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.