Friday, May 06, 2022

"Firing into the Brown" #16 - spares, freebies, books, and stuff..

"So Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them drill and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chiefs men rushes into a village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy".

Kipling "The Man Who Would Be King"

Time for another update..  and apologies, other priorities are seeing my schedule slip..   summer's here and the boat's in the water - focus has shifted.. πŸ˜€


Gettysburg refight - picture I took at Warfare in 2107 - glorious..

Books first - as they are a given..

Love these Bernie Gunther books - the way that the author manages to switch backwards and forwards in the life line of the protagonist, so in this one we move on from post-War Nazi refuge Argentina which Gunther has left in some haste, to pre-Castro Cuba where he has taken up residence, and is living quietly, that is until two significant people from his past turn up..  excellent. 

What I found most fascinating (and the flashbacks to a pre-WWII Berlin under increasing Nazi domination are brilliant in themselves) was the description of Cuba under Batista..  the increasing threat of the Castro lead revolutionaries, and the sheer amount of money and the associated corruption that flowed..  

Very good..  9/10 for me..


Bit of a change after the previous book, but it was a Kindle bargain that arrived at the right time! 

A long time ago this series of books by Arthur Ransome featuring the Swallows and the Amazons kick started a sailing hobby for me that has lasted the better part of 50 years  - I would say Ransome has been as influential on me as Featherstone! 

So in this, the fourth in the series we are introduced for the first time to Dick and Dorothea Callum who will provide an ongoing story line through the books. It is winter in the Lake District, snow and ice all over, the lake is freezing, and Dick and Dorothea have been sent to spend the holidays with their mothers old nurse. 

While there they make friends with the Walker's (the Swallows) and the Blackett's (the Amazons) and despite the lack of boats, embark on an "arctic" adventure featuring skates, sledges, storms, and feasts...  just brilliant..  straight 10/10..


The last post where I did an "unboxing" of the spares box seemed to chime with one of my reader (I'm absolutely delighted to say) and the Minifigs 25mm ACW stuff has now moved in it's entirety to Northern Ireland - stonking news - really pleased to say that the new owner is very much looking forward to getting them on the table, and on his blog..  I'll post here when that happens..


With thanks to contributor Jim Walkley, how about this for a walk down memory lane for the older amongst us?? 

..and from that page.. U-RV2 I do believe on my table.... that piece has traveled to Australia and back...

...and U-RV9..

...and look'ee there - a few pieces of U-WV1 or 2 - that brick wall set was the one we all wanted - being vacuum formed you could make yards and yards of wall simply by using it as a mould for plaster of paris.... 😁

You'd give your right arm for either that English Civil War star fort, or the Bunker Hill fortification...

Brilliant - cheers, Jim! 

 Laters, as the young people are want to say...

Friday, April 22, 2022

"Firing into the Brown" #15 - spares, freebies, books, and stuff..

"So Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them drill and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chiefs men rushes into a village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy".

Kipling "The Man Who Would Be King"

Time for another update..

Progress is almost complete in the loft on the gradual replacement of all the tatty, but well served, cardboard boxes I used to use for troop storage - at the time of writing only two box files remain, and replacements for those are on the way..  this weekend however I scored a cheap 'Really Useful' 9 litre box in Tesco (other supermarche's are available) and this time it was the turn of what I euphemistically call the "Spares Box"...

..the "Spares Box"

Seemed rude not to have a rootle through the contents, as the box weighs an absolute ton..

First off, assorted and partially painted Minifigs 25mm ..  look like Iron Brigade from the hats..  guessing these would have come from the collection/paintbrush of Lofty C ('Ave', John) via DG when I first contemplated the ACW project which eventually went the 20mm route..   I'll not be using them and I rather they were being used, if anyone reading wants them they are yours for the cost of postage and a donation of your choosing to any Ukraine support charity - let me know via the contact widget to the left..

..another sorted bundle with what looks like a solitary sharp shooter in the middle (Berdan's?) - same deal - if you want them contact me...

Lovely..  Minifigs Samurai archers from my old WRG army (6th Edition naturally)..these aren't going anywhere..  πŸ˜€

Ahh - the rest of the Sharpshooters - Minifigs 25mm - same deal - if you want them, ping me

I wonder where on earth I picked those up?! Same deal - if you want them, or can use them, ping me..

Assortment of 'artillerists' - Union and Confederate - almost certainly Minifigs 25mm - you know the score by now, if you want them then..

The first metal figures I ever bought..  only the riders...  in Nottingham I think on a visit to see my grandparents..  Hinchliffe? Years later I could finally afford horses, so they are mounted on the definitive Minfigs fat ar*ed horse.. πŸ˜€   These are not going anywhere...

A huge long time ago, DG and I played around with Spearhead in 1:300 scale and I think these are left overs from the project - guessing they are H&R.. Spitfires and Stuka's.. a strange mix... going to keep these as one day I might like to do some WW2 Air Wargaming..

Next - officers - ACW - 25mm - Minfigs - if you want them, you know the drill..

There is one horse in the pack that isn't Minifigs, going to guess Hinchliffe, but a comparison of ar*es is in order..  see what I mean about Minifigs horses? He answers to the name of Kardashian..  😁

Huge bag of ACW cavalry in kepi's - weighs most of a ton - if it's of any use to you, let me know..

Lord only knows how old these (next) are - but they date from the time when Minifigs sold their 15mm's in strips.. I'll be keeping these for nostalgia reasons..  sad I know..  😊

No idea what this was doing in the spares box, painted by me but far too nice to be in there so I have moved it to the AWI collection..

I have no idea what where or when these entered my hands..  not even sure what they are...  Asiatic perhaps Chinese??? Same deal - if they are any good to you, then contact me..

A small job lot of partially painted Samurai...  again I have no idea where these came from, or make..  the horses loo like grey hounds...  if you want them, you know the deal...

..and after all that - this was left..  😁A glorious mish mash of all sorts...


 Laters, as the young people are want to say...

Saturday, April 16, 2022

"Firing into the Brown" #14 - boats, books, and stuff..

"So Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them drill and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chiefs men rushes into a village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy".

Kipling "The Man Who Would Be King"

Time for another update...  and I appreciate this is a short one, and the first in a fortnight, but them's the breaks when you also have another hobby [clicky], and the focus of said hobby is about to launch (and at time of posting has launched).. 😁


Just finished this one, as I fancied a change of pace and setting after the Shute's..

I hadn't realised what a one man Mafia machine Puzo was - his output is huge, and they all seem to be either directly "Godfather" related, or prequels, or proquels (is that even a word?) and so it is with this one, as I also hadn't realised that "The Godfather" was actually the first book in a trilogy, this being the second..

For those of you who have seen the films or read the first book, the book covers the period at the end of Michael's enforced stay in hiding in Sicily after the killing of the corrupt policeman and his father's enemy in the restaurant in New York..

He is due to return home and his father gives him one last job to do which is to help an eminent Mafiosi escape from Sicily to America, to avoid almost certain death.

The book then is about the life of this Mafiosi, Salvatore Giuliano*, and why he needs to escape, how he became an outlaw, and his relationship to the people of Sicily and the other Sicilian Mafia families. Along the way we get a lot of description of what life in Sicily at the time (shortly after the war) was like, about the effects of the war under Mussolini (he came very close to driving the Mafia out due to his fairly casual observance of the rule of law!) and about the complicated rules of conduct, respect, and behaviour in being a member of the Mafia.

It was OK - I enjoyed it, but not as much as the "Godfather" - I may get to the third volume one day, but I'm in no rush..  7/10

*By the by, I found that the "hero" of the book, and indeed most of the book, is based on a real person - more on him here [clicky]


Something of a change of pace for this one, not a Mafiosi in site!

I'd spotted this on Amazon a few weeks ago, as it one of those "99p specials" at the time, and I thought I'd take a punt to see what it was like given that it is set in the English Civil War which is one of my main military history interests..

The book sits in the "fast and furious" camp of writing - the characters are depicted in a similar fashion to those in a Sharpe if you know what I mean; everyone makes their mind up instantly, are friends instantly, are enemies instantly, or are black or white in their political allegiances ..  no bad thing, but books are like beer, you need to make sure you start on the right beer before moving to the next beer, so that the next beer doesn't jar...  πŸ˜€

All of which is a cumbersome way of saying I didn't gel with the book quite as much as I expect I would have done if I hadn't come direct from a couple of pints of Shute and Mafiosi, hugely different pace and character depth..

Anyway, the hero Captain Maxwell Walker, is a Royalist serving in Langdale's Northern horse, the book opens at Naseby, and we learn only briefly that Maxwell is a widower before also discovering the cause of his widow hood, is serving opposite (and to take the Sharpe analogy a little further, this guy is a right Obadiah Hakeswill, whose character name funnily enough is Harper 😊) - cue special mission following the battle to recover the Kings confidential and very important possessions from the manor he had stayed at before the battle now in danger of falling into Parliamentary hands, capture, accusations of spying, mining at the siege of Hereford, before a triumphant return in time for the opening of the battle of Rowton Moor...

Now if I had any sense, I'd read the second one now...  worth reading..  8/10


Little project for the summer, the above shows part of the the post-Napoleonic era canal that they built through the middle of Portsmouth in order to be able to transport munitions and supplies inland and away from the depredations of any enemy ships that might be roaming the English Channel.. 

Putting it into the same context as that map of 'Operation Starfish', the right of the map above is the red circle following..

This canal ran from Arundel to Portsmouth, was completed, but was only in existence for a short time before being superseded by rail - bits and pieces of it still remain though, so by way of an occasional summer time cycle and ramble I thought I'd trace as much of the Portsmouth section of it as still exists or is visible..


 Laters, as the young people are want to say...

Friday, April 01, 2022

"Firing into the Brown" #13 - Genesis, books and stuff

"So Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them drill and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chiefs men rushes into a village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy".

Kipling "The Man Who Would Be King"


Time for another update...  another short one this week - simply too many things competing for my time lately, and that conjoining with a period of lovely warm sunny weather (now sadly gone) has seen significant activity elsewhere (⛵)...  


First off though, a live music event, furthermore a live music event that I've waited two years for.. yup, Genesis on their "Last Domino?" tour... 

Bought the tickets a couple of years ago when they were first announced..  then 'you know what' happened..  then we got new dates for last October..  a week before we were due to see them one of the band caught Covid and the dates were postponed 6 months (they had other dates around the world already scheduled so couldn't get in any sooner), then a week before the latest date, part of the roof of the O2 blew off, and at this point in time I was convinced that it just wasn't meant to be..  the upshot was however, that not only did the dates go ahead (the O2 was fixed in time) it also meant that the London dates then became the end of their extended tour, and quite possibly the last dates they would ever do..  ever..

I and the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer were seeing them on the first London date and to say we couldn't wait was a  bit of an under statement!😁

It was noticeable by then, that the tour name had swapped the "?" for a "!" so it was clear that were seeing the end of a quite astonishing musical run for a band that first formed in 1967, and it was also clear that the fans knew it - it was a very emotional night, every song cheered to the rafters, huge rounds of applause for the encore...  the guys are getting on a bit now, Phil has some serious health issues (he can't drum any more, or indeed stand for any period of time due to neck/skeletal surgery - his son Nick was doing the drumming duties) but they were quite simply magnificent. 

I have been a fan all my life, not known a band like them for writing and performing achingly beautiful songs with an edge... I've seen them three times (Knebworth in '92, Twickenham in '07, and this one) and I think they were easily as good on Thursday as they were on any of the previous occasions, they are a bunch of hugely and stupidly clever and proficient musicians...  I'll miss being able to see them live ever again, but the music will always be there..

So here you go - one of the fans video'd the entire show in decent video quality and good sound - watch it on your big TV and put the sound through a stereo or a sound bar, and enjoy almost 3 hours of sheer genius..


While not working on the boat I was able to get some reading done - and there's always reading to fall back on - I finished another Nevil Shute this week as I had gotten in to the groove after "Trustee from the Toolroom", and this time chose one I'd not read before called "Most Secret"..

Set during the early days of the last war, and in the west country (Devon/Cornwall) and on the opposite side of the Channel, Brittany (or Douarnenez to be precise) the book is about a French fishing boat re-purposed for offensive operations against the Germans.

The focus of the book though are the three men in charge of the boat, from very different backgrounds, and with very different experiences of the war to date - Shute is a master story teller, and I really enjoyed the sections where he gives the back stories of each of the men.

The ship is used as a propaganda vehicle to give the French moral and physical support - it is armed with a flamethrower (something that from my reading Shute would have had practical experience of during the war because of his research work for the MOD), and used against the German patrol boats that guarded the French fishing fleet when it was at sea, and also for delivering weapons and ammunition..  good..  not as good as "Trustee" but still well worth a read..  8/10..


I happened on this while browsing some other blogs, and just had to share it...

The figure is 1/6th scale (so slightly larger than my usual scale for this period!) and represents Tom Kitcher, who was a private in Meredith's Regiment (later the Hampshire regiment) during the Wars of the Spanish Succession. Now as it happens I did actually paint that regiment in January 2008 hence my interest.. πŸ˜€

For more pictures, the background to the figure, and why it was made click here [clicky]


Laters, as the young people are want to say..

Friday, March 25, 2022

"Firing into the Brown" #12 - Mulberry's, books and stuff..

"So Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them drill and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chiefs men rushes into a village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy".

Kipling "The Man Who Would Be King"

Time for another update...  bit of a quiet week this week due to other demands on time - sailing season approaching, and also Genesis at the O2 on Thursday which I am looking forward to immensely..


Couple of book reviews to start off

Dick/Felix Francis (father/son) are my guilty secret - for some reason I do like their stories which almost always feature horse racing in one form or another but usually with some other main focus to provide the counter point to the story..  so in the past his books have featured horse racing along with among other things architecture, jewels, stock broking, portrait painting,  and all sorts.. for this novel the hero of the story suffers from anxiety and mental issues - the story flips between past and present, and the (likeable) hero of the story eventually arrives at an understanding at his past, and why he has suffered the issues he has..  compassionate view of what it is like to suffer from an anxiety based mental issue, in a readable story, that also features the Cresta skeleton bob course..  brilliant..  8/10

First read this I don't know how long ago, forty plus for sure, but among a handful of authors I keep returning to, Nevil Shute* is 100% a story teller - not all authors are, or have the skill, but basically he tells tales that suck you in..  in this particular case a very ordinary man is given a task that takes him far outside of his normal sphere of life and experience..  he is a guy who writes for a model engineering magazine, and is particularly skilled as an engineer, but lives an ordinary life until his sister and her husband are killed in a shipwreck on the other side of the world, and then has to come up with a plan as to how he can afford to support their daughter..  how he does that is a superb and uplifting read.. super recommended .. 9/10

*he's also a bit of a local hero, as he lived and worked in Portsmouth for some time - in fact one of the roads I use to get to work (Norway Road) is named after him.. 


While doing the research on Operation "Starfish" in the last post, I also got distracted by the background to a huge concrete structure that has sat at the bottom of the (same) harbour for as long as I can thought I'd share..

Putting this in context of "Starfish" - looking north - Farlington Marshes is left in the distance - the white line is the dyke around it..  Fort Purbrook is up on top of the hill..

This structure was built sometime between 1943 and 1944, and was intended for use as part of the Mulberry Harbour off the Normandy beaches post D-Day. Most people are aware that Mulberry was the code name for the artificial harbours (there were two) intended to assist the allies with offloading supplies and reinforcements direct from the beaches, what is lightly less well known is that each stage/part of Mulberry was formed of multiple parts..  along with scuttled ships, these concrete caissons were intended to bolster, reinforce, and in some cases replace the ships as required and provide the outer breakwater..

The caissons were code named "Phoenix", the block ships were code named "Gooseberry", but there were also a number of other elements to the design (booms etc.) - the first reference link below is very good on the overall design.

My research would seem to indicate that the Phoenix in Langstone Harbour (I've put it's position - the circle - on the "Starfish" map just for context) is what would have been classed as a type C (the smallest)

There were four Phoenix type C's built on Haying, sometime between '43 and '44 as mentioned, and I originally suspected that they would have been built in that inlet just to the left of the "Holiday Village" label in the map, but the actual build location I've marked with a star - the tide flows fast through the harbour entrance, and the beach is quite steep but photographic evidence [clicky] would indicate this was the construction site location - it's handy for Sinah Common, which as we already know had an anti aircraft battery.. 

The following picture was taken at Stokes Bay, which is just along the coast, but gives an idea of what a Phoenix beach construction site must have looked like at the time, albeit they made the bigger one's, type B's, at this site..

Returning to the particular Phoenix that started off this whole (enjoyable) rabbit hole I dived down, well unfortunately it developed a fault after it was launched so was towed to it's current position and just left - over the years it has broken it's back in two places but gives a good view of the internal separation/walls.

Once the caissons were built the usual method of hiding them from enemy aircraft attention was to sink them until they were needed - the Hayling Phoenix's were sunk off Pagham until required (x marks the spot)..the caissons had a water inlet, centrally controlled, in the bottom of each segment - open them and they took about 20 or 30 minutes to sink..  to refloat them, close the inlet and then suck the water out with pumps..

Unfortunately, before the other three were used, another was found to be faulty so only two of the Hayling constructions were eventually towed to Normandy and used.

Local records show that some 500 workers to construct them were billeted at St Mary’s hospital (which, apropos of  absolutely nothing, was the hospital I was born in! 😁), which is interesting as St Mary's Hospital is on Portsea Island so that would imply some kind of ferry service to take them to and from their work - I wonder if it used the same route as the ferry that still operates to this day, or whether it stopped further over, in Milton, at the Portsmouth end so as to be handier for the hospital site (which in turn prompts another idea for a military local history link!)

Type B being towed across the Channel - sailors give an idea of the size - note the temporary anti aircraft protection on top

Further reading:


 Laters, as the young people are want to say...