Tuesday 31 July 2012

Mountain Artillery

Continuing the occasional series of pictures of Toy Soldiers.

This set of Toy Soldiers is currently held by the National Army Museum in London. The Mountain Artillery with Mule Team and Quick Firing Gun set was made in 1908 by William Britains Ltd. These models illustrate how a mountain artillery mule team of the period worked. The gun could be dismantled into separate parts, with the barrel, carriage, wheels, axle and ammunition each being carried by different mules. This meant that artillery could be transported in even the most mountainous terrain, such as on the North West Frontier of India.

Mountain Artillery Models by William Britons Ltd 1908

This particular set is currently on display in the War Horse exhibition at the Museum.

Monday 30 July 2012

War & Peace 2012 : Model Marquee

Ok, this will be the last post on the War & Peace Show as I'm sure your sick of the subject by now! There's a model marquee at every show and it usually features a range of model builders, a couple of traders and sometimes a display game or two. This year Armourfast and Plastic Soldier Company were present and the guys from Crush the Kaiser had their display game out to view. Here's a few pictures of the best bit from this part of the show.

Armourfast models on sale and on display
Armourfast Panzer III command tank
A Tamiya model T34
Another Tamiya model this time a Sherman
Part of an impressive collection of WWII aircraft contained over 300 models
Crush the Kaiser on display in the Model Marquee
Closeup of part of the Crush the Kaiser display
A converted Tamiya model of a Sherman Crab flail for clearing mines 
Outside the Model Marquee there were a couple of traders including Mr Models where I picked up a couple of Vallejo paints that I needed. There was also a tent set aside just for Armortek 1/6th scale Remote Control models. These puppies are for the serious enthusiast and cost thousands of pounds to build... one day, when I win the Lottery!

An amazing collection of Armortek Tanks...there's probably about £20k's worth of models here!
Right this really is my last word on War & Peace, honest.  I have now edited, labelled and uploaded all my pictures from the show and put them on my Picasa web albums storage space. You can view them all by following this link.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Spot the Wargamer : Salute 2004

The last Spot the Wargamer I did a couple of weeks ago was quite popular judging from the number of hits that post generated. So I have decided to do it again and this time I'm going back a little further to April 2004 and SALUTE when it was still at Olympia.

So once again can you see yourself in any of these pictures? No prizes for finding yourself I'm afraid but as always it would be great to hear from you. Were you at this show and what are your recollections of this event?

Friday 27 July 2012

War & Peace 2012 : Re-enactors

Shows like War & Peace couldn't be run without the contribution of thousands of re-enactors. I shot lots of pictures of them as I went around the site and here are some of my favorites:

Weary Germans begin to dig in before the Allied offensive begins
.50 cal Browning machine gun opens fire on the Germans during the battle re-enactment on Saturday
US Infantry exchange fire with the enemy while a Medic attends the wounded
German re-enactors on parade after being defeated again in the main Battle on Saturday
The Russian contingent were very entertaining. I thought this guy was miming when I saw him at first, but he was actually playing this Balalaika Guitar.
Panzer Crewman takes a break
The commander of the Stug discusses tactics with the SS Panzer commander
This SS MG Team uses the MG34 Light Machine Gun. It is being fed by a 250 round belt capable of delivering 1,200 rounds per minute.
I think this SS officer had the rank of Untersturmführer (Equivalent to a Leutnant in the Wehrmacht)
Even Comrade Stalin put in an appearance!
I'm still trying to cull and label all the pictures I took (I'm about half way through). I'm have a few pictures that are proving difficult to identify and label but once I have the majority completed I will upload them all to my online storage space on Picasa. When I do this I'll post a link here so you can see my final selection.

War & Peace 2012 : Armour in the Arena

Following on from my earlier posts about the 2012 War & Peace Show now we get on to the big stuff. This show has probably one of the best displays of moving Armour in the UK outside the Tank Museum at Bovington. Each year the selection changes and this year saw some very interesting and unique vehicles in the arena. Here is a selection of my favorite pictures under this category:

A replica Stug III
75mm M8 Howitzer Motor Carriage
Russian T54
British A34 Comet Cruiser 
Valentine DD Tank
Russian T34
Biglee with a Stuart and Sherman
Two M36 Jackson's
I think you'll agree this is a pretty impressive array of Armour and easily justified the entrance fee. Later today I'll post some of my favorite pictures of the re-enactors themselves. 

Thursday 26 July 2012

War & Peace 2012 : Falklands 30

The Falklands War took place 30 years ago this year so there was a special display of hardware and equipment from this conflict. There were also some special guests including Simon Weston who spoke to the arena about his experiences. His speech was short but very interesting and humble. We had the honor to meet him later in the veterans marquee and I have to say he was a genuinely nice chap. 

Falklands veteran Simon Weston at War & Peace 2012
FV107 Scimitar
Reenactor at the Falklands Display
L118 Light Gun
L16A1 81mm Mortar
Land Rover 101 Forward Control Vehicle

Rapier Missile System
BigLee in the Falklands Display area
This was a very interesting display and was dedicated to all the soldiers - on both sides - who lost their lives in the war.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

War & Peace 2012 : Trade Stands

I'm still working through the insane amount of photographs I shot at the War & Peace Show on Friday and Saturday. Trimming the pile down is the easy part, but labeling and identifying everything correctly is proving very hard indeed. So in the meantime here are a few pictures from the Trader side of the event. Half the event is dedicated to memorabilia traders selling everything from replica weapons for reenactors through to recently recovered airplane parts or even whole vehicles.
Remains from a Horsa Glider recovered near Ranville in Normandy.
Original uniforms and equipment can be bought from hundreds of Traders
Ray looking at an assortment of original helmets
There are also 'unusual' items on sale such as this very early Tank Corp recruitment poster. 
More uniforms helmets and hats, all genuine and all very expensive!
Ray purchased this German Helmet for his collection. This was recovered from Juno beach just this year.
The cast from Ello Ello.

Walking around the site really is like wandering through a museum only you can pick up and examine the exhibits in great detail. I could never afford to buy most of the stuff on display but while other people spend huge sums of money to own stuff, I get hold history in my hands for free. 

I'll post more pictures as I work through the pile so expect to see more over coming days. 

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Troop Leader by Bill Bellamy

Troop Leader: A Tank Commanders Story by Bill Bellamy is one of the better first person accounts I have read of the campaign in NW Europe in 1944-45. Against all the rules he kept documents, letters and diaries of his experiences and the reader can only approve of this mild act of rebellion because it has resulted in such an excellent book. But unlike the big scholarly works of historians like Keegan, Ryan and Hastings this book is more concerned with the minutiae of day to day life as a Cromwell troop commander. 

Bellamy's style of writing is very easy to read, sincere and engaging without being overly simplistic. His descriptions are interesting and have an immediacy that probably comes from his extensive notes and diaries written in the field. There is very little 'action' in his story but that never detracts from the pervading sense of danger that he and his men lived with all the time. Time and again Bellamy recounts yet another friend or college killed in action and each time it is shocking for its complete randomness. Death could come to anyone at any time and crews came to terms with the danger in their own way. 

One amusing an enlightening anecdote illustrated the speed and agility of the Cromwell over other allied tanks. In Holland his troop of tanks pushed through a hedge only to find themselves right in the middle of a German division armed to the teeth with Panzerfausts and AP guns. With a quick burst of MG fire the Cromwell's roared into reverse and made off as fast at they could across a wide open field. With AP rounds chasing them all the time the only escape route was across an elevated drainage Dyke. So they gained as much speed as possible, hit the sloping dyke wall and jumped the 20' of water to the other side!!

British Cromwell Tank
Towards the end of the war His mother was killed by one of the first V1's to hit London. When he returned to his unit after the funeral he was understandably full of hatred for the Germans. But his humanity soon returned as his regiment moved into Germany and he began to see the terrible devastation of towns and cities, especially Hamburg which made a big impression on him. 

I found his description of the closing stages of the war and the early occupation in Berlin particularly interesting. One gets the impression from his words that he felt that the Allies had removed one evil regime and handed it to another. Initially he was open minded about the Russians, being admittedly ignorant (in his words 'naive') about politics. But first hand experience of the Russian occupiers of Berlin changed his mind and he was revolted at some of the things he saw. 

This is a very interesting book precisely because it does not look at the 'big picture'. Bellamy's style of writing is both engaging and entertaining and he knows how to tell a good story. As with many of these memoirs of wartime service it gives a uniquely personal view of the campaign to defeat the Nazis and liberate Europe.