Friday, September 30, 2016

British Paratroopers

This is sort of what I was aiming for. 

And this is how I did. I'm not sure about the pattern on the Dennison smock. Perhaps smaller patches of colour? 

A view from the rear - only another fifty or so to go. The smock looks a bit stark - perhaps a wash or something to blend the colours together. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review: Too Little, Too Late by Mike Embree

“Too little, too late” is Mike Embree's account of the German portion of the 1866 Austro-Prussian war which marked the eclipse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as the pre-eminent power in German affairs and began the transition to Prussian dominance. Physically the book is a handsome hardback, weighing in at a slim 200 or so pages and illustrated with period etchings and maps.

In it, Embree chronicles the brief campaign against Austria and the smaller German powers, the fruitless victory of the Hanoverian army at Langensalza* and the defeat of the Hessians and the Bavarians. The book begins with a potted history of the period, outlining the strategic situation in broad strokes, but swiftly changes to the author's strong suit, drilling down into the detail with copious reference to primary sources.

The situation in brief is as follows, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, the German states banded together along with Prussia and Austria to form a loose union to prevent any recurrence of French aggression. This union was dominated by Austria and the conflict arose when Prussia seeking to wrest control of the union from that state, provoked a war in order to unseat Austria.

The composition of the opposing armies, including those of a bewildering array of minor German states (some of which barely rise to the strength of a brigade) are described in detail. The rest of the book is devoted to an operational history of this brief conflict, which lasted barely six weeks. The prose is a model of clarity and leaves the reader in no doubt as to what is occurring, though one complaint I would have would be the maps. Maps are a persistent thorn in the side of those who write (and read) operational histories – how many? Where to put them? And in how much detail?

The maps are fine and are clear, but they are all located (along with some uniform plates) in the centre of the book, rather than situated with the text which refers to them. They are also not appropriately referenced in the text, so that the reader has to puzzle out what map refers to which action based on the name of the action rather than a page number. A small point, but one that stands out in a publication as slick as this one.

What strikes me about “Too little, too late” is how contemporary it seems. Austria and her allies are constantly undone by Prussian hybrid warfare, with the canny Prussians using a mixture of diplomacy, threats, misinformation and lightning manuevre to unhinge and ultimately destroy the allied forces. The author neatly describes that mixture of traditional warfighting and diplomatic cunning in a way that makes the overall picture clear to the reader, illustrating the complexities without getting lost in the weeds. 

But for all the Austrian disasters, the Prussians do not escape some criticism and the difficulties of controlling independently minded commanders whose tactical decisions are imperiling the strategic vision - a problem any leader can relate to. 

Ultimately, this book is the best English language treatment of the campaign currently available and will be of interest to the historian and the wargamer, who will appreciate the wealth of detail on orders of battle. 

*ground which the author has covered before in a pamphlet available from the Continental Wars Society.   

Note: In the interests of full disclosure, Mike is a friend of mine.  I asked him if there was a general history that might be a good companion to this more specialised volume. He recommended "The Campaign of 1866 in Germany", the official Prussian staff history as probably the easiest and least controversial. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Take me to church

And that's quite enough from long haired whingers from Greystones.  I've had this DAPOL church kit in stores for quite some time now and I've finally put a brush to it. 

This is obviously a base coat and will need additional work, but I picked up a packet of large brushes in a pound shop recently.  I think they are for makeup. The large brush made short work of the building and I managed to knock it out in twenty minutes. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Elegant toy soldiers for a more civilised age.

French and Italian troops skirmishing

Author, scriptwriter, bon viveur and friend of Joy & Forgetfulness Julian sent me these pictures about a million years ago. A house fire (crosses self) destroyed a large part of his collection and he's been consoling himself with 30mm semi flats from the turn of the century.  

Aren't they magnificent? 

I don't know much about them and unfortunately, I'm locked out of Facebook messenger at the moment, so I can't access what information he did send to me. 

However, in this as in wine, my appreciation is none the less sincere, for all that my palate is uneducated. 

Bomb chucking anarchist lurking out of shot

Italian hussars I think? 

Red trousers are France!

Austrian lancers

Italian Lancers or possibly Piedmontese

Italian or possibly French artillery I think? 

Austrian gunners

Austrian gunners

A swish Schloss - just the sort of thing you could see Black Michael sneaking out of. 

Modern cavalry - where does one put the lance? 

Frankly I have no idea what these are. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Mustering for Barbarossa

Laying out the troops

Contrary to all expectation and thanks in no small part to the help of David Crook, Tim Gow and Old John, I've managed to get the Barbarossa campaign on track.  So much so in fact, we'll be playing it on Saturday. 

In advance of the game, I've been making sure that we've enough kit.   This included getting tanks from the aforementioned David Crook, Tim Gow and Old John, painting up seventeen Revell Cossacks and forty four Strelets RKKA infantry. The tanks are all base coated and will need detailing over the next two days.  There are a few other jobs that need doing, but honestly I surprised at how quickly this came together.  Having a list helped and being ruthless about the bare minimum that was required to get the campaign on the table was a big factor.

The other advantage of the Barbarossa campaign is that once we have the gear to do it - we can always play it again with very little prep required.  Laying everything out on the table certainly helped establish where the gaps are and made it easier to muster our forces.  It also prevented me from falling into a false sense of security and making simple errors like...

...the time Du Gourmand and I forgot that a Memoir board is nine hexes deep not eleven. 
...forgetting to print out any of the scenarios and trying to find a net cafe at 10am on a Sunday. 
...that I'd double counted the French infantry and had gotten too many.

We are not clever men sometimes. 

My apologies for the terrible picture. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

A balm for the toy soldier lovers soul

Sir Colin Campbell

I went on a trip to Wales recently to see Old John and it was time well spent.  The food was good, the company excellent and it was a trip absolutely stuffed to the gills with toy soldiers. Amongst them were these Crimean British troops, which I bought from John Preece last year, but only managed to collect a few weeks ago. 

The Gaaaaards! 

I would go on, but I think these fellas stand on their own merits.  They are Stadden 25s, tall and elegant and I think a reasonable match for many 1/72 figures. But even if they weren't how could you resist these visions of shiny toy soldier loveliness? 

A think red streak tipped with steel

Having looked at these, I've actually scrapped by planning for a 1/32 Highlander colour party. I will have to repaint the kilts and copy John's approach here. I had been trying to paint tartan as it is and John has just managed to do so much more with just a suggestion of colour.  Every figure is a master class in composition. 

The damned rankers 

These will hopefully give me the kick in the pants required to get weaving and play some more Crimean games. I shall have to photograph them properly soon. 

Met this friendly fellow out and about 

He was rather demanding. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A breach of decorum

"To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal"

Ecclesiastes 3:3 is a verse that sticks with me. It's not a favourite (it's no Romans 13:4 or Mathew 22:37-40 or for that matter Mathew 8:9), I've just heard it so often that I can finish the quotation without effort.  I suppose it has been rendered trite by repetition - I've heard it too often at family funerals.  One of the tragedies of our modern comfortable lives is that we hear truth so often that it can lose it's meaning, like Kipling's Copybook Headings, as it is repeated, decontextualized, satirised and commoditised. We lose sight of it, like a page photocopied time after time, until it becomes a grey mass of artifacts and noise. The signal is lost unless we search for it.

I write Joy & Forgetfulness for a variety of reasons. It started as a writing exercise, the literary equivalent of cracking out a few press ups of a morning, since then it has become a sort of personal showcase for my hobby endeavours, a repository for very silly jokes, a means of blowing off steam and communicating the weird little fraternity of wargaming bloggers, many of whom have done me the honour of becoming my friends. 

But if to every thing there is a season, to everything there is also a diction, a language that is suitable to the discussion of the thing.   The sense of decorum in the original sense of the word, was behaviour and language that was appropriate to the moment. I rarely write seriously here, so I hope you'll forgive the breach of decorum as Mrs Kinch and I have some very wonderful, but rather serious news, but rest assured we will be back to toy soldiers and silliness shortly.

But the long and the short of it is that we were gifted with a genuine miracle. 

Six years ago, we were told that we would be unable to have children.  It was a hard blow, but we made our peace with it eventually.   It wasn't easy, but the doctors were kind and the tests were clear. God is good, if not always easy to understand, and we were just going to have to make the best of it.

Several years later, Mrs Kinch lost an aunt and an uncle in rapid succession. A bright, lively talented couple who were taken far too young. Mrs Kinchs uncle, recently a widower and a bibulous old Tory who loved art and ties so loud that they were visible from space was of the opinion that,

"Doctors are idiots.  My father was one and I should know. You deserve children."

We smiled and thanked him and carried on.  But shortly after his death, we discovered he had made arrangements so that we could get a second opinion and had put in place the finance to make it happen.

It was a strange and unexpected legacy and we went down the path of IVF with no expectations. We already knew the answer.  IVF is a painful and often humiliating process and we were in two minds as to whether to go down that road again.  Eventually we decided that it would have been disrespectful to the memory of a kind and very generous couple not to try.

And it emerged contrary to everything we were told all those years ago, something miraculous had happened. We discovered that what we had been told was impossible was not and if our courage could bear it, we could try with a reasonable chance of success.  With the help and encouragement of our friends and family, the hard work of some very kind doctors and nurses and most of all, the considerable grit of Mrs. Kinch - we embarked on what was to prove a difficult journey.

It has been a long and hard road, especially for Mrs Kinch, and there has been heartbreak along the way.  But we have been blessed and are expecting the arrival of the Kinch twins some time in November.  I hardly know how to write about it - but there it is.

To steal some lines from Cowper,

"His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ever hour,
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower."