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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 10 December 2013

The shape...

... of things to come.

Not, you'll be pleased to hear, yet another boring post about the whys and wherefores of H G Wells' fiction. Mind you...I don't think I've mentioned before that I used to shop in the same Windsor store that Wells was an apprentice window dresser in - shades of Mr Polly.

No, instead, the shapes of things to come here at the Hobbit bunker:

What ? Lumps of liquorice ? 

No, some of Frontline's finest resin in 20mm. Recommended. Actually, the black, undercoated lump above will join these two below:

Either on their way to, or from, the Egyptian frontier.

Perhaps in as hopeful a mood as this chap below:

One of the few historical experiences I really do wish I had enjoyed is visiting Alexandria, not in the Classical period, when the Macedonians founded the place (did they ? Or did they just re-name it?), but in the 1940s, when it was a place of beauty, where the clear waters lapped the beaches, and Egyptian women sunbathed (yes, and wore clothes that reflected a degree of public freedom), Greek merchants sold stuff, and the Jews were still there - along with Britain and its cohorts. If you want to break your heart for somewhere you never knew, read Penelope Lively's latest.  But, it's gone, like so much else, good and bad.  I really must give up the Aussie wine.

Thursday 5 December 2013


... disaster.

Not entirely, but I suppose I shouldn't have expected too much from decals that were at least 20 years old. The Heller Nord Noratlas in 1/170 was a funny little construction project: too soft plastic, poor fit, massively over-scale rivets and panel lines. In the end it really became a sort of filler-come-plastic lumps model, but that got round the rivets and panel lines issues, and nearly dealt with the fit problems. But, then the decals...:

It was a case of disintegration time. The 'walk here' markings on the fuselage top were ok, but I struggled, not entirely successfully with the roundels... 

only to be totally defeated by the tail stripes, which just broke into a thousand pieces.

I could, of course, mask and paint them, but I am a 'kit basher' after all.

Overall, as a small project, 6/10; perhaps more, because it is such a fascinating aircraft, just shouts 'Cold War', or 'Bush War'.

Wednesday 4 December 2013


... result.

The gridded game can certainly give a quick-fire result, in the right conditions, and with the 'right' dice. Thinking about this particular Morschauser-Cordery style conflict in retrospect, it seems to me that the necessary condition for both Reds and Whites - that they take the built up area around the rail station - determined a lot of what happened. Once both sides had entered the nine built up area squares, it made any attempt to use artillery just too dangerous - in terms of friendly fire. For example, without really thinking, I ended up with the White command stand (worth one activation die in its own right) in the built up area, and too close to Red stands to risk White artillery fire. I suppose that is a pretty accurate dilemma in such situations. The built up area also conferred an advantage on defending units (and the Reds got in first) versus attacking units when it came to close combat. I could, I suppose, have had the Whites stand off and bombard the place with shot and shell, but, given that the idea was take the railway, and its station in a usable condition, I decided that that wasn't an option. And, as it turned out, God and the Saints were with the Whites....:

On the Whites' left flank, there was heavy and continuous hand-to-hand around the railway line. In the case above, both units were taken from the board.

 In the town itself, unintended consequences came from not paying enough attention (how can that be, when it was just a solo game?), and the opposing command units found themselves in close combat - the long military experience of the Whites seeing the Red command off.

Meanwhile, events moved more slowly on the right flank (between the heavily forested area and the town). This was largely due to limitations imposed by the activation dice throws, with activation points being absorbed by the urban struggle. But, above, the White m/g stand throws a 4 and finishes off a Red infantry stand caught in the open.

The Reds were beginning to suffer from the loss of activation dice, and continued pressure on the White left flank saw more Red units perish.


the Reds suffered a general collapse, and only two Red units lived to flee the field, above.


The Whites took town and rail, and:

a satisfied Morschauser-Cordery gridded man sat by his stove, still with time to drink the red, red wine and read a good book - Anthony Powell's The Valley of Bones...

Tuesday 3 December 2013


... and distracted.

A damp, grey day in dear old England, so I stoked up the stove in the Hobbit bunker, and got out the Morschauser-Cordery gridded wargame tin along with the squared bit of canvas:

But, while looking for more scenic items, I was distracted by these Heller boxes from the early 1990s:

This type of top opening box is so much more useful then the end opening, letter-box type thing that is only fit for the recycling pile. And what fine bits of artwork - click on the image and, in particular, admire the Ni-D 622 artwork, which is really splendid. You can see how I was distracted. But, then, of course, I began to open them:

The Heller boxes, and a raft of Cuban cigar boxes, contain 15mm armies. The Rebels above being some of my 15mm ACW. For many years, I could only afford 15mm, and I stuck to the ACW for similar reasons of economy. So, happily, I have around 1,500 15mm Yanks and Rebels; they were what my madly wargaming son (now wholly given over to the dark side of sci-fi, fantasy type rhubarb gaming) cut his teeth on. But other 15s lurk in the Hellers too:

More civil war types, but this time from something a little more mechanical.

But, finally, I put the 15s back in their cardboard barracks and returned to the gridded front:

Somewhere in Russia, sometime during the Russian Civil War. Rail lines, the key to mobility in that vast, swirling, horrible war. Two armies, Red and White, must seize and hold the rail line and the small station town.

Reds won the initiative, and quickly drove down the line:

Infiltrating the station and the town (some 9 squares of 'built-up' terrain, which confer a notable advantage to defending troops under the rules).

After a slow start, and some jockeying to gain position, the Whites tentatively enter the outskirts of the town, destroying a Red unit in close combat, and another with long range m/g fire.

But, there is still all to play for as the initial action centres on the fighting in town and station...

Friday 29 November 2013


... as I typed that, the rather cheesy theme tune from 'The Aeronauts' came flooding back to me from the 1960s. Anyone else remember walking home from school, your mum being at home, then drinking tea and eating a jam butty while watching The Aeronauts? Ah, the pleasures of the Cold War period in western Europe.

But back in the 21st Century and a time of stress and chaos, yet somehow, I'm still struggling with the products of the Cold War:

The Heller 1/170 (?!) version of the Nord Nordatlas. It's made of the sort of slightly soft plastic that the free gifts in the cornflake packets of old used to be made out of. It fits were it touches, and I suspect that despite the weight I have put in the nose, it will still be a tail sitter. The tail booms needed shims of plastic where the wing sits in order to match up the engine nacelles, but the shims also do duty in blanking off the undercarriage well.  

As you will have guessed, completing the Macchi MC200 has kicked off a model aircraft seizure, and I've dragged out a couple of old kits to bash. First off:

Possibly the worst moulding to come out of the East, striking more terror into my heart than the predicted influx of Bulgarians and Romanians strikes terror into the denizens of Park Lane (but aren't they mostly Russian in any case? I don't know, perhaps the Cold War wasn't that bad...).  Anyway, what the kit does have going for it is that it is a 109K - almost the last of the last, and given my predilection for Italian subjects, it will probably join my ANR collection.

Second choice from the pile of piles, a recent acquisition: 

Not the new moulding, but a new boxing of the old kit.

I've got some good references on the Gladiator, not least:

Gloster Gladiator in Action, Squadron/Signal Publications, 2003, an excellent work by W.A. Harrison, with plenty of photos of the rarer users of the type, including:

The doomed Latvians - click on the image above and just look at the poor chap's face. My God, we've had some unspeakable times. But, happily, I have some decals left over from a Gladiator I made about ten years ago, which, as you can see, include Latvian markings. Top banana.

Now, a puzzle. During my migration to the wood burning stove Hobbit bunker, I kept coming across odd bits and pieces, including this:

You can see what it is, but my question is: from which set of rules did I carefully copy this template??

Finally, I shouldn't be doing any of this kit bashing, wargame thinking, etc etc. I should be working on my current writing project, which includes fascinating bits of old newspapers, this one from Adelaide, 83 years ago:

Actually that wasn't 'finally' (it's this Oz wine), the aeronauts business has brought back another marvellous Cold War childhood air-minded memory - did anyone else out there read the fantastic Norwegian jet pilot books (Thunderchiefs? Thunderjets?) by Leif Hamre ? Books like, Blue Two...Bale Out?

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Work bench...

... matching wartime Italian levels of output, but not, sadly, Italian levels of superb engineering finish, the MC200 is, finally, complete. Nearly. Just a bit left to do. But here it is:

As you can see from the background bits and bobs, I've also managed to pay a little attention to the very old, very oddly scaled Heller model of the Nord Nordatlas. It's a tricky one.

Saturday 16 November 2013


... 'n' sods.

Readers will remember the kindness of His Grace, The Duke of Tradgardland, who gifted two dice worth (in terms of 'A Rattle of Dice') of 42mm line infantry to Alf here at the Hobbit Bunker. At first, I had every intention of painting the fellows up as gendarmes for my imagi-nation project, possibly as reinforcements for Maj. Vlasov SsG&A. However, after some thought, I decided that a better option was to paint them as intended by Irregular Miniatures - as ACW chaps. So, here they are, ready for the Yank:

42mm shiny glory.

Readers may also remember that back in August, I think, I began a Revell 1/72 Macchi MC200. What has happened to it? Er, I still have some way to go:

This photo also shows the horror of the join line on the forward fuselage, something that is scarcely visible, to my aged eyes anyway, in 'real' life. Argh! However, I have determined that this project will soon be finished. In fact, I had decided this week that I would mop up the few odds 'n' sods hanging around then downgrade my wargaming, modelling, toy soldier activities for a good long while. What with the daily toil to earn my bread, family responsibilities, my failure to get anything done on the allotment for longer than I care to think, I have made very little headway on my current writing project. 'That has to stop', I said. 'I will, like St. Paul (unpleasant fellow, don't like the chap at all, not a sound chap), but, like St. Paul, I will put away childish things, and get on with a more grown up matter'.  Good, good. But, this evening, while putting away some childish things, I came across these:


Thursday 14 November 2013

Break on...

break on through to the other side...

Not a reference to the misplaced experimentations of a notable English writer, nor the addled thoughts of a drug-ridden American songmeister, but as in Romanian Fast Division success in 20mm:

The main thrust down the road to the oil fields, and as the Romanians come under fire, they de-bus and follow up behind the R2s.

The T70s open up on the advancing R2s (aka 38Ts). Both tanks class as light tanks, and have the same defence and attack values under the Lyall rules.

The Romanians spread out, leaving the road. Debussing under the Lyall rules requires a move close to the vehicle - a potentially very dangerous spot. The Romanian HMG above came under sustained fire from the Soviet HMG team, and eventually succumbed.

First tank kill went to the Romanians, with the lead R2 picking off the first T70 with a flank shot.

But there was a quick response from the following T70, and the road was blocked.

The photo above shows the Lyall machine gun grid in use, with a Soviet HMG firing on Romanians advancing in the open. At the right range (medium), and with the right throw (5-6), the grid can inflict really heavy casualties. It is a strong incentive to keep figures well spaced out if in the open or soft cover (a bit tricky on the 5 feet x 4 feet 6 inches table we were using). 

Despite the open ground that had to be crossed, the Romanian R2s established a tank supremacy:

The loss of all his tanks, and (seen below) the encircling of his men, persuaded Comrade Colonel Rashkolnikov that it was time to leave the field of proletarian glory with an HMG and mortar. But also leaving most of his men behind...

The Lyall rules play well, and though the MG grid was a tad confusing at first, the artillery/mortar fall grid plus shell burst effect grid works really nicely - quick, clear, and convincing. As yet, I haven't played the communications rules, partly because of the small size of my table, partly due to a desire for simplicity.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Drive thru...

...not as in Anytown, 2013, but more as in the Mir Kolhoz, southern USSR, early summer 1942:

Comrade Colonel Raskolnikov (back to the camera) confers with his 2 i/c regarding the extempore defence of the collective farm. Fortunately for Raskolnikov, the Commissar has got lost somewhere, and, nearly as good a stroke of luck:

 Some of the new T70 tanks have suddenly pitched up to aid the defence.

 Which is busy digging itself in throughout the collective farm.

 From high ground to the south-west, the whole situation is clearer. What has made the 'Peace Collective Farm' (who said the Bolsheviks had no sense of humour? Or perhaps it is a pious reference to the earlier, now late, inhabitants, otherwise known as 'wreckers', 'Trotskyist-fascists', or, more old school - 'Kulaks') important now, is:

 The new road, built only the summer before, which drives southwards through the countryside to the oil fields.

 Which has made it of interest to the Romanian 'Fast Division', whose local commander is:

Prince Ion Pescaratu Simla Mota, seen here indulging in a bit of frankly childish pistol play.

Before I close this evening, I must mention the generosity of His Grace, The Duke of Tradgardland, who has most kindly sent reinforcements for the continuing tale of Brnad. Below you see the gift:

Not Victorian Canadians in the snow, but newly based and undercoated fellows, having taken their first steps to duty and glory.