Friday 31 August 2012

Haynes Sherman Tank Manual

Earlier in the year I reviewed the excellent Haynes Manual on the Tiger Tank and was delighted to find that Haynes also did one on the many variants of the Sherman Tank. Unlike the Tiger book this one isn't written by the Tank Museum but the author Pat Ware is a recognised authority on military vehicles and former editor of Classic Military Vehicle Magazine.

The Sherman Tank Manual provides a fascinating and detailed insight into the history, development, production and role of the most prolific and arguably most important Allied Tank of the Second World War. 

Although relatively unsophisticated, and lacking the firepower and armoured protection of the heavier German tanks that proved to be its main opponents during WWII, the Sherman had the advantage of being available in large numbers - upwards of 50,000 by the end of the war. The Sherman was also easily adapted to a wide variety of specialist roles; everything from mine clearance to swimming assault tank!

The M4 Sherman at Tankfest in 2010

The book is divided into sections each focused on a different aspect of the Sherman and its Variants:
  • History - design, evolution and development of the many variants.
  • Anatomy - engines, transmission, tracks, body, brakes, armaments.
  • In action - WWII, Indo-Pakistan, Yom-Kippur and beyond.
  • Ownership - buying, insuring, driving, transporting, running.
  • Restoring a Sherman - bringing a battle-weary tank back to life.
  • Maintenance - reliability, problems, maintenance and repairs.
I've been reading its bit by bit for a couple of weeks and found it an easy book to dip into. In many way's its like reading a large magazine dedicated to just one subject and as such its an easy book to read over a long period and in between other books. That doesn't reduce its statue as an informative and well researched work and I think many gamers would find this just as interesting as military modellers and owners of military vehicles. 

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Ye Godz I'm busy

Ok, its time for the inevitable 'excuse making post'. I'm incredibly busy at work at the moment and my recent holiday has only made things worse. Even finding time to write this poor excuse for a Blog post has been difficult (I'm being audited today...lucky me!!). But I felt I needed to say sorry for the very erratic and sparse posting of late. Things are probably going to continue like this for a couple of weeks and in the meantime I'm ticking along reading the various magazines I buy on a regular basis. I'm hoping to get to grips with the workload soon and get back to the really important task of painting and gaming! 

Monday 27 August 2012

The passing of a Hero

RIP Neil Armstrong 1930-2012

I wanted to write a whole piece about this man but just couldn't find the right words. I love those two pictures of him because they show Neil Armstrong as a man of humour, humility and humanity. He was an 'everyman' (if you'll excuse the male emphasis). He was both lucky to be in the right place for this mission but was also the perfect choice. Calm, steady and cool headed but not without passion or poetry.

He remains my Hero of the 20th Century not for himself but for the scientific achievement he represented; the culmination of an endeavour that while conceived in the politics of the Cold War ultimately united the world in admiration. For those of us that grew up after Apollo 11 the indelible reality is that we are now a space-faring race, and we belong amongst the stars.

"...we can divide all of history into two parts: before humans landed on the Moon, and after. It was not just an important moment, it was the moment, a defining, crystallizing slice of time that confirmed that we humans had become a space faring race." (Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy)

Thursday 23 August 2012

My Brainy Daughter

My Padawan Learner is all grown up!
Sorry for this off-topic non-gaming post but I just wanted to express my overwhelming pride at my eldest daughters exam results. Like hundreds of thousands of kids up and down the country she went into school today to collect her GCSE exam results. We were confident she had done well (she's had lots of feedback from the school to help her focus effort where it was needed) but we are still blown away by her success...

Six A-Star's, Four A's and Two B's !!!!

She must get her brains from her mother because she sure as hell didn't get it from me! Joking aside, these results reflect the hard work, commitment and maturity she has shown over the last couple of years and I'm very very proud of her. 

We are all going out for dinner tonight to celebrate and discuss what sort of reward is appropriate for such an excellent set of results. I can confidently say my Padawan Learner has passed her Initiate Trials and can be elevated to the rank of full Jedi. Now we just need to find her a suitable Jedi name.... hmmm, any ideas? 

Toy Soldiers - Scottish Regiments

Continuing the occasional series of pictures of Toy Soldiers.

These toy soldiers are available to view in the Toys and Memorabilia Collection at Bletchley Park. There are hundreds of Toy Soldiers on display in this collection but their presentation is a little 'messy'. There are plenty of labels but these tend to be at the front of the shelves and are dissociated with the figures they are labelling, making identification difficult. This is a great pity because the collection on display is very comprehensive and interesting. These figures are an exception but even here more detailed information is lacking.

Scottish Regiments (The Toys and Memorabilia Collection, Bletchley Park)
These look like William Britain's models (the square base is distinctive) and are presumably part of a set designed to show off the differences in uniform between various Scottish Regiments. Note differences in Sporran and Garter designs as well as the colours of Cuffs and Collars.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Muckleburgh Collection Revisited - Part 3

Here's the last part of my pictorial review of my recent visit to the Muckleburgh Collection in Norfolk.

M5A1 Light Tank 'Stuart'
Inside the M5A1 Light Tank 'Stuart'

Soviet MT-55 Armoured Bridgelayer
BigLee in front of the M5 Stuart and the M-24 Chaffee light tank
Sherman 'Grizzly' M4A1
Looking round the back I found the Engine Bay doors open on the Sherman 'Grizzly' M4A1
Soviet T34/85 Medium Tank
The Drivers hatch on the T34/85 Medium Tank
This 88mm Flak 37 AA Gun featured in the HBO Series 'Band of Brothers'
Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR 1
V1 Flying Bomb and part of the Launcher Ramp
There is plenty more to restore in the field next door

This is a really good museum with plenty to keep the enthusiast happy. If you are ever in the area its well worth a visit.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Muckleburgh Collection Revisited - Part 2

Following on from yesterdays post here are some more photos from my recent visit to the Muckleburgh Collection.

M29 Cargo Carrier 'Weasel'
Ford Amphibian Jeep that took part in the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach
British CVR (T) Scorpion
Russian T-55 MBT
Model of General Patton
WWI Mobile Pigeon Loft
An Abbot SPG
One small corner of the Model Hall
M8 Greyhound Armoured Car
M3A1 'White' Armoured Car
Daimler Mk 1 Armoured Car
BSA M20 Motor Bike built in 1942
British Tracked 'Bren Gun' Carrier from 1942
Tomorrow I'll post some pictures of the heavy armor at the Museum.

Monday 20 August 2012

Twenty Questions Answered

I missed this set of questions from Ray and Fran while I was away on holiday. I have been trying to catch up on all the Blog's I didn't get to read while I was in Norfolk and its been fun to read everyone's responses to these questions. So I have put my thinking cap on and here are my brief set of answers.

1.  Favourite Wargaming period and why? 
Clearly from my choice of games it has to be WWII closely followed by ACW.

2.  Next period, money no object?
I'm afraid it would still be WWII but I'd like to focus on the North Africa campaign.

3.  Favourite 5 films?
King Kong, Aliens, Zulu, The Longest Day and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

4.  Favourite 5 TV series?
Band of Brothers, Babylon 5, Voyager, Futurama and The X-Files.

5.  Favourite book and author?
I'm a big Tolkein fan but I think I'll have to nominate Iain M. Banks in this category. His Sci-Fi just blows me away and I have yet to read anything he has written that I haven't loved. I think I would have to pick State of the Art as my favourite as it was the first Banks Sci-Fi I read.

6.  Greatest General? Can’t count yourself!!
Alexander the Great of course. Who else?!?

7.  Favourite Wargames rules?
It's hard for me to choose as I have played so few compared to other gamer's. Of those I have played I have to say I enjoy Fire and Fury for its simplicity.

8.  Favourite Sport and team?
I don't watch or follow any sport. I watched some of the Olympics (it was hard to avoid) but beyond special events sport is something of a mystery to me.

9.  If you had a only use once time machine, when and where would you go?
There are plenty of times and places I would like to visit but the fact is if it was a one trip affair I'd have little excuse not to use the opportunity to rid the world of a great evil. So it would have to be Germany, September 1919 just before Hitler joined the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (abbreviated as DAP, and later commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). I'd happily fuck up history to have a chance to kill Hitler.

10. Last meal on Death Row?
Peppered Steak with big chunky chips and garden peas. I feel hungry now! Mmmmm.... 

11. Fantasy relationship and why?
My wife, who else! OK, if pressed it would have to be Seven of Nine, Jeri Ryan. What can I say, I watched Voyager for one reason and one reason only! 

12. If your life were a movie, who would play you?
Timothy Spall. He looks ordinary enough to play an ordinary bloke like me plus he's rotund enough to look like me if you squint at the screen. 

13. Favourite Comic  Superhero?
I was never what you might call a big Comic Book reader but I have always enjoyed the Judge Dredd stories. Indeed anything originating from the pages of 2000AD.

14. Favourite Military quote?
"I call upon all who love freedom to stand with us. Keep your faith staunch. Our arms are resolute. Together we shall achieve victory." Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, June 6, 1944

15. Historical destination to visit?
Normandy. My Brother-in-law and I are planning a week long trip to the whole region. Whether we actually pull this off (or get away with it from our wives point of view!) is another thing.

16. Biggest Wargaming regret?
Not joining a wargaming club. My gaming group stopped wargaming about 20 years ago to play RPG's exclusively. I have always enjoyed that side of my hobby so I don't regret the move but I should have found a second group or club to exercise my wargaming interests.

17. Favourite Fantasy job?
Director of the Tank Museum at Bovington...unfortunately an old college and long time friend of mine already has the job, so I guess I'll have to wait for him to move on before putting myself forward for the position.

18. Favourite Song Top 5?
'Warmachine' by ACDC
'Brothers in Arms' by Dire Straights
'Three Little Birds' by Bob Marley
'All Along the Watchtower' by Jimmy Hendrix
'Into the West' by Annie Lennox

19. Favourite Wargaming Moment?
The first dice roll of any game. I get a tingle of excitement every time. Of course its usually followed by the realisation that my dice hate me and are plotting to kill me.

20. The miserable Git question, what upsets you?
Oh god how long have you got? I'm a miserable old git so if you are 'sensitive' or easily offended stop reading now!!
  • Nazis, fascists and racists of any shade. In particular the BNP who crawl out of the sewers every election to sow hate, lies and fear. 
  • David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne... indeed the whole f--king Cabinet! Not one of them has any touch with reality and none of them care as much about the-good-of-the-country as they do their own careers.
  • Religion. I have nothing against personally held faith but I find organised 'Religion' highly suspect. All Religions/Churches exist to enforce their own particular Doctrine. And because doctrine is inflexible and usually based on ancient and outdated concepts of morality  it all too often rides roughshod over logic, reason, critical thinking, science, equality, diversity, empathy and even compassion. 
  • Anyone that peddles superstition, parapsychology, creationism, anti-science or anti-vax crap. 
  • Homophobes and other hate groups. I can't tolerate intolerant ideologies - and yes, the irony  of that statement hasn't escaped me.
  • Smokers who refuse to accept that I (or my kids) shouldn't have to breath their second hand smoke. I'm all in favour of a smoking ban in public places.
  • Impatient, angry and just plain stupid drivers. I've had too many near misses over the years caused by idiots who don't even realise they have nearly caused an accident. 
  • Dog owners who let their pets shit in the park and don't clean it up. Just because it comes out of your dogs anus doesn't mean you are not responsible for it!!
  • People who drop litter. There should be a special place in hell for litterers! I live by the philosophy that you should take nothing but photo's and leave nothing but footprints. 
  • Spammers (borrowed from Fran's list). I'd also have to include Junk Mailers and Telephone Cold Callers to this category. Life is hassle enough without these tossers wasting my time and clogging up my inbox / bin / answer-phone with stuff I don't want and never asked for. 
  • Celebrity Culture... dignifying the phenomenon with word 'Culture' is surely a text book example of an oxymoron. So called 'reality tv' should be banned and made punishable by death. 
  • Bloggers who start 'questionnaire-memes' that take hours to complete and distract me from painting!!
OK, I reckon I have burnt enough bridges for one day (and this is the abridged list!!!)  I'm even grumpier than I thought I was! 

Muckleburgh Collection Revisited - Part 1

While I was away I was hoping to revisit the Muckleburgh Collection at Weybourne in Norfolk. I visited the museum in 2009 but since then the collection has expanded and new facilities have been built. My lovely wife knew I wanted to revisit the Muckleburgh Collection so she suggested that I drop her and the kids off in nearby Cromer so I could explore the museum in peace while they did a little shopping. I spent around three hours looking at the exhibits and of course taking pictures, and here are a selection.

The Artillery Hall has a wide range of guns on display
A British made signal pistol used on D-Day
A selection of models of the aircraft based in Norfolk during WWII
A British 13 Pounder Field Gun
An Argentinian 155mm Field Gun abandoned at the end of the Falklands War
The 17 Pounder - Arguably the best British Anti-Tank Gun of WWII
Chevrolet C8 Pdr Anti-Tank Portee - 1941
French AMX 13 Light Tank
Diamond T Recovery Truck
GMC 6x6 Truck
Morris Quad 4x4 Truck
The museum have loads more on display and I'll post some more pictures tomorrow.