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

Wednesday 25 December 2019

Hooptedoodle #351 - Peace Breaks Out on the Dining Table

Last year, because of various family problems, we didn't celebrate Christmas here at all. Today the Contesse and our son and I sat down for Christmas lunch together, and I must say it was very pleasant. Eating a cooked meal together as a family is very therapeutic, no question - also, this was the first year I can remember when I could actually have a glass of wine with lunch, since previously I have invariably been required to get some elderly relative or other back home afterwards, before their personal curfew.

Anyone who has fought battles on this table may be interested to see its peaceful use - this, of course, is why scenic flock is banned from the house...

Not a very ornate set-up today, I admit it - very subdued, but the Contesse provided an excellent meal, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Although this room was only built in 2005, it's sobering to consider the guests we have entertained here who are no longer with us - hmmm. The Ghosts of Christmas Past.

On the subject of Xmas nosh, the Contesse and I were discussing how fashions have changed - she says that, when she was a kid, they usually had chicken at Christmas - we always had a goose, as I recall. To my knowledge, I never ate turkey until I was grown up and had left home. What happened? Did we just miss out on the mainstream, or did turkey become a major Christmas institution relatively recently? Surely it can't have been implanted from Thanksgiving?

Anyway - time to get in some logs for the stove and see what's on the TV this evening. The WSS soldiers are stored away upstairs, so no hobby work for a couple of days [well, maybe a little reading].

Tuesday 24 December 2019

The Miracle of the Berezina

This is actually a reprise - I posted this picture the first Christmas of this blog - I had very few readers in those days, and I think the post went largely unnoticed. I'd forgotten all about it, but came across it today by accident, and it still pleases me, so I thought I would run it again.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to everyone - thank you for visiting here.

Thursday 19 December 2019

WSS Project - Quick Update

I've been tinkering away with my Bavarian forces - mostly the infantry, since, as is the case for the Austrians, for the cavalry I am waiting for some more reference materials on organisation and uniforms to arrive via the Xmas post.

I have to acknowledge a lot of valuable help and advice from Old John, who also sent me a load of sample figures and some handy uniform info. I'm waiting for the postie to bring Anton Hoffman's The Army of the Blue King, plus the CD version of the Robert Hall book on the Austrian Army (from Baccus), plus a couple of other odds and ends. I was also lucky enough to find a pre-owned copy of Mr Hall's little booklet on the same subject in the long-OOP Kuhn series.

To start with, I am aiming at armies based in 1702-03. For the Bavarians, it looks as though, with the addition of a smallish number of extra figures, the troops I have will provide about 10 or 11 battalions without a lot of work. My final plans for the Austrians - and all the cavalry - will have to wait until I have some better information -  they will end up as a compromise between what I'd ideally like and what I have. Here's a couple of pics of progress to date.

Apart from a couple of missing flags, these boys are retouched, rebased and ready to fight. Here are two Austrian battalions (provisionally from the regts Trautmannsdorf and Lapaczec, though I may change my mind when I'm better informed), plus the Bavarian infantry regiments D'Octfort, Spilberg and Tattenbach, and the Dragoner Monasterol, who still need a couple of dismounted bases to operate as dragoons with my rules
Sorting things out - more Bavarians - on the white tray are the basis of 2 bns of the Leibregiment and 2 bns of the IR Mercy (formerly Haxthausen); lined up on the tabletop to the right are what I have to build up into 2 bns each of Bettendorf and Kurprinz, and 1 bn each of Maffei and Lutzelburg - some extra figures needed, especially command, but it's shaping up. There may be a grenadier battalion coming up as well - thinking about that

I intend the Bavarians to have two regiments of dragoons, one of carabiniers, maybe 3 of heavy horse as a first instalment. I have two batteries waiting to be painted up, and have yet to make up my mind how (or if) battalion guns could be supplied. They also have some French friends to help out - I haven't fully thought this through yet.

I'm pleased with the possibilities offered by extra figures from Irregular Miniatures' Restoration and Marlburian ranges, and from Lancer Miniatures - Newline may offer some possibilities as well - I have yet to try these. Then, of course, the extended range of Les Higgins figures from Old John are essential.

All excellent fun...

Saturday 14 December 2019

More on the 1965 Waterloo War Game at the DoY's HQ, Chelsea

Many, many thanks to Jim Walkley, who found a report on the event in the April 1965 (?) Wargamer's Newsletter in his loft, and to Steve the Wargamer, who very kindly scanned it and sent me copies.

Steve has also sent a scan of the complete magazine to the WN Archives, which is only right and proper. If there is some copyright reason why it is illegal for me to put these scanned pages up here, please let me know and we can take it from there. On balance, I thought there was probably sufficient interest in this game, and sufficient time has elapsed since publication, to justify posting it here.

A few first thoughts from me:

* the date of 3rd March on the Alamy photos would appear to be incorrect
* so Wellington was Bob Gould! - Eric Knowles was Picton
* the game ran out of time - that's never happened before or since, has it?
* we can now fit names to faces
* that table looks bigger than 13ft6in to me!

Wednesday 11 December 2019

More WSS - and now some Austrians

Continuing in the same way, I've now cleaned and re-based a couple of battalions of Imperial troops. I haven't done flags yet (because I need to confirm which regiments I want), and one of the new units needs a mounted colonel (I have a figure undercoated, ready to go). Les Higgins (small) 20mm figures - old.

I am still working out the best arrangement of units in my draft OOB - I'm waiting for some more source material to arrive, to help with the reference, but it is somewhere in the Xmas postal storm.

This isn't going badly thus far - I'll get some more troops into the foot-baths tonight (old ice-cream tubs, warm water), to soak off the old bases - maybe 2 battalions plus a battery, or maybe some cavalry, so see how that goes. The units I have bought in were mostly already labelled up with regimental identities, but some of these don't quite line up with the dates I am aiming for, and I need to check out the Austrian facing colours!

So this isn't really a big step forward, but it maybe goes to show that I can do small steps quite quickly!

Once again, I have done as little re-painting as possible - the paintwork you see here, chip repairs apart, dates from the early 1970s. For some reason, the flesh colour on the faces seems to have faded, so I've freshened that up a bit.

The missing colonel I mentioned could be quite interesting - I have prepped an Irregular figure, mounted on a Higgins horse. As an experiment, I undercoated him in matt white acrylic, and gave him a wash over with Citadel Chestnut Ink, supposedly to pick out the casting detail. Erm - no detail showing, but the figure is now a nice, even, toilet-soap pink colour. Anyone remember Camay? The Contesse had a look at him, and assumed he was plastic! Nah - he's just pale pink.

Sunday 8 December 2019

Something Old, Something New

I've been experimenting with base sizes and unit organisation - here's the first glimpse of a new project for me. This is the Bavarian Regiment D'Octfort, circa 1703. I have rebased them, and applied fresh (shiny) varnish and a replacement flag, but as far as possible the paintwork is the original from the 1970s. The figures are ex Eric Knowles, and my plan is to have enough fightable units to get some games going, quickly, and with as little work as possible. I have some Austrians on the bench now.

The figures are Les Higgins, vintage 1971 - small 20mm (about 1/76, I reckon). Old John can supply extra figures from this range, and I have some promising samples from Irregular and Lancer Miniatures - these other makes of figures will match best if I standardise on Higgins horses throughout. Anyway, early days yet - the first battalion is a prototype in a number of ways - so far so good, I think.

The 3-base organisation allows me to use Beneath the Lily Banners rules, but my first effort will be to develop my own rules which - you may be surprised to learn - are hex-gridded. The base sizes will allow a battalion to form a line 150mm wide, or a march column 150mm long - all of this should work well with my 180mm hexes.

Note that the command base has room for a dice frame

Friday 6 December 2019

Waterloo Wargame, Duke of York's Headquarters - 1965

Further to my previous reference to the 150th anniversary commemorative Waterloo game played at the Duke of York's HQ in Chelsea in 1965 (a good year for it, as I'm sure you'll agree, though I have some confusing idea that it took place in March, which would be less appropriate), David very kindly supplied a scan of the photos of the event which were included in Donald Featherstone's Advanced War Games - a book which I used to own, subsequently unloaded on eBay and never bothered to replace.

I have to say, right up front, that I have no right or permission to reproduce this picture, so if anyone is compromised or upset by its appearance here, please shout and I shall delete it.

The pictures mostly show the players on the French side - Tony Bath, who took the role of Napoleon, is in evidence, slightly to the right of centre in the two left-hand photos - as we look at the picture, Bath is on the right of the bald-headed man without glasses - he appears also on the right edge of the lower-right photo. The only hope I had of a glimpse of the other army's commanders was the middle image on the right side, but, having spent a little time working out the ground plan of the Hougoumont feature, I am pretty sure that is the end of the table, not the Mont St Jean side - the gentleman with the lapel badge and the opera glasses looks like an official player, though. Frustratingly, we can see the back view of the Allied commanders in the top-left photo.

As I understand it, Eric Knowles was Wellington for the day.

Not to worry - this is all I have for the moment. Does anyone recognise, or can you put names to, the people who are pictured, or even people known to have been there who are not pictured? I believe that the organisers were the British Model Soldier Society, though I am not very sure about that either - any clues, names, links or further photos would be very welcome. These chaps must have been well known at the time. I also read somewhere that the BMSS rather disapproved of wargaming, and thus a separate wargaming section was set up - round about 1965, in fact!

I am deeply impressed by the formal turn-out - even the schoolboys in the crowd wore ties - does that suggest official school parties, or did everyone wear ties then? In passing, the table looks to be about 24 feet x 6 feet - any views on that?

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

I was sent some links to these photos, which are definitely copyrighted by Alamy, though I understand that it is legal to download the preview versions (as I have done) for non-commercial purposes.

This is a larger version of one of the photos above, which gives a better view of the miniatures, and also reveals that the three participants here are (L to R) Ney, D'Erlon and Napoleon (T Bath)
And this is Eric Knowles, in uniform, no less, in his role of Wellington. Picture details give the date as 3rd March 1965


A Prestigious Occasion (Fighting Again)

Marshal Bessieres-Goya takes a personal interest in the efforts of the Old Guard gunners
On Wednesday I was delighted to attend the first recorded battle in Stryker's new Hinton Hut - excellent day all round. Stryker himself, The Archduke and Goya were all in attendance, and we fought a (fictional) Napoleonic battle, setting the forces of the Emperor (the French one, of course) against a coalition of Prussian, Russian and Austrian troops. All the figures present were from Stryker's own collection (and thus, it goes without saying, were all of faultless pedigree, being original, classic Hinton Hunts or very close approximations thereto throughout), and we used his excellent Muskets & Marshals rules.

The official report of the battle, with far better photos, appears on Stryker's own blog - my own short note here on the day's events is to give me an excuse to provide a few more pictures, to underline the beautiful spectacle of all those lovely old soldiers!

General view at commencement, from behind the French right
Apart from both sides taking advantage of a clear view for the artillery, this battle started with the customary bickering between respective skirmishers

Stryker's lovely Carabiniers - they did OK, but spent some time trying to rally from being disordered - there will be some questions asked...
And still the skirmishers are popping away - though the Prussian lads have rifles, the French had the lucky dice, so had the edge in this department
French light cavalry has an early success - note the thoroughness of the Prussian high command, who have the catalogue reference of every soldier written underneath, to facilitate rapid recruitment after days such as this
The French used the classic strategy of throwing everything in from the start (l'Ordre Imbecile) - here you see the big push developing - Napoleon on the white horse, checking that no-one is lagging behind
Although it didn't count for much in the long run, we had an early disappointment in the performance of the Guard light cavalry 

Our very smart light cavalry of the line - if you look carefully you will see they are being pursued by some enemy cuirassiers...
Crunch time - our brilliant sledge-hammer tactics hit the Prussian line...
While the French Carabiniers upset some more enemy cavalry

To the stupefaction of the French command, the big attack succeeded right along the line...

As may be obvious by this point, I was Napoleon, for reasons too circumstantial to dwell upon, and I am pleased to say that we (Marshal Bessieres-Goya and I) scraped a win - aided by the excellent calibre of our troops and our customary, astoundingly streaky, dice rolls. My thanks to my colleagues for their excellent company, and to the Stryker family for their hospitality - the Hut, I would say, is a great success. Even in a Scottish December we were comfortable and well insulated, and the game, of course, was marvellous.

I must also add that Napoleon was very briefly exposed to the risk  of being wounded at the end of the action, but survived unscathed. Always good publicity to be seen to be in some danger, even if the risk is mostly theoretical - the Emperor's marketing people were very pleased with the day. 

Monday 25 November 2019

English Safari (wet) - Small Game Hunting

Rain in Lincolnshire - just like my last day
I was away for most of last week. I had private business in Lincolnshire, and I combined the trip with a visit to Essex, where I obtained some old soldiers, of which more in a moment.

I travelled in my van, which is actually quite a friendly sort of vehicle - high seating position (and thus a great view), surprisingly comfortable, and it allows me to stooge along steadily, without anyone feeling obliged to cut me up or out-drag me at the traffic lights. As the time approached for my journey, I had been watching the weather forecasts nervously, but my trek down was all in bright sunshine - no problems at all.

In Essex I had the great pleasure of actually meeting DC - he of the Wargaming Odyssey blog. David and I have been on email terms for some years, and have even spoken on the steam telephone, but the old face-to-face bit was a new departure. David was just as jovial and enthusiastic in person as I had expected, and I must express my deep appreciation for his time and for his looking after me during my visit. We had a lot of interesting conversations during my day-and-a-bit in Essex - I got to see his famed man-cave, which is indeed a great honour, and I learned a lot about wargaming. Excellent all round.

Oh yes - the soldiers. I can't really say an awful lot about them at the moment, not least because I am still finding out the details of what I obtained. I bought a load of very old Napoleonic figures, many of which, I understand, were involved in the 1965 "refight" of Waterloo, at the Duke of York's Headquarters. The first job I have (and it's a big one) is to sort them into types, makes and units - they have been stored in some very dilapidated old boxes for a great many years, and have got a bit mixed up as the current owner (and DC) worked on identifying and listing what was there.

After two pretty solid days of effort, I am starting to get the idea of what is here. Some of these can probably be freshened up and rebased, and could be available for active service fairly quickly - some may require rather more work, and some may just go in the spares box for a while, but Goya has been talking of having a bash at Waterloo sometime soon - these should certainly help to fill some gaps!

I'll leave it at that for now, with some photos showing the inevitable chaos which is involved in opening up the boxes and trying to sort things out. I must say that I would like to know a lot more about the 1965 Waterloo game - I'm trying to get some extra information about that. If anyone knows of any write-ups, or has any personal knowledge of the event, I'd be very grateful if you could get in touch. I can certainly state that Hinton Hunt castings from circa 1965 appear to be cleaner and nicer than any I have seen. There are also some very early (small) Lammings, and a number of figures I have never seen before - no idea of the manufacturers - I may put up some more photos later on.

This is the mess in the dining room starting to abate a little - some of the figures are already sorted into boxes, and I have trays and all sorts of containers on all horizontal surfaces
This looks like French foot artillery in the warm water bath, soaking the bases off

Various Guard artillery figures, foot dragoons, miscellaneous generals and staff
Another tray - assorted cavalry - including enough cuirassiers for a very serious charge indeed
This looks like a heap of French line infantry to me...
Dragoons of different nationalities, RHG, Guard sapeurs...
Some highlanders in this lot...
A good number of lancers for Waterloo, including some Alberken Eclaireurs I haven't seen before, plus yet more riflemen - and so it continues. I'll be working on this for a couple of days yet - I've ordered in some more Really Useful Boxes - 4 litre size!
On my return journey I stopped again in Lincolnshire, where, by a complete fluke, my landlord (who knows nothing at all of these matters) recalled seeing a film clip of the 1965 Waterloo game on the Blue Peter TV programme (for kids). I can't find anything on Pathe News or anything, but I'm still looking. On my last day, Saturday, my luck ran out with the weather, and I drove for about 6 hours in a monsoon. No problems. The van just quietly got on with the job, and I was home in time for tea.

A very serious plaque to commemorate the fact that Thomas Paine was very briefly associated with Alford. I am hoping that there will be a plaque one day to say that I had my dinner in the Half Moon Hotel one evening.
Mind you, one of the Alford street names suggests that they may be familiar with my blog already
Yes - this is a picture of Margaret Thatcher, which is a first for me. The event was the opening of the M25, one of my least favourite stretches of highway in Britain. I have a theory - next time you are stuck in a nightmare on the M25, listen carefully - I bet you she is laughing somewhere