Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Le vaisseau "Le St-Philbert"

Minor post/snippet... the following caught my eye when we visited the church opposite the Chateau de Noirmoutier...

I blame it on too much Aubrey in my life..  but the model was absolutely exquisite, and I couldn't figure out why it was in a church so I took some pictures and thought to find what I could about it next time iw as near the web..

According to the label:

She is "Le Saint-Philbert" - the 1802 refers to when the model was made rather than the ship, but I think this was made fairly close to when the ship was in use..

She was made for Auguste Jacobsen (the Jacobsen family were important in the development of Noirmoutier - three generations of them transformed the island building dikes, the harbour front, developing the salt business etc) by a local watch maker - I have no idea why it was made, other than that the ship is named after after the monk Saint Philibert, who in 674 who founded a monastery on what is now Noirmoutier town so their is a link..

She is a fairly typical third/fourth rate of the age, though small by Napoleonic standards - 40 to 50 guns with two complete gun decks, usually plus a few smaller carriage guns mounted on the gaillards); and the dimensions are in the label above but I have had no luck whatsoever in finding out any more about her... it may well be that the model is just representative??

Ex Voto refers to the fact that she is a votive offering to a saint or divinity as fulfiment of a vow, or in gratitude or devotion - so that may account for the name, it certainly accounts for why the model is in the church. I did find reference to an event in 1747 when a British ship of 50 guns (now is that significant), the Maidstone, hit a rock and sank while on blockade of the island, so may be that?

If anyone has any other information feel free to share..  ...  lovely model though

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Kindle bargains!

Amazon have a summer sale on...

Bolt Action WWII rules [clicky] - £1.89 (I bought this one purely to have a read and see what all the fuss is about)

Bolt Action: Armies of Germany [clicky]
£1.09 (got this too..!)

Bolt Action: Armies of the Soviet Union [clicky] £1.19


Max Hastings Armageddon the Battle for Germany 1944-5 [clicky] £1.09 (excellent - I have this in hardback)

If you're of that ilk - and I'm not - these are also about a pound each

In Her Majesty's Name: Steampunk Skirmish Wargaming Rules (Osprey Wargames 3)

Heroes, Villains and Fiends: A Companion for In Her Majesty's Name (Osprey Wargames)

Lots of other bargains here [clicky]... fill yer boots..

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book review/catch up..

The thing about holidays (for me at least ) is that I end up reading a quite astonishing number of books - far more than the little grommets to the left (the "currently reading"/"just read" boxes) can easily cope with... I'd be updating them daily... so in order to bring you up to speed the following have been finished since my last review ("Freedom Trap" by Desmond Bagley).....

First off the chocks was this one by Berwick Coates - now I've not read any of his books before but will happily read any more that he writes (there is one out set in the same period titled "The Last Viking" which I'm guessing is about Harold Hardrada and the Battle of Stamford Bridge). This one is set round the Battle of Hastings campaign..

The author writes grittily, not sparing the mud and the squalor that was an integral part of the age, his cast of characters is huge, but both Norman and Saxon, rich and poor. I guess that the central character is probably Gilbert, a novice scout in William the Conquerors army. We follow the campaign primarily through his story and how he interacts with other characters on both sides of the fight - the story culminates in the battle and I for one had no idea how close the battle actually was at the end, and what a gamble it was for William....  

I enjoyed this, and like the best military fiction I understood a little more about the subject at the end than I did at the beginning as the author includes some notes - 8/10

This holiday (I decided) was going to be a feast of 70's thrillers - so I'd downloaded some more Bagley but also this - which I last read years ago...

Wilbur Smith is a bit of an acquired taste as all the blokes in his books are usually a cross between St Francis, Adonis and Einstein, and his heroine's tend to be a cross between Mother Theresa, Sophie Marceau and Nigella Lawson - paragons of physical beauty and brains...  and completely unbelievable....   When he gets away from this formula though, he's very entertaining, and I think this, along with Eye of the Tiger [clicky] are two of his best..  the characters are well rounded and believable, the setting is superb, and the story is interesting...  for those who haven't read it, it is set in East Africa at the start of WWI, so we have Askaris, elephants, crocodiles, gun running, ivory poaching and the ensuing war between Germany and Portugal in East Africa... add in an early aircraft and the destruction of a German commerce raider, and there's more than enough grist here to start a wargame period! This one gets 9/10 (and if you haven't seen it I also wholeheartedly recommend the film which had Lee Marvin, Roger Moore  and the delectable Barbara Parkins!)

Continuing the 70's thriller theme we then had..

So who else but Alistair Maclean of course... I'd recently read Guns of Navarone, so this was my other "must read"..  the story of a raid on the Bavarian Headquarters of the Gestapo to rescue an American general carrying secret details of the proposed Normandy landings..

If anyone has seen the film, then the book is going to have no surprises, it reads like a script of the film - nothing in the book is not in the film and vice versa..   but if anything it just goes to show what a consummate actor Burton was as his character in the film is an absolute mirror of the character in the book...

For all that though I have to say that this one of those all too rare cases where the film pips the book, as I thought the book was a little...  flat...but that may well be because I've seen the film too many times! This one gets 7/10

Time for a step back into the 21st Century at this point I thought, and so next we had..

Not sure how well known this guy [clicky] will be to my usual reader, but I stumbled across him a few years ago when I read his first book "Driving over Lemons" which was the story of how he and his wife bought a run down farm on the wrong side of a river, high in the mountains of southern Spain...  since then he's also written "Parrot in a Pepper Tree", and this is the third in that series... his claim to fame (apart from the books) is that he was Genesis's first drummer for a short while..

What you get with his books is pure unadulterated (and very refreshing) whimsy..  he describes his life on the farm, the characters he meets and lives with, and what he gets up to (highlights in this book were cooking for TV chef Rick Stein, gorging on plate after plate of tuna for a food competition he was conned into judging, and going to see a barefoot healer about a very personal problem )

I love the books, and recommend them completely..  this one gets an 8 out of 10

Last of all in the catch up we have...

Which was recommended to me by my mate Rod the Mod on this years Jolly Boys Outing [clicky] and I confirm that it was a good call..

Like the Coates book this gave me a far better view of an episode of French history that up until then I had only vaguely been aware of. The book is basically a fictionalised diary of the actual French officer (Georges Picquart [clicky]) who lead the (re)investigation into the arrest of Dreyfus [clicky for Wiki article on the Dreyfus Affair], who was the French army artillery officer arrested on false claims of having been spying for Germany at the end of the 19th Century.

Robert Harris is a cracking writer who manages to describe what itr was like to live in turn of the 20th Century France beautifully...  Picquart is a likeable character, who decides that he cannot stand by in the face of new evidence that Dreyfuss is not guilty of spying, and in spite of warning from all his superiors he goes ahead and ends up being punished, imprisoned, and finally ejected from the army as a result of his push for the truth...  the French army (fresh from their punishment in the Franco Prussian War) is inward looking, secretive, and most of all looking for a quiet life - French society is divided between radical and Catholic/conservative, the political landscape is in upheaval (it reminded me of the books I read on 1940 in France - plus ca change as they say)..  anti--semitic feeling is high...  I didn't know that the French re-opened Devils Island just for Dreyfus - he was the only prisoner...  in the end of course Dreyfus is exonerated and allowed back in the army, as is Picquart...  but the path to that point is extremely rocky, and Harris has written a right page tuner..  very good...  8/10..

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Not dead..

...just resting...

Currently en vacance en Vendee - excellent time being had by all, but look for posts in the near future on my little (local) part of Hitler's Atlantic Wall (and a request for assistance in identification of same), book reviews, and a snippet on the Chateau de Noirmoutier (beautiful!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mystery D Day picture..

So here's an interesting picture....

I don't recognise the machine gun, and are they Free French? Picture was allegedly taken post D Day...