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


Monday, 22 November 2021

Another Old Wargaming Video - Southern Television

 This seems to me to be the sort of video that everyone with any interest in the subject will have seen, but it's new to me, and I thought it might be worth an airing here.


This was posted on Youtube by Caliver Books a couple of years ago. It looks like a clip from the early 1980s, and it features a brief potted history of (local) Southampton manufacturer Miniature Figurines, followed by a "how to play wargames" section featuring a very young Iain Dickie.

Pick the bits you like; I was impressed by the very weird opening sequence, of lead castings being melted, run backwards (which is satisfyingly surreal, and will be a big hit with all entropy fans), and by the presenter in the end section, Fred Dinenage, whom I vaguely remember as the host of kids' science programmes, including an explain-everything show entitled How?, which ran in various manifestations from 1966 to recent times. Also, of course, Dave Higgs working on 15mm figure masters with a soldering iron is pretty compulsive viewing.

The Bold Fred visits wargaming matters such as "why?" (which is a relative of "How?"), the role of dice in the game and the important issue of how wargamers' wives are likely to be hostile to their hobby.  

Sunday, 21 November 2021

WSS: Half a Pint of Cavalry

 "They will say what men say now, Sire: that you have extended the limits of refurbishment."

Almost two years ago, I bought the 20mm part of Eric Knowles' WSS collection, which gave me a flying start into a new project, a new period.

For about 18 months I have been working away to refurbish as much of that collection as made sense; since I had also acquired a veritable mountain of good unpainted castings, and as the number of finished units becomes sufficient to have a game, the pressures have changed. The last refurb job I did (last week) was enjoyable, and I'm pleased with the results, but if I'm honest I have to admit that it might have been easier and probably better to start again with fresh castings.

Also, I have to face up to the fact that under the couch in the attic room I have 3 large boxes of painted candidates for refurbishment, and I haven't really looked at them for about 9 months. Something has changed in the priorities; also, some of these remaining ex-Eric figures are pretty battered, and some of them have uniforms which do not fit with my project. Thus I've decided to draw a line, starting with the cavalry. As from yesterday, I have ice-cream tubs full of Eric's old figures, soaking the old bases off.

 
Massed footbath

I also have some ready de-based figures soaking in the Clean Spirit jar, let's get them back to bare metal and check the castings are nice and clean. Once the ice-cream-tub footbath has done its work, I'll remove the rest of the figures from their bases and put them in the Clean Spirit.

 
Half a pint of cavalry

I have no shortage of soldiers to paint, so there's no point in hanging on to the scruffier end of Eric's painted armies if I'm not going to do anything useful with them.

This also calls to mind the possibility that some of my early restoration work for the WSS was not quite up to the standard I would be aiming for now. That's OK - I'm not worried about that - my earliest refurbs used the very best of Eric's troops, so I'm happy with them.

If I'm going to re-use old figures, let's make it sensible and productive!

Friday, 19 November 2021

Suppe und Blitzen - A Memorable Away Day

 This week I was very kindly invited to take part in another of Stryker's splendid Muskets & Marshals games, so I trundled Up North for a festival of Hinton Hunt wonders from Ian's collection.

My ally for the day was The Archduke, who had travelled rather further than I, and it was only proper that he should command the Austro-Russian force on our left, while I took charge of the Prussians on the right. The scenario set us the task of attacking Stryker's brave Frenchmen. The game was without any historical prototype, and our working title was The 3rd Battle of the Hut.  

I shall not attempt a full report here, since Stryker will certainly do an excellent job of that in his official Bulletin, and in any case his photos are always far better than mine. Let it suffice to say that the Allies won by a margin (which would have been larger if I had managed to avoid sacrificing most of the Prussian cavalry), that the hospitality and the rations were as excellent as usual, and a most enjoyable trip leaves me only the pleasant task of thanking Stryker and his good lady wife for their kindness and generosity.

I include a few of my own pictures, to give just a flavour of the action.

 
General view at the outset. from behind the Allies' left flank

 
The Prussians get rolling on the right flank, including an exciting flanking move by the light cavalry, over the top of the ridge on the extreme right; below you see the Archduke's more stately approach, though his cavalry attacked very effectively on our left

 
Apologies for including this shot, but there was no way I was going to miss it out! Here you see the debacle of the French Carabiniers à Cheval, who suffered badly from a (rather lucky) volley of canister shot...

 
My Prussian light cavalry had now outflanked the entire French army, but found themselves faced by the Guard Horse Grenadiers - it did not go well! 
 
 
Here the Russian Hussars set about some French line Chasseurs à Cheval - I must say that the Archduke's cavalry was more effective than mine throughout!
 
 
A general view from Allied left, as the Archduke's infantry moves into action towards the farm, and his cavalry is doing excellent work on the flank
 
 
Not only did I reduce the margin of our victory by losing cavalry, but a couple of general officers fell too - this is Gneisenau, but we also lost Blücher shortly afterwards. I'm confident that a brisk rubdown with gin and rhubarb will get them both back into action. Below you see the Austro-Russian lads looping around the French right flank, while their infantry attacks the farm
 

 
This is the bit of the French army we were at pains to avoid - a battalion of converged line grenadiers, backed up by two columns of the Old Guard
 
 
Situation late in the action, with the Prussians running out of steam on the Allied right, and the French reserve going on the offensive in the centre

 
Turn 8 is ended, the game is over and it is time for a totting-up of Victory Points. Points were gained for taking the farm and the ridge position, as well as for eliminating enemy units. The game was tremendous fun, though I am left to ponder the stats - the Archduke didn't lose a single unit - not even a skirmish group; my principal role was obviously to keep the French in with a chance!

Oh yes - Suppe und Blitzen is a reference to one of the visual entertainments of the day, as Stryker took on the task of blitzing the butternut soup with a formidable electric machine, displaying great courage and skill. I was deeply impressed by this - I would certainly have managed to decorate the kitchen with the soup.


 

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

WSS: Webb's Foot

 

 
Webb's Foot. Yes, it is a very childish joke, but I've had good mileage out of this one; I've managed to exasperate most of my friends with it over the last week or two, and it's still quacking me up. Oh be still, my aching sides...

The final British battalion for this first phase of my WSS project has now been refurbished and is ready for the Duty Boxes. This has been a rather more challenging refurb job - the figures were from various sources - some were excellently painted, but in a style different from my own, and rather a long time ago; some were fairly roughly painted, and some were unpainted castings drafted in to fill gaps in command and provide grenadiers. Quite a bit of thought went into how to aim for a compromise style which would not clash with the rest of the armies!

Job done, anyway. These gentlemen are Webb's Regt of Foot, also known (for historic reasons) as the Queen's Regt.


A couple of units of Horse are being worked on as I write, and I have to do something about General Officers, and then that's it for now for the Brits. A group photo will be forthcoming, but not for a few weeks, I think. 


Thursday, 11 November 2021

WSS: British Artillery Finished

 These chaps had been hanging around unpainted for a while, but my British Artillery is now complete (for Phase One, that is). I always find artillery slow and fiddly to paint up - lots of odd pieces of equipment and inconvenient poses - but I took a couple of late sessions over these and here they are. Last night, respecting the lateness of the hour, my painting music was an album of harp concertos performed by Marisa Robles, so I may always associate these fellows with some delicate and tinkly noises - maybe a little incongruous for the Ordnance Men? Suitable Artillery Music suggestions welcome...


The figures and the guns are by Irregular. I find their 20mm products useful, since they are about the only Marlburian range which will mix at all well with my Les Higgins armies, they provide a useful touch of variety, and often they are the only source of certain things. From a compatibility point of view, I wish their horses were just a little bigger, but a number of their horses will soon come into their own for mounting my French dragoons - at last the differential horse sizes will come in useful!

My new gunners are appropriately bright, shiny and toy-like - such are the rules for this project! I have to say that sometimes the Irregular chaps look a bit sketchy at the outset, but they invariably paint up well. Very useful, anyway. I can also use Lancer's artillery pieces and carts, which are very nice, but definitely not their 20mm figures.

Still on the bottle-tops are Webb's Regt of Foot, a refurb batch - they should be ready Saturday or Sunday; no particular hurry, I tell myself. Getting there. By Jove - getting there.

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Hooptedoodle #412 - Personal Audio Time-Capsule

This is a very odd post, even by my standards. I have been sorting out some old archives of sound recordings - all manner of stuff, and I found two surviving examples of nature/wildlife recordings I made 20 years ago, which I have now put in a secure library until I think what to do with them.

I moved to my present address, which is on a farm on the South East coast of Scotland, in August 2000. At the time I was living on my own. I was commuting daily into Edinburgh, so during my first Winter here I only ever saw my house and garden in daylight at the weekends.

I was fascinated by the garden birds here. I had also acquired a good collection of the nature recordings of the Canadian, Dan Gibson, which were sold in airport gift shops in the USA under the general heading of Relaxation Tapes. I found them very therapeutic - this was a stressful time in my private life, and they helped me to sleep! 
 
I had a very good portable tape recorder, and decided I might try some nature recording here as a new hobby venture. I had good mics and everything, so I had a few sessions, which were very pleasing, but it became obvious very quickly that I was going to be frustrated by the number of low-flying microlights coming down the coast here from the airfield at East Fortune. Reluctantly, I shelved the project, and - of course - never went back to it. I have one surviving session which I listen to occasionally - about an hour, in 2 half-hour files, recorded one Sunday morning, 11th March 2001 - that's 20 years ago, and as it happens exactly 6 months before 9/11 (the Day the World Changed Forever).

 
The sun coming up - my garden photographed in March 2001. I note that my garage door was blue in those days (I had forgotten), and a number of mature trees and the electricity pole have disappeared since then. The recordings were made just off the left of the picture, next to the garage...

The recording was originally stereo analog, but I converted it to digital and made some mp3 transcriptions because the small file size is handy, and for nature sounds the quality is probably good enough. I listen to it from time to time because it's a lovely, relaxing thing to hear (at low volume, while reading, for example), and also because it's interesting for me to observe the definite changes in the ambient sounds over 20 years. If I tried it again now, the recording would be swamped by wood pigeons and collared doves - back in the day, there was much lively chatter from blackbirds, greenfinches, jackdaws and all the smaller chaps. Fabulous. Greenfinches have just about disappeared here now.

I set up my mics at the bottom of the garden - there is a wood beyond the wall - and left them to get on with it. Since there seemed to be some fighting going on, for the second half hour I shifted the mics a little further from the wood - nearer to the farm lane, to tone it down a bit. It's a Sunday, but there was noticeably less motor traffic 20 years ago. You can hear occasional parties of ladies on horses trooping past on the concrete road - it takes about 5 minutes to walk here from the stables, so when you hear horses it will probably be 5 minutes past the hour, paying parties of riders setting off every hour from 10am onwards!

At least one microlight appears during the recording (must have been sparse traffic that day); my friend Ian, who is a flyer, tells me that the engines in microlights now sound different, though I don't know what the changes have been.

Also, during the recording there are occasional high-flying airliners passing over, heading from the south east - straight over our farm. These would be planes from Amsterdam and Frankfurt, headed for Canada and Seattle. The transatlantic flights from London used to go out over Ireland, and of course we never saw any return flights, since they came in on the Jet Stream, directly West to East, rather than on the Great Circle. It seems to me that we very rarely see passenger planes flying over here now. Are there less of them? Do they go a different way now? Am I just too stupid to notice? Whatever, it used to be a commonplace here to see vapour trails against the blue sky, coming over the Cheviots at 35,000 feet and straight over here - I seldom see them now. Maybe this is a pandemic thing.

 
Another photo - same day. This is Horace, my 1989 Land Rover 90, next to the gate onto the lane. Horace was a lot of fun, but it cost a fortune to keep him on the road! [An LR 90 was what they called Defenders before they were Defenders]

In case you are mad enough to want to listen to it, the recording - my personal Time Capsule! - is on Google Drive. If you click on this link, you should be allowed to open a folder which contains 2 half-hour files - a Sunday morning in my garden, 20 years ago, horses walking past and the lot. If you know your birds, see who was there! If you wish to download it that's OK, but please don't abuse the share rights!


Monday, 8 November 2021

Hooptedoodle #411 - the Thrill of Waiting for a Courier

 Continuing theme, I guess. This particular tale dates back to 20th October, and has a happy(ish) ending, but, for once, is almost a sympathy vote for couriers. Whatever else, it reminds me that I would hate to have such a job, and that we really should be grateful that such an overwhelming proportion of goods bought online arrives safely.


To set the context, I live on a farm in a very quiet area of Eastern Scotland. My postcode is shared with a few dozen other houses, over an area of about 1000 acres (no, really), so this is The Land Where Sat-Navs Struggle. The particular hamlet where I live, as the small number of readers who have visited me may be aware, is especially challenging, since the house numbers were allocated as the buildings became residences. Sometimes this means the date the house was built, sometimes it is the date it was converted to a house from something else. Thus, for example, a walk around the square of cottages which forms the heart of our little community will reveal that No. 17 (which was formerly a granary, I understand) is between Nos. 10 and 11. There are other examples of randomness, accumulated over 150 years or so; this is child's play to an experienced local postie, but for weary couriers from faraway, logical places like Edinburgh it must be very trying.

One (occasional) result is that the driver will fail to find the correct address altogether. Another (more common) is that parcels are delayed; a self-employed, gigging driver paid by number of deliveries will spend his time more profitably delivering several parcels to a sizeable village like Whitekirk than trying to find one house in the middle of nowhere on a farm. Frequently the parcel will be handed on to whichever poor chap has the following day's shift - in such cases, the official explanation in the courier firm's online log can make entertaining reading:

THE HOUSE WASNT THERE

THE ADDRESS IS WRONG

etc

Sometimes, alarmingly, it might say 

DELIVERED TO HOUSE WITH BROWN DOOR AND LEFT IN SHED

which is not so good if you live in a house with a white door.

By and large, things go surprisingly well. Drivers who have been here before are usually all right, but there seem to be a lot of new delivery drivers. Maybe that is where the UK's vanishing taxi drivers have gone.

A positive new development is that now you usually get a photo of the parcel sitting in the open door of the delivery address, which is a result of social-distancing measures introduced for Covid, but is also the first form of satisfactory evidence we've had (signatures are legally meaningless, apparently).

Righto - enough, already - back to the 20th October. I had ordered some fairly routine stuff from Amazon (shave gel, for a start...), and I received an email from DPD, the courier, announcing that they had my parcel and that Derek would deliver it between 10am and 10pm. Good lad, Derek - it was a dreadfully wet day.

I received a succession of meaningless updates during the day, all to the general effect that My Main Man Derek was on his way, and eventually, long after dark, I got one final email announcing that Derek had delivered my parcel, and was the delivery great or not so great?

Ah - it might have been great, Derek, but it was not here. Not having a parcel to celebrate with, I downloaded the delivery photo, and there it was...

 
My parcel, but not my  house, and not my legs

I messaged a couple of neighbours, but no-one knew anything. Eventually I put on my waterproof jacket and Tilley hat, found a flashlight with a good battery, and set off for a short walk.

Found it - I recognised the doormat, and there, sitting on it, getting very wet, was my parcel - it was correctly addressed to No. 13, but had been delivered to No. 3. It was very dark and wet, and the driver must have been very fed up. I knocked at No. 3 - no answer, so I took possession of my package and trotted home.

In subsequent conversation with the occupant of No. 3, who is a very pleasant young lady, she said

"I told him this was the wrong address - he must have just left it there."

Hmmm. Maybe he did. Alternatively, maybe she realised it was the wrong address after he'd gone, and just stuck it on the doormat in case he came back.

A small mystery, which is of no consequence, but consider the odds. An employed driver knowingly abandons a parcel at the wrong house? - maybe. Or my neighbour, interrupted while watching a TV movie (or whatever), assumes it is someone else's problem, and abandons the package to the elements, though she could have kept it for me, or let me know, or walked the 300 metres or whatever it is to deliver it?

It doesn't matter at all, but it amuses me that, in her heart, the neighbour knows that I know that she knows that I know that she didn't do very well. No hard feelings, and nothing further will be said, but I have a moral edge...

 

Saturday, 6 November 2021

Les Higgins - Some Background Trivia [independent verification needed...?]

 I have been collecting, painting and fighting with the little products of Les Higgins Miniatures for about 50 years. I am still a devout fan, although they do bring some frustrations to the serious collector and they are regarded as something of a niche, off-mainstream manufacturer now.

 
The ensign from set MP19, officers and NCOs for the Malburian period. They have an unsurpassed elegance, I think, but they are small for 20mm - these chaps are 1/76, which means they don't fit with plastics!

There is, as always, a nice little biography at Vintage20Mil, and I had some useful discussions with Clive Smithers about LHM and the successor firm, Phoenix Model Developments. I was aware that Les was primarily a sculptor, and part of his background was in the design and casting of pewter figures for use on sporting trophies and so on, though my knowledge is very sketchy and I had never seen examples.

A while ago, a friend sent me a link which I have now (at long last) got around to checking out. It seems that Les was also a keen archer, a member of the Northampton club. In 1957, around the time when he was producing his first "subscription series" drop-cast ECW 20mm figures, he was commissioned by the Countess Manvers* to make a 2-foot tall statue of Robin Hood, as an archery prize to be known as the Thoresby Trophy, competed for each year in the grounds of Thoresby Hall, Nottinghamshire, as an attraction to raise the profile of the estate at Thoresby Park.

 
The Thoresby Trophy for archery, sculpted by Les Higgins, and first competed for in 1958

My primary source here is a memoir about a gentleman named Peter Bond, which you may find here, in the annals of Northampton Archery Club. Apart from the pictures, the narrative mentions that Les and his wife, Pat, had a son, Gary, who also became a noted sculptor.

 
The Chairman's Trophy, also the property of Northampton Archery Club, which was sculpted by Les Higgins' son, Gary, who was a keen archer and member of the club

I publish this post with familiar caveats - I have no permission to use the club's material, so if any objection is raised I may pull this at short notice(!). Also, of course, my understanding of this may be complete bunkum, based around the coincidence of there being two sculptors from Northampton with the same name in the 1950s - I doubt it, but it's possible!


* The Countess Manvers (Marie-Louise Roosevelt Pierrepont, née Butterworth, 1889-1984) is quite an interesting character - she studied art extensively and had something of a reputation as an amateur  watercolourist. She moved to Thoresby in 1939. 

 
Countess Manvers at work in London in 1962


Thursday, 4 November 2021

WSS: More Brits - The Earl of Orkney's Foot

 Another new unit ready for the Duty Boxes. This one very nicely painted for me by Count Goya, the famous international polymath and part-time owner of warships. This regiment contains a number of pre-owned figures which needed an amount of refurbishment, while the command and the grenadiers are all unused castings which required painting from scratch.

Normally I regard refurb work as the dirty end of my wargame projects, so I do it myself, but Goya is a top-class refurbisher in his own right, and he has done a lovely job here.



These chaps, then, are the Earl of Orkney's Foot, ready for service in 1703-4. As is customary with the British army at this time, one of the problems is who they are and what we might call them. This lot could also be the Royal Regiment, or (informally) they might be referred to as the Royal Scots, but definitely not the 1st Foot until nearly 50 years later (though it probably helps to identify which regiment we are talking about).

So why (I hear you asking, as I did myself) does a Royal regiment not wear dark blue facings, in proper Royal style? It seems that Royal regiments only had blue facings at this time if they were part of the English establishment, and in 1703 these fellows were definitely Scottish, so blue facings were not a consideration until after the Act of Union in 1707.

That's quite enough about that. 

The weather was better today, though we did go through a brief charade here during which the sun went behind a cloud each time I emerged from my front door. That's not a problem - I simply sighed patiently, and waited for it to come out again. You have to demonstrate that you are not distressed, and the weather gets bored quickly.

Figures, as ever, are Les Higgins 20mm, and the mounted officer (though not his horse) is from Irregular.

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

WSS: Some New Brits

 Four new units based and flagged yesterday.

First of all, some lovely paintwork by Lee; I am very pleased to welcome these two units:

 
1st Foot Guards

 
Schomberg's Horse

At a much more mundane standard, there are two refurbished units of my own:

Royal Regt of Ireland (Hamilton's Foot)

 
The Buffs (Charles Churchill's Foot)

It is a gloomy sort of day today. Too damp to go outside, and the light in the attic isn't really adequate for indoor shots. I tried a few flash photos, but the gloss varnish makes it hard to get any sense out of these. I am reminded that a light box is one of the numerous projects with which I have made no progress this year!

As always, the figures are mostly Les Higgins/PMD. The mounted command figures are Irregular, but the remainder, and all the horses, are Higgins. More British troops in the pipeline, so I'll make an attempt at a decent group photo when they arrive. The lighting people have been warned.