Wednesday 31 August 2011

Reprise: Lead Rot, Myth or Reality

A couple of years ago I write a post about the dreaded phenomenon known as Lead Rot . This supposed disease can eat its way through lead miniatures leaving nothing but dust in its wake. The subject has repeatedly come up for discussion on various Miniatures and Gaming forums so I thought it worth revisiting this post and updating it where appropriate. I hope you find it useful.

Source: Toy Soldier Museum
In the twenty odd years I've been collecting and painting miniatures I've heard lots of horror stories about Lead Rot. This 'disease' can allegedly eat its way through a whole collection like some ravenous B-Movie monster. As a painter I want my models to have the best surface possible on which to work. I certainly don’t want to see a well painted model disintegrate before my eyes. So, is Lead Rot a real problem or a mini painter’s old wives tale?

The first step is to try to understand what Rot looks like. Some painters describe powdery discolouration ranging from green through brown and grey. However the most common description is of in a whitish grey surface ‘bloom’. In severe cases the surface of a miniature can actually be pitted and rough to the touch. The picture above shows a catastrophic case of rot in three models (not my own, thankfully). As a collector this picture makes my toes curl but is this actually a disease or merely some form of corrosion? And once ‘infected’ can a model be saved?

1984 Games Workshop Lizardman
One explanation I read suggested that this was Lead rust. Iron rusts red and lead white. However this isn’t the case. Neither is it a disease or a fungus as has also been suggested. The white powdery bloom is actually Lead Carbonate and is in fact a chemical reaction, a form of corrosion that requires lead to be in contact with acid and carbon dioxide to act as a catalyst.

"The chemical process is: Acetic and some other acids, in the presence of carbon dioxide, catalyze with lead to produce lead acetate and lead hydroxide. Lead acetate and lead hydroxide together react with carbon dioxide and form lead carbonate. Lead carbonate then releases acetic acid and the process becomes self-sustaining. It is important to recognize that the formed lead carbonate is not just a substance clinging to the surface of a casting, it is the surface of the casting transformed to powder. For practical purposes, a portion of the lead is gone and lead carbonate is left in its place. The lead carbonate releases acetic acid which can continue the process until the lead part is progressively consumed from the outside, inward." (Source: Curator of Navy Ship Models)

Sources of acid include PVA glue, enamel or oil based paints, and even some varnishes (if applied directly to unpainted metal). Carbon dioxide is everywhere of course but storing miniatures in well ventilated locations does seem to help retard the chemical reaction. Its worth adding at this point that most (but not all) modern miniatures have a relatively low lead content, being a pewter mix of one type or another. As such they are much less prone to this reaction than older models which were often cast from 100% lead. If, like me, you have a large unpainted mountain of models, it’s likely that some of them will be older types and therefore at risk.

So what can you do to prevent the ‘rot’ setting in? Get painting! Once a model has been sealed properly with an undercoat (don’t forget the underside of the base) then no CO² can get to the surface and the chemical process cannot begin.

Electron Microscope image of corroded lead (Source)

For display models try to use plastic or glass shelves rather than wooden ones. Wooden display cases with relatively stagnant atmospheres will create an acetic acid-laden micro-environment where lead artefact's will corrode even without being in physical contact with the wood. Hardwood's in particular emit more acetic acid than soft woods with Spruce, Pine or Elm being the 'safest' options. But even these can result in corrosion, especially if the wood is varnished or polished. Whatever display case you use maintaining good ventilation is essential to mitigating the conditions that can cause lead rot. (Source: Realm of Lead Addiction)

If you have a model that is showing signs of lead rot its not too late to salvage the situation. Clean the surface of the model but avoid anything acidic as a cleaning agent (one source I read suggested using vinegar!!!). Any areas that have pitting can be cleaned up with a needle file or for more severe damage removed with a craft drill. Once all sign of rot has been removed seal the surface with an undercoat of acrylic paint and then store in a dry environment until ready to paint. Then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor happy in the knowledge that your new ‘little friend’ will be around for some time to come.

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Making Trees for 15mm Wargaming

One thing that I have been lacking in my collection of 15mm wargame terrain are trees and woods. This has partly been due to lack of storage space and partly because I couldn't make my mind up whether to make my own trees or buy some pre-built. However having finally turned my mind to the project I was a little dismayed at the prices I came across and decided the most economical solution would be to make some myself. I decided to go down the Woodland Scenics route, mainly because I have easy access to most of the materials needed from my local branch of Model Zone. Also this very simple instructional video helped sway my decision-making...

First off let me say that the techniques and ideas listed here are not entirely my own. I searched various tutorials online when considering this project and plundered them for information. If you are considering making your own trees then I would definitely recommend looking at this post by Model Dads. It includes several videos and lots of great advice on how to get the best from your Woodland Scenics materials. Probably the best advice I took from this tutorial was to buy the WS Hob-e-tac glue. It truly is amazing stuff and makes building trees very easy. I also thought the idea of sealing the finished trees using a Matt spray varnish was excellent. Good advice, presented in an accessible format.

I started by collecting together all the materials I needed, primarily different coloured clump foliage and turf. I couldn't purchase the Woodland Scenics tree armatures I wanted from Model Zone so I bought them online from Antenocitis Workshop which were delivered the next day. I opted for the 3-5inch armatures (77-127mm) which roughly equates to trees about 27-44 feet in height. This a little smaller than the average heights for deciduous trees (which range from about 40-60 ft depending on species) but I think they look better proportioned when placed next to 15mm figures. The armatures twist easily to shape and come with separate bases so they can be removed during play while maintaining the 'footprint' of the tree.

One thing I wanted to do was clearly define the edges of woodland with a nice solid base that would not be prone to being knocked out of place during play. Some months ago I was doing a bit of DIY on my daughters bedroom and needed a sheet of 4mm MDF to repair a cupboard. I ended up with a larg'ish off-cut and thought to myself "that'll come in handy" so put it aside with no clear plan for it. Now I had a use for it so I cut out several woodland bases of different shapes. These were then quickly painted with a mixture of GW Black undercoat and Flames of War/Army Painter US Armour Green.

The next step was to put aside the bases and start building the trees. The tree armatures as already mentioned come with separate plastic roots/bases which I would later fix to the wooden base boards. For now though I kept them with the trunks as I wanted to see how big the tree's looked before positioning them. They are easily twisted and arranged into shape onto which the foliage can be glued using WS's Hob-e-tac glue. This stuff looks, feels and smells like Copydex (its even applied by a built in brush) but it dries clear after about 15-20 minutes and remains incredibly tacky for hours. Be patient at this stage, if you try to stick the foliage to the glue before it has dried clear it will just fall off.

With the foliage on the armatures I then tidied them up using a small pair of plastic tweezers to pluck out any loose material and tighten up the clumps. Then I took them all outside and gave them a liberal coating of Matt spray varnish. I then left these overnight to dry thoroughly. This varnish helps hold all the clumps together and makes the finished tress a little more resilient to in-game handling.

With the trees finished I removed the bases and glued them to my wooden base boards. I kept a couple of bases back for free standing trees but most were fixed to the bases. The next step was to cover the green boards with PVA glue and cover with a mixture of Woodland Scenic's Turf and Underbrush scatter material. The turf is very fine grained while the underbrush consists of 1-2mm foliage material. I like the look this gives and it helps clearly define the limits of the woods and the rough scrubby ground beneath the trees.

The whole project took me about four evenings to complete and cost about £30 in materials which worked out significantly cheaper than buying them pre made. I also think they look a lot better than many of the trees I could have bought online. Another advantage is that I still have enough material to make half a dozen more trees if needed.


Monday 29 August 2011

Tilbury Fort

Sharp eyed readers will notice that I promised to post pictures and a write up of my Woodland building project. However my Internet connection is down (I think my modem has died). So although I have all the pictures ready, and I have written the text, I am unable to combine the two and post them here on BLMA. Such are the plans of mice and men and I'll have to post it tomorrow - assuming my ISP can fix or replace my modem when they come.

So instead of my prepared post here's a filler post. Today we went to the English Heritage property at Tilbury Fort. I've been here many times before but not recently. I shot some interesting pictures which I'll post when I get a chance later in the week.

Sunday 28 August 2011

0ne, Two, Tree...

I've nearly finished making a load of trees using the Woodland Scenic method and materials. I thought I would post a sneak peak of the first small wood off the production line. I should have a full write up and better pictures later tomorrow (time permitting).

Saturday 27 August 2011

Military Odyssey

Today I'm braving the rain to attend Military Odyssey at the Kent Showground, Deitling. The show combines a mix of militaria, reenactments and scale modelling. Theses model tanks are radio controlled motorised and trundle around with authentic sounds, moving crew and even smoke from the exhausts! I want one!!!

Friday 26 August 2011

Something has got to go

Its finally happened, the space has run out. I'm probably not as bad a hoarder as most wargamers having spent many years just playing RPG's and therefore not collecting much in the way of scenery or models. But about 6 years ago I started writing my own D&D campaign setting with the clear intention of running my own game. That's when the collecting started in earnest.

When I decided to give this GM lark a whirl for myself I decided I would do things a little differently. Firstly I wanted it to be miniatures based with an emphasis on visual impact as much as story. I have always enjoyed seeing wargame tables at conventions and wanted to recreate some of that visual impact in my D&D campaign. So from the start I used every resource at my disposal including purpose bought miniatures, printed floor plans, 3d scenery and even buildings. These were the sort of items more accustomed to being seen on the wargames table, not in a RPG game. I also collected and used lots of other props from maps, parchments, fake jewellery, bags of coins and even a load of fish heads!

The only problem with all this collecting is much of what I bought has only seen the light of day once or twice and then been boxed up and stored. Now I'm repeating the process this time with 15mm wargame figures and lots and lots of terrain. The space is definitely running out, as is my wife patience (I can't blame her really).

So I have decided to have a clear out and maybe make some money in the process. I have my eye firmly set on attending SELWG in October and hopefully I'll come loaded down with plenty of loot to sell on the Bring and Buy stall. Its going to be a wrench to sell some items but I have to be honest with myself, much of this stuff will likely never be played with again. Better to pass it on to a new home, give another gamer a bargain they will remember and use the money I raise to buy yet more stuff to fill the house with!

I've never sold anything on a Bring and Buy before so this is new territory for me. Which leads me to the point of this post. Can BLMA readers offer me any advice or tips on how to proceed? I'm not looking to make a huge profit, I just want to make enough money to sweeten the pill of having to sell some stuff.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Encumbered with Rules?

I stumbled upon this cartoons earlier and it tickled my funny bone enough that I decided to reproduce it here. If you have ever played D&D you'll know where this joke is coming from. Lets face it we have all bent the rules on encumbrance at some time.

I once played a halfling rogue that bought a 20' ladder as part of his equipment, then conveniently let everyone forget he was still carrying it. When I was eventually challenged by the GM I pointed out that I had never said I was leaving it behind "...and besides, we've never bothered with the encumbrance rule before"

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Prince of Wales's Regimental Museum

While I was at Dover Castle on Sunday I went in the Prince of Wales's and Queens Regimental Museum which is inside the Medieval castle buildings. The collection traces the history of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, direct successor of twelve forbear regiments. It includes includes artifacts and displays relating to the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (Queen’s and Royal Hampshires), Queen’s Regiment, 1st Battalion Queen’s Regiment (Queen’s Surrey), 2nd Battalion Queen’s Regiment (Queen’s Own Buffs), 3rd Battalion Queen’s Regiment (Royal Sussex), 4th Battalion Queen’s Regiment (Middlesex).

This is an excellent museum within the museum and worthy of a visit if you are exploring the larger Dover Castle site. Here are my pictures:

Monday 22 August 2011

Guardian of the Watch

The holiday is over and I'm back at work. Considering the amount we have packed into the last couple of weeks (and the mileage I clocked up in the car) I consider my return to work a chance to get a bit of well earned rest!! Unfortunately as the saying goes 'there's no rest for the wicked' and I have several projects that I am burning to get started, and several more that need to be finished.

My youngest daughter put things in perspective for me. On Saturday I was fiddling about at my painting desk - tidying up, rearranging stuff and generally doing nothing - when she wandered over and looked at the half finished projects on the table. She looked up at me and with a stern frown on her face said "are you ever going to finish those models dad?". I felt like I'd been issued a caution by the Model Police!

So with our frenetic holiday activities already a fading memory (and most, but not all, of the pictures posted on the blog) I suppose I had better get cracking and put paint on metal.

Sunday 21 August 2011

Dover Castle Wartime Tunnels

Just visited the Wartime Tunnels at Dover Castle. Operation Dynamo (the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk) was masterminded and organised from here by Admiral Ramsey in May 1940.

New sections of tunnel have been made available for public access and consequently they are proving very popular this weekend. The queue to get in was a sight to behold in itself. Once inside the tour lasts about 45 minutes.

The tour of the tunnels has changed since I was last here a couple of years ago. Its now a multimedia exhibition focused on the Dynamo operation. The presentation is excellent with plenty of background information to help put the events in context.

Big Picture : Dover Castle

Today's Big Picture is a statue of Admiral Sir Bertram Home Ramsay at Dover Castle. He was responsible for the Dunkirk evacuation, codenamed Operation Dynamo. Working from the underground tunnels beneath Dover Castle, he and his staff worked for nine days straight to rescue 338,226 British and allied soldiers trapped in France by the German forces.

Hopefully as you read this I'll be on the road making my way down to Dover for the day. A new section of Wartime tunnels have been opened to the public for a limited time and we are taking advantage of our English Heritage membership to visit the new exhibit while it remains open.

Friday 19 August 2011

In the company of Heroes

Yesterday I was privileged to spend the afternoon with members of the Normandy Veterans Association in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. The Normandy Veterans' Association was launched in Britain in April 1981 and steadily grew to over 100 branches world wide. The aims of the association are to: Encourage the 1944 spirit of comradeship, irrespective of rank or social position; Promote contacts between former comrades via branch meetings, reunions etc; Organise visits to places of interest and former battlefields; Give practical assistance to members and their dependents who are in need; and, Educate the younger generations about the times and past deeds of their forebears.

Sadly the relentless progress of time is taking its toll on the Associations membership and branches are beginning to close. While current membership of this branch is dwindling its remaining members are vibrant, full of life with a sharp and often rude sense of humor!

Ernest Dark, Ray Newlyn & Don Shepherd (Chairman)
The Southend and District Branch of the NVA gather on a monthly basis and my Brother-in-law Ray and I were invited to come along to meet and interview some of its members. Over the course of a couple of hours we were regaled with war stories from a generation of men eager to pass on their experiences. One of the things  I liked most about this group was their sense of humor. Although every one is now in their 80's and most have the normal long list of ailments that come with age, their spirit and zest for life was clearly undiminished. When asked how are you every one replied with a variation on "Mustn't grumble, I'm still breathing!".

Fred Roberts (Trooper) 7th Armoured Div
I had the pleasure of interviewing Fred Roberts formerly of the 7th Armoured Division who drove a Valentine bridge layer and landed on D+1 on Juno Beach supporting the Canadians. Fred had trained on the Cromwell Tank but less than a week before the invasion he was transferred to a turretless Mk II Valentine fitted with 34 ft x 9.5 ft Class 30 scissor bridge. The only other crew member was a Lance Corporal who he had never met before. They waited in a holding area for 4 or five days with no idea of where they were going or when they would set off. Then one day a dispatch rider came along and ordered them to embark on a Landing Craft Tank at Southsea, Portsmouth. Fred described the LCT as little more than a box with an engine in the back and commanded by a 'Boy' of 18. Fred was only a little older himself.

Before they had set off Fred enjoyed a self heating tin of Turtle soup but regretted this meal once they were out at sea. He found a warm dark place among the Camouflage netting on the back of his tank, curled up and slept his way across the channel. On arrival off of Juno Beach on D+1 the inexperienced LCT commander dropped the ramp into deep water and the first vehicle off sank without a trace. Fred's Valentine was next but he refused to move until the LCT had changed position. Although this was D+1 the beach was still being shelled and there were plenty of hazards and unexploded mines to be worried about but Fred still remembers exiting the LCT as one of his most frightening moments of his arrival in France. As it was the repositioned LCT had got much closer in and the Valentine "barely got its tracks wet".
Replica Map - German Order of Battle

After the excitement of the landing Fred's war in Normandy initially consisted of rushing to and fro with his Bridge laying Valentine only to arrive at a destination and find that a crossing had already been established. Although the Valentine was better armoured than the Cromwell he trained in it was much slower meaning they were always racing to catch up. As the driver Fred's view of the beaches and countryside of Normandy was usually limited to a postbox sized vision slit. Unfortunately our time was used up by this part of his story so I'll have to find out what happened to Fred next time we meet.

Ernest Dark (Trooper) 7th Armoured Div 
Meanwhile Ray was interviewing Ernest Dark of the 5th Royal Horse Artillery, 7th Armoured Division who landed on Gold Beach on D-day itself. He was a Driver Mechanic of a Cromwell Tank and was just 18 when he landed in France. Ernest is still full of vigor at 85. He gave Ray a couple of photographs of him and his tank in Normandy and these are reproduced here. I'm not sure where he acquired the .45 (certainly not standard issue to a driver) but he looks quite proud to have it in this photo. The easily recognisable robust looking gun mantlet of the Cromwell is in the background along with additional track sections on the front armour. Ernest said that replacing track was one of his most frequent jobs but thankfully he found the Meteor Engine (derived from the powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engine used in aircraft such as the Spitfire) to be very reliable.

Ernest Dark today 
In fact one incident proved the engines reliability and saved Ernest's life. They were moving through a village somewhere around Caen when the three tanks (possibly SPG's) ahead of him were destroyed by an '88'. He knew he was next and immediately threw the Cromwell into a turn to escape. Unfortunately he wasn't fast enough and at least one AP round hit his tank in the engine compartment. He later found that the round had destroyed three cylinders of the engine yet he was able to limp his tank back behind a building before the German gun could hit him again. When talking to Ernie its clear he wasn't all that impressed with the Armour protection or the 75mm gun of his tank, but he clearly loved the engine.

We also had a chance to meet several other Normandy Veterans but sadly didn't have time to interview them all. However the Chairman of the Southend and District Branch, Don Shepherd, offered us an open invitation to come back again at future meetings so I'm sure Ray and I will get a chance to gather more stories another time. This afternoon with the veterans (many of whom are also members of the Market Garden Association) was truely an inspiration and a privilege and I felt humbled in their presence.

We truly were in the company of heroes.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Eden Camp Pictures

Last week I posted a couple of pictures from my visit to Eden Camp Museum in Yorkshire. Now that I am home I have had a chance to sort through my pictures and label them properly. The following slide show shows them all in detail.

This is an excellent museum with a wide range of exhibits that will appeal to all the family. The day we visited it rained pretty much all day but the beauty of this museum is that most of it is inside the huts of the camp. We were able to dodge the worst of the weather and make the most of our day.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Pickering Castle Pictures

Another follow up to last weeks brief picture post of our trip to Pickering Castle. Initially built shortly after the Norman Conquest, Pickering was a simple timber construction built on top of a grassy mound, surrounded by earthen banks and ditches. The stone buildings date from the 13th century, and the curtain wall with its three towers date from the reign of Edward II.

I shot these photo's primarily as a reference source for terrain building projects that may or may not come in the future. One of the things that surprises about this site is the scale of the earthworks, and that's after 900 years of erosion gradually filling in the ditches.

Purfleet Museum Pictures

Following on from Sundays post about my trip to the Purfleet Heritage Center here are my pictures from the day. The museum is locally run by dedicated volunteers and is crammed full of memorabilia and fascinating objects. They regularly hold veteran days for signings and a chance to meet some genuine war heroes.

Photography isn't generally allowed inside the center although I didn't realize this at first, hence the few pictures shown here (naughty boy). If you get a chance to visit this museum I thoroughly recommend it as there is loads to see.

Monday 15 August 2011

Bomb Disposal at Eltham Palace

Today my family and I are at Eltham Palace. This English Heritage house is one of my favourite buildings combining the remains of a Medieval palace and an Art Deco 1920's home.

EH are running a series of events for kids called 'Time Travellers' and today's event is all about WWII. This picture is of a very interesting talk about bomb disposal. The kids were engaged and listened silently for at least forty minutes and as any parent will tell you getting kids to sit still for more than five minutes is a feat in itself.

The talk was especially relevant as the wartime owner of the house was too old to join the regular army. Instead he joined the local Home Guard and became a fIre watcher. One night incendiary bombs were dropped on the roof of his own house and with the help of his staff put the fire out. The scorch marks from melted lead can still be seen on the wooden floor of the balcony overlooking the Great Hall.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Purfleet Heritage Centre

Today I'm visiting a local museum. The Purfleet Heritage Centre is situated on the banks of the Thames inside a 19th Century powder store that has been preserved by the local community. It is run by enthusiasts and contains a wide variety of privately collected militaria and wartime photo's.

Today they held a special event with veterans, a few vehicles, music and a visit by the RNLI Gravesend Lifeboat.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Kirby Hall

The family holiday is almost over but we are breaking our journey home with a stop at Kirby Hall. This is another English Heritage property and was originally built in 1575 by Christopher Hatton.

Although Hatton built the house in the hope that Queen Elizabeth would visit. However despite being a favourite at court she never came to Kirby.

The house is now largely a romantic ruin but parts have been restored. The audio tour of the house and gardens is also very interesting and worth listening to if you visit.

Friday 12 August 2011

Miniature Wargames 341

Today we went to Robin Hoods Bay near Whitby. We didn't see anything even vaguely game or military related for me to write about. It is a family holiday after all and it was time for some sightseeing that couldn't be called "dad's stuff"!

The day wasn't a complete write off from the gamers point of view as I found a small local newsagents that actually sold a Wargames magazine. I picked up issue 341 (the September issue) of Miniature Wargames and that kept me happily amused while we relaxed on the beach.

I particularly enjoyed the article 'Jets over the Reich' which presented an alternative ending to WWII in which British and German Jet fighters battled it out for control of the sky. Its a bit fanciful but not completely improbable.

Another good article was called 'Mid-Life Military Muddling' and offers some practical and interesting advice on how to start building a new army.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Constantine the Great

This statue of Constantine the Great stands outside York Minster and is close to the place where he was acclaimed Emperor. Constantine allowed Christianity to flourish in the Empire and he himself famously converted in later life.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Pickering Castle

Pickering Castle was originally built in wood in 1070 after the campaign known as 'the Harrying of the North'. The location commanded trade routes north and south and dominated a landscape rich in game.

The castle was strengthened in the 13th century with a circular keep in stone. By the 14th century the site had a high stone curtain wall and corner towers.

Much of the site remains as a picturesque ruin but the scale of the site is still evident. The moat in particular is very deep and shows what an imposing statement this castle would have made on the landscape and its conquered people.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Scarbrough Lighthouse

Today we are taking advantage of a break in the weather to explore Scarborough town. The harbour is busy but picturesque with an enclosing harbour wall and lighthouse.

The lighthouse was destroyed by German naval bombardment in 1914 in the same attack that hit Whitby (I mentioned this in my post on Sunday). The townsfolk paid for the rebuilding of the Lighthouse which remains in use to this day.

Monday 8 August 2011

M4A3E8 Sherman

This rare Sherman stands guard at the entrance to Eden Camp. I have not seen one of these before so this is a treat for me. Also with the Sherman is a Churchill 'Crocodile' although the trailer is missing.

Its been a great day although the weather has been naff in the extreme. I'm beginning to think I need a waterproof cover for my camera as well as a raincoat for me. All in all a typical British summer!

If you get a chance to visit this museum I would defiantly recommend it. The brochure suggests allowing two or three hours for the visit but I would say five or six is more realistic. There is tons to see making this a very reasonably priced day out.

Universal Carrier Mk I

Powered by a Ford V8 engine the Universal Carrier saw a lot of service with the British Army. Originally a Light Reconnaissance vehicle it was eventually used for a range of purposes. This vehicle is painted in the colours and insignia of the Desert Rats.

Eden Camp

Today we are visiting Eden Camp. This former POW camp is now a WWII museum complete with vehicles, guard towers and over 30 huts.

This T34 stands at the entrance to the car park greeting visitors to a very popular attraction.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Sandhurst Wargames

Whenever we are on holiday we take every opportunity to get some book shopping done. Now and again a real bargain comes along and often in unexpected places. Today in Whitby I popped into a charity shop to retrieve my wife (she loves looking for cookbooks in these shops) and found one such bargain staring at me across the store.

A Book of Sandhurst Wargames by the late Paddy Griffith was a completely unexpected find and a real bargain. The book starts with a history of wargaming that most gamers would find fascinating to read.

The rest of the book contains four sets of rules covering four periods of history. Each game is detailed with history and background and lots of useful illustrations. Unfortunately this copy is missing the game boards and tokens for play but its still and interesting read none-the-less.

Captain Cook Museum

This modest looking building was for a time the home of Captain Cook. He lived here for about seven years from the age of 17 as an indentured apprentice learning his trade as a sailor.

The museum contains lots of interesting documents and paintings related to his time in Whitby. There is also an impressive collection of model ships including one of the Endeavour in which Cook first circumnavigated the world.


Today my family and I are visiting the historic fishing town of Whitby. The town is probably most famous as a setting in Bram Stokers novel Dracula. The ruins of the Abbey overlooking the town feature in the story and are a popular tourist attraction.

The site of the Abbey is bleak, windswept and exposed. Ideal as a location in a Gothic novel! The towns exposed position on the East coast saw it shelled by German battleships in 1914. The Abbey was damaged as were several buildings in the town.

Friday 5 August 2011

Summer Break : Holiday Up North

Next week I'll be up-north in Yorkshire on a family holiday. Its the first time we will have taken the kids to the area so I'm hoping they will enjoy the change of scenery (we normally holiday on the south coast of England). Of course it won't all be beaches and adventure parks... no siree! I have several interesting locations on my hit list for the week and I hope to come back with loads of pictures.

Top of the list is Eden Camp in Malton, North Yorkshire. Originally built in 1942 as a Prisoner of War camp for Italian POWs from North Africa the site later became a billet for Polish Forces in preparation for the Invasion of Europe. After D-Day the site reverted to a POW camp, this time for German prisoners.

After the war it was used for a variety of industrial activities until in 1987 the site was opened as a museum of WWII history. I visited the museum in 1994 and it has grown and developed more since then. More huts have been opened with additional displays and exhibitions plus there is an interesting collection of vehicles including a Churchill and a T34. I'm looking forward to spending the day here and rest assured I will come back with lots of pictures!

Although I havn't prepared any scheduled posts in advance for next week don't expect things to go completly silent on BLMA. I tested out the Blogger email posting feature earlier in the week and I should be able to keep in touch with pictures and brief write ups while I'm away. I'm actually on holiday for two weeks but the second week we will be home and relaxing. I'll try and get some more detailed pictures up on this blog as soon as I can after we return.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Another test...

Sorry folks but testing is messy and public! Another picture from my phone.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

US Rifle Platoon

A quick picture of the US Rifle Platoon that has been based and under coated. This is also a test of posting by email from my phone. If this works as planned I will be able to keep posting while on holiday... That'll make the wife happy!

On the workbench

I'm working on several projects at the moment and as usual my timing is not perfect! This Saturday I'm off on Holiday for a couple of weeks so I don't expect much progress for a while yet. I'm also very busy at work trying to clear as much stuff as I can before I disappear. It all adds up to a sudden pause in gaming/painting activities. Even finding time to write my blog has been a struggle this week [Shock! Horror!!].

I've assembled, based and undercoated a US Rifle Platoon as divisional support to my 2nd Armoured Company. I like to base my figures before painting because I know I'd ruin the paint job if I did it the other way around. I also have a Stuart Platoon at the assembly stage sitting on my desk. I'll try and get them undercoated before I go away but I doubt if progress beyond that stage is a possibility in the next few days.

Its all very depressing. Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to my holiday, spending time with the family and exploring North Yorkshire, but it does bug me when projects grind to a halt. Its been a busy and chaotic month what with my recent illness and work commitments. I guess I need a holiday more than I realised. So I'm going to make a 'mid year resolution' and set myself the task of finishing as many projects as I can when I return from holiday.

Given my track record, does anyone care to take bets on whether I'll succeed!

Monday 1 August 2011

Masters of Battle

Masters of Battle: Monty, Patton and Rommel at War by Terry Brighton was insightful and infuriating in equal measure. Its a great book, easy to read with lost of interesting details. But for me there was a slight bias in the way that these three WWII Generals were portrayed.

Brighton concludes that while Monty was undoubtedly a master of organisation and supervision he was a very hard man to like. He certainly wasn't a hands on master tactician like Rommel or driver of men like Patton, and he most definitely wasn't a man who appreciated the Political intricacy's of an Alliance facing Germany. But even Brighton agrees that only Monty's hand in the Normandy landings could have swung the balance in so far in favour of the invaders.

Patton meanwhile was the ideal man to lead an American Blitzkrieg. Wild, reckless and profane he not only lead from the front but drove his army along on force of will [and careful husbandry of Fuel] alone. Rommel is portrayed as a General who remained loyal to Hitler but was also increasingly realistic about Germany's prospects after the allies successful Grossinvasion.

The book follows all three men through their careers in simultaneous chronological order so you can see where each began, the turning points in their careers and their mutual encounters. But it is Patton who leaps off the pages and steals the limelight. I'm not a fan of Patton but its hard not to laugh occasionally at the shear exuberance and outrageousness of his words. His personality and ego were more than adequate to the tasks set him and I have little doubt that if he was let off the leash - as he once half jokingly said to Eisenhower - he could be in Moscow in 30 days, he would have been.

Having now completed the book I am struck by one incredible thought. With Monty and Eisenhower increasingly at loggerheads; and almost open warfare between Monty and Patton; how the hell did we win the war? The simple answer is that once the Normandy landings had succeeded in establishing a bridgehead in Europe the war became a battle of attrition. This was a war that Germany, with ever dwindling resources, could not win. Against the might of both the British Empire and the new emerging American superpower against it, Nazi Germany's days were numbered.

I think different readers will get different things from this book depending on his or her own prejudices. For me Patton's anti-British rhetoric was hard to warm too and Monty's self aggrandisement was hard to swallow. Rommel, for a long time portrayed as 'the good German', still comes across as a man of honour, but his image is tarnished by his clear devotion to Hitler almost to the end. The story of these three men is interesting and complex and I think this book would make a good starting point from which to look at each general in detail.