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

Thursday 30 January 2014

Hooptedoodle #120 – Definitely the Last Bus from Birkenhead

The final couple of 1/76 buses for my non-collection.

This Liverpool Corporation Leyland “Titan” type PD2 is another common sight from my childhood. For some reason, LCPT is one of the few bus operators for which I can’t find sensible fleet information on the internet – I guess this model is of a mid-1950s vehicle.

The Birkenhead Corporation Guy “Arab” is another personal nostalgia bomb. This is a relative oldie - the original vehicle which this depicts was supplied to the Birkenhead fleet in 1946, and the old-style municipal paint job was officially updated in 1951, but in reality a great many of the older buses were left like this – a bit like military dress regulations, I suppose. Since it remained in service until 1957, this would still have been trundling along the New Chester Road and around Rock Ferry when I was a boy. Guy Motors were based in Wolverhampton, and the wartime utility-style coachwork for this particular vehicle was by Park Royal, of London. Once again, a bus that looks like a proper bus – would anyone dream of naming a bus an Arab now, I wonder?

Unless I come across a Wallasey bus from the right period in this scale, that’s all for now, folks.

I am quietly pleased to observe that the number of hits on this blog has crept over 200,000 – I wasn’t going to mention it, but felt it was only polite to thank anyone who has read any of my ramblings during the last few years for their time and patience! So – thank you.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Hooptedoodle #119 - Eye of the Beholder

Lower Slaughter, Cotswolds - seems nice...
Even by my standards, this may turn out to be an unusually pointless post. Starting from nowhere in particular, it is likely to end somewhere similar, having passed through yet more of the same. If you wish to read it I’ll be pleased to have your company, and would welcome any thoughts you may have, but don’t say you haven’t been warned…

Yesterday I was idly reading over a forum thread to which I do not subscribe, and in which I have no special interest, but it got me thinking. Fleur d’Ennui, as Django’s tune is called.

The topic was What is Beauty? – with specific reference to landscapes. For some reason it reminded me of an occasion, years ago, when I used to visit the Cotswolds on business. I liked the Cotswolds, and it was not an area I was familiar with. Though I was, in my own right, exactly the same pipsqueak that I have always been, I represented a very heavyweight client of the people I was dealing with at the time, and thus I was lucky enough to be taken out to some very pleasant eating places.

Some village or other - seems nice...
One sunny evening I was taken to a place near the village of Bradford (which sticks in my mind because it was very different from the large city with which it shares a name). We parked the car a little distance from the hostelry we were visiting, and walked along the road to it. On the way, I stopped and took a photograph (lost years ago), because I thought the view was so lovely. A country road, curving in a gentle S-bend, over an ancient bridge and then up a little hill into a wood, with a stone-built coaching inn on the outside of the bend.

After I’d taken the photo, I started wondering why this particular view appealed to me. Did it remind me of somewhere? Was it like the illustrations in some picture book which I loved as a child? Was there something instinctively attractive about it? Did it conform to some learned standard of design? Did it seem like a pleasant place to live (or dine, in this case)? What?

First thing about beauty, I guess, is that you have to let it wash over you – just enjoy it. If you over-analyse it the wheels fall off. Still, I was intrigued.

Trin Valley - seems nice...
I am also reminded of Billy Connolly’s fine tale of taking his then-small children on holiday in the Scottish Highlands, and trying to get them to be enthusiastic about the scenery. It strikes a chord with all parents – past and present – but it also gets us back to this idea of a received concept of beauty.

“This is a mountain”, said Billy, “isn’t it lovely?”

His kids were unconvinced. A mountain is a big lump of rock and stuff, folded up and maybe a bit battered, eroded by the wind and the rain and covered in vegetation. That is the way the above-water bits of the planet behave – a mountain is just a lump – there are lots of them. Why should it be lovely? Why should this one be any lovelier than, say, that one? Billy’s kids thought the whole experience was less lovely, and much less interesting, than Sesame Street on their camper van’s portable TV.

Were they wrong? It’s a funny one – some things please me – some images can almost reduce me to tears, but I don’t understand why. All right – show me a photo of my own children, especially when they were little, and my pupils will dilate (or whatever) and I get a lump in my throat, but that’s largely hormones and things. Why the reaction to pictures of places? I seem to have a fondness for views with water in them, and there are probably certain other repeating characteristics, but where does it come from, especially as a reaction to places which I do not know and which mean nothing to me? Are we born with these feelings? Is it learned? – for that matter, and more sinisterly, is it taught?

Verwallsee, Tyrol - seems nice...
If we widen out the topic, we get into all sorts of consideration of why we all like what we like (scientific overtones), and the whole issue of “taste” (which introduces less palatable issues like background and upbringing, and the dreaded whiff of snobbery).

In truth, I suspect that if I understood more about this I might not be a happier person – I fear that I might not enjoy what I had learned, especially about myself. It does interest me though, if only in those safe moments when I know that there is no risk of my finding out any more about it.

Best strategy is probably just to enjoy what you enjoy, and don’t worry about it too much. So I’ll just try to do that. 

And, since I mentioned him, here's Django 

Friday 24 January 2014

ECW - Recruitment continues...

Five new regiments of foot arrived back from Lee's House of Painting Miracles - once again, I am humbled by the quality. Thank you, Lee.

Three units of Lowland Covenanters, to help the Parliamentarian cause. These are the regiments of the Earl of Loudon (Glasgow), Colonel James Rae (Edinburgh) and Viscount Maitland (Midlothian), looking suitably belligerent. Shades of Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday night. They will, of course, change their identity as appropriate to fit the scenario.

For the Royalists, there are two new units from the North of England, fighting with the Marquis of Newcastle's whitecoats; here are the regiments of Sir Wm Lambton and Colonel John Lamplugh. Like the Covenanters, these figures are mostly Tumbling Dice, with a few Kennington/SHQ chaps drafted in for a bit of variety. I really like these TD figures, but I have to say I'm getting very fed up with cleaning up and gluing heads, though the results appear worth the effort.

Lastly, here's a fine Puritan preacher, calling down appropriate vengeance (as one does). This is from the old Warrior range - not the present one - and is quite a rarity. I haven't quite decided how to use him yet, but here he is, practising, just in case.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Hooptedoodle #118 - It's still out there somewhere

08:19, 21st January, East Lothian, Scotland. Apollo awakes.
I understand that yesterday - 20th January - is generally accepted as the Most Depressing Day of the year in the United Kingdom. I'm not sure who said so, but intuitively that makes some sense - winter fuel bills, a bit of overspend at Christmas, lack of sunshine (and whatever vitamin that means), cold, blustery weather, and nothing much to look forward to but a couple more months of the same.

Well - ever the rebel - I found yesterday splendid. After a few days of pretty severe storms and horizontal rain, suddenly it was dead calm, and it was sunny. I got a lot of tidying up done in the garden - sorted out the woodshed, restacked all the logs. I got rid of the Christmas tree, which had  been blowing around the front lawn like an idiot. Refilled all the bird feeders, which were going like a circus all day - I even filled the big seed feeders at the edge of the wood at the bottom of the garden, and one tiny coal tit spent the morning flying backwards and forward between them, unable to believe his good fortune. I know how he felt - the calm and quiet were the biggest surprise; the day before, Sunday, normal conversation in our garden had been very difficult, because of the noise of the waves beating on the east-facing beach at Scoughall - more than a mile away.

Leaves were swept, ivy cut back - I even ventured into the wood to deal with some enormous brambles, which were attempting to push the roof off my garage. If I'd had an elephant, I would have washed it - that is the sort of day it was. This morning I may go for a short walk to inspect my born-again woodshed, to enjoy the clean floor and the faint echo, which hasn't been present since - ooh - maybe this time last year.

Last night had a bright moon, and the owls were in evidence. This morning the sun came up again - that's twice in a row…

My photo (from the upstairs bathroom window) shows Apollo just revving up his chariot somewhere behind the Lammermuirs - the town of Dunbar is about 10 miles away, beyond the left edge of the picture - more like a million miles. OK, it's just the dawn, and I'm normally too preoccupied or too grumpy to pay attention, but I am grateful.

If today is like yesterday, that will be terrific. If this is 2014, then bring it on.

Friday 17 January 2014

A Peek through Someone Else's Window

My thanks to Rod, who brightened my morning by drawing my attention to these fellows, who are featured on Uwe's splendid History in 1/72 blog - here. Peninsular War riflemen in 1/72, but such as I have never seen in metal in this scale. Even those of us who already have too many riflemen will be hoping that Hagen Miniatures can get these on the market soon. My compliments and best wishes to Massimo, the sculptor.

There's more pictures on the original blog - if you aren't a regular visitor, get along there and join up - there's links to Hagen's shop and all sorts of goodies.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Hooptedoodle #117 - more buses - still not a collection, though

Another couple of buses have arrived. Again, I am sticking firmly to specimens from dates and places that mean I would have seen them as a kid. Sorry the photos aren't better quality.

Birkenhead Corporation Leyland PD2 with MCW coachwork, early 1950s.
This is exactly the kind of bus we used to get from the Mersey Ferry terminal at
Woodside to my Uncle Ernie's house in Bromborough.

When I was five we went for a rare holiday in the Lake District. The local buses that
took us to places like Cartmel and Pooley Bridge were Ribble single deckers, just
like this Leyland Tiger

Friday 10 January 2014

ECW - in which I almost discuss audiobooks

I like to listen to stuff when I’m driving – music (a lot), radio (a good bit, though I have to switch off current affairs phone-ins because they bring on road rage) and increasingly I have a liking for audio books, which is a fairly new area for me.

My new car will play mp3 files, from CDs or flash drive cards of any size you like. This is such a boon and such a novelty that I’m still experimenting with the possibilities. A few months ago I started downloading promising looking audiobook titles from LibriVox and elsewhere – sadly, I have found this to be mostly very disappointing.

The idea that you can get a free download of someone reading a worthwhile book is exciting – the reality is that the actual reading is done by someone who considers that he has a good speaking voice, often without very much apparent justification. It’s easy to find fault – if I’m getting this much entertainment for nothing, you would think, I should just shut up and make the best of it.

Doesn’t work for me. As a native of Liverpool, who has lived most of his life in Scotland, I am probably not well placed to criticize anyone else’s accent, but I am very familiar with the problems of making myself understood by a (potentially hostile) stranger. A number of these books are read by someone whose accent I find distracting, and it is surprisingly common to find mispronounced words; there was one chap whose speech is punctuated by a strange clicking sound, which I believe may be his dentures, and it is very common indeed for the reader to demonstrate that he has little or no understanding of what he is saying – which actually makes it hard to follow. The funniest audiobook I have is a brave effort by a husband and wife team who have done a huge job reading one of the better-known 19th Century works on military strategy; quite a lot of this book makes reference to French and German place names and people. The couple, between them, do not have the beginnings of a clue on pronunciation, but compensate enthusiastically by reading a phonetic English version in a strangulated, “foreign” voice – shades of Moriarty from the Goon Show – there is a short but distinct pause as they take a run-up at each fresh challenge.

Reading aloud a text – especially someone else’s text – so that it is easy to listen to and understand is a tricky business, and certainly something that I would not attempt – at least not where anyone could hear me. For a start, a script which is written specifically to be read out should be written with that in mind – sentences should be reasonably short and clearly structured, and great swathes of attached clauses, parentheses and afterthoughts should be avoided. “Fine writing” of the type promoted at your local night school Creative Writing classes – never use one adjective if you can use two – is tricky to read aloud. Spoken presentation of a formal, written piece of prose requires a very great (and rare) skill – that is why Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud and a few others did such a lot of it. They were good.

Before I went to visit Chester I downloaded an excellent podcast about the Siege of Chester, presented by Melvyn Bragg in his BBC radio series on “Voices of the Powerless” (you can buy it here if you are interested).

I put it on a CD, for my in-car homework prior to the Chester trip, and took the opportunity to fill up the rest of the disc with the mp3 version of an audio CD about the ECW I bought about a year ago. I hadn’t listened to this before – never got around to it – but it’s surprising what you can get through on a solo car journey.

Hmmm. I’m not going to spend a lot of time analysing it, but I did buy the thing so I guess I’m entitled to a view. It is, again, an enthusiastic, rather amateurish production – well recorded, with some nice sound effects and some pleasing period music from Packington’s Pound and others, but heavy going. The producer was also the writer and the narrator. He pulled out all the stops on the serious writing effort, but left himself with an almost impossible reading job as a result. The format is a series of earnest dialogues – mostly with Oliver Cromwell – written in a carefully hand-polished style and delivered in a clear Luton accent – I found that words like “troof” and even “nuffink” did little for my listening experience. Cromwell is asked a load of serious questions, and replies appropriately. It is not a lot of fun, though the sleeve notes and credits suggest that a fair amount of fun was had by those recording it. Sir Laurence would have made a better job of it.

You what, luv?
In a roundabout way, this leads me back to what might have been a central theme for this post, if I had thought of it earlier – what did spoken English sound like during the Civil War? If we had met Lord Goring and his mates, could we chat with them? What about William Brereton? Or Lettuce Gamul? Would the Voices of the aforementioned Powerless have meant anything to us? I haven’t been reading ECW material for long, and when I first started I had major problems with the spelling and wording of 17th Century texts. Somehow, I seem to have gone some way toward getting the hang of this, since I now find the contemporary quotes and correspondence very entertaining, and also intriguing. I realize that people expressed themselves in a different manner in those days, and the rules of grammar were not what we might expect today. In the absence of standardised spelling, what we see must be each writer’s attempt to record what he heard people say – names of places and people show a surprising variety of spellings, and there must be a lot of clues in there about how people spoke – what did English sound like in those days, officially and locally?

All I know about the voices of the day is that Richard Harris stares at the horizon and shouts throughout the movie Cromwell – there must be more to it than that. I did manage to dig up a lengthy, learned text on the subject of the changes in English dialects since Tudor times, but that isn’t a lot of fun either. Unless everyone promises to behave nicely, I may record myself reading it aloud – preferably when I’m drunk – and release it on LibriVox. It will be a surefire cure for insomnia.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Hooptedoodle #116 – not quite a collection – someone else’s hobby

This is a modern photo of a preserved Liverpool Corporation bus from the
1950s - hence the modern car and the lack of flat caps on the passengers
I recently surprised myself by treating myself to some lovely little 1/76 (HO) scale buses. This is an odd thing to do – I was never a true bus enthusiast – at least not on my own behalf. My cousin, who was the same age as me, just lived and breathed buses from about age 7 onwards. He had all the Ian Allan books, and as a boy I spent many long days with him at exotic places like Preston bus depot, underlining the numbers of the vehicles we spotted in his books.

Simply by osmosis and exposure to his enthusiasm, I grew up knowing all sorts of nerdy things about specialist coachbuilders, and odd Liverpool Corporation buses which had aluminium bodies, built by Crossley on AEC chassis…

You get the idea. Cousin Dave and I even assembled a small fleet of Dinky Toy buses, but the available selection in those days was very poor – Dinky made one generic double-decker which might have been a Leyland (we did have one, rare pre-war Dinky casting, and that seemed to be a Guy), and it was available in badly-sprayed green and cream or badly-sprayed red and cream.

Our little fleet disappeared into the toy boxes of younger relatives ages ago, but for years I kept an eye open sufficiently to be casually aware that the only HO scale buses I ever saw in UK shops were red London Transport Routemasters – usually in a twin-pack with an out-of-scale London taxi for the tourist market.

My cousin died a good few years ago, so my model bus ogling days are long gone, but recently – when I was looking for old photos of the Crosville buses to Chester in the 1950s – for this blog, in fact – I accidentally discovered what is on the market for collectors now. Wow. Very largely because I couldn’t help thinking how Dave would have loved them, I spent a couple of days gazing at all sorts of provincial exotica on the Internet, and eventually bought a few, with the very firm resolve that this would not be the beginning of yet another unofficial collection. I have restricted myself to buses that I used to see as a kid in Liverpool area – this is what real buses will always look like for me, in the same way as the cigarette cards of childhood are how real footballers look. Inculcation – you can’t beat it.

I still have one coming in the mail – that is a 1950s Leyland single-decker in the colours of Ribble, such as I used to see on rare visits to the Lake District. The ones that have arrived thus far are set out here; welcome to the land of the Not-Quite Bus Nerd.

These weren't too common in Liverpool - Ribble used to run services between
Liverpool and towns in Darkest Lancashire. We used to visit the big Ribble
depot in Skelhorne Street - behind Lime Street railway station - and saw
a great many Leylands like this (the destination town of Leyland is where the chassis
were made)

Early 1950s Crosville-owned Bristol bus, route 116 from Huyton to Liverpool Pier Head.
You could get on a Crosville bus to travel between stops within the city of Liverpool,
but the services were primarily to places outside the city, and the fares were a little dearer than
the "Corpy" buses

The single decker Crosville service between Liverpool Pier Head and Caernarfon
ran through the Mersey Tunnel, and was the best way to get to Rhyl and the
other North Wales resorts. On a Tuesday, most of the women in Flintshire
seemed to come on this bus to visit Liverpool market 

This is the business - the real deal from the early 1950s - an AEC Regent III
in Liverpool Corporation Passenger Transport livery, on route to Penny Lane.
Buses will always look like this to me. My cousin lived at my Nan's house,
in Briardale Road, which runs into Penny Lane - we knew the
Wavertree/Smithdown Road area served by this route very well.
Goodness me - I can stare at this for hours.

Monday 6 January 2014

ECW – Gallopers, or Whatever

Tweakle, tweakle, melee rule;
Still not ryte, thou bless’d owld fule 

Artwork by Paul Hitchin
Dalliance with my variation on Commands & Colors rules for the English Civil War is going well. The games bash along nicely, but my preferred “suck it and see” approach to changing the rules has sometimes produced some unexpected results.

One area of study has been the rules for Melee Combat involving horse. For those who are interested in this stuff, and anyone else who has a few minutes to spare, let me explain a little.

Commands & Colors is a boardgame. I’m quite comfortable with this fact, though occasionally stones fall on my house because I have painted hexes on my tabletop. The advantages of using C&C with miniatures, for me, are that it works, its mechanisms are simple almost to the point of being crude, there are no debates about what happens in certain situations and the game trots along nicely – invariably reaching a conclusion which all parties can understand. All of which adds up to the thing being – well, a lot of fun.

My ECW game is actually based on the Napoleonics version of C&C. My changes to the basic rule set reflect my understanding of how cavalry (sorry, horse) operated in this period. As much for my own benefit as anyone else’s, I shall set down a simplified version of this – if the simplicity is verging on the infantile, that’s OK – that is the sort of person I am.

In the Thirty Years War, according to my sources, there were two main types of horse – cuirassiers and general-purpose cavalry usually referred to as arquebusiers. The accepted way of using them was based on the methods and training of the Spanish and Dutch schools. As follows: 
  1. Horse have pistols. These pistols are heavy, inaccurate, unreliable, almost impossible to load on a moving horse and serve mostly as a cross between a badge of a gentleman’s rank and a cudgel. 
  2. When ordered to advance to the attack, the horse trot steadily up to the opposition, get their pistols ready (usually in a surprising, tipped-over-sideways posture which apparently increases the chance of the priming igniting properly), get as close as possible (preferably right in their faces) and attempt to fire (did it go off? – oh bugger – I’ve got another one here – hang on…). 
  3. If the enemy flinches, or otherwise appear to be discouraged by all this carry-on, the discharged pistols are discarded, or possibly thrown at the foe, swords are drawn and the whole thing becomes a lot more energetic, one side or other being chased from the field, cut down, captured etc.
You can see this would be an unpleasant event to be caught up in, but it presents a strange, lumpy blend of chivalrous protocol and loyal commitment to the fashionable technology. At least in theory, at its peak this pistol ritual was developed into some complicated formation manoeuvres – specifically the Caracole (derived from the Spanish word for a snail, which I believe was associated with the shape of the turning movement rather than the speed with which it was delivered) – which in hindsight seem better suited to the parade ground than the battlefield.

"…pistol? - what pistol…?…"
A number of rule sets I have read make a particular feature of this pistol skirmishing, and even of the caracole, but it doesn’t look like anything I would wish to use in a game, unless it was a 1:1 skirmish – fortunately, the caracole seems to have been abandoned by the 1640s. Managing the loading and firing of individual pistol volleys within a brigade-level wargame seems to me the sort of thing my late friend and guru, Allan Gallacher, would have termed “Fannying About” – molecular-level activity of little consequence.

According to the story, King Gustavus Adolfus of Sweden (or some influential party in his gang) decided, probably correctly, that the pistol was not yet ready to be used in such a manner, and that it made more sense to forget about it and just jump straight to the sword bit and – since you then didn’t have to worry about aiming a pistol, you could thus get a bit of a move on as a result. One can almost visualize the shocked expressions of struggling pistol men being charged in this barbaric manner…

Righto – having thus reached the limits of my own attention span, I have adopted the convenient and widely used convention that my ECW cavalry will break down into 3 types – “Gallopers”, who are Swedish-style charging horse who just rush in with swords, rather than fiddling around with pistols, “Trotters”, who are the more cautious pistol chaps, and Cuirassiers, who are heavily armoured, slow-moving Trotters. I have also decided to rise above the irritation caused by these modern wargaming names for the classes, which generate a lot of heat and some contempt among purists. If you are offended by the names then you are absolutely correct – please be assured that when I say Gallopers, what I really mean is “that type of horse which are not, and never were, actually called Gallopers, but which I incorrectly and sloppily refer to as Gallopers entirely for my own convenience”. And similarly for the Trotters - I hope that makes everything all right.

Anyway – where was I? – oh yes – Gallopers. Within my C&C-based ECW rules, Cuirassiers, being heavy,  have a 2-hex move, Gallopers (which includes a lot of early-period Royalists) have a 3-hex move and Trotters also have a 3-hex move, though any Trotters moving into contact with the enemy are limited to 2 hexes, to allow for all this faffing about with pistols, and keeping everything calm in the approach. Gallopers  get an extra Combat Die in a melee, to allow for the extra elan and momentum and shock effect and suchlike – which seems reasonable – but they only get it in a newly formed melee in which they are the attackers. In other words, they do not get this in a melee which is continuing from an earlier turn, nor in any bonus melee resulting from the C&C “Cavalry Breakthrough” rule, whereby a cavalry unit which wins a melee may occupy the hex vacated by the enemy, and optionally move a further hex, and may fight an extra melee immediately (i.e. in the same turn). Neither do I allow Gallopers to claim this extra bonus die if they are “battling back”, in C&C speak, having been themselves attacked.

My intention, as you will gather, was to restrict this bonus to sections of the combat in which the Gallopers had the initiative and had a definite extra shock impact.

I am still testing to see how this all works out – the recent debacle of the Battle of Netherfield demonstrated an extreme consequence of the horse getting a run of luck (mumble, mumble), which is clearly something that has to be checked over.

An unexpected side-effect has shown up in a couple of subsequent replays of the same test game; since an extra Combat Die is a significant bonus, it is a smart move for the Parliamentarian (Trotter) horse to attack first, so that the Gallopers are restricted to “battling back” and do not get the bonus die. The result is that the Trotter horse have definitely become very aggressive – unrealistically so. In an attempt to reflect a real tactical situation in the game, I have generated distinctly unrealistic behaviour on the part of the Trotters.

I can solve this at a stroke by allowing the Gallopers the bonus die even when they are battling back, in which case there is no particular advantage for the non-Gallopers in making pre-emptive attacks (other than the obvious one that they get first blow, and only the survivors will fight back). The downside of this instant fix is that the Gallopers become even more formidable than they were already. Hmmm.

We’ll try it out, anyway. I really do like fiddling around with rules, but only on the understanding that one day they settle down into something which is demonstrably sensible.

Saturday 4 January 2014

Christmas Prize Competition 2013 - results

Thanks to everyone who submitted an entry, and also to those who thought about it but found something more interesting to do. The challenge, you may recall, was to guess what message was in Napoleon’s cracker, which might explain his grumpy demeanour.

I received a goodish number of entries, mostly by email this time. Since they ranged in style from one-liner gags, through the philosophical to the patently bizarre, I applied a methodology which awarded points under a number of headings:

  • Originality
  • Humour
  • Relevance
  • Some kind of cute historical tie-in
  • Anything else which appealed to me at the time

In the time-honoured, runners-up-first system much loved by award ceremonies the world over, I’ll start with some decent efforts which pleased me enough to get into the short list.

“It’s from Ney, he says the NapoleoN miniatures will definitely arrive........” - sent by Rod

“Q. Where did Napoleon keep his armies?  A. Up his sleevies!”   - amazingly(?), this identical entry was sent by no less than 6 people, which seems suspicious to me - Jacko, Stryker, Fran, Jurgen Altdorf, someone known only as Anonymous and one other whose entry I managed to delete by mistake (oops) – it is, of course, an established cracker joke, and very amusing, but I’ve heard it before…

“When Massena said he would help me 'pull a cracker' I did not imagine this...”  Arthur1815

“Napoleon says ‘Who is this Tom Conti guy anyway?’" – submitted by Arlen Vane (come on – that can’t be a real name, surely) – I had to do some research on the Internet to understand this one – I got there, but it isn’t really all that funny

“How many generals does it take to change a lightbulb? It only takes 2, but then it takes millions of people to fight a war over whether it needed changing, and whose lightbulb it was, and then a lot more millions to bring civilization back to the stage where they have lightbulbs” - Minnie the Moocher – this was certainly one of the more weird entries - presumably Napoleon is bemused by the reference to lightbulbs 

“Tell Murat that I left him in charge of the army, and I am coming down to Naples to stick his bucket and spade up his ----!” - Martin Corlett

“It’s a requisition from Berthier for 600,000 pairs of Wellingtons” - Mikey Mac

OK – modest fanfare – we now come to the winners…

Dr I H De Vries, who is not interested in the prizes (which is a shame, since he would be able to understand the film with the Dutch subtitles), sent a quote from Epictetus:

“You may be always victorious if you will never enter into any contest where the issue does not wholly depend upon yourself” – which is hardly a good laugh, but has a pleasing resonance, given the nature of Napoleon’s ultimate military downfall. You may dispute this, but it doesn’t really matter, since the Professor is my List B Winner and gets nothing anyway.

And (at long last…), the prize of 2 moderately-rubbish DVDs goes to David Bean, who offered the following:

 “How does Napoleon keep warm in Winter? He wears his Corsican Ogre-coat!”, which I embrace as a snappy, previously unheard effort entirely in keeping with the traditions of awfulness appropriate to Christmas crackers.

I’ll get the films in the post next week – thank you all, once again. Thanks, also, to PaK for his super cartoon – if you haven’t checked out his website, please do so.