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.

Teutoburgerwald? No Manchester

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

In Jesu Nahmen marsch!*

I've been casting around for an inaugural wargame in the cabin. Fancying something Frederician, I flicked through Duffy for inspiration. Ideally I was after something I've not gamed before. Hohenfriedberg (1745) caught my eye. However, it is a beast of a battle, one of the largest in terms of manpower. More to the point though is it is more of an encounter battle in practice. Fred did have a plan but came upon the Austrian and Saxon camps sooner than expected and the battle evolved into a series of episodes involving columns of Prussians arriving at different times. I wanted something simpler to stage. A more straightforward fight, so I plumped on Kesslesdorf, also from 1745. 

I have actually war-gamed Kesselsdorf before, several years ago with my son.

The Background

Kesselsdorf did not actually involve Fred himself. The Prussians were led in this battle by 'the Old Dessauer' (Leopold of Anhalt-Dessau), the famed father of the Prussian infantry and veteran of the War of the Spanish Succession. It was fought on 15 December 1745 in Saxony and was in effect the last major engagement of the Silesian Wars. Fred had beaten the Austrians twice that year, but Maria-Theresa would not give up. The Prussians former allies the Saxons had turned on Fred (who probably deserved it). In fact the Saxons had also been involved in the punch-up at Hohenfriedberg (a.k.a. 'Striegau') where they'd been badly handled by their fellow north Germans. The Saxons remembered this years later and their cavalry serving with the Austrians, charged at the Battle of Kolin with the cry 'dies ist für Striegau'. Fred and Leopold were leading armies on the Saxon capital Dresden from different directions but a Saxon army  under Field Marshal Rutowsky, supported by a small Austrian force, was between the Old Dessauer and city.

The Saxon left was anchored on the entrenched town of Kesselsdorf, with the right (held by the Austrians) rested on the Elbe. In front of the position was a stream. Leo launched an attack on the town and simultaneously on the centre-left of the line. Initially unsuccessful, a rash Saxon counter-attack led to defeat and the rolling up of the Saxon position. The Saxons routed in panic on Dresden, and despite an Austrian army being on hand to stiffen their resolve, the Saxons quit their capital whilst a now united Fred and Leo marched in to the city. The Austrians sued for peace, leaving Fred in possession of Silesia, the Saxons got off with their territory in tact, and the Austrians were able to concentrate on fighting the French in the complicated series of wars known as the War of the Austrian Succession.

So onto the game. First things first.

The Rules

I'll be using Twilight of the Soldier Kings again as they allow a fairly swift game, with easily remembered rules, suitable for this level of action. I'm pondering the merits of converting them to a hex-grid at some point, as I think they could be good for a remote game. What isn't so good is the scale of my toys, at least with my current cameras (i.e. my phone camera or the built-in camera on my Mac). 

The Map

Map from the Wikipedia page on Kesselsdorf here

There's a discrepancy between this and the map given on the confusingly named 'British'. The map in Wiki gives a distance of 8km from the Prussian left to the Elbe. British Battles has it more like 6km, though the Prussian left could be shown just a bit later in their advance. Even if that is the case, there's still about 1km difference. Duffy’s map just focuses on the centre and left of the allied position so is not much help. A look on a satellite map shows 8km or 5 miles would be nearer the mark allowing for 1mile (1.6km) from the centre of Kesselsdorf to the edge of the table. 8km/5 miles is approximately 3.miles is something like 175cm in my chosen ground scale. Longer than either my garden table or my desk. I don’t have a permanent wargame table yet.  I could combine the two but the desk is 6cm higher than the table. Hmm.

However I manage it, the table will be covered with my usual green felt, but then overlaid with some semi-transparent ‘accounting floor foam’ that the builder who did the loft seems to have left. This material is white so I'm hoping it'll be good to represent the snow covered ground. It was sitting in the old shed for 3 years and its day has finally arrived!

Orders of Battle

Overall numbers of men and units taken from Duffy, The Army of Frederick the Great, first edition. Prussian breakdown (e.g. between different types of cavalry) taken from the map in Duffy. For the Austro-Saxons I will have to come up with an arbitrary split between cuirassiers and dragoons, and designate some of the infantry as grenadiers, as there seems to have been some at least involved as full units in the counter-attack. About 1/5 of the allied force will be Austrian.






31 (21000)














93 s (9000)












Heavy guns

33 heavy






39 (24000)





58s (7000)







42 heavy




Bases of cavalry and infantry are 60mm wide which notionally is about 300 yards, a space occupied by a 2 battalion infantry regiment or 5 squadron cavalry regiment. Two such bases make up a brigade, the basic game unit in Twilight of the Soldier King. Artillery units represent about 20 heavy guns. My artillery bases are 30mm wide, with 2 going to make up a unit.

Right, that's all organised. All that remains is to set-up the table and run the game on Wednesday (Tuesday night is football night again so I'll be glued to the wireless again).

* If I recall correctly, the Old Dessauer said something like this when he launched his bluecoats across the snow. Not that I was there.

Post Script: The Set-up

Saxons at the top, Kesselsdorf Is the settlement on the right. The Prussians in an outflanking position on the right, as well as below the stream. Apparently, the Old Dessauer’s army had marched up on the flank originally, but he sportingly marched them round to the front of the Saxon position.

View from the east. Saxons to the left, Prussians to the right. Given the small table I decided to leave the Austrians off table and dice for their entry. Rather than put the table and desk together to make a bigger space, I opted for the small battlefield because that way I can leave it up mid-game. Which was the whole point of the cabin in the first place. The stream is FAR too wide by the ground scale.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Guess where I’ve been

Just a selection of the photos from my trip down to Bovington with Lincolnshire Tom. Lots of stuff built in that fair county to swell the heart of a Yellowbelly like Tom. It’s fair to say we had a full day!

We didn’t get a proper chance to explore it fully. There were a few sections we glossed over. The museum now has lots of exhibits based on interviews with veterans. We didn’t do this justice. A return trip is in order.

Google has messed up the order of the pictures. The information board is below. Captured T34/76 on loan from the Sotamuseo, Helsinki.

Munitions have gone full circle it seems. Smoothbores and canister.

Back of the 251 (below)

Italian tankette next to a Sdkfz 251 (itself not a large vehicle). Apologies to river counters if I got the number of the half-track wrong).

Inter-War tankette. 

Stug III. Deadly little bugger.

Not sure what this soft toy is for

‘Cute’little Italian tankette. I say cute but that flamethrower isn’t very friendly 

These cutaways are very enlightening, showing both the cramped conditions and thickness of armour. There’s a couple of WWI AFVs that you can climb in. Impossible conditions!

Anyone remember or have this?

This is a big beast. The Jagdtiger, not him. Only 85 built.

The real thing (this should be with the Action Man picture). Old School Tony’s Uncle Alf (a former trooper in the 17/21 Lancers) will tell you, this is not a tank, it’s an armoured reconnaissance vehicle.

Insides of a Buffalo


I was a lucky little boy and got this the Christmas it came out.

This should be with the T34 picture. I don’t remember seeing this at the Sotamuseo in Helsinki when I went about 19 years ago.

Early Centurian. Very successful development.

Der König!

Post Script: JBM’s ‘lidl tenk’
Was this the Hetzer of Herr Leutnant J. Brümann fame? It is small at just over 7feet high. 

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Kabin(et)'s Krieg

So the painting's done. The aircon/heater unit was installed Wednesday. I've actually been using it for work the past week and a bit. Still some more work needed before it can become my war room.

Clearly the lawn needs 'doing'. That table might come in handy in the meantime. And it could do with some guttering.

We moved a bookcase/cabinet from the house to store my milhist/wargaming books in. It fits in the space nicely. I've got 4 linear meters to fit in to 4.8meters of shelf space, which, being the astute mathematicians that you are, you will readily realise is going to be sufficient. Subject to the height of some books. There's another couple of meters worth of general history, football books and Grimsby history books to go somewhere. Maybe they'll have to stay in the house.

This into....

...this, does go

Then there's the small matter of my terrain boxes and 30 Ferrero Rocher boxes of toy soldiers. 

I also still need a table or tables of some sort. A couple of 4 foot by 2 foot (120 x 60cm) fold-up jobs would do, if I use my desk (about 4'6" by 2'4"/140 by 70cm). 3 such fold-up tables would be better. Finding something sturdy enough is the problem. I was tempted by the 'bar tables' and stand/sit desks in the big blue and yellow shed near Croydon*, as they would be easier on the back whilst playing games, but they wouldn't have got past the stern eye of the Ultimate Authority on Interiors. Incidentally, I treated the UAI to a slap-up, no expenses spared meal in said furniture store. Well it was Saturday evening and a chap's got to spoil a lady.

* Other furniture stores are available. In theory.

The Command and Control Centre

The central battle area

From a wider use perspective we still want a sofa unit for the corner opposite the desk, but the preferred model, like more and more things in the UK,  is out of stock with no indication of whether it will ever be back in stock, at least until next year. The object we have in mind is an indoor/outdoor modular unit than can easily be moved.  With the shortages, it seems that as a country we've opted to become the Soviet Union without any of the benefits of actual socialism.

Summat along these lines would do nicely for the wall:

In other news, Grimsby Town's start to the new season continues to 'surprise and delight'. Four wins and a draw, including Tuesday night's 3-1 victory in front of a home sell-out crowd over 'Ryan Reynold's Wrexham' (tm all the national football media). It's always nice to beat a moneybags team. In terms of tier 5 in English football, Wrexham FC is a moneybags team. And yes, in typical messy British fashion, Wrexham is actually in Wales but compete in an English league. The last three games have involved Grimsby sportingly given the opposition a head start. That's class! No predictions about the season as a whole, but there's a buzz and togetherness not seen for many a year. What a nice way it would be to mark the 50th anniversary of the (locally legendary) promotion winning side under Lawrie McMenemy. I'm too long in the tooth to get that carried away, but cannot help reflecting that last month marked the 50th anniversary of my first match (a 4-3 win versus Doncaster Rovers, who we also gave a head start to). No! I'm determined to just enjoy the moment.

The one draw so far. I think a little bit more happened than the BBC's 'Live Text' service thought fit to report. But kudos for the Beeb in being strictly objective.

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

The Great Cabin Inaugural Game

Not a wargame. What did you expect? First official use of the cabin was to listen to BBC Radio Humberside ont'interweb the game live from Edgeley Park, Stockport. Happy with a 0-0 draw. 12-1500 Mariners there on a Tuesday is testament to the mania that afflicts those of us born within sight of Dock Tower.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

Painting 1/1 scale

Occupation of the cabin has been held up by that bain of the wargamer, painting. Following completion of construction, last weekend, today and a bit of Friday was spent painting. 

The bike shed/possible sauna has been treated with clear ‘stuff’. Very watery when it goes on, which means it trickles down your arm when doing high parts. But it dries sticky. Hard to shift, but with soap and water it eventually goes. The ceiling and roof beams of the main room have been similarly treated and the walls painted using two coats of a wargamer style ‘wash’. That leaves the window frames and the floor to do.

Externally, it requires 4 coats of different things. We’re close to 3/4 of the way through the second coat, but it’s very slow going. Very slow. After Sunday and Monday this weekend, Monday being a public holiday in England &Wales, I reckon we’ll need another weekend to finish the total job. Weekday evenings being relatively short and mostly reserved for swimming. Then we’ll be ready for the ‘HVAC’ ‘system’ installation.

Once painting is done, we can buy the furniture. We could in theory order something on line now, but I prefer to see and touch something like that first, and evenings and weekends are both full until the painting is finished.

All is not lost from a wargaming point of view though. We have a cabinet that we can move out of the house to, erm, house my figures and most of the milhist library. And there is a garden table that can go in there. Scope for a cheeky solo game the week after next.

Thanks to having a WiFi router in the cabin, as I painted today I was as able to listen to several episodes of We Have Ways podcast and Radio Humberside’s commentary of Grimsby’s first game of the season. It was emotional hearing the crowd back in the ground after 18 months. Up the Mariners.

A 1-0 victory by the way.

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Cabin log

Nearly there now. In terms of the professionals, it’s just the second fix electrickery (which should be next Tuesday) and internet* cable connection. And painting to be done by the amateurs. Oh, and the procurement of furnishings, on which the decisions have been more or less taken.

* I wonder what Catweasle would call it?

Monday, 16 August 2021

Finnish Meccano

I was having vivid dreams about the expected delivery and woke up shortly before the alarm went off. Then after a shower the phone rang and it was a delivery driver with a large flatbed truck and huge crane, blocking the road outside. There was insufficient room for him to park the truck next to the kerb, but he got on with his task without fuss. I'm almost tempted to say 'he handled his equipment with aplomb' as he negotiated the overhead telephone lines, but you rightly don't expect innuendo from me.

In case you haven't twigged, my eagerly awaited 1/1 scale terrain piece had arrived on schedule. The unloading was complete by 8:00 and fortunately only 3 other drivers had to turn around and use an alternative route. There were no audible signs of annoyance on their part. In the unlikely event that they are reading, I apologise profusely. (Aside: why are apologies 'profuse'?). By about 9:30 the installation team had arrived and began laying out the kit in the back garden.  They built the base and anchored it in place using posts made out of some type of plastic, sunk into the ground. By 15:00 they had finished building up the walls to around waist-height ready for the electrician to do the first fix the following day.

Here is day one progress in pictures.

You can just about see the telephone lines here. Those 'cranes' are remarkable pieces of engineering.

The 1/1 kit laid out. Not a tube of superglue in sight. The modellers are assembling the base. Why don't they put the roof up first so they can keep dry?

The position at close of play. Main room on the right, bike shed on the left. I should point out that (unusually) the neighbour is responsible for the fence on the right. Not me guv, honest.

View through the side window.

Close-up showing the tongue and groove method of fitting the 'logs' together. We specified double thickness so we could have cavity insulation. 2 x 45mm thick wood plus 30mm of insulation. The floor will be insulated too.

My bike shed, though it does scream "sauna" at me.

There's nothing to give any sense of scale here as my 1/1 scale Modern Period Finnish Assault Gardener was reluctant to pose. The main room looks *%$@ing massive. Or as the F.A.G. put it more eloquently, "It's a proper room."

Still lots to go. In amongst that lot is some 'decking' for a verandah. The Mem and I will be able to retire there for a G&T while we watch the sun go down over the neighbour's palm tree and listen to the parakeets.

More 'Finnish Meccano'

View from the Observer Post. Apologies for the angle but I was leaning out of a window trying not to get the frame in shot.

Ah, yes, the 'bike shed' door and its frame, erm 'cassette'. Is that the right word? I think I've just spotted a design flaw.

Here's hoping there are no hiccups like Bob Cordery has faced recently with the co-ordination between different trades. I'm not betting on it though. This is still Britain.

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

The end of the beginning….almost

Still no wargaming activity but much deep background prep. Three weeks ago I wrote about the start of the preparation work in the garden for the new command centre-cum-office-cum-yoga studio-cum-hangout pad. That work is virtually complete now. One final dump run on Friday and a bit of final pathway clearing for the installation team, who are supposed to be arriving Monday. I say “supposed to be” as we’re still all subject to the Pingdemic and general lack of labour.

At times the digging work was like archaeology. As well as countless bricks and pieces of concrete rubble, I found a piece of metal drainpipe about 9 feet long. Picking it up I understood how our tiny Hoplites must feel with the thick spears they come armed with. This got reburied to confuse future diggers. I also came across a charred layer. Evidence of the Great Burnings, when the local males were allowed to build huge edifices with anything remotely ‘wooden’ and to put effigies of 17th Century terrorists on top and set fire to them. The chronicles tell us that this ancient Anglo-Saxon custom was initially tolerated by the Finnic matriarchs, but the practice was eventually stamped out. Even attempts to celebrate Finnic festivals like ‘Vappu’ (aka Valpurgus) with bonfires met with silent disapproval.

I digress. All being well we will have a structure with mains electricity and the interweb, ready to be painted* in about a week. Then we have to furnish it and I have been ‘promised’ a trip to the great yellow and blue temple to the Scandi Gods. From a wargaming perspective I am thinking about a 4’ wide desk/table permanently against one side wall and then add one or two 4’ long foldable tables as required depending on the size of battle. Maybe a paint shelf above the desk. And then a cabinet for the toys to the left of the desk. The far end will be a comfy seating area with light pieces that can be carried outside easily. Then I’m in a battle to keep other objects (or ‘clutter’) down to a minimum whilst avoiding it feeling Spartan. And thus the constant negotiation between different cultures continues, between the underlying substrate and the newer elites.

In the meantime reading continues apace. I’m gradually working my way through a collection of ECW books bought from David Crook. Currently I’m reading a collection of essays called The Civil Wars: a military history of England, Scotland and Ireland 1638-1660. This is surprisingly readable  and is widening my understanding of the complex series of wars. But no, I am not going to ‘do’ the Montrose campaigns or anything in Ireland. I have an unfulfilled wish to do ‘something colonial’ and a growing itch to do the Spanish Civil War. And I have the long/delayed ECW campaign……

* what I would call ‘RAF blue’ seems to be the preferred choice for the outside.

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Naples ‘44

Just seen this for the first time. It’s hard to describe it. Incredible. Moving. Shocking. Humane.

For those who have never heard of it (like me until tonight) it is a film of the memoirs of Norman Lewis in 1943-44. Described on IMDB as a documentary, but that doesn’t really cover it.

Highly recommended.'44

Saturday, 31 July 2021

Why has nobody told me about this place?

We came home on Saturday morning after 9 nights away. 2 at my sister's on the Somerset-Dorset border and 7 on the coast east of Bournemouth. Last year we'd had a few days based in central Bournemouth (London on Sea - and not the good bits) and cycled up to Mudeford Spit by Hengistbury head). But we didn't go up on the head itself. 

On late Friday afternoon the Margravina and I went for a stroll eastwards along the prom, and kept going, beyond where the prom ended. We'd originally intended to turn back at the end of the prom but decided on the spur to keep going. Initially it looked like it would rain, but we were in. 'what the heck mood'. And as ever with spontaneous walks, it turned into a belter. Here are some snaps taken along the way.

The weather had been overcast most of the week but visibility was the best on Friday. Looking west towards the Isle of Purbeck and Durlston Head (far left). Ironically I'd just read the Last Kingdom in which the Danish fleet was wrecked off the aforementioned headland.

Looking easst heading down the cliff at Southbourne

Looking east. Isle of Wight in the background. The Needles are the tiny 'bumps' to the right of the white cliff.

Looking across to Christchurch

Hengistbury Head

Just about visible, due south of Bournemouth, a 4-master

This had me fooled until I got close up. It's a 2 metre tall model of the  rock strata. Sadly there's no sign explaining what all the layers are.

Walking up the path to the top of the head.

Looking back west across the bay

Near the top of the head, looking east. The water in the middle ground is Christchurch Harbour, a tidal estuary with a very narrow mouth to the left of the sand spit (Mudeford Spit).

View towards Christchurch. Christchurch is at the meeting point of two rivers, the Avon and the Stour, both of which flow into the tidal harbour. Both rivers have multiple namesakes in the UK. Avon apparently derives from the Brythonic word for 'river' or 'water' (cognate with modern Welsh 'Afon') so River Avon is a Geographical Tautology.

View down to Mudeford Spit. Those structures are wooden beach huts (about 2m by 3m).

Quarry Pond. As its name suggests. Looks tempting.

Last year we discovered that one of these beach huts sold for £360,000.  Hold that thought for a minute. Many have electricity (a close up shows solar panels) but none have running water, and sleeping over night is forbidden although many have mezzanine floors so I'm sure it happens.

Another view towards Christchurch. I have no idea wha the hill is on the right. it looks like a site for a hill fort.

Looking back up Quarry Pond

Down the ridge to Christchurch Harbour.

Looks calm but we tried kayaking on this a couple of days before (to be fair in windier weather) and it was flipping hard work.

The rampart and ditch were clearly large, even after 2500 years. The wooden beam is  about 2 metres high.

Suffice to say, we were gobsmacked. Every direction that we looked was pleasing to say the least. And so close to London. I think we'll be going back.