Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Dismounted 4th Continental Light Dragoons

4th Continental Light Dragoons by the
inestimable Don Troiani (source Pinterest)
My 'expectations' (never resolutions! ) this year were a little more than just expectations, and in an attempt to stem the decline in productive time spent on the hobby, I'm consciously cutting back on Facebook, and trying to spend more time in the loft, reading, and doing other 'good' stuff.. (funnily enough - although it is 'soshul meja' [sic] I don't see updating the Blog as being unproductive! )

So it was, that after the recent addition to the forces of King George of the dismounted British dragoons, I thought it high time to add some opposition... besides they were already primed and ready to go...

The American War of Independence was never a war that cavalry featured heavily in, so I think in my entire collection there are only 8 or so bases of cavalry out of 100+ bases in total...  the British have the 17th Light Dragoons, the American's (well the French) have Lauzun's Legion (who are Hussars/Lancers rather than dragoons so not suitable for the dismounted role), but the American's also have the 4th Continental Light Dragoons and they would have dismounted on occasion... decision made. It is doubtful that this 'regiment' ever numbered more than 200 actuals in reality, but in the same way as I can have an entire battalion of Louisiana Tigers in the ACW collection, I see no issue with fielding these guys as a full size regiment - the rules I use are flexible enough to represent them under strength if I have to...

Onward and upwards, then...  and by way of something a bit different, here's also my paint method showing the paint brush butchery that passes for a paint job on Steve the Wargamer's wargame table.. !

Starting point is a black sprayed undercoat, they are attached to painting sticks, and the first step is then a damp brush of white (acrylic).. What's a damp-brush? Same as a dry-brush but a little more paint, basically (boom, tish... I thank you...)...   get an old scrubby brush, a short soft bristle is better, dip it in the white (Vallejo) and then wipe off on a tissue until only paint residue is left, then brush all over, you get something like the following...  practice makes perfect and I'm getting there after 20 odd years...  I hear that some people use a white spray paint for this stage, spraying lightly from 45' above horizontal so as not to fill the depths of the detail..  must try that..


What you're looking for is white on the raised area's only - the black undercoat self shades..  works for me, because I like to use a lot of inks and washes rather than paint...

Next step flesh tones - Vallejo basic flesh - I always do this first, as to me it brings the little fellows to life..


Next step re-black in  the bits you don't want white - you can save time on this step if you're careful on the first white damp brush stage..  in this case I wasn't, so the gaiters, helmet, sword scabbard, cartridge box were re-done.. Rowney Deller Black Matt Ink for this step.. reason I like inks is because I find them easier to 'paint' with..


Next step - green coat..  craft paint for this one that I found cheap in Hobbycraft ages ago..  not brilliant opacity but the colour was right, and besides the paint will self highlight when the opacity is poor, like an ink, all depending on whether it is painted over white or black - that's the main reason I use this undercoat method to be honest...


Next.. hair and the food sack (I think?)..  Vallejo "Smoke" - another ink/wash..  I also added extra white at this stage to the bits that needed it (plumes mostly)


Next.. Flesh wash.. Citadel..  an old pot that is almost finished, and I'll cry when it is..  perfect finish, and a very evocative smell...


Next the gold - an even older pot than the flesh wash, of Citadel Gold - buttons and sword scabbard tip, and sword handle...


Next the wood of the muskets - Vallejo Woodgrain - another ink/wash - I like woodgrain as over the white and black it gives the effect of the grain in wood...


You may sense I've been putting off the red stage, which would be correct...

Next, some khaki, which just to show it isn't all ready mixed and straight from the bottle, I mixed from colours already on the palette - I used the green from the jacket, some woodgrain, and a touch of left over white...



Next - about 90% there now...  and time for the red... Rowney Deller Red ink - cuffs/facings/turn-backs/epaulettes..


Next ...all painters do it, I suspect, and I'm no different - I then have a spot of going back and re-touching - then I went grey for the water bottle, gun metal for the barrel, got the gold out again for the musket hoops, got the white out again for the webbing, and when it had all dried gave them an all over wash of watered down black ink to blend everything in..  job done...  hour and a half??


Followed that with a spray of matt varnish to flatten everything...  while that was drying, it was time to do a little history research..

So my reading would indicate that the 4th Continental Light Dragoons (also known as Moylan's Horse) was first raised on January 5, 1777 in Philadelphia, their first commanding officer was Colonel Stephen Moylan.

When they first deployed they wore red coats which not surprisingly lead to a number of near misses and Washington himself ordered them to die their coats some other colour.. the regiment changed to the  green coats faced in red during the summer of 1778..

Basing WIP...


The regiment saw action at Brandywine, Germantown  and probably Monmouth, in their red coats.

In the campaign of 1779 the 4th were stationed in upper New York, and saw action when the British raided nearby Norwalk in July. They were at Springfield the following June (1780), and were part of General Anthony Wayne's expedition at Bull's Ferry in July, before seeing action at Guilford Court House and Yorktown the next year.

The regiment was eventually disbanded in November 1783. Moylan survived the war and was brevetted brigadier general in the same month.

Lots of detail here - not sure of the source though:

http://captainjamesdavis.net/tag/4th-continental-light-dragoon-regiment/

Finished article...  pleased with these...  the green red combo is very attractive..


So ..  Eagle Miniatures 25mm SYW range (dismounted dragoon) - lovely..


Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Replacement terrace..

Even more points on the painting tally for 2019..  the uninterrupted 5 or 6 hours on Christmas day was a blessing indeed!

So this is the 4Ground 15mm Terrace from the Europe at War range [clicky] which I picked up for a bargain price at Warfare in November

I am not well practised at making complex kits and I would say that on first opening the fairly chunky/weighted pack, the sight of all those sprue's in multiple colours was a little off putting, but with sharp knife, PVA glue, and a fine brush to apply it I set to...

The instructions are pretty good on the whole - there are a few typo's but they're easy to spot if you also go with the diagrams and step by step photo shots of the parts required... 

Start with the ground level - once you have the hang of this the other levels are more of the same and go quicker...  basically you make the inner shell first, and then the outer - pre-painted - surfaces go on top of that....

...love the passage through to the back...
Move on to second level - 4Ground advise gluing the tabs where the various parts (literally) click together, but I assembled and then ran a brush load of PVA along the joins - wiping off any excess...


..the colouring is very effective - I really liked the brown shading round the window recesses..
...and then perhaps the most complex bits, which are the roof sections - especially the one with the dormer windows, which needed a little trimming before I could fit them...


These and both floor levels, are removable so you can access the inside of the building to place troops..with window sills and lintels for each window also glued in - initial build was done... took about an hour and a half??

Fit of the parts was amazing - very impressed...


Once that was done I went on to do minimal detailing - with a thin ink wash I painted the inside of each room with a unique colour... I also stuck down a stip of paper to conceal the makers mark just because I thought it looked better - pretend it's a carpet..


..used the same colours on both floors ..


...then finally, my pet (only??) hate with MDF buildings is the tabs that stick through after construction..  I matched the colours on the paint dish and then just dabbed in the colour on the end of the tab to conceal...  I had thought about making small "tile" out of paper to stick over the tab to conceal it completely but the size required is so small that the paint concealer works well enough...


Just waiting for the invader to take possession!


Chuffed to nuts with those - I'd like to make some more of them - I note they have a really nice 15mm scale European windmill and I've always wanted one of those for my Marlburian set up!

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Dismounted 17th Light Dragoons

First points on the painting tally for 2019..  I put down entirely to the fact that the whole family were off doing other stuff on Christmas day, so I had an uninterrupted 5 or 6 hours, and found myself drawn magically to the painting table!

You may remember that in the first of the two outings of Abundance Farm scenario last year (here [clicky]) DG and I had been somewhat stymied by the lack of ability for our cavalry to occupy the barn due to a lack of dismounted figures..  I remedied that at Colours, with the purchase of enough figures to make up four bases from the very helpful fellow at Eagle Miniatures [clicky] and first off the painting table are these, who are destined for the forces of King George as dismounted 17th Light Dragoons - the 'Death or Glory boys'

First some work in progress shots..


...nice figures, but huge compared to the vintage Minfigs figures they will be fielded with, absolutely OK though, fielded on their own as they will largely be ...

John Hale - piccie courtesy Wikipedia
The 17th Light Dragoons trace their formation back to Wolfe's victory at Quebec in 1759 - Colonel John Hale of the 47th Regiment of Foot (a close friend of Wolfe's, by the by) carried the news to the King of the victory over the French, and in thanks (as was the way) the King granted him a gratuity of five hundred pounds, ten thousand acres in Canada and a commission to raise one of the five new regiments of Light Dragoons that were being planned as part of preparations for the Seven Years War.

John Hale's regiment was allotted the 18th designation, however, the Scottish regiment which carried the 17th title was disbanded after proving unsatisfactory, and in 1763 the regiment was re-designated as the 17th.

The Light Dragoons main distinction from their heavier (and more expensive) cousins was the type of horse employed - the Light Dragoons used smaller/lighter horses. Originally, the Light Dragoons were not equipped with swords, their main armament (and the  second distinction) was a carbine (which was capable of taking a bayonet in support of their partial infantry role) along with pistols and an axe.

They were trained to be able to fire from the saddle.


Note the deaths head emblem and the source of their nick name..  the first documented use seems to have been by a German Hussar regiment known as the 'Totenkopf' Hussars, and as many British regiments had served in Germany as part of the Seven Years War it is probable that's where the idea originated, in fact one the 17th's nicknames is still the 'The Tots'..  other sources have also said it was in honour of Wolfe himself..

The 17th never did see action in the Seven Years War.. in fact they didn't see action for the first 16 years of their existence, their first operational deployment was the American War of Independence..

...final product, varnished and based...


The 17th landed at Boston in 1775 in time for Bunker Hill, and overall spent 8 months in the city before being transferred to Halifax where they got remounts as best they could from available sources.

Their first real action was Long Island [clicky] where Howe did not take full advantage and 9,000 Americans managed to row to safety on Manhattan Island. The 17th were in almost continuous action, either as a regiment, or detachment they were present at at the Battle of White Plains in October at the Battle of Fort Washington in November, and the following year at the Battle of Forts Clinton and Montgomery in October.  After being transferred to Philadelphia in the winter of 1777, they were present at the Battle of Crooked Billet in May 1778 and the Battle of Barren Hill later that month (where they faced the French for the first time).

Politically and militarily the British position in Philadelphia was poor, and in June the British started to evacuate it. The 17th guarded the baggage train which was sent on ahead, though they were brought back briefly to help Clinton prevent an American force from attacking the main column.


The regiment spent the summer of 1779 in New York, before being transferred to the Carolina's by ship (and where most of their horses died during transit due to a heavy storm en route).

When the regiment landed in Savannah they were attached to the British Legion (under Banastre Tarleton) and after finding what remounts they could, the 17th as part of the Legion went on an extended patrol - interesting side note, the Legion wore green coats, but as British regulars the 17th insisted on keeping their red coats even though they were in a poor state of repair.

In their first action they fought off an attack by American irregular horsemen, and then took part in a surprise attack on an American force guarding the road to Charleston. The night attack was a success and soon after this the American garrison at Charleston abandoned the city.

"At three o'clock on the following morning the advanced guard of dragoons and mounted infantry approached Monk's Corner, and charging and routing the enemy's guard on the main road, dashed forward into the American cavalry camp. The enemy was surprised, all who made resistance were speedily cut down; favoured by darkness, General Huger, Colonels Washington and Jamieson, and seven others, took refuge in some swampy grounds near the camp; and one hundred and fifty dragoons and hussars, four hundred horses and fifty waggons loaded with arms, ammunition, and clothing, were captured." this from 'HISTORICAL RECORD OF THE SEVENTEENTH REGIMENT OF LIGHT DRAGOONS; LANCERS: CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF THE FORMATION OF THE REGIMENT IN 1759, AND OF ITS SUBSEQUENT SERVICES TO 1841' by JOHN W PARKER and printed in 1830 - stirs the blood doesn't it!. 

The Legion followed up with with each horse carrying a cavalryman and an infantryman(!) and soon caught up with the Virginian forces of the American army under Burford (travelling one hundred and five miles in fifty-four hours!) at Waxhaws. The British force charged the column despite being outnumbered and were victorious.

With South Carolina largely pacified the 17th were ordered back to New York - but a few men (along with the sick/wounded) were left behind to continue serving with the Legion and they were present at Camden, and conspicuous in the following pursuit.

Over the winter of 1780/81 reinforcements to the 17th arrived and were again attached to the Legion to bolster numbers. The Legion was ordered west to cover Cornwallis's left flank for the coming campaign to recover northern Carolina. In pursuit of Morgan, Tarleton managed to force battle at the Battle of Cowpens. American regulars were placed behind the militia (thus forcing them to fight and also offering a tempting target for the British) and cavalry was held in reserve.

The British made their typical frontal assault but were tired and hungry, and the the American militia held them up long enough that when they finally got to the American third line they found Continentals, and then cavalry and militia attacking from the flanks, and the British attack, and force, fell apart..

The Legion (not surprisingly) broke and ran though apparently the 17th held their nerve in retreat. An attempt by Tarleton and the 17th to save their guns failed, but one of the histories reports that he was successful in recovering the baggage.

The 17th were withdrawn to Souther Carolina during the subsequent failed campaign to take Northern Carolina, and were then ordered to New York in light of intelligence an attack was imminent. Shortly after the British surrendered at Yorktown, the 17th surrendered at Gloucester in 1783, and returned to Ireland.

"Death or Glory" indeed!

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

2018.. a review..

So as we say every year... "here we are go again"...

Still not really a 'blowing the trumpet', 'review your triumphs', etc etc type of person (I leave that to the business corporate types I work with), but like my 'end of the year' review on the sailing blog it is kind of nice to cast my eyes over the year gone and remind myself of the ups and downs.... and besides everyone else is doing the same thing...

So by way of a joining up of the threads, and a bringing to a close of the last year, let's push on...

First, how did I do against my expectations [clicky]?? Note: I never, ever, make 'resolutions', just 'set  expectations', and thus when I inevitably fail to meet them yet again, it is not too demoralising or depressing an event...
  1. try to keep up my painting efforts.. 

  2. I would say I did "OK" with this one - I certainly kept up, but accomplished it all in the first two months of the year and then the brush pot dried - having said that if I can get them based up, I have a couple of bases of AWI dismounted dragoons painted to add to the tally, and I have also built the MDF terraced house I bought at Warfare but want to do some detailing before I consider it complete, so I suspect they will be the first points in next years tally..
    • 1/2/18 - CSS Planter (side wheeled paddle steamer) - ACW - Peter Pig - 1/600th @ 5 pts (5 pts)
    • 1/2/18 - USS Miami (side wheeled) - ACW - Peter Pig - 1/600th @ 5 pts (5 pts)
    • 1/2/18 - CSS Drewry (small gunboat) - ACW - Peter Pig - 1/600th @ 3 pts (3 pts)
    • 1/2/18 - CSS General Sumter ram/paddler - ACW - Peter Pig - 1/600th @ 5 pts (5 pts)
    • 9/2/18 - Officers/command figures - ECW - Les Higgins - 20mm - 4 mounted @ 2 pts (8 pts) and 2 foot figures @ 1 pt (2 pts) for a total of 10 pts.
    • 12/2/18 - Guns/crews - WWII Skirmish - Forged in Battle/Peter Pig - 7 guns @ 5pts (35 pts) and 19 crew@ 1 pt (19 pts) for a total of 54 pts.

    For a total of 82 points... that'll do...

  3. complete the Sudan re-basing, 

  4. An abject failure I'm afraid - I have to admit to having forgotten I still needed to do it - possibly because there was no game in the Sudan this year to act as a reminder? I'll carry this one over

  5. re-boot the English Civil War project, 

  6. Also an abject failure I'm afraid, despite my best efforts to kick start it with the officers and command stands I painted in February, nothing else happened ... my main issue is that I am not 'feeling the love' for the figures I chose - I HATE HATE HATE having to assemble figures even if it is as basic as gluing a head on... stuff it, I may have to start this project in a different scale .. 15mm... then I can use the exquisite Peter Pig figures...

  7. read more non-fiction... 

  8. A success - I told myself that I should read at least one non-fiction book a month and while I didn't quite manage that I did read some "absolute belter's", and one of them got a hallowed 10+..

    Book
    Comments
    Score (out of 10)
    See blog post [clicky]..8
    See review here [clicky] 8
    See review here [clicky] 9
    See blog review [clicky] 8
    What an absolute belter - I have had this in hardback for some time, and read it when it first came out, but it came up on one of the Kindle deals a few weeks ago for 99p and it seemed stupid not to at that price (his Ardennes, and Stalingrad books also popped up for the same price and I also snapped them up - I suspect they are drumming up interest for the imminent release of his history of Arnhem) Immensely readable history of the Normandy landings from the point when the meteorological team gave the "go", to the freeing of Paris, and covering all the beaches, the breakouts, Caen, Operations Goodwood/Epsom/Totalize etc, the truly harrowing description of the fighting around Falaise, the American breakout by Patton, and the politics, always the politics of Eisenhower's truly monumental role in keeping the Allied forces pointing in one direction, while at the same time having to deal with Churchill/Montgomery, Patton, and de Gaulle...  an amazing book, chock full of first hand accounts, insights into the way the two sides fought wars, a re-appraisal of Montgomery (Beevor and I have to say I are not fans)...  my takeaways? The importance of propaganda at keeping the Germans in the war, the absolute ferociousness of any fighting involving the SS (both sides... and although it's Hollywood fiction put "Fury" in mind), the single mindedness of de Gaulle/Leclerc, and the bravery of the men on the ground...  very much recommended...10
    The first of two memoirs of RAF Battle of Britain pilots, one a survivor, but in this case one who died far too young.. Richard Hillary flew with one of the front line RAF squadrons int he Battle of Britain but was shot down and burnt horribly before being rescued from the English Channel. The book was written by him as part of his recovery from those burns, and covers the first experimental work by doctors on treating burns victims..  the book is sobering, and painful, but under it all there is also the story of a young guy taken from school, put under huge strain, and who begins to grow up as he receives treatment..  what is so sad, is that having recovered, he goes back to flying and was subsequently killed in action..  sobering doesn't even begin to describe it..9
    This was recommended to me by one of the guys I follow on Facebook (of all places), as I mentioned I had been reading Hillary's book, and the author of this biography, Geoffrey Wellum, had just recently died - in this RAF Centenary year it seemed apt I read it, and damn pleased I did as it is without a doubt another 10+ book (it has been an exceptional year for books..) Geoffrey Wellum has been described in may places as the youngest Spitfire pilot in the RAF when he qualified, I think I read somewhere else that he wasn't by a few months, but by the by, he joined straight from school, and was thrown in at the deep end..  he is a very un-pretentious writer and is more than happy to criticise his faults, but the description of learning to fly (Tiger Moth's), flight training school (Harvard's), his deep love of flying, and his eventual selection for fighters and assignment to a front line Spitfire squadron must have been so typical. What was unusual about him was that he survived - he had a tour and three quarters on the front line in Britain, and then just before his second tour ended he was sent as part of the Spitfire force that re-inforced Malta as part of Operation Pedestal before being sent home on sick leave completely physically and emotionally drained..  he recovered, of course, and went on to test the Typhoon, before ending the war as a gunnery instructor...  the descriptions of aerial dog fights over France are spine tingling..  that constant worry about how far you were from home, the engine, and the sheer physicality of flying a Spitfire on the edge in combat..  simply superb...10+
    See review here [clicky]..8

  9. a few more games would be good,

  10. Six table top games in 2018 (c/w eight in 2017) - details below - so less in number, but having said that it felt right, and I didn't feel like we'd not had enough games... I do remember cancelling one game with DG (apologies DG!) as I was just out of hospital (see later) so all in all it was "about right" again...

  11. Salute is just over the horizon, and given I missed Colours in 2017 I am fairly keen to make the trip

  12. Suffice to say I didn't go, but I did make Battleground South, Colours and Warfare this year... right at the moment I'm feeling the same way about Salute in 2019, so we shall see...

  13. More battlefield walks - Tangmere is just up the road and I'd like to take grandson - I also have a yen to visit Edgehill but that will be a slightly more adventurous trip (due to distance).. Bovington is also now on my bucket list....

  14. Bovington [clicky] was well and truly itched this year, but every time I upped to go to Tangmere something came up, so it remains on my list..
...there you go... you may beg to differ, but as it is my blog I can once again report that all targets and goals were achieved ...! Hurrah!!

In summary?? I've got to say that on the personal front 2018 was not the best year..

Not in any priority at all..... work continues to gobble up increasing amounts of what used to be down time; while delightful, and I wouldn't have it any other way, the family and grandson also deserve time; health issues for me and eldest daughter resulted in two missed holidays this year (one of them was a bucket list trip to Granada and the Alhambra Palace), and in my case, my first ever hospital visit (pneumonia); last, but not least, my Pa-in Law died early in the year... so all in all I'll not be missing 2018, and yes, I know and accept others have it far worse....

Re-reading 2017's review, I was finding it difficult at times to motivate myself and summon up the enthusiasm to sit down at the painting table, or set the table up for a game - not surprisingly that continued to be a trend in 2018. With grandson up about at half 6 for his breakfast, I leave for work about half eight and usually get home about 7, have something to eat and I'm usually exhausted and in bed by 9!    Given that, it really is much easier to open a beer, and read a good book for an hour (no cigars - the pneumonia was the wake up, so I kicked them into touch this year)... Having said that, however, this is still (a hugely enjoyable) hobby not a job, and I refuse to stress about it, and I still managed a fair number of good things, so on the hobby front I'll say it was an OK year...  the trip to Bovington with DG [clicky] was outstanding (the wargame show that was on at the same time, not so..) and  of course there was Colours [clicky] and Warfare [clicky]

Other bright spots in 2018?? Well one for sure was the boat [clicky], which was a bit of a life saver at times and restored much needed equilibrium, and to that I would add an utterly awesome concert at the O2 in London (the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer and I's first time at this venue) to see Paul McCartney (and as Ringo popped up for the encore I can very happily say I have seen both remaining Beatles play together) ..  stunning concert..  I've seen Led Zeppelin (all original members), AC/DC (with Bon Scott), Lynyrd Skynyrd (pre plane crash), Thin Lizzy (with Phil) several times, the Floyd, Genesis, and this was easily up there with them... stupendous.

There were 35 posts in 2018 including this one (c/w 45 in 2017, 58 in 2016, 69 in 2015, 68 in 2014, 84 in '13, 85, in '12) which is poor - the downward trend continues, not only for me, but with a few notable exceptions, the blogosphere seems to be slowing down across the board - I'm spending more time on Facebook and I see the same in others...  I'm happy with Blogger, I like to write and it suits my ordered mind, Facebook is great but seems more ephemeral and throw away - having said that I enjoy reading it (I don't post, just comment), finding out what people are doing - it's also a handy way of keeping track of the manufacturers, and what they are doing, but I have an increasing feeling that I spend too much time on it, so that will form one of my intentions this year... 

Six table top games in 2018 (c/w eight in 2017);
  1. WW2 - "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 15 - "Fortified Defence" - Setup and Game
  2. AWI - "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 15 - "Fortified Defence" - Setup and Game (Redux) - Part 1 and "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 15 - "Fortified Defence" - Setup and Game (Redux) - Part 2
  3. WW2 - "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 16 - "Advanced Guard" - Setup and Game
  4. WSS - "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 17 - "Encounter" - Setup and Game (Part 1) and "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 17 - "Encounter" - Game (Part 2)
  5. AWI (the John Corrigan Memorial Game) "Abundance Farm... Set Up" and "Abundance Farm... Game"
  6. WSS - ""La ferme d'abondance" - set up and game."
....the "One Hour Wargames" book (continues to be the best £10 I ever spent - oodles of small and immensely playable scenario's), we had a good'ish range of periods this year (tick, but DG, the next games need to be ACW and Sudan ), three solo games (#1, #2 and #4) the rest face to face with DG, and all games excellent apart from the first time we played #5 (#6 was the second game which was much better)

...apropos of absolutely nothing, 43 books were read in 2018, compared with 52 in '17, 54 in '16, and 46 in '15 so there's a definite feeling that I slowed down across the board this year - distractions aplenty and it needs to change..

Favourite books this year?

Fiction - these were my 'perfect 10's' of the year

I read the whole of the dark Materials trilogy a number of years ago, and am in awe at the imagination Pullman clearly has. He has dreamed up an entire world, with elements of 50's and 60's Britain, but with an entirely alternative technology and science. This is a return to that world, and is a pre-cursor to the Dark Materials trilogy dealing with the birth and very early life of Lyra. So we meet her father, Lord Ariel, her mother (boo hiss), and a cast of amazing support characters, one of whom has a three legged hyena as his daemon...  superb! Can't wait for volume 2.. and this is my first 10 of the year
Been looking forward to this and was not disappointed - Radcliffe is one of those natural story tellers, and this trilogy details the fictional life of Theo Trickey, a paratrooper in the the early days of the parachute regiment...  Radcliffe continues Theo's story, using the same present and past view of his life, and that of the doctor who nurses him in the present while they are in a POW camp following Arnhem. Absolutely fascinating and a real page turner...  so Trickey trains as a commando is transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute regiment is on the Bruneval raid (Operation Biting), before being seconded for SOE operations (a mission that ends in a particularly harrowing way...) in Italy at the time of Mussolini's overthrow, and then rejoining the regiment in time for Operation Torch in Tunisia..  absolutely excellent - can't wait for volume 3
There are a number of authors that classify under the category of "master story tellers" - they're the one's who grip you from the first page, and just tell a story you really want to hear the end of, and Nevil Shute is right up there in the upper reaches of the list..  Pied Piper, Trustee from the Toolroom, On the Beach, and this one, are absolute classics...  told from the perspective of the heroine, Jean Paget, this is the story of her life from the moment she is captured by the Japanese in Malaya, to her survival under brutal conditions, to meeting Joe an Australian POW, her immediate post war life, inheritance, and a life in Australia..  a belter, no other word for it, and an absolute time capsule...  recommended...
See Blog review [clicky]..
Having been completely and utterly enthused by the Falcon of Sparta book, I felt the need for some more hoplite action, and more specifically some Spartan hoplite action, so I turned to this old favourite that has been on my bookshelf for years - a novel depicting the battle of Thermopylae and simply superb as an introduction and taster into both the Spartan way of life (in a word, "military"), the background to the campaign, and how the battle was fought...  his descriptions of what it must have been like to fight in a hoplite shield wall are second to none, and the book is hugely recommended by me..
See blog post [clicky]...
This one came out of nowhere and I loved it..  watch for a review of both parts (see next) on the blog.. review here [clicky]
Liked the first one (see previous) so much that despite a full reading pile I went and got this and started it straight away! Review here [clicky]
My first ever Maigret, or indeed Georges Simenon, and at the end of it, all I could think was "why have I left it so long"?! Three short stories only one of which actually features Maigret himself, but all of which feature the Parisian police force solving a variety of crimes.. simply superb.. the descriptions are evocative and you find yourself immersed in a Paris of Galois smoke, bars, coffee, bistro's and the smell of fresh bread baking .... on the list for next year are the rest of the books!


..so an absolutely outstanding year for good stories but three of these got the hallowed 10+ rating - out of those, it was a close call but on on balance I think the C. J. Sansom book takes it, with Mallinson a close second..  Tombland was monumental I thought, and a stupendous return to print by the author.. I also thoroughly enjoyed reading the Georges Simenon, and I already know that will form an 'intention' for 2019...

For non-fiction, this was the standout in the year ...  it was sobering and eye opening in this RAF anniversary year..  we owe them so much, those young men...



...but this was also very good and make me want to re-read his others on my pile of books...



The worst lowest scoring book was... this was one of three low scorers, but on balance this was probably the lowest...

Volume 5 in the series - and if I'm honest it's a bit of a relief I didn't have to read all five..  as another reviewer put it - they are a trifle "thin"..  not in terms of pages, just food for thought..  this one ends with the battle of Malplaquet...

This year?? Well I intend to
  1. try to keep up my painting efforts.. 
  2. complete the Sudan re-basing, 
  3. re-boot the English Civil War project, 
  4. continue reading more non-fiction... 
  5. Salute is just over the horizon, and I really should go... no really...
  6. Tangmere visit
  7. Edgehill walk - unlikely but if we don't aim, we don't even shoot... (just call me Confucius the Wargamer....)
  8. Spend less time on Facebook - it's wasted time, and it's too easy to lose an hour that I could use doing something else
  9. Lose 3 stone - fed up being a fat bastard...
  10. HMS Victory - been years since I last went ..
  11. Read the whole of the Maigret series
Happy New Year to all my reader - may the dice roll as required, your brushes always keep a sharp tip, the beer be hoppy and bright, and the books all page turners...