Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"Master of War" - a review...

One of the good things about owning a Kindle is the options it gives for reading new and hitherto unknown authors cheaply, and so it was in this case as I'd never heard of David Gilman (apparently he's better known as a script writer for the Frost detective series on ITV). The reviews and subject matter were both good though, and as it was on an introductory price* I went for it, and damned pleased I did....

The book is set in the The Hundred Years War, and in particular the campaign that culminated in Crecy (1346). The story is about English archer Thomas Blackstone, a young stone mason (he's about 16 years old) who has had a better education than most thanks to a French mother. He has also been trained in the war bow by his father, an archer who saved the life of their local Lord in a previous battle.

Both parents are dead, and his only remaining family is his slightly simple, deaf and mute brother who is accused of the murder of a local girl. In order to escape the death penalty both brothers enlist in the troop of their Lord destined to join the army of Edward III who is about to sail to Normandy to reclaim his lands from the French King.

There then follows a very colourful and descriptive account of what it must have been like to fight as an archer in a medieval army - care of the bows, how they are made, what the archers ate, the complex relationship between the hugely skilled and valued archers and their commanders, the tensions that existed in a "British" army at the time which comprised mostly English and Welsh troops both at each others throats except when they were fighting the French.

The book is also very good on the campaign, the struggle to find a river crossing that would allow the army to get back to the coast, and which culminated in the battle of Crecy.

Gilman's description of the battle is also very good and is in the same vein as Bernard Cornwell - there's lots of mud, blood, pain, wounds, injuries, and death, both human and animal - the description of how the English and Welsh archers brought down the first charge by the French knights is mind boggling (broad headed hunting arrows shot at their unprotected legs...)

The battle ends with Thomas  trying to save his brother from being killed by French knights in the final attack, but in the process also helping to save Edward the Black Prince - he sustains huge injuries but the Prince is so impressed he knights him on the battle field..

There are a few unanswered questions, and I for one am looking forward to the next book (released summer this year post edit: January 2015) enormously!

Very good - Steve the Wargamer rates this one as 9 out of 10

* At the time of writing the book is still available for 99p on Kindle - quite possibly one of the better pounds you would have spent this year if you go for it.. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

No Colours show this year..

DG was at the Crusade show in Penarth yesterday and heard on the grapevine that Colours might be cancelled this year...

A check on the new fangled 'interweb thing' (TM) would seem to indicate that is indeed the case...  

What am I going to do in October now??


"Colours 2014:
Newbury and Reading wargames club have decided to take a break from Colours in 2014 but plan to return in 2015 Newbury and Reading Wargames Society would like to confirm that Colours 2014 will not be taking place. This has been a hard decision to take as we all enjoy running the show and making it a success. However over recent years the success at Colours has seen it grow to a size were we as a club have struggled to run the show as smoothly and successfully as we would like. This in conjunction with other issues have forced us to take a real look at what events we as a club can run. Rather than carry on regardless and risk a real disaster befalling the show, we have taken the hard decision to not have a Colours in 2014. We will instead use 2014 as a time to review and plan for 2015. We hope to have your understanding at this time and your support in the future For the absence of doubt Colours’ sister show “A Call to Arms” will be running on 15th February 2014 as planned. We look forward to seeing you there!"

Friday, January 24, 2014

To be, or not to be..

I've just had a letter from Atlantic Publishing telling me that I only have two issues of my Miniature Wargames subscription remaining...

Now the question is, can I be bothered to re-new given I haven't read any further than the contents of the last issue, never mind the current one...

It doesn't help that the only option I've been given is for two years at a mighty £90 - though I'm sure other options are available....

What do others think of the post Battlegames experience??

Monday, January 20, 2014

Now that's just plain unfair....

....oooooh....    shiny.........  

Napoleon in Egypt - 20mm [clicky]

"1st Releases Available 4th February - 25% OFF listed price if you pre order now and receive yours first!

Napoleon in Egypt Range:

FIE01 - French Command 1798
FIE02 - French, Kleber Ordinance, Advancing
FIE03 - French, Kleber Ordinance, Loading
FIE04 - French, Kleber Ordinance, Firing
FIE05 - French, Kleber Ordinance, at Ready
OTT01 - Ottoman Janissary Command
OTT02 - Janissaries Advancing
OTT03 - Janissaries Loading
OTT04 - Janissaries Firing
OTT05 - Janissaries at Ready
OTT12 - Anatolian Sekhans
OTT15 - Egyptian Sekhans
OTT22 - Bedouin Militia Infantry
OTT25 - Albanian Militia Infantry"

Oh my......   

Thursday, January 16, 2014


....and dreich [clicky] just about sums it up nicely - not only the weather but also the lack of any other activity... work is taking up more time than normal, the weather is continually wet, the light is always dark (both going to and coming from work), and all in all I feel a general ennui towards the whole thing...  give me a beer and a book, and I'm happy... what has captured my thoughts?

This year is of course the 100th Anniversary of the start of WWI so not surprisingly the war features heavily in the media - both positively, and amusingly....

On the positive front this looks hugely interesting - British Army war diaries 1914-1922 [clicky] - is an online resource hosted by the National Archives and consists of diaries from British soldiers in WWI describing life on the front line, the trenches, and the everyday facts of life for a soldier at that time. "Events from the outbreak of war in 1914 to the departure of troops from Flanders and France were recorded in official diaries of each military unit. About 1.5 million diary pages are held by the National Archives and a fifth have been digitised so far." 

I think not...
My wargaming stems from the fact that first and foremost I'm interested in military history*, and also that I am interested in Tommy Atkins rather than the Division or Corps he served in so I'm a follower of Keegan and Holmes - I've found this fascinating for reading at lunchtime....

* It doesn't always follow - we're a broad church, and some are first and foremost gamers, or painters, or modellers, or rule writers..  long may it continue!

On a slightly more amusing note I've found the to'ing and fro'ing between the cognoscenti and the left wing loveys about the 'false history' taught by the likes of Blackadder hugely amusing as each side tries to be more worthy than the other.... the following is typical...

...for what it's worth I think the "Lions Lead By Donkeys" line is condescending and utter cobblers, and I rather lean towards the writings of  John Terraine [clicky] and others who describe an army that learned quickly, but at great cost,  and which technologically, tactically, and strategically, was changed out of all recognition by the end of the war. I listened to a piece on the radio by historian Dan Snow the other day which I thought was very insightful - his view was that Britain went to war in WWI (support for Belgium) for quite possibly better reasons than those we went to war for in WWII (support for Poland), that Germany was as aggressive a super power in WWI as it was WWII, that the aristocracy/upper class proportionally took more casualties than any other social grouping, and that finally the British Army was better trained, and more professional, at the end of WWI than possibly any other time in its history (except perhaps the end of WWII)...  interesting....

On the subject of Blackadder, I can't help thinking that the soldiers of the time might have found it as funny as I do!

What else...   still need to finish off the last two Zvezda Matadors I started before Christmas, and I also need to finish off the third platoon of British infantry, and sort out some supports (anti tank rifles) and then I can set up a little skirmish game...   but not before I set up the John Corrigan Memorial Game I didn't get time to do last year!!

First though, I need to dredge up some 'get up and go'.....  now where did I leave it??

PS. Five days to the Zulu film anniversary - trust you have your armchairs booked, and the beer (an IPA naturally) chilling... 

Thursday, January 02, 2014


Can you believe that "Zulu" is 50 years old on January 22nd??

Time to site down with a decent beer, and a comfortable arm chair, for a re-watch I think..! 

Despite the source (), I thought the following was a remarkably well balanced view of the film...