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

Wednesday 29 April 2020

Hooptedoodle #362 - The Liverpool-Holyhead Optical Telegraph

A bit more Merseyside local history, I'm afraid - pretty ancient history, too. During lock-down, I am presently working my way through some of the old BBC TV Coast series on DVD, and enjoying them thoroughly - apart from anything else, it's nice to get a change of scenery, and to see people travelling about in the fresh air and speaking to each other!

Yesterday I watched the episode from Series 2 in which they discuss the North Wales coastline from Anglesey to Liverpool. One of the items covered was the Optical Telegraph, begun in 1826, I think, which was built to communicate between Holyhead, in Anglesey, and Liverpool. My interest was kindled!

Long before any electric telegraph, it was very useful to be able to pass messages back and forth, with news of arriving shipping. In those pre-steam days, most of the sugar trade from the Caribbean and the cotton from the USA came into Liverpool, and voyage times were very variable. When incoming ships reached Anglesey, they only had about 70 miles to go, across Liverpool Bay to the port itself. Ships passing Holyhead could exchange (flag) signals with the signal station, and then the telegraph system (invented, I believe, by an employee of the Liverpool Dock Company named Watson) would send news to Liverpool, where the shipping companies could make arrangements for berthing and unloading, and the local traders could make announcements in the Cotton Exchange and in the local commodity markets, and of course, messages to the ship could be sent back.

The Telegraph stations
 The system used a relay of semaphore stations, sending coded messages which consisted of numeric signals, translated by means of a code book.

Each station would receive incoming signals from an adjacent station in the line, and resend as quickly as possible. I imagine the job of spotting a new signal quickly would be a demanding one, but the signal traffic was heavy, so there might be little chance to doze off! This sounds painfully slow, since someone would have to decode the numbers at each end, but it seems that 3 to 4 minutes from end to end was about average, which is impressive. During the BBC TV show, they made great play of the fact that there was a claim that the fastest ever recorded time for a message from Holyhead to Liverpool was 27 seconds. My reaction was to wonder how they could possibly have measured this, since there was no time signal or satellite clock to check it against. It took me a while to realise that it would be possible to time a there-and-back signal and response at one end of the line, but I have to say that still don't believe they could have done it so quickly!

Ruin of the station at Carreglwyd, abandoned in 1841 when the Puffin Island station opened
Puffin Island
Bidston Hill "Observatory" in the Wirral - telegraph station, and one signal flagpole for each shipping line!
If you want to know more, here's a link to a pleasing little history of the telegraph system - there seems to have been a gradual improvement in the technology - there are still traces of it around. I remember that when I was a small child I saw the signal pylon at Hilbre Island, just off West Kirby. Come to think of it, I never realised until yesterday what that site was!

One nice moment in the BBC programme was a reference to the fact that that one of the coded signals in the book, transmitted as a number, meant "do you have the code book?", which, of course, would convey nothing at all if you didn't.

Monday 27 April 2020

WSS - Flag Day

I spent some time last week working on my backlog of flags - this requires a lot of scanning and lifting screenshots, some actual freehand artwork (large, to be reduced) and a whole lot of graphic editing using my much-loved old version of Paintshop Pro. I also have Photoshop, which is certainly more versatile, but Photoshop does a zillion things I don't need, and requires a PhD to use it properly. If I really need to use transparent png files, or to add shadow texturing, Photoshop is the fellow, but not this time.

Once again, I come up against a regular complaint of mine, which is the fact that you can't get proper photo-quality print paper in 80g/sm weight any more, so the finished flags are sort of OK - they'll do until I can get the good stuff again, at which point I may reprint them. This morning I attached 14 missing flags to recently-completed WSS units, which is a comfort. I also have flags prepared for the next 6 battalions I'll be painting, so I'm (briefly?) ahead of the game.

I have yet to design/draw/edit flags for 3 of my Bavarian cavalry units, but that shouldn't take long.

Here are the flags I've been working with this weekend. I've only included a small sized image here, as you will observe - oh yes, the French 1804-pattern flags at the bottom are just because I stuck them on the print file - they will not be appearing in the WSS. Also - in case it matters - please note that any direct connection between these flags and the stated units may be questionable. One does one's best.

Sunday 26 April 2020

A Touch of Class

One of the things which continues to delight me in the world of wargaming blogs is the kindness people have shown to me over the years. I've been on the receiving end of a number of gifts and favours which have often far surpassed anything I might have expected (or might have deserved).

This last week I received a parcel from one Aly Morrison, gentleman and sculptor/painter extraordinaire. Included in this package was a unit of painted French cuirassiers, as he had promised, in return for something I had sent him - as is often the case, the repayment was out of all scale to my original effort. I'm really very pleased with them, so now I have based them up I thought I would share some pictures.

12eme Cuirassiers
The figures are 1970s PMD (Les Higgins). I am impressed not only by the painting, but by the quality of the conversion work. The Higgins range was a bit eccentric in some ways - there never was a cuirassier officer, but there was a dragoon trumpeter which would work well with the cuirassiers. When Aly first mentioned that he had some figures he would paint up for me, I had a brief wonder about what I would do for command - usually I have used Art Miniaturen figures in recent years.

I underrated the man. Not only did he convert a couple of troopers to provide an officer and a standard bearer (a feat which I have been known to achieve by painting the epaulettes silver, and maybe going for a black sheepskin) - he carved off the carbines and all the support belting and cartridge pouches, he corrected the eagle bearer by removing one of his epaulettes and adding a sword handle to the top of his scabbard, and he removed the officer's portmanteau, recarving the dog-tooth sheepskin edging which is now exposed.

Detail close-up of the carving on the officer conversions
I am, as they used to say, knocked out. My cavalry reserve becomes bigger and better. Let's see Stryker chase this lot the length of the Danube, then.

Thanks, Aly - really pleased with them.

Hooptedoodle #361a - Home Physics Puzzle - SOLUTION

Thanks very much to everyone who sent in a comment - I've now published these against the original post - here - and am pleased with the responses.

Yes, this is all about things which float, starring Archimedes - a man who was famous in my schooldays as someone who made his life's greatest discovery when he broke wind in the bath.

The puzzle is set out in yesterday's post.


When the stones are in the boat, they are floating - well, technically it is the boat that is floating, but the stones will push the boat down into the pool to displace an extra volume of water equal in weight to the weight of the stones themselves. This is where Archimedes comes in.

When the stones go over the side, they sink, and will now displace their own volume of water, which - since stones are more dense than water - is less than what they displaced when they were in the boat. Thus - yes, that's right - the water level on the side of the pool will go down. The only special case would be if the stones were able to float on their own (because they were pumice, or hollow, or fake stones made of wood, or because the water was polluted to an astonishing degree), in which case, of course, they would continue to displace their own weight of water, and the level would remain the same.

Once again, thanks very much for having a go. Some excellent answers, and some very good explanations of the less correct ones. Just to put an official seal on things, I was going to attempt this experiment today, but the bird bath is too small.

Saturday 25 April 2020

Hooptedoodle #361 - Home Physics Puzzle

This comes from a discussion I had with a friend on email - there is no trick to this, it is simply a bit of school physics, but I was surprised how much discussion it gave rise to. I thought I'd trot it out here - have a think about this...

A man who is working from home sets up an experiment with his children one afternoon, as part of their home-schooling. They like that kind of thing, apparently.

They place a boat in their (very small) swimming pool. The man climbs in, and takes on board a number of very large stones borrowed from the garden. When the ripples have stopped, his kids mark (very accurately) the water level on the side of the pool (not on the boat, on the pool side).

Once they have done this, the man very carefully drops all the stones over the side into the water. Again, when the ripples stop, the kids mark the water level on the pool side. We may assume that there is no loss of water through splashes, overflow, drainage, leakage or evaporation during the experiment, and that the kids can mark the level with unlimited precision.

OK then - when he dumps the stones overboard, does the water level in the pool

(1) rise

(2) fall

(3) stay the same

No prizes, obviously, just a bit of (supposed) fun. I won't publish any comments for a day or two, so as not to spoil the puzzle for anyone who cares - this will also allow me a couple of days before I have to reveal that there were no responses at all.


Wednesday 22 April 2020

WSS - More Imperial Foot

The painting is still coming along nicely. As promised two weeks ago, the next hefty batch is refurbished and finished - flags apart. Another four battalions of Austrians.

As this job continues, I'm starting to get to the rather more battered parts of the hoard (horde?), so the clean-up work becomes more substantial, and in this case I had to supply about 15% of new figures, painted from scratch. To avoid any culture shock, or obvious silliness in the line-up, I have started painting the new figures in a style which is unfamiliar to me, with black outlining, to match the originals. This is slow going, but I have enjoyed the challenge, the results are quite pleasing, and it is a good exercise for me to have to produce finished soldiers painted "in the style of" the previous owner. Certainly the new boys fit in well enough with the refurbed old ones for me to have to look carefully to tell them apart.

There you go, you see - forging antiques; my teachers said I would come to no good.

Two battalions each for the regiments of Thürheim (left) and Gschwind. Not a flag in sight, of course, but that should be sorted out in the next few weeks
Next batch of Imperialists will be another of the same size, 72 figures, and that will be Phase One finished, apart from general officers. Lots of flags to do now - the new arrivals have to wait in a lengthening queue for their flags, but I'm coming around to that. Something should happen there soon.

You can see the large command bases in the centre of each unit, with the mini-dice frame at the rear. The research team here at Chateau Foy came up with a design which would make a column 150mm long or a line 150mm wide. No reason, really, just OCD at work.
Immediate plans for what happens after Phase One are to add two battalions of grenadiers to the Bavarians, two more battalions of Austrians (blue - Baden-Baden - for a bit of variety) and a small batch of foot dragoons for the Austrians.

I'm trying to keep this painting frenzy organised, so I don't lose all enthusiasm for the task. I'm (roughly) working 6 days on, 3 days off, I limit each session to two hours max and take a lot of trouble over keeping things tidy and putting everything away at the end of a batch. I think the attic area may become rather hot for extended painting sessions as the Summer comes in, but the night shifts are good [no extra pay, though]. Radio 3 on permanently during painting hours - I've sat through more screeching sopranos than usual over the last few days, but generally very calming.

The two-hour shift rule works nicely - I also try to keep my hands off the soldiers during my days off, or else I just get distracted and fiddle about, which, overall, dampens the mojo.

Strange times, so if I can delude myself that I'm staying organised - however petty the context - I find it helps. I am not painting because I have nothing else to do, I'm painting because I choose to do so.

My thanks to Stryker for advice on painting in this style - much appreciated. Keep well, everyone - look after yourselves and each other.

Sunday 19 April 2020

Hooptedoodle #360 - Something Has Changed

I observe that a number of my recent blog posts will not display some of the images I inserted. I see this symbol instead of each blocked picture:

The picture is still in a library somewhere - hovering the cursor over the missing image shows a sub-caption with the name of a convincing-looking file name on a Blogger library - but I can't see the image itself, either as part of the published post or in a draft version if I switch to the editor. Oh yes - and I can't save it or open it as a separate link. For all practical purposes, the image has gone.


I had a quick, rather nervous check back to 2011 or so, and I think my older posts are unchanged. This is something of a relief, since the status of my blog as one of The Wonders of the Modern Age would be severely compromised by having the pictures removed. Knocked on the head, in fact. The pictures which have been suppressed recently were (at a quick glance) some photos of book covers, which I nicked from Amazon's website, a couple of photos of items for sale taken from a 5-year-old auction catalogue, a photo of HG Wells playing wargames in his garden which I obtained from Google. My own original photos are unaffected, and I didn't look much further, so the evidence on which to base any heavy investigation is not extensive. However, not being easily discouraged, I have been pondering what's going on here.

I realise that the Amazon pictures are copyrighted, but my blog is not any kind of commercial venture, the photos could almost be described as promotional, since I was singing the praises of the books involved, and my readership is small (anyone over six feet in height, please excuse the generalisation). Quite apart from the fact that I don't suppose Amazon or anyone else would regard the inclusion of these photos as unreasonable use, or even be faintly interested in my activities, I am puzzled, if there has been a change, as to what that change is, and why.

Maybe this is an Apple thing? My desktop machine is a Mac, and my iPhone shows the same thing. However, my tablet, which is an Android device, shows this same NO ENTRY symbol, and they all do this on a variety of browsers, so this would appear to be down to Blogger / Google.


Maybe there has been a tightening up on the use of unauthorised or copyrighted images? Since my own photos of my soldier collection and the games I play are all over Pinterest and TMP without any permission from me, and since I recently learned that I can order a mouse-mat, a mug or a poster from a company in the US which seems to offer a couple of my photos as stock designs, I can see some sense in this.

It could, of course, just be a glitch in Blogger - such things are not unknown. A number of the routine facilities which Blogger offers have stopped working for me over the last year - I think that this may not be unconnected with the fact that my principal sign-on uses an email account which is supported by a competitor of Google, but that's another story altogether.

Or it could be a change in Official Policy. They could be clamping down, in which case, as long as my entire blog is not wrecked, I have to shrug and say fair enough - probably not before time. If I've done bad things then it serves me right. [Drat]

To put this in context, I do not regard this as a free-for-all. I do try to behave responsibly in these matters - if I do anything that offends someone's rights, then it is normally accidental, I'll put my hand up and apologise, and remove the image straight away. It does happen, but not very often.

Some weeks ago, MSFoy received an email from a lady in the US, complaining that he had used a photo which was her property, without permission. I sent a humble apology and removed the photo promptly. I received a friendly acknowledgement - matter closed, I hope. What strikes me as a little odd about this is that the picture in question, which was in a blog post here some six years ago, was supplied by a library service I used until (I think) last year. For a while I owned a small publishing business - in fact I still do, though it is no longer trading - and I took out a paid subscription to an online library service which offered royalty-free, non-copyrighted images - clip art and photos - which could be used for small-distribution advertising and so on. It was not an expensive deal (as you would expect - quiet at the back, please), so I forgot all about it until maybe 18 months ago, at which point I cancelled my subscription.

OK - maybe that's all irrelevant, but the incident of the complaint seemed like something new. So perhaps Google have changed their rules? It would be possible for some algorithm to check the meta-data behind any image, and suppress it, I guess. I can see this would be constructive in the overall scheme of things. However, the algorithm will struggle with screen-capture images or scanned images, so I really just have to introduce an extra step to get round this. Save an image, display it in my Preview app and take a screenshot. Pick the bones out of that.

Anyway, this post has certainly gone on long enough, considering I am blundering around in the dark. I wondered whether anyone has had a similar experience recently, or if anyone knows if the law or Google usage has changed?

Saturday 18 April 2020

Hooptedoodle #359 - Mrs Cruickshank and her Famous Son

A long time ago, when I was quite a young chap, I bought a house in a very quiet terrace in the [legendary] Edinburgh suburb of Morningside. My neighbours were, almost without exception, elderly, and I'm not sure that the arrival of my family in the street was greeted with universal approval. I was aware that we were under surveillance for a lot of the time during those early months. There was a great deal of "curtain twitching" - it seems people knew a lot about us, though we hadn't really met anyone. They knew who came and went, they knew that I wore jeans on Saturdays, and I didn't attend Greenbank Kirk.

There are advantages in such a situation. One afternoon I took a half-holiday from work, and came home to receive delivery of a package of dinner plates. As soon as I had arrived home, the phone rang. It was Mrs Cruickshank, one of our most prominent local curtain-twitchers.

She was sorry to disturb me, but a parcel had been delivered for me that morning, and since my wife and I were not at home, she had agreed that the delivery man could leave the parcel at her house. She wouldn't normally have noticed such goings-on, of course, but she had just happened to be adjusting the curtains when she saw the van arrive. The parcel was very heavy, and could I please come and collect it?

Well, yes - certainly. Still wearing my official work suit, I went three doors down and across the road, and rang Mrs Cruickshank's doorbell. Mrs Cruickshank must have been about 80, I guess - very smartly dressed but very thin.

We introduced ourselves, and she showed me the parcel - it was my dinner plates, early, but safe enough. Mrs C offered me a cup of tea - I attempted to swerve this, but there was no way I was not getting a cup of tea, so I joined her in her kitchen, and she started looking for the necessary equipment. She opened a cupboard - no cups, but there was a cream cracker with some cheese lying on a shelf - also a sherry glass, half full, on a different shelf.

She tried another cupboard. No cups, but there was another sherry glass - also half full, in there. She was about to go for another cupboard, but I spotted a framed photo on the kitchen wall - a young man in RAF uniform, and thus successfully managed to change the subject and end the cup hunt.

The photo, it turned out, was of her son, John, who had been in the RAF during the war, and had been badly wounded. His injuries had meant that after he recovered he could not stand the cold in Scotland, so he now lived in Malta, she told me. He had been dreadfully hurt, she said, and her eyes filled with tears. I'm not very good at that sort of situation - I suspect I was even worse then. With as much good grace as possible, I offered my thanks and took my parcel home - I never did get my cup of tea, now I think about it.

Mrs Cruickshank moved away shortly afterwards - I never saw her again, Whether she went into care, or hospital, or maybe went to Malta to live with her son, I know not. But I did find out subsequently that her ex-RAF son was really rather famous. There is a short bio on Wikipedia if you would care to have a look.

F/O John A Cruickshank VC
Something or other reminded me of Mrs Cruickshank recently (no - I don't think it was the sherry glasses in my kitchen cupboard), and I had a poke around online to find out more about John. It seems he's still alive, and - if he is - he'll be 100 in about a month from now.

So there you are - a pointless tale about someone you don't know and I never met, but I'll put a note in my diary to drink a glass of something in his honour next month, wherever he is. 20th May - anyone care to join me?

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

Apparently the BBC made a documentary film about this incident in 1995 - excuse the rough pictures, but here it is, introduced by the excellent Martin Bell [The Man in the White Suit - famous war correspondent and one-time destroyer of Neil Hamilton the Sleaze-Ball...]

Pretty good actually!



Tuesday 14 April 2020

WSS - Things I Need to Find Out - (1) Grenadiers

The sudden arrival here of a collection of miniature soldiers for the WSS at the end of last year was partly because I had always had a (vague) interest in that time-frame for wargames, partly because such a collection had become available and, importantly, because it seemed a relatively easy way into a new period - not exactly buying a new war off the peg, but certainly getting off to a flying start.

Since then I have been busily reading and refurbing and painting - all good fun, but no games yet.

My original plan was to attempt to develop the Bavarian and Austrian armies at equal pace, so that I could start playing with them as early as possible, and develop my rules as I went along. That's what I did, with some success, for the ECW a few years ago. So for the WSS I started off like this, but it soon became obvious that I could make quickest progress if I concentrated on the Bavarians first.

Various reasons, in no particular order:

(1) The miniature Bavarian army, for some reason, was in better shape - less breakages, less paint deterioration, less men AWOL.

(2) The Bavarian army seemed a lot less complicated - less daunting - organisationally and as a painting challenge. Also, the Bavarian troops I had bought in represented just about the whole of the historical army, so there were no tricky decisions about an OOB. The Imperialist set-up is a lot more tricky, I would have to make some decisions about the OOB, to give some kind of historical context (though in fact my planned OOB has more to do with the facing colours of the existing collection!).

(3) There are some aspects of the Austrian organisation which I haven't yet got a grip on - though I am acquiring some impressive-looking books. I just have to read the beggars now.

(4) The whole subject of WSS flags is a lot more complicated for the Imperial side. This may seem trivial, but for me it isn't.

I've now reached a suitable moment for a bit of a sanity check. I have two big batches remaining of troops to refurb for the Austrians, then my Phase One plan is pretty much complete, if I can get the numbers of staff figures up to scratch. I'm due to start painting again on Thursday, and I'm not sure that painting and thinking at the same time is as easy as it used to be. There is, though, a need for me to do something about grenadiers.

So today's subject is grenadiers. How did the Austrians arrange their grenadiers? How shall I paint and base the grenadier element in my Austrian army? I'll start this by interrupting myself, and returning briefly to describe what I'm doing for the Bavarians.

Bavarian Leibregiment grenadier - plate by Anton Hoffman
Thus far, for the Bavarians, I have arranged a few grenadiers in the right-hand base of each battalion, to indicate that there was a grenadier company present, but they serve no real purpose beyond the important one of looking nice. My games are unlikely to operate at a tactical scale where the grenadier company is detached to do something specific. I still do have the job of painting up two proper grenadier battalions for the Bavarians, though. My understanding is that the Leibregiment had two battalions of fusiliers (which I have painted already), and one of grenadiers (which I haven't) - this grenadier battalion was a designated unit in its own right, wore a slightly different uniform from the fusiliers and had its own flags etc.

OK - good so far. In 1703 or thereabouts, a regiment of (supposedly) French emigrés was to be set up, organised the same as the Leibregiment. According to the autobiography of Jean-Martin de la Colonie (who had expected to be the colonel of this new unit, but eventually was appointed lieutenant colonel), the fusilier battalions were never formed, though the grenadiers certainly were, and can be found on the OOB for Schellenberg - the Boismorel Grenadiers. The inhaber, Monsieur Boismorel himself, was a Frenchman (his name, I think, is a kind of forest mushroom, which is not important at this point, but is the kind of nonsense that interests me), and his personal ambition, according to Colonie, was to stay as far from any warfare as he could. The Boismorel boys have the appeal of offering some variety in the uniforms - dark red, in this case. Some of them wore grenadier caps, some wore tricorns - a welcome bit of colour on the wargames table and - again - they were a distinct, permanent grenadier formation with their own flag.

Righto - so that's what I'm doing for the Bavarians, now, for goodness sake, let's get back to the Austrians.

Austrian Grenadier on the left - image used without permission
There was a grenadier presence in the Austrian bit of the collection I bought in, but I am intending to change it. Based on what I have established so far (which is not very much), the Austrians would group together the grenadiers from the regiments within a brigade, thus the provisional battalions formed would be separate from the fusiliers, but would not have flags, and the facings and so on would be a mixture of the contributing regiments. This is kind of familiar to me, since this is what I have tried to reproduce for my Napoleonic Spanish army of 1809.

So my first question for this new Age of Reason is, did the Austrians organise their grenadiers by brigade, in this way? Am I right in assuming that the battalions thus formed would have no flags of their own, since they were informal groupings? Which leads me on to the practical issue of how I should base such units. My Foot battalions for the WSS are organised as 3 bases of 6 figures - each base is two rows of three men, the centre base holds the command presence - colours, mounted officer, drums - while each flank base includes one officer on foot. The bases can be used to denote the formation, but they do not operate independently, and are not removed for losses.

This is now getting into thinking out loud (or in print), but if I were to combine the grenadiers from two regiments for a brigade, for example, I could have one base of grenadiers painted for each regiment (I could even include a drummer in each such base) - not sure if I need a command base, nor how such a base would be made up, but now we are getting into fiddly detail. I could make a grenadier battalion from just two such bases - I'll have a look at the numbers in the books and see if that would make sense.

At that point I think I've conveyed the nub of the problem. Beyond that I'm going to embarrass myself with my own lack of knowledge! If you have experience of the WSS on the tabletop, I'm keen to learn how you think the Austrians organised their grenadiers, and how you set this up in miniature. All ideas welcome!

If this goes well, my next questions will be about the nippy issue of Austrian flags in 1703!...

Sunday 12 April 2020

WSS - Another Batch of Cavalry

It took me three days (not very intensive days) to paint the remaining cavalry which were still in the current queue. About half that time was needed to refurbish those figures I could lift pretty much straight from Eric's collection (with facing changes and a bit of cleaning up), and about half to paint the missing command figures from scratch.

From front to rear, these are the (Bavarian) Santini Dragoons, the (Bavarian) Leib Garde and the (Imperialist) Aufsess Dragoons. Not a flag in sight, as yet. I have a good image of the flag for the Aufsess boys, courtesy of one of the Bruno Mugnai books, but have come up with nothing at all yet for the Bavarian dragoons - maybe they didn't carry them in the field? Nah - there's men with poles waiting for them, so if I can't get authentic flag images I'll invent my own. I've a lot of flags to do, so I'll have a graphic-design week later on.

The Aufsess unit (grey coats) are actually Franconian, from the Fränkische Kreis - I chose them because I had pre-painted troops in very similar coat colours - no better reason for selection could be imagined! The dismounted dragoon contingent for the Aufsess are now in the queue - I have the figures, I just have to paint them.

The Leib Garde (blue) are actually [heavy] horse; the squadron with the red belts and facings are the Carabiniers, the squadron with black are the Hartschiere.

No excuses left now - the next job must be the first of the remaining big Austrian foot batches - 4 battalions, I think. I'll clear the decks and have a couple of days break before I disappear into that lot.

I had a very pleasant walk on my own yesterday on the farm - during one of the few sunny spells of the day. I walked down to one of the farm's reservoirs - really just a big rainwater sink which they use to pipe water on to the fields. There must be fish in the reservoir - I saw a swan, about half a dozen geese and a few ducks, and a spooky heron took off as soon as I appeared. Strange creatures, herons - they take off like a lorry-load of scaffolding. I also saw and heard the skylarks busy over the farm fields, so I guess they were trying to distract my attention from their nests.

Very therapeutic, anyway.

Keep well, everyone.

Tuesday 7 April 2020

WSS - Just Can't Get the Staff

As a change from the mass batches, I've been working on some command figures for the Bavarians. Quite pleased with the results, though my new "shiny" period keeps surprising me with just how shiny it is!

Bavarian Army Command
 This is an Army Commander base, which in my house system is a 60mm x 60 base of three figures. The standard is that of the Elector - that may be him (or one of his chaps) with his hat off, accompanied by a senior officer and a standard bearer. The figures are by Irregular - nice little sculpts.

Most of my Staff figures will probably be conversions of Les Higgins castings - there aren't too many needed, but it's important to get a decent amount of variety - few things are as stupid as synchronised line-dancing generals.

Before anyone mocks the state of the lawn, it was mown on Saturday, so some respect would be appropriate. Which reminds me - I was looking at photos of HG Wells wargaming in the garden - how on earth did he get the soldiers to stand up on his lawn? I have difficulty understanding how he got them to stand up on the attic floor, which is less of a challenge.

Sunday 5 April 2020

Hooptedoodle #358 - Keep Calm and Carry On

Buckets of strong tea all round
I'm somewhat shaken by recent communications with a painting service that I haven't dealt with before. I have anonymised and tidied up our correspondence, and after much thought I've decided to put some of it out here. The last thing any of us needs at the moment is unnecessary aggro, so I may decide to delete this post at short notice if I change my mind, and I may choose not to post comments, but I thought this was a bit special. Perhaps the poor chap is under a lot of pressure, but  this worries me - I admire anyone who takes a stand, but I'm not sure if I wish to have further dealings with someone quite so alternative. Just being angry doesn't seem likely to help very much.

I have done regular business with two other painters over the last 10 years or so, but one of those is not taking on any work at present, understandably, and the other has a big backlog. A friend recommended a painter I hadn't heard of previously, so a couple of months ago I made contact with this chap, and we agreed in principle that I would sent a trial batch.

The weeks passed, and my own arrangements for painting soldiers changed somewhat, with the self-iso business. Eventually I thought I might check to see if we could still go ahead with this batch. After all, it is a sort of contribution to protecting someone's livelihood.

Enquiry from me, 20th March

B--- - I was about to prepare a shipment of soldiers to send for painting, but am not sure whether you are working at present - are you still open, or painting at home?

Hope things are not too bad in your area.

Regards - M---

And back comes a quick response:

Reply of 20th March

My dear M---, l refuse to be frightened by a flu bug that the media and our beloved leaders have turned into a crisis. 

Goodness gracious M---, an average of four hundred thousand people die world-wide each year from flu. No one closed the world down for last years flu. Why is this one so different? 

My studio will remain open until/if l am forced to close and then l shall paint from home. 

Just send your parcel and l will get to it asap. 

Obviously take the usual flu symptom precautions. 

And Keep Calm and Carry On!

Best always, 


Rather unusual viewpoint, but fair enough. Defiant to the last, obviously. I spent a couple of weeks working on my own painting, so didn't really have time to prep figures to send. Eventually it was time to think about it again. Since the pandemic had obviously moved on a bit in the interim, I thought I should check:

My email of 2nd April

Hi B--- - not sure if you will have adjusted your view of the virus situation, but I guess you have probably been required to close your shop? I'm still planning to send you a parcel of soldiers, if that's OK, for painting - should I send it to your home address?

We are in isolation here, but that's rather easier in the country. Keep well.

Best regards


And he's still out there, fighting on:

Reply on 4th April

Hello M---. Glad to hear your all well. 

Haven't really altered my views on this flu virus very much. 

Perhaps the media fear spreading is deliberate Government policy to keep people away from each other and thus help kill the bug? 

If so it's a good thing. But on the other hand it's also doing untold damage to people's mentality and ruining economies World wide. 

My business has of course closed, but l am busy painting commissions at home. 

So yes, please send your parcel if you wish to, to [postal address follows].

If you do decide to send it, can you add one of your painted pieces so l can match what you have with those l paint for you? 

Should you wish to pay me via PayPal it will be fine, or a cheque to B--- D--- is equally OK.?

Look forward to hearing from you. 

Keep well, 



Friday 3 April 2020

Something for Self-Isolated Souls Aged from 12 years old to 150...

...and for those who claim to be working from home, and are interested in daft puzzles.

This all stems from my setting out some miniature soldiers on the attic floor yesterday (a procedure I found strangely stressful), and from a subsequent comment by Aly M, who empathised with my discomfort.

The challenge is - estimate how much HG Wells spent on his collection of toy soldiers!

Braw lads

I'd welcome thoughts and guesses on this - in terms both of UK prices in his day, and the modern equivalent. Let's set this in 1911-13 - that's a period between the publication of Floor Games and Little Wars. If it helps, there were 12 pence to the shilling in those days, 20 shillings to the pound. If you wish, you may calculate how many weeks it would have taken a typical agricultural labourer to earn the price of a toy soldier. Whatever. You have the whole of the World Wide Web as your playroom.

It would be useful to have a feel for Wells' rules and how he played his games, how big the forces involved might be, how many periods he played (or was it all just one vaguely "recent modern" period for him?), the contemporary prices of Wm Britains hollowcast figures, whether Wells might get a fancy discount for bulk (the more fanciful the ideas the better, here), where he got those famous firing cannons, and how much they cost - anything and everything that might be (even remotely) relevant will be welcome. Estimate for breakage-replacement if you wish. This is not an attempt to produce a lifetime sum, it's simply about the armies he had around 1911-13, and how much he spent on them. I assume that he bought his soldiers off the shelf, ready painted. To be honest, I'm not even sure what kind of soldiers he fielded, or what the "sides" were - illustrations I've seen look a bit like the Trooping of the Colours - not many trenches or light troops in woods - a lot of formal dress. All very correct and proper. This also applies to the players, of course.

Classic attic-floor view - note that this is an artist's impression, or is it an enhanced photograph?
Ignore his collection of scenery, I think, although if you wish to have a guess at that then please carry on. You should also ignore the cost of refreshments for his guests, though it would be instructive to consider what would have been appropriate. It might even give me some guidelines for a variation of the guest menu at Chateau Foy, when things resume, after the Armistice.

My entry point for this is that it's not something I know much about, either about the workings of Wells' rules nor the lore of the 54mm hollowcast soldier. A friend of mine, when challenged recently on how much he spends each year on his wargaming, proved that it is less than his wife spends on visits to the hairdresser (take notes if you wish). I'd be interested to have an estimate for how much HG committed to his rather niche hobby activities.

I haven't started on any of this yet, other than thinking vaguely what might be involved, but I did a little Wiki reading on HG, and was surprised to learn that he was certainly a bit off the wall for his day; a Fabian, a pacifist and something of a socialist visionary, he also had a very complicated marital life (if you are into that sort of research) - he'd have been better off sticking with the little soldiers if you ask me...

Wells working in the garden - now this is scary - imagine the feverish head-count at the end, and checking the grass-box next time the lawn is mowed
All suggestions welcome - the wilder and more far-fetched the better. If I get no responses at all I will have proved something (about myself, probably), but I'm happy to keep this topic open if there's any interest. I am certainly not an expert, so I hope to learn a bit here!

Thinking of soldiers on the floor, I remember that once, as a lad in short pants, I accidentally kneeled on some troops during one of my periodic battles (which would have included Zulus, WW2 US Marines, Foreign Legionnaires, Arab tribesmen, all sorts). I broke two Britains kneeling Highlanders - red jackets, white tropical helmets. This must obviously have been a single incident among many similar, but, apart from the early OCD evidence that I had these two identical figures next to each other, behind a flat metal Johilco hedge section, I recall that I was fascinated (though disappointed, naturally) at the time that they broke identically - they both lost the same leg - exactly the same fracture. This may have been the moment in my childhood when I decided that I wanted to grow up to be a madman.

This may be the moment when it all started to slide. It's also possible that the indentation is still in my kneecap, in which case I could maybe cast some replicas.

I'll check it out.

Thursday 2 April 2020

WSS - Bavarian Return - 2nd April

A day late and the usual dollar short, I got the four remaining battalions finished - they have still to get their flags, but I'll leave that to my next flagging session.

Because they are not strictly finished (without flags), and because I feel there's probably a limit to the number of photos I can post of the same units which say, "Look - I've done the red paint now...", I thought a quick group photo of progress to date with the Bavarian army might be an idea.

Some kind of infestation in the attic
Here they are - the new battalions are the ones at the rear without flags. I also have another unit of dragoons on the bottletops, ready for a Henry Ford-style refurb-factory touch-up, and similarly for the Guard Horse - they should be quite quick, I think. Other than that I have plans to get a couple of battalions of grenadiers painted - this will be proper painting from bare metal, and I'll probably send these out to a pro painter. In passing, I might mention that one of the two painters I currently use responded rather flippantly to my query about whether he was taking on work during the plague; he said that there seemed to be a lot of unnecessary panic about some sort of flu epidemic. This was a couple of weeks ago, so maybe he has had time to revise his views. Certainly I imagine he will have been obliged to close his shop - I hope he survived. There's a lot of view-revision going on at present, and no mistake, so no snarky questions, please.

Beyond the outstanding cavalry and dragoons and the proposed add-on grenadiers, the army does look a bit light on horse generally. I have a couple of French regiments they might borrow - I'll think about it. Oh yes - I have done nothing at all about staff figures, so I'll get that organised, too. I was hoping to use some Lancer Miniatures figures for generals, but they do not match well - the guys are built like toads. Sorry about that - they are beautifully cast, but it's my army and they are not getting to play - I'll stick with Irregular and Higgins and conversions thereupon for the time being.

The photo is taken on the attic floor, as discussed, but I couldn't squeeze in and didn't have my pipe handy. The light is good up there, though, with two big Velux roof-windows. I'll take a better "parade" photo when there are more flags. Very odd, actually. I spent the photo session paralysed with anxiety in case the soldiers got damaged on the floor, though there was no-one else in the house, and I had no immediate plans to stand on them. HG Wells must have been very tough.

I've removed the remaining Austrians from the community foot-bath, and faithfully paid my dues for a couple of afternoons, scraping off someone else's damned old flock, so now they are packed into house-issue battalion boxes (freezer packs) and will be ready for work soon.

Now I'm going to tidy everything away and have a few days off painting - 6 battalions retouched in 11 days is a rate of progress I haven't come close to for many years. Now I'll do some reading. While I'm on this high-energy roll I might as well see if I can read some history books without falling asleep.