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

Saturday 30 April 2022

WSS: Getting There - Photos to Date

 I still have a fair amount to do in order to complete the first phase of my 20mm WSS project, but I am pleased with progress to date. I've now smartened up my master list for the collection, including a full set of photos (as at this morning!).

Some of the earlier acquisitions were refurbs which I think I would sniff at now, but overall I'm very satisfied with what has been done thus far - the quality is definitely improving as the proportion of units painted from scratch increases, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank, once again, all those kind souls who have sourced figures, provided consultancy and uniform advice, painted and refurbed figures and generally kept me motivated - I am very grateful. And, of course, I'd like to pay tribute once again to the late Eric Knowles, whose vintage collection got the whole thing going for me, and got me off to a flying start.

 I have stuck a back-up copy of my WSS catalogue on Google Drive - if you would like to have a squint at the photos, you should find them here - if the link doesn't work, please let me know. Just the thing for a slideshow!

I still have to work on general staff, especially for the British and French, the French have 4 infantry battalions, 4 cavalry units and 2 of dragoons to come, I have a few gaps to fill in the Austrian and Bavarian armies, and I haven't even started thinking about the [small, debated] Dutch force. But - importantly, a lot has been done. Enough to keep up my enthusiasm, and the project has helped to keep me at least a little sane during the pandemic!

Thursday 28 April 2022

The Painting Desk Is Not Well

 At the start of lockdown, I bought an extra painting desk, for installation in the attic, and it has served me well since then. Much of my WSS work has been done on it.

The desk, I believe, dates from about 1920, and it has obviously not enjoyed the summer temperatures in my attic. One of the side panels has come unglued, dividing into the two boards from which it was originally made. The stuff in the drawers weighs a ridiculous amount, and the desk itself is very heavy, so I am constantly waiting for it to dismantle itself completely some time soon, which will certainly be messy and possibly dangerous - since dismantling itself might involve a vertical translation downstairs.

Split from top to bottom, but still holding together. Not reassuring.


I've been trying not to think about this too carefully, but have decided that something had better be done - apart from the functional advantages, this would give me one less thing to worry about.

The other side is more shaded, and shows no damage - if you have exceptional eyesight, you may be able to see the join, as Eric Morecambe used to say

I have arranged for a friend to come round tomorrow with a 24-inch bar clamp and some proper woodworking glue. This friend is a useful chap, whose hobbies include constructing and repairing light aircraft. I'll get ready by stripping out all the drawers and removables, and we can have a trial shot with the clamp. I can see evidence of some dowels in there, so if the clamp pulls it back together nicely we can have a go with the glue.

If things do not go so well, you may read about me in the papers.

***** Late Edit (Day 2 of the Episode) *****

Well, Ian the 'plane builder couldn't come to help, since he has a carburettor in bits, and his machine has to pass a test by Monday. He did, however, lend me a couple of big joinery clamps, and I got busy on my own - just a flask of tea and some Allen Hinds on the music machine. 

This is definitely going to hurt - note spare (wargame basing) MDF pads to protect the timber

The gap is pretty much closed, and the glue was still squeezing out a bit. I'll leave this until tomorrow, to allow the glue to set hard, before I shift the clamps

My trial run almost got the gap closed, so I reckoned that in the heat of the real thing I would get it even better; I slackened it off again, applied the glue, and really went crazy on the tightening effort. Not only did it pull up nicely, but the glue continued to squeeze out for a half hour afterwards, so presumably it was still shifting a little.

I'll leave it to dry until tomorrow before I touch anything - apart from a preliminary clean up - I've wiped most of the spare glue off, though it will need a good clean and polish later - that is the least of my worries! I suspect that the gap will open again when I remove the clamps, but I've lost nothing by trying, so I shall keep an open mind...

That's all for now. I can't offer you any tea, but here's a bit of Allen Hinds to tighten your clamp - with a little help from Randy Crawford...




Wednesday 27 April 2022

Hooptedoodle #425 - Well Off-Topic: A Needle in a Very Old Haystack

Openers - Irrelevant Rants

 Before I get into this particular digression, l'd like to present a couple of current brief rants (gentle, I hope!), which are off on yet another tangent:

There is a general theme here, which might be that school education is lacking in a couple of useful basics - in particular, there seems to be a general lack of understanding of a couple of situations...

(1) Many motorists seem to believe that if they are driving 5 feet behind the car in front on the motorway then they are travelling faster and making better progress than if they were, say, 50 feet behind. No - sorry - this is idiotic and dangerous (and may be related to the widespread belief that joining a rugby scrum at the very edge of the luggage carousel at the airport will somehow enable you to get your bags more quickly). Dumb.

(2) A current favourite of mine: radio commentators on football matches will invariably say something like, "so United are now 2-nil up, and if Rashford had scored that sitter after 3 minutes they would be 3-nil up". No - it doesn't work like that. If Rashford's (hypothetical) shot after 3 minutes had gone in then the whole game from that point on would have been completely different, and, in this completely different game, United might now be still just 1-nil up, or might even be 6-1 down, or the Earth could have been destroyed by an asteroid, though this is less likely. Commentators are supposedly paid for their work, so it would be better if they smartened up a bit.

OK - rants over...

Main Act - A Needle in a Very Old Haystack

I have got used to the idea that, given the Internet, it's possible to find out all sorts of interesting things - all we need is for the data to exist. If you go back a certain time, of course, the data is necessarily sparse, and we are losing our instincts of what to do if Google doesn't find what we are looking for. At least I am.

Our present emergence from the dreaded Covid restrictions means that, for the first time in over 2 years, I can actually go back to playing music in the company of others, maybe even for the entertainment of others. This is heady stuff, so I'm feeling my way into this - starting off by checking to see if my former collaborators are still alive, and remember me...

One possible (lightweight) project is sparked by an acquaintance of mine (whom I shall call Jeff, since that is, in fact, his name), who is a great enthusiast for the works of George Brassens, the French chansonnier, and is a lifelong disciple and walking expert on the whole subject.

George Brassens (1921-1981)

If you are not familiar with Brassens then I'll respectfully suggest that you might check him out. For insular Brits, he might be noted as the man who inspired our own Jake Thackray.

Here's a sample, from a film soundtrack made in about 1964:

 Right - back to Jeff. Jeff intends to present some occasional entertainments featuring Brassens songs (Jeff lived in Bordeaux for a while, and his wife, in fact, is French), and he asked me would I play second guitar for him. That sounds like a fun project - the music is pleasing, and not particularly complex - so I agreed to give it a go. If we get to the Edinburgh Fringe then I may wish to renegotiate my wages, but we'll address that as and when.

Jeff asked me if I was familiar with Brassens' work, and I said not in much detail, but I had heard some of his songs and liked the general style. I also added that I had seen Brassens in concert, when I was a kid, and that is where my story really begins. 

Jeff politely but confidently put me straight on this - that it was very unlikely that I had seen old Georges in Britain, since it is a well known fact (apparently) that he only appeared twice over here - once in London and once in Cardiff - and that was all. However, I was confident that I had seen him at a concert for schools in Liverpool in about 1961/62 - I remembered the concert pretty clearly, though I wasn't sure where it was staged, and Brassens is not easily mistaken for anyone else.

Partly to avoid having to write off my recollection as further evidence of advancing dementia, I did a bit of research. I contacted a few surviving contemporaries of mine from school, and even put a note on the Facebook page for our former pupils, and...

I got one hit!

One other old fogey was present at the concert and remembered it. My school sent along a contingent from the more serious French classes, and we joined parties from other schools for a special show (presumably sponsored by some worthy educational group) which took place in the old school hall of Liverpool Collegiate School, which was in Shaw Street (which is almost Everton). We have no real evidence - no selfies, no signed programmes - but we both know it happened. We were there, man.

Suitably Victorian engraving of the Collegiate's main school hall - now that's a proper school!

It does occur to me that Brassens' political profile (a self-professed anarchist) and the adult humour in his songs would make him an odd choice for an improving concert for teenagers. I also remember that the senior girls from some of the "posher" schools present (Belvidere, Aigburth Vale, Blackburne House) made a big deal out of laughing at the jokes in his songs, which suggests that either they had far better French teachers than we did, or else they were bluffing.

Jeff is not at all put out about any of this, since there is a possibility of his making a name for himself by re-writing the official history of Brassens, but we could use a little more certainty in the evidence. I'm not sure what more I can do at present, so I'll leave him to get on with it.

I am left to ponder what on earth this was. It is impossible that Georges would have travelled to the UK in those days to play a single concert in a school in Everton, which leads me to:

(1) Maybe he did the schools concert as a matinee, on the back of a proper concert he was putting on locally - this suggests that the local concert was part of some kind of national tour, which - if it happened - would certainly be known to his historians. 

Or, possibly

(2) The concert was part of a tour playing to schools, which seems a weird thing to have taken place, and, if it were true, would again be well-known to his followers.

I think you get the germ of the matter - I have run out of ideas. I could have attempted to make contact with the Collegiate people, but the school as it exists today has very little continuous history with the 1960s, and to contact actual former pupils of the school of a suitable vintage I would have to join their Facebook page, which I am not allowed to do. I suppose I could contact the guy who organises the Facebook page, though - hmmm.

Anyway, it was interesting to rake among the compost for a while, but I think I'll leave Jeff with a small conundrum he can think about!

Saturday 23 April 2022

WSS: Bring On More Shiny Horses


Two more new French regiments for the WSS, freshly based and flagged, and very nicely painted by Lee (thank you, sir). These are the regiments Mestre de Camp Général (red flag, yellow shabraques) and La Baume (green flag, green shabraques). As ever, castings are Les Higgins/PMD 20mm, though the command groups are Irregular on Higgins horses.

Friday 8 April 2022

WSS: A General Smarten-Up (you can't get the staff, you know)

 Last night I did some more work on tidying up my small pool of WSS General Officers, so that I can manage to put on a decent-sized game when required,

These fellows come from various backgrounds - some were specially painted, others are survivors from other people's collections which I bought in, already painted.

Most of them, in fact, were odd officers liberated from Eric Knowles' armies - often Les Higgins generals who were serving as regimental colonels in the cavalry. Some of the charging officers are actually from Higgins's ECW range, but can happily carry on in service - what is 60 years among so many?

The coloured mini-dice are also useful for identifying which army a figure belongs to - in many cases, these fellows are up for grabs, and can (and will) serve for anyone who needs them. Paint quality ranges from beautifully professional to, well, pretty industrial. Some of these chaps have obvious affiliations - the guy in the yellow coat, back left, usually defaults to the role of Maffei, because that was the regiment he was liberated from...

I am hoping for a fresh supply of new generals within a few weeks - these chaps will not have cuirasses - my French and British commanders are not allowed cuirasses! In the meantime I spent a little time smartening the bases, touching-up damaged paintwork and so on.

This current collection of leaders is quite an odd bunch, really - few of the uniforms stand up to expert examination - in some ways they feel a bit like the "personality" leaders in Charge and The War Game. I am relying heavily on that well-worn phrase, the senior officers tended to wear what they liked - often civilian garments.

Good enough for me.

Friday 1 April 2022

WSS: Strelets - the briefest of flirtations.


Strelets set No. 253

Very strange week for my WSS project. I've been playing about with ideas for a couple of French dragoon units, complete with stocking caps. The big problem in my scale is the command element - especially mounted drummers!

My most recent thinking has been along the lines of using Irregular dragoons - they manufacture 20mm dragoons in stocking caps - at a pinch I could have the officers in tricorns - I understand that both kinds of headgear were issued. The drummer is a scary idea. I've been experimenting with conversion possibilities, none of which were pleasing. After a lot of fiddling about, I sat down to have a really close look at odd figures I have here.

My WSS armies are primarily Les Higgins/PMD 20mm from the 1970s - small figures - 20mm to the eye. Only Irregular will work with these; plastics are too big, as are the very nice 1/72 metal offerings from Minairons and Hagen. I reckon the Higgins boys are about 1/76, in old money, and in this scale a millimetre on the hat brim size is very obvious. Fine visual tolerances. I have been talking myself up, therefore, to use Irregular, and there is a value-added pinch to this, since I could use some of my spare Irregular horses, which are appreciably smaller than the Higgins horses I use throughout this project. Robert Hall says that French dragoon horses were normally about 12 hands, as opposed to 17 hands for cavalry horses, so this is looking like a sensible possibility.

OK. I put that idea on hold while I just checked if anything better presented itself. 

I have in my bits drawer a box of the Strelets "Early War" WSS Fusiliers. Very nice models. A little chunky in the head and hands for a perfect match with Higgins, but very interesting. They are described on the PlasticSoldierReview as "24mm high" (I never know what that means) - OK, still interesting - they are about 20mm to the eye, according to the plastic ruler I nicked from my son's former school on their open day. If Strelets's stocking-cap dragoons are to the same scale, I reasoned, then - since the hats will be different from the standard tricorns and thus not directly comparable - I could do plastics for the French dragoons, and these sets come replete with all sorts of mounted drummers and fancy officers. PSR describes the dragoons as "24.5mm high", and certainly I've seen specimens painted by Will and by Lee which look very attractive. The Big Issue, then, is that of scale match.

"Mounted Dragoons in Attack"

After a long ponder, which went as far as measuring on-screen images with my trusty 6-inch ruler, I decided this was the way to go, so I ordered 2 sets of the Mounted Dragoons in Attack (box 253) and 1 of Dismounted Dragoons Skirmishing (box 254). These are very hard to find - I tracked down the mounted chaps at Model Hobbies, and the dismounted ones from an Italian eBay shop, which was a bit painful in the shipping cost department, but times are tricky.

Today I received an eBay message from Italy, apologising for selling me an item which they did not actually have in stock. Apparently this was not their fault (that's what they all say). They offered me a refund or they could get me another box by the end of May. So the dismounted dragoons are not going to arrive any time soon. Also, this morning Model Hobbies did very well to get my mounted dragoon boxes to me. So I rushed upstairs with them, to get my first in-the-plastic look at some actual Strelets horsemen, and compare them directly with my usual metal figures, which did not even require me to unseal the plastic bags inside the boxes.

Bummer. The Strelets figures are very obviously taller and heftier than my Higgins standard. This business is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but to me these will not fit in at all with my armies, very nice though they are. I was also a little disappointed in the amount of flash, the odd "leaning" horses which I'd read about in PSR, and - especially - with the fact that the mounted dragoons, with a scabbard sticking out on the left and a slung musket on the right, are each about 25mm wide, which will not work even a little bit with my standard system of 3 mounted figures side by side on a 50mm wide base.

So, very quickly, my Strelets period came and went. I messaged the Italians and said that I would take the refund, thank you very much, and emailed Model Hobbies to apologise for messing them around, and to see if there is any scope for returning the figures - if not, I'm sure I can move them on through eBay - these things are in very short supply, and, since they come from Ukraine, the situation is likely to worsen.

Back to my Plan B-and-a-half, then, which is to use Irregular men on their (small) Irregular horses, and just not have any musicians in the units. If someone subsequently comes up with a nice little mounted drummer in a small 20mm scale I'll pop a couple in. In passing, it occurs to me that if Newline made figures for this period they would be about right. They don't, of course...

Ultimately this was a bit of a damp squib of an idea, but I'm now satisfied that I couldn't have gone ahead with it. One thing for certain is that I'm not going to derail the whole project for the sake of two dragoon drummers. They'll be fine. Now that I've decided, I'll start getting the metal castings prepared for painting, which will feel more like progress.