Sunday, 26 July 2020

Emerging from the Chemical Bath..

In addition to figures I bought from the late  Eric Knowles collection ( and indeed the reason I was interested to buy them ),  I have my small collection of 'vintage' Minifgs 25mm 7YW Prussians; they have been enjoying a long-awaited bath  in Bird Brand 'Eco Spirit'  for the last several weeks.  It looks a bit noxious  ( I keep thinking of  Kenneth Williams shouting 'Frying Tonight!' ), but it's doing the job of removing a dodgy 40-year-old coating of Humbrol Enamels.

Prussians in the noxious swamp

Unpacking them ,we have  : 
                48  Line Muskeeters ( Minfigs PSW1 )   
                  3  Line Musketeer Officers (PSW2 ) 
                  1  Line Infantry Standard Bearer ( PSW12 )          
and one rather splendid mounted officer - not sure which he might be. Maybe Frederick himself?! Though I'm pretty sure he was intended for the Colonel of the regiment. 

out of the bath and on parade

This collection was indeed a regiment, bought from teenage 'birthday money' I suspect, as a result of earlier acquiring, reading  and being enthralled by Charles Grant's 'The War Game'.   How I ever imagined I would recruit a full army, with my very limited resources then,  I have no idea!   I think in the interim, they were pitched against a motley collection of Airfix plastic Napoleonics and AWI figures, all pretty badly painted.  I reconciled the eclecticism of the figures by creating 'imagi-nations',  which was of of course in keeping with Charles Grant's ideas, and was probably also fuelled by the serialisation of Tony Bath's Hyboria campaign in 'Battle for Wargamers' at around the same time. 

In the end, I think the advent of  WRG 1685-1845 rules with their 1:50 figure ratio, and battalions of 12 or 16 figures,  was much more budget-friendly and space-efficient, and these chaps probably made 3 or 4 battalions under those rules. Now, I hope they will finally wear their proper colours as Musketeers of the Prussian Line Infantry,  and should provide material for several units - they could perhaps make up to six battalions under Bob Cordery's 'Portable Wargame' system as adapted by me, and certainly  a couple of battalions  for Keith Flint's  'Honours of War', for example. I hope they will go nicely alongside the figures from Eric Knowles collection - indeed, when those became available, my thought was exactly this -  I could finally make use of my  Prussians after all these years!

But still, this is not to forget the original inspiration of Charles Grant's lovely book, that made the much younger me dream of grandiose armies.  As another inspiring chap, who lived and is buried not so far from here,  said:

"Teenage dreams, so hard to beat"

Admittedly, he probably wasn't thinking of toy soldiers!  (it's hard to believe, Peel would have been 81 next month) . 
Keep well,  everyone.



Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Air Support from Aldi, and painting Austrians slowly


The Portable Air Force

Opportunities for real gaming or planning have been a bit scarce recently - 'time and space, time and space..'  but I have managed to spend a bit of time on a couple of upgrades to the capabilities of my forces.  First of all, I always thought the 'D-Day Dodgers' would need an aviation element, as surely no re-creation of 1939-45 battles could ignore the effects of air power. Bob Cordery's 'Developed Portable Wargame' rules include a typically simple and  practical 'bolt-on' set of  rules for the use of aircraft, and I am interested to try those out. So I just needed some aircraft. Step forward the famous  middle aisle of our local branch of  supermarket Aldi,  from where a few months ago I picked up two  1:72 Airfix kits, which came complete with poly cement,  paints and brushes, all for £4.99 each, I think. 

In another 'haven't done this in many, many years'  moment, I settled down to build and paint, and was quite pleasd with the results -  Colonel Badger of the West Suffolks can now call up an airstrike in the form of an RAF  P-40 Tomahawk , while Oberst von Kleist has air cover courtesy of an Fw 190A.
Both went together fairly well even with my butter-fingers, though the engine cowling of the Focke-Wulf looks like the fitters must have bent it quite badly and then cross-threaded a lot of the bolts, and both  cockpit canopies are somewhat obscured in places by excess poly cement, as is entirely traditional!   It was all rather pleasantly nostalgic - in fact I think that the Airfix P-40 ( possibly an earlier version of the kit  )  was the first plastic model kit I ever built, probably about 1971 or '72 !
( Back then, it probably cost about 15p, I think. )
They seem  appropriate enough, as I'm sure the P-40 would have still been around at least in the ground-attack role in Italy in 1943 and 44,  and the Fw 190 was a Luftwaffe work-horse. The kit  is actually an 'A8' model,  a later-war 'bomber destroyer'with extra cannon - so I just left them off, not that they are exactly prominent, and I can imagineer it to an earlier version.  Maybe Me 109s would have been more common in the Mediterranean,  but let's not count buttons here - anyway, there weren't any 109s in Aldi.   The paints were fine, just 4 small pots in each kit  but no actual need for any other colours, and easily sufficient quantities. The paintbrushes  were petty terrible, though. I used my own, I am a bad enough painter without scrubby brushes making me worse.  And decals!  ( 'Transfers' in the old days, surely? ) . Cutting around each one, floating it in a saucer of water and waiting for them to float free - positively Proustian. Those shark's teeth on the P40 nose  were hard work, though, and will be kept away from the camera where possible.

They should see action in the next 'D-Day Dodgers' encounter, probably 'flying' on upturned plastic wine-glasses, and it will be interesting to see how the rules work with them ( aircraft are generic 'fighter' or 'ground-attack' , which I think is fine ).

Meanwhile, back in the 18th Century:  I have been making slow progress, rather hesitantly  painting a few of the Austrian infantry that I acquired from the collection of the late Eric Knowles. As per the painting notes found in Eric's boxes, these are going to represent the regiment 'Botta' fusiliers, and I have started with just 16 figures, making two battalions in Bob's brigade-level rules.  

Botta Regiment 'on the bottletops'

As you can see, for a bit more help I am glad to have Osprey's 'Men at Arms' no. 276, 'The Austrian Army 1740-1780 (2) Infantry'  by Philip Haythornthwaite and Bill Younghusband, which has answered a few questions and given me some confidence.  It's going to be a very simple paint job, pure 'block painting',  and no button counting here - even with a magnifying lamp, which has been a real godsend, I won't be painting the buttons!  I just about managed the lace trim on the hats without it being too ragged..  I hope Eric isn't spinning in his grave, but I'm doing my best, actually enjoying doing so, and will be happy with a basic look, for viewing strictly at 'wargame distance'.  Mostly it's the brass, gold and flesh parts still to do, and some nice simple green old-school bases - fingers crossed for finishing quite soon.  And then we'll see how they fight..
Keep well, everyone.


Saturday, 4 July 2020

Fnurban #3 : Sudbury and the Star-Spangled Banner

The original Star-Spangled Banner

        “Oh! say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
        What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
        Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
        O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
        And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
        Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
        Oh! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
        O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Of course today is U.S. Independence Day, and the 'Star-Spangled Banner' will be much in evidence. Which reminds me that my adopted ( and almost ancestral ) hometown of Sudbury believes it has a good claim to have provided the raw material from which the original Star-Spangled Banner was made. As an aside, I learned what 'bunting' is, and that Sudbury was the biggest producer of the stuff. Every town needs to be proud of something (we also have Thomas Gainsborough, by the way).

All is explained by our excellent local historian Anne Grimshaw,  on the Sudbury Society website; I hope it is of interest to any American readers - indeed any readers, given its military history angle.  

( Anne  has done quite a lot of local military history research, around our several local WW2 airfields and the US and British aircrew  based here, and was prominent in an excellent project to research all the Long Melford men and women who served in the Great War of 1914-1918 - one of whom was my grandfather).

Have a good day, everyone - keep safe and well.