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 31 July 2015

Second Serbian Uprising 1815

This year is the 200th anniversary of the Second Serbian Uprising that led to autonomy from the Ottomans for Serbs living in the Belgrade Pashalik.

After the first Uprising there were attempts at reconciliation under a new governor, Suleyman Pasha. However, by 1815 repression had returned and this resulted in the Second Serbian Uprising, led by Milos Obrenovic, starting on 23 April 1815. He was another pig farmer, but he learned from the first uprising and avoided major military confrontations with the Ottomans. His strategy was to negotiate a deal with the Ottomans.

Not that he didn’t raise forces and fight battles. When elected he famously said, "Here I am, here you are. War to the Turks!". There were actions at Cacak, Ljubic, Palez and Dublje before the Ottomans were driven from the Pashalik.

We don’t know a great deal about these actions. They appear to have been mostly defensive actions by the Ottomans who defended entrenchments that were stormed by the Serbian forces. On several occasions, negotiated surrenders ended the action with the Ottomans withdrawing leaving any cannon behind. The strategy was not to repeat the barbarity of the first uprising, to make a negotiated peace possible. For example at Dublje, the Bosnian Pasha was captured after his army fled. He was treated well, given presents and allowed to return home.

In mid-1815, the first negotiations began and agreement was reached on a form of partial autonomy. The Ottomans were wary of the Russians after Napoleon’s defeat and were busy with unrest elsewhere in the empire.  In 1816, formal documents acknowledged the Serbian Principality under which they paid a yearly tax to the Porte and had a garrison of Turkish troops in Belgrade until 1867. However, it was, in most other matters, an independent state.

Here are a few Serbian troops of the period. They looked pretty similar to the Greeks, so I used the new 28mm range by the very talented Steve Barber. 

On the tabletop with this skirmish game.

There is a more detailed feature article on this conflict in this month's Balkan Military History.

Thursday 30 July 2015

Master of War - Defiant Until Death

My holiday fiction reading has been David Gilman's, Defiant Until Death in his Master of War series.

This is the saga of Sir Thomas Blackstone, who rose from a humble archer in the English army of the Hundred Years War, to be knighted after the battle of Crecy.

This book takes the story on onto the Poitiers campaign, with our hero holding towns in Normandy and getting involved in plots against the French king. This leads to his friends being butchered by the King and his family threatened by a character called the Savage Priest, who commands a band of routiers.

The climax of the book is the Battle of Poitiers, unusual for the period in that longbowmen played a less significant role in the victory due to a shortage of arrows - something few wargame rules replicate. It ends in a further battle in Northern Italy when our hero of course kills the Savage Priest. As Blackstone takes his band of warriors into Papal service, the next book will presumably cover Italian warfare of the period.

This is epic historical fiction. Numerous sub plots, some romance, plotting and of course plenty of action. Well researched and written, this is all you could ask for from the genre. Recommended.

Monday 27 July 2015

Wargamer's Wedding

I got married to Liz on Saturday and as we held the ceremony in the garden of our home there was the opportunity to set up a wargame for our guests. When I say garden, given it's Scotland in July, we covered it front and back with marquees. However, we luckily got probably the only sunny day - a D6 there!

It was a small skirmish game based on the Battle of Jarama in the Spanish Civil War. The figures are 28mm and we used Bolt Action rules. Not much time to play it, but the handout explains what war gaming is all about.

Oh, and the wedding. Here's me and the new Mrs Watson. The tartan for my kilt is a new one in support of the UK military charity, Help for Heroes.

And my favourite wedding present from my wargame pals. Absolutely amazing, thanks lads.

And finally, an essential at any Scottish wedding, the piper. Neil is associated with the Royal Tank Regiment, very appropriate for me!


Wednesday 15 July 2015

Ottoman naval matters

My latest reading has focused on Ottoman naval matters, albeit from very different periods.

First, we have the Ottoman Age of Exploration by Giancarlo Casale. The author takes us through the various stages of Ottoman naval activity that mainly focused on the trade routes from the Middle East to India and South East Asia. Starting in 1512 with Selim the Naigator and completing the narrative in the early 1600's.

Ottoman naval activity was in part defensive - defending the Red Sea against Portuguese incursions, but then expanded, somewhat fitfully, depending on the enthusiasm of Ottoman officials from the Sultan down. Control of the spice trade was particularly important, given the fabulous prices such delicacies attracted in Europe.

I have to say I struggled a bit with this book. As is often the case with what was originally a PhD thesis, the quality of the research outshines the readability. None the less, the subject is an interesting one and for the wargamer gives a new opponent for those Ottoman galleys. And the Ottoman maps are also wonderful.

Second, we have Ottoman Navy Warships 1914-18 by Ryan Noppen. This Osprey, in the New Vanguard series, concisely describes the warships of the Ottoman navy and the actions they took part in. I was familiar with the actions in the Dardanelles having visited the forts and naval bases. In particular the minelayer Nusret's achievements in sinking or seriously damaging several allied battleships. I was less familiar with the naval actions in the Black Sea. Many of these revolved around Russian attempts to interdict Ottoman coal convoys. It was the lack of coal that most restricted Ottoman naval action.

The Ottoman navy had a disparate mix of ships at the start of WW1, built in Germany, France and Britain, partly as compensation for uprisings in the Empire. With the exception of the infamous Goeben, the navy even with German help, didn't really achieve its potential. It did however stop the superior allied navies from bombarding Istanbul, an action that might have knocked the Ottoman's out of the war.



Sunday 12 July 2015

Spanish Civil War

These are somewhat belated reinforcements for my Bolt Action Spanish Civil War armies in 28mm. Belated because I had planned to finish them the Falkirk show, but life etc intervened.

First up we have some Republican infantry with an ATG.

Then some rather nice female militia, the Miliciana.

And finally, the opposition in the form of Morrocan troops.

All figures are from the Empress range.