Thursday, July 19, 2018

I have been to... The Tank Museum (and Battle Group South Wargame show)

....and one was truly awesome, and the other ..  err..  not so.. 

In our (that's DG and I's) continued search for a replacement to fill the hole in our schedules that has been left by our no longer attending Salute (and therefore missing a wargame show between November - Warfare - and September - Colours!) I suggested we might want to try the Battlegroup South show which is put on at the Tank Museum at Bovington ..

Now the Tank Museum has been on my bucket list for what seems like an age, and DG hasn't been in 20 or so years, so a quick decision was made to give it a go.. and as for wargame shows, there really aren't that many in the south other than the two aforementioned ones and it looked like it might fit the bill...

After a sunny and warm two hour drive into the heart of holiday country (lots of caravans and motor homes, and weekend traffic) we arrived at the Museum without any problems, parking is great, and we paid our £14 entry to the museum (the wargame show is "free" after you pay your entry.. the ticket gets you unlimited re-entry to the museum for a year though, so very good value) and I can only say "wow" at my first sight, what looks like every Airfix/Matchbox kit I ever built as a younger Steve the Wargamer is there in 1:1 scale! 

I took a shed-load of pictures which I've loaded into this video ...

..but my stand out favourites in descending top 4 were (of course) the Tiger Hall..  the Tiger II was mahoosive...!

..the Grant as it reminded me of all those WWII games using the Airfix kit and Charles Grant/Featherstone rules forty odd years ago..

...I am drawn more to the early war tanks/era - the bigger tanks (on the whole - Tiger II excepted!) are not so interesting to me, so I loved the Italian desert kit..  this is an M14/41..  couldn't find an M13/40 but the hull is largely the same, just a bigger engine..

...that Carden Lloyd type suspension was clearly very influential at this period of tank development..

...but this was my #1...  Italian L3/33.. basically a Bren carrier turned into a tank...  I cannot begin to imagine just what it must have been like to have gone to war in the desert in one of these..

...this is the flame thrower version.. the fuel for that is in the comparatively unarmoured trailer right behind (!) - so reading the information provided - the pump for the flame thrower is driven by the under powered engine of the tank so range was 40 mtrs (only!) and the crews were advised not to be driving forward when using the flame thrower as they could drive into their own flame! Two men in that, desert heat, paper thin armour, flame thrower fuel just behind you, and in the pipe to the gun which runs under your feet...  where do I sign up?!  Astonishing bravery.. as we wondered round we would occasion upon a wargame trader, or game, dotted around the halls in between the tanks and I have to say, that for me (and DG) the show part was pretty underwhelming really, or maybe it was because the museum was so good??  Not many traders, who mostly to me looked like they weren't very busy, and there were some games but mostly (with one exception) there was not much information on what was being played...  stand out game for me was the Siege of Vienna..

Pic. courtesy of the team putting the game on - mine were rubbish!
...good signage and information, and the participant(s) explaining what was going on.. I have heard that they won "Best Demo Game" - well deserved..

Great day out, will definitely go to the museum again..

Monday, July 16, 2018

"The Falcon of Sparta" - a review..

Apologies for all the reviews lately but this one is simply too good to be just hidden on the book reviews page..

Based heavily on the events described by Xenophon in his history of the 10,000 (the Anabasis), the book describes the failed attempt by Cyrus the Younger, son of Darius II to oust his brother, Artaxerxes II following the death of Darius

Cyrus raised an army of pro-Persian and Greek mercenary hoplites, which included a large Spartan contingent. It described the events leading up to the march, and then the retreat itself.

Cyrus met the forces of Artaxerxes at Cunaxa, but was defeated* and killed - Artaxerxes offered the Greek contingent terms (enslavement mostly) which they refused and their then ensued a retreat over almost 500 miles for both army and their family/followers - continuously attacked by the forces of Artaxerxes, and the peoples of the lands they had to traverse, while also suffering from lack of food and water.

Simply superb..  wow...   just wow...  this book single-handed'ly wanted me to start painting Achmaenid Persians, Spartans, and other Greek Allied troops - another 10+ !

*some would say that Cunaxa was a tactical victory for Cyrus - but I would suggest this was probably not much of a bonus for getting yourself killed..

Stay tuned for an honest to goodness review of a 'wargaming show'!

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

"The Passage to India".. a review..

We Hervey fans have waited a log time for this one (three years), but for me at least, it was WELL worth the wait..

Six months after the previous events in Belgium, this book is set in 1831 at the time of the riots and rebellions over parliamentary reform..

Hervey is summoned to Bristol where widespread fire setting, looting and rioting, has almost taken over the city..  setting to with his usual calm efficiency and zeal, Hervey musters his available forces, assumes command, and puts down the riot forcibly ("flat of the steel, only use the edge if threatened")

Despite it needing to be done, the radicals and liberals, take him to task in the press, and with remembrances of Peterloo still fresh, and Wellington no longer prime minister and able to provide support, an inquiry is held in to the events, and in which Hervey although never charged is brought to the public's attention. The descriptions of what it must have been like for an army officer of the time, treading the fine line always between what is, and is not, seen as 'sufficient force' in civil disturbance is very well put.. either way Hervey is under a dark cloud indeed.

With time on his hands attending the enquiry, Hervey has time to attend a charitable concert at which his estranged wife is playing, and is present when she collapses on stage . .  I always thought of her as a cold fish, but it turns out the doctor suggests post natal depression may have been behind her reserve, and her endless piano practice.. 

A very long overdue recovery and rapprochement follows, but is followed by the further good news that his friend Eyre Somerville has persuaded the Court of Directors of the East India Company to approve an increase in the Madras military establishment and that Hervey and the 6th Light Dragoons are to be sent to the princely state of Coorg where the Rajah is in revolt against the East India Company's terms.

Hervey is given command of the expedition and substantive rank of Major General, and successfully completes the annexation, returning with the Rajah as prisoner..  no spoilers here, as the campaign is arduous, and fascinating...  more here if interested [clicky]

Returning to garrison Hervey is met with further good news, but you won't hear it from me - buy the book you will not be disappointed..

It's been a good year for 10's on the book reviews, so in the words of the immortal 'Spinal Tap', Steve the Wargamer rates this one as an 11.. or at least 10+