Sunday, 11 December 2011


A week or so ago I was waiting for a delayed train so I walked into a bookshop and picked up a book off the shelves. They were doing "buy one get one half price" so I looked around for another book - and found  Dead Men Risen by Toby Harnden, it sounded okay so I figured I'd give it a go. And I'm glad I did.

Apparently the first edition of the book was pulped by the Ministry of Defence - and there are chunks of the book that have been redacted. The book is the story of the Welsh Guards six months in Helmand Province during Operation Herrick 10 in 2009. It is a warts and all account - of combat in the Green Zone (not to be confused with the safe zone in Baghdad). I'm afraid that the book will make uncomfortable reading for the MOD and the British Government (well mostly Gordon Brown - solidly blamed for refusing to spend £1.4bn on helicopters when in charge of the Treasury, and of taking no interest in the war until obliged by public opinion to do so - apparently on the grounds that Britain had been committed to Afghanistan by Tony Blair and because he felt "the British Army voted Tory").

The book looks at the history of the conflict and of the Welsh Guards. The book follows the actions of LtCol Rupert Thorneloe who was slated for higher things following the Tour, and the operations of the individual companies of the Battle Group (which included Estonians and elements of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment). This isn't "warporn" - this is a really intelligent account of how the British army bit off more than it could chew, got bogged down holding fixed positions, and struggled to resupply those positions without getting blown up by IEDs.

There are maps (of course never enough) of patrol actions, and the larger area. This is clearly a war where key decisions are made by the junior officers and NCOs of the Battlegroup. Their tactical problems are described and fitted into the operational and strategic context of the war. I'd highly recommend reading this book if you have an interest in Afghanistan, of COIN operations or just an interest in military history. If you are looking for scenarios for Force on Force this will provide plenty of food for thought.

There's an extract from the book here;

So, if I didn't have enough periods already I've succumbed to Force on Force in 20mm. Naturally, I've bought Enduring Freedom to go along with it. Sorry for this blog turning into a "books I have read school report format" - I have some Elhiem 20mm Taliban I'm painting (slowly as usual).

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Thunder in May

About a year ago I wrote a brief review on   Seelowe Nord: The Germans Are Coming and said how much I enjoyed it. Well I was browsing one lunchtime at work and, lo and behold, Andy Johnson has written another WWII novel - this time a "prequel" - Thunder In May - which features many of the same characters during the fall of France in May 1940.

For anyone who read  Seelowe Nord: The Germans Are Coming the style of Thunder in May is very similar - the action is described from the point of view of both British and German soldiers (in a similar manner to Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising). Mr Johnson doesn't waste much time getting his characters into combat - and they essentially spend the rest of the book under fire. The action is well described - and this time is based upon the real events - however I think Mr Johnson's desire to tell the whole story of what is a fascinating campaign has led him to spread himself a little thin.

The main infantryman featuring in the story is Sergeant Davey Jackson of the Coldstream Guards, and I can't help feeling that if the book had concentrated more on his experiences (and of the Coldstreams generally) and those of the men and units immediately affecting him, then the book would have been more effective. By concentrating on a unit which performed very well and retained its cohesion until evacuated from Dunkirk I rather think Mr Johnson missed out on expressing the confusion created by the German Panzers rapid thrusts into Northern France. The ignorance of the situation and confusion endemic during the campaign are referred to by Mr Johnson but you don't really feel it. 

But Mr Johnson's metier is describing small unit combat and men under fire, and this book is pretty much full of this. Much of the combat featured in Thunder In May is taken from historical actions and matches my reading of Dunkirk: Fight To The Last Man - Mr Johnson's personal army experience shines through when describing infantry actions and, for all my quibbles about the story being spread a little thinly, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Blogger New "Feature"

You may have noticed that Blogger has recently changed what happens when you click on an image to expand it - you now get a sort of slide show feature. I have to confess, at first it foxed me totally and I found myself clicking out of the blog I was reading at the time, and then I just found it irritating since it didn't bring up the text apropos the picture. So, if someone had added some interesting text about what the soldiers were in the photo you didn't see it, and, as the "feature" loaded every pic from that post you didn't see the photo in the context of the post.

Fortunately someone geekier than me (yes really) has found a simple solution (thanks to for finding this):

1) Go to Dashboard

2) Go to the "Design" section of your blog (where you can "add and arrange page elements").

3) Click on "add a gadget" - it doesn't matter where.

4) Click on "HTML/Javascript" gadget.

5) Paste the following into the "content" section and save (don't worry about the title page):

<script type="text/javascript">
function killLightbox() {
var images = document.getElementsByTagName('img');
for (var i = 0 ; i < images.length ; ++i) {
images[i].onmouseover=function() {
var html = this.parentNode.innerHTML;
this.parentNode.innerHTML = html;
this.onmouseover = null;

if (window.addEventListener) {
} else {

Sunday, 21 August 2011

A Slight Diversion

I mentioned in a previous post that my wife is Lebanese, and had lived in Beirut throughout the Civil War. On the morning of Friday 12th August we got a call to say that her father had died of a heart attack - he was 89 and it wasn't unexpected but even at 53 she was a daddy's girl and was obviously upset. In the Middle East all religions bury their dead very quickly and the local cousins had a real struggle to persuade the hospital to keep the body for 48 hours until the children could get home. So Saturday morning we left the dog in the care of my neighbour and set off to Heathrow. It was a flying visit (arrive Saturday at 17.15 local, burial 17.00 Sunday, leave 18.20 local on Monday) so not much opportunity to do anything but meet the Cousins (there were lots). But a few pictures:

In the distance is "East" Beirut (the Southern and Eastern districts of the city where Hezbollah are strong) - if you click on the image to enlarge it you may be able to see a white area on the coastline at the left (Southern) portion of the photo. This is the Airport (just one runway at the time of the Civil War).

This photo is taken from the same spot (a nursing home not far from the prison) - in the distance is East Beirut proper, the city centre and port. Closer to the camera is West Beirut (the Christian area - although like most things in Lebanon it's more complicated than that). At this point we're probably 650m (2,100 feet) above sea level - my wife used to talk about going "up to the mountains" to live during the Summer and it wasn't until I actually visited the city for the first time that I realised that her "20-25 minute drive" was actually straight up the side of the mountain rather than ten or fifteen miles back in the hills.

And this photo shows the Northern (Christian) suburbs of the city. While there is peace (of a sort - two days before our arrival there was a car bomb in Antelias but "it was nothing - only two people dead - just Hezbollah showing they can make things worse if they want to") everyone I spoke to was highly aware of religion. The main road from the airport to the city centre passes through Hezbollah controlled neighbourhoods - you definately didn't want to make a wrong turn.

We wandered the new city centre Monday afternoon - despite the money obviously lavished (and still slopping around) Hariri's construction companies have done much worse damage to the fabric of the city than the militias ever did. The old Souk has been bulldozed and replaced by something that is akin to Fashion Island in Newport Beach - a few Lebanese businesses but it is mostly Western designer labels - I think this why we didn't bother taking pictures, it was simply unmemorable.

This is the Holiday Inn, (now surrounded by building sites) untouched since the war. This building used to dominate the area but these days it is hard to see from a distance because of all the new construction. There are one or two old buildings still left ...but Solidiere looks like they will bulldoze them anyway in pursuit of a quick buck.

We ate out a couple of times - at Fahkreddine in Broumana we had a beautiful Lebanese meal (tabbouleh to die for) but they had a terrible wine list (Musar, Kefraya and Ksara). And after the funeral we ate at DT in Martyr's Square (which used to be a cross between Trafalgar and Leicester Squares before it got blown to hell during the war). Here the food was distinctly average but they had a good selection of wines (I'm more and more taken with Domaine Wardy every time I try their stuff and I tried Chateau Marsyas for the first time - and it was a good - but lacked grip).

I really want to go back - they drive like they are auditioning for the sequel to the film Bullitt (imagine no roadsigns, no road markings and a generation of drivers that have never had proper training or testing), the electricity fails five times a day, the political situation is volatile and the economy is likely to go into a tailspin if Syria doesn't calm down. But it was an exciting place to go.    

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Something Completely Different

So, here are some comparison shots of a Revell Maquis Fighter with 15mm and 28mm figures:

This is the two halves of the hull dry fitted to one another. As you can see the engines at the rear mean that landing gear of some sort needs to be fitted.

And from the front. I think it would fit with 15mm as a courier ship or somesuch - in 28mm I think you could call it a fighter / bomber.

And from above.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

A couple of weeks ago Giles kindly nominated for for the "Stylish Blogger Award", and (apart from laughing at the suggestion that my blog is anything other than dilatory) I was concerned that I wanted to come up with "seven things about me" that would live up to the standards of other recipients - and wouldn't result in criminal charges.

So here we go:

1) I have at least two (and sometimes three) birthdays a year. I work for a wine importer and between 16.30 and 17.00 on Fridays we cease work to wish the birthday boy or girl "many happy returns" - as there are 52 weeks a year, and we have less than 40 staff there was a management decision to create "official" birthdays (toasting the birthdays of ex-members of staff was rejected) so we could have a toast every Friday. As holders of several Royal Warrants we feel "it's the done thing" to raise a glass to their birthdays too.

2) Following on from the above my ongoing WIP (and as I am congenitally incapable of finishing anything they are numerous) are stored in individual champagne gift boxes - I'd recommend this procedure to everyone - not only are they a very convenient size for both 15 and 28mm but you get an added glow of virtuousness as you help the environment by recycling them (and can get a very nice "glow" from the champagne as well - of course as a member of the drinks industry I can only recommend "responsible drinking").

3) I've only played in two wargames in the last four years (one ACW game hosted by "Eclaireur", and one big game organised by Dave Brown and Eclaireur using - mostly - Giles' delightful AWI Perry figures).

4) My wife is Lebanese and lived in Beirut throughout the Civil War. As a result she can identify the equipment used by the various factions involved just as well as any wargaming geek - she also has the endearing habit of making very occasional "when I lived in Beirut" comments while watching news from warzones on the telly (she really didn't like the Katyusha type rockets they used).

5) I've just celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary - although we lived together for several years before that (leading her rather religious mother back in Beirut to brand my wife a "hussy"). I think I admitted my liking for toy soldiers to her before we married, but I'm pretty sure the serious addiction didn't set in until later.

6) I've been arrested for being drunk in charge of a bicycle.

7) I've been spat on by Johnny Rotten.

I'm also expected to nominate some other blogs. So here we go:   This is a very nice new blog by a Kiwi who has built a superb 28mm Western town called "Leadwood". This is again a fairly recent blog that I discovered while looking at Blogs of War - see below. If you wish to see some super AB figures in the mass then this a good place to go. If you like to waste time browsing the web then this is a good place to go. A miscellany of wargaming goodness.

Monday, 9 May 2011

New Unit Completed (Well Sort Of)

So, for some time now I've been painting figures as I feel like it (infrequently) and also I've been painting what I feel like painting - the result of all this is...that I have lots of part painted units but not a lot of complete battalions. I've also got a tendency to browse eBay and pick up more unpainted lead (after all, the fact I'm too lazy to paint what I have already is neither here nor there) - and these toys are never going to go down in price, only up, so why not buy now and save myself money in the future?

Over the past couple of years I've bought several lots of painted figures from various sources, and what I've figured out is that, if you take care putting them together and rebase them, then the differences in painting styles isn't quite so obvious. I usually put them aside once I've bought them and only base them when I can put together a what we have here is something of a "composite battalion" in that its been painted by at least four painters and includes four makes of figures (AB, Battle Honours, Old Glory and Fantassin).

So, as you look at it, the left side is made up of AB in the front rank, and to the right of the mounted officer is almost all Old Glory. Hard to see in this shot are the Fantassin and Battle Honours figures - they are all in the rear rank (I decided the AB figures were too nice to use anywhere but out in front). So out of the 34 infantry and one mounted officer I painted the officer, the company second from right (all Old Glory) and four figures in the rear rank. As I look at this, I realise I need to paint the pompoms for each company - and do some touching up here and there.

And this is the same unit from the rear. Lots of people knock the Old Glory figures - and mostly I totally agree with them - but the French Line Infantry in Full Dress are actually very nice. The detail is raised enough to make them easy to paint and they aren't tripping over a tussock. I had high hopes that the campaign dress pack would be similarly such luck, they could be pretty much any nationality and they have that irritating "leaning into a high wind" attitude that so many OG figures have.

Given that the BH French Line Infantry figures seem to vary from very nice to past their best (they may have been "rough" to start with but I can't help thinking this is a range that has suffered from its long production - at least with the figures I've bought off eBay, it may be that the figures from Timecast are much better), the Fantassin (Warmodelling) figures vary from AB-like goodness to very poor (in the same pack) and I only like three packs so far from OG that means that right now AB are the only game in town if you want consistent quality (I hasten to add I haven't tried Campaign Game Miniatures so I can't comment upon them). Which is a shame because I like to have plenty of variants within each battalion - perhaps Mr Barton could be persuaded to add some head variations (pokalems and such) to his French?

But there is hope on the horizon - Blue Moon Manufacturing are evidently planning to produce 15/18mm Nappies - they already do ACW and AWI (along with Pirates, Wild West and French & Indian War). The ACW caught my eye - these figures look like a 15mm version of the 28mm Sash & Saber (forgive the American spelling!) figures:


And the thing about these Blue Moon figures is that they are packed in packs of 30 figures for the rank and file - so I can see myself going a little crazy if the Napoleonics look good.

Finally, Giles kindly nominated me for a "Stylish Blogger Award" the other day - I'm not ignoring him at all, I'm simply trying to think of seven things about me that aren't going to get me sacked / divorced / sued!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Richard Holmes Dead

I was shocked to see this morning that the noted military historian, Richard Holmes, had died yesterday at only 65. I'm sure many of you were enthralled as I was by his TV series "War Walks" - I envied him his easy use of a quotation to bring an action to life (he made it look effortless even though I'm sure it wasn't).

I also thoroughly approved of his desire to put the common soldier at the centre of things - best epitomised by his trilogy that began with Redcoat and followed up with Sahib and Tommy. I'm sure that many of us who like small scale actions would agree with his view that very often it was the men down at the coalface who turned round what seemed like a lost cause.
It isn't often that I get upset by the death of a celebrity but I feel rather saddened today (if only because I harboured a secret desire that he would do a North American "War Walks" series - he would have been an ace presenter of Gettysburg or Guildford Courthouse).

French Line Infantry are "proceeding".

Monday, 25 April 2011

Seven Months Silence

So, seven months silence. Well, to be frank, I just wasn't in the mood for the hobby. I still lurked on TMP and sometimes put brush to lead for an hour or so - but I had no urge to sit down and finish anything (I'm sure psychologists could have a field day with my inability to finish things that I start). I haven't actually played a game for a couple of years now. And I managed to miss Salute this year because I was working at a wine tasting on the other side of town. So wargaming-wise nothing much has happened - essentially I've been inert.

On the plus side however, I've got over my inability to paint French Line Infantry (or FLI as Napoleon's Battles term them in their lists) - I had a bunch of FLI left over from the "big purchase" that had been undercoated in black and I decided to paint a few to fill out a battalion that I had bought on Ebay. And, lo and behold, I managed it to an okay standard. Normally I give up in disgust at my ineptitude and put them down to paint something I can actually do, like FLI in greatcoats (which are much easier) or British Line Infantry or just about anything. My problem with black undercoating is that I struggle to make out the details - but bathed in the light of my magnifying spotlight I didn't have that problem quite so much this time round. So that caused a small spurt of interest and I just about got a battalion's worth of Old Glory figures done before the excitement petered out.

But that is it for this year's production. My painting desk is still littered with half finished figures and my lead pile is still just as big as it was before I started.

So these bad boys are not by me but photographed at SELWG in October 2010 (which was my last wargames outing). I'm afraid I can't remember the name of the battle, the group putting it on, or even the scale of the figures (you can tell I'm a pro at this kind of thing can't you?).

So, hopefully, it won't be seven months before my next post. I'm detecting glimmerings of an urge to paint some figures...