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

Friday 29 July 2011

Brittany - Fougeres

I spent my summer holiday in Brittany. Not an area I know well, but one with a rich history.

Brittany gets its name from the settlement of Britons from Wales and the west country who established themselves in the area during two migrations during the 9th Century. They fought off the Franks and established an independent state. Brittany during the Middle Ages is the story of fending off attempts to incorporate the Duchy into France. The French eventually triumphed in 1488.

We stayed in the Breton Marches, the borderland with France. It has several well preserved castles. The best is Fougeres. Established in the 11th Century it was developed over the next four centuries into an impressive fortification that is largely intact today. Well worth a visit.

Thursday 28 July 2011

The Lion Awakes

First on my holiday reading list has been Robert Low's new book 'The Lion Awakes'. He is the author of the Oathsworn series of Viking novels. His new 'Kingdom' series covers Scotland at the end of the 13th Century, both the internal conflicts and external wars with England.

In the best tradition of the historical novel the main character is a fictitious minor noble who is close to the main events. This volume starts in 1297 with Edward ruling Scotland and Wallace leading the rebellion, together with the internal Bruce - Balliol civil war. The Battle of Stirling Bridge is central to the book that ends with the Battle of Falkirk in July 1298. 

Anyone covering this period is bound to be compared with Nigel Tranter and his treatment of both Wallace and Bruce. Tranter had a more romantic style that generally portrayed his heroes in a positive light. Low goes for a more gritty, warts and all presentation that has ruffled a few feathers. The reality is that our sources for the period are limited and therefore the historical novelist has plenty of interpretative scope. 

The Lion WakesI declare an interest in that the author is a member of our wargames society and I am a big fan of his style. He is a journalist by profession and that shines through. He loves to tell the story and one of his Viking novels lacked pace by getting distracted with too much saga story telling. But that isn't a problem here. You get a real feel for the period and what it was like to live and fight in those difficult times. The internal politics of Scotland in this period is fully brought out, so for those who view the period as a nationalist England v Scotland issue will be sorely disappointed. Braveheart this isn't. Highly recommended.


Wednesday 13 July 2011

Outpost Turks in 28mm

In December I posted pictures of the Bulgarian Legion in 28mm from a new range by Outpost Miniatures. These are for the Russo-Turkish War of 1877.

As I said then I first saw them at the Claymore show last 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 also said I wasn't going to buy full size armies. So far so good as the project is limited to the Shipka Pass battle between the Advanced Guard and the Turks. The next stage is therefore some opponents for the Bulgars in the shape of these very nice Turkish figures. Russians next.....

Monday 11 July 2011

Armies of the Balkan Wars

The latest Osprey (MAA 466) covers the Armies of the Balkan Wars 1912-13.

This book does what it says on the cover. Just a short potted history of the campaign and then a description of the armies and their equipment. As usual with this series the strength is in the colour plates and the photos. Both are excellent.

Armies of the Balkan Wars 1912-13: The Priming Charge for the Great War
This is a big subject to cover in one book. There are a number of countries involved and the armies were large and diverse. But for those simply looking for a short introduction and a painting guide, this is the publication for you.

If you want a history of the campaigns, I would recommend Richard Hall The Balkan Wars and for the Ottomans, Defeat in Detail by Edward Erickson. For more detail on the armies consult Alexander Vachkov, The Balkan War 1912-13  that has more colour plates and detail on the equipment deployed.

Sunday 10 July 2011

On His Majesty's Service

I picked up a copy of Alan Mallinson's latest book On His Majesty's Service, primarily because it appeared to cover the 1829 Russo-Turkish War in the Balkans.

After struggling through the first 100 pages, I remembered why I hadn't bought his books recently. This is an author who has a very detailed understanding of cavalry regiments and the society they operated in during the period. The problem is that he feels the need to share that detail with the reader. So the first hundred pages takes us through a fairly tedious round of social engagements typical of a upper class officer of the time. This is supposed to be historical fiction and as such should have action and a fast paced narrative. Sadly this book has neither.

On His Majesty's ServiceThe book improves when we eventually get to the Balkans, although the research is a little less detailed here. In fairness, this is not a well covered conflict in any language. In the best traditions of historical fiction our hero manages to be everywhere that matters and it does give a reasonable flavour of the conflict and in particular the problems faced by an Ottoman army in transition.

Overall, not my favourite author and not recommended.

Saturday 2 July 2011


This is the second in Jack Ludlow's trilogy covering the great story of the Normans in the South.

The scene is 11th Century Italy, with Norman mercenaries arriving to be hired by Lombard and Byzantine lords. Too many young knights in Normandy to be supported on too little land, so the younger sons seek their fortune in a divided Italy. 

The story is built around the de Hautevilles. Tancred in Normandy trying to do his best for his many sons. William goes south and becomes first a Captain in an established band before striking out on his own. Eventually he rises to his own fiefdom in Apulia, supporting a rebellion against the weakening power of the Byzantine Empire. This book ends with the Battle of Civitate where the Normans defeat the Pope who is trying to curb their growing power. Yet cleverly they ally themselves with the Pope and set the scene for the next stage of the Norman expansion in the South. The leader then will be Robert de Hauteville, known as Guiscard.

For a factual history you can do no better than J.J.Norwich's 'Normans in the South'. The actual history reads like a novel because it is the most amazing story. But Jack Ludlow is a great writer of historical fiction. This book has it all, intrigue, treachery, action and passion. Historical fiction at its very best. Highly recommended.