Sunday, 30 August 2020
Wednesday, 26 August 2020
Once again I am revisiting a subject I have touched on several times before. I have made wheat fields on a number of occasions and have utilised the traditional materials of hessian matting and teddy bear fur. However, as with my ploughed fields, the finished products never quite looked right and were usually too small for my needs. So I bought a couple of square meters of fur fabric and set about making a new collection of versatile and cheap wheat fields for use with 15mm and 28mm scales. The only work I did on these was to give the rather shiney synthetic fur a dusting of light beige spray paint (I used a car paint from Halfords). It has to be applied sparingly or the fibres clump together and don't look right.
There's nothing particularly innovative about this project, many wargamers have made use of 'Teddy Bear Fur' for fields before, including myself. Their use largely depends on your own personal aesthetic. Some people don't like the wavey look of fur and prefer the look of coconut matting. Some, like me, prefer fields where troops and vehicles don't float across the top of the wheat when they pass through. This is one of my main reasons for not wanting to use this material, but also that the fur fields are much lighter and flexible so they can be folded around the edges of the battlefield if, like me, you have a smaller table.
One thing to note is that modern wheatfields are not the same as those seen in the early part of the 20th Century or earlier. The wheat seen in a modern filed is a very long way from the wild variety first cultivated by humans 10,000 years ago in what is now southeastern Turkey. Ancient species were very tall, averaging about 160cm or well over 5ft tall. By the early 19th Century, Wheat was the most significant cereal crop grown in Britain but it wasn't until the mid-1800's that the first plant breeders started to produce single varieties that gave higher yields by selectively breeding the best ears from their crops. These plants were shorter than the ancient variety, standing about 130cm's tall.
Fast forward 50 years and by WWI a hardy wheat variety called Yeoman was becoming prevalent in Britain and its crops stood about 110cm tall. The next big change occurred in the 1980s with varieties like Skyfall developed specifically to service the demand for white sliced bread. However, this relied on the use of liquid fertilisers to increase yields increasing the need for shorter plants which were less likely to fall over. Modern wheat is typically only about 60-70cm tall, less than half the height of the ancient variety.
The reason I have presented this short (and rather dull) potted history of wheat is that the 'look' of a wheatfield will have changed over time. The further back in time we go, the taller the wheat and the more likely it is to be affected by the wind resulting in a rippled and wavey surface - like the fur fields. Modern wheat on the other hand probably does look very much like the coconut matting seen on many games tables, because it is short with stocky stems capable of holding up larger seed heads. It doesn't (in my mind) look anything like the wheat typically seen as little a 100 years ago.
Sunday, 23 August 2020
Wednesday, 19 August 2020
Over the years I have made a lot of custom terrain and repeatedly return to the need for fields and crops for use in different periods and scales. Last year I made some small fields using thin MDF and brown plumbers caulk. They looked quite good but I have since found that their small size, and rigid nature, makes using them difficult, especially on my small table. I started toying with the idea of making some larger, more flexible fields a long time ago, but I have finally got round to making some ploughed fields using brown corduroy fabric as my base material.
The fabric I bought came on a 1.5m wide roll so a 1m offcut gave me enough material to make 20 reasonably large fields for my games, more than enough to cover my modest games table, but also suitable for bigger games at Reject HQ.
Once cut to size the fields were given a simple three-step makeover to finish them:
- Although the material was called chocolate brown it had a bit of a purple undertone to it so I sprayed all the fields using Amy Painter Leather Brown.
- When this dried I gave the ridges a very light drybrush of sandstone from a tester pot of household emulsion paint. This has to be done sparingly, just enough to highlight the ridges. Try not to be too even with this, it looks better if some areas are lighter than others because real ground is rarely even and monotone when you look at it. Slight depressions will look darker than better-drained lumps and bumps.
- Then I added a few turf patches to some of the ridges. This looks a bit like grass growing in patches on the untended field. I used a large flat brush to apply the PVA to the ridges, using a very light drybrush-like stroke to get the PVA only on the ridges. The turf I then scattered on only adhered lightly and, after shaking, only a little bit remained glued in place. The result looks like sparse weeds growing in areas of deeper soil, or where the drainage is better.
Sunday, 16 August 2020
Wednesday, 12 August 2020
Anyone that follows my blog knows that I visit a lot of museums and living history events. Like everything else, these have either been closed or cancelled and with Posties Rejects unable to have any games this has meant that my weekends have been a bit empty! Part of my reason for doing the Quarantined Wargamer videos has been to keep me occupied when I would otherwise be out and about. As social distancing rules have been eased in England, combined with some decent weather, we have been trying to get out for some much-needed exercise. Unlike tens of thousands of people, we knew the coast would be packed (social distancing be damned apparently) so instead, we stayed away from the crowds by visiting Hornchurch Country Park.
We have visited quite a few local country parks over the last couple of months and aside from a handful of dog walkers and a few family groups, these have been largely empty. We'd be forgiven for thinking the nation had hollowed itself out as everyone and their granny headed for the coastal edges of our little island! I live in a London Suburb and as any fellow urbanite will tell you, it's never quiet. We are fortunate to have a garden to relax in when the weather is good, but its not a place for peace and quiet. Although all the country parks we have been too are within the M25 (for non-UK readers, that's the orbital motorway that effectively encircles Greater London) they are blissfully tranquil compared to my back yard. And Hornchurch Country Park has a little extra to entice me because it was once the site of RAF Hornchurch.
The Airfield at Hornchurch first saw service in WWI until it was decommissioned in 1919. It had a new lease of life in 1928 when it reopened as RAF Hornchurch. Unfortunately pretty much all of the WWI structures were levelled when the site reopened so the remaining archaeology is mostly from WW2. The squadrons based here got their first real taste of war during the Dunkirk evacuations as they flew sorties to protect the ships. 28 Aircrew lost their lives in this mission. The next test was the Battle of Britain, as the RAF across the South East of England sought to defend Britain from the might of the Luftwaffe. Control of the skies was vital if the Germans were to launch their invasion (Operations Sealion) but after heavy air losses, they abandoned the plan. RAF Hornchurch was literally in the Front line for this crucial battle and its not hyperbole to say that if they had failed, and the invasion had taken place, the war would have taken a longer and much darker turn.
|A Type 28 PillBox - one of several guarding the Eastern Perimeter of the site overlooking the Ingreborne river valley.|
|One of a number of Tett Turrets. These were one-man Machine Gun posts. Some of these were linked by communication trenches. |
|Another type 22 pillbox. |
|This version had an underground entrance. |
The purpose of our afternoon out was to get some exercise but the added bonus of exploring a little bit of history at the same time made this a great - and much needed - trip out. My wife and daughter were quite amused at how excited I got when we parked up and I realised we were in an E Pen, and later when I would go running off into the scrub to explore an abandoned Pill Box. Incidentally if your interested check out this website which includes some interesting information and links about the site. And it's also worth watching the Two Men in a Trench episode from 2004 (available on the BBC Archive) when Dr Tony Pollard and Neil Oliver visited the site and dug some of the archaeology.