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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, 26 March 2013

Something different...

... the PSC carriers are on the last leg, just some more paint on the crew, then unit markings, fading and wear and tear, and they will be ready to join a wide variety of (mismatched) carriers of one manufacture and another in my British, Empire and Commonwealth Forces kit for the Western desert. But while the paint is drying on the carriers, I thought I'd try something that is, for me, new:

Pre-war German glider, which, according to the instructions was the first to sport spoilers.

I'm not sure, but I have the sense that the 1930s, then immediately post-war, was the golden age for gliding. I knew an RAF Flight-Sergeant whose father had served with the Polish air force in 1939, and then with the RAF. He had first taken to the air in a Polish government scheme whereby, apparently, all Polish boys could learn to glide. If so, that is quite something, and also, perhaps, an interesting insight into Poland between the wars - sandwiched in the wrong place, but with a strongly martial ethos of its own. And, of course, the Germans, and not least, the Nazis, were pretty hot on gliding.  On a more recent and personal note, my only claim to a bit of hands on flying has been in the RAF's Grob Vigilant. It is a powered glider and takes off under its own steam (as it were). It feels somewhat odd (until one gets used to it) when the whirly thing at the front of the aircraft is switched off and it suddenly plunges... 

Monday, 25 March 2013

It's an...

... ambulance! Just as Xaltotun of Python correctly identified the bones yesterday. Well done, that man! And he provided a very nice link to a large scale version - here. My PSC conversion is now more ambulance-like:

Still some bits and pieces to do,

including some stretchers for the  body of the vehicle.

And, perhaps, some unit markings.

The inspiration for this wargame conversion came in this marvellous old copy of Airfix Magazine from February 1970. It is absolutely packed with a feast of articles - including, a scratch built Deacon SP (I will, without doubt, have to have a crack at that), a late production Sherman with HVSS, railway modelling, aircraft modelling - all in the smallest type face, matched by often indistinct black and white photos. But one of the clearer ones is:

'A carrier ambulance of a New Zealand armoured regiment in Italy', from Peter Chamberlain's series, 'The Carrier Story'. This series was later turned into the Profile hardback book, Making Tracks; the Carrier Story, by Chamberlain and Ellis. I have that book, but the all white NZ carrier ambulance does not feature in it. 

I rather enjoyed bashing that PSC conversion, and the assortment of old 1960s and 1970s Airfix Magazines that I recently e-bayed tempts me to do more.  Perhaps a carrier shower, a ghost carrier, or a tea and buns carrier...

Sunday, 24 March 2013

It's a Universal Carrier...

... but not as we know it.

Kit bashing away at Plastic Soldier Company's universal carriers. Two will be for my Western Desert fellows, but the third is being converted:

The white isn't undercoat, but part of final finish. A WIP, but anyone know what ?

Friday, 22 March 2013

100% Toy...

... Scouts. Every now and then I am seized by classic Toy Soldier mania, usually in 54mm, but occasionally in 42mm. This year, as you will know, is the 100th anniversary of H G Wells' Little Wars. I'm rather in two minds about Wells. He was clearly a cad, believed in world government, 'scientific' politics, the way of the Samurai applied to said politics (all that was very popular among the middle class Left of pre-Great War Britain), and many of his later novels needed a good editor. So far, so bad. But, he did write Little Wars, he does appear to have been rather a fun pater, he was friends with Jerome K. Jerome (a fine fellow, and Three Men in Boat is still a laugh out loud book), and he sported a moustache. So it's probably 65/35 bad/good. As a result of the 'Funny Little Wars' revival (TM, the Padre), I painted up a few regiments of Army Black last year, infantry and Uhlans (anyone remember 'The Uhlans are coming!' on the front of The Victor comic, some time in the late 1960s??), and intended to round up various unpainted toy soldier types and draft them into Army Black. Well, I haven't, but surveying that stalled project yesterday, I did dig out some 54mm chaps who have been waiting for paint for so long that I can't even remember where I got them from (Soldier Pac??). So, after a nice, simple, straightforward toy soldier painting session, I have:

Toy Scouts ... wearing the uniform that they were famous for over decades, until that cheap, nasty decade of mad egotism - the 1960s - saw the end of the Wideawake hat and khaki; although when I moved up to the Scouts in 1971, the oldest boys still wore that kit.

These fine youths (from Owl patrol) would go well with a FLW army (though clearly not Army Black), acting as messengers and guides.  Just, in fact, as they did for the British Home Guard in the Second World War:

The photo above is from my history of the Home Guard - a very reasonably priced volume, elegantly and clearly written, and, although I say so myself, the new standard history of the force. On that big headed note, I'll sign off, and return to my PSC universal carriers.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Track links...

... or not.

I peered into the UM kit box this evening, wondering whether I was in the right state of mind to tackle the myriad of Bergepanzer 38 track links... mmmm... wasn't sure. So I got out my wargame Hetzers to see if that would encourage me. They are from a range of manufacturers - Esci, Fujimi (I think), Britannia, and a metal version, possibly SHQ or possibly not:

One in Russian Liberation Army (POA) colours. The POA Hetzers helped liberate Prague from the Germans, and agreed to do so on condition that the Czechs wouldn't hand the POA 1st Division over to the Reds. The POA kept their side of the bargain. The Czech government handed the POA over to the Bolsheviks. You can guess the rest of the story. Funny how people think the Second World War in Europe ended in May 1945.

Unfortunately, my Hetzers weren't enough, and I closed the UM box again.

Instead, I flocked my 20mm plastics:

Canadians from the War of 1812. Much easier!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Is it a bird..?

In the Superman comics of old, citizens frequently seemed to be scanning the skies for strange sights. Oddly, this seems not to be the case today. But they miss much as a result. I live on one of the flight paths to Birmingham International Airport, and not far from Coventry Airport. The latter handles light aircraft and, in the summer months, vintage aircraft. As a result, one can often look up at the sound of unusual engines and see a Dragon Rapide, or a Dakota, or some other beautiful classic. But few do. Today, I had just stepped out into my tiny garden to peer at emerging buds when I heard something slightly different overhead, apparently descending towards Birmingham. I looked up to see that marvel of 1950s design - the VC10! With its T tail, four aft mounted engines, and raked wings it is still a design classic - 50 years after it first flew.  And the one that passed overhead today will be one of the very last to fly, for the six that the RAF have (the last) are due to be retired at the end of this month. What a stroke of luck that I stepped out at that moment.

The Duke of Tradgardland illustrated one of his recent posts with a couple of very nice medieval figures. Sadly, His Grace appears not to have the complete set, so I illustrate it here:

It is the Piers Plowman set from about 12 years ago - the Perry realisation of the famous English medieval poem by Langland. If you are not familiar with Piers, you can still get the idea from the figures here:

Plus ca change: the above figure could be an EU bankocrat - except that he/she would simply steal your money from the bank these days, and wouldn't have to actually go and find you.

Finally, my grandson in my garden yesterday, impersonating a 'monster', or, I thought, the Green Man:

Saturday, 16 March 2013


... for choice. I've been much less productive on the toy soldier/model/wargames front since the beginning of  2013 in the Year of Our Lord. This, of course, has led me to buy not less, but more stuff, and the mountain of toys grows daily. As readers know, I have a very interesting Bergepanzer 38 waiting to be built. I opened the box earlier, and found:

'The horror !', to quote Conrad's most famous novel (I shall re-read all of his novels one day, and transport myself back to the time when I was a callow, dreaming Sixth Former at one of Old England's old grammar schools. They sit on a shelf not two feet away, waiting.). 'The horror!' - just look at those track links, and bear in mind just how small the '38 is in 1/72. But I will be bold. Soon-ish. Now, DaveM has already raised some points about the recovery version of the Hetzer, so I will have to rummage around to make sure that I make the right call about that spade, and the recovery kit that the Bergepanzer 38 carried. In addition to Hilary Doyle's New Vanguard title on the Hetzer, I have a very, very thorough book, Hetzer; Jagdpanzer 38, by Vladimir Francev, Charles K. Kliment, and Milan Kopecky (MBI, Prague, 2001). As you will  realise, these authors are from just the right place to have written about the Hetzer, and if you are interested in that deadly little tank killer, then you would really appreciate the book.

To offset the horror of the track links, I have (thanks to Saturday's postie):

PSC - the wargamer's friend. Lief, over on Figurfanatikern, provided a review of these carriers last year in his normal perfect English - how can a Viking speak/write such perfect, colloquial English? Amazing! My PSC carriers will get a Western Desert finish, but I am tempted by France/Belgium 1940, something that I've had lurking at the back of my mind since a trip to Calais nearly 10 years ago to follow the action described in Airey Neave's Flames of Calais. Neave (also of Colditz fame) was supposedly murdered by the INLA, although some well informed people (including his fellow MP, Enoch Powell) believed that the CIA was responsible.

Stripes. The SM81 build led, of course, to my later post on the Caudron Simoun, and Heller's kit, which I made up some 20 years ago. I said in that post that the yellow, striped red, scheme was of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's aircraft that he crashed in the Sahara. After posting, I started to check images on the internet, and it became clear that I was wrong - why, indeed, would I have ever imagined that Saint-X would bother to have his aircraft finished in 'high viz' ? Nooo, that wouldn't have impressed the skinny French chicks, or his Spanish wife, Consuelo. Anyway, too much peering at photos of the Simoun sent me to Hannants' website, and I have another kit:

Interestingly, my sideswipe at the Euro in the post on stripes led to one 'Nundanket' entering the lists in favour of the Euro. This has lead to fierce exchanges. Rather good! And since I last responded to Nundanket, I see the Eurozone has a new 'success' - taking money directly from the bank accounts of (Greek) Cypriots. Our American cousins would call that robbery. And they'd be right.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Pot pourri...

... if you are of a certain age, then you will remember pot pourri. My Aunts - Edith and Hilda - both had pot pourri in their homes. Strange stuff, a mix of dried seeds, flowers, and other anonymous organic material that was supposed to provide calming airs, a sort of budget Prospero's isle effect for the respectable working class.

So, this post is a pot pourri of some stuff that is hanging around my painting and modelling life at the moment:

Bergepanzer 38 - looks like a very nice injection moulded kit, and I've got quite a few Hetzers to go with it when it is finished. Sadly, the marvellous spade which can be seen on the box art, and is included in the kit, only appeared on the prototype.

Canadians, 1812, work in progress in 20mm. Once these are finished, I've got some Glengarry Rifles to do, and some cavalry plus artillery. But, still no Yankees. I must address that!

Just look at this ! (And as friend Kinch says, 'click to embiggen'). It's actually a fridge magnet that came with a very nice book of old sci-fi and future fantasy covers that I bought my son - he's a sci-fi dweeb, just as I am a toy soldier nerd, or perhaps that's the other way around, nerd rather than dweeb ? The marvellous illustration of 'The King of the Clouds' is a temptation to go steam punk in 28mm. But I will resist. However, and coincidentally, I am re-reading the first volume of collected future wars stories that was edited by I.F. Clarke for Liverpool University Press - The Tale of the Next Great War, 1871-1914, which, in turn, sent me back to Erskine Childers' famous Riddle of the Sands - all stuff for 28mm!

And that friend of humankind, the postie, brought me this recently, all the way from the USA. It needs no commentary from me, and should be in every self respecting old school wargamer's library.

Meanwhile on the grandfather-grandson enthusiasms front, we have moved on to transformers. Somehow, my son and I missed out on these 25 or so years ago, but my grandson is really into them, and it is easy to see why. They are quite marvellous props for do it yourself stories of titanic struggles, battle and excitement, and, as toys, they are very neatly thought out.

My favourite is the sand coloured transformer - 'Fallback' - who transforms into a neat little Brinksmat style armoured truck. Coooool!

Monday, 11 March 2013


... Important things, stripes. My late father's photographs from his decade in the King's Regiment include a number of one of his friends (whose name is now lost to posterity) who was raised to the exalted rank of lance-corporal. Most of the photographs of this eminence have been captioned with some comment about his rank, along the lines of 'it's that stripe again!'.  The anti-camouflage striping on the SM81 has been well-received (thank you, gentlemen), and perhaps need a little explanation. I'm not absolutely sure as to the origin of the striping, but the general view is that the red stripes on the basic ivory (not white - that's my poor photography) finish was designed to make recovery of crew from downed aircraft easier during the Italian invasion of Abyssinia. That is understandable - I remember a review of Anthony Mockler's history of that war, which came out a few decades ago, commenting that 'Italian frightfulness in the air was matched by Ethiopian frightfulness on the ground'. Many people are aware that the Italians used air dropped gas in their invasion of Abyssinia (a practice pioneered, in an imperial context, by a certain RAF chap called Harris during the UK's post Great War fighting in Iraq), but few know that the slave-owning and trading Abyssinian state routinely mutilated captives. Given that, one can understand the Italians' desire to pick up their aircrew as quickly as possible. However, I do wonder if the striping practice pre-dates the invasion of Abyssinia, as Italy's conquest (under a Liberal, not a Fascist government) of Libya was a generation before, and the Italians had used both armour and aircraft then. The expanses of desert in Libya may well have suggested anti-camouflage finishes. Indeed, such finishes were used by others:

 This is the old Heller kit (it did have two prop blades once!) of a Caudron Simoun, which, as the name suggests, was designed for long distance flight. In fact...

it is finished as the Simoun used by Anoine de Saint-Exupery in one of his abortive pioneering flights that ended in a Sahara crash, and the discovery that neither he nor his crewman had bothered with survival equipment. The upshot of that slight oversight was that they attempted to drink the iodine from the first aid box !!! What ?! Fortunately for the two crazed Frenchmen, a passing Bedouin found them. The story of the rescue appears in Saint-X's famous book:

Of which this is a very nice 1940 copy. By the time this copy hit the shelves, Saint-X was either flying reconnaissance missions against the invading Hun (see his Flight to Arras), or had skipped off to the USA. Saint-X wrote some significant stuff and did good pro-Allied work in the US, but he was neither a Gaullist nor a Bolshevik, which caused him problems. Finally, of course, he died flying a reconnaissance P-38 over the Mediterranean. In recent years, there was some claim that the remains had been found, but, the last I read, there were question marks over the serial numbers on bits of the P-38. A decent man, not as good a pilot as he perhaps thought (writes a bloke who has problems with a push bike), and with a very tempestuous love life (well, he was French). He fully deserved his place on the last issues of the 50 Franc note: 

Now, of course, no more, as the useless, failed Euro has replaced the French franc, and replaced proper symbols of nationhood with pastiches of bridges, buildings and towns that don't actually exist, but represent some kind of imagined Europe - imagined by the sort of people who want secret votes in the so-called European Parliament (so those nasty, horrid things - the people - don't get to know how their 'representatives' vote), or EU control over the press across Europe, so that nasty things about the EU aren't read by the smelly little people. Make no mistake, the EU is a continuing, and growing, threat to the very hard won democratic freedoms that we do have (and there are not as many of them as there should be).

Sunday, 10 March 2013


finally, finally... the Pipistrello is finished. Or, more accurately, as finished as my patience will allow. Here it is, reasonably resplendent in its over-water/desert/East Africa anti-camouflage finish:

The smaller aircraft is a Nardi FN305, a very successful trainer used by Italy and the Romanians. It gives some idea of the size of 'the bat'.

Right, SM81 out of the way, so what next? A recovery Hetzer, Peninsular War British in 28mm, a few more War of 1812 in 20mm, or a Hurricane, or a Breda???

Thursday, 7 March 2013


Yes, the SM81 torture continues, but, at least, it is now looking something like an aircraft:

As you can see, it is at the stage where one could (if one was so inclined) walk around with it above one's head making engine noises. If one wanted to that is.

I've been looking through old copies of Air Pictorial the last few days, reading the long series, 'East Africa Air War' by Christopher Shores and Corrado Ricci that was published in 1983 and 1984. Shores, of course, is a well known aviation historian, while Ricci was a veteran of the campaign. It was a very detailed account, illustrated by marvellous, rare photographs. For those interested in the esoteric, the campaign is fascinating, with aircraft such as the Junkers 86 and Junkers 52 seeing action - on the British and Imperial side, as part of South Africa's contribution. But of rarebirds there were many: Wellesleys, Hartbeestes, Furies, Gauntlets, and, amazingly, a Vickers Valentia used as a night bomber! On the Italian side, CR32s and Caproni Ca133s were deployed, along with more modern types like the CR42 and SM79. The SM81 was also very active in the bombing role. Of course, the standard of equipment of most of these types was, for 1940/41, poor - no armour,  mixed construction, and limited range being the norm. The SM81, for example, had wooden wings and a fabric covered fuselage with no armour protection for the crew. It doesn't need much imagination to think what it must have been like to be attacked while flying in an aircraft like that. 

One account of the downing of an SM81 by Wellesleys was given in Part 3 of Shores and Ricci's history:
'F/O C G S R Robinson, who was flying one of the "up-gunned" Wellesleys (armed with four Lewis guns as well as his forward-firing Vickers) approached from astern and dived to attack the Savoia. This initial attack appeared to have no result, so he climbed back up, and repeated the attack. His gun then jammed, and as the Savoia's crew were now returning fire, he pulled away momentarily. Next, he pulled the Wellesley close alongside to allow the gunners to get a good shot; Cooke, the upper gunner, and Fell with the starboard gun, both opened fire [...]'. As a result, the co-pilot, the dorsal gunner and the waist gunner were wounded. The SM81 tried to put down on a small island, but the Wellesley's gunners were still shooting into the fabric covered aircraft and the pilot was killed. The SM81 crashed into the sea, and all the survivors, all wounded, struggled into the water. Their life-raft took three men, but the fourth, Franchini, realised that if he climbed aboard then the raft would sink. He ordered his crew mates to make for the island, while he hung on to a piece of wing. Franchini was never seen again, but the other three eventually, after two weeks, were found.  I could make some remarks about the human condition, but they would, inevitably, be too shallow.

A couple of days ago, the sun came out over much of old England, and the crocuses in my garden responded:

That evening, in the darkness, a blackbird sang at length encouraging the Spring to arrive.

Friday, 1 March 2013

PZLs, Potez 63s...

... and plodding. Silly things - work related; more serious matters - family related; and waste - idleness, have reduced my progress on the Pipistrello to a plodding pace. But I'm also reading a jolly good history of the Royal Hellenic Air Force in the Second World War:

Another heroic tale of patriotic defiance. And, for the aircraft geek, an amazing collection of aircraft types in Greek service, from Breguet XIXs to PZL24s, via Dornier 22s, Potez 63s and a lot else. I suspect that only the Royal Romanian Air Force fielded so many different types from so many different sources. Of course, as I sit, enthralled, by the sad tale, I'm thinking of possible 'builds' ... Azur does a Potez 63 in Greek colours ...

On the plodding bat front:

Hopefully, I'll be able to close the fuselage up this weekend, then I should really be able to crack on.

Finally, a Happy St. David's Day to the Welsh!!