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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 25 February 2015


... game.

If I procrastinate long enough a game does appear. Eventually.


Somewhere in England, early 1941...

at an important rail bridge, a Home Guard platoon is on watch. Waiting, waiting... On the left of the photo is Capt. Wellbeloved, local public school master, and lay reader at St. Wiggins-in-the-Fields. Centre is Major Toffit DSO, MC and bar; while Pte. Butts is the chap in the tin bowler.

At the other side of the rail bridge:

Pte. Bunch peers myopically down the track, wondering, waiting, feeling peckish.

An overview of the situation:

Those of you are are 'up' in the arcane law of our hobby might recognise the scenario. Have a further shufti:

It is, in fact, 'Scenario 40; Parachute Operation', from Scenarios For All Ages, by C. S. Grant (ALL HAIL!), and S. A. Asquith (ALL RISE!), published by CSG Publications (by the sign of the Claymore), Upavon, 1996.

So now we wait...

On the way out of my hobbit bunker this evening, feeling mildly pleased that I'd actually manage to assemble the beginnings of a game, I was brought low by this:

Something that I singularly not been doing on my allotment plot. Sigh.

Sunday 22 February 2015

Panzer III...

...flood. Or, here's some I did earlier.

The Matchbox PzIIIJ proceeds, and shouldn't be too much longer; although there may be a problem mating the top and bottom of the hull. While my mind is on simple, wargame models of PzIIIs, I thought I'd hunt out what I have in that department:

Four for Rommel. The nearest are from Frontline, while the very distant, 37mm armed, PzIII is a SHQ one, I think.

Also for the Desert Fox:

A couple of Matchbox ones, the nearest being a basic conversion to the 'short' 50mm version, with the further one being straight from the box.

Altogether, here's my 20mm Panzer III flood in the desert:

And a resin PzIIIN, with 75mm gun/howitzer, looking for all the world like a fat, armoured duck:

Finally, a ready made PzIII that my son brought back from Bratislava for me a few years ago:

And, to think, back in the day, the only option was to undertake drastic, and trickey, surgery on Airfix's StugIII.

Friday 20 February 2015

Wheels - wheels-

...wheels-wheels-goin' round an' round again!
Oh-my-God-keep-me-from goin' lunatic!

(With apologies to Kipling).

Good old Matchbox. Simple, straightforward, not short-run, none of yer fancy stuff. But those road wheels are small, and each one linked to the runner by four bits of sprue. Still, only one pinged off into the maw of the great carpet beast (or, in my case, the crack in the floorboards).  The pleasant thing is that after a week's work, this was undemanding kit bashing, with such fast progress it brought schoolboy Saturday kit-bashing back to mind.

Thursday 19 February 2015


... perished tracks...

In response to my post about the 20 year old Matchbox Panzer III (next up here at the Hobbit bunker), DaveM brought up the issue of perished tracks in old kits. He says:

'Further to your comments about long term kit storage. I've never had too much trouble with really old decals. Sometimes a bit of yellowing but this can often be cured by a good dose of direct sunlight. But I would recommend storing them separately from the kit. And I would also advise storing vinyl and rubber tracks separately or at least isolating them (eg in polythene) from the rest of the kit. One theory is that some of those batches of Matchbox kits (eg M16) where the tracks disintegrated in the box was due to interaction between the tracks and residue from the mould ejector medium on the plastic parts of the kit.'
These interesting points brought to mind a 'First Principles' column written by Bruce Quarrie in Airfix Magazine in the early 1970s. I sorted through my small pile of those classic magazines, and found the article, which was, amazingly, on the same page as the Terence Wise article about Airfix engine shed conversations which I pictured just a few posts ago!  Anyway, what did Bruce Quarrie have to say 42 years ago:
'After two or three years a reaction frequently sets up between the plastic in which an Airfix tank kit is moulded and the flexible tracks. This reaction in due course actually "melts" the plastic from which the tank's wheels are moulded and, of course, ruins the model [...]'
Quarrie went on to recommend varnish before painting tracks and wheels, body etc. What is interesting here is that the problem seems to be manifest in disintegrating wheels, rather than tracks. Now, happily, I took Quarrie to heart all those years ago, and suitably sealed tracks and running gear, so none of my AFV survivors from the early 1970s shows any sign of decay. But did others experience melted running gear?

Tuesday 17 February 2015

The end...

...(of the Wellesley) is nigh!

I hope.

Some more work on the Valom Wellesley depicting a Long Range Development Unit aircraft from 1938 has brought the 'thing' to this stage:

The decal options enable representation of any one of the three aircraft that left Ismailia for Darwin, Australia, on 5th November. Two made it, and I chose Flt. Lt. A. N. Combe's aircraft, L2680, which arrived in Darwin on 7th November, after a flight of 7,157 miles. That record stood until 1946, and for a single engined type, it still stands (I think!).

All that means that it was quicker to undertake the record-breaking flight than to build this kit!  I'm still having odd difficulties with it. This evening, it was time for the decals. The whole thing had been given a nice shiny, decal-friendly finish using Johnson's Klear. I also used Micro Sol just to ensure that the decals conformed to the geodectic traced surface. But, for some unknown reason, there appears to have been some reaction between the Micro Sol and the Klear, leaving whitish marks around one roundel and the wing walk signage (funky 'footprints'). On reflection, it could also be the glue from the decals. Whatever it is, I've not experienced it before.

Still, as soon as it's all dry, I'll seal everything in, add pitot tube, lights, and aerial, and then I'll turn my attention to the Pz III. Surely nothing can go wrong there?

Thursday 12 February 2015


... in the sphere of toys...

It has been suggested that my recent battles with short-run plastic aircraft kits have led to some degree of emasculation on the kit-bashing front. God forbid that I should betray the men who have gone before me. So, as suggested by the kind correspondent, I peered into the depths of my stash, and withdrew a clanky, heavy metal type of thingy:

Ah, that maid of all work, the Pz III!  And in its Matchbox incarnation. Oh, what joy it was that day to be alive when Matchbox unleashed the Pz III on the wargame and model world back in the mid-1970s. This box from my stash isn't quite that old, but the faded price label (£2.99) tells me that I bought it about 20 years ago, from 'Wonderland' in Lothian Road, Edinburgh, to be precise. 

Having dug out the kit, I'm wondering about what finish I should opt for. The good thing is that one can go panzer grey or dunkelgelb. I fancy something a bit out of the usual, and not Western Desert (as per the box lid), as very few 'long 50mm' saw action there. Out with my favourite all in one place Eastern Front reference:

As older readers of the blog might remember, I have Romanian forces, but ... according to Zaloga and Grandsen, no Pz IIIs for Romania. Nor for the Bulgars, nor the Slovaks (well, Pz IIIN, but not L). It looks like Hungary, but overall dunkelgelb with no obvious markings. Neither do I have Hungarians in 20mm. Blast!

Last week I spent a few days in the glorious North Yorkshire market town of Thirsk, a noble, pleasing, English town, full of pubs (as befits a market town), fine buildings, and the best coaching inn - 'The Golden Fleece' - I know.  Thirsk is full of small wonders, including this mile 'stone':

London, far away, as it is from the lives of most of the English. And look at the happy farmer, in town for the market, with his mug of ale. Aaaaah! I drank 'Black Sheep' in the Golden Fleece, before a log fire. Happy man.

Thursday 5 February 2015

Whoever said...

... that you can't solve a problem by throwing money at it was WRONG!

Well, in the case of the idiot modeller's hash of the Wellesley Mk.II (see previous posts). Faced with what, in effect, was the Mk I from the Mk II boxing, it was clear that there was only one way to go. Buy another one! This time, a Mk I by intention, complete with the correct markings:

This version is the Wellesley with a more powerful engine that was used in the 1938 record long-distance flight from Egypt to Australia, which, I think, the Wellesley still holds for a single-engined aircraft.  So, you can see my thinking, use the markings from my new purchase for the currently under construction model, and use the fuselage from the Mk. II box, add to the wings etc from the Mk. I box, to create an East African air war aircraft. I trust that is clear...


... to catch on.

Funny how familiar things are taken for granted. Over the last Christmas holidays, I was down on my sadly neglected allotment plot, doing a bit of digging and tidying. Not as much as I should have, but, still, it was a start. Enjoying a well-earned coffee in my little hut, watching the pale winter sun setting pinkly over the railway embankment, it suddenly came to me that a familiar bit of wood and steel in the hut was, perhaps, more than it looks. The backstory is: 1) I inherited a few bits and pieces when I took the allotment plot over ten years ago. The usual stuff - rusty lawnmower, rusty saw, rusty hammer, rusty wire, and some rust. Among that small treasure trove was an odd sharp-ish thing that I have subsequently used to hold the hut door open. It is this:

About four feet in length, and, apparently home made, being a pick axe handle and a worn down blade:

which was made in the nearby city of Birmingham (famed, once, for its light engineering workshops). As far as I know, this thing has no horticultural or agricultural use, and as I sat there, in the cold, drinking coffee, the number 2) of this backstory came into play. The number 2 is that I have a long standing interest in the British Home Guard . Now, as you will know, it was all a bit sticky for Blighty and the free world back in the late Spring of 1940, and when the Local Defence Volunteers came into being (i.e., the immediate precursor to the Home Guard), keen chaps of all classes had to make do and mend when it came to weapons. So, my sudden revelation was that the pointy stick I use to hold my beloved allotment hut door open is, in fact, a relic of Britain's finest hour. I can't prove it, but I'm pretty sure. Oh, how I love the artefacts that surround us!

Stop Press!
Idle (uninformed) dream shattered!
In response to the above post, a reader (Tony) writes:
'Think it looks like a very old and worn 'hedging bill' , used to trim agricultural hedges before 'laying' them - but an effective weapon when sharp ! '
Now, that makes much more sense! Being an allotment plot holder I think in terms of digging, pruning, and hoeing, but not hedge-laying. I have also been known to think about the Home Guard. But, thanks, Tony, I'm rather pleased to have such a Gucci bit of agricultural history in m'hut; it goes rather nicely with the seemingly endless pieces of clay pipe I turn up on the plot.

Sunday 1 February 2015



How is it possible? How can one have been sticking bits of plastic together for nigh on five decades and yet still be making basic blunders? How ?! How?!!

A while ago, I began the Vickers Wellesley by Valom, and, despite the short-run issues associated with Valom's output, I was rather looking forward to this kit bash. Partly because the Wellesley was such an unusual aircraft, partly because Air Pictorial ran a very long series, 'East Africa Air War', by Christopher Shore and Corrado Ricci, in the mid-1980s. I had greatly enjoyed Shore and Ricci's articles, which were profusely illustrated with photos of British and Italian types - such as the Wellesley, Hawker Furies, CR-32s, Vickers Vincents, Ro.37s, Ca. 133s - that saw little, or no, service elsewhere in the war. So, in my kit-bashing mind's eye, I was happily making a Wellesley from one of the three RAF squadrons based in the Sudan in 1940. Of course bits of the kit were tricky, like the etched fragments for the engine:

That's a match head on the left, for scale, and the tiny bits of photo-etch were rather annoying to fit, but I gladly went along. And, in any case, with the wings and tail on:

it was beginning to look rather good.

tragedeeee! The two bits of plastic to the right are the correct parts for an East African war cowling. Fine. Only they don't fit the fuselage. Why? Because. I. Chose. The. Wrong. Bl**dy. Fuselage!!! How!? I was aware that Valom had already produced earlier Wellesley versions, and that two fuselages were in this boxing, but I still ended up with the wrong one! The only excuse I have, and it's a thin one, is that the parts are not numbered on the sprues, and there is a lack of clarity in the instruction drawings. But, at my age? How?!

Well, I'm off to eat a pie now, so I don't care!