Sunday, February 16, 2020

"Down and Out on Paris and London".. a review..

... I was very much looking forward to re-reading this but in the end found it to be a very sobering experience..

The premise is simple, at roughly the end of the twenties stroke early thirties, Orwell had two periods of living hand to mouth, one period in Paris, and one period in London (and suburbs) and the idea was that he would document the experience in detail and given his readers and idea of what it was like to live literally on the bread line..

It's an Ivan Denisovich type of book..  so completely alien to most of its readers that it must (at the time) have been compulsive reading for those with an interest, giving in detail the daily issues with living one franc or half a shilling a day..  the constant search for work, begging, scrounging, work houses and doss houses, lack of sleep, an appalling diet, and the sheer dirt and grime of life in the very lowest levels of society at the time...

Interspersed through all of it are the characters Orwell meets, befriends, and sometimes works with, the stories he hears from either them, or in the bars, rooming houses, boarding houses and doss houses.. every now and again he breaks for a chapter to discourse on what he see's as the fundamental issues with certain facets of the life that he has an issue with - so we get a fair few snippets on why tramps exist, how to improve the doss houses, the differences in vagrancy laws in France and England, all fascinating stuff and quite readable...

Orwell is not backwards in advertising his socialist leanings, this book, Road to Wigan Pier,  and Homage to Catalonia are clear enough, but what surprised (and I have to say shocked) me, was that despite those socialist leanings, there is more than one anti-semitic comment...  I guess I'm more of a snow flake than I was when I first read the book, but I found the passages quite upsetting...   yeah, yeah, I know, "it is of it's time" and "don't judge the past by the mores/standards of today" etc etc but what shocked most is that the people concerned were doing no worse or better than anyone else, and that the epithet "Jew" was unnecessary...   makes you wonder given the current issues in the Labour Party whether there is something more fundamentally wrong, especially as Orwell wouldn't have had Zionism as a counter argument..

Recommend the book, be prepared to be shocked..  7/10

Saturday, February 08, 2020

George III's Military Map Collection... Edgehill

Royalist dispositions at Edgehill - attributed to BERNARD DE GOMME (1630-85) Picture courtesy Royal Collection Trust
Spotted this reference/link on the excellent Murdock's [clicky] blog the other day ... click to embigen 

George III had a huge collection of  military maps featuring battles and campaigns between 1532 and Waterloo (5 years before his death)

It's been digitised by the Royal Collection Trust, and is visible here [clicky]..   very much recommended, and thanks for highlighting it Murdock!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Lord Grandison’s Regiment of Horse

The Lydiard portrait of Grandison,
school of Anthony van Dyck, c. 1640
The sixth regiment of horse to join the project as a whole, the third for the Royalists, and these guys will bring parity back between the two sides...  welcome return to the glorious Peter Pig figures for this unit, who represent Lord Grandison's Regiment of Horse at Edgehill..

Both Young ("Edgehill"), and Scott, Turton and Gruber ("Edgehill: The Battle Reinterpreted") say the regiment was about 200 men strong in 4 troops at the battle, the ECW Wiki site [clicky] agrees with them all - but I suspect they are all going with Young..

The Colonel of the regiment was William Villiers, Second Viscount Grandison; by all accounts something of a veteran having already led a troop of horse in the First and Second Bishops' War.

He raised this regiment for the King in August 1642, and it had already seen action at Nantwich [clicky] where, with an additional regiment of Dragoons, Grandison had managed to capture the town from the Parliamentary garrison. He abandoned the town in order to join the King at Edgehill.

The Regiment was in the front line of the Royalist left wing at the battle, under the overall command of Wilmot. That wing of cavalry had charged at the same time as Rupert on the other wing and with the same results..  the Parliamentary troops were outnumbered and quickly gave way. Wilmot's cavalry then proceeded to chase them all the way to Kineton, where they then started looting the Parliamentarian baggage. In their favour Grandison and Lucas rallied about 200 men, but when they tried to charge the Parliamentarian rear, they were distracted by fugitives from Charles Essex's routed brigade (which we've heard of already).

One other story of note - during the battle the Kings standard bearer Sir Edward Verney was killed and the Royal standard captured - a Captain John Smith along with two others (Welch was one, don't know the other) managed to recapture it and for that service he was knighted on the field. Smith served in Grandison's, and following the battle Grandison gave him his own troop, and promoted him major.

After Edgehill, the regiment was sent as part of the garrison of Winchester, but in December 1643 Sir William Waller surprised Lord Grandison’s regiment in Winchester (on his advance to Chichester), and captured most of its men, Grandison and a few of his officers managing to escape.  

"....Lord Grandison by the miscarriage of orders was exposed at too great a distance from the army with his single regiment of horse consisting of three hundred and a regiment of two hundred dragoons to the unequal encounter of a party of the enemy of five thousand horse and dragoons and so was himself after a retreat made to Winchester there taken with all his party which was the first loss of that kind the King sustained but without the smallest fault of the commander and the misfortune was much lessened by his making an escape himself with two or three of his principal officers who were very welcome to Oxford ..." from 'Portraits of Illustrious Personages of Great Britain Volume 6'
By Edmund Lodge (published 1835)

After his escape he was made Colonel General of Foot in the Oxford Army under Lord Forth, but was mortally wounded leading an infantry brigade at the storm of Bristol - he died a couple of months later from a fever related to the injury.

Clearly a brave and dedicated man to the cause of the King, but as Bonaparte was to say "was he lucky"?

One last interesting story - his daughter, Barbara (Villiers), was to become mistress to Chales II...

Eight Peter Pig cavalry - 15mm - painted January 2020

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The French Army of the Orient 1798-1801 "Napoleon's Beloved Egyptians" - a review..

Bought this at Warfare as I have had a prolonged fascination with this theatre of the Napoleonic wars for years, but have never really delved into the history.

A superb book, so good in fact that I thought it deserved a full review rather than just losing it among the book reviews over there to the left..

Yves Martin is not a professional historian or author (in fact it sounds like in his real work he's in the same line of business as I am), but nonetheless this is absolutely stunning..  the level of detail and research is second to none..

The subject of the book is the French army that Napoleon took to Egypt, and which was subsequently stranded there by the Royal Navy's victory at the Nile under Nelson.

He describes the make up of the army through the 3 main periods of the occupation, the Bonaparte period, the Kleber period (after Bonaparte abandoned them to return to Europe to pursue political goals on the main stage), and the post Kleber period under (who seems to me to be) the largely inept Menou before the army was repatriated to Europe by of all organisations, the Royal Navy following the capitulation by Menou after the Battle of Alexandria..

He has detailed orders of battles for all campaigns and stages of the occupation; details on the organisation of all the arms of service including the auxiliary forces The French recruited (the Greek Legion, the Coptic Legion, the Guides, and most intriguing of all the Dromedaires (the picture on the front of the book,  above, is of them) a forerunner of Kitchener's Camel Corps, and the Foreign Legion forces of similar tactical role..

What Martin especially does well on though is detail on the uniforms - being stranded the wrong side of the Mediterranean from their usual clothing supplies/sources, the French army resorted to local materials in whatever colour was available and the result is stunning. Martin has included lots of colour plates depicting the various regiments, and the level of research is such that the French even kept samples of the cloth in their archives so that he could reconstruct them more accurately!

Found this on Pinterest - one army, every uniform colour under the rainbow...
.. huge amounts of detail, lots and lots of colourful uniform detail, orders of battle, and interesting snippets on how the French army was organised and fought in Egypt and Syria. very much recommended.. Steve the Wargamer rates this one as 9 out of 10 ...  

Sunday, January 12, 2020

RIP Neil

...another one gone far too early..

Heard through the media that Neil Peart had died...  Neil was the drummer with rock band Rush who were a hugely formative, and important part pf the younger Steve the Wargamers life...  I remember to this day getting the vinyl copy of 2112 from my friends at school for my 16th birthday (and I still have it)...   never met him or any of the band personally, had the great fortune to see them play a few times, but they were an integral part of mine and my friends lives for a good number of years, and it feels like someone you knew well has gone...  😢

Best wishes and thoughts to the rest of the band, and Neil's family, and thanks Neil (wherever you are now..) for all the musical shivers down the spine, the moments when basically your/their music just made you want to jump up and down for the joy of it, or just sitting in a darkened room nodding your head along with a huge smile..