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 May 2023

Army Flying Museum

 After Portsmouth, I was heading cross country for a couple of days of golf with pals near Tewkesbury. I stopped off at the Army Flying Museum at Middle Wallop. The base next door is still operational.

The museum covers the history of Army aviation from the Balloon sections of the Royal Engineers through the establishment of the Royal Flying Corps in 1912, Air Observation Post (AOP) Squadrons, and the establishment of the Army Air Corps in 1957, which includes the glider regiments. There are two hangers of aircraft used by this unusual branch of the Army, along with other displays that take the visitor chronologically through the history of the Corps.

A captured ZSU-23-4 "Shilka" stands guard at the entrance, the Soviet self-propelled, radar-guided anti-aircraft weapon system. They also used them in Chetchnya to fire at buildings.

Other exhibits:

This is a Jeep come helicopter called a Rotabuggy. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't a success!

Apache attack helicopter

Two captured Argentinian helicopters.

A WW1 Sopwith, used for artillery spotting.

De Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver.

Plenty of ground equipment as well.

AA guns

A Ferret that served with the UN in Cyprus.

I suspect his museum is a bit out of the way for most people. But if you are nearby, it's worth a look.

Thursday 25 May 2023

The Dacians and Getae at War

This is a new book in the Osprey Men at Arms series by Andrei Pogacias on the ancient Dacians and Getae. This isn't the first Osprey treatment of the Dacians. They did a series back in 1982 on Rome's enemies, and the Dacians were lumped in with the Germanic tribes. There has been a fair amount of archaeology and other academic work since then, although we still don't know much, and what we know comes from Greek and Roman sources.

This author discusses our sources and describes the Getae as primarily residing in the lowlands around the Danube in what is modern Romania, spreading towards the Black Sea. The Dacians are mainly further inland in the Transylvania mountains, looking more to the west. These are not neat geographical lines; both peoples intermingled.

We then get chapters on the social structure and the armies. The Getae appear to have been chiefly mounted, while the Dacian armies had a more balanced infantry and cavalry army. Numbers in ancient sources are notoriously unreliable, but Dacia may have had a population as large as one million. Both used fortifications, and there is decent archaeological evidence for the Dacian forts.

There is a chapter on campaigns, which starts with the less well-known early wars against the Persians and then the Macedonians. The Getae were allies of Mithridates the Great in his wars against the Romans. The story of battles against the Romans is well known, starting with early victories against Domitian and then defeats in Trajan's wars. Sources are more robust for these campaigns, including the famous Trajan's Column in Rome.

Finally, a chapter on weapons and equipment. This includes the sica and falx archaeological finds, most closely associated with the Dacians. This is also reflected in the colour plates. The author is a reenactor who brings that experience to the story. Overall, a handy introduction.

If you want to start a new ancient army, you could do worse than the Dacians. With Sarmatian allies, they are more balanced than many tribal armies, and Warlord does some lovely infantry in 28mm, although there are not enough falx in the box for me.


Tuesday 23 May 2023

Portsmouth - it's all about the Navy

 I spent the day in Portsmouth, mainly visiting the historic dockyard. I vaguely remember visiting HMS Victory before on a school trip, but that was a very long time ago.

The site is mixed in with the modern naval base, so as an added bonus, HMS Iron Duke (Type 23 frigate) was in port. I started with a visit to HMS Warrior, which, when launched in 1860, was the world's fastest, largest, and most powerful warship. As one of the crew put it, an armour-plated deterrent to the wicked French. Out of earshot of the French tour party behind me!

The next stop was the Royal Navy Museum. A special Nelson exhibition and lots of ship models, paintings etc. A few dioramas, including a landing by boat in a Mediterranean harbour, which looks a lot better than mine, if more compact. I doubt you could game on this one.

The classic Nelson dying at Trafalgar painting.

The 4” Gun from HMS Lance that fired the first shots of the war at sea in WW1.
This collection of naval games will test a few memories!

HMS Victory would have called most visitors next. But needless to say, I went for the Balkan interest. The monitor HMS M.33 was the only surviving Royal Navy warship from the Gallipoli campaign. Built in just 10 weeks, it fired 316 shells at the Ottoman artillery positions. Good gun platform but a bumpy sail. 

HMS Victory is being refurbished, so the visitor experience on the outside is limited. However, there is full access inside. But, mind your head, I didn't.

I couldn't resist Nelson's loo.

And finally, the Mary Rose. I remember watching the live TV footage of them raising the Mary Rose. Fantastic to see it preserved along with the contents. Including the longbows.

I was going to take the water bus to Gosport and the Submarine Museum, but that wasn't going. So instead, I walked down the coast to Southsea and the D-Day Story. The main attraction is a Landing Ship Tank, but they also have other vehicles and displays inside and the impressive D-Day tapestry.

Next to the D-Day Museum is Southsea Castle. Built by Henry VIII to protect Portsmouth Harbour. The deep channel goes under its guns. He watched the Mary Rose sink from here, according to a print of the period. It was still in use by WW2, although mainly for AA. This reminds me it is pretty remarkable that HMS Victory survived being bombed in both world wars.

I walked back to Portsmouth along what looked like a new promenade. The route is dotted with war memorials. The biggest is the majestic Naval War Memorial. You also get a good look at the harbour defences.

Overall, an excellent day.

Monday 22 May 2023

Winchester Military Museums Quarter

 I was in Oxford this morning doing a book presentation and an interesting discussion about modern Turkish history. It was close to the Ashmolean Museum, which I had never visited. Apart from the archaeology and art, they had a special exhibition about the Palace of Knossos on Crete. I visited the site a few years ago, so it was interesting to get a different perspective.

The Japanese section has a full set of Samurai armour.

In the afternoon, I drove down to Winchester. In the former Peninsular Barracks, they have three military museums, well five, really, but two were not open.

The first was the Gurkha Museum. A standard regimental museum format takes the visitor chronologically through their history of service with the British Army from 1815 to the present day. For such a small country, I was staggered to read that 120,000 Gurkhas served in WW2.

I also didn't realise they fought on the Western Front in WW1. This is a trench attack. 

This was the first uniform in 1815.

Next door is the Horse Power Museum of the Royal Hussars. Again a chronological tour of the 10th and 11th Hussars, through the Napoleonic Wars, the charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimea, to the conversion as infantry in WW1 and then armoured troops in WW2 and beyond.

A WW2 Dingo Scout Car.

Finally, The Rifles and Royal Green Jackets Museum. This traces the history of rifle units from the Royal Americans in the AWI to the 95th Rifles of the Napoleonic Wars. Then through colonial campaigns and the Crimea to the mechanised units of WW2 and today.

Rifleman Harris

Rifle officer in the Napoleonic Wars. I don't recall Sharpe in a Bicorn!

They also have a Waterloo diorama with 22,000 figures. 

Easy to find, a car park outside and a joint ticket for £11. Highly recommended.

Sunday 21 May 2023

Partisan 2023

I was at Partisan today in Newark, my first time at this popular show. I wasn't initially planning to go, having attended Hammerhead.  However, I was invited to give a couple of book talks in the Oxford area, so this was a good excuse.

Partisan has a reputation as a show with a big focus on games. All the usual traders were there, but games, participation and display were the focus. I had a full day, so I played Cannae using Strength and Honour rules after the initial scout. These are an interesting way of playing big battles using 2mm figures. The game went much like the historical battle, which is always a plus. I was Hannibal, and my two wing generals competently crashed through the Roman flanks while I held on in the centre and even managed a flank attack. 

I ended up buying the rules and a few starter units from Warbases. Unfortunately, I need a microviser to paint 28mm, so I am still determining how I'll manage with 2mm!

Partisan has an author's section, which includes one of my favourite WW2 fiction authors, Andy Johnson. I chatted with him in the afternoon; a very engaging guy, everything I expected. 

There were many excellent games, so here are just some that caught my eye.

The Glasgow Tradeston guys also made the long journey south with their 30 Years War battle.

AWI, if I remember correctly

A lovely town scene for a WW2 game

To the Strongest! The Battle of Ipsus 301BC.

Excellent Raid on Entebbe game.

I have no idea what this is, but it looks good.

The attack on McPherson's Ridge. Gettysburg 1863.

More WW2 in an urban setting

General Lake at war in India.

Another Successors battle - Paraetacene 316BC

A magnificent cityscape.

I did get around the traders and picked up some figures, paints and other bits and bobs that I didn't have time for at Carronade. A long drive back for the Glasgow contingent, while I had a shortish drive down to Oxford for the first of my talks this evening.