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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.'

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.

Friday 1 November 2013

Thrown back...

... the local assault by the Reds has been thrown back. But, without a shadow of a doubt, they will return.

It is many years since I played with the Lyall rules, and they are interesting in that they give real potency to anti-tank artillery (well, Pak42s, at least), and machine guns. In that, they are probably very accurate. However, it does mean that the type of across open fields assault that the Soviets put in was very costly.

Although two of the attacking T34s in the thrust down the road had been knocked out, the infantry pushed on, following up a single T34.

Red mortar fire pounded the German lines. Mortar, and artillery fire tended to be difficult to get on target, but, as above, when it did range in, was devastating.


Above is the famous Lyall machine gun grid in play - in this case an Eastern volunteers' LMG caught a half platoon in the open. End of the half platoon. Things were beginning to look difficult for the attackers, but, to be sure, Von Stahlein ordered up the:

Hetzers and their accompanying Eastern volunteers infantry.

A wise move too, as the German T34 was knocked out at close range by the remaining Soviet T34.

The Reds continued the infantry assault, although their mortar support had to cease as they closed on the enemy's lines, which:

were being reinforced by the Hetzers...

It was all too much, Soviet numbers dropped below morale levels, and a general withdrawal began.

The LFD and the Eastern volunteers still held the town. There were lessons to be learned here about the Lyall rules. Even though the Bolsheviks had an advantage in tanks, mortars and rocket launchers, it still wasn't enough to seriously incommode (shades of Moriarty's conversation with Holmes there) the defenders. What was needed was a longer opening bombardment, and/or more armour.

Meanwhile, that nice fellow the (privatised) postman has been, and look what he brought: