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
or on Mastodon @balkandave@mastodon.scot, or Threads @davewatson1683

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Spanish Civil War using FoW

Thank goodness for the Xmas holidays and a chance to get some figures onto the tabletop.

Had my first serious effort at playing Flames of War using my new Spanish Civil War armies. A fairly simple scenario to start with. The International Brigade attacking a Nationalist held village, right out of Ken Loach's film. Land and Freedom for those not familiar with his SCW film.

The attack started with the T26 platoon supported by infantry advancing on the centre. The aim was to pin down the fascists while the remaining infantry platoons attacked the flanks. However, the T26's were quickly knocked out by the Italian ATGs and artillery and the infantry went to ground, so offering little distraction. The right flank did reach the hill and I therefore tried out the assault rules. But the Nationalists were too strong. Heavy Machine Guns are very effective!

I really like the rules. The mechanisms work well, fairly simple once you work through the sections in the right order. The SCW has few of the later complications so I haven't had to tackle many of the annexes. I am playing a larger game at the club on Sunday so we will see how that goes.

Sunday 26 December 2010

Austrian WW1 Hussars

Bit of a fill in job this. I picked these Hussars up from the Geordies at Under the Bed Enterprises in the Summer to strengthen the Austrians for my Salonika project. These figures from their Reiver Castings range, are a bit more slender than many 28mm, but others would say more proportional. Either way I like them.

I went for early war uniforms albeit with the grey linen shako covers. Probably stretching it a bit, even for early 1916, but the later uniforms are very drab and a bit of colour was needed. These lads wouldn't look out of place on a Napoleonic battlefield!

There were 16 Hussar regiments at the outset of the war. However, remounts became scarce as the war progressed and a number of regiments were dismounted. I used the fine colour plate in the Osprey MAA 392 as my reference.

Friday 24 December 2010


A bit more work completed on the Lord of the Isles project. 

I have re-read Andrew McDonald's book on the subject. This is a more academic study that discusses the sources for what we know of Somerled and his life. The sum total is not very much. A bit disappointing in one respect, but for the wargame point of view it gives a bit more license!

On the Bargarran battle scenario I am planning, he concludes that the cause of the conflict was probably conservative opposition to the expanding Anglo-Norman fiefs in the West of Scotland. Their Lords, knights and castles would have been viewed with increasing unease by Somerled and other rulers on the western seaboard. He therefore views the battle as a pre-emptive strike against the expanding Stewarts.

This author argues for two possible sites for the battle. Landing at Renfrew and a battle at Knock. Or a landing at Greenock and a battle at Inchinnan. However, there is no firm evidence for either but we know the broad area.

On the figure front I now have a Somerled. Of course we have no idea what he looked like, so I have gone for the Gripping Beast representation of Ragnar Lothbrok, with some conversion.

Monday 20 December 2010

British in Egypt

And the final units (for now at least) for the British in Egypt project. I now have a balanced force for Black Powder. The Highlanders are plastic Victrix rebased from a purchase on EBay. The Generals and artillery are Front Rank. 

You would never guess I photographed these outside in several inches of snow!

Sunday 19 December 2010

Kosovo 1448

There is an excellent article in this month's Wargames Illustrated by John Bianchi on the second, and less well known, Battle of Kossovo in 1448.  John is the primary author of the WAB supplement Vlad the Impaler that I, and fellow WAB players at GDWS, gave some modest assistance with.

Unlike in the first battle of 1389, the Serbian leadership remained loyal to the Ottomans and it was left to the Hungarian's led by Janos Hunyadi, with Wallachian support, to do battle on the Field of Blackbirds. The plan was to join up with the Albanian leader Scanderbeg, but the Ottomans moved quickly to bring the Hungarians to battle before the Albanians arrived. They were only a day's march away.  Despite being outnumbered Hunyadi nearly pulled off a famous victory. However, it was Sultan Murad who triumphed and the Christian cause in the Balkans was on the defensive for the next 250 years.

The battlefield today, not surprisingly as the monuments were built by Serbia, focus on the earlier battle. But you can still get a good view of where the action took place as can be seen from the pictures on Balkan Military History.

John's article is well illustrated with 28mm figures from a number of ranges including the fine Kingmaker war wagons that represent the wagonburg in the Hungarian centre. He also presents a scenario for WAB that I look forward to trying out soon. We have done the slightly later Vaslui 1475 as a display game. It was fought in the fog, in case your wondering!

Saturday 18 December 2010


This is the first novel from Jack Hight and is based on the siege of Constantinople in 1453.

The book weaves the story of Sultan Mehmed, Longo the Genoese commander of the city's defences and some love interest with the Princess Sofia. The author keeps fairly close to the historical events whilst developing the characters in the best traditions of historical fiction.

He also adds to the history a range of plots and conspiracies that make the story much more than a retelling of the famous siege, epic though that was in its own right.

This is a great read and I look forward to more by this author. His current project is a trilogy about Saladin.

Saturday 11 December 2010

British in Egypt

Working hard to finish a few projects before Xmas so I can do some gaming rather than painting.

The British in Egypt army is close to completion, or at least a balanced force. The latest addition is a regiment of Light Dragoons and a unit of riflemen. I picked up most of the rifles at a show and the rest are Front Rank along with the cavalry. Artillery, Generals and few more Highlanders still on the workbench.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Viking vignette

Done a bit more on the Vikings for the Lord of the Isles project.

Firstly I have read Magnus Magnusson's book Vikings!. I picked up my copy from my local Oxfam bookshop for £2.99, that really is a bargain! This is a sympathetic study as you might expect from an Icelander, validly pointing that they got a bad press from Saxon monks. Dark Age spin doctors it would appear. It is a well illustrated book and very strong on archaeological evidence in particular.

Inspired, I have finished one of Gripping Beasts stunning vignettes. Nor sure Magnus would approve of this. Obviously the boys at the Beast have been taken in by the spin doctors!

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Maida 1806

I have been working through my reserve book pile in anticipation of an xmas restocking, he says with a broad hint to the nearest and dearest. The Battle of Maida 1806 - Fifteen Minutes of Glory by Richard Hopton is a book I bought some time ago. It covers Sir John Stuart's British victory in southern Italy over a French army commanded by General Regnier. 

The year is 1806 and the Third Coalition is falling apart after Napoleon's victories at Ulm and Austerlitz. The British are forced to abandon southern Italy, the mainland portion of King Ferdinand II's Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Napoleon's brother Joseph is installed as King and Ferdinand and the British retreat to Sicily.

Taking Sicily is a much more difficult task for the French. The roads to the launch ports for an invasion through Calabria are almost non-existent and the French are harassed by the Calabrians. The Royal Navy rules the waves following Trafalgar. With his base reasonably secure Sir John Stuart decides on a spoiling expedition and lands near Maida in the Bay of St Euphemia with a small army of around 4000 men.

General Regnier gathers his somewhat larger force together on the high ground above the Bay. As Stuart decides to advance, Regnier, who had a poor opinion of British troops following his contact with them in Egypt, also decided to attack and came down to the plain. His best Brigade was shot up by disciplined musketry and artillery and the others lost heart. The British had no cavalry to effectively follow up but still mopped up the French garrisons in Calabria.

So a famous if modest victory, indeed the only victory that year, achieved for once by the army. Sicily was secured as a British base in the Med.  Despite this the battle is not well known, unless you live in Maida Vale!

The book is well written and gives a full background to the battle and the consequences. The battle itself is interesting in so far as it is likely that the French fought in line and were still beaten by disciplined British firepower. A prelude to the successes of the Peninsular War.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Bulgarian Legion

Latest figures off the workbench are not from one of my current projects. They are 28mm Bulgarian Legion figures from the Russo-Turkish War.

These are from a new range by Outpost Miniatures. I first saw them at the Claymore show in the summer, when their stall was next to our display game. There is a mouthwatering vignette with their display. I resisted them most of the day because I have this army in 15mm. However, one my my pals, in the finest tradition of the drug dealer, sucked me in by buying me a couple of packs.

I have based them as skirmish figures because I am not going to build full size armies. Famous last words!

Bulgaria at this time was part of the Ottoman Empire and the Bulgarian Legion were volunteers fighting with the Russians to liberate their country.The Legion consisted of six rifle battalions and was attached to General Gourko's flying column, tasked with capturing and holding the Shipka Pass. In an epic battle they succeeded although with heavy losses.

Friday 3 December 2010

Siege of Khartoum

Plenty of train journeys this week because of the weather that enabled me to finish the latest John Wilcox novel, Siege of Khartoum.

This is in the Simon Fonthill series. Fonthill is an unusual Victorian character who manages to be at most of the late nineteenth century colonial campaigns, as all good heroes are of course. Unusual because the author has given his hero plenty of 21st Century values. Respecting the role of women, natives etc. If a bit incongruous it makes easier reading for a modern audience.

So here he is trying to reach Gordon in Khartoum before the Mahdi closes in. He gets captured and is rescued by his fiance and a Sudanese warrior, who are the real heroes of the book. Not quite the Four Feathers, and to put it mildly stretching credibility, but a good read none the less. 

It was all a bit predictable but saved by Wilcox's pacy style. As one reviewer put it "Boy's Own stuff".

I sold my 15mm Dervish and British armies earlier this year so I wasn't tempted back to the period with this book. Mind you the Perry's do some very nice 28mm .............

Wednesday 1 December 2010

More Nationalists

These will be the last of the Nationalists, for now at least.

First we have the regular Moroccan infantry. These troops formed the backbone of the Nationalist army. Volunteer troops recruited from Berber hill tribes they were hardy and courageous soldiers.

And then a few Nationalist cavalry.

Roll on Xmas, when hopefully I will find some time to learn and adapt the rules and get these armies onto the tabletop.

Saturday 27 November 2010

India's China War

My interest is easily aroused when it comes to obscure conflicts. Whilst browsing through a second hand bookshop last year, I came across Neville Maxwell's weighty tome on the 1962 Sino/Indian conflict. It sat in my reading pile until recently.

For those not familiar with this war between the two largest countries in the world a brief summary. India's border with China runs from the Himalayas through the Karakorum Mountains - probably the highest border in the world. The precise border line had never been agreed and diplomatic attempts to settle the dispute failed after the 1960 summit between Nehru and Chou En-Lai.

In 1961 India adopted the 'forward policy' that involved a direct military challenge to China and led to the border war the following year. However, the Indian army was ill equipped for fighting a war at 16,000ft+. Lightly armed, poorly supplied troops, most in their cotton summer uniforms were sent in penny packets to confront around three Chinese divisions. When the Chinese counter attacked these units were caught in isolated positions. Heavily outnumbered they fought bravely, often to the last man, against properly equipped Chinese units, but the outcome was never in doubt. The Indian army was shattered and routed to the plains of NE India.

The book gives a very detailed account of the diplomacy and Indian internal politics that led to the conflict. The main interest for the military historian, the war itself, gets lighter treatment. The absurd Indian command structure and the frequent leadership changes in key units is described in detail, but the actual fighting could have done with a few more maps and diagrams. Whilst the book is very balanced, the author did not have access to the same level of papers for the Chinese side.

For the wargamer this conflict presents a few challenges in terms of terrain. However, for figures Korean War Chinese would probably be fine and the Indian army doesn't appear to have moved on much from WW2.

Overall this book is hard going, but if you want a detailed understanding of this conflict, this is the book for you.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Nationalists take shape

Nationalists finally off the bench. Mostly a rebasing job as I picked up a job lot at a bring and buy over a year ago. Supplemented by more figures from Peter Pig. I have plenty of Italians so I don't need that many Spaniards.

The core of the Nationalist army was the African Army stationed in Spanish Morroco. Apart from the Moors there was the Spanish Foreign Legion that actually only allowed 10% of foreigners in its personnel. A number of regulars joined the Nationalists to strengthen these well trained regular troops.

The Nationalists could also call upon two groups of militia. The Carlists based in Navarre, strong monarchists who opposed any form of democracy and the Fascist Falange.

So, first we have regular Nationalist infantry:

and then the Carlists in their distinct red caps.

Sunday 14 November 2010

Operation Mercury

Holiday weekend in my part of the world is an opportunity to catch up with some reading and painting.

Finished off John Sadler's study of the fall of Crete 1941, Operation Mercury. I thought Alan Clarke's classic study of this campaign was a good read, but this is better. The author sets out the background to the campaign and the use of parachute and air landing troops. He then focuses on the key actions around Maleme airfield.

I hadn't really appreciated what a close run thing this campaign was. Even allowing for Axis total air superiority, better organisation and greater tactical awareness of how to tackle parachute landing, could have resulted in an allied victory. The allied troops fought well despite the poor direction from higher levels and where more than a match for the Fallschirmjager. One of the key issues was the lack of radios at company and battalion level.

Recommended read.

Last of the Republicans

Finished the last (for now at least!) of the Republican units for the Spanish Civil War project. The infantry represent the Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the International Brigade. The cavalry are regular Republicans.

This means I have to start on the Nationalists. I don't pretend to be objective as far as this conflict is concerned, but there needs to be an opposing army.


Friday 12 November 2010

Viking Hirdmen

Picked up some very nice Viking Hirdmen for my Lord of the Isles project.

These are Gripping Beast plastics and the first I have seen. I didn't assemble or paint them so I can't comment on the difficulty or otherwise of the task, something I have found onerous with other plastics. However, I can say that the detail is excellent and they look great.

Having done the research, I am starting to put together the metal (and plastic) for this project. Viking types for the Isles are straightforward but I have been swithering about the Scots. Settled for a mixture of Gripping Beast and Crusader for the first units. These will be supplemented by units from mine and others collections of Normans and I suspect some other dark age types to swell the numbers.

No final decision on the battle for the first demo game, but the current favourite is Bargarran. This is where Somerled died in battle with the Normans in 1164. The site is close to Glasgow Airport. Sources for the battle are very limited so we will have some flexibility in terms of the troops we field.

Sunday 7 November 2010

Spanish Civil War

I actually got some painting done in the last few weeks. Even an hour the odd evening helps, although I find 15mm quick but hard work after 28mm. Something to do with age and eyesight I expect!

The fruits of this effort are more Republican units for my Spanish Civil War project. Mostly Peter Pig figures based for FoW.

Republican Militia

Anti Tank Guns

Republican Regular Infantry

Monday 1 November 2010

Military Attache in the Balkans

Just finished the memoirs of Colonel Napier who was the British military attache to Bulgaria in the run up to WW1.

This is a detailed study of the diplomatic efforts to bring Bulgaria into the war on the side of the Entente. He travelled extensively across the Balkans during this period so you get a good understanding of the position in all the Balkan states.

He describes in some detail his meetings with politicians and military leaders in these countries and the reader gets a good understanding of the factors that resulted in the decisions each country took. He is fairly critical of British foreign policy towards Bulgaria and clearly believed that a firmer line could have brought them into the allied camp.

In the end he was captured by a German submarine when leaving Greece on a passenger boat and spent the rest of the war in a prison camp before being exchanged. He then returned as the military attache to Sophia.

Not a light read this but well worth the effort for anyone interested in the Balkans during WW1.

Friday 29 October 2010

Battle for Budapest

On returning from Budapest I was pleased to see the main feature in this month's Wargames Illustrated is the Siege of Budapest in early 1945.

The battle was one of the longest (102 days) and most costly city sieges of WW2, coming second only to Stalingrad in terms of human trauma. Nearly a million civilians were in the city when the Soviets attacked and few were evacuated.

Wargames Illustrated focuses on a couple of interesting units involved in the siege and the preliminary battles on the Hungarian plain. The 13 Panzerdivision Feldherrnhalle had its origins in the SA or Brown Shirts. After their leadership was eliminated in the 1934 Night of the Long Knives the SA regained some standing in the Nazi organisation and formed the basis for this division in October 1944. It was the key German unit in the defence of the city.

Another article looks at the Hungarian assault gun forces. In addition to German equipment they had the locally manufactured Zrinyi Assault Howitzer and Turan tanks. These were formed into eight assault gun battalions in support of Hungarian infantry.

For a detailed history of the siege I would recommend 'Battle for Budapest' by Krisztian Ungvary, published by Tauris. This author had access to German and Soviet archives and takes the reader through the battle week by week.

In the Citadel museum in Budapest there is a large collection of photographs of the city during and after the siege. It is amazing how well the city has been reconstructed given the damage. The picture below was taken in the museum that is situated in the anti-aircraft control bunker.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Viking Art of War

I have just finished reading Paddy Griffiths 'The Viking Art of War'. As always with this fine historian he gives the reader much more than a narrative history. In this book he explains who the Vikings were, the causes of their expansion and how they used their strategic mobility. He then sets out their strategy, battle tactics, army composition and arms and armour.

Sadly he debunks many Viking myths like the Berserkers and Jomsvikings. Recognising that the historical sources are limited for this period, he none the less sets out a more credible explanation of Viking strategy and tactics than the well known popular images.  He does this by applying modern military thinking to challenges the Vikings faced.

The Vikings were not the supermen of myth. In fact they probably lost more battles than they won. This is not surprising when you consider that they fought in a similar way, with similar weapons as their opponents. They brought few if any technological developments, even their ships were only a modest improvement on existing naval architecture. They were effective in small raids when the opposition was not organised to resist them and on the fringes of Europe. They also fought amongst themselves as often as their neighbours. National organisation was at best a loose control and they rarely organised into the 'great armies' that did have a major impact on the history of France and England in particular. They were effectively countered by states that used fortifications and the strategic mobility of mounted troops.

What they did possess was exceptional energy and enthusiasm and whilst they have left a small historical footprint, their achievements were significant. Vikings fought as far away as the Middle East, travelling vast distances in modest sailing boats by modern standards. They excelled at deception and surprise and their strategic mobility caused the great empires of the period huge problems. In the places they occupied, rather than simply raided, they assimilated quickly into the local population. Most famously of course they morphed into the Normans, who themselves ranged far and wide.

Great book and highly recommended.

Sunday 24 October 2010

FoG Renaissance in Action

First run out today with FoG Renaissance. Of the first army book I could field Austrian Imperial and Translyvanian armies.

The dice gave me the Austrians. Good solid infantry centre with strong cavalry wings of Kurassiers and Hussars. My equally green opponent diced for the Translyvanians led by Bethlen Gabor. Weaker infantry but an array of traditional lancers, armoured cavalry together with mercenary Kurassiers.

The rules encourage historical deployment and we both stuck to this. The light cavalry skirmished on the wings whilst we got to grips with the often subtle differences with the ancients FoG rules. Commanded shot between my Kurassiers worked well against the Szekler and Viteji cavalry. Artillery doesn't move after deployment but was useful in softening up before the infantry got into range. Some poor dice from my opponent at critical moments didn't help and the Austrians swept to victory.

Enjoyed the game and the rules appear to work well. A picture of the statue of Gabor below from my recent trip to Budapest.

Monday 18 October 2010

Raven - Blood Eye

A bit more historical fiction in line with my current Viking/Lord of the Isles project. A new author for me is Giles Kristian and the first of his Viking trilogy, Raven: Blood Eye.

The historical setting is the early Viking raids on Wessex. Longships raid a village and our lead character ends up with the Norse warriors. They then get involved in a raid on Mercia on behalf of a Wessex Ealdorman, with a sub plot involving a sortie over Offa's Dyke into Wales.

This is classic historical fiction. Plenty of violent action and treachery as you would expect from a Viking band, together with a pacy narrative. Very similar style to Robert Low. Looking forward to the next installment that is to be set in France.

Wednesday 13 October 2010


Just got back from a trip to the Hungarian capital Budapest.

Lovely city for a short break. The mighty Danube separates Buda with its castle district from the much flatter Pest with its fine buildings and museums.

All the details of what to see can be viewed on the Balkan History website.

Highlights include the Military History Museum with its collection of uniforms, paintings and equipment. It is housed in former barracks in the far corner of the castle district. The National Museum in central Pest is much stronger on the earlier periods with good collections of arms and armour. Both museums have plenty of English translations and small but useful shops that sell good value booklets.

Other sights include Gellert Hill named after the unfortunate Bishop, who got rolled down the hill that dominates the city, in a barrel of nails. The Citadel on top houses a small museum of the WW2 battle for the city. Finally don't miss the Heroes' Square with its monuments to the nation's major historical figures.

In the evening I would recommend the stunning 19th Century cafe/restaurants with their tasty traditional cusine and full bodied Hungarian wines.

Me and the inevitable Hussar outside the military museum.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Lord of the Isles

Finished a bit more background reading for the Lord of the Isles project. First off as always I turn to Nigel Tranter and his fictional account of Somerled the Mighty. Great historical fiction that attempts to keep close to the historical sources. This is one of his best and must be at least my third re-read of this.

For those not familiar with the story, Somerled inherited his father's thanedom in Argyll in the 12th Century. He cleared it and much of the Hebrides of Viking occupation and raiding, establishing a powerful state on Scotland's western seaboard. Many of the classic castles that you can see today on this coast were built by Somerled. He was assassinated before the Battle of Inchinnan 1164 and his Kingdom was split between his three sons. The current Prince of Wales retains the title of Lord of the Isles.

For background reading I have also finished 'Kingship and Unity - Scotland 1000-1306' by G.W.S Barrow. More of a social and economic history this but useful for a broader understanding of the period.

Monday 27 September 2010

FoG Renaissance

Start of the new club year and the first round of the FoG competition yesterday. My Byzantines did not do well last year but surprised me with a comfortable win over an Alexandrian Macedonian army. I managed to avoid all those long pointed sticks and won the key cavalry battles, with it has to be said, some generous luck with the dice.

Received my copy of the new FoG Renaissance rules last week together with the first army book. A couple of members were giving them a go on Sunday. So far everyones impression is favourable. The mechanisms are not too far removed from the ancients and the changes appear to be designed to encourage historical formations.

So I am looking forward to dusting down my 15mm renaissance armies that haven't been used since we stopped playing DBR. The first army book hasn't got much Balkan interest, with the exception of the Hungarian/Transylvanian army. This appears to have a bit of everything in it so should make a change from the pike and shot armies. I am planning a trip to Budapest soon, so some time in the army museum will be useful.

Saturday 18 September 2010

Spanish Civil War tanks

Just finished the new Osprey Vanguard 170 'Spanish Civil War Tanks' by that No.1 tankie, Steven Zaloga.

He gives a good overview of tanks and the operations they supported throughout the war on both sides. Italian tankettes and Pkw1 for the Nationalists and largely Soviet T26 for the Republicans. There were also a number of home produced tanks that I hadn't seen before.

As always with this series this book has many excellent photies and colour plates by Tony Bryan. I need to touch up my collection after looking at these plates.

The author concludes that the conflict was not really the proving ground for Blitzkrieg. Similarly the Russians did not really learn the lessons. This was mainly due to the small scale of tank deployment in Spain, together with poor tactics.

I also re-read an earlier article by this author on Soviet tank operations in the Journal of Slavic Military Studies (Sept 1999). He reached similar conclusions whilst recognising that the war did have important consequences for tank technology. In particular the need for gun armed tanks and better armour to counter the contemporary anti-tank guns.

Altogether a good read and helpful in developing my SCW project.

Thursday 16 September 2010

David the Prince

Early thoughts about a new project for next year's shows have focused on something Scottish. A surprising change for a Glasgow wargaming club!

Several members have very fine collections of 28mm Vikings and Normans so my research starts around the 11th and 12th centuries.

When it comes to Scottish history my personal starting point is always Nigel Tranter. I think I have just about every book he wrote. His books may mostly be fiction but they are rooted in his knowledge of Scottish history and they are a great read. I seem to recall a radio interview with him just before he died when he described how he wrote his books when out walking. Don't know how he did that but his walks must have been inspirational.

So my train reading for this week has been his 1980 book David the Prince. The story of King David, the Prince who never expected to be King but succeeded his brother in 1124. Before succeeding, he was an Anglo Norman nobleman in England gaining favour through his brother-in-law, Henry 1 of England. He was the great modernising King and brought a number of his Norman pals to Scotland including the du Brus, later to be better known as Bruce.

Now, what do my army lists say about his army........

Monday 13 September 2010

South American Wars of Liberation

Dusted down my 28mm armies for the South American Wars of Liberation at the club yesterday. This was a first run out for these armies using Black Powder.

This was the largely Argentinian army of San Martin during the invasion of Spanish held Chile. The game played really well with Black Powder. A cavalry battle on the left flank flowed back and forwards whilst the infantry fought over a village. The buildings are Grand Manner - real substantial 28mm buildings these.

I built up these armies for a series of display games a few years ago and they featured in Wargames Illustrated. You can see more of the figures and find out more about the campaign at my website.

Wednesday 8 September 2010


I have finished reading on the train tonight 'Lost Capital of Byzantium' by Stephen Runciman.

This is a history of the hilltop city in the Peloponnese that was once, the capital of the region. Mistra is close to ancient Sparta, however, it was the Franks who after their conquest in the 13th Century who built a castle on the hill. After the defeat of the Franks the city prospered under Byzantine rule and became a centre of learning and the arts. It also prospered under Ottoman rule but was finally destroyed in the Greek War of Independence.

This book tells a great narrative history of the city and its role in the events of its time. Written by one the finest historians of the Byzantine period.

Thursday 2 September 2010

Fiat CR.32 Aces

A couple of train journeys help to catch up with some reading. My latest is the new Osprey, 'Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War' by Alfredo Logoluso.

The Fiat CR.32 bi-plane fighter had a poor reputation in WW2. However, it was the mainstay of the Nationalist air force and their Italian allies in the Spanish Civil War. It performed well, even against more modern Soviet monoplane fighters, like the Rata. The top ace was a Spaniard, Castano, with 40 confirmed kills.

The book gives a description of the campaigns the plane fought in and the top pilots. Together with the usual fine collection of photies and colour plates. I just need to find some models now for my SCW project. 


Another round of our club WAB competition last Sunday. My Sicilian Normans doing well again. Good firepower from the crossbow and bow armed infantry allows you soften up opponents. Then together with the Arab cavalry you can force some of the more defensive medieval armies out of their fixed positions. That's when the ferocious charge of the knights finish the job.

If you haven't seen the recent BBC2 series on the Normans get clicking onto i-player. Well worth a watch. I particularly enjoyed the programme on the Normans in the South. This really was an amazing story of how a few itinerant knights eventually produced the King of Sicily, and ruled most of southern Italy as well.

For a good read on the subject I would recommend John Julius Norwich 'The Normans in the South' and 'The Normans in Sicily'. He is a wonderful narrative historian.

Saturday 28 August 2010

La Pasionaria

Last Monday was the rededication in Glasgow of the statue of La Pasionaria - with the inscription "Better to die on your feet than live for ever on your knees". The statue commemorates the British volunteers to the International Brigades who fought against Fascism in the Spanish Civil War. Over 2,000 volunteers went from the UK, and over 500 died in the conflict, 65 of whom came from Glasgow.

The ceremony was attended by the last surviving Scot who served in the war, Thomas Watters, who is 97.  Mr Watters served in the Scottish Ambulance Unit, which worked at the front line on the battlefields of Spain to aid wounded fighters and volunteers from across the world.

I also received this week the new Flames of War supplement, Blitzkrieg. Lots of data and ideas that should help with my Spanish Civil War project. I am new to FoW but I am impressed with the clear layout of the data in this supplement and others.

Monday 23 August 2010

Musée de l'Armée

A recent trip to Paris was an opportunity to reacquaint myself with one of the world's finest military museums the musée de l'Armée.

I haven't been there for many years. Although most of the galleries are as I remembered them the temporary exhibitions are a good way to bring out items that don't always make it to permanent display. The highlights for me are the uniform collections, particularly of the Napoleonic period.

A few photies to give a flavour, starting of course with the Balkan interest. An Ottoman Spahi, usually mounted on a fully armoured horse.

Then the amazing Vauban relief models of his fortifications. When I first visited the museum, 30 plus years ago these were just spread around the attic. Now they are well presented.


and finally the man himself, Napoleon's Tomb

Sunday 15 August 2010

King Arthur - Dragons Child

House move and other distractions have slowed up my leisure reading of late. I have therefore only just finished my summer holiday fiction read; King Arthur - Dragons Child by M.K.Hume.

This is the first of a planned series covering the life of King Arthur. As the real Arthur is the subject of much academic debate, it is hardly surprising that fiction takes many different approaches as well. Traditionalists will probably like this version as it sticks fairly closely to the commonly told tale. All the main elements of the story are there, whilst giving the reader a good understanding of the political and military realities of Dark Age Britain.

The author has an excellent writing style and the narrative flows off the page at a good pace. Not quite a Bernard Cornwell but pretty good.

Wednesday 11 August 2010


Last Saturday was one of Scotland's biggest wargame shows, Claymore. Held for the second year at its new venue, Telford College in Edinburgh.

The new venue is a huge improvement on the dismal Meadowbank stadium that housed this show for many years. Plenty of space, good lighting and decent catering all help to make this a very good show. As usual there was good support from the trade and there seemed to be a good turnout from Scottish gamers.

We presented a display game based on the Battle of Alexandria 1801. A development of the Napoleon in Egypt series of demos we ran a few years ago. This time the French faced a British expeditionary force. My new Vitrix Brits got their first run out, accompanied by Liam's very fine foot and cavalry with his trademark supersized flags. A colourful display with a decent handout and display that attracted a lot of interest. We even won a prize.

General Moore's Brigade around the ruins

French cavalry brigade advances

Thursday 29 July 2010

French Cavalry Museum

Saumur is also home to the French cavalry museum (Musee de la Cavalerie). The museum is housed in former stables of the cavalry school. Poorly signposted compared to the tank museum, it is near to the city centre next to the Place du Chardonnet, that is still used for equestrian shows.

Not a large museum, but it has an interesting collection of French cavalry uniforms, together with oil paintings and weaponry. The choice of battles is highly selective with many French defeats being omitted from the history!

Tuesday 27 July 2010

German Tanks at Saumur

The French tank museum at Saumur has a good collection of all the main German WW2 AFVs. Here are some of the ones I found interesting.

King Tiger

Marder 38

Marder Hotchkiss


Sunday 25 July 2010

French Tanks of WW2

Just back from holiday in France. A number of visits will feature in blogs in the coming days.

One highlight was my first visit to the French tank museum (Musee des Blindes) at Saumur. This is the French version of Bovington and it is well worth a visit if you are in the Loire region. Saumur has been the home of the French cavalry since 1763, when Louis XV reorganised the French cavalry and formed the cavalry school there.

Here are a few of the more unusual French WW2 tanks that were new to me at least. Starting with a prototype tank the ACG1.

Then a 47mm anti-tank gun.

Then then museum's collection of more familiar early WW2 tanks. Starting with the Renault B1

Then the R35


The H39

The Panhard Armoured Car

and the AMR 33

Finally the 25mm ATG

Wednesday 14 July 2010

International Brigade

First infantry off the workbench for the Spanish Civil War project.

These are the International Brigade. These troops were volunteers from all over the world who came to Spain to fight fascism. Real heroes, one and all. Their individual stories make a great read in books like 'The Real Band of Brothers', 'Heroic Voices of the Spanish Civil War' and for the Scots, 'Homage to Caledonia'. 2500 British and Irish volunteers fought with the International Brigade - 526 of them lost their lives.

As the trade union leader Jack Jones put it:
"For us it was the battle against Fascism... and that inspired and encouraged me to do what I could against it, even if it meant laying down my life."

"Oh brothers, swear on these words: it is better to die than to allow tyrants."

Sunday 11 July 2010

Varangian Guard

Just finished reading Osprey MAA 459 The Varangian Guard 988-1453 by Raffaele D'Amato.

The book includes a short history of the Varangian's in Byzantine service including the early Russ and the later English exiles from Norman England. This is followed by sections on the Guard in service and equipment and weapons. Finally a helpful bibliography and of course the colour plates that are almost always the main selling point of an Osprey publication.

This is a link to pictures of my Comenenian Byzantine army including Varangian's in 28mm.

These figures are from the Gripping Beast range