Tuesday 26 February 2013

Acknowledgement at last

Listening to the radio this morning I heard that at last veterans of the WWII Arctic Convoys and of Bomber Command would at last be recognised for their contribution to the fight against Nazi Germany. A special medal has been created - The Arctic Star - for naval veterans and the Bomber Command clasp for veterans of the air campaign. Up to 25,000 veterans or their widows will be able to apply for the medal. Next of kin can also apply on behalf of deceased veterans. 

I have met veterans of both groups and talked with them about their wartime service, and know they all deserve this new and long overdue acknowledgement. 

The Bomber command guys in particular have spent most of their lives since the war under a cloud of post war revisionist thinking about the morality of the strategic bombing campaign. For me the rights and wrongs of the policy of strategic bombing should always have been treated as a separate issue and should never have been allowed to tarnish the reputations of these airmen. Over 55,000 of their comrades died carrying out their orders over France and Germany and their bravery and devotion to duty should never have been in question. 

Sadly it has taken over 60 years for the recognition they deserve and for many of these veterans this award is far far too late. 

Monday 25 February 2013

Cavalier 2013 Photo's

Sunday saw seven of The Rejects turn up at the Cavalier Wargames show in Tonbridge. I had a great time at this years show and came away with some bargains, which is always good. The morning session was very busy with lots of gamers passing through the doors, although it did tail off significantly after lunch. As stated yesterday I didn't take as many pictures this year, mainly because I spent a significant portion of the day talking to friends old and new and saying hello to fellow Bloggers. It was really good to meet up with the likes of David Crook, Bob CorderyJohn Lambshead and Clint to name but a few. 

Anyway, here is a selection of pictures I took at the show. There are a few more here if you are interested.

Contractual shot of Postie and Ray... Note Ray is happy in this photo as it was before he discovered that some of his models on the Bring and Buy stall had been stolen by a scumbag.
Deal Wargames - Denmark 1940
Deal Wargames - Denmark 1940
Deal Wargames - Denmark 1940
Deal Wargames - Denmark 1940
Southend Wargames Club - To the Beat of the Drum
Southend Wargames Club - To the Beat of the Drum
Maidstone Wargames - Operation Deadstick 1944
Gamers Hub - Warhammer 40k
West Kent Wargamers - Siege!
West Kent Wargamers - Siege!
Society of Ancients - The Battle of Crimisus 340BC
Society of Ancients - The Battle of Crimisus 340BC
Loughton Strike Force - Hammerin' Iron
Old France New England
Square Bashing
Crawley Wargames - Brave Little Belgium
Crawley Wargames - Brave Little Belgium
Crawley Wargames - Brave Little Belgium
Crawley Wargames - Brave Little Belgium
SEEMS - A very French Civil War
SEEMS - A very French Civil War
SEEMS - A very French Civil War
SEEMS - A very French Civil War
Friday Night Fire Fight Club - Operation Unthinkable - Pattons Charge
Friday Night Fire Fight Club - Operation Unthinkable - Pattons Charge
The Rejects on High - See Fran's picture of me taking this picture here! Oh the excitement!!
North London Wargames Group - Drop the Bridge

I was sad to hear that Ray and Postie had some models nicked from the Bring and Buy stall. The problem it that pretty much every B&B I have ever seen is usually three or four deep in potential customers and it must be nigh on impossible for the people 'staffing' the stall to watch everything. That doesn't make it right of course, cos someone decided they would steal £40 worth of models. So if you come across a unit of twelve 25mm Napoleonic 5th/60th Royal American Rifles up for sale anywhere please contact Ray as they may be his stolen figures.

I think the moral of this is that the Bring and Buy is about bargains and if you have something worthwhile (and valuable) to sell you're probably better off doing it on eBay or through the marketplace pages on TMP. At least that way you have a little more control over the process.  

Sunday 24 February 2013

I've been to Cavalier

Today I met up with the Rejects at the Cavalier show in Tonbridge in Kent. I have been looking forward to this show because its been months since my last bit of serious retail therapy. I didn't shoot as many photo's as normal so it won't take me long to sort through them. I should have them posted sometime tomorrow. In the meantime here's a picture of my show loot.
Cavalier Loot!
I have to say a big thank you to David Crook of A Wargaming Odyssey for the six books on the North Africa campaign. These are excellent and will give my North Africa project a much needed shot in the arm. 

Friday 22 February 2013

Let the Retail Therapy Commence

Although I'm a keen Internet shopper there really is no replacement for hands-on retail therapy. And for gamers like me that usually means visiting a local wargames show or convention. There are a handful of game shops within reach of my home but for the sheer variety of products available you can't beat a convention. My 'show season' (for want of a better phrase) starts this Sunday with Cavalier at Tonbridge in Kent.

I have only been going to this show for a couple of years (since I joined Posties Rejects) but it has become a firm favourite and a regular feature of my gaming calender. It's nice and early in the year and it feels like the herald of spring after a long bleak winter without any other shows (the last one I went to was SELWG, waaaaay back in October). My trigger finger is definitely starting to get twitchy and I have some cash burning a hole in my pocket that absolutely must be spent!

Here are a collection of my pictures from the 2011 and 2012 shows to whet your appetite for this great little event. 

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Panzerkompanie (21.)

Having almost completed my British 8th Army forces I decided I needed to get the bulk of the opposing Afrikakorp finished as well. I have a selection of Panzer IV F's and Panzer III J's already painted but this new batch will form the core of a German Armoured Company circa mid 1942. I've tweaked the army list slightly to make better use of the models I have available.

These models are 1/300th scale from Skytrex and I'm really happy with the quality of the castings. The detail is really nice and like all German Panzer's there are plenty of nice angled surfaces to show up the highlighting.

Panzerkompanie (21.) - Confident Veteran - German Armoured Company
Company HQ - 2x Panzer IV F² 290pts
Panzer Platoon - 5x Panzer IV F¹ 500pts
Panzer Platoon - 5x Panzer IV F¹ 500pts
Panzer Platoon - 5x Panzer III N 550pts

Two Panzer IV F² tanks lead two platoons of  Panzer IV F¹ with a platoon of Panzer III N's bringing up the rear.

Panzer III N
The Panzer III was developed in the 1930's as a Medium Tank and was originally designed to be supported by the Panzer IV in an Infantry support role. As the war evolved and tank guns increased in size the roles of these two tanks were reversed with the Pzr III becoming the support tank.

Like other German tanks of the period the Pzr III was upgraded several times, eventually far outstripping its original design parameters  The last version of the Pzr III was the Ausf. N and was fitted with a 7.5cm KwK 37 L/24 gun able to fire High Explosive Anti Tank (HEAT) rounds.

Panzer IV F¹
The Panzer IV was initially conceived as an Infantry Support tank but quickly evolved beyond that role as the war progressed. The Panzer IV was able to accommodate a larger turret ring which in turn meant it could carry a larger turret and therefore a larger gun. By the end of the war the armament of the Pzr IV had gone from the short 75mm KwK37 L/24 to the long barrelled high-velocity KwK 40 L/48 75mm tank gun. The armour had also gone from an inadequate 15mm of frontal armour to 80mm by the end of the war.

The 1942 Panzer IV Ausf. F2 was an upgrade of the Ausf. F and was fitted with the KwK 40 L/43 anti-tank gun primarily in response to the experiences of fighting Soviet T-34 and KV tanks during  the German invasion of Russian in 1941, Operation Barbarossa.

I still have a Heavy Anti-aircraft Gun Platoon  (a pair of 88's plus crew and support vehicles) for 240pts and a Heavy Panzerspäh Platoon (four Sd Kfz 231 8-Rad's) for 170 pts and some Ju 87D Stuka's to round off this company and brining it up to 2425 points.

Monday 18 February 2013

Painting my Mat-o-War

The original mat colour was darker than I wanted
Painting twenty four square feet of wargaming mat has to be one of the biggest hobby related painting projects I have ever undertaken. As stated a few days ago my Mat-o-War arrived and on the whole I am very pleased with it. However it was a little darker than I would have liked and as various websites suggested painting it I put out a request for advice here on BLMA and over at TMP. The feedback received was very useful and so this weekend I attacked my new wargaming mat with several cans of spray paint!

The method suggested by those in the know, and adopted my me, was relatively simple:
  1. Lay the mat out in a well ventilated area (in my case, the Garden)
  2. Apply several light dusting's of spray paint in short bursts from about 18 inches range
    • Base: Desert Yellow (Humbrol) and  Dark Yellow (Tamiya)
    • Secondary: Sand (Humbrol) and  Light Sand (Tamiya)
    • Highlight: Ivory (Halfords)
  3. Allow to dry for several hours before handling
The aim is not to create any specific features (although you could do that, adding roads of instance), but merely to break up the uniformity of the mats basic colour  By keeping the can at a distance the paint only adheres to the surface of the fabric and doesn't soak all the way through. This means you could paint the other side a different colour if you so wished.

The unpainted mat is on the right and the base painted colour is on the left
Again the unpainted mat is on the right and the final highlighted mat on the left
The above picture doesn't do the finished effect justice because it really does look much better than the unpainted mat. The overall effect is much less uniform, significantly lighter in tone and compliments the basing of my particular models.

British Heavy Tank Squadron and an Infantry Tank Company on my newly painted mat

Friday 15 February 2013

Another Friday Rant

A recent post that has stirred up a lot of interest was my article last week on poor customer service and lack of communication. I had a lot of feedback asking me to name and shame the retailer involved but I'm afraid that after a week of thinking about this issue I have decided not to name them. Its far too easy to throw accusations around the Internet these days and I decided that I didn't want to jump on that particular bandwagon just yet. The fact is that no one single retailer has hacked me off to the point where I'd feel justified damaging their reputation online. So rather than ranting about a specific retailer I decided I'd list a few general examples of problems I have encountered over the last few months. You know, just to get it off my chest...

Processing Delays
Some retailers are lightening fast. Amazon are a prime example. I have bought some products and had them delivered the next day even though I had selected the Standard delivery option. Clearly not all retailers have the economic power and resources of Amazon but I have received similar fast service from small retailers and even from online businesses based around a single High Street shop. One recent order was a sad exception.

Firstly it took a whole week for the seller to even begin processing my order. I realise that this sounds very impatient (boo-hoo!), but as already stated many other online retailers I have dealt with dispatch orders within 2-3 days if not quicker. Having said that I assume this is a small outfit, possibly a one-person operation, so I can understand some degree of delay. But then having begun processing my order it them took a further 18 days before my parcel was eventually posted. During the whole of this time I never received any communication explaining the delay and no reply to my emails regarding the delay in my order.

Unexpected Charges
Another issue I have encountered is unexpected or unexplained charges that appear after an order has been placed. I've had this happen several times, usually from overseas retailers, and each time we haven't been talking small change. One particular example added a Shipping charge at the point of order but then emailed a week later to say there would be an additional charge that was greater than the cost of the items being ordered!

Its always worth checking the website of an online retailer you have never used before because they should state if additional charges apply. This isn't always the case and on at least two occasions I felt I was being ripped off and cancelled the order immediately. But on other occasions I have accepted that it was my own fault for not checking the shipping rates at point of sale. The lesson I have learnt (the hard way) is that it is incumbent on the buyer to check the total charges for their order before proceeding with that order.

Poor Packaging
Having paid for your goods the least you would expect of the retailer/supplier is that they send your goods in suitable packaging so that it has a reasonable chance of arriving in good condition. I've had books delivered in regular envelops (not even a padded bag) with bent spines and damaged corners. I've had orders arrive in re-used packing that barely covered the items inside. On one occasion I even received an un-boxed resin figure in a padded bag which arrived in several very small pieces.

One recent example was the delivery of my Mat-o-War. Bare in mind this order was for a 6'x4' gaming mat so you'd expect a 4' long roll to be delivered, possibly in a tube or at the very least rolled tightly so that it would resist bending in transit. Instead the mat was very loosely rolled lengthwise so what I received was a squashed, creased and floppy 6ft long package in an ill fitting plastic wrapper. Some of the creases are so bad I think they will need to be ironed out, although thankfully it doesn't look as if there has been any permanent damage to the mat.

Wrong or missing items
Twice in the last six months I have ordered miniatures from online manufacturer/retailers and either received the wrong items or found items missing. Neither order was particularly large or complex so I find it hard understand how completely the wrong figures could have been posted. On one occasion I ordered two items and only one turned up. When emailed the supplier said the missing item was out of stock and I would get my delivery when they were resupplied. If there had been a note to that effect in my first parcel I would have been quite happy but as I had to chase for an explanation I cancelled the second item (I then found it cheaper and in stock with another retailer!).

Taking your Business Elsewhere is Easy
When there are so many alternative suppliers to choose from online I can easily take my disposable income elsewhere. For many of the companies involved in the above examples, next time I probably will go somewhere else. The loss of one repeat customer might not bring down a business but if others feel the same as me then these companies are shooting themselves in the foot, which is very dangerous in the current economic climate.

Maybe these orders were an exception to the norm for these retailers. It is possible I was just unlucky and they were having an 'off day', but as my money, time and patience is of limited capacity, I won't be returning to find out.

OK. I fell better now for getting that out of my system. I promise to be less grumpy in future. 

Thursday 14 February 2013

Desert Mat-o-War

A few weeks ago I wrote about my search for a suitable wargaming mat for my Desert campaigns. I had looked at several examples, some of which I couldn't find for sale and others that were very expensive. I asked for advice on alternatives or suppliers for some of the examples I was looking at and the response from BLMA readers was exceptional and very useful. One commentator listed a retailer in Ireland that sold the Mat-o-War and after a little deliberation I decided to buy this product.

Well the Mat has arrived and on the whole I'm very pleased with it. At last I have a gaming surface that will cover any gaming table up to 6x4' and it looks strong enough that I expect it to last many happy years of wargaming. It's a little darker than the pictures online indicated but I'm sure I can find a way to lighten the surface. Some suppliers websites have suggested that the mat can be painted but they are a little vague on detail. So I have put out a call for advice on The Miniatures Page and of course if the readership of BLMA have any suggestions they will be gratefully received

I also bought some anti-slip matting of the type you lay under rugs. This can go under the Mat-o-War to protect delicate dining tables (got to keep the SWMBO happy!) and to stop the mat from sliding on shiny polished surfaces when leaned on. 

This definitely falls within the category of  'serendipitous purchases' because no sooner had I decided I needed to buy just such a product than I found one in my local supermarket...and it was just £4.00 which is considerably cheaper than I have seen this sold elsewhere. I do enjoy a bargain!!

So now, at last I am ready and able to play a desert game on any suitably sized table.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

AEC I Armoured Cars

Another Divisional Support platoon for my British Heavy Armoured Squadron. The AEC I Armoured Car was originally developed as a private venture but was slipped into a display at Horseguards and caught the eye of Churchill. The Mark I was fitted with a Valentine turret and carried a 2 pdr anti tank gun. Later versions carried a 6 pdr and later the M3 75mm from the Sherman. The Mk I had a 3 man crew, a maximum speed of 36 mph and weighed in at 11 tonnes.

A troop of three Mk I's with the Valentine turret and 2 pounder gun

Rear view showing the base labelling
These will provide some useful advanced scouting ability for my Heavy Armoured Squadron.

Monday 11 February 2013

Travel Reading

Now and again I have to visit my companies Southampton office as part of my job. This time I'm off to conduct some training with the manager but it's planned to be a short visit and I'm hoping to be back in wet and dismal Dagenham by early evening tomorrow. So once again I have an overnight stay in a hotel and several hours of solitary 'free' time to kill - its an unavoidable part of my job but something I'll never get used to. The only question is what shall I do with this time? 

I was going to bring my Travel Painting Kit but as its just one evening and I'm between projects anyway I decided to take it a little easier and just bring a few good books instead. I'm keenly researching the Desert War in North Africa for my 6mm micro armour project so I'm taking books specific to that topic. 

The book by John Sadler is pretty heavy going (the typeset is very small) but it is amply illustrated and well indexed so I may just dip into the book as needed for now. The Tanks in Detail book is one I bought quite some time ago and is very much in the style of an Osprey work although this isn't published by them. The M3 Grant/Lee is a strange looking Tank and but was an important step in the evolution of the later M4 as well as a number of M3 variants. 

Two Troops of Crusader II's

Here's the latest addition to my British Heavy Armoured Squadron. Two divisional support platoons of Crusader II's. The Crusader II was in essence just an up armoured Crusader I with thicker armour but the same weaponry, either the 2pdr or 3" Howitzer. It wasn't a particuarly reliable vehicle and was soon replaced by the american M3 and M4 as they were brought into the war. 

Two Troops of Crusader II Cruiser Tanks
This picture of the Crusaders shot from behind clearly shows the base labeling. 

Sunday 10 February 2013

Quo Vadis Romans

Continuing the occasional series of pictures of Toy Soldiers.

This set of 54mm figures are an early example of miniatures as a movie tie-in. Produced in 1951 by John Hill and Co the 'Quo Vadis' Roman Set was created to coincide with the release of the film the same year. Quo Vadis was an MGM film directed by Mervyn LeRoy and was adapted from Henryk Sienkiewicz's 1896 novel also of the same name. This was an 'epic' as only Hollywood could do it and stared Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Leo Genn and Peter Ustinov.

John Hill and Co was originally started in 1898 by a former employee of Britain's. They were the first British hollowcast figure company to sell their figures individually in shops like Woolworths. These figures however were sold as a boxed set containing a Chariot, charioteer, four (possibly more) Roman soldiers and a smaller size Lion and Tiger. They were cast in lead and sold as a children's toy rather than as a collectible, something that would be unthinkable today. The firm was late converting to plastic figures and although they did release plastics from 1956 onwards they ceased trading in the early 1960's.

These can be viewed at the House on the Hill Toy MuseumStansted Mountfitchet.