Saturday, March 29, 2014

"All For a Shilling a Day".. a review..

...while the 3rd game in the Annexation Campaign carries on (we're up to move 4) I recently finished reading "All For a Shilling a Day" and it was good enough that I thought it more than deserved a proper post

This is Donald Featherstone's depiction of the 16th (Queen's) Lancers [clicky] during, and just before, the First Sikh War of 1845 [clicky] and although it must be 30 odd years since I last read it, I found it fascinating..

It starts with recruitment, how it was done, conditions, pay and arrears once the recruits arrived at the home depot, the tedium and squalor of barracks living, poor food, poor pay (no wonder they drank as much as they did!). The training (doubly hard in a crack Lancer regiment as they also had to learn to ride), manoeuvres, and the day to day relationship between officers and men in a peace situation (basically none!), and how it changed dramatically when they were on a war footing.

The book is a contrast, the regiment in two states, war and peace, and no wonder the Victorians loved to go to war as much as they did as the contrasts between the two are marked - much more freedom when on campaign.

The second part of the book deals with their campaign as part of the First Sikh War where they served under Sir Harry Smith [clicky], and fought at the battle of Aliwal [clicky]. The book is quite short, what I found most interesting were the copious (and I mean copious!) notes..  I'd recommend reading the book, and then reading the notes separately so as not to disrupt the flow, but they are fascinating - Don clearly had an eye for the snippets that helped to illustrate life in the military at the time ...  I was left with an overwhelming opinion that our forefathers were made of very tough stuff!

Cacker.. 9 out of 10 without a doubt..

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Annexation of Chiraz - Game #3 - Incident at Drew - Set Up

Time to get the wargaming mojo working again..

With Salute looming on the horizon, DG (my trusty opponent) is making his way down from deepest darkest Wales to attend, and usually we take the opportunity to fight one of my far too infrequent games.. this time however, my Dad is also down visiting for a few days, and given I am already planning to disappear for an entire Saturday, a game evening as well might be pushing it too far...

So, quoth DG, why don't we get one of our 'virtual' games on the go? So is born the third game in the mini campaign that is the "The Annexation of Chiraz"... we'll use Battle Chronicler to play this game, exchanging turns via email in the best Old School traditions of correspondence chess...


At the same time as the French (DG) invaders were forcing a crossing of the Cressay at Morteau (which was our last game [clicky]), the other half of their army has arrived at the small town of Drew looking to cross the Cressay via the four bridges* in the town.

At the same time the Allied (me) powers have sent a blocking force to deny them the opportunity.

Scenario Specifics:

The table is a virtual 6’ x 4’ and we will use standard movement distances as per the usual WSS rules [clicky]

DG and I are currently deciding:
  1. our force organisations – I have suggested no more than 3 Brigades (+ CinC)
  2. our column of march - we start the game off table entering at the points marked..
  3. our force will enter the table in column of march, but can then deploy as we see fit once they have fully entered.

General notes:
  • All woods are "open"
  • All hills are "gentle"
  • River is not crossable except at bridges
  • Entry points are labelled
Winning Conditions:

The winning side needs to ‘control’ all four bridges at the end of the game – this isn’t defined in detail but I feel sure DG and I can come to an agreement…

Orders of Battle:

French (playing as Lorraine)

Unit Type Unit Name SP MP
Royal Italiene56
Light ArtilleryNo.156

Total Strength: 50 points

British (playing as the VFS)

Unit Type Unit Name SP MP



North and Grey56



Beinheim 56

Light Artillery No.156
Chiraz Home Guard:



Total Strength: 44 points

*The story goes that some time ago the goldsmith’s guild in Drew built a bridge and then charged everyone an exorbitant amount to use it. The other guilds in Drew were so incensed at this that three of them built their own bridges… hence the four bridges...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Shifty shandy...

With weekend slots becoming more and more difficult, rent a crowd (the bunch I go drinking real ale with) were tempted to do an evening run to the "Sir Loin of Beef" in Eastney [clicky] (which is without a doubt one of my top 3 pubs ever) - and the evening trips are very much enjoyed, as we can get there direct from work, and still usually be home by 10' was set for Thursday evening....

As per usual I cycled down... I had wanted to go via the Hayling Billy trail [clicky] (red route on the map), but the Hayling ferry [clicky] (which is fairly critical given I can't get to the pub unless it's running! ) is still on it's winter timetable and doesn't run after 6 in the evening... either way I took the long way round (blue line was my actual route), and as it happens I missed nothing, as the fog rolled in at abut 5 so I wouldn't have seen anything down the Billy trail anyway!

By the by - the islands you can see in the middle of the harbour (which are now bird sanctuaries) were used in WWII as decoy sites to lure German air raids away from nearby Portsmouth harbour (code name "Starfish" and this [clicky], is a particularly interesting read) ...  by all accounts they were very successful; "on the night of 17/18 April 1941, over 140 enemy aircraft were lured away and un-loaded in excess of 200 air-dropped munitions, originally intended for the City of Portsmouth, into Langstone Harbour and Farlington Marshes" - you wouldn't have wanted to live in Langstone village!

6.7 miles - max speed 15.8 mph; average 11.1 mph...  for the record....

Fog aside it was a quick trip - I was quite surprised how quickly I got there...  as usual a triumphant choice of ales...  much was partaken of, but in my case they were:

Arundel Brewery "Old Ale" - 4.6% and a dark ale ideally suited to drinking on cold damp, foggy, evenings... stuck with this most of the evening except for a single foray into the beer pump to the left of it (the pint of which suffered by comparison)..  don't normally like Arundel beers, this one was a welcome exception. Nice toasted, earthy, after taste - a little bit like a hint of a high percentage dark chocolate... (what drivel I do come out with - push comes to shove it just tasted nice....)

Titanic Brewery - "Plum Porter" - 4.9% - this is the only exception I have to my personal rule about fruit and beer ("why do it?!")... it is quite simply one of the most delicious things you'll ever drink - dark, rich, fruity and a hint of plum.... totally complementary..  you could slice this stuff and serve it with custard....

Already looking forward to the next beer trip...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Stop press - Ronald Welch "Captain of Foot" reprint released!

I had the best news when I logged on this morning.... the independent publishers [clicky] who are re-printing all of Ronald Welch's "Carey" series has just released "Captain of Foot"...!
Illustrated by the superb William Stobbs ... copyright the publisher..
...this volume covers the exploits of Christopher Carey who is serving as a lieutenant under Wellington in the Peninsular War....  only £16 delivered, superb quality (cloth bound, heavy paper) what are you waiting for!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

"The Western Front" by Richard Holmes... a review...

On the basis that anyone with an interest in military history should never be in a position of not knowing at least the smatterings of the varied and innumerable struggles that have engulfed the planet since the beginning of time, and because this is also a centernary year for the start of WWI, I picked up this book, which has been on the bedside reading pile for far too long...

I guess I should state up front that Richard Holmes is my favourite military historian bar none, and by a country mile over any others, so it's unlikely that the following is going to be a bad review...

A comparatively small book, this is an overview of the British Armies involvement with the Western Front theatre in WWI - he touches on the other armies (both allied and enemy) and he also mentions other theatres, but only in as much as those other armies and theatres impacted on the Western Front..

In summary, his book assesses the British Armies performance year by year, and how the British army "matured" as the war progressed - with improved tactics (especially in the area of artillery use), hugely improved logisitics, and better command and control..

His view of the generals is very much middle of the ground - he rejects the "Lions Lead by Donkeys" view, but also the opposite view championed by John Terrain and the like, and basically takes the view that Generals of the time had to learn very, very, quickly how to manage the enormous resources that this first truly industrial war had put in the hands, and how to circumvent the machine gun... when push comes to shove, not surprisingly given his bottom up approach to military history, Holmes's view is that the personality/skill/abilities were the key defining factors (he's very good on Haig, Holmes view is that he may not have been perfect, but the British had no one else even close to being able to replace him...)

The chapters on 1915 and 1916 are particularly grim - and to be honest I didn't learn a lot new - a simply unbelievable number of men died, in truly horrible ways. The picture from the end of 1916 however, was looking up - Cambrai and the tank was a turning point.

By the end of the war, the Front had never been broken - the Germans were beaten in the end by a collapse in morale, an exhausted source of man power, and the arrival of the Americans.The British army at this time was at the very peak of its organisational abilities, with coordinated use of all arms well understood, and used effectively....

Almost 9 million British and Dominion soldiers enlisted during the war, the vast majority served on the Western Front, and were the majority of the 947,000 who were killed during the war. That's over 10% casualties....  Astonishing...

Very, very good book to get you up to speed - very readable - he gives a good bibliography for more in depth reading, a few photo's, and the maps are ....  adequate...

Steve the Wargamer rates this one 9 out of 10...