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

Monday, 16 February 2015

In Odd Moments

I've been very busy recently, so time to involve myself in hobby activities has been infrequent, and - more to the point - unpredictable. Such moments as have presented themselves have been happily spent making the most of two recent purchases.

The artillery of the dastardly Parliamentarians prepare to fire on the home of the Laceys
Firstly, I was very pleased to obtain a good, secondhand set of DVDs of the 1980s BBC ECW historical drama series, By the Sword Divided. The set (of 8 discs) includes both series; thus far I have got most of the way through the first series, and jolly good it is too. I neither watched nor heard about the original transmission, so it is all new to me. The 1983 date is apparent in the 4:3 picture aspect  and the modest approach to special effects (night-time scenes are pretty much invisible!), but it has the advantage to me that, with a couple of notable exceptions, the cast are mostly unfamiliar (since I never watched Holby City...) and the production is modern enough for me not to be distracted by its shortcomings.

The one stand-out performance is Julian Glover, always a fine actor, as Sir Martin Lacey, a Royalist landowner, but the whole show rings true and is convincing. It also demonstrates a keen awareness of the history and the military aspects (from which I learned quite a bit - which I had not expected), and it comes as no surprise that the historical advisor was Brigadier Peter Young. The slight downside, of course, is that the Brigadier's personal points of bias come through along with his undoubted wisdom, so the Parliamentarian side get the benefit of very little doubt, for example. I also found that the moments when the cast stand and recite historical events to each other, as contextual background disguised as family chatter, were the least convincing of the whole production, but they do tie things together nicely.

I am a bit nervous to note that Sir Martin was killed in last night's instalment, so I am hoping the series does not dip in his absence. I shall continue to work my way through the remaining discs - this series is pretty expensive to get hold of - I was lucky to get a bargain set - but is very highly recommended if you are interested in the period. Michael had informed me that you can watch it on YouTube, which is terrific, but sadly is not practicable at my local broadband speed.

Second bit of shopping was a copy of Blücher, Sam Mustafa's long-awaited grand tactical cousin for Lasalle, in his Honour series of horse and musket rules. I haven't got very far into this yet, but it looks very interesting indeed. One thing that surprises me a little is that it is the logical replacement for Mustafa's Grande Armée rules, yet some of the most cunning, trademark devices from that earlier rule set have been dropped. There are other, newer innovations, of course, but familiarity with the earlier set gives an intriguing insight into the background.

Anyway, I haven't got very far into it yet, so will carry on reading as time permits.


  1. An excellent TV series BTSD, if horribly biased as you say. I did like Captain Lecky in your picture there with the classic lines "Cavalry? To hell with 'em...I want guns. Big guns." and "I've nae time for Parliament, all hot air and blether."

    1. I like Lecky - I was sorry he had a bad day when the Royalists nicked one of his guns when he wasn't looking, but he more than made amends leading the Forlorn Hope to stick a whacking great petard on the front gate of the castle - an activity which reminded me very much of drawing lots to hold a match to one of my Uncle Arthur's home-made fireworks when I was a young and impressionable child.

    2. Presumably you weren't hoist be your Uncle's firework. It's a great series....got me into re-enacting in the 1980's and building 54mm ECW armies now. I've done Lacey's horse here


      and hope to do some other characters (such as Parson Butterworth) soon.

    3. 54mm ECW sounds like fun. One of the reasons the TV series works better than most war fiction, I think, is that the pocket-sized actions between tiny units are more reasonable in an ECW context. I remember the BBC's (?) attempt at War and Peace, with Borodino fought by 6 men and a horse, with a bit of shudder.

    4. Yes, and the Sharpe battles were pretty miniscule as well if I remember. Hoping to refight Lansdown in 54mm at a scale of 1-40, so about 3-400 figures. Enjoy the reset of the series, I will be keen to hear what you think of it after watching the whole lot. Must get to Rockingham castle one day.

  2. I remember watching it and enjoying it as the ECW was very much my period back then. I'd like to watch it again.

    1. Hi Lee - I'm into the second series now. It has not benefitted from the adoption of the standard TV soap philosophy, where each instalment has a different writer, but it's still pretty good. Yesterday we had a visit from Cromwell (very odd chap), and today they hanged an official Witchfinder in the woods (and bad luck to him). Still moving along nicely, though the current head of the Lacey household is now a rather neurotic MP (married to one of Sir Martin's daughters - hope you're taking notes here) and he is an unsatisfying central character. There's more trouble ahead - the Scots are coming down from the North, this time on the Royalist side - this is scary and confusing all at the same time...

  3. I didn't realize that there was a second season (nor did I realize that there is a 20 minute Blackadder special on the ECW complete with Cromwell and Charies I, but that's another story). I quite enjoyed watching Series 1 - the siege of Arnescote was convincingly done and I could see why it got people into reenacting. In North America the Gettysburg film and Ken Burns series on Public Television hooked me on ACW reenacting in the late 1980s.
    Watching the show again I remembered how much I disliked that sanctimonious strumpet Mistress Prothero. :)

  4. Just watched this show myself for the first time as my friend and I get all excited about our new ECW project. I really enjoyed it and now need to find Season 2, a 6mm version of Arnscote Castle and build myself a unit to represent Lacey's Horse!

    BTW Our ECW Project blog is here:


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