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. I hope you find it helpful and entertaining.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Panzer III

I have been making some further efforts at reducing my lead pile, or in this case plastic pile. The victim was a Rubicon 28mm kit of the German Panzer III. I say victim, as kits are not my favourite projects, I am at best all thumbs.

The Panzer III was intended as the primary battle tank of the German forces. However, when it initially met the Russian KV-1 and T-34 tanks it proved to be inferior in both armour and gun power. To meet the growing need to counter these tanks, the Panzer III was up-gunned with a longer, more powerful 50-millimetre (1.97 in) gun and received more armour but still was at disadvantage compared with the Soviet tank designs.


Despite my reservations about kits, this was very straightforward, with all the essential bits like tracks being one casting. Very clear instructions and all parts numbered - no need to try and guess how it goes together from a photo! A vast improvement on the Warlord/Italeri model that was nothing short of a nightmare and simply not robust enough for a tabletop model. Rubicon also give you a generous decal sheet.

I purchased mine from Scott's Models in Glasgow. Support your local model shop, or they are unlikely to be around when you need that pot of paint.





Sunday, 4 December 2016

Malaya and Singapore 1941-42

The Japanese invasion of Malaya and the fall of Singapore in 1941-42 was a military disaster of unprecedented proportions for the British Empire. Mark Stille covers the reasons for this very well in the Osprey Campaign No.300 'Malaya and Singapore 1941-42'.




From Churchill downwards this was not Britain's finest hour. The strategic assumptions were wrong and Churchill even failed to deliver on his own poor plan. On the ground, the British Empire commanders failed to take advantage of their material superiority in important categories through poor planning. The consequences were a staggering 138,708 casualties, 130,000 of which were prisoners of war. In contrast the Japanese 25th Army used intelligent planning and relentless initiative to keep the all important initiative. Tanks played an important role, but it was the Japanese infantry who really delivered the victory.

This campaign was one of my recent wargame projects, so I have read a number of detailed campaign histories and memoirs. Mark Stille has written a very good concise history of the campaign with lots of quality photographs and the excellent illustrations by Peter Dennis. What Osprey do better than other publishers is excellent maps, both of the campaign and the key battles. If you are thinking of doing this campaign on the tabletop, this book is an ideal starting point.

This represents a typical action during the campaign, using Bolt Action rules and 28mm figures.









Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Flame Bearer

A new Bernard Cornwell book is always a must read, and The Flame Bearer, the latest in the Last Kingdom series is no exception.



Our 'hero' Uhtred is now based in Northumbria, where his son-in-law Sigtryggyr rules. Northumbria is under pressure from the Saxon kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia, who aim to create England, and the Scots from the North.

Uhtred is besieging his family home of Bebbanburg, held by his cousin. He has to abandon the siege to support Sigtryggyr and successfully foils an attempt by a Wessex nobleman to break the truce. This buys a year or two for Northumbria, but more importantly, time for Uhtred to capture Bebbanburg.

Being Cornwell, this is no simple siege. We have the Scots, Norse raiders, a mad Bishop and the West Saxons all playing a role. They all come together in an epic final battle at the Bebbanburg fortress.


No expletives are too extravagant to describe any Cornwell book. He is the master of historical writing and this title is up to his very high standards.


Saturday, 26 November 2016

Killiecrankie 1689

A short autumn break in Perthshire was an opportunity to visit a battle site I haven't been to for a number of years, Killiecrankie.

The Glorious Revolution of 1688 wasn't accepted by many in Britain, including most of the Highland clans, who remained loyal to the Stuarts. Most Lowland Scots supported William and Mary and followed the English Parliament in supporting him as King. This predates the Treaty of Union, so Scotland had its own monarchy and institutions. 

The Jacobites rallied around John Graham, Viscount 'Bonny' Dundee, who joined Lochiel, Chief of Clan Cameron, who was raising the clans. Dundee was pursued by General Mackay, who commanded a government force of around 3,500. Dundee gathered those clans who had arrived at the muster, some 2,400 men, and blocked Mackay's advance at the Pass of Killiecrankie, just north of Pitlochry.

The two forces exchanged fire and then Dundee ordered a charge. When the lines met, the government troops were "swept away by the furious onset of the Camerons". The advance and charge was masked, leaving the redcoats with insufficient time to fix their plug bayonets. Mackay's force fled, suffering some 2000 casualties. 

However, around one-third of the Jacobite force was killed, including Dundee. The Jacobite advance continued until it was stopped by government forces at the Battle of Dunkeld. After which the rebellion dissolved. 

The position of troops on the battlefield today is difficult to identify. There are two modern roads and railway that now go through the pass. However, there is a visitor centre, open in summer months and a path down to the 'Soldiers Leap', where a redcoat is said to have leapt over a ravine to escape from chasing Highlanders. 



And finally, some 28mm figures from the period, from my collection.





Sunday, 13 November 2016

WW2 Italian Infantry

Another dabble into my pile of lead box brought out some 28mm Italians. I could do with another squad of infantry for my Bolt Action army to fight the Greeks, so off they went to the painting desk.

I am not sure when I picked these up, but I think David Burns of Burns Miniatures gave them to me. They came in a plain blister pack, but look as if they are from the Black Tree Designs range. Now these can be a bit hit or miss, but these Italians are very nice with great definition. Ideal for a simple paint job and a wash. 






Sunday, 6 November 2016

Conan

Probably my first fantasy read was one of the Conan books, created by the American author Robert E. Howard in 1932. I bought most of them including the later editions developed by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. They have long been donated to Oxfam, but I recently bought an anthology of them for next to nothing in Kindle format. Of course, we also have Arnie Schwarzenegger doing his best with the concept - although I admit I actually enjoyed Conan the Barbarian, if not the sequels.

I recall the Meeples podcast referring to a Kickstarter game based on the books, but didn't follow through as I rarely play board games. A pal at the club did and pointed out that this was a hybrid figure and board game. He went for most of the stretch goals that brings an impressive collection of miniatures. We played the game last Sunday, and impressed, I bought the core box on eBay.

With the core box you get two double sided playing boards, with a village, ship, tavern and castle settings. This is the ship board I used in today's game.



The box includes the rules, tile cards with the essential stats and counters. Plus the real selling point, 74 hard plastic figures, fully assembled. They include four heroes, including Conan, various other character figures, monsters and basic troops such as pirates, guards and Picts. The figures are large 28mm, actually 32mm from base to eye. Here a few Photies and as you can see, they are well sculpted with excellent definition for painting.




The game mechanics are not complex and a game last around 90 minutes once you have a grasp of the rules. I can see me using the figures for other game systems, Open Combat in particular. 





Saturday, 29 October 2016

The Madagascar Plan

My latest fiction reading has been The Madagascar Plan by Guy Saville. His first book in the series Africa Reich, was the very first book I read on Kindle and very good it was.

The setting is an alternative history of WW2. The British army is trapped and destroyed at Dunkirk and so Britain sues for peace, leaving the Germans to dominate mainland Europe. They also take over European colonies in Africa and exploit them economically. However, the British colonies are still there as well as resistance forces.


This book takes the story to 1953. It has the same core characters in Burton and Hochburg, the senior Nazi official in Africa. Burton ends up in Madagascar looking for his Jewish lover, who has been sent there by her British secret service husband when he discovers the affair. The Nazis have deported most European Jews there.

There actually was such a plan, devised by Eichmann in 1938 and revised in 1940 after the fall of France made the colony available for this purpose. However, the plan leaked out and was dropped in favour of what became the 'final solution'.

I won't spoil the story, but this volume is a little less frenetic than the first, building more of the context around the action. It is well written and a great read. Alternative history at its best - fiction, but with a credible historical basis. The author is working on the final book in the trilogy, so I will look forward to that.

I mused after reading the first volume on the wargame possibilities. This time I gave it a go, based on the conflict between British and German armoured battlegroups on the Rhodesian border. Centurions for the British and Tigers for the Germans. I used Cold War Commander rules, but you could just as easily use WW2 rules. The figures are 1/200th or 10mm.


The British moved quickly to capture the village, but came under fire from Tigers on the hill. British artillery was effective in destroying the German infantry and the game resulted in a stalemate. The next book in the series will include an open war, with the American's joining in. So that should give an opportunity to try this again.


On the subject of micro-armour, I have been painting some reinforcements for my modern Turkish army in 1/300th. These are painted to represent the Turkish ACV 15 armoured infantry fighting vehicles - recently seen on our news screens, deployed in Syria. They are a licensed version of the US AICV. The models are the nearest I could find - the Dutch YPR-765 from H&R.