|Voyager on its way to Kinross|
Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Sunday, 26 November 2017
|Tough nut - the French-held village of Möckern, complete with medieval tower |
and - can that be Felsham church...?
Goya hosted the event at his baronial palace, where he has busily been painting Prussian troops to make up the cast list. The combined Prussians of the armies of Goya and Baron Stryker (under Goya's command) were to fight the French VI Corps under Marshal Marmont (played by Stryker himself, still glowing with the glory of his recent French success at Talavera). I was the umpire, a role which I enjoy (leveraging, as Dilbert would say, my OCD tendencies to advantage) and which gives a very good chance of avoiding defeat.
Möckern, of course, is one of the outlying precursors to the Battle of Leipzig, which took place two days later. Research is hampered a little by the fact that there was another battle of Möckern, some 6 months earlier, which, since it was a French victory, is rather better documented [discuss].
The large village of Möckern at that time was some distance from Leipzig, and sat on a road from the north which went to the Northern gate to the city. Our battle was only part of the real historical one - we covered the left of the French defence - that part which was opposed by Yorck's Prussian I Corps of Blücher's Army of Silesia. Our scenario comes from the official Commands & Colors: Napoleonics Expansion #5 booklet - the only amendments were some substitution of Prussian units to fit with the miniatures we had available, and a house rule tweak to include a couple of roads, and allow a small measure of quicker movement for regiments which used them.
The French start the day strongly positioned in the village (thus having 2 bonus Victory Points at the outset, which, if they lose the place, will disappear and become 3 for the Prussians). There were also bonus VPs available if the Prussians managed to exit any units over the French baseline (which in rugby terms is known as a try, we think). 10 VPs for the win. Standard size 13 x 9 hex table. A couple of scenario rules concerned the small bend of the River Elster and the minor stream (Pleisse? - Parthe? - can't remember) on the French right flank, and a more significant rule, in that the outlying Manor Farm of Möckern was a strong, walled strongpoint allowing defenders to disregard one "retreat flag" if one came up.
The Prussians, being Prussians, are allowed an allocation of Iron Will counters by the C&CN rules - on this occasion they had 4 available for the day - these may be used as a last-resort means of cancelling retreat flags - 1 counter per flag. [We used 20-cent Euro coins, in fact]
In the real battle, the Prussians made pretty slow progress attacking the village, suffered heavy losses and retreated. The French were somewhat inconvenienced by an exploding ammo cart (so Marmont says, anyway, in his memoirs), but the Marshal ordered up his corps light cavalry - a brigade of Württembergers commanded by Generalmajor Normann - to pursue the repulsed infantry, and - allegedly - Normann refused. Marmont then ordered forward Lagrange's infantry to carry out the pursuit, and they were caught by the Prussian cavalry, and very badly handled, falling back in disorder onto the village of Gohlis, where they joined Ney in an attempt to hold off the Russian advance the following day.
Normann's disobedience may seem less surprising when it is remembered that the Württembergers were one of the German states which defected to the Allies on the 18th.
Our game started with the Prussians butting their heads against the walled farm, in authentic style, and they started losing men rapidly - a tendency which became established as a general theme for the day. They then had a quick, dramatic success when a battalion of French légère received two retreat flags and - special rule or not - were forced out of the farm, to be replaced by some Prussian grenadiers, who held it for the rest of the engagement. That was as good as it got for Yorck. Hampered by astonishingly poor dice (unbelievable - it quickly passed beyond amusing to downright embarrassing, so after a little while no-one laughed any more...), Yorck also had problems with the quality of his army - he had a lot of Reservists (double retreats) and militia (triple retreats), and thus had to use the Iron Will counters to stop his militia cavalry disappearing to the rear - and his cavalry, though much more numerous on the face of it, were relatively puny, the scenario stipulating 3 "blocks" per unit, compared with the French 4 per unit.
The French at one point were 8-0 up on VPs, though the Prussians did eventually wear a few units down, and then there was the extraordinary episode of General Lagrange. Lagrange was present with a French line unit which was eliminated. He survived, though was only able to retreat to a very hazardous position adjacent to the farm, where the resident grenadiers duly used him for target practice. They missed. Apparently crazed by his luck, Lagrange hung around for another volley, waving his hat to goad them - they missed again. At which point a unit of militia lancers appeared, and captured him, which certainly served him right.
The Prussian attack on the left fizzled out from lack of sufficient good-quality troops, and the game ran out a 10-4 win for the French - still with the initial 2 for holding most of Möckern village, and with the Prussian 4th VP counter entirely due to the death-wish of General Lagrange.
Interesting game - very interesting. None of us has any idea how the Prussians could have won; once again we overturned history. They never got close to securing any bonus VPs for scoring a "try" on their left - they couldn't have spared the troops anyway. One alternative strategy would have been to ignore the very strong village and concentrate on an assault by the Prussian left - it would be necessary to clear away a good few French units to rack up VPs, and then exit over the French baseline with enough units to get up to 10VPs with the scenario bonus.
As it was, this was never a possibility, and the day's bloodshed made very little contribution to the overall cause of Befreiung. Not to worry - an excellent day's entertainment, and excellent food, as ever. Special mention must be made of the personal efforts of Count Goya, who had banished his family, along with all the servants, to the country for the weekend, and did a fine solo job of the catering. My thanks to my colleagues for their excellent company and good humour.
Thoughts on C&CN scenarios? Not very much - we should maybe be suspicious of general application of the standard C&CN national characteristics. In particular, the French line infantry get an extra combat die in melee combat against infantry, simply because of their famed élan and effectiveness. That's well and good, but the point is well made that, though Marmont's Corps was among the better of the French line troops at Leipzig, the French army was nothing like what it had been in 1809. We should have a look at scenario rules more carefully in this respect. The French OOB for VI Corps includes many provisional regiments which consisted of battalions of veteran Peninsular War regiments, but typically these were the 5th or 6th battalions of such regiments, and the large numbers of "Marine Infantry" present are something of an unknown quantity - whatever some of the historical paintings may show - these were not the Marins de la Garde - nothing like.
Right - to the pictures. Please ignore the labelling you see on the units - there were a great many sabots on loan from other armies, so the presence of apparently Spanish or Portuguese units should be disregarded.
|General view - French on the left, Prussians and the North to the right, and the |
village of Möckern dominating the Leipzig road at the far end
|From behind the Prussian left, at the start (about 11:30)|
|Yorck's Prussians make a start against the walled Manor Farm|
|Though the farm is not very promising, the main village itself is a very formidable |
objective, with enough size to allow garrison units to provide mutual support
|Just for a moment, things seemed to be swinging a little, as the Silesian grenadiers |
drove the French out of the farm
|Further left, the Prussians under Horn and Steinmetz ponder the chances |
of a breakthrough
|And on the far left flank of the Prussian force, Hünerbein did at least have some |
better quality regular troops
|General problem for Yorck was that his cavalry was understrength, and he had |
too high a proportion of Reservist and Landwehr units...
|Action on the Prussian left - a brief glimpse of the legendary French 15eme |
Chasseurs à Cheval (on the road) who did not manage to live up to their celebrated
success at Talavera
|The battle for the farm reaches its peak - the French were driven off here|
|Having driven off an attack by the French (Württemberg) cavalry in the centre, |
the Prussian cavalry here are too weakened to contribute further
|The extraordinary adventure of General Lagrange, waving his hat in defiance of the |
Prussians in the farm. The lancers in the background did for him shortly afterwards.
Tuesday, 21 November 2017
With all due apology for lack of taste, here's a minor item of local news from here in East Lothian. Apparently, council workmen painting lines along the road near Longniddry managed to paint over a patch of horse manure. Shock horror. My first reaction was that it obviously must have been the responsibility of a different department to shift the stuff, but the council have already explained.
They claim that
(1) it wusnae us - it was a contractor - so that's all right then
(2) it's no so easy to spot this stuff, they paint the lines with a special wagon, you know, and the driver is in a cab, well above the road. Anyone who thought that the painter would be on his knees in the road, working with a big brush and a ruler, go and stand in the corner.
While I was looking for a better picture, I found a much more graphic example, but this is from Kirklees, courtesy of the Huddersfield Examiner [a Mirfield Conservative Councillor described this as "careless" and "beyond belief" - anyone who regards this as evidence of some lack of imagination may also go and stand in the corner].
Since I was now on some sort of roll, I looked online to see if this is a more common problem than I had thought, and came across a show-closing photo of a road line painted over a dead raccoon, from California, at which point I decided to stop. I'll spare you the dead raccoon - I'm sure you can find it through Google if you really want to.
Sunday, 19 November 2017
In a recent post, I mentioned that I have had another bash at watching Abel Gance's classic Napoleon, from 1927, in its restored and enhanced new edition, with magnificent new musical score, previously unseen material and all sorts of bonus wonders. I also admitted that I had made a pretty poor fist of appreciating it thus far, had decided that a casual "bash" at watching it is obviously not the best approach, and had determined that I would set about it in a more businesslike manner.
This, after all, is FILM as high art. Thus it behoves me to approach the matter in a suitably studious and appreciative frame of mind, and there is the other matter of potentially having to write off the £28 or whatever the box set cost me if I don't shape up. Deep down, though, is the awareness that it is not cool to have to admit that one has watched one of the acknowledged classics of the cinema - of all time - and has made nothing at all of it. This is not recommended as a chat-up line at arty parties.
Let's revisit the timeline a bit here - the section of the film which now exists was published by Gance in a 5-hour "Opera" version and a 9-hour "Apollo" cut (cut??). The film in the box set (I think, though I cannot promise I fully understand this yet) was originally to be a section subtitled Bonaparte, which takes us as far as Arcola. Clarity is not helped by the frequent use of colours in printing the movie - by which I mean that it is not a colour film, but that it occasionally switches into monochrome blue (which makes the chaotic battle scenes at Toulon almost impossible to follow) or red, or whatever Gance decides is artistically appropriate. I also still have a problem with the acting - the inserted caption screens with bits of dialogue are few and far between, and some fairly routine exchanges appear to involve a level of melodrama completely out of all proportion to the subject matter. One has to remember that this was a very long time ago, and all the actors on view - including real giants such as Antonin Artaud - came from a theatrical background in which it was necessary for the dimwit on the very back row of the auditorium to realise that a cast member was rolling his eyes. Thus the acting is hammed to high heaven throughout. Remarkable bravura piece of hamming is offered by Artaud himself, as Marat in his bath, who crams more hysteria into a short scene than you would believe possible - and this is before he realises he is being murdered.
|Albert Dieudonné as young Bonaparte|
|Antonin Artaud - who takes getting murdered in the bath to a new level|
Aha! A glimmer of daylight! The commentary is added by Paul Cuff, an expert on the works of Gance, and the author of a number of books on exactly this topic. Thus my new approach is, first of all, to watch each disc with the commentary switched on, and suddenly it all makes a lot more sense. Thereafter, I am all set up to watch it again with the commentary turned off, and I can enjoy the full spectacle and Carl Davis' lovely music soundtrack without worrying about it. This is a major investment of time, but for me it's the only method which is likely to work.
|This is the new, restored and heavily revised edition I'm watching|
(1) the underlying history - the Napoleonic Wars and all that - that's a given
(2) the history of the film itself, including
* Gance's intentions, and most of the screenplay was only sketched out when they started
* Gance's own adventures with successively cutting and re-editing his movie, given the drastic changes of scope it was subject to
* where the movie has been since, and the various re-issues for cinema presentation over the years
* the digital enhancement and restoration of the latest version, and the way in which it has been changed around to incorporate unpublished sections and to make the story hang together rather better
As a random example - in last night's (second disc) re-run, there is this young lady gazing adoringly at young Bonaparte - who is she? Well, the commentator explains that she is the daughter of a chap who was the general dogsbody at Napoleon's school at Brienne (on Disc One - who mysteriously manages to follow the great man throughout his subsequent career, and has duly arrived at Toulon, where he keeps an inn, in time for the siege), and that Gance had loosely planned that she would be a casual love-interest, though the scene which was to explain this has vanished. Further, the murder of Marat was to appear in a later (unpublished) reel, but was stuck into its current location to give a better fit with the historical timeline. You can see how this sort of insight might help.
So it's all good, now - the need for time planning is increased because of the double viewing, but it is a whole lot better.
I shall proceed with greater confidence. I'll start Disc 3 tonight - I'm now actually looking forward to it. If anyone has watched this new edition of the movie, I'd be very interested to hear what you thought of it. I've always had a little problem with the Great Art thing - ever since childhood, I have had a split view - one side of my brain tells me that this is a wonderful, enriching experience, and that it is a privilege to see it and marvel at the creativity and imagination which produced it, while the other side of the brain keeps interrupting with mutterings about my having no idea at all what is going on, and wondering if there are any scones left in the cupboard.
Thursday, 16 November 2017
If you haven't seen this before, it is an illustration from one of a series of Christmas-themed adverts produced by Gregg's, the UK bakery chain. Yes, quite so - probably a bit ill-considered. Daft, in fact. Gregg's reckoned it was meant as a bit of fun, apologised and promptly withdrew it - presumably they will try to recruit some grown-ups for the marketing department. That, you might think, would be an end to the matter - least said, the better.
Now I refuse, point plank, to get into any kind of argument about this. Not unpredictably, there is deep outrage in Twitterland, where the sanctimonious and the disapproving are thick upon the ground. Now people are not only outraged about it, but some are outraged because others are outraged about the wrong aspect of it. You can read about all this (if you can be bothered) in an article in the Independent, here.
There are more things wrong with this picture than you might guess at first glance. Obviously, replacing the infant Jesus with a sausage roll, for the adoration of the wise men, is a bit unorthodox, though, of course, the advert doesn't say that it's a straight swap - it's sort of implied. But never mind that, there's also the further business about Jesus being a Jew, so that not only is this horrifying to rather literal-minded Christians, but the association of pork sausages with Jewish people is also deeply offensive. Also, the wise men are almost certainly manufactured in China, which brings some further issues, but we'll swerve that one.
I tell you what - I hope you have a very pleasant, peaceful Whatever-You-Prefer-to-Call-This- Festival; perhaps someone will be kind enough to come and wake me up when it's all over. I'll be in the attic. I have no problem with Christmas, it's just the bloody people.
Sunday, 12 November 2017
|Old figures, old magazines - must get a cup of Horlicks...|
Apart from the fact that his letter is an unashamed plug for his figures (and quite rightly so), Mr Styles is in some danger of getting us all back into the eternal "how tall is a man?" and "height or soles-to-eyes?" debates, which in turn will get us back into the traditions of the German flats industry and all points south. J-M mentions in passing that Styles is wrong about the existence of 1/350 as a viable scale, since Helmet Products made 1/350 aircraft from about 1975 - some visible here.
The important point (if there is one) is that the letter gives a manufacturer's view of scales from the same period as the Claymore show I referred to.
Since I am nothing if not persistent (or, alternatively, since I am a relentless bore when I feel the urge), I have come up with the original article by Charles S Grant, from the November 1983 issue. It seemed that it must have said something fairly controversial, judging from Mr Styles' response. So here it is - in fact it is pretty bland (with all due respect) - it also reminds me, now I come to think of it, why I stopped reading Military Modelling a couple of years before this - too many interests covered too thinly, too much vanilla, too much courtesy offered to the advertisers.
Still on the topic of very small men, I received an email from the Jolly Broom Man (who is also in France, as it happens), with some pictures of his 6mm Baccus ECW troops. I like them - they have a determined, jaunty look which is very pleasing - don't mess with these boys!
JBM was inspired by my guest picture of Steve Cooney's Hinton Hunt ECW cuirassiers to make the point that headswaps in 6mm scale are a daunting idea - though I'm sure someone has done it. In fact, if anyone has ever done it, I would suspect it might have been my good friend Lee, which gives me an excuse to show some old photos of his 6mm Baccus ECW troops, which have subsequently moved on to a new owner (and I, for one, miss them!).
|The second half of the fusiliers are ready, in the Next in Queue box - scheduled |
to start on Monday evening
|The flankers and various command odd-bods are in one of the big store |
boxes, along with the finished chaps, who don't cover much of the base area yet!
***** Late Edit *****
I received a rather apologetic email from Steve C, who supplied the big shipment of DKs, lamenting that he might have given me a huge amount of work to do to get them into shape; somewhat shamefaced, I've been re-reading my post, to check I hadn't accidentally been rude about them!
It is kind of Steve to get back in touch with me, but I have to emphasise (to him and everyone else) that I bought them knowing exactly what they were, am very pleased with them, and really wouldn't have started on the job if I hadn't thought they were worth the effort. I'm sorry that I sometimes express myself imprecisely - enthusiasm rather than malice! - and I shall attempt to be more careful in future. Thanks again Steve - no worries, mate!
Friday, 10 November 2017
Steve is very skilled with his conversion work - a true master of the soldering iron. He has recently supplied me with a shed-load of French Napoleonic infantry; these are mostly old Der Kriegsspieler castings, which he has modified to lengthen the legs a little, to make them more directly compatible with Hinton Hunt. I'm working my way through these, retouching as necessary to freshen the colours and rejuvenate them a bit. Retouching is always a challenge - knowing when to stop is important, and I have the further benchmark of trying to make sure that the figures end up somewhere close to the quality of Steve's original paintwork!
Since there will be a delay before my proposed Bavarian project can start in earnest (I'm waiting for a shipment of figures, and have a lot more to order up), this job will serve to keep my eye in. Because I'm using many colours simultaneously, I've set up a proper (well, improvised) wet palette, which is a big help, saving time and cutting down the waste of paint.
These French troops will need a few weeks' work, and I also have to collect some suitable command figures for them, but once completed they will contribute most of another division for my Salamanca forces.
Thanks again, Steve.
Monday, 6 November 2017
|Modern photo looking east from the crash site - Bass Rock and the houses at |
Rhodes Holdings in the right distance - Tesco is behind you and to your left!
|This is the Heugh crash - the view in the background is almost identical to the |
photo at the top of this post
|And here we are looking west from the crash site, across the farm fields towards |
North Berwick Law - our very own local extinct volcano...
|Wings removed, the Henkel is towed along Dirleton Avenue in North Berwick, on |
its way to Turnhouse
|King George VI visited Drem airfield 3 weeks later, for a ceremony in which Farquhar|
was awarded the DFC - I think the figure on the far left is Dowding
Most of the pictures and links here are from the most excellent Coastrider blog, which is well worth a visit by cycling enthusiasts. If you share any of this stuff, please do mention where it came from.
[Pronunciation - for non-Scots, the word Heugh is not so easy - phonetically, it sounds like HYOOCH, just a single syllable, where the OO is quite short and the CH is like the ending of the Scottish word loch - the softest, aspirate, dry sound like the end of the German mich, but if you're getting even close to sch then it's not dry enough! - come on - further back on the roof of your mouth - here, have another beer...]