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

Thursday 29 April 2021

Hooptedoodle #395 - Just the Thing for the Grand Duke's Study

 My wife has been clearing her late mother's house recently, preparing to sell the place. This has not been especially easy in a time of lockdown, and the closure of the charity shops has been a major problem in the disposal of household trivia. Some of the larger and more valuable items have been sold through local social media pages, and a lot has been given away. One item I was interested in for myself was a wall clock.

I've always had a thing about clocks - I associate chiming clocks with sunlit afternoons at my Posh Auntie May's house in West Kirby when I was a kid. There is something soothing about them. They go with the smells of furniture polish and coffee. The clock in question is built in a traditional style, but it is probably only about 45 years old. For a featured clock in a hallway or similar I think I'd prefer something genuinely old - with ghosts and all that. Still, this is a proper, wind-up clock with a pendulum. Not a battery in sight. It keeps good time, and really is perfect for the Grand Duke's study.

I paid the advertised price and hung it on the wall.

Very good thus far. The tick is pleasing, and is actually no louder than the noise the battery clock which preceded it made.

And, of course, it chimes - how long that stays switched on is a matter of wait and see, but at the moment I'm enjoying it.

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Slow and Steady Does It

 I have a number of refurb jobs on the go at the moment - quite a lot of them, in fact - and I find it satisfying when I complete one, but increasingly I find that the unfinished ones nag at me. It's not that I was better organised when I was younger, it's just that I seem to worry about it more now. Perhaps I have less confidence in there being plenty of time? - Let's not go there.

I'm spending a few weeks - during the start of the Spring temperate painting season - clearing off some of the Napoleonic backlog, to clear the mind and free up some boxes for re-use. One of these has been on the go for about 4 years - a pile of old, rather bashed figures I got very cheaply from the worthy Steve Cooney, which I lined up for one of my "cannonfodder" projects. This is not intended as any kind of a poke at Steve, I hasten to add - I knew exactly what I was getting into when I took them on! This batch consisted of old Der Kriegsspieler castings, and - Steve being Steve - he had taken his soldering iron to bayonets, gaiters, bases...

Five additional battalions; the rank and file are mostly tweaked Der Kriegsspielers, from many years ago. There are SHQ, Hinton Hunt and Schilling among the command figures. I was short of grenadiers, so recruited some Alberken Old Guard to make up the numbers - I had some misgivings about these, since the castings are relatively crude, but they came out all right, I think!

These chaps are never going to win any prizes for beauty, and have actually been quite a lot of work to paint up, but in the end they are pretty much what I was aiming for - hoping for the old Featherstone objective of "looking good in the mass".

During the intervening 4 years, I have had an occasional peep at their current state, noted that the Refurb Fairies had once again failed to come to help out, and I had rather quailed at the prospect of resuming work on them, but this has all been cowardice. Since I set my mind to finishing them, I've rather enjoyed the painting sessions, though I've listened to an awful lot of BBC Radio 3 and drunk a lot of black tea in the process.

So I have added 2 battalions of the 65e Ligne and 3 battalions of the 22e to Brennier's (Sixth) Divn of the Armée de Portugal, circa 1812. I already have one battalion of the 17e Léger and a solitary battalion of the Regiment de Prusse, so I only need the missing light battalion, a couple of groups of combined voltigeurs and some staff, and I need to allocate one of the spare foot artillery batteries to them, and the Division is done.

In the unlikely circumstance of anyone being interested, I must explain [to myself, really], that it has taken me about 3 months to break my new house rule of no 3rd battalions. The 22e really do need a 3rd battalion, or their brigade will be a runt. I have, however, stuck to my existing rule that 3rd battalions don't get flags [that'll teach them].

Finishing little projects is good - even sub-projects. Must nurture my enthusiasm... 

Thanks to Steve for supplying the figures back in 2017 - worked out fine, and his boys will fight on.


Saturday 24 April 2021

Hooptedoodle #394 - Auprès de Ma Blonde

 Here we go - a song from the time of Louis XIV, reckoned to date from the Franco-Dutch War of 1672-78, and much loved as a marching song by French soldiers right up to modern times. The informal performance here is by the remarkable Olivia Chaney, who is English, though her accent is spot-on. I'm very much in favour of Olivia, generally.

I was taught this song by my mother when I was a toddler. Years later, in my French class at school, we were asked if anyone knew any French songs, and I offered this, for which I was put on detention by our teacher (the Headmaster, as it happens), because the song was inappropriate. When I protested that it was a very old song, and told him where I had learned it, he said it had been inappropriate for a very long time, and my mother could take a detention too.

The romantic drama in the verses has been hand-polished over the centuries, I am sure, but the chorus is straightforward enough:

Next to my blonde, who does it well, does it well, does it well;
Next to my blonde, who makes me sleep well.

The Headmaster, Bill Pobjoy, has been dead for years - his biggest claim to fame was the fact that he expelled one John Winston Lennon from the school (before my time, I hasten to add), of which he was always rather proud. In truth, I think old JWL needed to be expelled. 

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

My old friend Norman, who is something of an expert on all things to do with the Beatles, has gently taken me to task over the Lennon episode - he points out that, strictly, JWL was not expelled, but the school arranged for him to transfer to Liverpool Art College. Technically, that is correct, and there are a number of books which testify to this now (some of them almost certainly written by Norman), but there is no doubt that there was no way that Lennon was going to be allowed to stay - the place at the Art College was engineered (partly under pressure from one of the teaching staff, Philip Burnett, who was convinced that Lennon was a mad genius), but JWL was very firmly escorted to the exit.

A digression follows - possibly an unnecessary one, but fairly conclusive in my mind.

It was the practice at the school for successful or prominent Old Boys (former pupils) to return from time to time, to give an address to the senior school (this was a boys' school, by the way). On one such occasion, Peter Shore, who after many years of active work for the Labour Party had finally been elected, a few years before, as MP for Stepney, came to speak to the 5th and 6th forms about his life in politics. The talk was pretty boring, I regret to recall, but it was also heavily Socialist, which caused very apparent unease to Mr Pobjoy, who shared the platform with our guest speaker.

Shore finished off his talk with an unbelievably weak call to glory (this was mid-1960s): "...and let us work to make sure that the Britain of the Beatles is a Labour Britain!".

There was a smattering of routine applause, then the headmaster, po-faced, stood to offer very taut thanks to our guest, and added the message that one of the Beatles had been a pupil at the school, and that he was pleased to say that he had expelled him. Dead silence - we all filed out, listening for pins dropping, to return to our classes.

It goes without saying that no musicians were ever invited to speak.

Peter Shore, MP

I raise the matter only to give the unofficial, but obviously whole-hearted, view of the individual involved. Further claptrap: Peter Shore went on to hold a number of Shadow posts in Labour Opposition cabinets, and held some real offices in Harold Wilson's government. His political career is thought to have been hindered by his lengthy devotion to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (to which he became strongly opposed in later life). He died, Wikipedia tells me, in 2001. As a side issue, I am delighted to note that his father-in-law was the Canadian-born historian and academic, EM Wrong. A finer name for a historian never existed, surely. This is straight out of Monty Python.

Enough - I hope that gets Norman off my back.


Wednesday 14 April 2021

Hooptedoodle #393 - Music - Instant Time Travel

 Righto - lovely morning here, so I was browsing through the CD racks, looking for something suitable, to keep me in a mellow mood while I try to sort out my mother's tax return. I came up with this, and it stopped me dead...

 I remember exactly when and where I bought this album, and I can see it like a photograph. My first wife and I went on holiday to California in about 1990 - we flew to San Francisco, rented a car (a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, which had sort of sporty, "coupé" pretensions, but drove like a small lorry), then we had 2 nights in San Francisco, drove up through Sacramento and Auburn (which places I knew a little) and then stayed at Nevada City, up in the old goldfields, for a couple of days, then through the forests to Mendocino. A few days there (we stayed at the MacCallum House, which I think is still there - great food) and then we drove down the Pacific Highway, stayed at Carmel for a few nights, and then on to LA to fly home. About 12 days total, I think - I have a slightly blurred recollection of most of it, but I remember we had a good time.

One thing I remember very clearly. Last morning in Mendocino, early, after I'd packed our lorry ready for the run south, I was taking a walk down by the sea, to bid the place farewell - it was very misty, and at one point I was walking across some sort of "village green" area, thinking about coffee, when I heard music. Unmistakeable - Jim Hall on guitar, floating over the gardens. I found the source of the music, a bookshop, opening onto the green, exchanged greetings with the owner, and bought coffee and a pastry from him. I asked was the CD for sale, and he said yes, it was, so I bought it and took it away with me, which didn't please him a lot, because he was listening to it. Such is commerce, I guess.

This is the first track from the album - the tune that was playing through the mist in Mendocino - 30 years ago. This is Paul Desmond, on alto sax, with Jim Hall on guitar, playing When Joanna Loved Me.

Perfect. I shut my eyes and it's a misty morning in California, in another century.

I'd like to revisit Mendocino again sometime, but it's on a long list, and I realise I probably never will.

Thursday 8 April 2021

Sorauren (French Left) - the Game

 Today Stryker and I played the game which I set up on Tuesday - as mentioned, this is a scenario lifted straight from the Commands & Colors user site. It gave us, not surprisingly, a close game. I was Marshal Soult, and Stryker played the role of Wellington, and we used Zoom. 

The game features no cavalry at all, and not much artillery, and the French, who have a decent advantage in numbers, have to set about a defending Allied army on a couple of ridges - seem at all familiar? There is a central (8-hex) hill in the centre of the table - occupying more of this hill than the enemy gets 1 extra Victory Point for the Allies, but it's worth 2 to the French. We agreed that 8 VPs for the win would give the French, with their greater numbers, a fair chance to wear the Allies down.

My troops started well - my intention was to have Maucune's Divn make a demonstration attack against the ridge on the Allied left (which did not offer bonus VPs), and push home a decisive offensive against the main hill in the centre, which was occupied initially by Spanish troops.

We used my Ramekin version of C&CN, which does away with the Command Cards (which makes the game possible to play via Zoom), and used the "strategic movement" add-on, whereby any unit which does not come within musket range of the enemy (2 hexes) during a turn may add 1 hex to its move - just the thing to allow those reserves to nip up to the front...

The French (on our right here) get their attacks under way - the one at the far end was supposed to be a demonstration, to keep the Allied left pinned there. To help with identification on a Zoom screen, we've used some large coloured counters - yellow for light infantry, red for Spanish troops. As usual, we are using white loss counters, since they show up well on Zoom.

The 24th Foot are installed in the only village, which was also worth a potential bonus VP to the French. They had a very quiet day, apart from some chaps firing cannons just next door.

The French attack on the central hill didn't go smoothly at all - in fact the feint on the right looked far more promising at this stage, which encouraged Soult to change his mind about the priorities, though he would probably have done better to concentrate his orders on bringing up reserves for the main attack.

This is the intended demonstration on the French right - the British 58th Foot are taking heavy losses from the French fire. Maucune fancies his chance here - he led a charmed life - while those around him fell in heaps, he escaped unharmed, though his laundry bill may have been substantial.
The main attack is getting bogged down - Soult really needs Reille and Lamartinière to bring those fresh units up from behind the stream.
A general view at this stage, from the French right. In the foreground, the British 58th Foot have gone, and the 79th are suffering as well. Maucune is incoherent with excitement.
Still not much success in the centre for the French - at this point the Allies have 5 units on the main hill, the French none at all, though they are working on it.

Soult's main problem - behind the stream, he has 5 completely fresh battalions - more than enough to win the battle if he could just get them up to the front [they were still there, still fresh, at the end...]
The French finally have a foothold on the main hill!
Now there is a glimpse of what might be - for the first time in the day, the French achieved parity on the main hill - 3 units each, so the Allies lost the VP which they had held throughout for controlling it. 
In the distance, the Great Scoreboard of History tells us (blurredly) that the score is 6 each - 8 needed for the win. Soult and his staff plan to get some reserves up, and finish off a classic victory.
No need to get excited - the British 88th Foot now routed the 1/50eme Ligne, which event also restored the Allied control of the hill, so the bonus VP came back into play. The French had eliminated 6 Allied units, the Allies had eliminated 7 French, and also got the extra point for the hill. Allied victory - 8-6. Soult was disappointed, of course, and will start work on his report...

I really enjoyed the game very much. My thanks, as ever, to Stryker for his uplifting enthusiasm and good humour, and my compliments on his very skilled defence. Next time, d'Hubert...

[Footnote: this game was not without some tension, as you will appreciate - at the end of each turn, Stryker would kindly remind me to take photos. After one such photo-shoot, I noticed that I had left my camera on the battlefield, and just for a moment I was concerned that it might have got into the last batch of pictures - only for a moment, mind, and there was a war on at the time.] 


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

Soult duly submitted his report to the Minister of War, and claimed all manner of misfortunes, not the least being the insubordinate and clueless behaviour of Reille and Maucune. By the time it reached the Emperor, who was in Saxony, and who was beginning to appreciate that the Sixth Coalition had worked out how to defeat him, it definitely did not improve his mood. In fact he was so upset that he had to get his surgeons to give him a rub-down with tripe and vinegar (traditional Corsican remedy for apoplexy).

In truth, Soult could have won our Sorauren game - there were a few occasions when he could reasonably have expected to win. The last few photos do show that his reserves were advancing at the end, but it was too late by this stage. At the point where the numbers of units on the central hill became equal, he only needed to march one more unit onto the hill to win the day - one more turn would have done it - two at the most.

The fundamental issue for C&CN - including its Ramekin cousin - is that the number of available orders is small each turn - it is variable, but it is always small, so that the commanders are encouraged to focus on real priorities. The turns are short, but they come round quickly. Soult used precious orders to attack the Allied left - his supposed diversionary attack; the problem was that it was fairly successful, and he felt obliged to continue to push, though in fact he could have held the diversion back, out of musket range, and still kept the enemy left pinned. With those extra few orders each turn, he could have brought his reserve up more quickly. Yes - quite so.

Even at the stage when the VP score was 5-all, 6-5, whatever, Soult's superiority in the centre was proportionally greater than it had been at the start, and he could actually have stopped the first attack, replaced the worn units with fresh ones, and started again - he should still have won. He was tantalised by the fact that his first attack seemed to be on the edge of success - for a long time - and frittered his orders away in trying to maintain some imagined momentum. Idiot.



Hooptedoodle #392 - An Old Friend, Welcome Back

 We had some new turf laid a couple of weeks ago, and it's been very dry weather since then. Though I've put the sprinklers on a couple of times, the new turf is definitely looking a bit rough.

Since the gardener is due to visit today, and since I am nervous about receiving a telling-off for not looking after the turf, I had the sprinklers going full blast on Tuesday until late. At around 11pm I put on the outside lights and went out to shut off the water. I was walking down the path when I realised that a hedgehog was walking alongside me - not bothered at all. I watched him saunter off into the hedge - I was really glad to see him. He may, of course, have been a her.

Not my photo - someone else's hedgehog, in daylight

I knew they were around - I've seen their droppings on the lawn recently. We used to get lots of them - I'm talking of nearly twenty years ago - you could hear them snuffling about in the garden at night, and in the woods at the back of our house. The hedgehogs used to suffer a few casualties - they sometimes used to get caught in the traps the farm ghillie set for rats, and one or two managed to get trapped in the lobster pots which were stacked opposite our house - one of the more complicated forms of suicide. Then they were gone. I suppose there were some around - we never saw any sign  of them. And now, after an extended absence, they are back.

Well, at least one is back. The photo is not mine, of course, it was dark last night and I had nothing with me to take a photo, but I'll try to keep an eye open from now on.

I'm pleased with that - over the years we've lost our Greenfinches and a few other friends, but the hedgehogs are back. Well, well.

Tuesday 6 April 2021

Wargame on Thursday - Sorauren

 On Thursday, Stryker and I will play a Zoom-based Napoleonic game. This one is a scenario snappily entitled "Sorauren (French Left)", which neither of us has played before, and is taken straight from the scenarios. It looks like a slugfest, and I noticed after it had been chosen that there is no cavalry on either side, so Stryker and I are going to be wondering how to spend the first 15 minutes of the game, if there are no cavalry units to throw away.

I spent this evening setting up the field, while listening to a football match which I shall not mention again. There is something quite liberating about using someone else's scenario; whatever happens, it will not be my fault. I think these things probably do matter. It is different from my usual scenarios, since the field is quite bare and there are far fewer units than I'm used to. I may learn something here.

Initial view from behind the Allied left flank

And from the Allied right

From behind the French left. There are bonus Victory Points for possession of the ridge just above the centre of the picture (with Spaniards on it). The French had better get cracking...

On the scenery front, I am delighted to announce that I've finally found Wellington's Tree (yes, it was in the wrong box), so it will be appearing, as is required by the terms and conditions of my franchise, and I was also delighted to find the missing top for one of my Iron Age Merit fir trees, this time in a box which has nothing to do with scenery at all. I have superglued the tree-top into place. 


 More on Thursday - rural broadband permitting, we have a 10:00 start.

Friday 2 April 2021

WSS: And Still They Come...

 Really on a hot streak now. Having been pleased with the three British battalions I finished off last week, here comes a unit painted by Count F Goya, which puts everything back into perspective. These chaps are Archibald Rowe's Regt, or the [Royal] Scottish Fusiliers by any other name.

Again, figures are all Les Higgins/PMD 20mm (1/76), apart from the colonel, who is an Irregular chap (?) on a Higgins horse (that's how we do things around here).

Thanks again, Goya, the boys are raring to go.