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."

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What's in a name?

My mother, the sainted Mrs Kinch Senior, has returned from Her summer tour of Vienna and Budapest with this fellow.  Closer inspection would seem to indicate that he is a Wing Commander and a recent addition to 266 Squadron, but he does appear to lack a name. 

Any suggestions? 

To the right

Eyes front 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Operation Barbarossa Campaign

Young Master Hitler attempting to add Russia to his "list"

I think most wargamers in their heart of hearts would admit they enjoy making lists. 

Far more lists get written than are ever completed, but I think there's a certain "fantasy shopping" element to it. There is a pleasure to be had from building castles in the sky, even if we know in our heart of hearts that those castles will never be constructed.  It's a similar sort of impulse to the sort of day dreaming that a lot of folk indulge in - usually revolving around "What I would do if I won the lottery?"  Wargamers ambitions are usually more modest, coming to a few units of cavalry, a dozen tanks and so on, rather than jet skis and Ferrari's.

An excellent addition to the Memoir '44 stable

For those of you, who are familiar with Memoir '44 Campaign Book 1 - it includes a number of campaigns, a British and an American Normandy campaign (need some paratroopers before I can play that, better add them to the list) and a Barbarossa campaign which is epic in scale.  We've played the Barbarossa campaign before and it's a really slick piece of design.  Unlike the other campaigns in the book, it can be played by multiple players simultaneously. The German team takes control of Army Group Centre, Army Group North and Army Group South, while the Soviets command the resistance to the Fascist viper. The campaign is playable in a day and can, depending on the scoring, be resolved in three games or it can stretch out to five.  Unlike an Overlord game where the players are interacting all the time, in this campaign each player is playing their own one on one games, but is drawing on a shared pool of reinforcements and resources. 

It makes for a grand and epic days wargaming. However, when we played before, we'd only used the plastic figures provided in the board game.  I have a mind to assemble a rather more formidable show using 1/72 figures and tanks played on three six by four mats.  Du Gourmand has already booked a place on Stavka.

Now such an epic days wargaming requires some epic list making. I could muster the resources to play any individual game without any real difficulty, but running three of them simultaneously would stretch things.  With that in mind, I decided that I would compile a roster of what would be required to play each "stage" of the game. Once I'd done that, I could work out what the maximum number of troops required would be and plan accordingly.  Depending on how things run, in terms of wins or losses, the scenario that is played can vary - the scenario can be played at a different stage.   This complicates matters, but I think I've worked it out.

Should you wish to give this a try yourself, you'll find the troops count by stage below and with a final total at the end.

Stage One

Bug River - Raeinac - Brody

Soviets: Infantry 11  Armour 8 Artillery 1 Heavy Armour 7 Cavalry 2 Mechanised Infantry 2 Train 1
Germans: Infantry 6  Armour 12 Artillery 3 Panzer Grenadier 7 Brandenberger Commando 1

Stage Two

Smolensk - Pruzan - Ingermanland - Vel. Bridgehead- Russian Breakout - Pripet Marsh

Soviets: Infantry 26  Armour 5 Artillery 5 Heavy Armour 4 Cavalry 3 Sniper 3 Train 1
Germans: Infantry 13  Armour 17 Artillery 5 Heavy Armour 1 Panzer Grenadier 11

Stage Three

Kamenwo - Yelna Timoshenko Assault - Smolensk - Ivan Bridge - Luga Bridge - Lipovec - Kiev

Soviets: Infantry 29  Armour 10 Artillery 5 Heavy Armour 5 Cavalry 1 Sniper 2 Train 2
Germans: Infantry 20  Armour 13 Artillery 5 Heavy Armour 1 Engineer 1 Panzer Grenadier 9
Train 1

Stage Four

Gates of Moscow - Yelna Timoshenko Assault - Kamenwo - Baltic Islands - Starayarus - Tikhvin - Sea of Azov - Rostov

Soviets: Infantry 27 Armour 11  Artillery 7 Heavy Armour 4 Cavalry 3 Guards 3 Sniper 1
Germans: Infantry 25  Armour 18 Artillery 6 Heavy Armour 1 Panzer Grenadier 5 Fallschirmjaeger 3
Division Azul 1 Train 1

Stage Five

Breakout at Klin - Yelna Zhukovs Assault 

Soviets: Infantry 9  Armour 6 Artillery 2 
Germans: Infantry 7 Armour 2 Artillery 2 Heavy Armour 2 Engineer 2 Panzer Grenadier 1

Maximum Forces Required
Soviets: Infantry 29 Armour 11  Artillery 7 Heavy Armour 7 Cavalry 3 Guards 3 Sniper 3 Train 2 Mechanised Infantry 2

Germans: Infantry 25 Armour 18 Artillery 6 Heavy Armour 2 Engineer 2 Panzer Grenadier 11 Brandenberger Commando 1  Division Azul 1 Train 1

Thoughts & Conclusions

I'll be honest one of the reasons, I thought I'd tackle this project is the fact that it's a small self contained campaign that can be played in a day and that doesn't require an umpire and I was relatively sure I had sufficient troops. Having compiled the figure totals, it becomes clear that while I have a goodly selection of what is needed - there are still some gaps.

The Soviet armour is unusual, as I have quite a bit, but what is required is early war stuff like T-26s. What I reckon I do is use T-34 and KV-1 as Heavy Armour and everything else as standard armour units.  I have a couple of T-26 and T-70 light tanks, so I'm going to keep my eyes peeled on eBay for some of those cheap diecast armoured cars and tanks that were available at "The Works" recently.

The infantry and artillery are no problem, though I'm short the cavalry.  Fortunately John Cunningham set me up with a set of Revell Soviet Cossacks (which are probably a little later than Barbarossa, but they look well), which will do the trick. I'll add a truck to a standard infantry unit to show Mechanised Infantry and a Commissar figure to Guards units.

I have plenty of German infantry and will use a mixture of Panzer I, II, III and armoured cars to represent German armour. Heavy tanks will be represented by a pair of short barrelled Panzer IV from Armourfast.  I'll need to do an exact count, but there shouldn't be too much difficulty in finding some early war German armour to plug that gap.

Hanomags and other half tracks will mark Panzer Grenadiers. Engineers will be marked by a flamethrower armed figure, though I might add some clump foliage flame to make them stand out a bit as a 1/72 scale flamethrower can easily get lost in the mill of troops. The Division Azul will be some German troops with a Spanish national flash added in paint, though perhaps something more flamboyant to make them stand out might be in order.

Realistically, that isn't too bad of a list. We may be seeing Barbarossa before long.  

Monday, July 25, 2016

What do you do with an elephant like this?

Nelly taking her gun caisson for a walk

I picked this elephant drawn gun from John Cunningham last year and I've been meaning to get around to it for quite some time. I finally bit the bullet and started putting it together.

I was about half way through when I realise it had somehow become separated from it's gun, which I'm sure will turn up, but the other thing that was confusing me was how exactly to attach the traces. There is a leather strap that goes under the Elephants tail, the use of which is clear enough, however I was a bit perplexed at the purpose of the two dangling straps either side of the tail.

Having looked at a number of pictures, I realised that the artists and photographers of the past were unaccountably less than taken with recording the finer details of elephants bottoms. But we soldier on.

I eventually found this illustration which shows them being used to hold the traces connecting the caisson to the elephant.  The elephant on the left in the background is probably the best illustration of that. I'm quite happy to have solved that particular mystery - rather than trying to bodge something and making a fool of myself.

There are now of course, new opportunities to make a fool of myself. But I will at least be a fool with an elephant.

And that is no small thing.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Indian Army Artillery

Mounted on pots awaiting paint
(click to embiggen)

Along with Nick's very kind gift of Ghurkas, there was an Indian Army screw gun and crew.  I know shamefully little about the Indian army beyond what I've learned from Jac Weller's "Wellington in India", but decided to set to these fellas as there was no Indian artillery attached to the Kinch Field Force. 

There was the vexed question of how to paint them though, some scratching around had yielded a succession of fearsome looking gentlemen in khaki.  However, my liking for the more brightly coloured uniform won out and I went in search of something appropriate. My colonial forces are inspired by "The Man who would be King" and "Zulu", more than dull actuality. 

Blandford and Farwell were not supplying my wants in that department, so I turned to The Sword and the Flame facebook group.  Julian turned up trumps with the picture above, which looks excellent.  The turbans are "Spankin' in red" as Pete Postlethwaite would say. 

(click to embiggen)

Armed with this sort of information, the battery swiftly took shape and is currently doing duty on the Southern Border of the Kinch domain. I've no idea as to the maker, Ral Partha maybe, as they are on the larger side of 1/72. The gun itself so far as I can make out is a RML 2.5 Mountain Gun immortalised by Kipling in the poem "Screw Guns". 

(click to embiggen)

I shall have to add a mule to carry the whole assemblage, but I think I have something in stores.  I'm very happy with how they turned out, all the figures were painted with thinned Vallejo acylics.  I added some inks to the turban and did a slight highlight, just to show off the red a little. 

Out looking for Wascally Wahabbists
(click to embiggen)

These, I'm sure you'll agree, are a fine addition to the Kinch Field Force.  Thank you very much to Nick for his generosity and Julian for his knowledge of uniforms. 

I think these chaps will have to take the field and show De Gormaine a thing or two about how its done. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Afghan Artillery

Afghan guns captured at Ali Masjid

I was looking into Afghan guns recently and was given some very sage advice by Sgt. Guinness and the Mad Guru.  I thought that there was little point in keeping such good stuff to myself, so I thought I'd share it here.

Your question peaked my interest in the Afghan artillery. I simply painted mine brown, however that may not be correct. I'd sent you the photo of the rows of guns captured at Ali Masjid. These are typical of the types af artillery they fielded. 

According to what the Mad Guru has told me the majority of the artillery came from the British with a little from the Turks, thus them being the regular British Blue Grey. You could also have some painted green as if the Russians has provided some. 

Additional from the Mad Guru: 

A combination of British military aid and buying new high tech RBL Armstrongs through Turkey. There are no pics of the RBL Armstrongs that I know of - also I don't think there was any difference in paint scheme of Afghan guns based on their origin - whether gifted by Britishs or purchased on their own from European or Ottoman suppliers by Afghans. I think they were all painted in British style colors. There is a pic showing dozens. unto hundreds of captured Afghan cannon, abandoned at Ali Masjid I think - maybe another one inside Bala Hissar But only b&w of course Sadly! Lots of small mountain guns, up to field pieces. My educated guess is yes - blue grey. I have never read any different description. The Second Afghan War started over anti Russian fears of a Russian rapprochement with Sher Ali - you could always give your afghan regulars a battery of green Russian style guns.