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

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Wargaming Infrastructure - Dodgy Antique

I've been keeping an eye open for some good, easily visible means of keeping score in war games - Victory Banners, or Field of Battle's "Army Morale Points", or much more of the same. Hand-written notes on a whiteboard are OK but lacking in elegance, and prone to errors or accidental erasure; cunning schemes of keeping track with miniature playing cards, chips and so on are - again - OK, but easily forgotten about if you are under fire; scribbled pencil notes on the margin of the rules QRS are just dreadful. And so on - easier to identify things I don't like than things I like.

So, I thought to myself, what games traditionally have a formal, easy-to-use-and-understand arrangement for keeping score? I considered cribbage boards (a bit small, and a bit fiddly), portable table-tennis scoreboards (big and clunky, and the numbers are likely to wear out) and various other cunning devices.

Finally came up with this, which has a certain Gonzo charm all of its own. It arrived yesterday.

Just how badly did you want to know the score...?
It is, as you see, a billiards/snooker scoreboard of a rather unusual design, mahogany and brass - date uncertain, probably 1930s-50s - it's in nice, lived-in condition. Partially restored, but a couple of dents and missing bits - it works. I like the thing, actually, just as an old object. For knackered read possessing a convincing patina, and you're getting close.

It's a little over 86cm wide. The numbers are on brass rollers, so each of the two score rows can be switched to 1-20, 21-40, 41-60. 61-80 or 81-100. Yes, it's a bit worn, but it's old, right? The black panel on the left is a small blackboard - I had a fleeting idea of converting it to a (black) magnetised mini-noteboard, but then realised what an outrage that might represent - so blackboard it shall remain. [No writing in blue chalk, though.]

One thing for sure, in future I may have no idea how my games are going, but I will be in no doubt about the score.

If anyone is expert in this area, I suspect that it was made by EJ Riley Ltd, of Accrington, Lancs, as a special order, but have no proof - the fellow who sold it to me doesn't know the background. I'd be interested to know a little more about its pedigree if you have any ideas. 

Monday, 13 August 2018

Handicrafts Dept - Sow's Ear Research Project

My recent introduction to Picquet's "Field of Battle" rules has got me thinking of all sorts of issues beyond merely playing the game. I've grown very used to Commands & Colors type games, where the presentation of units and the associated information is very simple - I've developed a big stock of sabots, on which the units are fixed magnetically. Since the game is simple (by design), it is possible to get away with placing a few coloured counters on the sabots to denote losses - it doesn't add greatly to the visual delights, but it's not a big problem.

FoB is a bit different - the units change formation, so sabots are out, and a fair amount of information needs to be associated with each unit. I really can't be doing with roster sheets - personally, given the state of my eyesight, I find them very hard work - constantly focusing and re-focusing between the sheet and the action on the table is fatiguing, as is constantly howking the specs off and on (and losing the beggars behind The Ridge). It is easy to add a few extra colours of counters with defined meanings, but the fundamental principles of OWL (the OCD Wargamers' League,  of which I am a founder member) argue strongly against running the risk of reducing the game to a pigs' breakfast.

I've been thinking up some way of making a neat and tidy job of keeping everything I need to know about each unit, right on the tabletop.

Yesterday I had a lot of fun with a bag of MDF strips and some laser-cut dice frames, suitable for 5mm dice. I think I have developed a working design. Still a couple of things to think about, and then it should just be a question of making about 100 of these things.

Dice frames from Supreme Littleness Designs, suitable for 5mm minidice, a pile
of 50mm x 10mm MDF bases from
East Riding Minatures, and a pack of 200
5mm mini-dice from
The Dice Shop - that's my starter
Sticky PVA glue the bits into position, a coat of baseboard paint...
...and I have a roll of 10mm wide self-adhesive magnetic compound strip, plus
some experimental sheets of plain (non-adhesive) magnetic sheet
My units are on MDF subunit bases, which have magnetic sheet stuck underneath, and
they sit on sabots which are topped with steel paper (or whatever the modern
replacement for steel paper is called).
My subunit bases are 50mm wide x 45mm deep; I add a loose underlay of plain mag
sheet underneath one of the subunits - this underlay is 50mm wide x 55mm deep,
which will allow me to attach a 10mm deep info tray behind the troops. 
Attach the magnetic adhesive tape underneath the info tray, trim with scissors to
smarten it up a bit - you can see where it will attach behind the subunit base...
...and here is the modified set-up on the sabot - no actual information on the tray
yet. Note that this is all completely temporary - I can remove the info tray and the
underlay and everything is back as it was.
In a FoB context, here's the same unit deployed into line - the underlay is still under the left hand subunit, 
and the magnetised info tray will hold in place (reasonably well, anyway) for movement around the battlefield. 
Here the tray is equipped with a minidice (to record loss of what FoB calls "Unit Integrity"), with a laminated
label showing the fighting and defensive dice sizes applicable to this unit, and a coloured cube to indicate which
Combat Group (= brigade) this battalion belongs to. My 8mm wooden cubes, which seemed pleasingly small
and neat, now seem maybe a tad big and clumsy - I might replace them, but this gets me operational for the
The big experiment in this lot was to see whether the existing magnetised bases, sitting on the magnetic underlay, sitting on the steel paper on the sabots, would attach as firmly as the original rig without the underlay. The answer is "not quite", but it's good enough for tabletop use - probably not secure enough for transporting them in the car. The underlays and info trays can travel separately from the troops!

Righto - it works. Fire up the factory, and get a stack of them made up, painted, labelled and stored away for forthcoming battles. OWL in action.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Hooptedoodle #309 - What a To-Doo

A bit of a Scots play on words there, but no matter. This morning I went into the village very early - I had a parcel to post. Our post office opens at 8:30, which is quite civilised really, and at present our local arts and music festival is on, which means things get very busy later on - especially since some genius has also decided this is just the time to dig up the streets in the town centre, and as a result we have parking areas coned off, temporary traffic lights - all that.

So the early shift made sense. I got to the post office just after 8:30, did the necessary business and even had time and space for a quick chat with the manager. Heading back to my car I became aware of a minor stooshie developing across the road. Goodness me.

Stock picture of unharmed wood pigeon, nowhere near here
It seems a wood-pigeon had flown into a window somewhere high above the street, and had fallen to the pavement, where it now lay, twitching, eyes closed, apparently gasping its last - opening and shutting its beak, anyway. The worst of it was that a middle-aged lady had witnessed the incident, and she was now in mid-conniption, shrieking and carrying on in fine style. Suitably alarmed, the staff from Greggs (the bakers, next door) came out and swept her into the cafe, and coffee was produced. Since there is not much else to gawp at so early in the morning, I suddenly found I, too, was in Greggs. I was idly wondering whether there might be some complimentary sausage rolls on the go as well as the coffee.

The star of the episode was in full flow - sobbing. What distressed her most, she said, was that she couldn't help thinking that her husband would simply have broken the poor thing's neck, to put it out if its misery. It was only at about this point that the Greggs people realised that all this fuss was connected with an accident to a pigeon - the lady hadn't simply been taken ill.
A couple of us went out to see whether the tragic pigeon had died yet, but it was gone. The cause of all the upset appears to have picked himself up, shaken his head, and flown away. Probably a smart move.

Next week - Dog Heard Barking...

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Bavarians - Another Test Figure - Lt Bn No.5

Really not making good progress with painting this week, but have produced another painted test figure - this time for Light Bn No.5 (Buttler). Again, the casting is by Hagen, from the old Falcon range. Nice little figures these, I think.

There is something psychologically more satisfying, when time is short, in producing a single finished figure rather than, say, painting (most of) the crossbelts of an ongoing battalion of two dozen.

More of Buttler's chaps will be seen before long. Apart from another two battalions which are dribbling along in the background at the moment, the next big intake of breath is scheduled to be two battalions of the 5th Line Infantry. Bad news is that these are more of the Der Kriegsspieler castings, which are eyeball-busters as far as I am concerned; good news is that the facings are plain pink, with no piping, which simplifies things quite a bit.

I won't do any more test figures until the current batches are finished. A cavalry test must appear soon, but I'll avoid getting distracted by that at present.

Light a candle to St Luke and press on. No-one said this was going to be quick.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Plancenoit - 18th June 1815

Yesterday was the appointed day for Plancenoit (one of a small, select number of actions/battles which were never recognised by the Duke of Wellington, on account of the number of Prussians involved). My van and I went over the Queensferry Crossing and travelled north (as we do), to give some of my French soldiers an outing.

Landwehr vs French lights - they typified the Prussian performance on the day
 - valiant but not very effective
A medium-sized game to Commands & Colors:Napoleonics rules - the scenario was borrowed straight from the C&CN user site. Interesting - very interesting - but a very tough challenge for the Prussians. I was the Prussian commander, so I'll try to get plenty of excuses in early - graciously, of course.

As I recall, at Real Plancenoit, the town changed hands repeatedly during the evening, the French called in more and more prestigious contingents of Imperial Guard, but were eventually overwhelmed. The Prussians thus appeared behind the French right flank on the main Waterloo battlefield, and the whole French army, which was already pretty much on its last legs, routed. [If you don't happen to agree with my quick summary of the history, please accept my admiration for your scholarship - I'm sure you're right. No need to put me straight.]

In our game, the Prussians obviously were going to have very severe problems getting the French out of the little town. After some initial thoughts about amending the scenario a little, we decided to stick with the one on the website, including the bonus Victory Banners available for possession of parts of the town. As Prussian commander, I had wild thoughts of ignoring the town - just demonstrating against it - and trying to mop up enough of the French troops elsewhere to scrape victory - if they shifted anyone to support their (left) flank then an assault on the town might make more sense. However, since this would make a nonsense of the historical battle, I stuck with the script, and assaulted Plancenoit like a good'un. Not so good, in fact.

The French commander (Comte Lobau, aka Stryker) drew some excellent cards early, including one which enabled him to rush his reserves up into the town, so that by the time I got my first attack under way the place was stuffed with Old Guard, Young Guard and all shades of high-quality soldiery, and the challenge had become even more - well, challenging. Very quickly, that first attack fizzled out, and there didn't seem to be much to be gained by just going back in again. I had a bigger army, but I was losing them very quickly.

Also, the movement of the French reserves into the town meant that I no longer had scope to defeat enough units on my right flank to tip the balance back. However, I went ahead and attacked the French left, and had a little more success, while my continuing intermittent assaults on Plancenoit itself gained occasional footholds, but always short-lived. At one point I was 8-1 down on VBs (9 for the win), but a (very lucky) victory over a battalion of Old Guard (who were out in the open - definitely the high spot of an otherwise bleak day for the Prussians) and some success on my right got things back to 8-4, before the French, quite correctly and justifiably, won their final banner.

No complaints from me - I was disappointed by my light cavalry (that must be some kind of epitaph), who were just outclassed by their opponents, and my artillery achieved nothing at all - hopeless, but once again the Landwehr demonstrated a magical ability to roll good dice. We had a discussion afterwards over whether the basic superiority of the French troops, as set out in the standard national tables in C&CN, is maybe overstated for the 1815 period, but that is just a fun debate. My lot were, to coin a military phrase, whupped on the day.

My thanks and compliments to Goya, who hosted the action and umpired (and fed us, splendidly), and Stryker, who commanded the French force with his customary élan. Great day out - a huge amount of fun.

History is wrecked, the French probably did go on to gain their celebrated victory at the Battle of Mont St Jean after all. Conky Atty may invent whatever versions of the day he wishes. Neither night nor Blücher arrived early enough to save him...

**** Recommend you also link to Stryker's account of the day, which has better photos *****

General view from Prussian right at the start - by the way, please ignore confusing
Spanish regimental titles visible in these photos - the sabots were borrowed for the
day. I'll get a supply of guest sabots painted up for C&CN away-days...
Middle of the Prussian position - Plancenoit just visible at the top of the picture
Some of the troops on the French left - I'd have done better against these...
Quality everywhere - the French reserves are rushed up - strictly, these are Guard
Fusiliers, but they were Young Guard for the day - that must be General Duhèsme, then

Script for the day - send in more heroes...
...and occasionally someone would get a toe in the town, but briefly; fleetingly
"Let's get this straight - you want us to flush them out of there - is that what you said...?"
The Prussians still have troops in decent shape, but none of them is keen to attack the town again
After a while, a gap opened in front of the town, while the Prussians looked for a
more promising strategy
We did a little better on our right
One of the temporary occupants of the edge of the town was a Landwehr unit
- brave but doomed
More Landwehr heroes [ignore Spanish alias...]
Since the official victory conditions were achieved in a little over two hours, we played
on for a while, but there was no significant change in the theme of the day. By the end
of the extended play period, there is a lot of space on the table, and the Prussians
continued to lose men and units at about twice the speed of their opponents
French light cavalry (my own Garrison figures) - we couldn't offer any serious
challenge to them
From the French side of the field, the strength of their position in the town is
very apparent (I think so, anyway - mutter, mutter...)

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Hooptedoodle #308 - An Unknown Uncle

Back in my mother's archives - more from Cousin Dave's notes on family history (the last, incomplete work of one of the world's happiest librarians). Don't worry, this isn't the start of a whole new blog.

Starting point is the same people I was writing about yesterday - in particular the immediate family of Robert James Moore (1875-1930), the gentle, big man from an Irish family who was a coal merchant in Birkenhead and also drove armoured cars in the desert in WW1. [As an aside, it is a sad coincidence that RJM died of prostate cancer at 54 - which is the same illness and the same age which took away Cousin Dave - no matter.]

Robert James Moore married a very vigorous woman - Winifred Agnes Booth. She had a difficult childhood - it's her family I'm going to write a bit about today - beset with some real hardship. She became a local legend in Birkenhead. She was a devout Fabian socialist, and a Quaker (I was surprised to learn), and a prominent Labour firebrand on Birkenhead Town Council for many years. For such a small town, Birkenhead has a remarkable history of social innovation - first wash houses, first public parks, you name it - and that tradition was strongly embraced by Winifred. For all her good works, she seems, in fact, to have been something of a monster - she completely dominated her two sons (particularly my maternal grandfather) and must have worn out her poor, quiet husband. My mother remembers her as "a right battle axe", in fact, the actual wording was "a right, fat battle axe" - the grandchildren were terrified of her, and one of the great joys of my mum's childhood in Paris was the occasion when Grandma Winifred visited them and sat on a chair in the girls' bedroom, to lecture them about something or other (as was her way). The chair, bless it, broke under the strain and left Councillor WA Moore stuck fast for some time, her regal derrière protruding majestically from the fractured seat.

This is my great-great-grandmother, Sarah Jane Miller, with
her second husband and their son - anybody have any clues
about the cap badge?
Let's not dwell on Winifred - enough has been written and said about her over the years, and she surely worked very hard to ensure this was so. No, today's tale is really about Winifred's mother, a much more unassuming person, it seems. It's not an entirely cheerful story, to be sure, she had to overcome more than her fair share of trouble, but it also throws up another relative I didn't even know I had.

Sarah Jane Miller was from an Irish family (from Galway - there must have been some English families in Victorian Liverpool, but it seems I'm not related to any of them), and she married a Scotsman, Richard Pithie Booth (he came from Peterculter, near Aberdeen). They had 5, possibly 6 children before Mr Booth was killed in an accident at Birkenead Docks in about 1890 - the Dock Authority refused to pay the normal compensation for such an accident because there was some dispute about whether Booth was officially supposed to be at work that day. Sarah and her family were left destitute, and she became a teacher in the village school at Bidston. One of her sons left home very early to go to sea, to help support his mother.

Eventually she remarried; a widower, another Scotsman (yes, all right), from Kirkcudbright, named William Beattie, who was a master bookbinder and whose business appears in trade listings for Birkenhead from 1883 onward. Beattie had children from his previous marriage, so the combined family was large, though now quite prosperous. In later life Sarah became active in the Birkenhead Cooperative Society and the Cooperative Women's Guild.

I knew some of this, in very little detail, but I never realised that William Beattie and Sarah had a child together. There he is in the picture - this is James - that's (let's see) my mother's father's mother's half-brother, James. Not a very close relative of mine, then, but I never knew he existed. He hardly did - James Beattie was killed in France in 1917, aged 19. This photo, which must have been taken in 1916 or 1917, was published in the Birkenhead News and the Wirral Advertiser in December 1923, after Sarah - who had become quite a prominent citizen after her personal struggles - passed away.

So there you go - a complete relative I had never been aware of.

I promise not to unload any more family history for a while. Back to the toy soldiers - I'm involved in a wargame this coming weekend...!

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

OK - did some further hunting around.

The cap badge is clearly that of the Cheshire Regt - that would make sense, since Birkenhead was in Cheshire in those days.

And I found great-great-uncle Jim. My dates were a bit out, but the idea was correct.

1 South Hill Rd, Birkenhead today, courtesy of Google Maps (on the
left of the two houses)
He was James Wallace Beattie, son of William Beattie, of 1 South Hill Road, Birkenhead. He was with the 10th Bn, Cheshire Regt, which, as part of the 75th Brigade, landed in France in Sept 1915. His serial number was 49435. Private JW Beattie was killed on 11th October 1916, almost certainly at the Battle for Ancre Heights, which followed the Battle of Thiepval Ridge. The history notes that the Germans put up a determined defence, and it was pissing with rain. James is buried at Thiepval. He was, as stated, 19 years old.

Ancre Heights, Oct 1916

Jesus Christ.


Didn't mean to add anything further to this post, but I've now seen a scan of a form which was issued in 1922 to provide details of individuals to be included on a war memorial for the fallen of Birkenhead. The information was completed by James' mother (Sarah), and the only information additional to all the above is that his date of enlistment is given as 31st March 1916 - so he must have gone out to join the 10th Battalion, who were already in France, shortly after that date. That puts a very narrow window of time when the family group above was photographed. Must have been April 1916 - something like that.

And here is the Birkenhead War Memorial - located in Hamilton Square, opposite
the Town Hall. It's been cleaned recently. Unveiled in 1925, there were some additions
after 1945 to deal with yet another war - very obvious disproportion in the numbers
of losses for the two wars. Sarah, who died a year after completing the
form above, never lived to see it.


Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Hooptedoodle #307 - Auntie Kashie's Basket

This isn't Kashie's Actual Basket, of course, but it was just like this, only a different colour...
I've been sorting out some boxes of old papers that I am minding for my mother - partly because I was looking for some old photos, but mostly just to see what's in there. The problem with this kind of activity is that most of what is in there is, of course, rubbish, but occasional items of interest appear, and it is very easy to get distracted - drawn in, so to speak. I take care to write my name and address on the soles of my slippers before I get too far absorbed.

In there I found a sheaf of notes and photocopies compiled by my cousin Dave; when he found out he had terminal cancer he started (pretty much from scratch) researching his/our family. Sadly, he didn't get as long on the job as we would have all wished, but he certainly found some fascinating stuff. Yesterday I found some notes about "Auntie Kashie", and I sat up straight, because I haven't heard of her since I was a very small child.

From my very earliest memory, I used to keep my toys in a very old wickerwork laundry basket. It was Auntie Kashie's Basket, though I didn't know who Auntie Kashie was, and I'm not altogether sure my mother did either. It was very like the basket at the top of this post, except it was painted (or stained?) green. The basket went on its way before we moved house when I was 10, so I haven't thought about Auntie Kashie for a very long time. Well, I've never thought about her at all, really. Just another name in a bewildering family history.

All these years later, I know who she was, and Dave's notes fill in a lot of gaps. If I may start by way of a short detour, I wrote a blog post some years ago about my great-grandfather, Robert James Moore, who served in the Royal Armoured Corps in Egypt in WW1 - he drove a Ford Model T armoured car, which you can see in that post. Robert was my mother's father's father (that's not too complicated, is it?), and apart from his military service he lived most of his life in Liverpool and Birkenhead, where he was a coal merchant.

Robert James Moore's father was also named Robert Moore (confusingly), and he was born in Tralee in Ireland in 1842. Robert senior was a professional soldier in the British Army, and his children were born on his travels - Robert James Moore was born at Pembroke Docks [it says on his birth certificate] in 1875, and a daughter, Kathleen Annie Marcella Moore, was born in Cork in 1876. The daughter was known as Kashie. Ah.

St Mary's Anglican Church, Walton, Liverpool
Both the children were confirmed at St Mary's Church, Walton, Liverpool in 1892 - by this date their father had been discharged from the army, and was living in Liverpool. He seems to have held various jobs as a night watchman, janitor at a school and similar.

Kashie was musical. When she grew up she worked as staff pianist at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool, where she met and married the manager of that theatre, one Kingstone Trollope (I am not making this up, I swear). Kingstone was an actor of some national reputation - quite why he was working as a theatre manager in Liverpool is a mystery. I think my mother has a suitably theatrical photo somewhere of Mr Trollope, but I can't find it at the moment - I need to have a good look through her piles of old family pictures again.

By 1911, Kingstone seems to have resumed his career as an itinerant Thespian - his name crops up in old theatre programmes - in 1937 he appeared in "London After Dark" at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, in a pretty serious production, and in 1940 (by which time he must have been in his 60s) he was in "The Importance of Being Earnest" with Peggy Ashcroft and Jack Hawkins. I don't know what happened after that (you will be delighted to learn).

Queen's Road, Everton, when they were knocking it down (1960s?) - all new
houses there now
Whatever, in the 1911 Census a Mrs Kathleen Trollope is recorded as resident at 7 Breck Grove, Queen's Road, Everton, Liverpool, but there is no record of Kingstone, who must have gone back to treading the boards. Kashie kept a basket of Trollope's costumes and other gear for many years, and eventually it became my toy basket, so I guess he never came back for it.

Now I'll have to do some further reading in the boxes, and I must have a proper search through those piles of photos. I'll have to watch this - you need plenty of time to devote to it, and I am uncomfortably aware that my cousin has passed this way before, but he ran out of time.

If it turns out Kingstone Trollope is actually world famous, please someone let me know!

I could use that old basket for my wargame scenery now, I tell you.

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

Since I promised, here's that picture of Trollope - by the way, his full name was Norris Kingstone Trollope, and he was born in Camberley, Surrey. Kashie threw him out in 1908, so his basket was hanging around for a long time!


Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Bavarians - Getting Back to the Project

I'm now trying to make a bit of progress on the painting front, after some weeks' interruption. Yesterday I completed a painted test figure for the 7th Light Battalion (Günter), circa 1809. The casting is one of the old 20mm figures which were formerly made in Germany under the trade name of Falcon, and which are now on sale again from Hagen. I like them. My current plan is that my Bavarian light infantry will be pretty much built from Falcons.

Skirmisher from the Light Battalion Günter - seems OK

I have become a firm believer in the value of producing a test figure for each painting batch - it's useful for deciding on shades (the sky blue collar here is a second attempt - I finished up using Foundry's Tomb Blue, which is much lighter than my first guess), and for identifying which paints to use, and in what order - and I then set the pots out in a row in my workbox (I don't always use the same logic - in my recent work using Der Kriegsspieler line infantry castings I have been painting the lapels and cuffs before the main coat colour, which to me seems unnatural, but it helps to preserve the rather sparse cast detail as long as possible - horses for courses). I also get a chance to find out which are the tricky bits. I think this chap shouldn't really have a moustache, by the way, but - hey - they're on campaign. He will be one of the 6 skirmishing figures included in the battalion.

Hinton Hunt BVN 44 - this picture is pinched from Stryker - I hope he doesn't mind. It
shows rather nicely the mysterious object under the trooper's right arm, which isn't a
sling but points down towards his carbine
Yesterday I also finally worked out what has been something of a puzzle. The time is coming when I'll have to start producing some Bavarian cavalry, and initially I'll be using Hinton Hunt's OPC Chevauxleger (BVN 44) as the mainstay of this. Work has been going on in the background, converting some of these to produce command figures (results should appear here eventually), and even some dragoons, and in the course of this I became interested in a mysterious object in the HH casting. Between the lower right breast of the trooper and somewhere near the muzzle of his carbine there is a straight, narrow object which I took to be part of the suspension system for the carbine, but study of uniform plates and so on indicates that it obviously isn't. I asked a number of knowledgeable people about the object, and did an amount of poking around before I came up with this plate by Knoetel, which is a definite clue.

I now have a proper answer. Sometime after the Rumford uniforms were scrapped, the Bavarian cavalry were supplied with a new, steel ramrod for the carbine - this had a loop on one end, and was suspended from a leather thong which was fastened to the stud which secured the two parts of the leather carbine sling. So Marcus was correct (I never doubted it) - the ramrod just dangled from the carbine bandolier. So now I know.

The Bavarians were beset by things which dangled, apparently - the badge of rank of the Unteroffizier was a cane of office, which had a wrist strap. The cavalry used to hang this next to the sabre when mounted, but in everyday dress it was correct for the cane to be suspended from the upper section of crossbelt for the cartridge pouch, so that would be swinging about too. I assume these gentlemen used to sit down very carefully.

Monday, 16 July 2018

"Jason" Figures - guest appearance

Following my recent post about Les Higgins, my noble friend The Bold Albannach kindly sent some photos of some 30mm Jason figures from his collection. These were produced by Les Higgins Miniatures in the 1970s, featuring in the catalogue I scanned and posted last month, and they are rare now. Albannach uses these with Minden and Cran Tara figures, and says they fit in well.

Thanks Iain - these are lovely. The "Katzenstein Supporters Club" seem well pleased with their insurance policy, but quite what the aforementioned "Courtesan" lady is doing in the artillery is a matter for discussion, I think. Printable suggestions welcome.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Hooptedoodle #306 - A Rumination on the Other River Tyne

Hailes Castle
Yesterday the Contesse and I went for a pleasant walk along the River Tyne. We started at the village of East Linton (which was once quite an important toll-bridge crossing on the road from Edinburgh to London), walked upstream along the river bank for a couple of miles until we reached the first footbridge, crossed over to Hailes Castle, then walked back along the public road (more of a track really) into the village to collect our car. Very enjoyable, and an easy walk to suit a rather humid day.

Some photos from yesterday's walk - the water level is quite low, with the current
dry spell, and these streamers of weed and algae are not what we normally see

View from the footbridge at Hailes

The bridge on this new (2003) section of the A1. Traffic running between the capitals
of England and Scotland sweeps over the valley of the Scottish Tyne without even noticing.
Everyone knows of the River Tyne. It is a major river on which stands the mighty city of Newcastle, and it has a long, hardworking tradition of shipbuilding. When we mention that the River Tyne is near us, visitors assume we must live close to Newcastle (which is about 100 miles away - 2 counties away), or that we must mean the North Tyne (which runs into the Northumberland Tyne, and is also a long way from here), or that we must be mistaken (no comment on that one), or that the Scots are obviously so bloody stupid that they have named a river after a more famous one which is not so far away, or that by some peculiar coincidence the rivers were independently given the same name.

The last of these is probably closest to the facts, but I've always been intrigued that the situation exists. So I did a little (trivial) research, and I find that these rivers have existed, within a hundred miles of each other, with the same name for a very, very long time. Hmmm. Our River Tyne, you see, rises somewhere to the west of Pencaitland (a town most famous these days for the manufacture of Glenkinchie whisky) and flows 30 miles through the county of East Lothian, passing through the county town (Haddington), then through East Linton, and Tyninghame (yes, yes, that's right), emerging into the North Sea somewhere between North Berwick and Dunbar.

River Tyne at Haddington
So why "Tyne"? In fact the answer is laughably simple, and I'm sure you either know or have guessed the truth already. Both rivers appear to get their name from an ancient word, tin, meaning river. This may be Brythonic, or may be some older, pre-Celtic word, but neither of our rivers seems actually to have been known as Tyne until Anglo-Saxon times. Interesting. Gradually, the word for river is handed down from a defunct language until, by default, it becomes the name of the river. One imagines some medieval incomer - maybe a tourist or some sort of bureaucrat from whatever new lot are taking over - and he asks, "what's this, then?", and the locals say, "oh, that's the river" - in fact, they may already be using the old word as a name, without realising - and the newcomer takes note that this is what the river is called.

This must have been fairly common. The River Avon must also, I guess, be named "river"; certainly the modern Welsh word afon is a close relative, you would think. So I am building a picture where the unsophisticated locals, who didn't have that many rivers to worry about, just called the thing "the river" in their own language, and eventually the language changed but the name had stuck.

It doesn't necessarily suggest a lack of creative imagination - they must have had other things to worry about; coming up with some more decorous (or pretentious) name for the river might have seemed unnecessary. Locally, we have another example of this sort of thing. Next door to the farm where I live is the ruin of an ancient seat of the Douglas family, Tantallon Castle, on which topic I have posted before. "Tantallon" has a splendid, wild sound - in keeping with the rugged appearance and setting of the place. The name, however, has a fairly mundane pedigree. Around 1300, it is referred to on a map as "Dentaloune", and later in the same century the Earl of Douglas writes of his castle at "Temptaloun", and both these names are now thought to come from the Brythonic din talgwn, meaning "high fortress". So the romantic Tantallon just means "big castle" in an older language. Right. That could be disappointing, but I find it interesting enough as it stands.

I'd like to leave the last word with one of the greatest 20th Century philosophers - possibly the greatest: Gary Larson.