Monday 21 December 2009

A very fine vintage:The Flanderkin Serjeant guide to classic modelling.

No doubt many of our readers will be taking advantage of the festive season to enjoy a quiet session or two painting and modelling. And what better time to shake off the pressures of our modern age and go back to the time when a gentleman knew how to get the most from his hobby. So Flanderkin Serjeant presents a guide to recreating the Golden Age of military modelling.

Firstly, and I can't stress this enough you will need a good dinner, then while the wife takes care of the washing up you can prepare for your hobby session. In any hobby having the correct gear is important and nowhere more so than painting figures so to the mirror we go. Hair tidily combed, tie straight? Of course if you are undertaking some hot casting or you are an American you may chose to work in your shirtsleeves but Most gentleman will find a tweed sports jacket affords the right combination of informality and comfort. It is rumoured that Ted Suren sculpts in the nude but of course he is Indian Army and we assume you will set your face against such bohemian practices.
Now then we can prepare our work station. Carefully take this mornings Telegraph and spread it out on the polished dining table. Now for the essential tools of the trade, place them so that those you will use most are most conveniently placed. So tobacco at your right hand next a box of matches these will be needed to stir the paint. Don't worry you will have an ample supply of spent ones. Next you require the figure, a brush and a pot of paint. That's all you will need for one session. Don't worry about brush cleaner you won't need it until you pack away.

If you decide to make your own figure range then you will additionally require a small lump of old Plasticine and a packet of plaster of paris, but I would recommend leaving the moulding of figures until after the wife has finished cleaning the kitchen and has comfortably settled with her knitting. You will need at least three of her best saucepans in which to melt the roofing lead

Of course back then molten lead was completely harmless so most people cast armies on their coffee tables without needing even a pair of gloves for protection. Home casting quickly fell out of favour though since it proved impossible to smoke while pouring the metal.
And there it is a miniature masterpiece created in an evening with an old blob of Plasticine and half a pot of Humbrol enamel. Time for a nightcap while the wife cleans her saucepans.

A Merry Christmas to you all.

Tuesday 10 November 2009


Now I remember why I never do them!

It all starts well enough. I find the 1mm drill and dremmel, mark where the holes are to go in the head and the shoulders of the mounted officer. Then the hands of the two foot officers who require new swords. Slowly does it, fine that's the hands drilled and quite neat too. The hole in the torso next; skidding around a bit still not too bad. Finally the head - good, good , almost there.

Of course I have not bothered to wrap the head in anything or put it in clamp. OW! suddenly hot! I let go of the red hot head which swings madly round on the drill before snapping the tiny drill bit in half. OK I have more drills carry on. That is a nice fit now. A bright idea why bother to go to the garage to get some soft metal wire the broken drill bit will make a perfect fitting peg for head and torso.Perfect in it goes, press hard. Oh, wait it has slipped entirely into the torso and is sitting there just below the level of the body. Now the swearing starts. Too flush to get out with pliers; it is a perfect fit and cannot be levered out or hammered further in.

Ten minutes of fumbling then OK if it won't come out then I will have to drill holes on each side of it into the soft metal then force a needle pliers in and pull it out. It will ruin the neckline of the figure and need rebuilding with green stuff but that's the best option.I start drilling and drilling and drilling. The wife arrives: "are you using power tools in the bedroom? I thought we agreed you wouldn't do that anymore?"
Finally out comes the rod. Still the up side is that I now have plenty of room to move the head around. In fact I could put a couple more heads in if I wanted to. Glue it up scoop in the araldite and stand back.

Actually that doesn't look too bad at all. Time for a coffee. I don't know why I don't convert more of my figures.

Sunday 8 November 2009


I was painting some English Civil War figures a week or so ago. They had lain unpainted in my box for some years. I can remember when I bought them being really impressed with them.
"Look at the detail on these" I enthused, " Look, Wow! this ones got a cheese sandwich in his pocket!"

I must confess to being less impressed when I came to paint them, and in fact they have gone back in the box half finished. I had done the clothing, equipment boots weapons and still had masses left to do. Frankly enthusiasm just ran out.

I contrast I was reading 'Flashman at the Charge' again last week when I suddenly felt the need for a fictitious 19C German unit. I had some old plastic ACW cavalry to hand and in a spirit of nostalgia got a scalpel and started carving at the hats. Two evenings later I had a unit of eight cavalry and I had really enjoyed myself in the process. To be honest I am not sure what the moral of this story is, I leave you to draw any conclusions you may wish.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

May I recommend..

The Blasthofblog. This is a joint venture by four enthusiasts to celebrate the Wargames Classic, Charge.

I have the great privilege to be collaborating with Steve Gill, Phil Olley and Stuart Asquith to produce a blog that will honour this great book. We hope to share, however faintly reflected, the magic that we have enjoyed.

I may add that it will have the bonus that since all posts will have at least some relevance to the book readers will be spared my opinionated rantings.

Please do visit and if you can leave a comment about your own experience of Charge it will be greatly appreciated.

Thursday 29 October 2009

Its been a long time coming

That's both this post and it's subject. But first off a thank you to all those who responded to my rather lazy invitation to write this blog for me. As always some really thought provoking comments that I will return to in time.

I was quietly sticking bits of lorry together when a lot came up on ebay. Stadden Pavlovski Guard Grenadiers 33 figures! Like all of you when I first bought Charge! for the very expensive sum of 3 Guineas, I drooled over the pictures and loved the light infantry. I am sure we all vowed to have a unit ourselves one day. The seller certainly had because the figures were organised exactly right for Charge.

A few clicks later the figures were mine for the very low price of £6. Of course at that price I am happy with a few blemishes and a few bayonets missing and a slight amount of lead rot are tolerable. So straight off into a bleach soak to stabilise the oxidisation, this also turns it brown so that it can easily be removed with brass wire brush. At the same time I decided to remove all of the bayonets rather than replace a missing few. My excuse is that they are skirmishers and it gives them a reason to Carry the sabre moulded at their side.
With the knife in my hand I got carried away. The officers had all Napoleonic bits such as epaulets removed and while I was at it I sawed away the packs that they were carrying. I quite understand that an officer may wish to have a warm cloak and a cold chicken and bottle of champagne to hand, but in my armies a Gentleman will have a manservant to carry such things. The sword went at the same time, a pin will be required here.

The unit has a mounted officer in the book. Interestingly Stadden never made one so a search brought out a George Washington figure that would do the job. A head donor was selected and the saw was back in action. I do wonder if I could have brought myself to hack away if these had cost £1.20 a figure rather than 20p.
Almost finished and yet... After being involved in the 'WarGamers' refight of Sitangbad I realise that their is always a degree of tension involved when copying these classic units. Does one slavishly copy or adapt as it goes along? In this case I thought I would change the figures a little to personalise them for myself. I was unsure about the tall brass fronted mitre for Light infantry. I think I prefer the idea of a cloth mitre. I have always liked the way that it is illustrated by contemporaries as curved to the front like a 'Noddy' hat. So out with the pliers and file and I change Charles Stadden's perfect rendition of a grenadiers mitre into something much more sloppy.

Since I am having the temerity to meddle with the masters work, I decide to add pigtails. I do like all my 18C to have powder and queues. This is a job for greenstuff. I hate Greenstuff it sticks to everything but the figure and works like a blob of chewing gum. Still I do one, perhaps tomorrow I will go and get some epoxy putty.

Time to start thinking about what colour to paint them. Like an archaeologist studying tomb paintings I start to pore over the illustrations to Charge. And that is where things get interesting. But I will leave that for my next post...

Wednesday 23 September 2009

What are the best rules that you never use?

A quiet month so far, at least as far as wargaming and blogging. I began by having my gall bladder removed (don't worry I am not about to post any pictures). I have not done much since although this week I am starting to catch up on a little light basing. Sticking machine gun crews into tile cement, that sort of thing, nothing too strenuous.

So I thought I would pose a puzzle for my readers. We all have a bundle of rules that we never use. Now I am not asking what you don't like. That would be far too obvious and banal for the razor sharp intellects that gather here. No, what rules do you really like and admire but never, ever actually get around to using and,of course, why is that?

I can start the ball rolling with three sets.

Firstly the WRG set Corps de Armee, remember the blue covered one with an introduction by David Chandler. I poured over these for months studying them and thinking they were everything we could ever need. They were hugely influential on my thinking but I never did get round to playing them and I suspect now that they may well have been unplayable.

The second set is Howard Whitehouses 'Science v Pluck or too much for the Mahdi'. I have both editions and everything about this set screams FUN! I love to read it but never seem to have had the occasion to play it. I suspect the reason is that I play few games nowadays and when I do a more traditional game seems to be demanded by the occasion.

The last rule set I have chosen will no doubt cause some raised eyebrows but have to confess to having never played a game using Charles Grant's 'The Wargame'. Poured over it, loved the book but never played it. Wonderful rules but I have always used Charge by Lawford and Young. This may be because Charge was the second Wargaming book I ever bought, in 1969, but thirty years passed before I finally found a second hand copy of Charles Grant's book. As you can imagine I had become somewhat set in my ways by that time.

Well, as they say Coffee break over. Time to get back to spreading grouting on pennies, surely one of the most boring activities ever devised.

Monday 31 August 2009

A bit of ephemera

I have always been very bad at adding the finishing touches to my army. I suppose because I enjoy painting but any attempt at even the most basic modelling ends in a welter of glued fingers crumpled paper and swearing. I have over 5000 Napoleonics but very few of them carry flags yet and I have no command stands.
So having hit this months target for painting, (100 Olley points or 200 20m figures) I decided to use the dog days of the month to do a bit of basing and such.

I had started to convert an old petrol tanker from a cheap metal source. You will all have seen these, a metal lorry with snap on plastic superstructure. May have been originally matchbox but most of them were given away with petrol and I picked up a boxful from a dealer for £1 each. I had decided that I wanted a militia lorry calling up support. Maybe getting workers to defend the barricades or maybe a day trip out from Madrid to the front line. I had a BB miniatures film crew, the cameraman and sound operator were fine for international news but the director was a bit pointless unless I wanted a Soviet film crew, which I don't. So into the back of the truck. I also bought at the same time from BB Heroines of the revolution pack. I was a bit disappointed, having admitted my fantasy senoritas, these looked more like Les Dawson in drag. Most were given away but a couple went into the lorry. Along with a couple of left over Irregulars these were the passengers. I would have liked more but was to mean to take any more from proper units.

The dog and boy chasing along behind were added and then it was painted and based. Photographs gave plenty of examples of commandeered militia vehicles. Basing was a problem, I was tempted to put the whole thing on a sheet of cobblestones but in the end decided to put it on a dusty road as being the most versatile. The groundwork is tiling grout and is that horrible brown colour. Useful for earth but who would want it in their bathroom?

I am playing around with bases at the moment being by nature a contrary old bastard I have decided to dislike the modern fashion for super detailed grit with with a few tufts of state of the art grass on it. I am playing around with minimalist bases. In fact the colour is less intense and much more dusty looking in real life. The flash has saturated the colour image. They are in fact not wading around in a sea of pink dust complete with wave crests. It just looks like that.
I should have taken the pictures outdoors but what are the chances of that on an English Bank Holiday?
And yes the lorry does have a serious use on the table top. I have a coup game planned where seizing vital points in the city releases reinforcements. The lorry will add a number of volunteers each move it drives around the streets.

Thursday 27 August 2009

Progress report.

Warrior 20mm : two mounted officers.
One of the nice things about picking up an old project is that a lot of spade work is often already done. I have just finished painting Moorish cavalry and artillery. Together with what I already have that gives me two tabors or battalions of infantry, a cavalry regt, a machine gun battalion and a mountain artillery battery. Altogether about 150 figures and I think we can say that it is finished. In fact I am still looking for some pack mules with suitable C20 loads, ie. ammunition boxes machine guns and artillery parts. Not big baskets, mattresses and other crap that looks like Ali Baba is moving house.

Warrior charging line cavalry and moor.

In fact I am finding getting pack animals a pain. They have to be quite small 20mm in order that the mules do not tower over the Irregular horses. They need sensible loads and they ideally should not come with handlers from a completely different army. Any ideas? Oh and cheap would be nice.
Irregular line cavalry and Falangist militia.
I could also do with a couple of mountain guns and handlers to replace the rather large pieces I have at present. This is not such a problem Jaclex hav an excellent set of six mules in their Indian army range. I guess I will have to flatten the turban a bit but they should be OK. Then I am waiting for Hat to release a Skoda 75mm mountain gun that they have promised. The bonus here is that the Italian crew should be very usable for other gun crews on both sides.

Irregular two line cavalry.

Even compared with ten years ago when I stared this project the amount of plastic stuff around is fantastic. I was looking at the late Robin Hunt's article in Military Modeling yesterday. His armies were WW1French and WW2 Russian with a good smattering of ACW confederates converted into whatever was needed. All Airfix of course. We are spoiled for choice. Which reminds me I need a Imex wagon set to provide a supply cart for the cavalry.

Irregular: Moorish cavalry and a slightly converted Generals bodyguard. (the lance has been removed and arm position changed.)

Well as I was saying almost completely finished! Next up are the International Brigade. I have two battalions mainly done so one more and the British Battalion plus various support bits and pieces.

A rather scruffy Irregular officer, which I use as a mounted NCO for the Artillery unit and a splendid senior officer from the same firm.

In the meantime I thought I would put up a few photographs of some of the Cavalry figures that I have used. So far all are either Irregular or Warrior. Unfortunately the Bandera range in the UK does not include cavalry. I hope to get a few of the US additions to the range from Pat Condray in the near future. Irregular are quite nice, very detailed but small 20mm. The Irregular range is over a 100 figures with some variants and I have used a lot. For some reason I have found that the lower code numbers are much better figures that the higher ones.

The Warrior cavalry are quite pleasant figures and very cheap, but as always with Warrior the figures vary enormously in style and detail, some of the infantry are a little, whats the word.. 'strange'?

The Last Great Lies

Occasionally wargamers will debate the truth of historical events on TMP or similar. I always am reminded of Jack Nicolson, overacting wildly as he declaims, 'The Truth you can't handle The Truth!" You have to hand it to old Jack he does have a point. Not as to the the veracity of Humbrol Authentic Paints but certainly in the wider issues.

I am guilty, I protested as loudly as anyone when Slingshot introduced us to 'Cultural Wargaming' in the 90's. I did not attend the AGM and shout 'get back to Moscow' as many did but I certainly sent in my resignation.

Yet more and more I find myself disliking blatant untruths passing simply because its only entertainment. Mel Gibson vilifies the Brits and it is accepted by millions but hey, its only a film, its only a game,its only a uniform book.

Anthony Bevor pointed out that the Spanish Civil War is unique in that its history has been written by the losers. The trouble is that it is much easier to write a memoir pointing out the brilliant reasons why you won than it is to explain losing. Nevertheless reasons have to be found and since right is on your side and the soldiers were heroic and the leaders talented, it is a tale of betrayal and tragedy. Hardly new, Napoleon whiled away his declining years singing the same song.

But how acceptable is nowadays to spout the same old Communist party myths and simply block out unpleasant truths. Ken Bradley thought it was fine in his Osprey elite on the International Brigades. Now it is a very useful and accurate book for uniforms or organisations and has a lot of good photographs so it will do all that a wargamer needs to organise and paint his figures. Apart from that pretty well everything could be taken from contemporary propaganda such as the booklet on the right reproduces.

Does it matter that political commissars are described as having a role in inspiring loyalty and discipline as well as an educational function but not a word about their part in selecting those who would end up the wrong side of a sham political trial with only one result? Similarly we learn that Andre Marty favoured a black beret and white moustache but not that he admitted to authorising the execution of at least 500 of his own men and was widely considered insane.

Of course you pays your eleven quid or so and makes your own mind up.

Maybe after three terms of this government I have just got sick of being lied to by anyone.

Finally, no wargaming detail whatsoever but I really enjoyed this novel recently. Set in Madrid in 1940 I found it gave a real flavour of Spain in the aftermath of the war and was a good thriller to boot.
My next post will be back to toy soldiers with a look at some cavalry figures available in the UK.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Treading Softly.

When one considers the venom that I have been provoked in the past by talking about something as innocuous as what colour to undercoat our toys, I tackle the genuinely emotive subject of the Spanish Civil War with some apprehension.
The fascination: is that a Schneider tank at the back of that street? Where could that have come from?
The reality: brutal death in a dusty village.

I have always had deeply ambivalent feelings about wargaming the Spanish Civil War. The attractions of that war as a wargaming period are obvious; colourful armies, new technology, quaint looking vehicles, beautiful scenery. And yet the brutality and tragedy are so immediate, so stark that I feel uncomfortable playing it as a game.
It is undoubtedly sliding into history now and even in Spain where 20 years ago the injuries were too painful to even articulate it is becoming studied, discussed and even gamed. Yet when DC mentions that his father was a member of the international brigade it brings one up short. It was yesterday!
The end of the road for many brigaders. unable to return home they faced years of internment in France and the interest of a Vichy government. Those from Britain and America were luckier in this respect.

Every young man who went to Spain to fight and often die for his beliefs, like DC's father was, simply, a hero. They deserve respect and admiration. Less so in my opinion the party officials and politicians who sent them while maintaining safe sinecures at home, and least of all the thugs who threatened any who tried to tell the truth upon their return. It is possible that as many as 500 were executed by their own side in communist purges.

However on my wargames table the little lead men dance to my tune. All Brigaders are heroes, all Milicianas beautiful, all nationalists motivated by patriotism for the old Spain. Heroism and chivalry go hand in hand and when the commissars and Guardia Civile make an appearance they may be booed like pantomime villains in the assurance that they will come to a bad end before the end of the game. Yes, it's 'Charge' and 'The Wargame' for the 20C. I don't know if this makes sense to anyone except me, however as I intend to make a few posts on the subject of The Spanish Civil both in reality and on the tabletop I hope that readers will take this as a sincere declaration of respect for all those caught up in this tragic conflict.

The young lady is a Spanish re enactor and typical of the milicanas to be found on my table. I trust regular readers will not object to my cropping the scruffy Herbert with her. My guess is he is only pretending to be interested in order to hang out with her.

And now for something completely different...

I spoke of Banderas miniatures, however the figures on my last post were all Irregular. This week I have been painting Moors from the Army of Africa. They were in reality a light infantry force and were used as shock troops by the nationalists. They had a reputation for military efficiency and fearful ferocity.

these are a few that are from Banderas and a rather nice mounted officer from Warrior's 20mm range

Saturday 15 August 2009

No knowledge is ever useless

At least that's what my history teacher told me, I think he was encouraging me to acquire at least a smattering of the subject. But more of that anon..

I have been continuing unpacking. We moved here about six years ago and all my figures got put out of boxes, but actually sorting out much of what I have has never happened. So the projects that I was halfway through in Bucks have never really taken off up in Wales. So at present I am not too concerned about what I am doing, just as long as I finally get some progress on these armies.

Last month I got a few kilos of 20mm ACW lead organised and a nice batch of painting done. However a visit to hospital intervened and while I spent 36 hours on the ward waiting for an operation that was finally cancelled I had the opportunity for a nice quiet read. No domestic emergencies, no telephone, no wife wanting to chat...perfect! So I managed to read the whole of Anthony Beevor's revised book on the Spanish Civil War; 'The Battle for Spain'.

I enjoyed the book very much, though if you are not familiar with CEDA, POUM, JONS, PSOE , FIA and the rest ; or if you don't know your Miguel Primo de Rivero from your Jose Primo de Rivero then don't expect it to be a light read. It is probably the must have book on the subject but to be honest for the needs of the wargamer his earlier paperback is cheaper more accessible and has just as much military information.

My Spanish Civil War collection began back at Partizan in 1997 when Dave Ryan had the just republished uniform book by Jose Bueno on his stand. Coincidentally (or not) Irregular had just released a nice 20mm range of figures and I had not made a tank for years.So I bought ' a few, just for a skirmish'. Ha!

I might have managed, but a few weeks later at the Reading show I spotted a large Spanish flag draped across a stand, and underneath Rolfe Hedges had Banderas Miniatures. Wonderful character filled figures in every pose and type you could possibility imagine. I was lost. From then on an annual trek was made, in November, to his stand to stock up on Legionaires, Requetes or Dynamitaros.

By and large the Bueno book was first class, though he was a little light on the Republican side, probably because he had no interest in what he saw as a bunch of Communist, Godless, murdering, bastards. Superb on the army of Africa though. One thing that caused me pause was the colour of the uniform of the native troops described as Lentil colour. Now in England a lentil is small and salmon pink but not always so abroad where they eat green and even purple lentils, so I am told.

However being a good Brit I plumped for a nice pinkish hue as figure right (above). Returning last week to the book I noticed that the original Spanish word is Garbanzo which through useless knowledge I know to be a chickpea. Now we are talking, a chickpea is a sandy yellow no doubt about it. So my current unit is being painted as the centre figure.

And the final figure on the left; he is wearing a native coat modelled on a Moroccan blanket that my wife brought back from holiday thirty years ago.

Finally, for those of you who enjoyed the garden photos. A supremely useless piece of knowledge that stuck in my mind was that after the Great Fire of London, Rocket grew so profusely on the derelict ground that it became known as London Lettuce. I have always enjoyed Rocket but never had any success growing it so this year I just scattered it over a bed that had all the last years bonfire ash dug into it. The plants are huge and it has cropped all summer.

Stand by for more top gardening tips coming soon.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Summer’s lease hath all too short a date...

Which is essentially a miserable excuse for neglecting my blog. Yet suddenly the blackberries are in the hedgerow and evenings are drawing in. The campaigning season will soon be upon us again.

This summer has seen me out and about around the village, pottering in the veg garden and even joining in with the wife's latest enthusiasm Hen Keeping. Coupled with a spell of ill health from my latest old mans illness; Gallstones I have had a complete break from Wargaming, painting and consequently this blog.

Well, almost a complete break in the last month I have managed to paint a reasonable batch of figures for a proposed Fire and Fury ACW army. The figures are Kennington Miniatures 20mm and once more are painted for speed and overall effect not as individual works of art. Still I got through 250 of them in a month so I am well pleased and can consider my painting malaise broken again. I now have about 1400 figures so I think it is time to finish basing them up and try a game.

After that I shall return to the final outstanding painting commissions. Only a very few left from long suffering customers but first I shall enjoy the last few days of summer. As I hope you will, best wishes and good health to you all.

PS. plenty of gaming and painting posts lined up for the next few months so please do call again. Iam off now, I just realized I need a bloody haircut.

Friday 1 May 2009

In praise of Nicholas Colasanto

You will have to be a certain age to remember Nicholas Colasanto, or Coach, the character that he played in the comedy Cheers. But then you will have to be a certain age to have nothing better to do with your time than read this blog, so I am reasonably certain that you will remember that having taken 'one to many pitches on the old bean' Coach was a little intellectually challenged and could usually be relied on to agree with the viewpoint of the last speaker.

I felt a little like coach last week. I was completely certain the the one period I could be sure I would never paint again would be Medievals. After all I had fielded a peasant army for Barons Wars and re fought most of the Wars of the Roses battles and now I am securely based in the 18C. NO! one enjoyable game and I have a big box of old lead from the eighties out and am painting away.

Fair enough, but what made me think that a good place to begin to fit in with an 14C German campaign would be to put together a unit of Irish? You know how it is, they just came out of the box and before I knew where I was I had some paint on them. They are useful figures anyway and can be used right through to the English Civil War.

So just to put things right I painted up a group of city militia archers. Just 10 fairly elderly and ill equipped archers who probably are only in the militia for the drinking and weekends away from their families.

Not especially well painted, but then not every figure has to be a masterpiece, they will look good enough from six feet away. Hopefully that has scratched that particular itch and I can now get on with the other six or so major projects that I have on the go.