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

Sunday 28 January 2018

Hooptedoodle #291 - Traces of Olaf?

More Local History for Those with a Short Attention Span

I recently wrote a post about having finally had a look at the remains of Auldhame Castle (really a fortified house), which is in a wood, near the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea, on the farm where I live. It had only taken me some 17 years of living here to realise that it was there and go and visit it. You can't just rush into these things...

Today I was doing a little more reading about the history of my immediate surroundings. On the edge of the modern-day farm at Auldhame, about 200 metres from the ruins of the eponymous castle, there is a large field which is known here as Old Adam. As I think I've mentioned before, there is a tradition that Old Adam may be a corruption of Auldhame, though I personally favour the theory that it is named after Old Adam Otterburn, who lived at the castle around 1500. Here are a couple of links to some articles I was looking at today - yes, all right, it was 3 years ago now, but no-one's been waiting for me to catch up - have a look here and here.

The team from the University set about turning over an entire wheatfield with
tweezers and a toothbrush. Bass Rock in the background.
One day, when I had not lived here very long, the farmer ploughed up some human remains in Old Adam field - this is a major hassle for farmers, since they are legally obliged to notify the authorities, and they have to suspend all work there until they are given official permission to carry on as before. This was in 2005. We had a Portakabin erected, complete with night watchman, and we were challenged - or at least recorded - on our way to and from the public road, every trip, every day, for some months. It wasn't much of an inconvenience to us, in fact, though I used to wonder if the appointed watchman of the day would feel entirely satisfied with the progress of his academic career as an archeologist.

The dig at Old Adam - aerial view from 2005
The team from Edinburgh University unearthed a previously unknown settlement - apparently a monastic community of some sort. There was evidence of various old buildings, including what was probably a timber church, and the human remains were actually in a Christian graveyard. So there was no immediate excitement involving murders or anything - at least, any such implied murders were over a thousand years ago.

Eventually the scentific world moved away, the farmer was allowed to sow wheat on his field, and I mostly forgot about the matter, though I did remember that one of the bodies found was a source of some excitement - he was clearly an outsider, and from his personal goods he appeared to be a Viking - and almost certainly an important or high-born Viking, at that. Why he was there, no-one knew.

Belt buckle buried with the mystery man - identified as Irish-Sea-region Viking style
Well, time has passed, I have a new interest in the history of Auldhame, and today was a rather wet Sunday with nothing pressing in the to-do list. Time to find out what happened to the mystery Viking.

What they dug up - plan from 2005 - traces of stone buildings and 242 graves
It seems that, though I had not been paying attention, the scientists have been earnestly labouring away on this since the dig ended. Apart from research into old archives, they have also been working on carbon-dating and DNA analysis. It seems that the monastic settlement was almost certainly founded by St Balthere (or Baldred, as he is known here), and that the rogue Viking was almost certainly from a raiding party commanded by one Olaf Guthfrithsson. There is good reason to consider that he might actually be Olaf himself.

Nearby there were other remains - this fellow has been killed by a blow to the
head with a sword or similar weapon - he is elderly - not a Viking and too old
to be a soldier. His date of death is pretty close to 941 - he was probably a
monk killed in a Viking raid 
Olaf is a big deal; a surprisingly big deal to have been bothering himself with raids on timber churches on the east coast of Scotland. Olaf was indeed a Viking - at the time of his death he was the king of whatever Viking province had its capital in Dublin, also of Northumbria. As part of an alliance with King Constantine II of Scotland, he was present in action against King Athelstane at the mighty Battle of Brunanburh - generally held to be the largest battle ever on British soil, fought near the modern township of Bromborough, on the Wirral Peninsular (very close to where my Uncle Harold lived when I was a boy, in fact, so you can see I have all sorts of potential family tie-ins with Olaf). He is believed to have died in 941 (that's Olaf, not Uncle Harold), following raids on churches on the East Lothian coast, at Auldhame and Tyninghame. Why was a big shot like Olaf persecuting these churches? Was there, perchance, some vendetta between Olaf and St Baldred's Christians?

No-one knows - interesting stuff though. It is suggested that Olaf (or whoever this bod was) was buried by his mates in the enemy's graveyard, to make some form of posthumous penance for the violence he had done them - maybe they were hedging their bets?

So - though he's not there any more (my bet is that his remains are probably in a drawer somewhere at the university) I shall give Olaf (let us assume it is he) a friendly wave tomorrow when I drive past his former resting place. Makes you think, though - this was a harsh, violent place 1000 years ago. Old Adam is a fine place for a walk - the field margins run around the cliff tops, there are fantastic views over the Bass Rock, across the little bay to Tantallon Castle and over to the coast of Fife. A nice setting for a church, you might think, with plenty of visibility to spot Viking raiders.

Friday 26 January 2018

1809 Spaniards - More Foot Guards

Painted and ready to go in the official box files, here are two battalions of the Guardias Españolas. They will form part of the Reserve Division of my 1809 army.

They've been in the pipeline for a while. Apart from a couple of Falcata interlopers in the command department, these are all OOP NapoleoN castings - the rank and file are a special conversion, with changes to the cuff detail to make them into guardsmen. My thanks to Old John, for duplication of the converted figures. I originally intended to field the units with a random mixture of blue and brown overalls, but for some reason it seemed pleasing for the battalions to be different - another aid to recognition on the battlefield, and also it seems not unreasonable that the Guard should maintain some vestigial extra bits of organisation appropriate to their status. Someone might suggest that the coronela flag for the first battalion should be purple with a pattern of Bourbon fleurs de lis - I'm aware of this flag, and if the unit had been intended for 1746 it would have been a banker choice, but my sources seem to be divided on what they carried in 1809, so I've gone for the majority opinion. If it's wrong they can live with it!

Monday 22 January 2018

ECW Wargames Rules - Updated

With sincere and copious thanks to The Jolly Broom Man, for his time and commendable patience in sanity checking, commenting and proof-reading, I am pleased to announce that I now have an updated version of the Rules Booklet, the QRS, the Command Cards and the "Chaunce" Cards for my Commands & Colors based ECW game, which is now up to CC_ECW Ver 2.69, and may be downloaded via the link in the top right hand corner of this screen.

The main changes concern a simplification of the system by which "Rash" units of horse may run out of control. There are some additional cards, so if you already use my cards you may wish to update both sets.

Any problems with the rules, or if you can't get the downloads to work, please let me know. If you do not care for my rules then bless you - thank you for your interest. 

Friday 12 January 2018

Hooptedoodle #290 - A Trifle Confused

Very disappointed this morning. One of the disadvantages of waking up at 6am to BBC Radio 4 news is that sometimes I am still drowsy, and my perception of what has been said can be a trifle confused.

However, it seems that Mr Trump is not going to come to Britain to open the new US Embassy in London after all. I'm not entirely clear why he refuses to come, but it seems to be something to do with the fact that he doesn't like the building, and it's all Mr Obama's fault, apparently. That all sounds quite reasonable, I guess, but I was secretly planning to go down to the Metrollopus and join the welcoming throng, so, yes, I am deeply disappointed, and what am I going to do with this little flag?

This is also potentially unfortunate from a diplomacy point of view, since we in the UK might be reliant on some handouts from the US if the Brexit negotiations proceed on their current tack, so I hope there is no element of falling-out in his decision. It's all a bit worrying, really. I'll just keep the flag safe in my drawer - yes, next to the scarves and my woolly hat - since I'm sure he'll be back to see us soon.

I'm sure it will be all right.

I'm also a bit confused about something I may have heard (or maybe I read it) about possible enforced changes in Mr T's use of Twitter. I'm already a little mystified by all that. It is marvellous that he uses Tweets to such effect, and so many of them (and he's no spring chicken, you know), though I don't quite understand how this works. Does he leave the room, so that he can Tweet the same people he was just talking to? Does he go to the bathroom or something? Does he have a special (big?) cellphone for important messages? Whatever, it's all very clever, but it seems there are new guidelines coming, whereby Twitter and Facebook and all that lot are going to be required to take a firm stance on what represents inappropriate use of their services, and are going to have to take responsibility for moderating or blocking customer usage - at least, more than they have done previously.

Obviously I haven't thought through all the implications of this, but it has already been suggested that using Tweets to make nuclear threats to the President of North Korea is an example of the sort of thing which advertisers might find alarming, so we may find that the messages which control our future existence may have to find a new medium in future to make themselves known.

There must be some problem with just talking to people, I guess, or using the traditional communications set-up of the White House - I think we have to respect this, as a special case - but it does seem possible that the Presidential Tweets are going to have to stop. Someone suggested that it might be possible for the President to employ a glove puppet as his spokesman - again, I haven't thought of all the implications, but it would tick a few of the right boxes, it would be very cheap, and it would go down very well with the under-5s.

Fascinating stuff. If you would care to suggest a name for the new spokesperson, please feel free to contribute.

Thursday 4 January 2018

1809 Spaniards - Light Cavalry Review

Good New Year to everyone - hope you are all happily back at work, after that seasonal interruption...

Martin was kind enough to email me a prod, to remind me that I said I would set up an updated group photo of my 1809 light cavalry, so I am pleased to present some suitable photos. The captions should explain what's what - strictly, Julian Sanchez' Lanceros de Castilla were slightly later - formed in 1810, but the remainder of the units here are all line regiments which were in existence in 1808, and the uniforms cover a slightly blurry amalgam of styles through 1808-10.

Brigade of cazadores a caballo (literally chasseurs à cheval) - from front to rear,
here are the
Voluntarios de España, Cazadores de Olivenza and Granaderos a Caballo
de Fernando VII (who, whatever else, were certainly not grenadiers by any
definition at all). [Apart from the brigadier, figures are all converted Hinton Hunts.]
Hussar brigade - the Husares de Maria Luisa lead the recently-replaced Husares Españoles. [Again, apart from the general, these are converted HH.]

The hussars from ground level - they look more arrogant from this angle, I think
Newly arrived Lanceros de Carmona (a volunteer unit from Sevilla, who fought at
Baylen). In the background are some gatecrashers - a unit of irregulars - mounted partidas
- not the thing for a proper parade at all. [Lancers are converted HHs, the
guerrilleros are converted Falcatas.]
Slight potential anachronism alert - Julian Sanchez' two units of Lanceros de
Castilla, who had an impressive war record from 1810 - these guys appeared at
Salamanca, though they did not get to do very much. [Lancers are Falcata figures,
and have been waiting patiently for a few years for some metal-foil red pennants
for their lances - they probably removed them for action, do you think?]
In true wedding-photo style, the photographer asked them all to bunch up a bit, to give
a decent helicopter view of the whole lot, coming...
...and going, which is not an unfamiliar view!
That's probably job finished for the light cavalry - there is one further unit of hussars which might get a repaint, but that is not going to happen very soon, so let's assume this is it for the lights. I still have 4 units of heavier cavalry - 1 of dragoons and 3 of line cavalry - in the painting queue - their uniform styles are for 1808, but I could get away with fielding them up to about 1810-11 at a pinch. I already have a regiment of Coraceros, but they only came into being in 1810.

Cavalry was always a problem for the Spanish army - they could never obtain enough decent-quality horses. Though there is an impressive list of official cavalry units in many OOBs from the Guerra de Independencia, many of these appeared at a strength of only a few dozen men, so the converged brigades which were formed from these fragments were neither as homogeneous nor as organised as my miniature contingent.

[Can I just remind my good friend Dr Raul that he has agreed not to borrow my blog posts without asking permission - not that I have any legal rights here, of course, but he might have had some further thoughts on the small matter of common courtesy.]