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

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Fix Bayonets! - Guest Appearance by Goya

I'm proud and delighted to be able to reproduce a note on the fraught topic of bayonet replacement, contributed by Count Goya, who first showed me the technique. Thank you very much, sir!

Replacing bayonets                      October 2018

The aim of this note is to describe how to replace a broken off bayonet with a staple. A hole is drilled at the end of the musket and the corner of a staple cut to size is glued in place. This gives a much stronger bond than gluing to a flat surface. Bear in mind that by this period, a socket bayonet is parallel to the musket’s barrel and not an extension of it.

Tools required:

Pin vice
Small drill bits - 0.45 to 0.6mm diameter
Flat pliers
Cutting pliers
Ruler or vernier
Craft knife
Craft (PVA) Glue
Pin or pair of dividers
24/6 staples (0.65mm broad)

You can find substitutes for most of the above tools except the pin vice and drill bits.

1: Measure length and width of bayonet and width of musket at the point of attachment. In this case, a Les Higgins British Light Infantryman with a 1mm width bayonet 6.5mm long. The width of the musket is 2mm. The full figure is on the left and the broken on the right.

2. File flat the metal at the point of attachment and make a small indentation with the point of the dividers at the middle point of the width. This will ensure that your drilled hole for the staple is centred and the figure is not ruined. If you can, cut a slot along the tip of the musket for the staple to lie in and give a bit more area for the glue. 

3. Slowly drill the hole with a slightly smaller bit.

4: Once the hole is drilled, file both sides lightly to clean off any swarf and gently push the staple through. Measure the lengths required and take the staple out and cut. Cut these as accurately as possible as otherwise you will have to trim when glued to the figure which is more likely to break. File the sharp end.

5. Straighten the musket as it may have been bent by the drilling.

6. Glue the staple in place making sure that it is straight and leave to dry (figure on the right is the repair).

7. File off any excess glue. If you have cut the angled end too long and it sticks out, file it off gently or use side cutters to get in close.

8: I coat the finished bayonet with PVA glue to strengthen it and provide a base for paint. You can add as many layers as you want for the right thickness.

9: I have used the same approach to replace broken plumes. I glue in a wire and build up the required thickness with putty.

10: On Minifigs S range, the bayonet is attached below the musket so flatten the end and drill from the bottom upwards. The metal is soft enough that it can be reshaped afterwards. Sometimes there is enough metal to drill straight into the remaining part of the attachment.

Friday 26 October 2018

Back in the Refurb Factory - Old Guard

I decided this week that I should have another bash at the refurb backlog. There's plenty to be cracking along with, to be sure. In theory, refurbs should be a time-efficient way of swelling the ranks, and the work is certainly useful for getting rid of some of the boxes of spare figures before they simply take over - or get out of control, and I just lose stuff. I recently was pleasantly surprised by my restoration of a division of old PMD/Higgins cuirassiers, so I am inspired to try more of the same.

All ready for the command figures to slot into the spaces. Les Higgins NF1s.
This week I've been back in the boxes of Les Higgins French figures which I mentioned a while ago in a post called Carlo's Army - I should get two decent battalions of Old Guard out of this instalment. The restoration of the line troops in Carlo's legacy has been stalled for a month or two, so if the Guard goes well it might rekindle my enthusiasm to get back to them.

To be honest, I have been a bit put off Carlo's guardsmen, because old Carlo pulled something of a fast one on me - when he sent me photos, there seems to have been some rather clever choreography, so that the proportion of broken bayonets in the photos was far less than the reality when they arrived. I have been sulking just a little, I admit it, but in the end it doesn't matter a lot - I have enough undamaged rank and file in the NF1 At the Ready pose to make up two battalions. [Experts will be nodding - the Higgins NF1 guardsman must have the most fragile bayonet in wargaming history - only the firing guardsman pose comes close...]

They were rather nicely painted. They certainly needed freshening up, and Carlo's painting style (back in the 1970s) was a little naive, in that he painted the bits very carefully, but sometimes there are glimpses of bare metal between the bits. Whatever, they have come up a treat - not a big job, and my faith in refurbishment is restored (as it were), which might be a dangerous precedent if I'm not careful. For the Guard, bless him, Carlo stuck to the dress regulations rather better than he did for the Line.

As is always necessary, I have counselled myself that these are not going to be as good as if I'd painted them from scratch myself (which is fair enough if you can get your head around it), but that they will be quite good enough, and will give a very fair return on the cost and the effort needed. Anyway - as of this afternoon they are based and ready for the command figures.

As with the cuirassiers, I have bought in some Art Miniaturen figures for the command - they should be splendid, and they are a very good size match, but another intake of breath is required, as I stare at the contents of the packs and try to work out which half-arm fastens on to which officer etc. I have a few more command figures than I need, in fact - for each battalion I'll add two officers on foot, one drummer, one porte-aigle and a mounted colonel - oh, and one of the units will get a sapeur, since I am one private short.

Today's photo is just to prove to myself that it went OK - I'll try to reproduce my successful effort with the cuirassiers, and get the command figures done before my attention starts wandering back to the Bavarians. I'll report on this lot when the command figures are done!

Hooptedoodle #315 - The Sun Made It Again

Yesterday, 07:50 - looking more or less due east, East Lothian, Scotland. Another interesting sky - this shot isn't from the usual window overlooking our garden, this was taken by my wife, here on the farm, on the way back from the school run. Our house is somewhere in the woods ahead. That may be my personal raincloud heading this way.

When it got going, the day was fine - a bit blustery and definitely colder, but sunny.

Later I hope to have some pictures of some more troops from the painting factory...

Sunday 21 October 2018

Battle of Eggmühl, 22nd April 1809

Wargaming yesterday; delighted to welcome Goya and Stryker from Up North (or Further Up North, I suppose). Goya brought along an Austrian army (on the train - we are always at the leading edge of technical innovation here at Chateau Foy) and Stryker brought along Marshal Davout. Stryker and I were to command the French forces.

Our game was - unusually for me - one of the published scenarios from Commands & Colors: Napoleonics. This was No.312 - Eggmühl - Day 2 - French Left, which I think must be from Expansion 3 (the Austrian bit). One reason I am always hesitant about using other people's scenarios is because they are usually designed to give both sides a chance of winning, which is OK from a social aspect but sometimes dubious historically, and often (I have found) they give you a grinding match while one side waits for a lucky dice roll or a show-stopping card to give them an edge. I'm sure that GMT Games and their countless fans will not worry at all about my views, I hasten to add.

Anyway, we used the scenario, and it looked interesting, and in fact it gave us a nice game. A feature of the day was that we also used some experimental house tweaks to the rule system. I don't wish to say too much about these at present, since they are still under development, but they seemed promising.

Neither am I going to discuss the real (i.e. historical) battle, since it is well-known, and the portion of it we were playing, though it makes a decent standalone game, is a bit odd in isolation. I will, however, mention briefly the small matter of spelling. If you know better, or can give a better-informed view, please do pitch in here. The locals call the place Eggmühl - I have a locally-produced tourist souvenir of the battle, and there it is - Egg - as in Scrambled Egg. Not Eck, as in Prince of Eckmühl, or as in Bloomin' 'Eck. I assume that the proper German name must be Eckmühl - "the corner mill" (bend in the river Grosse Laabe?), and that the local Bavarian dialect says Egg. The French have always called it Eckmühl, of course, but their track record with German place names is not good anyway. [Ratisbonne? What's that?]

As usual, I'll attempt to fill in a narrative around the photos. In passing, I managed to get hold of some brighter bulbs for the over-table lighting (1200 lumen halogens, two of them, which are supposed to give the same light as old-money 150w jobs, but much less heat), so the photos may be a little brighter than in previous efforts.

As a spoiler, I have to tell you that the French lost [damn]. It wasn't a complete whitewash, but the field is very busy with villages and woods, and the Austrian line infantry, slow-moving and potentially brittle though they are, have 5-blocks-worth of musketry per battalion, and that is a very serious prospect all round. And, of course, Goya commanded his defence rather better than did Rosenberg in 1809. Our rules of the day stipulated 10 Victory Banners for the win, but the situation was sometimes quite difficult to follow, since there were temporary VBs available for possession of the villages, and the exact timing of when these counted was sufficiently complicated for me still to be unable to understand it this morning. I think the final score was about 10-7 to the Kaiserlichs, but I'll take advice on that. French did well enough, but couldn't keep up any kind of momentum in the face of the Austrian musketry.

By the way, if my account of the day shows a little French bias, I hope you will indulge me - the defeat is too recent and too painful. Like all military history, it may take some years for a truthful impartiality to creep into the narrative.

General view from behind the French right flank, at commencement. The French cavalry in
the foreground were always going to struggle to get some open ground to work in. Beyond them
are Von Deroy's shiny new Bavarians, then St Hilaire's Division, and at the far end Friant's boys.
The villages are, in order of proximity to the camera, Unterlaichling, Oberlaichling and
Obersanding, with various arrangements of VBs available for each.
View straight down the middle of the table at the same stage - note that the Bavarians
have some distance to advance across open farmland to attack the village and woods
in the centre.
Unterlaichling - first attack and the Bavarians took the place. A brief moment of glory -
subsequently the village and its neighbouring woods changed hands so many times I
lost count, though our lot never seemed to be in possession when it came time to tot up
the temporary VBs.
On the French left, Friant made a big push through the woods and towards Obersanding.
Heavy going. The dude on the right hand edge, on his own, is Davout, currently Duc
d'Auerstadt and, sadly, destined to remain so.
The problem - too many Hungarians in the Plastic Forest. You're sure of a
big surprise.
Erm - and suddenly the French had a lot less troops advancing on the left...

...and St Hilaire's division in the centre didn't fancy their chances much...
...and the Bavarians, though they are fleetingly back in Unterlaichling here, with some
French légère boys on their left, were running out of men and out of steam. 
Theme for the day - the French needed a bigger superiority in numbers to win the day.
Here they just don't have enough fresh troops left, and we are getting near the end.
After the official VB target was reached, we played on for a little while. I fiddled around
with some of the under-employed French cavalry on the right flank, which was fun but
enhanced neither the result nor the historic narrative. Faint shades of Borodino - some
cuirassiers capture an artillery position on the Bettelberg, but it makes no difference!

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Bavarians - 3rd Division Commander

Needed for action on Saturday, here we have General Bernhard Erasmus von Deroy (on the nimble little horse...) and his General-Adjutant; the figures are both from the old Falcon range, now marketed by Hagen. The Adjutant has the Quick-Reference Sheet handy. The gentleman in the cloak is easily recognisable as the ubiquitous Minifigs FNX1, rescued from the spares box and repainted as an officer of cavalry attached to the Bavarian staff - he's obviously seen it all before. The white edging to the base allows quick location of a divisional general.

The mounted figure has a toy-like, Noggin the Nog air, which I find rather appealing. There is a joke here - one of the few stories about Deroy (who was an older officer, and a bit of a traditionalist) describes his fury when he found that his troops were growing all sorts of non-regulation facial hair on campaign - orders of the day appeared very quickly. This casting has a very luxuriant moustache, so poor old Deroy can hide behind a Full Groucho - maybe it's a move to gain the affection of his men?

Sorry the Arctic light has dimmed down the colours a bit - these Bavarian chappies are pretty vivid normally.

Deroy - no whiskers here
Deroy commanded the 3rd Bavarian Division in the VII Corps on the Danube. A well respected veteran and a good leader, he was mortally wounded at Polotsk in 1812.

Monday 15 October 2018

Hooptedoodle #314 - October - Unusual Visitor (and other stuff)

Nice, sunny day today - cold first thing in the morning, then the sun shone all day. We have started putting some food out for the birds again - starting with a suet block on the apple tree. Much excitement among the humble sparrows and dunnocks, but we also got a couple of visitors we seldom see here. They are not rare locally, but they don't come here.

Motacilla cinerea - Grey Wagtail

Grey Wagtails - despite the name, much more colourful than their cousins the Pied Wagtail, who are regulars here. Whatever the weather did in 2018, it has certainly produced a lot of insects in October, so the Wagtails of all varieties are very busy, and very entertaining they are too.

Photos, as ever, courtesy of the Contesse Foy.

While we are on about insects, this is the time of year when we get one of our visits from Cluster Flies - they arrive in large numbers, but always in the same rooms, on the same windows (how do they know?). They are harmless, in the sense that they don't bite, and they don't contaminate your food, but the sheer number of them is a menace. In October they come looking for somewhere to hibernate, and really they are small enough to go anywhere they want, so they are impossible to keep out if they wish to get in. A few years ago we had a scary episode when the Contesse discovered there were thousands of the beggars wintering in the tiny gap between the window sashes and the frames in a bedroom which overlooks the woods at the back of the house. Regular checking for uninvited squatters, occasional applications of the vacuum cleaner and some understated Raid spray in the crevices in the window, and we have had no repeats.

Don't panic - this isn't our photo - this is just what they look like
Their life cycle is interesting, if you are not eating a blueberry muffin at the moment. They swarm and mate in the early Spring (when they emerge from wherever it is they have been hibernating), and the females lay their eggs near earthworm burrows. When they hatch, the larvae tunnel down, attach themselves to earthworms and spend a gruesome summer in the dark, underground. When the weather turns colder (about now, in fact) the new adult flies emerge in great numbers, and set off looking for desirable winter quarters such as our bedroom windows. So you get two swarms a year - one at this time, when they move into a sheltered winter home, then another in the Spring, when it's time to wake up and mate. As far as I know, that's about it for Cluster Flies - seems a pretty pointless existence, though the earthworms might have something to add.

We also have a fine crop of toadstools in the lawn, which is seasonal - lots of moss in the lawn, plenty of rain recently, and bingo - here they are again. The last mowing of the lawns (which will be a little late this year because the long Summer has meant that the grass is still growing after we would have expected it to pack in) will get rid of them, and things can go to sleep until next year.

Oh yes - Dod the Gardener has planted a load more crocus bulbs in the grass verge in the lane, so we should get a nice show in the early Spring. Something to look forward to.

[I think Dod goes to sleep in the Winter as well, boys and girls.]

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

It is now the following morning, and the aforementioned Dod has already dug out the toadies (they are unpleasantly squishy) and is now applying lawn sand to - that's right, you  guessed - the lawns. This stuff is to be applied by a push-along rotary spreader, so we have jointly been searching out the reading glasses and reading the instructions on the plastic sacks. 


The instructions on the bag say you should go to the manufacturer's website at to get the correct setting for your particular job and your particular spreader (ours is a Scott's EasyGreen - I knew you wanted to know this). In fact I don't live too far from our garden, so was able to do this without much difficulty, and took a shortened version of a large printout for Dod's enlightenment. Set to number 30 on the adjuster, it says, and do the lawns twice, at right angles, in a sort of tartan pattern. First problem I had was trying to do the arithmetic in my head, before my first coffee. The table from the website says this will give you about 112-135gm/sq.m - at two passes, I estimate that my 2 large sacks of lawn sand will cover about one-third of one of the 3 lawns, though each sack is claimed to treat 200 sq.m. We have something like 300 sq.m of lawns. Spinning of head - does not compute.

Dod sets the trap-door in the bottom of the spreader to number 30, and can see right away that the thing is going to empty itself far too quickly. Thus he proposes to guess a reduced setting, see how thickly the sand goes on, and go over it again if it isn't enough. That, we agreed, is easier than trying to scoop the stuff back up if we run out. Something bothers me about this. Apart from the collapse of my ability with fractions (which is only one of a number of such concerns...), I have this mental image of a groundsman, half a mile from the nearest electricity, at the end of the cricket field somewhere, probably working in the rain, desperately trying to get a signal on his mobile phone to access the flaming website.

The triumph of gratuitous science.

What are we doing here? The lawn sand manufacturer has instructed us where to get details of the spreader settings (which may or may not be correct), but it isn't exactly handy, is it? Which banana thought this was good customer service? I suspect there will be a big increase in the number of mental health issues among gardeners and groundsmen in the near future.


Friday 12 October 2018

French Cuirassier Division - finished at last

It's taken longer than expected, but what did I expect...?

Command figures all painted, flags and bases sorted out. As ever, cheerful does it every time.

I'd never thought of having a Cuirassier Division, but here it is. Stryker maintains he is going to chase them the length of the Danube. He and whose army, I ask...?

Next week I hope to get a Bavarian general ready for action. Fighting next Saturday. Busy, busy.

2e Cuirassiers
3e Cuirassiers
7e Cuirassiers
8e Cuirassiers
...and the compulsory group photo is faked by the 13e Cuirassiers getting involved in
the background; since they finally got a proper officer out of the figure swaps (after only
30 years waiting) they felt they deserved to be included, even if strictly speaking they
don't belong in the Division.
[I do hope that my old friend Wanko01 does not share this lot with his merry chums on that certain forum that I am not fit to mention, but in truth I don't care a lot.] 

Thursday 4 October 2018

Home-Brewed Flags: French Cuirassiers

In case they are any use to anyone, here are the 1804-pattern flags I've drawn up for my cuirassiers. The real flags were 60cm square, which is about 9mm in 1/72 scale. If I print this image at 58% full size I get 1cm flags, which is near enough for jazz. Click on the image below to get the full size, and save it.

Guest Appearance: ECW Hinton Hunt

Steve Cooney sent me an email, and was kind enough to include some photos, which are definitely worth a look, I think. Steve makes the point that, for devotees of Hinton Hunt, since tabletop Napoleonic battles normally feature large numbers of units, the small matter (literally) of keeping the footprint down, plus the limited availability of figures, mean that there has evolved a standard battalion size of two dozen or so figures. On the other hand, the smaller numbers of units needed for ECW actions have allowed Steve to experiment with larger regiment sizes, with greater emphasis on the look of the thing. His preferred unit size is 42-45 men for foot - you can see the effect in the pictures.

Nice, eh?

Thanks Steve - I for one am now crippled with envy, but I'll be all right...

Wednesday 3 October 2018

The Last Trumpet - for the Moment

Last night I finished off the last of my little quartet of cuirassier trumpeters. This one is another Art Miniaturen casting - I have figures from two different Französischer Kürassiere Command sets by AM - one rather more recent than the other. The later set (which includes the chap in the photo) is more vigorously animated and more like modern plastic diorama box sets than the earlier one. This in itself introduces a very slight problem - it does limit the number of raw repeats; for example, the eagle bearer in the new set is bare-headed, having lost his helmet [duh], but it would be silly indeed if one had a number of cuirassier units, each of which had the same porte-aigle without a helmet. One such is OK, of course, but this is getting out of the normal run-of-the-mill for wargames figures.

A rather bigger surprise for me is that the newer set is a little bit larger than the older one. Nothing disastrous, but the Higgins/PMD troopers in my cuirassier division will be somewhere between the two sizes. Since all of AM's output is very officially 1/72 scale, and no messing, the idea that Herr Schmäling is introducing a smidgeon of refined scale creep is a novelty. Presumably the plastic sets with which he shares the market are getting a bit larger too? Who knows - whatever, it isn't a problem.

Just because it will cause trouble in The Cupboard if this guy doesn't get his photo on the blog when the other three did, here he is, at the top, with his PMD trooper mate. The more dramatic styling is quite fun - the two figures here are closer to each other in scale than the foreshortening effect of the camera lens seems to suggest. These are from the 2nd regiment - I'm definitely moving on to the officers now.

Tuesday 2 October 2018

Conversions and Paint Jobs - French Heavy Cavalry Trumpeters

I've been happily fiddling away at filling the "Command" gaps in my unplanned Reserve Cavalry Division. Yesterday it was trumpeters - I still have one trumpeter to finish off, then I move on to officers and eagle bearers. I've decided (or have been convinced by shortage of troopers) that my French cuirassiers will break with house tradition and will carry (1804-pattern) standards in action.

I'll get to that - any excuse for a play with Paintshop Pro to knock up some flags. In the meantime, just because I have nothing else to post about, here are some trumpeters. Nothing great, to be sure, but any kind of conversion or paint-conversion work is almost always satisfying work.

Each trumpeter is sentenced to spend his operational life based with a trooper he never
met before. The troopers are all
PMD, with the compulsory "eyes-right" pose. The trumpeter
on the left (8th regt) is
Art Miniaturen, kindly supplied by the Old Metal Detector - strictly this
is from an OOP dragoon command set, but perfectly suitable; the one in the middle (3rd regt) is
an old (and not very ambitious) conversion by a previous owner, based on the trooper next to
him - I've revised the paint job extensively, and left him with his carbine; the one on the right
(7th regt) is the official
PMD-issue trumpeter (officially a dragoon, but intended to serve in
the cuirassiers as well), and I've mounted him on a 20mm
Garrison horse - partly for variety,
but also because it's a far better horse.

The uniforms are sort of 1809, and the regiments are selected so that the facings will also be suitable for 1813-14.