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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, 22 July 2014

Aye, Aye..

... and Yee Haa!

It's hot and humid here in Mercia, Old England. Probably not as hot and humid as it gets in Dixieland, but my thoughts have turned to brown water table top warfare. So, this evening, I dug out these:

Balsa and card ironclads for the Confederate States, with:

one of Mr Pig's finest resin and metal miniatures, and:

a mix of balsa and Pig.

Along with two blockade runners.

I played a lot of RFCM 'Hammerin' Iron' in the past, version 1; but this time, I'll be trying out the Mk.II of that rule set. They do say 'a change is as good as a rest'. Well, they did say, in the days when  great aunts hovered on the edges of family groups.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Old School...

... real Old School...

Strangely, it seems that toy soldiers are primarily designed with small children in mind. An odd concept, I know, but there you are.  Happily, my grandson, aged 5, qualifies. And today, he had great fun with some of my toy soldiers from long, long ago, including these chaps:

Gunslingers! I suspect that I was at the very end of my Britain's purchases when I bought these from 'Haskins' in West Kirby. 'Haskins' was one of those small shops that seem to have gone now. I bought my Scout sheath knife there, aged 12 - that would, of course, be illegal now. Later, I also bought a nice 'Diana' air pistol - something that would also be illegal now. I also bought fireworks known as 'bangers' in England at 'Haskins', which me and a friend - Nell Hardiman (he was a boy, 'Nell' being a Scouse diminutive for Neil) happily threw around on Caldy Hill - a series of illegal acts now. What is this ??!! As well as all these engines of death, 'Haskins' sold sports kit and Airfix models and figures. A fine example of the petit bourgeoisie - killed off, almost, by globalisation. Nuts, as a famous American once said.

'Injuns'! Some of the figures above belonged to my little brother, now aged 49 and not in nearly as good condition as his 'Injuns'.
And this:

Oh, marvellous - Song of the Paddle! A really nice physical realisation of a fascinating period of history (unless one was a beaver, or a bear).
All of this was, today, courtesy of:

my grandson, who dug out the old toys and spent hours playing with them. Knights, Second World War chaps, 'Moderns' (i.e. Cold War), and, as the hero of all the various stories:

Luke Skywalker in 20mm, looking out over a new planet...

Sunday, 13 July 2014


... houses, and herbage.

Finally, the toy soldiers have completed the first stage of the re-barracking. This morning I took the last little tin chaps out to the Hobbit Bunker. A range of oddments, including:

Solid casts, given to me by a very old Danish lady; the figures had been her late husband's toys in the 1920s. The general opinion is that they are most likely to be by Heyde. I repainted a good number of their comrades, but these still await some attention at the repair depot.
And these, probably my favourite houses:

from Hovels for 25/28mm, and suitable for endless North European table top conflict.
Also some bits and pieces of herbage:

these being German flats for 30mm.
And a mix of scratch built for 25/28mm, and card for 20mm:


scratch built 28mm for SCW, or, when I hide the poster end here, Span-Am.

Thursday, 10 July 2014


... fugit.

Time waits for no man; time and tide etc etc...

A bit of nostalgia for me when, finding myself in the loft again (this time it was camping gear I was after), I came across these:

Three A4 pages of hand-written rules, illustrated by my then 7 year old son. Based on Featherstone's principles, these rules introduced my son to the idea of war gaming in a sensible (?) way. He progressed to other gaming (see here), but this is where he started, with 15mm ACW.
On other fronts, my allotment plot is beginning to look as it should:

From left to right, Jerusalem artichokes, borage, English marigolds (and a few Frenchies), nasturtium backed by rows of broad beans; further back a couple of golden raspberry bushes, and potatoes. And, out of camera sight, runner beans, dwarf French beans, courgettes, brambles, apples ... Aaah. Growth of the soil.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Hack, hack...

... chop, chop.

In theory, it is a straightforward process. Familiarise with instructions, carefully remove pieces from sprue, clean them up if necessary, dry fit, line up, dry fit check, line up again, glue, support and jig if necessary. And hey presto! It's a mess:

The above shows the Sea Hurricane pilot's seat after I was forced to hack the dam' thing off its mounting. Why ? Well, I originally glued it to the mounts with the seat back against the cockpit armour. That's what it looked like on the instructions, and the underside of the seat seemed to fit on the mountings best that way. Fine. Except that when I offered up the wings and the seat to the fuselage, the blessed thing wouldn't fit because the seat was too far back! Hence the 'hack, hack, chop, chop' ! I've been kit bashing for 46 years, on and off, and I still make these sort of mistakes!
So, little progress on the Sea Hurricane, which currently looks like this:

Tuesday, 8 July 2014


... yarns.

I suspect that a fair number of wargamey, toy soldierly types are partial to the genre of fiction that goes best under the heading of 'Ripping Yarns'. I'm currently reading Andrew Martin's latest title in his excellent 'Jim Stringer' series of novels about the Yorkshire railway detective. Over nine adventures, Martin has done a clever thing with his hero, Jim Stringer. He's taken him from a disgraced footplate fireman, to railway detective in York, to temporary officer and gentleman during the Great War, and, thence, to ex-officer railway investigator. First in Mesopotamia, shortly after its change of hands from the Ottoman Empire to the British Empire, in Baghdad Railway Club, then, in the current adventure:

to post-First World War India, among the Anglo-Indian world of the railways (made most famous in fiction by Bhowani Junction, by John Masters, himself an Anglo-Indian). While reading Stringer's adventures this evening, I came to thinking about my liking for this sort of tale. I'm not entirely sure Night Train falls squarely into the Ripping Yarn category, but that class of book certainly entertains me. So, off the top of my head, I tried to think of my 'top ten' Ripping Yarns. Starting with:

1. Watkins, In the Blue Light of African Dreams - oh, glory: French Foreign Legion, ex-Great War Spads, American mercenary, an attempted crossing of the Atlantic....

2. R. L. Stevenson, Kidnapped! Perfect plotting, a thrilling tale that lives on.

3. Erskine Childers, Riddle of the Sands. Given an extra twist by the reader's knowledge that Childers himself lived a Ripping Yarn, which ended in front of an Irish government firing squad.

4. John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps. Tremendous! Who, after reading it, doesn't want to don an old tweed suit and take to the hills of Dumfries and Galloway! And, Buchan, like Childers, a Ripping Yarn sort of fellow himself - British intelligence officer and highly popular Governor of Canada.

5. W.E. Johns, Biggles Goes To War. Biggles and crew as mercenary pilots in the Balkans - biplanes, a beautiful woman, and straight lefts.

6. Any of the 'Mamur Zapt' series of novels by Michael Pearce. The hot, foetid streets of Cairo, Captain Gareth Owen, Head of the Secret Police, and his compelling, not to be crossed, mistress, Zeinab.

And there, I began to falter - my memory that is. So, good fellows, what else should be on this list?

Sunday, 6 July 2014


... and loft.

And still the great exodus from house to shed continues. But today also involved an expedition into that other essentially masculine place - the loft. First, some more little tin men on the move:

8" howitzer in 20mm, from 'IT Figures' of a good many years ago, when I still undercoated in white. But it makes for a nice toy soldierly style.

And, favourites of mine, 28mm Perry Home Guard. The chaps above being heavily equipped with American weapons - BAR, Thompson, and .300 rifle. There's an odd story connected to the 'Tommy gun' when it first arrived in the UK. Winston Churchill was very keen on it, and thought it would be just the weapon for the Home Guard, claiming that it would help turn them into 'Storm Troopers'. Er, not really, and, in any case, it is likely that he was thinking of the previous war. And when the regular army realised just how powerful the Thompson was, the Home Guard were relieved of it and given the Sten instead.

Above, two more Perry Home Guard. The chap with the binos was a limited addition that came with a pillbox. I wasn't quick enough to grab a pillbox, but just made the bino chap.

some 'Black and Tans' - Auxiliaries. Thirty years ago I interviewed a former 'Tan' for a bit of history research I was doing. He'd spent most of his Irish War of Independence service in Dublin, and one of his main tasks was escorting the coffins of killed Auxiliaries and Cadets back to Britain.
Funnily enough, I'm currently doing a bit of research on Britain in the 1920s and have come across gangs of recently discharged Black and Tans roaming around Hampstead, carrying revolvers and hoping for a bit of bother. The funny thing is that Hampstead is now infamous in the UK for being the home of choice for very well heeled members of the Metropolitan elite - media people, and such like, all very 'PC', very 'faux left'. Hardly the Black and Tans.

And, here's some chums (well, sort of) for the Tans:

Royal Irish Constabulary. On the back foot.
Now some mean hombres (part II), in this case, part-time enthusiasts for 'Work, Family, Country':

Pity that Vichy besmirched that slogan - I rather fancy it; describes my sense of self, in a way.

From shed to loft. I was forced to journey up into my loft today, braving cobwebs and a cracked skull, but I returned triumphant. Having forgotten what I really went up there for, I returned with these two fine 1/72 Great War kits:

I could just do with a bit of cursing over struts and wires. However, I hope you noticed the perfect wood grain effect I managed on the table above...

Saturday, 5 July 2014


... Bolshevism, Maoism, Marxist-Leninism, call it what you want, was/is unspeakably inhuman.

Now, I appreciate that isn't news to most people, but I came across something today that finally confirmed it (irony there). If, as some people still do, we put on one side mass murder on an industrial scale, the most complete totalitarian societies ever seen (Stalin easily beats Adolf on that), genocidal policies, and deliberately induced famines, we still have the sort of thing that the Chinese-British author, Jung Chang, mentions in an interview in today's Daily Telegraph magazine:

'My younger brother Jin-ming loved collecting stamps as a child, but under Mao people weren't allowed to collect as it was seen as bourgeois'.
'I remember walking in Hyde Park for the first time. Gardening had been banned in China because it was considered bourgeois.'

Yet I have known highly educated, well-off, members of western societies happily defend Mao and Maoism.
But, back in the land of the sane:

The Sea Hurricane makes progress. The cockpit is pretty reasonable out of the box, and includes a decal for the dashboard. But the cockpit walls are totally bare, and the Hurricane cockpit was built inside a pretty prominent tubular framework. So, I tried to deal with both issues by adding in half-round section plastic strip the approximation of the frame. It should look ok once the fuselage is closed up.

The great toy soldier cabinet move continues, and today's haul includes these:

Holger Erickson (from Spencer Smith) in imagi-nation, sort of Seven Years War rig out. All shiny and toy-soldierly.

And, some Fench Resistance doing their best to look like mean hombres:

With Ulster Home Guard in 1940, in their unique black uniforms (I mean unique in the UK, of course).

Finally, the view out of my downstairs room window today:

Mao wouldn't have liked it.

Friday, 4 July 2014


... impressions.

As even the most basic aero-kit basher will know, Airfix have been doing some good things of recent years. New moulds, new kits, and mostly up there with the best of them, and still at reasonable prices. Top banana! This evening, I emptied out Airfix's Hurricane/Sea Hurricane MkIIc (the intention being to make a long-delayed Fleet Air Arm Sea Hurricane from Operation Torch). So what does it look like?

The nice, strong, top opening box disgorged:

Three sprues that cover a variety of detail differences, including different exhausts (good touch), and the parts to make the Hurricane or Sea Hurricane. The sprue attachments look a little thick and heavy, as indeed they proved to be, but not a great problem. Not shown is a comprehensive decal sheet for three different versions, including an FAA finish, and one for the Far East theatre. I intend to use some after market decals for the US markings, but will use the numerous stencils that come with the kit. There's also a nice transparency set which permits an open cockpit.

One thing that did produce a momentary qualm was this:

To make the Sea Hurricane, it is necessary to remove quite a chunk of the lower fuselage in order to add the arrestor gear. As you can see, however, the fuselage walls are thick, and I was concerned that the plastic would end up cracking as I  hacked out the necessary piece. I need not have worried, as the plastic is reasonably soft, and there were no problems.

Finally, there was this very happy discovery:

The seat and cockpit floor fix to the lower wing assembly, not to the fuselage walls. This is a much better option. I've lost count how many times that I was sure I had everything lined up nicely only to find that when closing the fuselage, the seat did not, in fact, match up on both walls. So, well done Airfix on this bit of kit engineering.

Thursday, 3 July 2014


... July.

Greetings, American readers ! Wishing you the very best on this 4th July.

There is life left yet in our shared, though different, heritage. An interesting article can be found here - from the British magazine, The Spectator.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


... projects.

The great archaeological excavation of the toy soldier cabinet continues. Now I am happening on small groups of figures whose meaning is lost to time. Figures such as these:

Turks. But why? What did I have in mind? Not the Dardenelles, nor Turkish defeats against the Russians. But perhaps Enver Pasha and dreams of a new, entirely Turkic, Caliphate? Who knows? The true significance is lost, lost...
And these fellows:

Peninsular War ? Or perhaps the War of 1812 in 28mm ? No, that can't be right, as I have a much larger, incomplete project of the War of 1812 in 20mm plastics. So, why ?  As with all archaeology, I am thrown back on a standard interpretation - 'religious significance'.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


... Australia fair.

I spent most of this evening with colleagues from an Australian university. The chap I was sitting next to talked of decent things - like cider apples - and his changing perceptions of England and the UK. We got to talking about origins and histories, and it turned out that his family went back some way as an Australian family (i.e., not one of the original, Aboriginal, inhabitants). In fact, he is a sixth generation Australian. Of course, we talked of wars, and such things. He noted how when he first came to the UK as a student in the 1960s, he hadn't even needed a passport. His father had flown Lancaster bombers from English airfields - and survived. In his old age, he had returned for a last visit to England, only to find that he had to queue in the 'aliens' line on entry to the UK. To make matters worse, UK customs searched his baggage. Why ? Why this 'thanks' ? Because of the self-serving swine that have 'led' my country throughout my adult life, and because of the subservience of the UK Parliament to the European Union. This isn't the first time I have heard such a tale from an Australian. It makes me feel embarrassed, ashamed.

Here's an Australian recruiting poster from the Great War:

Printed image of a soldier on horseback, holding a sword in his right hand and a Union Jack flag in his left. 'Come on boys / Follow the flag' is printed on the poster.

We haven't all forgotten.