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

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.