Saturday, 24 September 2016

JJ's Dark Ages - Saxon Warband


It was on my little sojourn to France last month I put together the box of Gripping Beast (GB) Saxons that I bought in February and I received  a very nice birthday present from Tom of the GB King Penda and his champion.

The reason for embarking on a collection of Dark Ager warriors is two fold, firstly the Xmas game at the DWG in December where everyone in the club comes together to play in one big end of year extravaganza, and this year it happens to be Dux Brittaniarum and we all need to bring some figures.

Secondly I love this period, particularly the 8th century onwards with the Viking and later Norman raids and invasions.

So I thought I should get on and at least have my minimum of six warriors done in time for the game and then I can add to the collection as I go from then on. That idea saw me pick up two boxes of GB plastic Dark Age Warriors, a box of Viking Hirdsmen and assorted bases at Colours the other weekend.


So here we go with the Penda and champion figure that Tom got me together with some command and theign figures from the plastics.

I love the King Penda model with severed heads in hand astride another fallen foe, perhaps one of the five or so Saxon Kings he did in during his remarkable reign of Mercia.


I have continued the Warwickshire theme for my contributions to previous club games when I fielded the Earl of Warwick for our Wars of the Roses big game a few years ago and being a son of the heart of England and birthplace of the great Bard of Stratford it seemed fitting to have Penda at the head of my Saxons.

King Penda and his champion, mix well with the Gripping Beast plastic range
The banner was fun to do using one of the Little Big Men offerings that requires soaking the decal onto white paper and then cutting to shape and fixing on to the pole,

Like wise the shield decal for Penda's champion, the fierce looking fellow with spear nonchalantly carried over his shoulder (far right above), required a bit of cutting and painting to allow for the hand on the shield.



I was really pleased to see how well the plastics match in with the metals, with the latter very slightly larger but not really noticeably so, when in a group on the table as I hope my pictures illustrate.

King Penda was famously, the last pagan English King and stands here among his warriors sporting Christian crosses at their necks, which is not to much of a problem as the King was not known for forcing his religious beliefs on his fellow Mercians or the other Saxon Kingdoms he conquered, which probably explains the religion surviving and prospering after his demise.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penda_of_Mercia


Once the collection has grown I will put together a JJ's Dark Ages section on the blog where I can bring all this stuff together in one place. Still it's good to have things underway and to know from small acorns mighty oaks do grow.


It has been interesting times here at Chez JJ this week as the bare brick wall on the right in the picture below illustrates we have the builders in.

Carolyn has decided we need a new bathroom and a refit in the others and so a new door way was needed to gain access to our bedroom to allow for the addition. This entailed knocking holes in walls with the new door just visible in the picture.

As you can see my little painting desk is very close by and with the first bit of serious knocking the 1930's vintage plaster evaporated into a dusty air choking miasma that covered my desk in plaster remnants.


Once I had rescued important stuff off of it and chucked a dust sheet over the rest I had to temporarily relocate the painting table and was only able to tidy up and rearrange the desk later this week once the wall was finished with and now needs the attention of a plasterer.

Anyway things are sort of back to normal and the desk gets covered in the day just in case!

So it seems that every other wargame blog features the painting desk at some time, so here is my little altar to the God of Wargaming all tidied up with everything in its place and minus the plaster and brick debris.


So there we are and it will be back to the Spanish in the next post with the Alcantara Heavy Cavalry Regiment.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Convoy Peewit, Blitzkrieg from the Air and Sea 8th August 1940 - Andy Saunders


Convoy Westbound number 9 (CW9) codenamed Peewit set sail from Southend, a seaside resort town at the mouth of the River Thames, at 0700 on the 7th August 1940 with twenty four small coasters carrying principally coal from the north east, for industrial and domestic use in the southwest of England.

The Royal Navy provided an escort of two destroyers and ten smaller vessels together with detachments of men on board the merchantmen detailed to man the Lewis light machine-guns mounted as the main defence against air attack.

Over the previous month the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine had posed the first serious tests of Britain's air and sea defences with attacks principally aimed at channel traffic whilst the German High Command prepared its forces for an all out offensive designed to capture air superiority over the English Channel preparatory to the expected German invasion of the British Isles.

Andy Saunder's book is the first forensic study of this most significant battle which saw a marked increase in the ferocity of the air war that would become known later as the Battle of Britain and in this battle within a wider battle see both sides loose about twenty aircraft in a day and the sinking of six coasters and one Royal Navy escort.

The first attack on Convoy CW9 was at 02.00 on the 8th August 1940, not from the air but by four E-boats out of Cherbourg
I have always had an interest in air warfare and aircraft in general, cultivated with the release of the film Battle of Britain in 1970, my Mum's own wartime service as a WAAF plotter in WWII and then my own flying activities that lead to me doing my private pilots licence, flying out of the old Battle of Britain airfield here at Exeter and being instructed at the time by an RAF Spitfire pilot.

The Battle of Britain is a fascinating air campaign with epic 'David versus Goliath' undertones that often fails to appreciate the force multiplying effects of the first ground directed air defence system so carefully developed under the guiding hand of Sir Hugh (Stuffy) Dowding, arguably one of the most important military commanders in British history to rank alongside Marlborough Wellington and Nelson.

The major leap forward that Dowding's system enabled was the ability of the RAF to receive early warning of impending Luftwaffe attacks that enabled significant numbers of aircraft to be directed against them in a timely manner without the need for wasteful air patrols that fatigued aircrew and wasted fuel on pointless flights.

Channel convoy under air attack
However in early August 1940, the RAF was still near the bottom of the learning curve when it came to using its new system and the air fighting tactics to take advantage of it, and the air combat over and around Convoy Peewit falls very much into this period.

I have many books on the campaign as a whole, but this is the only one I have that looks at this early battle within the campaign in detail and documents the activities of the naval and air forces of both sides over the two days of Peewit's transit from Southend to Weymouth Bay with a thorough assessment and analysis of the forces involved, despite the fact that no 'Convoy Cruising Orders' listing the ships in Peewit exist in the Kew Records Office archives.

This lack of detail has been painstakingly overcome with a gathering of information identifying the vessels and their masters, embroidered throughout with documented testimony from the men involved in fighting the ships through. This together with a comprehensive coverage of the air fighting and units involved interlaced with the drama described by aircrew and witnesses on the ground and at sea.

SS Coquetdale one of the coasters sunk by Stukas at 09.00 on the 8th August 1940 with a cargo of coal
With a ringing endorsement from that great air historian Dr Alfred Price writing the forward to the book, Saunders sets the scene for his fourteen chapters with an introduction that discusses the difficulties of setting a date for the start of the Battle of Britain, now generally considered as the 10th of July.

However Dowding described in the Air Ministry Information Booklet published in 1941
"the first attack in force against laid objectives in this country" 
as being a good place to start, with his initial selection of the 8th of August and Convoy Peewit to the close on 31st October as his chosen dates for the battle as laid out. It was later in 1946 that he revised his start date to the 10th of July to include the period of increasing tempo in Luftwaffe attacks that characterised the fighting in July.

There is a short preamble in which Saunders describes his meeting with retired Royal Naval Officer, Arthur Hague RD in 1990 and his work with barrage balloon vessels in 1940, which provided information that became relevant in future TV productions for 'Timewatch' and a TV documentary 'Dig 1940' that the author was involved in that lead to the decision to research Peewit more thoroughly.

The Struggle Begins - Roy Grinnell,  Hurricanes from 32 Squadron (this aircraft was flown by FO Pete Brothers with 10 kills in the Battle of Britain) engage Stukas and their escorts over the Channel. The squadron patrolled over Peewit mid morning on the 7th August as it rounded North Foreland to enter the Dover Straits.
From these set up pages the book then follows a logical walk through of the events that sets the scene for this convoy setting out on its journey along the south coast and the combats it goes on to describe;

Chapter 1 - Opening Shots
Chapter 2  - A Disgraceful Episode
Chapter 3 - The Indestructible Highway
Chapter 4 - Attack of the E-Boats
Chapter 5 - Up Balloons....!
Chapter 6 - Unwitting Decoys
Chapter 7 - The Second Air Attack
Chapter 8 - Fighting the Stukas
Chapter 9 - Final Assault
Chapter 10 - Puma vs Peewit
Chapter 11 - Elsewhere that Day
Chapter 12 - Aftermath
Chapter 13 - 8 August 1940 in Retrospect
Chapter 14 - Seventy Years On
Appendices
A - The Merchant Vessels of Convoy CW9
B - Merchant Navy and Royal Navy Casualties associated with CW9 Peewit
C - Luftwaffe Losseson 8 August 1940 - Operations over Britain
D - RAF Losses on 8 August 1940
E - Luftwaffe Fighter Claims over England for 8 August 1940
F - RAF Fighter Claims over England for 8 August 1940
G - Convoy CW9 Peewit Timeline of Principal Events 7-8 August 1940
H - Secret Report on Convoy CW9
I - Secret Report Channel Mobile Balloon Barrage
J - List of Channel Convoys During 1940
K- The BBC Broadcasts a Live Luftwaffe Attack
Bibliography
Index

As you can see there is an all encompassing set of appendices and thirty six other books around the subject referenced in the bibliography section.

This book was my reading for my week away in France this summer and I have to say it was a very engrossing read which answered a question I had long thought about when considering these channel convoys namely why were they run in a seaway that was so easily intercepted by enemy air and sea forces? Was it a question of willful pride to persist in what seemed to be a deadly game of dare?

The accounts of the bravery of the men on the ships facing E-boat torpedo and gunnery attacks followed up by pinpoint dive bombing and strafing from the Stukas is a tribute to the Merchant and Royal Navy crews but I couldn't help thinking whether the cost in mens lives and ships lost was worth it.

The fact was that in a time when coal dominated in terms of fuel for pretty much everything and with railways already committed to moving as much war materials as they could, bulk transport needed to use ships and these small coasters just like the larger ocean going vessels needed to get to all parts of the UK to maintain the needs of home and industry.

The other interesting aspect of this detailed account of the fighting is the way the accounts of aircraft movements by the Luftwaffe tested the RAF controllers in their abilities to interpret what they were seeing on their plotting tables and how best to respond with the limited assets available.

It seems several German fighter sweeps were launched with the intention of drawing RAF fighters away from the Peewit battle, with RAF fighter crews commenting on German fighters retiring rapidly to the French coast on their appearance or engaging them in combat when fuel levels permitted.

As well as the RAF controllers having to learn and improve the skills and abilities to read the battle and get the squadrons where they were needed, the RAF fighter pilots were also learning the hard way the lessons of air combat.

One account of many in the book illustrated this problem for the RAF that covered a three aircraft patrol of Spitfires from 152 Squadron returning from action over Weymouth Bay flying in the "vic"formation used by the RAF particularly in this early stage of the battle "until we learnt better later" to quote the account from one of the Spitfire pilots, Sergeant Denis Robinson.

With his eyes fixed firmly on his leader's aircraft with, as he described, a foot between wing tips, none of the three spotted the group of Me 109s coming up behind and they casually flew on in a lulled false sense of security returning from the fight with no ammunition left in their guns.

Sergeant Denis Robinson - 152 Squadron
Sergeant Robinson continued;
"The first thing I felt was the thud of bullets hitting my aircraft and a long line of tracer bullets streaming out ahead of my Spitfire. In a reflex action I slammed  the stick forward as far as it would go. For a brief second my Spitfire stood on its nose and I was looking straight down at Mother Earth, thousands of feet below. Thank God my Sutton harness was good and tight. I could feel the straps biting into my flesh as I entered the vertical  with airspeed building up alarmingly. I felt fear mounting . Sweating, dry mouth and near panic. No ammo and an attacker right on my tail."

As I read this account I cast my mind back to doing aerobatics during my flying training over the Exe estuary and remembering doing stall spins at about 5,000 feet with the nose pointing straight down at the river below and the tightness of the seat harness holding me in during the rapid descent. Of course I only had to concentrate on the recovery technique and enjoy the thrill without the concern of an Me 109 pilot behind looking to fill the cockpit with 20mm cannon shells!

Fortunately the reaction evasion had shaken off his pursuer or perhaps fuel limits had caused the Me 109 pilot to break off, either way the problem of a pierced glycol tank now caused the Spitfire's engine to seize and rather than risk leaving his plane to crash onto civilians below, he decided to crash land the aircraft.

With a dead-stick, wheels up, full flap approach to the best field available, Robinson flared up and brought the plane in sliding along its belly until encountering an unspotted ditch with the results pictured below.

As my instructor used to say, any landing that you walk away from is a good one, and despite a slight bullet graze to the leg, Sergeant Robinson was lead away to the local pub in Wareham to be suitably revived with several drams and was back on ops the next day and able to reflect on the inadvisability of flying straight and level in the combat zone.

Sgt Robinson's Spitfire after he managed to make a wheels up landing in a field near
Wareham, before sliding into an unseen ditch and going nose down, this after being shot up
by Me109's over Weymouth Bay. The bullet holes are visible on the right wing root.

After the fighting was over and the day drew to a close then both sides looked to the rescue of those men desperately trying to survive the sea.

From my general knowledge and reading of the Battle of Britain it is a well established fact that British air-sea rescue assets were considered poor at this time especially against those of the Germans and that Dowding was keen to avoid battle over the Channel due to the losses in aircrew at sea that were caused that didn't apply to battle over land whereas the Luftwaffe loss rate rose due to capture the further inland they went.

This book takes a detailed look at this aspect of the battle and the differences between the two sides in its management, with comparisons of the basic survival kit such as life jackets and bright dyes designed to be released into the sea to draw attention to a downed pilot.

The effects of the poorly integrated air sea rescue service is borne out by the losses suffered in RAF aircrew during the Battle of Britain which saw 179 aircrew posted as missing and no trace of them found, totalling one third of all losses suffered and with the overwhelming majority lost over the sea.

The final chapter that concludes this book takes a look at the archeology, much of it under the sea, that remains to remind us of the battle fought in the channel in that summer of 1940 and the few items recovered that bring the past back to life.

I thoroughly enjoyed Convoy Peewit and the book had me imagining a mini campaign in its own right of RAF controllers trying to manage their fighter assets covering the passage of one of these convoys with the air and sea scenarios it would create for the table.

I picked up my paperback copy via the Naval and Military Press where at the time of writing they have the book on offer for £3.99 which is a bargain for such an interesting read.

 Naval & Military Press - Convoy Peewit

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanalkampf

Friday, 16 September 2016

Spanish 2nd Cavalry Division at Talavera - Infante Cavalry Regiment


The second unit completed in General Albuquerque's cavalry division is the first of the four heavy cavalry regiments, the Infante (Prince's) Regiment.
Spanish 2nd Cavalry Division- Army of Estremadura
Hussars of Estremadura


Spanish heavy cavalry was composed of regiments of heavy cavalry and dragoons and in 1805 consisted of twelve regiments of heavy cavalry and eight regiments of dragoons principally distinguished by the former being dressed in blue coats and the latter yellow.


The Infante Regiment could possibly be considered one of the best of the heavy regiments having been selected in 1807 to form part of General La Romana's 15,000 strong Spanish Army of the North that was composed of the best units in the Spanish army to join Napoleon's Grande Armee, being sent to Hamburg in March of that year.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evacuation_of_the_La_Romana_Division


The regiment was pictured in the uniform plates of Spanish forces in Hamburg and produced by the Suhr Brothers. The pictures are presented at the link below to the Napoleon Series and are interesting in that they appear to show the regiment wearing the 1803 uniform common to all the regiments with the white lapels and crimson red collar cuffs and turn-backs. This uniform was not that popular in some quarters having dispensed with the distinguishing regimental facing colours.


http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/organization/Spain/c_Suhrspanish.html

The Infante were repatriated to Spain by the British Royal Navy in 1808 following the Dos de Mayo rising and the commencement of the Peninsular War. The cavalry regiments of La Romana's force were sent south after landing at Santander to Estremadura to gather remounts and rebuild their strength before becoming part of the forming Army of Estremadura.


I have made the assumption with my unit that they have been re-equipped with the 1805 uniform that saw a return to the regimental facings of white cuffs, lapels and collar as pictured in the illustrations. I have however gone for the brown leather and wood sword scabbards as depicted by the Suhr Brothers in Hamburg.

As with most thoughts on the look of Spanish units, this can be speculative, educated guess work, but at least shows you my thinking as to why I have this regiment looking this way for Talavera.


On the 30th January 1803 all cavalry regiments, light and heavy, were directed to have the same organisation and establishment with each regiment having five squadrons of two companies each company numbering 71 troopers and 54 horses. This gave a theoretical total of 670 men per regiment with 540 mounts when the regimental staff were added in.


On the 1st October 1808 all regiments reorganised to four squadrons each of three companies which saw the regimental strength rise in theory to 869 men with 648 mounts, however as mentioned in the post looking at the Estremaduran Hussars losses in 1809 reduced many regiments to at most three squadrons as they struggled to maintain squadron strengths.


Thus in theory with a full strength squadron of 195 mounted troops and a regimental staff numbering 16 men, a regiment could have 601 men, but as can be seen from the total number of 2,500 men in the 2nd Cavalry Division with about twenty squadrons in total, the average squadron would have had nearer 125 men.


My Infante Regiment is composed of figures from AB and is depicted as a four squadron unit numbering about 500 men commanded by Colonel Ribera.

References consulted:
Napoleonic Armies - Ray Johnson
The Armies of Spain and Portugal - Nafziger
History of the Peninsular War - Sir Charles Oman
The Spanish Army of the Napoleonic Wars(2) Chartand & Younghusband (Osprey Men at Arms)
http://www.eborense.es/batalla_talavera1809_indice.html

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

France 2016 - General Francois Fournier-Sarloveze (El Demonio)

The picture of General Fournier-Sarloveze that I took in the Louvre that sparked my curiosity
This year's short holiday to France was designed as a little break before the run in to autumn and Xmas and to celebrate a little family joke that comes from a saying of my Mum that my birthday marks the end of summer.

Given that we only had a week to enjoy the delights of Belle France we planned in some very specific places to go during our stay, one being our favourite French restaurant in Paris, Le Bon Bock which I enjoyed a fantastic dinner on the Wednesday night to celebrate another fun packed year.


One other venue we were keen to include was the Louvre, a place Carolyn and I had not been back to in twenty four years and I particularly wanted to check out the Greco-Roman-Estruscan collection together with the paintings from the Revolutionary-Napoleonic era.

Even though this trip had plenty of pre-planning there always has to be room for a bit of serendipity and the discovery of the painting of General Francois Fournier-Sarloveze by Antoine-Jean Gross in 1812 was one such moment that sparked my curiosity as I was not familiar with the exploits of General Fournier-Sarloveze.

At Fuentes de Onoro, May 5th 1811, Fournier-Sarloveze led his brigade, also known as the 2nd Provisional Light Cavalry Regiment, of  two squadrons of the Seventh, Thirteenth and Twentieth Chasseurs a Cheval.
General Fournier-Sarloveze was quite obviously a talented cavalry commander if a some what insubordinate one, which would see his career progress rapidly from 1791 as a young lieutenant posted to the Ninth Dragoons as part of the Army of the Alps to General de Brigade by 1807 and General de Division in 1812.

He was a superb leader of light cavalry whose bravery and exploits on the battle field were only out-shone by his reputation as a duellist and one who used his position for bettering his personal finances.

His ongoing feud with a fellow officer led to a series of thirty duels over a nineteen year period and inspired the novel 'The Duel' by Joseph Conrad in 1908 that in turn inspired the film, 'The Duellists' directed by Ridley Scott in 1977.

Indeed his propensity for duelling may well have caused the dislike of him by Marshal Ney who regarded him as a bully, probably for his provoking duels he knew he could not lose. On the other hand he was a great friend of General Lasalle getting into many scrapes together in pursuit of women and drinking exploits.

The Duellists from 1977 with Harvey Keitel as Gabriel Feraud (the Fournier-Sarloveze character) left and Keith Carradine as Armand d'Hubert
(the Dupont character) right.
There are several links below giving more information about this fascinating officer and you can see episodes of behaviour that saw him deprived of his rank for incidents of financial dishonesty and illegal absences, together  with imprisonment for involvement in a conspiracy against the First Consul in 1802. In 1809 during his first period of service in Spain he was placed on leave without pay for administering sabre slashes to an ADC under his command.

This bizarre behaviour reached its zenith when following the Battle of Leipzig where he led the 6th Light Cavalry Division in III Cavalry Corps he was appointed Count of the Empire only to have the rank deprived after a verbal dispute with Napoleon that saw him placed under arrest and sent off to Mayence prison for displaying a defeatist attitude, which during the journey to said prison saw him lead a counterattack against cossacks who attacked his prisoner escort, before surrendering himself back to his escort.

During the Russian Campaign General Sarloveze (centre on the white horse) commanded the
31st Light Cavalry Brigade which included the Baden Hussars and the Hessian and Westphalian Cheveau Legers
As well as being the inspiration for one of my favourite films, I was particularly interested in his military career in Spain where he was first sent in the Autumn of 1808 following his inspired performances at the Battles of Eylau and Friedland where he led several key charges.

In 1808/09 he was part of the force in pursuit of General Moore's army to Corunna leading his brigade, the 15th and 25th Dragoons. In May 1809 he occupied and held the town of Lugo with three battalions of infantry, the 15th Dragoons two squadrons of hussars and four artillery pieces against 15,000 Spanish troops under General Mahy. Outnumbered ten to one he managed to hold out for five days until relieved by the arrival of Marshal Soult and his II Corps d'Armee.

Following his period of forced leave in France in December 1809, following the slashed ADC incident, he once again joined the forces in Spain in November 1810, leading the 2nd Provisional Light Cavalry Regiment of six squadrons of Chasseurs a Cheval, joining the Army of Portugal under Marshal Massena.

He led his light cavalry at the Battle of Fuentes de Onoro, 3rd-5th May 1811 and was involved in the running battle with the Light Division on the right of the Anglo-Portuguese line and the cutting down of the British Guards skirmishing light battalion.

Map - BritishBattles.Com shows the attack on the Anglo-Portuguese right flank on the 5th May 1811

Having a horse shot from under him he claimed in his dispatch that his brigade broke two squares of the Light Division and captured their commander General Robert Craufurd together with 1,500 of his men. If this claim happened, then the British casualty reports do not substantiate the loss, and perhaps Craufurd and his men were taken temporarily but escaped back to British lines during the chaos of one of the British cavalry counter-attacks.

General Fournier-Sarloveze would continue to command his brigade until November, but was not given a command under Marshal Marmont who replaced Massena in command of the Army of Portugal and was ordered to join the Army of Aragon, but returned to France instead in the December to take convalescent leave, before his summons to join the Grande Armee for the 1812 campaign in Russia. 

This controversial French cavalry general would earn the titles of 'El Demonio', The Demon from the Spanish and 'The Worst Subject of France' from his compatriots, dying in 1827 at the age of 53.

Sources used in this post:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/François_Fournier-Sarlovèze
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Dupont_de_l%27Étang
http://www.napoleon-series.org/research/commanders/c_fournier.html
An Account of the Duel
Charging against Wellington - The French Cavalry in the Peninsular War, Robert Burnham

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Colours 2016 - Newbury & Reading Wargames Society

An Airaco DH2 Scout takes a pass over British forces in Iraq - 'Caught at Kut ' display game
My usual routine on the second Saturday of the month would be to be spending time at the Devon Wargames Group, but the club decided to change that timetable for this month only because the day clashed with the holding of the annual show at Colours at Newbury Race Course organised by the Newbury and Reading Wargames Society.

http://www.nrwc.org.uk/colours-2016

Many of the club members like to attend this show so our club meeting changed to last Saturday, whilst I was travelling back from France, and I, in the company of Vince, met up with Mr Steve and Steve H at the show.

Most of us including myself have been going to Colours for many years now, going back to the good old days in the 80's when it was called Armageddon and held at the Hexagon in Reading and we had to pass through a skirmish screen of peace campaigners and nuclear disarmament supporters who seemed to think that wargaming and warmonger went along hand in hand, ah how we laughed!! We were all disappointed when the organisers called the show off a couple of years ago, and like many, welcomed the resurrection last year.

The show has now found a great home at Newbury Race Course which, unlike some of the larger shows in the south of England, is a delight to travel to, conveniently found just of the M4 motorway with bag-loads of free parking and airy well lit public areas in the main grandstand where the show is held.

We left Exeter at 08.30 and got to the show for 11.15 and would have been their earlier had it not been for the fact that recent developments at the Race Course has led to different entrances being signed up in Newbury town centre which caused us to approach the wrong entrance at the otherside of the course.

The picture below gives an idea of the scene of happy wargamers chatting and mingling among the trade stands when we got there mid morning.


The weather for the day was perfect for wargaming, namely wet drizzle that kept the punters well under the Grand Stand roof whilst stepping outside for a coffee and some brunch.


I spent the morning wondering around the trade stands trying to convince myself that I didn't need anything and thinking about paying for the new fitted bathroom Carolyn has initiated for this autumn and my efforts at self control are on display at the conclusion of this post.

Needless to say followers of JJ's Wargames expect these posts to look at the wargames and so not to disappoint I had the camera in hand in the afternoon following a post lunch drink at the pub to capture what I thought were some of the best of show games and displays.

When I started to put this post together I realised that the majority of games I had been drawn to were in periods I very rarely game or take an interest in so it just goes to show great looking well presented games attract all of us despite our latent interests.

So first up was this very nice display game showing off the rule set 'Crush the Kaiser', in this case illustrating their set for playing the Mexican Revolution 1910-20 and those 'what if' games based on US reaction to the British leaked "Zimmerman Telegram"

The rules are loosely based on the Rapid Fire scale of games that inspired them but are quite distinctive in their WWI modelling and period feel.

http://earlywarminiatures.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=366_367

US-Mexican action in this 'Crush the Kaiser' display game



The great thing about seeing rule set display games is you get to feel the design intentions in the rules by the look of the games they create and I really liked this set and would be interested in playing them despite as I say not being an aficionado of the period.

The WWI theme continued with the lovely Wings of War display by the chaps from the Wings of Glory Aerodrome who I have featured before on my trips up to Attack at Devizes.


These chaps do this period and game a great advert by showing off the models they create to capture the look of the various Jastas and Squadrons that fought on the Western Front, set against lovely displays games with models and markers that really set off the basic game that any body can pick up from a wargames retailer.

The display of game items shows how easy it is for new players to get into this period in the hobby
The Aerodrome chaps take much time in getting the detail of the markings of the various squadrons just right - love it!
You can almost hear the buzzing of engines and tap tap tap of aerial machine-gun fire against the sound of distant artillery

I really like the way the cloud cover and crashed machines are represented over these beautiful gaming mats, simple but very effective.


The last but by no means least of the WWI themed games was this fantastic looking game entitled "Caught at Kut"by Adrian Shepherd and Friends that provided the header to this post.

I love games that show a passion for the period they represent by great modelling and attention to detail and the British campaign in Iraq in WWI is little represented so this was a particularly attractive change to what you normally see at shows.

How about that for a great looking table - well done chaps
Camel troops held in reserve against headlines from the period
Logistics and supplies were key in this campaign, beautifully captured in this behind the lines scene
The RAF had company during this battle
These rear area models really add the finishing touch to this size of game and reminds me of a few models I need to create for our Talavera extravaganza.
Waves of infantry WWI style
Next up and a move on from WWI to the prelude to WWII namely this lovely Russo-Finnish Winter-War game presented by Martin Stadbridge and his pals at the Loughton Strike Force club.

Winter games are eye-catching and the attention to detail with this one only added to the eye-candy. I was sorry I didn't have my tripod as the cameos available to the camera were many and varied and I know my hand held shots barely do the table justice.

The view down hill from the Finnish trenches as the Russians attempt to battle them and the environment


The game was using a purpose built home made set of rules that used cards to generate unforeseen cock ups brought on by the weather and unforgiving temperatures with a cute temperature gauge marker used as a 'game end' control with a final drop to its lowest score indicating when the game had ended and the time to make an assessment of the objectives achieved.



A stunning presentation and I am glad I was not deciding best game at show because it would have been a hard call between this one and the Kut game with both being excellent adverts for our hobby to the uninitiated.


And finally, I had picked up from the General de Brigade site that Dave Brown was working on a new set of ACW rules and then I saw on TMP lat night that there was a tie up in production with The Too Fat Lardies and Reisswitz Press.

More than that I do not know, but I pictured the demo game yesterday held at Colours purely for its look.

The American Civil War has never really 'floated my boat' but it does for many and I am sure this rule set will do well  among the followers of the period so if you are reading this you can say you saw it first on JJ's Wargames.


That said I like looking at lovely games and this one had me circling the table devouring the look and the modelling.




Great stuff, but as we Napoleonic fans would say, "where's the cavalry", to which the reply comes "over there skulking in the trees with their carbines keeping their heads down". Give me Spanish Hussars any day.


So by 15.00 we were ready to call it a day and, by the look of the main traders hall below, did many of the other punters who attended, which you can compare and contrast the crowd in the picture taken in the morning.

After the show we chatted about what we thought of it and comments we would make and I would preface what I am about to write as these are the thoughts of three seasoned wargame show attenders who have also set up and run several shows of our own and that we are also fans and supporters of Colours going forward.

So first up we all enjoyed the visit with plus points mentioned being the venue and its situation, the goodly number of traders in attendance and friendly welcoming show.

That said we felt that there is a noticeable difference in the organising of Colours post and pre the year it wasn't held and that possibly there is an element of learning going on in the setting up and managing of a show like this; and as one who has done that it the past I congratulate the organisers for yesterday and know what a hard job it is bringing a show like this off.


Some constructive comments we would offer would be some simple ideas to improve on what has been achieved;

  • The list of traders carried on the web page for the show would be greatly enhanced and made more useful if they linked through to the traders site, thus making it easier to see what that trader offers and putting through pre-show orders.
  • The parking directions were clear, with it pointed out not to use the Hambridge Lane bridge to gain access to the course. The only problem was that Newbury town council have changed the road signs to the course to that route which confused those of us used to following them to get to the main entrance but ending up at Hambridge Lane and having to find our way back.
  • One final point is based on our visit to the Penarth show earlier in the year where we were treated to presentations by well known historical authors, namely Adrian Goldsworthy and Gareth Glover. I think to avoid the "3pm push off home" period that leaves traders staring at each other, more shows and especially the large ones should look to invite distinguished authors to talk and present more at our hobby gatherings. It enables them to promote their wares to a large part of their readership and adds value to the show with an historical education that underpins much of our hobby. Not only that but we all get to sit down for a while and enjoy some great content, to then be able to return to the trade hall at a later time to pick up those final pre-orders that need collecting together with those weak willed impulse purchases that keep our hobby traders in business.
Thank you to the NRWS for keeping Colours in the calendar and to all those who took part in yesterday's show, we all enjoyed the day.

So what about my lack of self control I metaphorically hear you say. How are you going to explain yourself to the boss?

Well I did decide to make, as the politicians would say when they are about to spend a lot of money, usually someone else's in their case, an investment. 

First up is a purchase that I made on Friday by ordering up from Caliver Books the new set of Napoleonic Rules 'Over the Hills' which has been getting a lot of discussion on various forums. You can guess my surprise and pleasure on finding my new rules waiting for me on my return from Newbury yesterday. Well done Caliver Books for an excellent turn round and service.




I can already hear those metaphorical questions again, 'but JJ I thought you were a confirmed player of Carnage and Glory II', to which the answer is yes I am, they are my turn to set of horse and musket rules and I have no hesitation in recommending them when ever I am asked. That said I have friends who prefer to 'roll dem bones' and I like to play my Napoleonics with them as well and have been looking for a set of rules that captures the essence of C&G with dice and I think these might tick that box based on the comments I have read and my first read through of them last night.

If, as I think, they tick the box, I will share my thoughts in a proper review, post playing a few games, but I can say these look very very good and I am eager to try them out with my collection.

Following my hobby pre-read of Dux Britanniarum I picked up a copy of the rules and card deck at the show in time for the Club Xmas Game.


In addition to the rules I got some basing materials from Warbases and Magnetic Displays (see the links column on the right for these suppliers), with a group of my Saxon warriors already primed on the painting sticks to be completed in among the Spanish cavalry project that is ongoing.


And finally my France planning included getting assorted warriors and Vikings and I failed to resist the deal on offer for the three boxes planned and made my investment earlier than expected at the show yesterday. The Dark Ages collection is well and truly started!


A great day then with much fun and banter with friends. Thanks to Vince, Mr Steve and Steve H for their company and here's looking forward to Colours 2017.