Monday 30 May 2011

Bunker Bash 2011

I've finally finished sorting through my pictures from Bunker Bash at Kelvedon Hatch. I didn't explore all of the show because I was supposed to be resting my Gammy Leg. I still managed to see quite a lot and as usual shot too many pictures! It's taken a while to sort and name them as most vehicles and equipment on display were not labeled. This made identification after the fact a little tricky, so if I have got anything wrong let me know and I'll update the description.

I also put together a video from various clips of the 'Main Battle' reenactment at the end of the show.

Sunday 29 May 2011

Big Picture : T34

This weeks Big Picture shows the T34 at the Muckleburgh Collection in Norfolk. I was able to visit this excellent collection back in 2009 while on holiday in the area. If you get a chance to visit its well worth it.

Friday 27 May 2011

Wargames Illustrated 284

My copy of this months Wargames Illustrated arrived over the weekend, a little later than normal. I've now had a chance to read some of the articles and skim through the rest so here's the low down on what to expect in this issue.

The theme this month is centred on King Gustavus Adolphus during the Thirty Years War and starts by looking at his early career and the war against the Poles in the early 17th Century. There is also a very interesting article about the Battle of Breitenfeld (1631). This battle confirmed Gustavus as an excellent battlefield general and turned him into a hero of the Protestant cause. In addition there is a battle report for a re fight of the Battle of Lützen (1632), another Swedish victory but one that saw Gustavus killed in action. Ultimately his death enabled the French to consolidate control of the anti-Habsburg alliance forcing Sweden's regency to accept a more passive role.

This issue also seems to have a secondary theme in the form of two articles centered on the imminent release of Battlefronts Hell at Cassino. The Battlefront studio team played through an ‘Infantry Aces’ campaign set in and around their battles for Monte Cassino. The second article Heroes of Cassino looks at some of the key personalities who fought in the battle and provides some ‘Infantry Aces’ statistics. Although I found these articles interesting (they are WWII/FOW after all) I'm not about to rush out and buy forces to fight this battle myself.

Another article which I think is worth highlighting was How Wargaming Solved Some Historical Mysteries from Waterloo by the wargamer and historian, Barry van Danzig. Danzig presents a fascinating - and possibly contentious - argument that using a topographically correct wargames table and suitable figures can help historians understand events on the ground better. He built a scale model of the whole Waterloo Battlefield then worked through the events of the day using contemporary accounts to see what was being described. His conclusion is that using a table and figures can shed new light on existing mysteries.

Although I found his argument interesting it also sounded like a wargamer trying desperately to justify why he plays with toy soldiers by giving it an air of intellectualism! Maybe that's a bit harsh but I can't shake off the conviction that the Fog of War makes any pinpoint accurate assessment of a battle almost impossible. Danzigs conclusions are interesting but I think they need to be taken into consideration alongside the huge mass of analysis and research undertaken over the last 196 years.

Lastly, Its time for me to renew my subscription to WI and I have no hesitation in doing so. The only dilemma facing me is which models do I select as part of my subscription offer. Such are the tribulations of a wargamer. There are several tempting options available but I think the Wittman box set (GBX16) wins the selection. I've wanted to paint a Tiger I for some time and here is my chance. Coincidentally I was recently given a Peter Pig Tiger I by the Angry Lurker so it will be interesting to assemble and paint the two vehicles together as a comparison.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Forged in Battle Panzer IV's

Back at the end of March I bought five Panzer IV models from Forged in Battle. I made a short video review and promised to get them finished quickly. Well the plans of mice and men are such that they have finally been finished eight weeks later! Anyway here's a picture of the finished platoon.

Forged in Battle (FiB) Panzer IV Platoon
I'm still impressed with the detailing on these models but they differ significantly from the Battlefront equivalent. The following comparison pictures put the Forged in Battle Panzer IV next to the Battlefront Panzer IV. Both vehicles are supposed to be Ausf H version.

Comparison of Fib (L) vs BF (R) Front View 
Comparison of Fib (L) vs BF (R) Rear View

Comparison of Fib (L) vs BF (R) Side View

Comparison of Fib (L) vs BF (R) Top View
As you can see there are significant differences, not least the size of the gun, so I won't be mixing models in the same platoon. Having said that I remain impressed with the quality of the Forged in Battle models.

Monday 23 May 2011

Mindflayer Three Course Meal

The Dagenham Dungeon Delvers met on Friday for a long overdue D&D 4e game. We are continuing the Evil GM's campaign The Sunless Citadels which we have been playing now for a couple of years. The last game was two weeks ago and I missed it because I was in hospital so the last game I played was back in February! I needed a game and I needed it bad.

Most of the evening was taken up with a large 'end of level' battle against a group of Aberrations lead by a Mindflayer. The illithid was fortunately occupied casting some sort of Ritual during most of the battle, leaving our party to fight two Foulspawn Beserker's, two Foulspawn Mangler's and a Foulspawn Seer.

The Berserker's had a nasty ability, an Aura which fogs the mind of anyone attacking it in Melee so they were difficult to get at without risking hitting adjacent allies. On several occasions the groups PC's found themselves hitting friends instead of foes.

The Mangler's were also very dangerous, especially in combination with the Seer which has two attacks that cause targets to be dazed and thereby grant opponents combat advantage (Warp Orb, an at-will range 10 attack that dazes the struck target and Disorient Blast, a huge close blast 5 that also dazes the target). With most of the party constantly being Dazed the Mangler's were then able to use their Dagger Dance ability to make three attack and shift combinations to great advantage because Mangler's gain +2d6 damage when they have combat advantage. Ouch.

Eventually the Mindflayer's ritual was broken and the Illithid entered the fight himself. Using his tentacles he grabbed the groups Avenger Laguna and proceeded to munch down on the Elfs skull.  Laguna had already taken a lot of damage earlier in the battle and was nearing zero hit points when the Mindflayer began its attack. Unable to break free from the attack it wasn't long before the elf was dropped to the floor dead, his brains eaten right out of his skull!

The Illithid also tried the same attack on the Barbarian, Samm and my Dragonborn Warlord, Uthek but both characters were able to release themselves from the grasping tentacles. Ultimately their combined attacks on the outnumbered Mindflayer saw it beaten and slashed until it too fell to the ground dead.

The Evil GM gets into character as the Mindflayer attacking its victims. 

We had a great evening with lots of laughter and jokes driving the evening along. Even the death of one of our Player Characters didn't dampen the fun (well, not for those of us that survived). However we clearly missed an opportunity towards the end of the game. After all the Illithid was an intelligent creature and probably could have been negotiated with. We should have offered him a job in our party of adventurers. Especially as a vacancy had unexpectedly come up...

Sunday 22 May 2011

Big Picture : Bunker Bash

Today I'm off to a local Living History show called Bunker Bash. We went last year and enjoyed the interesting displays which included a permanent trench system for re-enactors. Bunker Bash started as a small military vehicle show back in 2005 but now hosts over 200 Military Vehicles, 20 Living History Groups plus Militaria Stalls and Classic Cars.
German Volkswagen Kübelwagen

I'm determined not to let my Gammy Leg slow me down and needless to say I'll be bringing all my camera gear along with me.

Friday 20 May 2011

Game Night at last!

Uthek Van'tar - Dragonborn Warlord
I'm hosting the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers tonight for an evening of Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition. We are continuing the campaign being run by The Evil GM in his subterranean world setting, The Silent Citadels.

Unfortunately the group schedule has slipped quite considerably in the last few months mainly due to work or family commitments. Then just when I thought we would meet up I ended up in hospital and missed the first game for weeks!

Needless to say I'm looking forward to the game tonight. Not only do I feel like I'm suffering from D&D withdrawal symptoms but I've also missed my mates and am looking forward to catching up with them. Plus I need to unleash some Dragonborn fury on whatever monsters stray into our path. The Hammer of Uthek must have blood!

Thursday 19 May 2011

RIP Professor Richard Holmes

I've just learned that Professor Richard Holmes passed away on the 30th April at the young age of just 65. In my view he was one of the best military historian's of recent times, not just for his undoubted scholarly work but also the fact he was so very good at communicating his enthusiasm to an audience either on TV or in person.

He enlisted in the Territorial Army in 1964, rising to the rank of Brigadier with the 5th (Volunteer) Battalion, The Queen's Regiment. Between 1969 and 1985, he lecturered at the Department of War Studies, Sandhurst.  He later took command of the 2nd Battalion, The Wessex Regiment rising to the rank of  Lieutenant-Colonel. In 1988 he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). He was appointed Aide-de-Camp to the Queen in 1991 and in 1995, he became Professor of Military and Security Studies at Cranfield University. From 1997 until his retirement in 2000, Holmes was Director Reserve Forces and Cadets. In 1998 he was promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

Professor Holmes was also closely associated with Project Hougoumont the heritage restoration scheme to save and preserve Hougoumont Farm on the site of the 1815 Battlefield of Waterloo in Belgium.

He was most well known for his Books and associated TV series such as Wellington: The Iron Duke (2002) Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front (2004) and Sahib: The British Soldier in India 1750-1914 (2005) to name but a few.

I was very privileged to meet Professor Holmes about 6 years ago during his lecture tour to promote his then new book, In the Footsteps of Churchill (Published in 2005). The 90 minute lecture he delivered was conducted without notes yet was fluid, informative and presented with humor and great enthusiasm. Afterwards I got my copy of his book signed, shook his hand and exchanged a few words. Despite the brief meeting he came across as completely unassuming, genuinely friendly and pleased to meet fellow history enthusiasts.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Tank Men by Robert Kershaw

Let me start this review with a warning: Tank Men : The Human Story of Tanks at War is definitely not for the faint hearted. Robert Kershaw has collected together hundreds of veteran stories and connected them in a hard edged narrative that takes the reader from the first tanks of WWI through to the end of the Second World War. By the conclusion of this book there is little doubt that the life of a tank crewman could be uncomfortable, brutal, and above all dangerous.

In the early days of the Tank Corp these great metal boxes were hailed and derided in equal measure. Seen as a war winning weapon, Britain lead the world in tank innovation and design. But in the early days the tank was seen as a temporary weapon with no practical future. Cavalry regiments sternly resisted the move to mechanisation and the High Command (and policy makers of all hues) struggled to decide how best to use this new weapon.

Peter Beals book Death by Design, made it clear that this lack of focus combined with post war budget cuts saw Britain loose its leading edge. Tank design was confused, contradictory, slow paced and misdirected. The result was that when war reached these shores again in 1939 Britain was ill equipped to face the Panzer Divisions of Nazi Germany. This was as much a failure of tactical employment of tanks as it was of the hardware but the results where the same. The armoured box of the tank became the coffin of many a crew on both sides.

May of the veteran accounts collected by Kershaw have the power to shock the reader, even those familiar with other books on tank warfare. This is history told by those that lived it and its a stark and uncompromising window on the horrors and hardships of war. This is the first book I have read in which I felt I understood (at least in part) what it was like to be a crewman. The descriptions of conditions in the desert campaign in North Africa in particular leave the reader in little doubt that man and machine were pushed beyond all reasonable limits and expectations.

One of the things I most liked about this book was the breadth and range of veterans whose stories fill the pages. The majority are former Allied servicemen but there is also a good selection of accounts from the other side in the conflict. Some of these come from letters and diaries but a good number are from interviews with surviving combatants. And it is clear that whichever side you fought on, tank crew in every uniform shared similar hardships and fears, primary amongst these the fear of fire inside the tank.

This is one of those stand-out books that deserve to be seen on the shelves of anyone interested in armoured warfare.

Author: Robert Kershaw
Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
Published: 16 April 2009

Monday 16 May 2011

15mm Norman Barn

I bought this resin model at Cavalier earlier in the year and have finally finished it. The roof comes off and the internal dimensions are just large enough to fit one base of infantry inside. At last I have a building for my wargames table! I definitely have to get some more but I may resort to some pre-painted buildings just so I have a selection to start with.

I have a couple of other resin buildings on my to-do list, but first I need to get a unit of Panzer IV's finished.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Big Picture : Firepower 2009

Today's Big Picture was taken at the Firepower museum in Woolwich in 2009. The South East London Wargames Group ran a small wargames show amongst the exhibits.

Although there were only a dozen games being run (and a handful of traders) it was a very enjoyable event to attend. My conversations with some of the Wargamers that day helped convince me to buy the Flames of War rules and start collecting 15mm miniatures.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Blogger is back... ish

Friday the 13th truly earned its reputation for chaos yesterday as Blogger was brought to its knees by technical problems. According to Blogger Buzz the problems were associated with system maintenance performed on Wednesday. All the missing posts should now have been restored although some comments are still missing. Again Blogger promises to restore these by the end of the weekend. More worryingly (for me at least) is the loss of updates I had made to Draft posts. I'd almost finished two posts but now all my work on these is MIA. I'm crossing my fingers that this will also be restored in due course. All in all a very frustrating 24hrs.

Friday 13 May 2011

More Smoke and Flames

I've spent the day getting a few small jobs finished off including some more Smoke and Flame markers. I made a load of these a few months ago and posted a Tutorial of how I made them. I started making few more the day before I fell ill and needless to say they didn't get finished.

I'm still taking things easy today but this was a relatively low effort job that I completed a little at a time during the course of the day. Tomorrow I'll get stuck into some proper painting, again attempting to finish up a few interrupted projects.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Back to the Front

Home at Last! I was discharged from the Hospital late yesterday afternoon after nine days of treatment. I slept like the proverbial log last night, thankful for not being woken at 2am and 6am for Blood Pressure and other tests! Needless to say all that laying in bed doing nothing was exhausting and I'm taking it very easy for a few days.

I read several books during my hospital stay and hopefully I'll have some reviews to post here soon. Over the next few days I'm going to relax getting some painting done and catching up with the hundreds of unread posts from all the Blogs I follow. With a bit of luck I should be back to the regular posting schedule by the end of the week.

Thank you everyone who left comments of support after my earlier announcement. I'm on the mend and should be back to my normal mischief making very soon!

Saturday 7 May 2011

The week that wasn't

Well folks its been a strange week. Last Sunday (the 1st May) I had a recurrence of the Cellulitis (a skin infection) that knocked me for six a few years ago. Once again my left leg flared up and within a few hours looked like I'd poured boiling water all over it. Sunday itself was a bit of a blur as the forty degree temperature that accompanies the infection meant I was delirious. After an ambulance ride to Accident and Emergency (and a 3 and a half hour wait for antibiotics) I was eventually admitted to a ward.

I'm still in hospital and will be here until at least Monday. I'm on an intense dose of intravenous antibiotics and until the doctors consider it safe to move me to oral antibiotics I will have to remain in hospital. I feel fine now, although my leg isn't a pretty site and hurts when I try to walk. The main problem I have is utter boredom. I've read several books (reviews in due course!) but nothing changes the fact that I'm essentially stuck in a bed and unable to do anything.

All this means that BLMA is going to fall silent for a few days. I had several posts prepped and scheduled for the week just gone and they have now posted. But I've run out of stock articles for now and needless to say I'm not getting ANY painting or gaming done. Hopefully I'll be released from hospital next week and normal service can resume soon.

Friday 6 May 2011

Fleet Air Arm Museum

While I was away on Holiday a few weeks ago I visited the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yoevil. I've never been to this museum before, and while it's not as large as the collection at Hendon (pictures here and here), I did find it very interesting and enjoyable to explore. There were lots of detailed models and information available for viewers as well as plenty of informative videos throughout the exhibition.

The museum charts the birth of the Fleet Air Arm from early experiments with ship launched aircraft right up to the modern carrier ships of today. The Carrier Experience was particularly interesting with visitors taking a simulated ride on a Wessex Helicopter out to a Carrier ship. When visitors exit the Helicopter they step out onto the flight deck of a carrier (simulated very well inside a huge hanger building). Simulated takeoffs and landings using static display aircraft and huge projection screens give a really good sense of the noise and frenetic activity of the flight deck.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

The Keep Military Museum

Yet another slideshow of pictures I took while on Holiday a couple of weeks ago. This time the pictures are from The Keep Military Museum in Dorchester, Dorset. I've been to Dorchester several times before but never visited this museum and am glad I got the opportunity this time around. The collection is spread across four floors and is dedicated to the Devonshire and Dorset Regiments, The Dorset Yeomanry, The Queen's Own Dorset Yeomanry, The Dorset Militia, The Royal Devon Yeomanry and the 94 Field Regiment Royal Artillery.

The Keep was built as the gatehouse for the Depot Barracks of the Dorsetshire Regiment and as the County Armoury. Completed in 1879 the Depot Barracks were the administrative centre for the Dorsetshire Regiment and its centre for recruitment and training. The Depot carried out this function between 1879 and 1958. During World War Two the barracks were used by the 701st Ordnance Light Maintenance Company and the 1st Quartermaster Company of the American Armed Forces. (Source Museum Website)

The collections are diverse and interesting with displays being arranged in such a way that each cabinet tells a story of an individual, battle or campaign. Many of the items displayed are very interesting and rare. One item that stood out not only for its size but also for its historical significance was Hitlers Desk. This was taken from the Reich Chancellery by the Russians and later passed into the hands of Major General Bishop of the Dorsetshire Regiment in 1945. The provenance of the desk was confirmed when the drawers were found to still contain the Fuhrers personal writing paper and his 1943 Christmas card!

Other items on display are of a much more humble nature but are no less significant for the stories that have to tell. There are thousands of medals on the upper floor of the museum with smaller collections (includeing several VC's) throughout the collection. This is a relatively small museum but a fascinating and well presented one that is well worth a visit if you get an opportunity.

Monday 2 May 2011

Destroyed Stug Objective Marker

I've been finishing off several projects this weekend including this Destroyed Sturmgeschütz (StuG) objective marker. This particular model was on its own in the bottom of my model box and didn't really have a use. I already have one unit of Stug Assault Guns and didn't want any more so this model was going spare.

One thing I wanted to do was add some visible battle damage as well as using the paint job to show its knocked out status clearly on the game table. I used white Milliput Putty to mold some detailing in the form of a blown bulkhead and then distressed the Shurzen plates with bullet holes, scrapes and twisted metal.

Sunday 1 May 2011

Big Picture : Splinter Mask

This medieval looking piece of equipment actually dates from WWI and was issued to early tank crew. The mask was designed to protect the face and eyes from flying splinters of metal dislodged from the inside of armour plate when hit on the outside by bullets or shells. The kinetic energy of an incoming round could even send streams of molten metal shooting off the inside of the armour, making the interior of the tank an even more hellish place to fight than it already was. I can't think of a more graphic artifact that sums up the brutal nature of early tank warfare more than this.

This example is on display in the Keep Military Museum in Dorchester. I'll be posting more pictures from this museum on Wednesday.