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'A gaping silken dragon,/Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God./We, not the City, are the Empire's soul:/A rotten tree lives only in its rind.'

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


... and bumps. At the turn of the century I had a chance to have a close up view of some of the RAF's Chinooks at one of the main RAF helicopter stations. What surprised me was how ill-fitting many of the panels were, and, furthermore, how much of the helicopters were held together with duct tape. I say this because I am trying to convince myself that the Brequet 27, when finished, will simply look like a real Brequet 27 - that is, ill-fitting and held together with whatever the 1930s' equivalent of duct tape was (probably wire). I closed up the main part of the cockpit, and despite much trimming, it looked like this:

and this...

So, major filling job needed.

I also fixed the other main parts together, and they, too, will need filler and a good deal of sanding:

The idea behind this foray, you will remember, was to reignite my enthusiasm for toy soldier painting and AFV kit bashing. I think it might be working...

Saturday, 26 January 2013


... was for the Vikings, it is said, a boring, grey place where not much of use happened. Imagine a modern office lit by energy saving light bulbs. On the other hand, hell (with two ls) for the small scale modeller can only be:

tiny, resin bits sitting on great chunks of casting blocks. The upshot is, inevitably, this:

The piece above should be a single part, but, attached to an outsized casting block, it became, despite my best efforts, four pieces. Still, I was able to reassemble them into something approximating one part.

So, after much chopping, sawing, hacking, bleeding, I now have this:

Believe it or not, this overcrowded cockpit (and there is more on the port side of the fuselage) is actually missing several pieces - one disintegrated, another just would not fit, and the pedals were too tiny to be bothered about.

More hell yet to come ...

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Air minded...

... I'm not sure what it is, but I don't feel like painting toy soldiers. I don't even feel like kit bashing a tank or two. And I haven't been able to source an Italeri fastbuild M3 halftrack for the captured 57mm gun carrier conversion I was planning not so long ago. So, falling back on the sort of wisdom that sustained my grandparents' generation, I thought 'a change's as good as a rest', and dug out:

The French came up with some wonderful aircraft shapes in the inter war period (William Green's incredulity at the aerodynamic weirdness of some French designs in his classic early 1960s War Planes of the Second World War series still amuses me) and this is one of them - the Breguet 27. Made by the Azur company, it is a mixed media kit, with French and, interestingly, Chinese options:

The kit actually has more resin parts than below - another, bigger packet of them fell out of the box after I'd taken the photograph - and it also has the dreaded vac formed transparencies, so whether I'll manage to get the thing finished is a moot point.

Monday, 21 January 2013

If winter comes...

... can spring be far behind? No, not a brief discourse on the poetry, prose, or politics of 'Red' Shelley - Etonian, atheist, and Romantic poet of the early death model, perhaps with Kit Marlowe-esque undertones, and a funeral pyre (cue the junkie Morrison). Nor is it the now sadly outdated novel by the Great War combatant A.S.M. Hutchinson, but just a sign discovered in my tiny greenhouse today in snow-bound Mercia:

Saxifraga x Kayei 'buttercup' - an Alpine that clearly thinks it is a little later in the year than it actually is. Meanwhile, some its relations sleep happily, as they would do if they were still on scree, cliffs, mountainsides:

And, indoors, by the fire, it is time to think of seeds and things:

Saturday, 19 January 2013


... solved! A few posts ago, I asked if anyone knew more about four interesting, if a little stylised, Great War French that I had turned up here at Hobbit Towers. All I could remember was that I had bought them in late 1984 or early 1985, and that I have, somewhere, a few similar steel helmeted Germans. And, of course, someone did know. Mark identifies them as 20mm Akheton figures sold by the Harrow Model Shop (I must have bought them mail order) in the early 1980s. Cheers, Mark! The little fellows themselves now look like this:

They are certainly a very chunky '20mm', and, in fact, measure 25mm. I am still in two minds about them, although I do like the running and crouching chap on the left here, and it is interesting to see that Captain Haddock appears to have served on land and with the French, not the Belgian army in the Great War. The tank in the background is a very fine resin 1/76 Schneider, and the reason that it is a head on view is that I've painted it thus:

One of a handful of the lumbering beasts that were knocking about at the start of the Spanish Civil War. There is a well-known photo of the tail end of one, with the fancy Red Flag and 'JSU', during the siege of the Alcazar, so here it is with some 20mm (real 20mm by Irregular) militia. 

Still on the Iberian Peninsular, here are my stove pipes finished as per the botched new painting approach:

They're OK, but I think I'll go back to my old ways for the next company of these fine fellows.

Friday, 18 January 2013


The reason for this post's heading will become apparent soon; perhaps. Urged on by the likes of General Kinch, I continue my advance into the foothills of the Peninsular Campaign. Needless to say 'of the making of books [on the Peninsular Campaign] there is no end', and, indeed, has been no end for the last 200 years. However, this is a hobby, so I can do as I like, and go for handy, one volume type things. During my brief hol in North Norfolk (home of that nemesis of  Bonarpartism, Lord Nelson), I picked up this marvellous book:

Published in 1963 by those wonderful people at Batsford (aaah, the world we have lost), this second hand volume smells perfectly, its pages turn easily, the paper is the 'right' weight, and the frontispiece is nicely done. And, even more pleasingly, look where the book's first home was:

Imagine, if you will, some Frenchie who (quite by accident) found himself in the British Council Library in 1963. Smarting still from the loss of Algeria (as he may well have been, and understandably too), but, nonetheless, well turned out in the latest Parisian style, he smugly sneers to himself about the hairy tweed jacket of the spotty rosbif librarian, then browses the shelves. But, what is this ? MERDE! Wellington's Peninsular Victories ! Merde, merde, merde!! Poor chap. Mind you, he might have been a Royalist, in which case, he would have sadly shaken his head, and wondered what might have been if the regicidal Republic, then that dreadful little man had not been  in charge... 

You should not infer from all this that I am in any way anti-French, for, in fact, I count myself  a  Francophile. Indeed, whereas I would question the whole foundation of the UK's supposed policy in Afghanistan - a Fourth Afghan War that the British people neither want nor need - I feel a little more at ease over France's Mali intervention. Mali, and that too fragile (and too long suffering) country of Algeria, is just too close to our European homeland, to use Gorbachev's phrase (now, there's a prophet without honour in his own land), to allow the loonies to win. So, good luck to 'em - the French, not the loonies. That, of course, brings me to the title of the post - Logistics. As is well known in the UK, the UK government has sent two of its six (or is that 8) Boeing C-17 Globemaster IIIs to provide vital logistical support to the French in Mali. What an interesting thing. Firstly, it shows the capacity of the US built aircraft (did our old Belfasts have something similar long ago?), secondly, it shows a real lack in France's logistical infrastructure, and, thirdly, it shows how the UK Prime Minister (yet another Scot, in effect) s concerned about his tricky European position.  But, logistics:

Look at the subtitle to this new addition to my bookshelves - that very subtitle was enough to engage my interest. Not to mention that this marvellous book is currently available (in very small numbers) from the Naval and Military Press Ltd at a beggarly £7.96 !

A last word on the RAF's C-17s.  I live about 20 miles from Birmingham International Airport, which is not that far from the huge, state of the art Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Birmingham. It is where they take the British injured from Afghanistan. A C-17 makes a different sound from civil airliners, it looks quite different, quite military, it flies slowly, gently, calmly down towards Birmingham. Its cargo is fragile, suffering. I have yet to see a single person look up as it flies overhead. Mr Tony Blair, who once mentioned a blood debt in respect of the UK's involvement in the Fourth Afghan War, is an ex-politician from the Labour Party who earns, it is estimated, some £20 million a year. None of his immediate family has served, or is serving in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


'this 'ere masterclass painting m'larky is 'ard going, and no mistake!'

As diligent readers of this blog will know, I decided to take the opportunity of my new Peninsular project to try some of the masterclass ideas currently being put forward by Mr Tim Beresford in Battlegames magazine. I have been a good boy, and read Mr Beresford's prose in a more or less attentive fashion, and I have admired his nicely done Perry Sudan figure in the current issue of Battlegames. I have noted what he has said about tones, natural light, subtle finishes, warmth and cold, and I have thought, 'I would like some of that'. But, alas, I fear that I have strayed into 'old dog and new tricks' territory. Here are two of my fine Peninsular boys:

The bases are unfinished, of course, but the rest of the painting was an attempt to follow the Beresford approach, from white undercoat (excepting weapons etc), much mixing of colours, and attempts at layers of 'opaque' colour.

I struggled with all this (as one expects to with a new approach), and I also realised that the heavily detailed sculpts were not, perhaps, the best to try new techniques, but what strikes me is that the overall finish is not massively different (and I am aware that at my age eyes are less able to pick up on colour differences) from my other figures, such as:

light bobs from the American War, or:

Hessian fellows from the same. These AWI types were done with black undercoat, using the block, highlight, wash approach.  So, where am I? I've another six Peninsular fellows in process using my bungled Beresford method, but a boxful of others that I suspect will end up being painted using my old technique. I am, truly, an old dog.

Saturday, 12 January 2013


... is, of course, dependent on a host of variables that shift and change. The Spartans famously combed each others hair prior to the saving of the western world from the eastern model of despotism. For me, and others of my age, class, country, and region combing one's hair beyond a few stabs with a comb was a bit dodgy, never mind combing some other bloke's hair! However, one key element of northern English masculinity imparted by my father's generation was that only a wimp read operating instructions for any sort of machinery. Obviously, this caused the odd difficulty - maiming, death, machines that didn't actually work - but one's manhood was never in doubt. Time has moved on, and I have been known to read instructions, but, it has become clear this evening not always. I have begun to paint my new stove pipe shako British for the Peninsular. I thought I'd give some of Mr Tim Beresford's ideas about figure painting a go. So far, so bad. So I had another look at his article in the current Battlegames, only to come across this: 'This is the point where working with a white undercoat on complex sculpts, such as these Perry models, you need to paint really accurately...' ! Aieeee. 'Perry sculpts'. Which is what the stove pipe fellows are! Never mind, I'm still a bloke...

More happily, because black undercoated and slap dash painted, I did a little more work on my still chain and hoist free recovery panzer:

Finally, a puzzle. I came across these 25mm fellows the other day, part painted, and, I think, from the 1980s. They are pretty crude, late Great War French, but which company made 'em?

There has been an attempt here by whoever the sculptor was, to add a degree of dynamism to the figures, and, in fact, the running and crouching figure (mostly hidden by the standing chap) is quite nice. However, I should think that most gamers would dismiss these figures today. So that raises a question: just what constitutes a 'bad' wargames figure?

Thursday, 10 January 2013


... Glory!

My cup runneth over. This time courtesy of Pen & Sword Books, with this absolutely splendiferous tome:

Oh, delight, joy, happiness.

I have only peeked at the contents. I want a good, quiet, clear space to look carefully, perhaps with a glass of Port within reach.


However, I am applying myself to concrete matters too. My Brigadier Grant inspired order of Foundry (Perry sculpts) stove pipe shako British have arrived, and I have started on eight centre company men. I thought I might try an idea or two taken from Tim Beresford's current masterclass series in Battlegames magazine. His techniques seem complex for a simple fellow like myself, but I thought I might try his varied undercoating approach. He argues for black undercoat for 'dead' areas of colour, such as on muskets, and white for cloth. I can understand that, so I have begun on our fine fellows from the Peninsular campaign.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Books, books, books ...

... marching up and down again; to paraphrase Kipling, another man who was broken by the loss of his son.

I've been away on a short break to my favourite corner of England - north Norfolk, near the North Sea coast. Trees, open skies, flooded fields, sand, dry grasses, marsh harriers, and white, white barn owls at dusk. And books. There's a good second hand bookshop in Burnham Market. When I was last there, readers of this blog might remember, I picked up a thin book of poems by men of the 8th Army, signed by Field Marshall Montgomery. This time, I found this:

This is the frontispiece from Lewis Winstock, Songs & Music of the Redcoats; a History of the War Music of the British Army 1642-1902 (Leo Cooper, London, 1970). What a find! The author combines military, political, cultural and musical knowledge in a learned survey of the music of the Redcoats from the Civil Wars to the South African War, via the Seven Years War, the French Wars, the Crimea etc etc. I will digest this work slowly, and with care, as it deserves. But, already, I found Winstock's account of the importance, and popularity, of Lilliburlero (what a rousing, heart lifting tune) fascinating. That our 'Protestant liberties' rested to such a degree on doggerel verse.

Another recent addition to my shelves came as a Christmas present from my son:

A marvellous compendium, and the sub-title of this book - A Celebration of the Commonplace, the Local, the Vernacular and the distinctive - could be a statement of all that I find most appealing in daily life. Yes, there are moments when the great, choreographed events appeal, but it is the 'commonplace, the local and the vernacular' that form the sense of place and being that gives me roots.

Finally, this, which will be familiar to many of you:

I have the rest of Brigadier Grant's wargaming in history series, but I enjoyed this volume the most. So much so that I have, of course, ordered some British foot for the Peninsular...