Sunday, 14 November 2021

Two Side Dishes

Rather than getting on with finding a suitable table and running the ECW siege-campaign I talked about before the Summer, I've been faffing about reading and listening off topic.

The listening has been the We Have Ways of Making You Talk podcast with Al Murray and James Holland. But at least with a podcast I can get on and do other things.

The reading part has lately steered to the Second Anglo-Sikh War (after reading about the first in Flashman and the Mountain of Light). My book of choice here is Amarpal Singh's the Second Anglo-Sikh War. It's a bit of a whopper at over 500 pages and very good too. The same author has written on the First ASW and on the Siege of Dehli during the Mutiny. I've been thinking of Colonial wargaming for several years without actively doing anything about it, beyond buying A Portable Colonial Wargame and the Men Who Would Be Kings rules.

If I do go ahead, I've narrowed down my theatre of interest to the NW Frontier. As for period, well, I've been thinking of going right back to the 1840s and then following through successive generations right up to the 1930s. The intention is to approach it at skirmish or at most brigade level, playing scenario driven games with named characters. Not to be taken too seriously with silly names and possibly even an Imagination type approach. Expect bad puns. Also there could be an element of the Great Game involved, with devious Russian agents stirring up trouble. All being well, a brave British political officer might return the compliment causing trouble on the Tsar's frontiers which Count Karl Gustav Stutterheim will have to deal with. Suitable Russian figures can be found in ranges covering the Russo-Turkish War and right up to the Russian Civil War. Who knows.

I might stick with 10mm figures, or I might even go up to 20mm since I need new terrain/buildings anyway, I needn't be constrained by what I have currently. Pendraken have a number of ranges that I can probably use as proxies, if not always directly what I want.

The second possible side dish is the Spanish Civil War. Now this is something that has interested me since the early 80s, although I haven't done much reading on the subject since university days. To me the kaleidoscope of factions involved on both sides is a key feature. I was intrigued by Trebian's approach to handling different factions, so I popped in an order for For Whole the Dice Tolls and I'm slowly working my way through that now.

There's a lot to go through. For a start, modern warfare (and by my standards the 1930s is modern) is more complicated than the Horse and Musket era. All the different capabilities of AFVs for one thing, to say nothing of aeroplanes. It's more than I'm used to. If this goes ahead, I'll continue with 10mm ranges since I can use some of my existing stuff like woods. I also already have some T26s and a couple of trucks that could be used. Before taking the plunge, I will have a run through of the rules using my Continuation War figures as proxies. They are already mounted on bases compliant with Trebian's recommended dimensions. There are some spare Finns/Germans in helmets in the box of unpainted stuff. I might even get away with painting these up as Spanish regulars at this scale. Economy is the watchword!

Monday, 8 November 2021

Memorial Corner

We had a second trip to Cleethorpes recently, and on Friday morning I took a stroll out from the house where we were staying. The sky was clear and the air still and cool. Perfect weather really. In the area known as High Cliff (which in fact is a low clay cliff, but higher than the surrounding land*) is a memorial to all the UK armed forces. The town plays host to parades on Armed Forces Day and this is the focal point at the end of the parade.

* Aside. In the early19th century the fishing village of Cleethorpes had become a resort, for presumably the relatively well-off as travel was by horse-drawn carriage. Much of the town's seafront was a low clay cliff, which was subject to erosion much like those on the Holderness coast of Yorkshire. By mid-century a railway had been built to neighbouring Grimsby, where the railway company had seen an opportunity and expanded the docks. So they built a railway and expanded the reason for building it to make sure it was successful! This was working so well that in the 1860s the railway company repeated the trick. As well as expanding the railway the couple of miles to Cleethorpes, they built the first part of the Promenade. As well as providing a place to perambulate (adding to the amenity of the place and encouraging more railway traffic), the promenade acted as a bulwark for the cliffs, preventing further erosion. That made the buildings in the old part of town safe too. Visionary stuff.

This is very near the Royal Air Forces Association building, and in front of that in the Pier Gardens is a memorial statue to the RAF. This being Lincolnshire, there is a big association with Bomber Command.

Note the 's' in 'Forces'. The building also hosts the local branch of the Parachute Regiment Association.

The RAF memorial, currently undergoing renovation.

These memorials I've known about, though both were installed in relatively recent times. A few paces further along in the gardens I came across a few new memorials.

Bench installed in honour of Colour Sergeant Findlay of 2nd battalion the Parachute Regiment ('2 Para') killed in the Falklands War. A couple of links can be found below.

A few yards away is this bench in honour of the 2nd battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment. 

The Royal Anglians are one of those multi-battalion regiments created following the mergers of county (infantry) regiments, in this case from Eastern England. 2 RAR incorporates the former Royal Lincolnshire Regiment (10th Foot), hence the nickname of the Poachers. The 'local' cavalry regiment was the 17th/21st Lancers, since subject to two further mergers, the last being in 2015. It's sad to note the flowers left on the bench, clearly indicating a loss in relatively recent times.

Across the way from the gardens, on Alexandra Road is a modern Baptist church. This replaced the earlier Baptist church that was hit by a bomb dropped by a Zeppelin in 1916. The church hall was temporarily being used to accommodate soldiers of the Manchester Regiment who had been sent to the area to help protect the Humber. Twenty-seven soldiers were killed outright with a further four dying of their wounds.

Plaque tucked away on the side of the church. Links about this incident below.

Two final memorials lie in this area. Both civilian. The author of the article on the Cleethorpes Heritage website, Dr Alan Dowling, was librarian at Grimsby Central Library and had a couple of books published on local history. One on the development of Grimsby and a companion book on the development of Cleethorpes. Both are excellent examples of good local history - not the usual collections of photos of 'bygones' that you get in local bookshops. On a bench close to the Poachers' bench is one with a plaque to the good doctor.

The other is a memorial to a much broader group of people. Those who lost their life at work.

All of these can found in an area 120 x 50 yards. See map below.

The buildings to the right of the church are the council offices also hit in the Zeppelin raid. The third bomb fell in the street 2nd to right (Sea View Street).

I'm glad that all these people referred to have been remembered in this way.

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Space Saving

At SELWG the other week I mentioned to David-in-Suffolk (a.k.a. the Ragged Solider) that my collection doesn't take up much space due to the small scales that I game in. Some time after I checked how much space. Well here's how much:

Under 3 feet wide. 34 inches or 87cm in new money.

To be a little more precise, there are 32 plastic boxes c.21x21x4cm and 7 thick card boxes 24x30x6cm (internal dimensions). A fraction of cubic metre. In fact about 10% of one cubic metre!

In those boxes are 11 'armies', all of my buildings, castle sections, river sections, woods (2 of the card boxes alone), hedges, fences, earthworks, bridges, and my unpainted lead pile. The 'armies' are:


No. of painted and based figures





Austrian, Prussian, Russian




Parliamentarian and Royalist




American and British




Anglo-Portuguese-Spanish and Prussian




Finnish and Soviet




Guns, limbers and wagons are not included in those totals. The WWII stuff does not include any vehicles yet.

Quite a modest total by some people's standards. But my wife thinks it's enough, and who am I to disagree. Openly.

Thursday, 28 October 2021

Kesselsdorf Refought Solo

It's difficult to know how to start this so I'm just going to jump straight in.

Having laid up the table nearly three weeks ago, I got down to playing the game a week ago. I don't know what was stopping me before. The game only took a couple of hours to play to conclusion. For the set-up, please see the post here:

One major difference between the table set-up and the map I gave is that, due to the table being too short I could only go as far as Zollmen on the Saxon right. This meant that all of the Austrians were off table. As in the accounts that I've seen (admittedly very brief ones) the Austrians do not seem to take part in any of the key action, I decided that they would only appear on the table on a dice roll after 6 turns. This sounds like a long time, but the turns are completed quickly in the Twilight of the Soldier Kings. Also there appears to be a big gap between the Austrian and Saxon positions and it would probably be a long time before the Austrian commander decided that any sound of battle off to his left was the real deal, and that there was no threat to his front, or that he took the entreaties of his Saxon ally seriously enough to move. The 7,000 strong force of Austrians would also take some time to re-deploy into column and march the three miles to the heart of the action. The dice roll method for the Austrians to appear as fully formed columns on the table would be the traditional 6 on a D6, and decreasing by 1 every successive turn.

One final comment. All the 'Saxons' here are played by Austrians, as the sharp-eyed will note from the flags.

View from above the Prussians' position. Kesselsdorf is the town on the right, Zollmen on the centre-left. Prussian flanking cavalry and grenadiers above the stream to the right.

Normally under TOSK rules, players dice for initiative but I decided that logically it would be fitting that the Saxons got the opportunity to react first with the Prussians having gotten so close. The Saxon batteries in defences of Kesselsdorf immediately poured shot into the blue-coated grenadiers inflicting heavy losses on them. Elsewhere one Saxon infantry brigade advanced into the village of Zollmen, with no real thought other than that it appeared to be a good idea.

Whilst the Prussian grenadiers steeled themselves to assault Kesselsdorf, their brethren in the heavy cavalry orbited the town and attacked the Saxon horse. Despite the advantage of numbers, they were forced to face the Saxons on an equal frontage, squeezed between Kesselsdorf and the marshes and the large village of Nieder Hermsdorf to the south. In other words, they were stopped by the table edge. The action here was to be long and drawn out. Unable to bring numbers to bear, the Prussians were fighting their neighbours on near equal terms.

Slowly the Prussian cuirassiers pushed the Saxon dragoons back.  The three support lines, plus the weight advantage gave the Prussians the edge but the Saxons were doughty opponents. In the background to the right, the Prussian centre has crossed the stream and engaged the Saxons in a prolonged firefight after their initial bayonet 'charge' proved ineffective*.

* In TOSK Prussian infantry in 1745 and the early SYW use 'bayonet tactics'. I.E. they are forced to close without stopping to fire. Only once they are repulsed will they stop to slug it out with black powder. After attempting to close with the Saxon grenadiers defending Kesselsdorf, the Prussian elites staggered back. The task was too demanding. Soon they were swept away by canister and they fled (They had reached 3 losses). The Prussian second line on the right were kept at bay by the Saxon guns.  The Dessauer's men were not having much joy.

In the centre the Saxons also took first blood, driving off one Prussian brigade in rout. Leopold's day had not got off to a good start. But whilst the Austrians were far off by the Elbe, he had the advantage of numbers, and could replace the destroyed brigades. The sixth turn and then the seventh came and went with no sign of the Austrians.

The infantry battle in the centre. The Prussians are gaining the upper hand.

Across on the Saxon right, the cavalry and infantry advanced close to the stream, but stayed back just far enough to tempt the Prussians. The Prussians advanced to the stream. And waited. They were not going to take the bait. It was almost as if their commander could read his opponent's thoughts. He moved a battery up into range of the Saxon foot who had strayed too close to the stream.

Whilst this played out, relief began to arrive on the Saxon right rear.

Les Autrichiens arrivent! It would be a race against time. Could they get to the Saxon centre before the Prussians break through?

Meanwhile back at Kesselsdorf, the Prussian second line made up of Musketeer regiments assault the Saxon lines. In the course of the action they suffer two losses but manage to inflict one on the Saxon grenadiers. On the far side of the town, the Saxon infantry tries to influence the cavalry action by firing into the flank of the Prussian cavalry, but with limited effect.

This is where TOSK gets interesting. It models deployment into line really well. Troops without Improved Movement (which is everyone but the Prussians) have to march into line by first wheeling at a right angle to the line of march, then turning to the front. This takes more than one move. Troops with Improved Movement can deploy off the line of march, and this is quicker. In the end this is what slowed the Austrians down. The Prussian infantry in the centre finally break the Saxon foot. On the Prussian right, their cavalry, despite losing one brigade, force their opponents into the centre of the position.

Breakthrough! Prussian infantry left in command of the centre. Saxon infantry  is left isolated in Kesselsdorf. The Saxon cavalry brigades in the centre of the picture each have two losses; one more each and they 'rout'.

The Saxon right at the end. The Austrian foot is seen in their slow deployment into line. The Austrian cavalry had already been removed at this point.

So a decisive victory in the end for the Prussians. But for a long time the game hung in the balance. I say a long time. It was several turns, but the whole game of about 13 moves only took 2-3 hours. I'm still rusty on the rules, and I'd like to try them out some more. But I'd say they probably fit the bill for what I'm looking for better than anything else. At some point I'd like to try an encounter game with both sides deploying from march columns. That will take a much bigger table than I have got currently.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

A show, a game, a walk and a bench

It's been a strained couple of weeks which I might elaborate on at some point. However, I finally got down to some wargaming. After two weeks of the game being set up and ready on the table, I got down to running through Kesselsdorf with my rusty understanding of the Twilight of the Soldier Kings rules. More of that anon. The weekend before I had a trip up to north London for SELWG and met the Two Davids of The Ragged Soldier and St Cyr on Wheels blogs.

I enjoyed my day out (I'll gloss over the hordes of maskless NFL fans on the Tube) and it was nice to put faces to names from the blogosphere. Stand out displays for me were the 1930s Thai civil war game, the 1950s French Indo-China game, and the 2mm Ancients game which seemed to have a fully-engaged group of participants. No damage was done to my credit rating on impulse buys either.

The intriguing venue for SELWG

View down the length of the Thai game

Close-up of the Thai game. Government forces moving up to confront the rebels. I was taken by the 'mule train' (If I remember correctly, they were actually donkeys).

More action from the Thai game

French Indo-China

From a great looking Sikh War game


The aforesaid ancients game

More recently we had a family trip to my home town. Most of the branch down here and the Liverpool branch. We all assembled (6 in total) in Cleethorpes and had some good quality family time together, and some good quality fish and chips too. Forget everywhere else as far as the national dish is concerned, as it is a pale imitation. On the Sunday we walked along the south promenade and after deciding not to wait for the next departure on the miniature railway, we continued walking down the coast towards Humberston. I then remembered something I'd read about in a recent Grauniad [sic] article and suggested we head there.

This is the overly alliterative, but fabulous Buck Beck Beach Bench. Originally it was a makeshift bench made out of driftwood on the seaward side of salt marshes and dunes. Over time it has been built up, swept away, re-built and swept away again, only to be built up afresh. Nine or ten times. More can be read on it here.!+the+origins+behind...-a0650673599

Looking like the last stand of a British column in some far flung part of the  Empire

With random dog walker

Nundanket Junior and paramour inspecting the installation. Random dog walker guarding the premises

Some of the flotsam and jetsam used 

Not so random wife-type person contemplating the enormity of the sky

Back in old Cleethorpes town, the old post office. There are some other architectural gems around this part of town. Sadly I didn't capture any of them on the camera. This is fairly close to the site of a Zeppelin raid in WWI where several members of the Manchester Regiment were killed and wounded. The building destroyed in the raid is now the site of a 1960s built Baptist chapel. The town was big on Non-Conformism and had several Baptist and Methodist chapels.

Close to where the bench is located, last year a walker discovered the remains of an aircraft believed to be a Bristol Beaufighter. I have no idea what happened to the remains after the bomb disposal squad attended the site.

Just offshore from here is one of a pair of WWI coastal forts guarding the mouth of the Humber.

Haile Sand Fort, close to Humberston, Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire

Bull Sand Fort, behind which is Spurn Head in Yorkshire.

I'll be back soon with a post on the re-fought Battle of Kesselsdorf.

Monday, 11 October 2021

Interrupting the war

Ach, real life getting in the way. I meant to run the Kesselsdorf game by the end of the weekend, but other stuff is getting in the way.

Work has seen an uptick in busyness and more evening calls. Depending on timing, I have dinner before or after, then go for a swim, and then 15 minutes on a mindfulness app. I’m not minded to do the game after that.

Then there are other ‘discretionary activities’. Like going to watch football, listening to football commentary (lately it’s been two games a week). Or getting a haircut - it was getting to the point this wasn’t discretionary if I didn’t want to look like the crazy person that sits next to you on the bus. So Saturday was used up swimming, then haircut, lunch, travel to Woking for football (with the ritual socialising before and after). By the time Strictly had finished I was dozing off on the sofa. Sunday disappeared after a morning swim, with further snoozes on the sofa and later on the bed.

So back to weekday ritual today. Late calls, dinner, swim, meditation. I am snatching some reading time. I’ve started re-reading Twilight of the Soldier Kings to refresh myself on the rules. And yesterday I finished off Flashman and the Mountain of Light. This naturally turned the mind back to the Sikh Wars specifically, and colonial wars generally. Maybe I’d be better off with something more asymmetrical than the Sikh Wars to get that real colonial war feel. Two European trained horse and musket armies might be a bit samey, even if one is in fancier gear.

All of which butters no parsnips, and next weekend is already filling up. SELWG on Sunday where I will hopefully meet up with a couple of bloggers. And Saturday sees the Mighty Mariners (I can hear you sniggering) are live on the Box (BBC Red Button) with their FA Cup qualifier at Bromsgrove. Set your alarm for 12:30 BST, thrill seekers.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Old wine in new skins, or l’Arte de la Guerre

I don’t normally buy wine, or anything else, for fancy labels. In fact, I have a prejudicial view that it is likely to be poor value if it has an attractive or engaging label, or ‘clever’ name. You know the sort of thing. A French wine given the Anglo-Saxon treatment with a punning name. But how could I resist this (in Aldi)?

Grenade. Sponton. Mousquet.

Too soon to tell if this is any good.