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

Sunday 30 May 2021

Hooptedoodle #397 - The Royal Ascot Disaster - The Legend That Will Run and Run

 It seems like yesterday, but it is now more than 30 years since that dreadful Saturday afternoon when a grandstand at Royal Ascot partially collapsed, crushing nearly a hundred spectators to death and injuring many more.

There is no real consolation to be had after such a disaster, it still makes my heart ache to think of it, but at least we know that the behaviour of the emergency and medical services on the day was heroic and could not be faulted, and that so much energy was put subsequently into pursuing a full enquiry, which very quickly identified what had happened, drew up failings and recommendations for improvements in safety regulations and - not least in importance - identified all the areas of accountability and proceeded to bring those responsible to justice.

It can have been of little comfort to the friends and families of the deceased, but it is pleasing that fair compensation was made in almost all of the cases, that all individuals or organisations who contributed to the accident by their own actions or errors were brought to very public account, and legislation was enacted to ensure that such a thing could never happen again. Of that much we can be proud.

Also, it is reassuring to recall that there was never any attempt to distort the story of what happened, nor to shift responsibility to the victims themselves, and - as I recall - no national newspapers or politicians were involved in a widespread campaign to cover up the facts, and no-one accused the families involved of being whining bin-dippers. At least I didn't hear of it.

Of course, it didn't really happen - not like that anyway. Around the same time, there was a crowd disaster involving Northern football fans, and it didn't go like that at all.

Even I am tired of this now. Having exonerated the crowd and the victims, the legal processes following the disaster which did take place - and they have moved with the speed and energy of a moth in treacle -  have never been intended to deliver anything meaningful, ever. It has always been clear that eventually, if they held their breath for long enough, the people who caused the Hillsborough shambles and subsequently tried to change the narrative would never be answerable. It is surprising, but it still appears that no-one was at fault.

Not quite true - a former secretary of the football club at whose ground the accident occurred was fined a couple of years ago for not having his safety paperwork up to date. He was the token fall-guy, and he did not have to fall very far.

The latest - possibly the last - in a series of farcical legal non-events was a trial in Salford, involving three individuals - two former senior police officers and a lawyer who had acted on their behalf - who were accused of falsifying or amending police statements taken at the time. It ended a few days ago - a mistrial. It was a mistrial because the statements which were changed were for submission to the Taylor inquiry, which was not a court of law, so - on a technicality - VAR ruled it all offside. Case dismissed.

I expected nothing else, but I am more than a little cross to note that the lawyer who represented the lawyer (if you follow me) - a pip-squeak of a QC who has built a reputation on successfully defending crooks against all the odds (this is my interpretation, rather than the gentleman's actual wording in his promotional blurb) - also felt obliged to add the following comment to the BBC afterwards:

He said: “My client was accused of covering up criticism of the police. What he in fact did was cut out criticism of the Liverpool fans, whose behaviour was perfectly appalling on the day, causing a riot that led to the gate having to be opened, that unfortunately let the people in and crushed to death the innocents as they were – complete innocents – who were at the front of the pens, who had arrived early and were not drunk and were behaving perfectly well.”

So, it seems, the crowd behaved badly and were (by implication) drunk, and this was a major contributor to the event. He has also said a few other things elsewhere, but my blood pressure is not up to reading them again. His job for the day was to defend individuals accused of falsifying statements; the world does not wish to hear his personal views on the original disaster. The world, I believe, does not give a shit.

Whoever drummed up the crowd-funding necessary to get a 2nd Division QC to defend the case, it looks rather as though they didn't raise enough to get him to read through its archives. The alternative history version involving a rioting crowd was blown away in 2016. Old news. No good.

I don't know what happens next - probably nothing - but it would be nice to think that the QC in question might live to regret his words. Back in the day, Northern soccer fans were near enough to striking miners for Mrs Thatcher to be unable to tell the difference. I don't think that is going to wash now.

I refuse to get worked up about it, but I shall keep an eye open. God is listening. So is Mr Rees Mogg, apparently. That's a midfield to make anyone tremble.

***** Very Late Edit *****

It's been brought to my attention that, after the latest attempt at a trial was aborted (on, let us remind ourselves, a legal technicality), the defence lawyers expressed the views that the continuing persecution of the police offers involved was a "witch hunt" and a huge waste of public money, but that the dismissal of the case should put an end to suggestions of a cover-up.

No. Sorry. Everyone knows there was a cover-up. We haven't seen the full extent of it, but the solicitors should try to maintain some sense of reality. Give us a break.


Sunday 23 May 2021

WSS: And Some British Horse

 Slight change of plan - the aforementioned cavalry unit is finished, but their identity has changed at the last minute! I have a (short) list of Blenheim period units to paint up, and as progress with this one has continued I've become increasingly uncomfortable with the facing colour for this unit of horse. When I eventually managed to print out the intended flag for them, the problem was clear, so I've gone back to my original intention, and they are now (once again) the Earl of Plymouth's Regiment (that's Cornelius Wood's Horse in the Blenheim Campaign).

Earl of Plymouth's Regiment of Horse

The previously-billed Queen Dowager's Regiment will follow as soon as I have some "sea green" paint for more authentic facings! At least this change of heart will have confused the life out of the enemy... 

Never let it be said that I can't make decisions - I make a lot of decisions, more than most people!

The troopers are Les Higgins figures, though the command chaps are from the Irregular "Marlborough" range - the horses are all by Les Higgins, to iron out any scale issues. 

Having convinced myself that a single unit is a comfortable sort of project, I'll be looking to paint some more British cavalry next.

Or some more artillery...

Or some French horse would be nice...

Saturday 22 May 2021

WSS: Some British Guns

 I've been working away at a mixed batch of WSS painting - British artillery and horse, all new figures. I picked this because it made a nice-sized piece of work, and made a welcome change from my last job, which was a big Napoleonic refurb batch. On that job, at one stage, I had two days of white paint, followed by a day of black, so I promised myself a mixed batch next. Seemed a good idea.

And so it was - except that the sequence of paint colours is different for the artillery and the horse, which makes the work a bit fiddly, and - more seriously! - I ran out of space on my wet palette because of the number of colours. Accordingly, yesterday, when I was very nearly finished the whole lot, I put the cavalry in a box of their own, and set about finishing off the artillery bases.

They still need their magnetic sheet for the bases, but here they are.

Three battalion guns - the gunners are by Les Higgins (circa 1970), the galloper guns by Irregular Miniatures. Under my rules, battalion guns are attached to those infantry units which have them, so these little bases are really markers rather than units in their own right

A field gun and crew - this time, all castings are by Irregular. There will be another two of these to accompany Marlborough's lads in action. Coming along soon. [The Irregular gunners are very slightly shorter and chunkier than the Higgins, but they are fine - I may choose to keep them in separate units as a house standard. In the mounted arm I mix Irregular command with Higgins troopers rather more freely, but my use of Higgins horses throughout helps a lot with the scale compatibility.]

 All being well, I should get the unit of horse finished by tomorrow, so they will be appearing shortly. One thing I have to sort out (now I think about it) is my printer - the cyan print-head appears to be playing up, so I'll get that fixed (i.e. I'll ask the printer to heal itself) so that I can print off a flag for them. The unit, when it appears, will be the Queen Dowager's Regiment (also known as Hugh Wyndham's Horse).


Tuesday 18 May 2021

Hooptedoodle #396b - Mystery Object Revealed

 My thanks to everyone who got in touch. I have to say that I was delighted with that little exercise - so much creativity - I am impressed, and greatly cheered up. Apart from a temporary problem I am having this morning, thinking about steamed cod-pieces and giant fat-balls, I was profoundly touched by the friendly, supportive spirit in which my possible foibles such as shrunken head collecting were glossed over - accepted on the nod - without any hint of disapproval. That is kind and diplomatic; if I had a heart, it would be warmed.

Many of the suggestions are more exciting than its true purpose, but I shall now reveal the correct answer...

As a couple of people suggested, it is a device to assist in cleaning a baseball-type cap. As far as I know, it can also cope with a baseball cap which is worn backwards, which is pretty good too - high marks for versatility.

The weird bit is that, as revealed in the photos, the device is intended to be used in the dish-washing machine. Yes - quite so.

My "lucky" walking hat has now been with me for 10 years - I have worn it in the Alps, on the Danube, along Hadrian's Wall, around the fortifications of Chester, Berwick, Carlisle, Denbigh, Salzburg, on my visit to the Eagles' Nest, in Vienna, at numerous recent wargames (to avoid the overhead lighting setting off my ocular migraine) and all sorts of other exciting activities. I reckon this cap has also accompanied me during a couple of hundred mowings of my lawns - we have been inseparable. I've lost it a few times along the way, and some of the occasions on which I found it again were unlikely - occasionally they might even have been far-fetched. Critics have queried why, since I bought it in Austria, it says "Austria" on it - in English. I have no answer to this - I assume it may be something to do with British and American tourists probably not being expected to know what Österreich means. Whatever, it is my friend. Like me, it got soaked through, walking the last few miles into Wallsend in the footsteps of Hadrian. It also walked across the great bridge at Regensburg when slightly too much beer had been taken. You get the idea.

Recently it has been quarantined - it has become, with use, smelly and unappetising, so a wash was prescribed. We obtained the gizmo under discussion, and yesterday I fired up the dishwasher, specially. Cool, quick wash cycle - no lemon in the cleaning capsule [discuss?].

Seems to have been successful - it's still drying, but looks (and smells) far better. Now I'll have to come up with some special trips on which to wear it again. Sounds good.

My friend De Vries suggested that the device might be a Scold's Bridle (also known by various other names) - a medieval, cage-like device which was fitted around the head of a gossip or similar, with a tongue clamp. Horrible thing - I saw a few once, in a museum in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. No it's not one of those.

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

As a bit of evidence, here's a shot of my cap on tour, at the big castle in Salzburg, when I was younger, and still allowed to go on foreign holidays.


Monday 17 May 2021

Hooptedoodle #396a - Another Mystery Object...

 We have something of a tradition here at Chateau Foy of being very partial (I almost said "susceptible") to the occasional gizmo - an unlikely knick-knack which someone out there wishes to convince us all is the solution to some problem we never realised we had.

The Contesse Foy has recently obtained this. I had never even heard of such a thing before, but it comes with some positive reviews. So, as usual, I am left to wonder am I the only guy on the planet who has never come across one of these...?

Right, gentlemen - you may well have one, and use it daily, and you may be astounded that I am so ignorant as never to have seen one. So - I ask you, in a spirit of gentle quizzery, as a bit of innocent fun  - what do you think this is? 


I'll put up the answer in a day or so - please send in suggestions - the wackier the better. If you know what it is, that's fine too, though less interesting...

Oh - yes - it's made of flexible plastic - the glimpse of my hand in the upper photo gives an idea of scale, and the fact that I can lift it confirms that it is not heavy.

Saturday 15 May 2021

Battle of Santiago Martir, 11th April 1809

 Peninsular War Zoom game took place yesterday - I was the host and the French commander (Marshal Victor), trying to capture the crossings over the River Mezquino, defended by a force from the Spanish Army of the Centre, commanded by Stryker (Conde de Belvedere).

Gentusa - history makes little mention of this fellow, but he and his irregulars performed well at the Spanish defence of the Mezquino

The Spaniards had a hybrid force, including a contingent of irregulars under the command of the (little-known) Don Pedro de Gentusa. The French had Sebastiani's (French) Division and Leval's (German) Division, plus an attachment of cavalry from Latour Maubourg's reserve.

Commands & Colors rules, with my Ramekin modifications. I'll append the player instructions and scenario notes at the end of this post (if I remember). 10 Victory Points for victory - the French had bonus VPs available for capture of town hexes, bridge and fords at the town of Santiago.

Initial view from the French right flank. The French have the Confederation of the Rhine troops at this end, and the French troops at the far end. On the other side of the table, the Spanish left is rather improvised, with irregular troops supporting line and light infantry; at the far end, on the Spanish right, two battalions of Milicias Provinciales are tucked safely away behind the line.

First action (to everyone's surprise) was an opportunistic attack by the Spanish cavalry, on their right, which discomfited the French 15eme Chasseurs, but was driven off with heavy loss by the 4eme Dragons.

On the Spanish left, the guerilleros were brought forward early, to plug gaps in the line at the fords. At this point, a group of the irregulars is placed next to the elite Guardias Walones, which must have caused some disquiet to the guardsmen. Note that we used big red counters (for Zoom) to denote elite troops, black counters to denote the irregulars and the militia. Note also that the fords are a lovely shade of sky blue, as mentioned in Tripadvisor.
Back on the Spanish right, Colonel Ramos da Silva has brought his rather battered light cavalry back into the line.

The French cavalry, having won their first scrap (on points?), are now shaping up to have a second round.

On the French right, Leval's voltigeurs are not doing particularly well against the Spanish light regiments of Cataluña and Campo Mayor. The Spanish troops were shooting particularly well at this stage of the action...
Leval's line troops move up - Nassau troops to the fore (yellow flags), with Frankfurters (oh, how we laughed) and Hessians in support.

By some miscalculation, the 1st Battn of 2nd Nassau arrived at the fords all on their own...

They were duly pulled back a little, then suffered 3 retreat flags to enemy fire (no losses, just 3 retreat flags), so their retiral was increased to 4 hexes (that's 800 paces) in one turn, ending up behind a hill, very much out of breath. This, as far as I recall, is an all-comers' record for running away in my C&C games (that's for non-Spanish line troops, of course...) 

Here's a quick view of the town, which the French made a point of not attacking. In the town itself, you see the Regimiento Irlanda (light blue jackets) and a combined battalion of grenadiers. To the immediate left of the town you can see the Walloon Guards, who took some losses but were successfully rallied on two occasions, thanks to the presence of General Portago (a noted orator, apparently)
Now the Spanish left flank was re-organised, to prepare for a heavy attack from Leval's Germans, who were finally coming up to attack the fords
A drone shot of the 1/2nd Nassau, recovering their composure after their record retreat.

At this point, over on the French left, Latour Maubourg paid the Spanish cavalry a return visit, and eliminated them, and also forced the 1/Africa into square, but they were driven off by musket fire.

The French pulled back on the left flank, and did little further in this area - though a couple of battalions were sent to support Leval's men on the right.

It had taken him a while, but Leval now put together a co-ordinated attack on the Spanish left. By this time, the Walloon Guards had lost interest in General Portago's rallying speeches, and had left the field. The Spanish left was getting very stretched.

This little unit did a fine job on the Spanish left - the Lanceros de Carmona. Stryker made a series of little raids over the river (usually when the German advance had forgotten to keep back some spare Order Chips so that they could form square...). Like the guerrilleros, these lancers were a real nuisance, which is exactly what the Spanish commander was looking for. 

Here's a general view from behind the Spanish right flank at this stage of the action - at the far end, you can see the lancers being a nuisance, an activity in which they excelled.

...and now they've retreated again, behind the river.

Same moment, different view.

Now, as the guerrilleros do their best to cover the fords, the French bring forward some more cavalry - 26eme Dragons - to try to chase them away.

In the background, the dragoons have taken one of the fords. More of the irregulars prepare to meet them (note that the guerrilla units include priests, bagpipers, women, all sorts!) [Assortment of Qualiticast, SHQ, Falcata and HaT figures]

This is desperate defending now.

From the Spanish right, you can see the action is all at the far end...(!)

The dragoons now chased away the lancers, and the French had won the day.

Leval worked hard to keep bringing fresh units into the attack, but this final view shows how much punishment the Confederation boys had suffered (each white counter is 1/4 of the unit eliminated).

11.5 VPs to 4 sounds like a more comfortable victory than it felt like at the time! My compliments to Stryker and his army for putting up a gallant defence. An interesting game. It was an educational reminder of what the guerrillas are good at (being a nuisance, sniping at people, moving about quickly in difficult terrain) and what they are less good at (frontal combat with regulars, and sustaining heavy loss).

My sincere thanks to Stryker for an enjoyable game. I said I'd include part of the scenario notes, so here they are:

French Force (Marshal Victor)


From IV Corps

Division Leval

2e Nassau (2 bns), Régt de Frankfort (1), 4e Badois (2), 4e Hessois "Gross und Erbprinz" (2), 2 bns converged voltigeurs

Division Sebastiani

15e Ligne (2 bns), 66e Ligne (2), 70e Ligne (1), 82e Ligne (2), 86e Ligne (2), 2 bns converged voltigeurs


2 cos Art à Pied



From Division La Tour-Maubourg (from Reserve)

4e Dragons, 26e Dragons + 15 Chasseurs à Cheval (attached)


Total: 16 line bns [LN], 4 light bns [LT], 2 dragoons [HC], 1 light cavalry [LC], 2 foot batteries [FA]. (approx 15000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, 16 guns)



Spanish Army (advance guard under MdC Belvedere)


Division Del Parque

Africa (2 bns), Reina (2), combined grenadiers (1 - Africa, Reina), Ligero de Barbastro (1), Provinciales de Cordoba (1), Provinciales de Granada (1)


Division Portago

Burgos (2 bns), Irlanda (1), Guardias Wallonas (1), Ligero de Cataluña (1), Ligero de Campo Mayor (1)


2 foot batteries


Cavalry (Col Ramos da Silva)

Husares de Maria Luisa, Voluntarios de España, Lanceros de Carmona


Attached irregulars (Don Pedro de Gentusa)

4 "battalions" of irregular infantry raised by the Junta de Aragon.


Total: 7 line bns [LN], 1 bn grenadiers [GR], 1 bn foot guards [FG], 3 light bns [LT], 2 bns Provincial Militia [MI], 2 light cavalry {LC], 1 lancers [LA], 2 foot batteries [FA], 4 small units of irregulars [GU].

(approx 10400 infantry, 1000 cavalry, 12 guns + 1600 irregulars)



Scenario Narrative

It is April 1809. A number of well-known events from the Peninsular War have not happened, and as a result a French army is advancing from Madrid towards the Spanish Army of the Centre, which is commanded by Marcial de Campo Gregorio Garcia de Cuesta, and is camped in the region around Cuenca. Cuesta is 68 years old, and in poor health, and is in any case well-known for his difficulty in making decisions, and for concocting grandiose strategies which waste time and achieve little.


His army is in good shape, but his senior officers are mostly inexperienced and lacking in talent. The army is brave and well equipped, but many of the troops are new recruits, understanding of battlefield drill is generally weak. The particular weakness of this army is an inability to manoeuvre in action. Thus they will fight well enough in a defensive position, but are at a disadvantage if they are required to attack, or maintain any kind of effective fire while advancing. The Provincial Militia units are the worst, and the irregular "guerrilleros" provide by the local Junta are unreliable and usually incapable of any action more formal than a simple ambush.


[One odd quality that the Spanish soldiers have is that they do not expect to be victorious, but if defeated they will retreat from the field and be ready to fight again within a week or so. The French will constantly be embarrassed by this resilience. They are used to defeated enemies committing to a formal surrender, not dusting themselves off for the next round.]


The French army is under the command of Marshal Claude Victor-Perrin. On  the road to Cuenca, there is a crossing over the Rio Mezquino at the small town of Santiago Martir. The river is, for the most part, deep with steep banks, but at Santiago the road to Cuenca crosses the river over a good stone bridge - the only one for some leagues in either direction - and a couple of fords, and the river may be crossed for a mile or so on either side of the town (though not by artillery or wagons). The French are capable of constructing temporary bridges, but it will save them time if they can secure the crossings at Santiago.


Keen to secure the bridge before the Spaniards can destroy it, Marshal Victor himself leads an advanced guard - he has good quality German troops from the Confederation of the Rhine and veteran French troops of Sebastiani's IV Corps, and he has a small contingent of cavalry. His army is confident, since they are superior in most respects to the Spaniards, and their commanders are incomparably better. [The French despise the Spaniards, the Spaniards hate the French.]


Acting with uncharacteristic haste, Cuesta sends the Conde de Belvedere with a vanguard to seize Santiago before the French can get there, and to protect the river crossing, and so, when Victor arrives, he is surprised to find the little town and the hills beside it are already occupied by the enemy. Belvedere's force has been augmented by the addition of about 1600 irregular troops under the command of the little-known Don Pedro de Gentusa, a local land-owner - these irregular soldiers are fiercely patriotic, but erratic in performance - many of the "officers" being priests or community leaders.

Saturday 8 May 2021

Still in the Boxes... more rarities?

 Since I haven't yet tidied up the ex-Eric Knowles boxes or put them back in The Upstairs Cupboard, I did a little more digging around, and came up with these, which might be of interest to people, like me, who care for fossils:

Here are some very dashing Scots Greys - I can almost hear the cinema organ. From the general style, I would guess these might be Alberkens (the official catalogue number is BNC 2, which I have never seen, even in a photo), but these are mounted on sheet metal bases, and - though badly faded now - the paint job seems to have been pretty fancy at one time. No markings - someone did a unit of these for Eric.
For comparison here are some French cuirassiers: (L to R) a couple of Greenwood & Ball, a Hinton Hunt OPC (FN 102) and an Alberken OPC (FNC 3). The Greenwood & Balls mostly have sheet metal bases, and appear to have been improved - I can hear the shouts of "Tradition!" from here... 

...but no - hold your horses (!) - one of them still has the original, cast base, which says "MADE IN ENGLAND by Greenwood & Ball" - this doesn't show up too well in my picture, but, if you want to see it more clearly, place a piece of thin paper against the computer screen, and rub gently with a soft pencil...
So, having established that there are some (tweaked) G&Bs present, here are a couple more - this time dragoons, again with sheet metal bases. These figures are very slightly tall and lean in comparison with Hinton Hunt (for example), but fit in reasonably well, as the pictures show, so - if you are more knowledgeable than I am about G&B (and most carbon-based life forms are) - then you can have a guess what period and range these come from. They seem too big for the three-quarter-inch diorama series. Anyway, G&B they certainly are, and 20mm too.
Here's a one-off - this is another of these improved OPC mounted figures which I suspect are both cast and enhanced by Mr Gilder - note that this is another of these distinctive, Airfix-style horses. This is very similar to the tweaked Grenadier à Cheval which started this whole study project, but this chap has gold epaulettes and a bicorn, and he has no musket, so I think he's supposed to be an officer for the mounted grenadiers. Because you won't see many of these around, I've done 3 views of him.

Good grief - I thought I was ugly until I saw him. A number of the PG (?) figures show some corrosion of the areas of the figure which were treated with flesh-coloured paint - I've seen this quite a lot on old figures - I wonder what the paint was? Some lead in the pigment?

I also dug out, for a photograph, some samples of an ex-Eric unit of the 2eme Eclaireurs de la Garde, which have unmarked bases (in fact the bases may be sheet metal), and they look sort of like Alberken, though I suggest that they don't look very like the official FNC 4. I have plans to restore these fellows back to duty condition, though the 2eme Eclaireurs had a very limited service record, and have a very good chance of not being required for action very often.

I hope you enjoyed that lot - time for me to get properly tidied up and get on with a sensible weekend - I hope to paint some WSS figures today, but we seem to have a North-East wind again, and the attic is perishing cold!

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

"I wonder what history will say about them, eh? You couldn't pass me the loofah, could you, Soult?"
Completely different topic - my DVD for the 1970 Waterloo movie has to be just about my greatest buy ever - I think I paid £3.90 for it, years ago, and I must have watched it over a hundred times. However, I observe that there is a BluRay version available. Now, I use a BluRay player, which definitely improves the quality of the picture from my DVD, but I was thinking about buying the BluRay disc. Some of the reviews on Amazon are really pretty terrible - subtitles in random languages, all sorts of issues.

A question: does anyone have a BluRay disc of Waterloo, and is it any good? I see there is a "Special Edition" to be released on 14th June this year - I feel I ought to get a copy!