sometimes so callous – has blighted her. In truth, one or two of these pearls may come from a friend of a woman she met at the bus stop, but we value them all.


This morning her carriage was summoned as early as possible, and she went on her regal way, with all our staff lined up in the drive and waving, dabbing their eyes. She left us sad that she could not have stayed longer, yet quietly grateful that we had her company for the limited time possible, and relieved that we got through the holiday period without inflicting serious injury upon her.

Once again we are left with the need to examine carefully our values and our priorities. We may be slow learners, but I believe we are now agreed that there is a need to distinguish between the seasonal traditions which might be appropriate to (for example) theoretical families in story books and those which are appropriate to us. Whilst I have to treasure these most recent, brief moments of insight and lofty disdain, I also have to accept that I am not worthy, and would prefer  not to repeat the experience very often.

Next year, I believe we may pack up our plate, our hampers and our bottles of cordial early, and travel with our household to spend the Festive Season in the mountains, or near the lakes, or anywhere, really – with no forwarding address.


Well said, young man

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas Prize Quiz – The Judgement


This is a day earlier than I meant to publish the results, but hits on the Quiz post have just about stopped now – I haven’t had any fresh entries for a while – and I won’t have any blogging time for a few days, since we have visitors staying over Christmas.


The Quiz...

Well now – interesting. Thanks very much to all who sent in an entry, and also to those who thought about it but didn’t send one.

I received a total of 18 submissions, of which 13 were correct. Google has to take a lot of the credit, naturally, but that is the way things work now, and some good thinking went into the searches. Very well done, everyone [thank you, Miss].

There is a faint clue in the fact that my Blogger profile lists Vacances de Monsieur Hulot first among my favourite films - I’ve always loved Tati’s earlier films.

The answers, then are:

(1) It’s a bronze statue of Jacques Tati, in character as the sacred Monsieur Hulot.

(2) It is on the beach at St-Marc-sur-Mer, near St Nazaire, in Brittany (France). St Marc is where most of the film was shot in 1951.

(3) With so many direct hits, the deciding section had to be the description of how you solved it, and some appropriate reaction. This was all very entertaining – thanks for entering into the spirit of my silly quiz. On first instinct I thought Gary should have got extra points for having actually been there, but on second thought that rather discriminated against non-Europeans. I awarded extra points to entrants who ventured some original observation over and above a cut-&-paste from Wikipedia. In the end it was a very close call, but overall I found Fabrizio’s story the most amusing, and he also had the good taste to send a link to a very fine picture of a statue of President Reagan, which had suffered a sad dommage at Newport Beach – this was one of the better finds on Google from “leaning statue beach”.


Result: Fabrizio wins by a very short head from Steve, Gary and Pjotr, but there were lots of great efforts. Thanks, again, very much. I’ll email Fabrizio to get his address so I can send the prize parcel. Pjotr, you get a special runner-up prize because it was so close and because yours was the only entry which included a complete untruth – I’ll be in touch.  



Here’s another couple of pictures I took on that same day in 2008 at St Marc, to give a context. I was surprised how many people found an answer on Google, but was also surprised that so few knew of Monsieur Hulot – I guess you are all too young!

The most intriguing wrong entry was from Hannibal(?), who was certain it was the promenade at Tenby (Wales), and thought the figure might be a mime artist. Well, he sort of was. To remind us (primarily myself) what this was all about, here’s a little clip from Vacances.



Which leaves me only to offer a Christmas wish to everyone. I re-read what I said last year, and I think it still sums up my sentiments on the subject, so the message is the same as before:

I wish everyone, whatever your religion or political standpoint, a peaceful and comforting Christmas, and - to anyone who reads this blog - all the very best to you and yours in the New Year, and thanks for your company.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Barba del Puerco - a Little More

Following yesterday's post about the skirmish at the bridge of Barba del Puerco, Gary very kindly sent me some photos he took when he visited the place a few years ago. Most illuminating - I took a view of the bridge from Google Earth, and I reproduce three of Gary's pictures here.





The French side would be on the upper right of the satellite view, and on the far side of the river in the photos. It is very obvious, and Gary confirms - having walked it! - that the valley side the French came up after crossing the Agueda is very steep and rocky indeed. They would not be coming up there with any kind of momentum.

Which leads me to wonder what on earth Ferey thought he was doing. If the objective was to grab the bridge and take the main advance guard by surprise up in the village overlooking the valley, then that might just have been successful, but it was not a position that could be held by anything apart from a herd of goats. If - as happened in the event - the Rifles turned out in time to catch the French on the hillside, it would not take much to roll them back down.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Barba del Puerco - March 1810


This follows on from my reference to General Ferey a week or two ago.

John C was kind enough to send me some pics and a map for the action at Barba del Puerco, which was mentioned in the excerpt from George Simmons' memoirs.

I had a look at Simmons' A British Rifle Man, and checked out Oman Vol.III for details. The difficult pass between San Felices and Barba del Puerco crossed a narrow bridge some 90 metres long, over the Agueda. The pickets of Craufurd's Light Division and the French VI Corps maintained an informal truce along the Agueda into March, 1810. The following passage is from Oman:

The first test of the efficiency of Craufurd's outpost system was made on the night of March 19-20, when Ferey, commanding the brigade of Loison's division which lay at San Felices, assembled his six voltigeur companies before dawn, and made a dash at the pass of Barba del Puerco. He had the good luck to bayonet the sentries at the bridge before they could fire, and was half way up the ascent from the bridge to the village [of Barba del Puerco], when Beckwith's detachment of the 95th Rifles, roused and armed in ten minutes, were upon him. They drove him down the defile, and chased him back across the river with the loss of two officers and forty-five men killed and wounded. Beckwith's riflemen lost one officer and three men killed, and ten men wounded in the three companies engaged.

Craufurd now expected a full attack, but nothing further developed.





The first picture, at the top of this post, is a painting entitled Winter Cheer, by Christina Hook, and it shows a couple of riflemen of the 95th and a trooper of the KGL Hussars fraternising with a cantiniere and a couple of French soldiers on the bridge during the early months of 1810. I'm sure the other pictures here are copyright as well, so my thanks and humble appreciation to whoever owns the copyright. The pictures suggest that Craufurd had troops other than the 95th involved.

For the trainspotters, Ferey commanded the 2nd brigade of Loison's Division of (Ney's) VI Corps at this time, and the battalions from which his voltigeurs were borrowed were one of the 32eme Leger, three of the 66eme Ligne and two of the 82eme Ligne.

From a completely personal point of view, I was delighted to renew my acquaintance with Major Simmons. Of all the diarists and memoir-compilers of the 95th (of which there are a bewildering number), I have found him to be the most engaging. Harris's book is a collection of regimental anecdotes polished over many years of retelling; Kincaid is admirably cynical, but  almost to the point of detachment; Surtees comes across as a snivelling, self-righteous prude, and so on. Good old George Simmons was always in the thick of things, was wounded or caught fever on a regular basis, and spent the rest of his time sending money home to pay for his brothers' education. I like him. He has a surfeit of neither imagination nor self-esteem - he just tells it like it was.

Fraternisation is interesting, too. Wellesley would hang anyone found dealing with the French, yet the practice was general and inevitable. Again, we gain insight into an age and a military system which relied on the fact that the soldiers of both sides were more frightened of their own officers than they were of the enemy.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Hooptedoodle #73 - Vintage Tommy Emmanuel

Something which cheered up my cold Winter morning. Here's an ancient clip of Tommy Emmanuel - entertainer, supreme musician and general hero. Tommy has been a marvellous ambassador for "proper" guitar playing and - I guess - for Australia over the years.

I'd forgotten about this track, but came across it again yesterday. His electric work is largely overlooked now - this is Who Dares Wins from 1991. If you can bring yourself to avoid being distracted by the red suit and the contemporary styling, this is still pretty damn good. Please enjoy a master at work.


Monday, 17 December 2012

Christmas Prize Quiz

While sorting out my bookshelves, I find that I have two good copies of HT Siborne's "Waterloo Letters", so I thought it would be amusing to offer one as a prize in an appropriately off-beat quiz, just for Christmas. Well - actually it's just to get rid of the extra copy, but it might still be amusing.


The book is a collection of 200 of the letters which were sent to William Siborne in the 1830s when he was gathering data to build his ill-fated model of the Battle of Waterloo. The collection was originally published by his son in 1891 - this is the 1993 edition published by Greenhill books. It is in nice, clean condition. The dustjacket is a bit faded, and is what one of my sons used to term "scrunkled" slightly at the ends of the spine, and there is a little general shelf-wear, but the book is tight and firm and doesn't smell.

If you fancy it, all you have to do is have a look at the photo below and answer some questions. If you don't know the answers, have a guess.


(1) What is this? (up to 5 points available for this)

(2) Where is it, exactly? (give an actual location - up to 10 points available, depending how far your answer is in a straight line from the real place)

(3) How do you know, or how did you work it out? Also, do you have any thoughts about this? (up to 10 points for this section, with originality, ingenuity and humour scoring high)

You can comment here (tell me if you don't want it published!) or (probably better) email me through my Blogger profile. I'll keep this open until Christmas Eve (24th December), and publish the exciting results shortly afterwards. When I have a winner, I'll arrange to get a postal address to send the prize.

All you detectives will want to know that I took the photo at around 11 in the morning, on 21st July 2008, in the northern hemisphere.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

My Bluff Is Called? – Feasibility Study


Monument at Eggmuhl

I believe I’ve mentioned here before that I have long nurtured a fantasy that one day I might take a little time to make a tour of Napoleon’s 1809 adventures along the Danube. Like all unlikely dreams, it has a built-in safety factor in that if I never get to do it, I’ll never find out that it was a really stupid idea.

The whole point of a trip like this (in theory) is that you do a lot of enjoyable reading, plan it all out and then spend fulfilling days in the sunshine, walking around clearly-signposted, well maintained battlefields, looking forward to the next bottle of halbtrocken and the odd hot chocolate. Oh – and cakes. Lots of cakes. The campaign is very compact – the early stages involved actions just about on consecutive days, so the distances to be covered are relatively small, and – exactly because it was such a fertile area – Napoleon had his army march right along the tourist magnet of the Danube itself. They would have had cakes every day, you bet.

Stadtplatz, Abensberg

When I mentioned it in the blog before, I got a very gratifying degree of supportive jostling – hey! just do it – all that. Excellent. This is what you need to keep your fantasies tickly and fresh. I can’t even claim to get any opposition at home – Mme La Comtesse thinks it’s a really good idea. Now that I have the time, and provided I don’t have to cash in the kids’ future to finance the deal, there’s no reason why not.

Well....

Landburg Trausnitz, Landshut

Well, that’s true. The only argument against getting on with it is that I would then have to organise it and make a job of it. I might mess it up. It might be, as discussed, a stupid idea. There is a risk that my lovely fantasy might turn into a boring mud bath (like some parts of my recent Hadrian’s Wall pilgrimage), or that the battlefields are now underneath local authority housing estates, or a sewage works. I don’t know the area – the Tyrol and Rothenburg ob der Tauber are as near as I have been. Würzburg, maybe.

Next tightening of the screw is that a friend has expressed great enthusiasm for the project, and reckons we should go next September. Should we do Vienna as well? – maybe that would require a second week? – hmmm. At this point, the kids’ future is looking a bit more shaky.


So I promised I would have a look to see what would be involved, and how it would be, and what the costs might look like, and I would get back to him. I dug out Loraine Petre and the John Gill trilogy, and the trusty Elting & Esposito atlas – now you’re talking – and the AvD road maps, and I started taking serious notes. A return flight to Vienna from Edinburgh is a bit over £200 if you book it far enough ahead. Hire a car at the far end, and from Vienna it is around 250 miles to Abensberg, then short hops back towards Vienna will get you to Landshut, Eckmühl, Ratisbon (that’s Regensburg to you and me and the road signs), then a bit further to Aspern-Essling and Wagram. Small, family-run hotels – possibly a couple of centres would cover the whole area. Or maybe that’s too much for a week. The more I got into this, the more it seemed like an actual military campaign. Needs a lot more work. Where the blazes is Berthier when you need him?

I had a root around on the internet to see if anyone publishes battlefield guides for this campaign, or this area. So far I came up with very little. Maybe the local tourist organisations can provide more information. Now I come to think about it, I don’t even know how many of the battlefields would make a worthwhile visit. I’m quite happy to work away on this – my only misgiving is that at the moment it looks as though it might be a fair amount of work just to decide if it’s at all feasible.

Oh well, all right then

I could, of course, look for a commercially available organised tour – if there is one – these things tend to cluster around bicentenaries these days. The really big downside of such a tour (apart from the cost – I’m sure these are excellently done, but they are not cheap) is that I do not relish spending much time on a bus with a bunch of people who are like me. No, thank you. Also, I was once told a scary story about a trip someone did to the WW1 battlefields of Northern France, which was spoiled only by the fact that the organiser/owner/guide was a total pain in the neck, which caused problems after 5 days of continuous, unrelenting monologue. High risk, I think.

So I would definitely prefer the do-it-yourself approach, if I only had a few more clues to get me started. Please – anyone done this, been to this area, know of any books or sources, have any tips on how to go about it? Even insider info about the best cakes in town would be most welcome.

Solo Campaign - Weeks 25 & 26

Two more weeks of the campaign. The Spanish troops from Vigo are now on their way by ship via Gibraltar to Tortosa, and, while the French armies delayed doing anything about a relief, the Second Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo was over almost before it started.

Encouraged by the poorly-repaired walls, by the good results achieved by his own siege artillery and by word from the Alcalde that the townspeople would rise against the garrison if the place were assaulted, Tarleton made as much use as possible of the vacated earthworks from the French siege, carried out a week of effective bombardment, and then forced the French breeches in a daylight raid, using the men of the Seventh and Light Divisions. It was all over very quickly - the garrison troops showed little enthusiasm for the task, though they fought bravely enough during the assault. The town was taken at the cost of a little over 300 casualties to the Allies.

Someone is going to be really cross about this...

More trouble at Ciudad Rodrigo

Week 25

Random Events and Strategic Notes
Advice from his engineers has convinced Tarleton to press on with attacking Ciudad Rodrigo, since the repairs to the walls are incomplete, and since the French did not have time to finish removing the trench system for their own siege – in particular, the battery positions might still be useable with relatively little work. For the first time this year, the Allied siege train is now present with the main field army.

Tarleton has decided to detach part of his force to cover the siege. Clauzel’s army, facing him, is not in good shape – a lot may depend on the number of reinforcements and returns from hospitals in the next week or so.

Housekeeping
The 3D3 activation throws give the Allies 5 and the French 5. Since they had the choice last week, the  French opt to move second.

Moves

Allies (5 allowed)
1 – Sp B (España) are now at sea, somewhere off the coast of Portugal, heading for Tortosa
2 – New force E is detached, under Picton – Third Division plus most of the cavalry plus the Portuguese howitzer battery. They take station facing Clauzel’s force, to screen Ciudad Rodrigo and its siege-works
3 – D (Framlingham, with the Allied siege train) commences siege operations against Rodrigo – the surviving portions of the French battery positions, commanding the part-repaired breeches, allow the siege artillery to commence bombarding the walls in the first week of action.
4 – A (the remainder of Aigburth’s force) lay siege to Rodrigo
5 – B (Graham) to scout northwards into Orense
[Intelligence step -
  • only French scouts seen in Orense.]

French (5 allowed)
1 – K (Jourdan) march from Avila to Madrid. This is a difficult (brown) road, so a test is required:
2D3 = 2 +2 (Jourdans rating) -1 (brown road) = 3   - the march is completed, but the force is both Tired and Demoralised (and therefore excluded from the replacement routine)
2 – I (Clauzel) to scout from Salamanca towards Ciudad Rodrigo.
3 – N (Marmont) to scout from Zamora towards Orense.
[Intelligence step –
  • No new information – Clauzel’s patrols capture a trooper of the KGL 2nd Dragoons near Vitigudino, but he does not know anything.]

Supplies and Demoralisation
All units are in supply. French Force K is demoralised, so get no replacements this month. Since 12th July is the nearest weekend to the middle of the month, reinforcements, replacements and returns from hospital are diced for.

Detailed additions:
French – 2. Rugeois, 4/28 Leg, 4 Vist, Tirailleurs of Abbe’s Bde, 1/25 Leg, 2/25 Leg, 1/27, 2/27, Tir of De Conchy, 1/50, 2/15, 3/15, 4/82, 1/86, 2/86, 10/3 Art a Pied, Vist Lancs, 2/6 Leg, 1/69, 1/39, 2/39, 1/76, 3/2 Art a Chev each +1 block; Tir of Arnauld, 2/69, Spanish Guard Fus each +2 blocks. Total increase is 5200 infantry, 125 cavalry and 2 guns.
Anglo-Portuguese – 51st Ft, E Troop RHA, 1/95th, 1 Cac, 1 Huss KGL, 1/Cold FG, 2/24th, 1/45th, 1/88th, 2/5th, 1st Ptgse Cav, A Troop RHA each +1 block; 5/60th, 2 Drgns KGL, 11 Ptgse Cav each +2. Total increase is 1900 infantry, 750 cavalry and 4 guns.
Spanish – 1st Foot battery and 1. Lanc de Castilla each +1 block . Total increase 125 cavalry, 2 guns.  

Contacts
None, apart from scouts.

Second Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo (Week 1)
The French have 5 fresh line units in Rodrigo, of which 1 is required to suppress the hostile population. Thus the Garrison Value (GV) is 4, without bonus since Col. D’Orsay (the acting garrison commander) is rated as average. The Fortress Value (FV), which should be 6, is only 4 since the repairs to the damage caused during the French siege are not completed.

The civilian population of the town, only recently subjected to a siege which caused much loss and hardship, are openly hostile – acts of sabotage, theft of stores and violence against the garrison soldiers are common, and any assault will qualify for an additional “Agustina” dice because of the pro-Allied sympathies of the townspeople – there are many who would act in support of an assault.

After Aigburth has divided his troops, he has 18 combat units in his besieging force. Dividing by 4 gives an Assault Value (AV) of 5, plus 1 extra point since Aigburth himself is rated as Good. AV = 6.

The siege train consists of 3 x 24pdr batteries (2 iron, 1 brass – commanded by Capts. Glubb, Thompson and Rittberg (KGA)), a 10” howitzer battery (Capt. Tonkiss), 2 mortar batteries and Capt. Lane’s rocket troop – total Battering Value (BV) is thus 7.

Bombardment phase: French have a Garrison Value (GV) of 4, thus roll 4D6 - they come up 4 4 3 1 – no 6s means no hits on the Allied Battering Value (BV), and no 5s means no loss to the besiegers’ Assault Value (AV).
Simultaneously, the Allied battering guns (BV = 7) roll 7D6 – 6 5 5 3 3 1 1 – the 6 causes 1 pt of damage to the Fortress Value (FV), the 5s each deducts 1 pt from the Garrison Value (GV).

The French garrison have lost ½ of their GV, which is calculated as 1/10 x ½ of the 3500 men engaged, which is about 175 men. The Allied loss is negligible.

Removing the losses, the figures become FV = 3, GV = 2 (total = 5) for the French defenders, and AV = 5, BV = 7 for the Allies, which will be the starting position next week. Even with the potential Agustina bonus dice, Aigburth does not wish to commit to a storm this week, and his request for the garrison to surrender is ignored – the officer carrying the petition was not permitted to speak to Col. D’Orsay.


Week 26

Random Events and Strategic Notes
The Second Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo proceeds apace.

King Joseph is now concerned at the exposure of Rodrigo and of Clauzel’s force around Salamanca (which is of his making). Jourdan’s force in Madrid is tired and disorganised from its march from Avila (which went surprisingly badly considering the mild weather), so is unable to send anyone back to support. Marmont, as ever, is worried about his line of communication with France and – since he is not sure where Graham’s force is (they are at Braga) – he is reluctant to move towards Salamanca in case Graham gets between him and Burgos.

The seaborne Spanish force of España was sighted off Cadiz on Thursday 16th, en route to Tortosa.

Gen de Division Ferey has joined the Armée de Portugal to take command of Maucune’s Division – Gen de Bde Lamartiniere returns to his duties as Marmont’s Chief of Staff.

Housekeeping
The 3D3 activation throws give the Allies 6 and the French 7. The French opt to move first.

Moves

French (7 allowed)
1 – K (Jourdan) rests at Madrid to recover from Tiredness and Demoralisation.
2 – P (Martinelli’s brigade of Garde Nationale) march from Pamplona to Tudela.
3 – R (Paquerette’s brigade of Garde Nationale) march from Bayonne to Pamplona.
4 – S, a new brigade of Garde Nationale, becomes garrison of Bayonne, under Gen de Bde Normande.
5 – N (Marmont) to scout from Zamora towards Orense.
[Intelligence step –
  • Ciudad Rodrigo is known to be under siege. Marmont’s patrols are looking for Graham’s force around Orense.]

Allies (6 allowed)
1 – Sp B (España) at sea aboard Capt. Thornycroft’s squadron of the Royal Navy – sighted off Cadiz on Thurs 16th July – heading for Tortosa.
2 – E (Picton, screening Rodrigo) to send patrols to keep Clauzel’s movements in sight.
3 – B (Graham) to scout northwards into Orense
4 – Sp D (Maceta) to march from Toledo to Talavera
5 – Sp F (Ximenez, with irregulars) to march from Ocana to Toledo
6 – Sp E (Mira, with provincial troops and irregulars) to march from Alarcon to Ocana.
[Intelligence step -
  • the French seem to be dithering...]


Supplies and Demoralisation
All units are in supply. French Force K is demoralised, so suffer losses to desertion: the following units all lose 1 block – 2/2 Nassau, 2/4 Baden, 1/2 Ita Leg, 1/3 Ita – Total loss 800 men.

Contacts
None, apart from scouts.

Second Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo (Week 2)
Bombardment phase: French have a Garrison Value (GV) of 2, thus roll 2D6 - they come up 5 3 – no 6s means no hits on the Allied Battering Value (BV), and the 5 means a loss of 1 pt to the besiegers’ Assault Value (AV).
Simultaneously, the Allied battering guns (BV = 7) roll 7D6 – 6 5 4 3 3 1 1 – the 6 causes 1 pt of damage to the Fortress Value (FV), the 5 deducts 1 pt from the Garrison Value (GV).

Removing the losses, the figures become FV = 2, GV = 1 (total = 3) for the French defenders, and AV = 4, BV = 7 for the Allies. Since he has received word from the Mayor of Rodrigo that the citizens will act in support of an assault (thus gaining the attackers a bonus “Agustina” dice), Aigburth decides to storm the half-repaired French breeches.

The Storm:
During the week leading up to the storm, the French have again lost ½ of GV, which represents
1/10 x ½  of the 3325 men involved = 165 men, leaving 3160. The Allies have lost 1/6  of their remaining AV, and thus have lost 1/10 x 1/6 of the 5500 men employed = 90 men, leaving 5410.

Aigburth uses the full force at his disposal for the attack (he has the choice to use only part of his AV, to keep losses down). The numbers work out thus:

the Defenders’ Storm Strength, DSS =  FV + GV + 1D6 = 2 + 1 + 3 = 6

the Attackers’ Storm Strength, ASS = AV + 1D6 + the Agustina Dice = 5 + 4 + 2 = 11

Since ASS > DSS, the fortress falls. In the storm itself, the Allies lose 0.25 x DSS (= 2) from AV, so their final AV is 3. Thus they have lost 2/5 of their available AV, representing losses of 1/10 x 2/5 of the available 5410 men = 215 killed and wounded. Remaining strength is thus 5195.

The French defenders lose 0.5 x ASS (= 6) from GV, so their final GV is -5. Thus they have lost 600% of their GV, and loss in killed in wounded in the storm is 1/10 x 600% of the 3160 men available = 1895. The surviving 1265 are taken prisoner.

Total losses during the siege are thus

Week
French
Allied
1
175
0
2
165
90
Storm
1895
215
Captured
1265
0
Total
3500
305

The French force (Combat Group C on the map) is destroyed. The Allied attackers (Combat Group A) have suffered a loss of 2 blocks/bases, which are deducted (at random) from the following infantry units in the Light Divn: 1/52nd & 1/95th.

The Fortress Value of Ciudad Rodrigo had a final value of 2, which will require to be made back up to 6 by engineering and repairs. 


Wednesday, 12 December 2012

ECW - More Foot Regiments


It's taken me longer than usual to get these finished off and based up, but here are Lord Byron's Regt of Foot [R], with the red flag, and Col Richard Holland's Regt [P], from Manchester.

They are sitting on the board from a vintage-1978 Ariel game I obtained on eBay, just to make a change from the usual utilitarian cork mat.

I regret that the flash has washed out the colours a bit, but you get the idea.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Hooptedoodle #72 - Rio’s Eye


...and other tangential thoughts


For a while, up until October of last year, I ran a small publishing business which was basically a post-retirement hobby job to keep me sane – or very nearly sane. It was mostly a device to introduce sufficient real hassle into my life to stop me taking out my daily frustrations on friends and relatives.

Anyway, among other things, this operation required me to spend a fair amount of time each month distributing a community newsletter around a rural area. In fine weather this was good exercise and a pleasant activity for which to get paid, though the small number of residents per unit area and the distances involved meant that this distribution work took longer than would have been ideal. One aspect of visiting every one of 1600 or so letter boxes every month was that I met a lot of people, and occasionally found myself in situations which otherwise I would have never come across.

Which, as you may have guessed, is a windy preamble to a short anecdote, which will have some vague connection with something else I’ve been thinking about. It’s a system.

One day, as I was going up someone’s front garden path in one of the villages, a friend walked past in the lane outside. I called to him, from somewhere in the middle of the path, exchanged waves, and said I would phone him later in the day. When I resumed my plod towards the house, I found the householder was standing in the doorway, arms folded.

“What are you doing in my garden?” he asked. Although the large shoulder bag full of booklets made it fairly obvious, you would think, people sometimes would ask me this.

“Good morning,” I replied, with my official Community Smile, “just delivering the monthly Advertiser.”

My man was unmoved.

“Why are you having a conversation in my garden? I wouldn’t come to your garden to have a conversation.”

I should, of course, simply have beheaded him with a single backhand stroke of my samurai sword (a move which I practised several times in my mind after I left him). However, experience had taught me that an exchange of ribald witticisms with any of my readers usually – inevitably – led to the discovery that they were closely related to one of my biggest customers, so instead I went into professional mode, and the Smile didn’t dip a millimetre.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you – I saw someone I need to get in touch with. As for being in your garden, it is the only way I can get to your letterbox.”

Humour, you see. Engage your listeners. Then he produced a rhetorical question which has given me much food for thought since then.

“How would it be,” he said, deadpan, “if everyone came into my garden to hold a conversation?”

Devastating insight. I agreed that would be, at the very least, crowded, gave him his newsletter and left him to enjoy his day.

But that is a hell of a thought. I was allowed to be in his garden – I wasn’t trespassing – I was quite within my rights to be there. I was even allowed, presumably, to speak to a passing friend if I had one and he passed. I would be expected to stop short of attracting the friend’s attention by blowing a trumpet, I imagine, but it all seems in order. The whole subject of what happens if suddenly everyone – potentially everyone in the world? – simultaneously carries out some legal and reasonable action, such as being in the same place, is big and dangerous.

The only thing that saves us is probability. They probably won’t. It is unlikely. Sometimes, in busy cities for example, it seems that they are trying to, but commonsense tells us that my villager’s proposition is silly, but the point is still interesting, if only from a philosophical point of view. What if the entire population of the Earth all arrived on, say, Weymouth beach on the same afternoon? They would all, individually, be within their rights to do so, but the results would be catastrophic – just think of the effect of that single mass on the planet’s rotational inertia, for a start. Then there’s the environmental impact, lack of toilet facilities, critical failures of the ice cream supply and so on. It really doesn’t bear thinking about – my grumpy villager was right to be concerned.

The two things which offer me a little comfort over this are

(1) It is, as I say, very unlikely. The sheer scale of the project management implications are terrifying

(2) The authorities would probably notice once about half the world’s population had arrived, and do something about it

This comfort, however, is tempered a little by some further thoughts

(1)  Reports from incidents in the Arab Spring and last year’s London riots suggest that the Facebook app on mobiles might now make it a bit easier to organise such an event [awesome]

(2) Just a minute – the world’s population includes the authorities – good grief. If they had already arrived, would that make it better or worse?

So I am still a little troubled – the phrase still rings in my mind: what if everyone did... [whatever]?


Given this background and my predisposition to this kind of anxiety, I was lying in bed watching today’s early morning news on TV, and I saw a news clip of Rio Ferdinand, the Manchester United footballer, being struck in the face with a coin thrown from the crowd at the end of the big match against their local rivals, Manchester City. In the early morning, my mind wanders a bit. Some thoughts stumbled around my head – I haven’t refined them or sorted them, but this is what I was thinking about before my coffee:

(1) It’s a pity – it was a terrific match, and it is regrettable that it should end with such a stupid, antisocial act

(2) Ferdinand did the right thing – he laughed it off, made light of it – he could have been very badly hurt, but he wasn’t really

(3) It is worrying that a mindless minority of football crowds – probably of many types of crowd – can be egged on by their friends and by group hysteria to commit such deeds – things which they might deeply regret at other times and in other circumstances

(4) However, there must have been many millions of people involved in football matches yesterday – watching and playing – at all levels, in all countries where the game is played, and the proportion of people who were struck by coins or missiles is so small that it is simply insignificant. If the TV cameras had not been on Ferdinand as the coin hit him we would have heard much, much less about it.

(5) As it is, British ITV (for example) featured a slo-mo clip of the incident long before, and much higher up the batting order than, all other discussion of the weekend’s sport on their news programme. It must be the sort of thing we are interested in, then.

(6) I hear the villager’s voice – “what if everyone threw coins at football matches? – what then, eh?”

(7) Well, that is a worrying idea. Off the top of your head, would you say the media’s outraged coverage would make it more or less likely? If we make the shaky assumption that morons mostly have little imagination, does spelling out (in slo-mo, for the benefit of the hard-of-thinking) how to commit an anonymous, violent offence at a public event lead us to expect a growth in the number of such incidents next week? Place your bets – Faites vos jeux, messieursdames...

(8) I guess we have to react. It is right that there should be some concern, but it should be proportionate, and it should be thought through. The police and the clubs will all be worried, and rightly so. Someone, somewhere will claim that football should be watched from behind a high plastic shield. I hope not, but someone will claim this is further support for a hobbyhorse theory they have held for years.

(9) There was a time in England (1970s?) when the authorities and the clubs were so terrified of pitch invasion that there was a requirement to surround the pitches with wire netting to prevent it. The Hillsborough Disaster was graphic demonstration that the risks from the worst imaginable pitch invasion were negligible compared with the risk of injury to the crowd themselves if they were unable to escape on to the playing field in the event of an accident. It is easy to be sanctimonious, or wise after the event, but the police and the sporting authorities, with the best of intentions, got it wrong in that case – in getting rid of a small identified risk they directly gave rise to a new and much more frightening risk which they had overlooked.


(10) As usual, I probably don’t have anything directly useful to contribute. I have no qualification to offer an opinion, this would not be the place for it, and no-one cares what I think anyway – in any case, I am far better at pouring scorn on the efforts of others than offering anything useful myself, but I do find myself coming to what is effectively a restatement of an age-old truism which makes me groan when other people come out with it:

“The problem lies in society, not in football crowds.”

That’s the standard version. This is usually the prelude to some single-interest wacko thumping his own war-drum on what he, in his infinite wisdom, sees as the answer. So it’s time for us wackos to stand up and be counted. I don’t know how to get from where we are to where we might otherwise be, but I believe that we need to achieve a position where collective decency smothers the idiots.

Football – all sports – need to get back to the position where families go to the games. That will do it. Wives, grannies, kids, girlfriends. As the antisocial element have chased away those with a nervous disposition, so there is an understandable, growing reluctance to take one’s tender nearest and dearest to such a tribal obscenity as a football crowd. The situation is self-perpetuating. In fact, it’s worse than that – it is self-propagating.

For many years, the big games in Italy on a Sunday were remarkably free of crowd trouble, because whole families had season tickets. No-one is going to wish to be a bear or a hard man in front of his mother, for goodness sake. Very inappropriate. You could even see this effect in the old gang-lands of Glasgow – nothing would get the warriors off the street faster than getting a telling off from someone’s granny. No amount of counterthreat or bluster can combat that. I doubt if the lads out on Kristalnacht took their families along, for example.

So I think the truism is not quite correct, but contains an element of the answer – the truth of the matter, it seems to me, is that the problem is that football crowds do not represent an acceptable subset of “society” (whatever the blazes that is). Society is not especially sick or evil. When you are out doing your Christmas shopping, you will be very unlikely to be struck by a coin, because society doesn’t behave like that. If the shopping centre was filled only with drunk young men singing football songs you would have more reason to worry.

The clubs should think about offering special deals for family tickets. Get the mix of humanity in the grounds back to a healthier state, and let them sort themselves out. I promise not to let my granny throw coins if you do the same.

What would happen if everyone was expected to behave themselves – all at the same time? Then what would happen, eh?

Friday, 7 December 2012

Anschluss Publishing – Ebb & Flow


I was sorting out my bookshelves a bit yesterday – trying to identify a bit of space for some new things, and seeing if I have any old things which I could usefully move on. In the process, as ever, I came across a number of books I didn’t even remember having bought, and some of them look pretty interesting!


One booklet which I came across again, having read it a few times, is the Diplomacy and Other Means campaign system. This was written by Ian Hinds some years ago for Anschluss Publishing. I got my copy second-hand through eBay. The book is interesting for a number of reasons – mainly for the holistic approach and the way it works. It is unlikely that I would ever actually play the game, since it does not lend itself at all to solo play and since it requires a lot of paperwork – albeit cleverly thought out paperwork.

The booklet makes reference to Anschluss's Ebb & Flow rules for miniatures wargames to cope with the combat aspcts of the campaigns. I had never heard of these, and did a bit of further research, and found they were still available, from (I think –and if this is wrong then humble apologies all round) Essex Miniatures. I phoned up and ordered the core rule system from them, plus an expansion – Module III, which covers the Peninsular Campaign of 1812-14. Sadly, I received only the expansion module – which is a series of army lists and OOBs, with some detail rule amendments for this particular campaign – plus an apology for the non-availability of the core rule booklet, which was now long out of print.


In the long history of wargame disappointments this was only a minor sadness, so I had a look at what I had received and put it away safely on the “small booklets” shelf, to be revisited periodically when I was looking for more space. I’ve kept a casual eye open for Ebb & Flow on eBay and elsewhere, just out of interest – not that I would be likely to adopt the system, but I sort of collect other people’s wargame ideas in the same way as a saxophonist friend of mine collects obscure minor scales – they might come in useful one day, but – more relevantly – I just like to read them.

Never found them, yet I still see reference to them here and there. Someone’s blog was reminiscing about Ebb & Flow the other week, and there is occasional mention on TMP. I’m still gently intrigued, if anyone has any experience of these rules, or tales to tell.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

ECW - Test Days

Clive was good enough to come to stay for a couple of days to help with playtesting my ECW game based on GMT’s Commands & Colors: Napoleonics boardgame. He was also good enough to bring with him some rather splendid Swedish and Imperial 30YW armies of Revell figures, which was a considerable help, since my own ECW armies are too small to fight at present.

Hot news in North Berwick - photo courtesy David Warren/BBC

His visit coincided with the only bit of local excitement we have had in North Berwick in living memory – the fire station burned down. No-one was hurt, fortunately, but I am now a bit concerned in case the lifeboat station sinks. Clive has news that there is some Euro help on its way – two Spanish reserve fire-fighting crews have been despatched to help us in our hour of need – we understand that they are called Jose and Hose B.

Back at the wars, we started off with two Napoleonic battles, just to get us off to a comfortable start and to get Clive up to speed again on CCN.

The first Napoleonic game was an improvised action between an 1811 Spanish army and a French force consisting mainly of Confederation and Italian troops, led by King Joseph himself, no less. It finished very close – the Spaniards (Clive) won 7-6 on Victory Banners – the early failure of a couple of irregular units more than balanced by lamentable French artillery and the tragic loss of the King – struck down by remarkably lucky dice (he’ll be back). Poor old Joe was shot right through his wine bottle.

The second game was based on a scenario for Orthez published on CCNapoleonics.net. The comments on the website suggested that the French always win – well, I have news for you – I was the French and I got absolutely hammered. It isn’t as though I did anything wrong – the game hardly lasted long enough for me to do anything at all, good or bad. It would be pathetic to complain that I was unlucky again...

Then we moved on to an ECW-type battle, using my rules extensions for CCN. We played the same action over a few times, gradually refining and pruning the rules. We found that cavalry were too powerful – far more potent than my early tests and calculations had suggested – so made some changes there which produced big improvements.

To avoid an oversized unit (of horse) being unstoppable on the field, the rules now restrict the number of blocks/bases which may count for Combat Dice. There are also some reductions in the advantages gained in melee by Galloper cavalry and by “Rash” Gallopers, and some detail changes in the use of Stand of Pikes as a defensive tactic.

Lastly, I have amended the rules for Veteran units slightly. Previously, I had a simple bonus of 1 die for a veteran unit in any kind of combat. On revisiting this, I can’t see why two equally-matched veteran units would kill each other more rapidly than any other two equally-matched units, so veterans now only get an extra die when they fight Raw or Militia troops.

I’m getting there. With luck, you should find a new panel in the top right corner which will link to downloads of the latest versions of the documentation and cards for the ECW game. Thanks again to Clive for his time and his intellect (and his company, of course), and thanks to my son Nick for his usual, intriguing, rather idiosyncratic photography. The last picture with numbered counters is of an extra game we tried using Victory without Quarter rules. The game didn’t go as well as it should – our knowledge of the rules is not good, the game was not adequately prepared, my support program on the laptop did some things which looked remarkably like logic errors, and fatigue had set in by this stage!