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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.'

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


After a day in the office characterised by confusing brain work, I was more than happy to return home to some soothing work on the Revell Tiger 1 ausf E. From a quick check through a few books on mid to late war German armour (particularly William Auerbach's Last of the Panzers (1984)), it was clear that the very nice Revell offering might well be improved by some field-applied zimmerit. So, armed with some past its use by date green stuff and a bit of sprue, I began the task:

I'm not entirely sure how this will work out, but I do have Tiger II somewhere that I made in 1984 and used polyfilla in the same fashion. 

The Tiger I will eventually join my existing mid/late war Germans, some of which are below:

The Jagdtiger is an Italeri build from the mid-1980s, and, despite the bouncing suspension, is a reasonable kit. I've never actually fielded it on the wargames table, as it just seems so ludicrously overwhelming. But my last ditch Germans and allies, some of whom are below, have seen plenty of dice rolled in good humour.

Not only did I get a bit of modelling in after work, but this handiwork of Rattrays of Perth was waiting for me on my return home:

'Red Rapparee' - what a name ! Surely as smoked by Watson, if not 'the master'.

As if that was not all, I even had time for an hour of harvest on the allotment - gathering pounds of blackberries (or 'brambles' as my Scottish wife insists). And here they stew on the stove - the first stage to jam. The wonderful fruit aroma fills our little house even as I blog:

And courgettes, swollen to monstrous size by the rain:

I also gathered cabbage and beautifully smooth skinned runner beans before I lit my pipe and watch the dusk gather, the full moon rise, the bats rush crazily up and down from the oak tree, and the mainline train head past to London, the passengers blind to the shambolic perfection of the Railwayside Allotments in this corner of West Mercia.

Monday, 20 August 2012


... for their Chief, their hearth companions, and Woden:

Or, they will be as soon as I get them past the undercoat stage.

Meanwhile, this evening, I continued my fight against Globalisation, and here are the fruits of my victory:

Well, the vegetables, really. Ha! How the Lords of Misrule tremble in their hollow fastnesses. Yes, I mean you Nick Clegg, in your holiday Whited Sepulchre, and all your masters and fellow demons.

Sunday, 19 August 2012


... mind. My last post included a photograph of a 'clay' moth. This post is testament to the butterfly mind that seems to be characteristic of many wargamers and toy soldier types. While returning the tomato feed to its shelf in the semi-chaos that is my shed, this caught my eye:

I have no idea just how long I've had this kit, perhaps some 18 years, but now it calls out to be glued and painted. Actually, I blame the good Antipodean bloggers (among my blog list below), whose enthusiasm for all things camouflaged, tracked and half-tracked, is far too infectious. And I'm supposed to be painting my Barbarian horde!!

Saturday, 18 August 2012


... army number 3. Romano-Britons, sub-Romans, late Romans, not quite sure what to call 'em, but here they are, in their gloss varnished glory:

Now I will turn my attention to the Barbarian pagan Saxons, before they saw sense and had the idea of England.

A good omen today, as my grandson continues to show wargame promise. Here he is with his own set up, involving a broken down steam engine, refuelling assets, and Canadian War of 1812 types...

And, on the flower front, a 'Clay' moth (I think, although I'm more than happy to be corrected) on the flower  of an erodium - all of 18mm across.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The stuff...

... of life.

Or, two days in the life of one Englishman:

Toy soldiers. Romano-British, on the stocks, nearly ready.

Four (one absent) generations, from 1926 to date.

Alpines - gentians.

Alpines - soldenella.

The plot - runner beans, carrots, leeks, cabbages, courgettes, potatoes in English soil.

English ale - from Suffolk.

English pub - in Mercia.

St. Mary's - Christendom.

The view on stepping out of the pub.

Interesting reading.

It just is. Homeland.

Sunday, 12 August 2012


... which is my new word of the moment - thanks to Paul Elliott's The Last Legionary. I'm still reading his very nicely put together book, and I'm savouring each section. I like his little vignettes about his own marching and camping in late Roman legionary kit, largely on and around Hadrian's Wall. A few years ago, my son and I walked the Wall from Hexham to the Solway Firth. We had some good 'wild camping', with a great little pitch on the salt marsh on the last night, and a first night's pitch when I lay with just my sleeping bag draped over me watching a silent electric storm. But it was hot, very hot, and it was a struggle just to keep hydrated. So, full marks to Paul Elliott who seems to choose extreme weather conditions in which to test out his reproduced legionary kit.

Not only has The Last Legionary fired my imagination, it has also come just at the same time as I have (somewhat late in the day) discovered DBA, so it will not be a surprise to see the beginnings of my newly painted DBA late Roman British:

Donnington's, 15mm. As far as I understand it, the only information we have relating to shield designs of the period in Britain are those of the Field Army, the comitatensis. So, these are speculative shield designs for my men of the frontier.

Lack of time, lack of opponents and lack of space have all pushed me over the last year or so towards multiple based troops, grid and small table space gaming. I have, as I have mentioned before, been inspired by Bob Cordery, and Ross Mac, both of whose blogs are deservedly popular. But I can also thank John Curry for his magnificent project of republishing so many fantastic works from the past, such as:

Food for thought, and I fully intend to create a Morschauser 'shock' period army, or two.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

An old man...

... grumbles. I've only had a few mouthfuls of Aussie wine (I buy Old Commonwealth or England for food and drink, English for footwear and trousers, Scottish for jackets and suits), so it isn't 'drumbling', which, apparently, is drunken grumbling. Anyway, before I grumble, I will rejoice, rejoice in the delights of grandfathership. My grandson is three and a half, and a fine companion, and, at the moment, I am getting whole days of his fellowship. As anyone who has had the stewardship (now that's a lost word!) of a child will know, it grants you privileges - such as shameless playing with toys and wooden swords, loitering in toy shops, sharing bags of sweets and good books, such as:

This was today's purchase in an Oxfam second hand bookshop - a beautifully illustrated, serious, informative history of western armour (with a nod to the East) from 1954, and written in an intelligent fashion using high register language. In other words, the sort of book that no publisher would dream of producing for today's children - who have been undermined by new cultural norms, a frenzied media, and poorly educated ego-maniacs in power at all levels of society. The outcome of this being the elevation of the Budgie brain to the status of 'world class'. 

However, this 30 page, landscape format book is a reminder that once, and not so long ago, standards were higher, and children often engaged with more than contemporary fluff. 

Two other things struck me about the book. Firstly, at 2/6d (Half a Crown) this was a pretty expensive children's book for 1954. More than a decade later, Half a Crown used to get me a paperback book and sweets. Half a Crown - that was before we were fobbed off with the toy money that came with the inflation boosting idiocy of decimalisation, or the dreadful designs that we now endure which are clearly intended to acclimatise us to the Euro. However, 2/6d may have been pricey for 1954, but in those days there were still public libraries galore, all of which were full of ... books! The second thing that struck me was that the list of other books in the series suggests that the books were written by experts. For example, 'No:86 'Airliners'' was written by John Stroud, who was an extremely well-known aviation journalist, while 'No: 74 'Locomotives'' was written by W.J. Bassett-Lowke and Paul Mann. Bassett-Lowke, of course, was from the famous Bassett-Lowke railway model company. Speaking of which, locomotives, as opposed to models:

This photograph of a fine tank engine was the product of yet another bout of grandfather duty - a day trip to the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire railway, an entirely volunteer run steam and classic diesel affair, and yet another example of the quiet, domestic genius of the English.

While my grandson came away from this latter day GWR with a small steam locomotive, my loot was confined to this little drip mat for my morning coffee:

My long-standing interest in the Home Guard meant that I couldn't resist this pencil moustachioed Home Guard hero in his knitted pullover. A pity that the mat was 'Made in China'. I don't care about the economic theory of 'comparative advantage', the idea that a shipping container stuffed with these things came half way around the world so I could buy one is just silly.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

End times...

One of the good things about this blogging thingy is that like-minded chaps alert each other to good toy soldiers, interesting rules, handy tips, and jolly good books, like this one:

This was, of course, mentioned by His Grace, the Duke of Tradgardland, in his blog a while ago, and a good read it is too. To my mind, we live in a sort of 5th Century ourselves, here in Britain (and, particularly in England). The changes are, for some of us, almost too great to bear. I think of Robert Graves' poem, 'The Cuirassiers of the Frontier', which contains these lines:

'In Peter's Church there is no faith nor truth,
Nor justice anywhere in palace and court.
That we continue watchful on the rampart
Concerns no priest. 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.'

On a more toy soldierly front, Paul Elliott's book has, of course, led to the little chaps - 15mm from Donningtons, the first, below, of a DBA army:

And, finally, joy of joys, I had a day off work, and put together a new bit of staging for my 6' x 4' greenhouse:

Alpines will adorn it.

'A gaping silken dragon/Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God.'

Monday, 6 August 2012


... defeated! No Danegeld paid here!

For my first run-through of the DBA rules, I went for a simple, head-on clash of arms between English and Danes. My main idea was just to get a hang of the rule mechanisms, in a very basic way, I hasten to add. So, to the battle:

After the first moves, poor dice throws left the Danish/Viking force somewhat split, with the bulk of the army some distance from the command stand and support, and light infantry (or whatever DBA calls 'em) falling behind too, and not in the outflanking position I had intended. The English/Anglo-Saxons (in the distance), by contrast, had been able to maintain cohesion, with some reserves (also acting as an outlying camp guard) close at hand.

Shieldwalls clash! The terrain set up (diced for) had imposed a staggered meeting of shieldwalls, with both sides in a strong position to outflank the other, but with the English (on the right here) having their two stand reserve in a position to counter an attack on their left flank.

The opposing shieldwalls stagger, with both sides seeing recoil movement.  Flank attacks developed, but the English were able to throw in their reserve, while, the Danes found themselves in the tricky situation below:

Pinned to the front by an unbroken shieldwall, and attacked in the flank by 2 x spears, and 1 x Huscarls (blades). Yikes! The Danes were also unable to bring up their reserves and command, which never got into action.

End state: the Danes had too many stands trapped between the outflanking English and unable to recoil because of their own front facing shieldwall. Victory to the English! And I wouldn't want to be the Danish/Viking chief, who didn't even draw his sword.

My first DBA. I kept it simple, and it was enjoyable. I'm not sure how I could have manoeuvred enough elements to attack either camp as the length of the shieldwall in addition to the position of the terrain effectively blocked off each camp.  

I'll be trying this again. Good fun!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Storm clouds...

The DBA project is moving along. Game all set, ready to play:

'Then there appeared at the waterside and fiercely shouted out a messenger from the Vikings who swaggeringly announced out a message from the ocean-wanderers to the earl where he was standing ...'

'Then Byrhtnoth began to place the men in array there; he rode about and gave instructions, told the soldiers how they were to stand and maintain the position [...] When he had placed the army in array he then dismounted among the people where it pleased him best to be, where he knew his troop of household retainers to be most loyal.'

In the Year of Our Lord, 991.