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

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The Ongoing Artillery Background Project (OABP)

First off, Happy New Year to everyone who is kind enough to drop in here. I hope your year is good – in my own case, I am hoping for a rather more satisfying year than 2012, which was a kind of not-quite year – a lot of minor things that didn’t go too well, and then there was the weather, which I have decided to take as a personal affront. However – I’m still here and still fighting, and each day is the start of the rest of your life, as a former work-colleague used to have written on a poster above his desk for a while. Come to think of it, that same fellow is no longer with us – he drowned himself in a freezing Scottish loch not long after he retired, so let’s gloss over that quickly – inappropriate recollection.

This morning, Amazon emailed me to ask me if I would care to rate my recent purchase of a pot of red GW paint – did it meet my expectations? Pretty much, yes. They also suggested that, since I recently purchased CDs of the Esbjorn Svensson Trio and some concerti by Telemann, I obviously like music and thus might be interested in a new album from One Direction. Now that is impressive lateral thinking, but no.

Last night I spent 40 minutes on the static exercise bike, in the interests of getting the blood thinned down a bit after Cholesterolfest. Went OK – backed off a bit towards the end to keep my pulse under 140bpm, but no problems, and it was good for the first of a new series. To avoid spending my time on the bike thinking “Good grief – still 29 minutes to go....”, I watched one of my library of approved exo-bike movies. Last night I watched the first half of The Charge of the Light Brigade – that’s the 1968 one with David Hemmings. I haven’t watched it for ages, and it’s a bit dated now, but still pretty good. The relationship between Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave and the other fellow is what I would describe as uninterestingly soppy – not very engaging, and I couldn’t really care much about the characters themselves. The military bits are nicely done, but what really compromises it for me is that it comes from a period when all British films used the same short list of actors, and I find it distracting to keep noticing that the sergeant major used to be in The Onedin Line on TV, for example.

It may have been a "brilliant moment of madness" - it could even have been
a "mad moment of brilliance" - but such moments are fairly commonplace
on my tabletop, I think 

The whole thing is rescued by Trevor Howard as Lord Cardigan, who presents the most wonderful portrayal of a pure bastard it is possible to imagine. I know it’s all going to end in tears, but I’ll watch the rest of the story on my next pedalling session tonight. After the Crimean unpleasantness, I think I’ll watch Tom Berenger as Longstreet again – yes – haven’t seen that for a while either.

In this rather disjointed not-quite-holiday period as the world gets revved up again, there is an opportunity to revisit all those wargaming background projects which seem to grind on forever. One such is the box of bits which I have earmarked to complete my collection of limbers and logistics vehicles for my Napoleonic armies. Although it comes under the general heading of Mucking About, every so often I open up all the little margarine boxes and switch things around to make sure I have the best combinations of parts for the various units. I still have to paint up limbers, teams and drivers and pulled guns for all the French artillery – which is 3 foot batteries at 2 horses each and 2 horse batteries at 4 horses each. I also have outstanding limber teams for one Italian foot battery, three Spanish regular, a Spanish volunteer one and one for the Duchy of Stralsund-Ruegen.

Then there’s two more British caissons and two French ditto to finish off, a couple of odd wagons and a bunch of pack mules to paint up. It’ll all get done in time – maybe this year – I got a fair amount of this stuff completed last year, so there’s no stress!

The bits are all-sorts – limbers are a mixture of Hinchliffe 20, early Lamming and some Minifigs 20mm, cannons are similar, plus a few Les Higgins. Horses and drivers are Lamming, Scruby, S-Range and Alberken, and I even have a few rather posh Art Miniaturen teams for the French line. The mules and oxen are mostly Jacklex, and the Spanish muleteers are Hinton Hunts. Should be fine.

Going through the boxes reminded me (not  that I had forgotten, of course) that I have a couple of really nice Minifigs kits to make up – a general’s carriage and a French flying ambulance – I really must get on with those – I’ll enjoy that.

General's carriage - all bits present


And,  of course, having counted, examined, swapped and generally fiddled with all the bits, they all went back into the plastic tubs and back into the big box marked Napoleonics until next time....

Good fun though, and it avoids doing anything really useful. Also, I have a vague feeling that talking about it here makes it more likely I will do something about it soon, but don’t hold your breath.

Happy New Year, in case I didn't mention it.


  1. I love the narrator on the 'Charge of the Light Brigade' trailer .... very Cholmondley-Warner..

    Have a great new year Sir!

    All the best,

  2. Hi Steve,
    RE: Trevor Howard -- good guy or bad guy, always a pleasure to watch. I particularly recommend The Long Duel for those fans of colonial India adventures; although it is a rather hard movie to find these days.


  3. Hi MSFoy,
    Sorry, previous comment intended for you, not Steve.
    My first f-up of the new year. Many to follow I'm sure.

  4. I really, really like that film and often have it playing in the background while I'm painting - I can see why it got bad reviews at the time but there's something about it that appeals to me.

    Doing the limbers - that is very impressive!

    1. One aspect of the film that seems amateurish now is the over-the-top, improbable silliness of the officers' accents - even perfectly professional actors like Peter Bowles and Alan Dobie deliver their lines with fake lisps, like the Ugly Sisters in the panto. An American friend once offered his opinion that it was done like this to ensure that (even?) American audiences would understand that these were not standard English voices.

      It is very entertaining.

  5. And a belated happy new year to you, my dear Foy.
    I have a stationary bike mount now, a thoughtful Christmas present from my wife who knows I miss cycling when the snows come. It is great for making me feel less guilty about watching movies, but I have not mastered the art of painting while cycling yet.
    Charge of the LB is a great film of its day, but I think it puzzles those who want movies about battles. A very similar film, a d of the same vintage, is Oh What A Lovely War, which uses Brechtian theatre techniques, similar to CLB's use of animation, to make the late 1960s anti war argument. Those that want their battle scenes straight up are better off going to films like Waterloo
    Good luck finding more treasures in your bits boxes. I went through my odds and ends over Christmas, very satisfying,

    1. Hi Mike - good New Year to you. Since I am of vast age, I saw these films as a very young chap when they first came out. I think the British anti-war films of this period were as much a protest against the continuing tradition of British war films as they were against war itself.

      I'd forgotten OWALW, must check it out and see if I can get a cheap DVD. Likewise How I Won the War, from around the same time, but probably not such a great film.

      The static bike very good for getting movie watching time - I'd probably never have got all the way through Ken Burns' ACW epic without it. I watch all sorts of stuff - lots of archive Grand Prix motor racing - especially 1950s and pre-war stuff - and my particular favourite is watching bicycle road racing while on the exo bike - excellent. I have DVDs of various Tours de France, Giri d'Italia and so forth from the 1990s and early 2000s - most enjoyable to ride through the Alps with the world's best!

      This last year the weather was so awful here that I spent more time cleaning my real bikes than riding them - this year will be better, I'm sure.

      Take care.

  6. General Foy,

    I guess I never saw limbers as a last resort as many others have. I think I've got about 20 painted and quite a few unpainted that I don't really need. I think that really think they add character to the table.

    As for the ambulances, I cannot quite tell, but it appears it is the two wheeled version? I got that one from Minifigs and my four wheeled one from Essex. I didn't quite know why there were two versions but it appears in rougher terrain (Spain) the two wheeled versions was more common.

    1. My limbers exist but they always rank behind other units in the painting queue, not least because my rules don't require the limbers to be on the table.

      I think the 2-wheel ambulance was Larrey's invention, a single-horse light ambulance - I know they Imperial Guard had them, not sure about the line - must check up on that!