Welcome to my blog!

News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave


Saturday, 15 December 2018

Imperial War Museum North

I was in Manchester for Fulham's away game at Old Trafford last Saturday. We will pass quickly over the game, but it was an opportunity to revisit the Imperial War Museum North.

This is a very modern style of museum. A striking architectural design in Salford Quays, all concrete and steel. There are plenty of audio-visual experiences with the whole central area of the museum used for regular performances. It's not a museum crammed full of exhibits, in contrast to my visit to the Royal Highland Fusiliers museum earlier in the week. It is probably my age, but I would rather have the exhibits!

None the less there is plenty to see, and here are some of the highlights for me at least.

The Harrier hanging from the ceiling as you enter the main hall is very striking.

Just two AFVs - This Matilda in desert colours - one of my favourite tanks.

And a T55 from the Iraq War.

This 13pdr field gun fired the first British shell of WW1.

The Iraq War most-wanted playing cards.

A Gurkha Kukri with Japanese occupation currency.

Typical British small arms of WW2 - Lee Enfield and a Bren.

I wouldn't make a special effort to visit this museum, but if you have a spare hour it is worth a look, particularly if you have the kids with you. 

Friday, 7 December 2018

The Royal Highland Fusiliers

Having visited museums all over the world, I was somewhat embarrassed to remember that I hadn't visited my local regimental museum for many years. They will probably see more of me in the future as my new office is just around the corner!

This is the Royal Highland Fusiliers (RHF) Museum, in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. It traces the history of a number of regiments who were amalgamated, in stages, into the RHF. It was created in 1959 by the amalgamation of The Royal Scots Fusiliers (RSF) and The Highland Light Infantry (HLI). At the formation of The Royal Regiment of Scotland (2006), they became The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 SCOTS).

The Regiment has an impressive history dating back to 1678. It served in all corners of the world: from North America to the West Indies; India to South Africa; Napoleonic; Crimean wars; the British Expeditionary Force, Gallipoli, North Africa and France; Flanders in WWI; the British Expeditionary Force, Dunkirk, the Middle East, Madagascar, Burma and North West Europe in WWII.

The rather strange 'Highland' part of the title comes from the merger of the 71st and 74th Highlanders into the Highland Light Infantry in 1881. 'Strange' because they recruited in Glasgow, well below the Highland Line. Even allowing for a large number of Highlanders who were forced to move to Glasgow for economic reasons. As a Lowland regiment, they changed from the kilt to trews.

The various regimental drums are one of the museum's highlights

Some famous names served in the regiment including Sir David Baird, Churchill, Trenchard and a bit of showbiz with David Niven.

Even as late as the Boer War, more soldiers died of disease and accidents than killed in action.
The museum is not large, just a few rooms, which necessitates some cramming in of artifacts. The lighting is also not great, but museums like this survive on a shoestring budget. So, although entrance is free, please make a donation.

Shooting badges. There were also a number of volunteer units attached to the regiment.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

A World on Fire

'A World on Fire' is the latest novel from James Heneage. This is a time shift from his Byzantium books to the Greek War of Independence.

The author lives part of the year in the Peloponnese, where I spent a very pleasant holiday this year - including Napflio, the first capital of the newly independent Greece.

His take on the revolution starts in the Mani, which is the barren tip of the Peloponnese, protected to a degree by mountains. His heroine is Hara, the daughter of a Maniot chieftain, who becomes embroiled in the revolution and the Ottoman counter-attack. This was led by Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt, who had a modern army trained by French mercenaries. He burned and butchered his way through the Peloponnese with the aim of resettling the land with Egyptians.

His savagery helped the Greeks to build western sympathy for the Greek cause that eventually led to a joint British/French/Russian fleet entering the Bay of Navarino and sinking the Egyptian and Ottoman fleets.

The author stretches the historical facts a little, but the broad canvas of 1824-26 is all there. He tells a good story around the international events that led to the liberation of at least part of Greece from Ottoman rule.

Some figures of the period from my collection in 15mm.

Friday, 30 November 2018

GoT - House Clegane painted

I have not had a lot of time for painting in recent weeks and the primed House Clegane Mountain Men have been staring at me across the painting bench. You don't argue with The Mountain!

This unit comes with the base 'Song of Ice and Fire' game and consists of ten mountain men (hint, they are big!) in three poses, plus a standard bearer and an Assault Captain. Nicely sculpted figures, with no assembly required.

House Clegane support the Lannisters of Casterly Rock and their lands are southeast of the rock itself.

I have also dabbled for the first time in 3D printed models. My 20mm modern British forces lacked some essential vehicles. Butler's Models do a Scorpion and a Viking all-terrain vehicle. The Scorpion is a very nice model. The Viking came with a lot of flash, but it is easily clipped off. Both painted up pretty well and required no assembly - always a big plus with me.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Anglo-Saxons at the British Library

Time for one last visit before catching the train home from London - The new Anglo-Saxon exhibition at the British Library.

The Library has brought together manuscripts and some other artifacts to illustrate the story of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms in England. From the early settlements, through the collection of kingdoms to the development of England. It ends with the Doomsday Book, following the Norman Conquest.

An early Anglo-Saxon book illustrating the God Woden
The introduction of Christianity brought monks and writing skills, not to mention beautiful illustrations.

While Bibles are there in plenty, there are also charters and chronicles that show the development of the English state and the use of the early English language.

I have read modern versions of some of these books, but there is something very special about seeing the originals, even if Old English and Latin are largely beyond me! An original of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles is very special.

Here is Asser's, Life of King Alfred. Uhtred would not be as impressed as me, for those who remember the early Last Kingdom series!

The exhibition ends with the Anglo-Danish King Cnut and the Doomsday Book. Also a very fine sword of the period.

The exhibition ends on 19 February 2019. Well worth a visit if you get the chance.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Ashurbanipal - King of Assyria

Back to the British Museum yesterday for the new special exhibition on the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal.

King Ashurbanipal ruled Assyria 669-631BC from his capital city of Nineveh, opposite modern day Mosul in Northern Iraq. This was one of the cities occupied by IS in the recent conflict, with consequential damage to the historic site. His rule marked the greatest extent of the Assyrian empire, which bumped up against Egypt in Palestine, Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the mountains of western Iran.

The exhibition includes artefacts from across the globe, presented brilliantly by the museum staff.

We know quite a lot about this period thanks to the archeological findings, which include fragments of what must have been a huge library. The Assyrians documented their activities in chronicles and had a well organised bureaucracy.

The exhibition is an excellent primary source for wargamers, with many depictions of the cavalry, infantry and chariots that made up the Assyrian army of the period.

There are also other Assyrian artefacts in the museum relating to earlier rulers, which show the development of the army over the centuries.

The one event that is shrouded in mystery is Ashurbanipal's death. However, we do know that the empire crumbled soon afterwards under pressure from all sides and probably internal rebellion.

Overall, this exhibition is well worth a visit. Foyles bookshop is far too close to the museum for safety, so with a couple of Osprey's, I am ready to consider a wee excursion into the biblical period!

Thursday, 22 November 2018

RAF Museum London

Being semi-retired means a trip to London for work reasons can be extended to catch up with some hobby interests. One museum I haven't visited for many years, is the RAF Museum at Hendon in North London.

It reopened earlier this year with new exhibition halls and very impressive it is too. The school kids were clearly enjoying it as well, with plenty of interactive stuff to get them engaged.

The entrance hall gives you an overview of the 100 years of the RAF, including some very realistic cut outs of RAF personnel. I was just about to ask this one something before I realised!

The entrance hall includes the shop and cafe. Sipping a coffee under the wings of a Sunderland flying boat, reminds you of just how big these aircraft were.

Then on to the WW1 hall which has fine collection of the aircraft of the period. Getting close up gives you a feel for how exposed the pilots and other air crew were.

The next hall jumps somewhat in chronological terms to include the modern jet fighters.

The museum isn't just about aircraft. The RAF Regiment is recognised as are the naval craft used to rescue pilots from the sea.

Finally, the main halls, crammed full of WW2 and later aircraft. The US Air Force hanger at Duxford is very impressive, but this really is the business. Here are just a few, starting with the obscure - The Stranraer Flying Boat.

The Lightning because it was one of the first Airfix kits I built.

 The Falco and the Kittyhawk, just because they look great!

Can't leave out the Stuka.

The Chipmunk because it's the only RAF plane I have actually flown in and, very briefly, flown.

Finally, the Vulcan because, well it is the Vulcan!

It is hard to do justice to the range of exhibits in a short blog post, but I hope it encourages other to make the trip. You won't regret it.