Sunday 31 August 2014

Royal Blood

This is out now and it's great, if you like this sort of thing? A bit off topic but we all need something to paint along to, do we not?

The best track by far is Little Monster, which is little short of perfect:

Chain of Command Japanese Platoon [10]

I been thinking of ways to adjust the Japanese platoon for Chain of Command to something more manageable, as the workload assembling and painting four thirteen man sections is nuts, let alone the support units with their five or six man teams. This seems fine for 1942 but, as I'll be gaming against a later war Chindit force, I think it's a little unrealistic and probably unnecessary. I can't see the need for the extra cutting, gluing and swearing, so I've been looking for a way out.
Thus, rummaging through the TFL Specials for something else, I came across an article by Richard Morrill from Christmas 2008, in which he sets out his organisation of a Japanese rifle platoon for TW&T. This is a platoon level set of rules akin to Chain of Command in scale, so I read on. The long and the short and the tall of it, is that I can reduce my rifle sections and grenade launcher section to a modest ten men each.
A quick calculation later and I realised that I have all but an LMG team to add in order to fill out the three rifle sections. This will leave a ten man GD section to be assembled, together and the HQ team of two figures, in order to complete the full platoon ready for painting. This is more than achievable and will free up some time and effort for more support units too including a couple of Chi Ha tanks and another engineer team.
Banzai indeed!

Saturday 30 August 2014

Citadel Paint Clearout

We got home a couple of hours ago after the usual thirteen hour journey, which wasn't too bad as we had a cabin on the boat and slept our way through the worst of it. Anyway, I was unpacking my paints and decided on the spur of the moment to get rid of my extensive collection of Citadel paint pots, none of which had been packed for the holidays and which have been gathering dust on my workbench paint rack for yonks.
Not that they aren't nice shades or that I haven't used them in the relatively recent past but, ink washes and naval grey shades aside, they have been pretty redundant for a long time. When I got back into wargaming about fifteen years ago, they were my first choice as they were readily available and, at that time, in a limited but versatile range. Now, however, there are much better alternatives, which has meant that I rarely make use of them.
Instead, I have been a big fan of the Foundry three shade range, which has made it much easier for me to produce some reasonable results when layering and shading. Add to that the massive Vallejo range, especially for aircraft which I paint a lot of the time, and the Citadel fantasy shades look decidedly out of place. I've also been sucked into the Army Painter basecoat and dip approach,  which means that I really don't need sixty pots of paint designed for elves, dwarfs and space marines.
I'm not chucking them away but have boxed them up for the times when I really need some Camo Green, Kommando Khaki or Bestial Brown, all of which have been really useful in the past. I also have some really old pots of Jungle Green, Horizon Blue and Imperial Strike Green , amongst a few other shades, which are vintage colours that I'm loath to abandon. I'm also keeping a selection of the new inks especially Nuln Oil, which is a favourite way to wash and define tiddly planes and ships.
A bit radical...but I'm pleased to clear the decks and look forward to the impact it'll have on my painting!

Friday 29 August 2014

Au revoir!

It's the end of the holidays and we're heading home over the next couple of days, so there will be a short break in posts until I get back. Bye for now.

Thursday 28 August 2014


I've been looking for a simple squad level skirmish set of rules for WW2 for a while, as an alternative to Bolt Action!, which is fine but not really historical enough for my taste. It seems that most 'skirmish' rules are platoon level rather than squad or section based, so it's not easy to find something that you can play using a dozen or so 28mm figures a side.
Anyway, I was following some threads on TMP today and bumped into NUTS! (ooh er), which I'd heard of before but didn't really know much about, aside from the dodgy name. It looks like a roleplaying / wargaming hybrid, with plenty of flexibility to scale up or down depending on what you want to do. In other words, it might work very well for what I'm thinking of.
I'll give it a look over and see how it works.

SAGA Summer [8]

I've almost got the Normans ready for the Quick Shade but haven't quite managed to wrap them up before we head off home. They're a bit rough and ready but I'm pleased that sticking to a very limited palette has made the painting more challenging and, therefore, less of a pain on the bum. I need to add another layer to the flesh and pick out some details, then I'll tackle the decals and give them a dip.
I also need to paint the horses, not to mention the other two units, but this can wait until I get back to civilisation in a couple of days. Unfortunately, I'll also be back at work which means time will be at a premium, although I plan to complete the SAGA Normans in the first couple of weeks of term. When they're finished I'm going to set up a game at the club, where they will almost certainly be wiped out to a man. 
I have a sketchy idea about how the SAGA rules work and I'm tactically impaired at the best of times, so it'll be a walkover for whoever takes up the challenge. However, I've enjoyed the painting side of the project and hope to get the Viking warband done as well, once the Japanese are out of the way. The limited palette approach has given me some painting ideas for them which I'll have to try out.

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Chain of Command Change of Scale

I've been thinking about this for a while and have decided that, once the Warlord Japanese are finished, I'll be switching over to 15mm for Chain of Command, leaving 28mm for squad level skirmish gaming and Bolt Action. This makes a lot of sense to me, given the relative cost and time factor involved with 15mm compared to 28mm, even when plastics are taken into consideration. 
I'm also more comfortable painting in 15mm and, therefore, can work much faster than in 28mm. The ground scale in Chain of Command is also closer to 15mm than 28mm and I have plenty of late war Peter Pig British figures to get me started. In fact, the old 5th Battalion DCLI project that I originally did in 20mm would be perfect as a historical starting point.
It would also allow me to do some decent NW Europe / Normandy style terrain, especially as there are now plenty of really nice mdf buildings available from Sarrissa Precision and 4Ground, amongst others. I originally intended to use the 15mm stuff for IABSM but I also have 14th Army and Japanese in 15mm for this, so the late war British and Germans are surplus to requirements.
When this will happen is another question but it would be a good way to reduce the leadpile and have two 15mm platoons with support sorted in a fraction of the time it would take me in 28mm, for a fraction of the cost. If the object of the exercise is to actually game rather than paint, then this makes sense to me, especially as it means I can game at home as well as at the club.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

The Wreck of Vorpostenboot 721


This time last year I had a brief glimpse of the wreck of a Kriegsmarine Vorpostenboot, VP 721, that had been run aground in the Bay of Audierne, after a one sided and less than successful battle on 22nd/23rd August 1944 with Force 27 during Operation KINETIC:
At the time, the tide was rapidly rising and the dark was descending fast, which made it impossible to get up close to the wreck. This morning, we went back to have another look even though the tide wasn't as low as before. This time, however, it was daylight rather than early evening, so I managed to get up pretty close and took reasonably detailed pictures despite the impressive surf. 
It would appear that the bow section has been tipped over to port by action of the waves, leaving just two of the hull bulkheads extant. The boiler has remained the opposite way up, perhaps due to it's size and weight, whilst the structure aft is, I think, a surviving section of the hull plating. It's difficult to work out what's what, so I'm hoping to be able to return next year when the tide coefficient is really high.

SAGA Summer [7]

I finally got my painting mojo back yesterday, largely as a result of a pretty drastic decision to only use a small set of Army Painter paints which I bought for the boys to use on their models. This starter set consisted of ten basic colours, to which I added a couple of bottles of Quick Shade and a couple of bottles of colour primer, which I happened to have packed with my other paints.
This means that I've been forced to mix shades and think of ways to do things that would otherwise be easy, making the whole thing more of a challenge and thus more involving. It's also made me adopt the simple basecoat and dip approach, although I have given in to temptation and done some layering and shading.
I'm about half way there with the figures but haven't started on the horses yet and, with only three days of holiday to go, I'll have to step on it to get the basic 4 point warband finished. I may well re-paint some bits when I get home but I should be able to get most of the painting completed by the time we pack up on Thursday. 

Monday 25 August 2014

Normandy Trip [3]


The last of the photos from the Normandy camping expedition, with a trip to the castle in Fougeres, which I've always wanted to visit. It's a very impressive site, with an excellent narrative trail that takes you via the barbican, to the outer ward and through to original inner ward and the three principal towers. It has a very impressive array of water defences and a rather splendid four wheel overshot watermill too. I was particularly struck by the secondary barbican and the layered defences, which reminded me of Chepstow and Caernarvon, albeit on a smaller scale. The local cider is rather good too, as you can see from the last photo.

Sunday 24 August 2014

Typhoons versus Fw190's

Stills from the gun camera of F/Sgt Erasmus (IWM)

While researching the B17 story yesterday,  I came across this detailed account of a dogfight between the Typhoon Mk1's of 266 Squadron and the FW190's of III/JG2 over the Brest peninsula on 15 August 1943, with obvious potential for a BTH2 scenario. This would involve an initial engagement between six Typhoons a roughly equal number  of Fw190's:

Combat occurred over the Brest peninsula in the afternoon, as Allied fighters swept the area. Circus 51 was flown by bomb-carrying Whirlwinds of 263 Sqdn, escorted by various fighter units. The Whirlwinds were tasked with bombing Guipavas airfield. 193 and 266 Sqdns were to fly together as one squadron, with six aircraft from each unit taking part, and they were to operate in a free-lance role.
However, the Whirlwinds and their escort were recalled before bombs were released due to bad weather over the target area, but 193 and 266 Sqdns did not know that the mission had been cancelled, and continued to Brest peninsula at 5,300 m. Once there, 266 Sqdn spotted an estimated four to seven enemy aircraft approaching from behind, and six Typhoons of the squadron turned back to engage. 193 Sqdn made no enemy contact, and was on the way home when it realised 266 Sqdn had run into FW 190s.

S/Ldr. A.S. McIntyre was shot down and killed early in the combat in Typhoon Mk.Ib JP492, by an FW 190 from about 50 m distance. F/Sgt. Derek Erasmus, a Rhodesian in Typhoon Ib EJ917, and S/Ldr. McIntyre’s Number Two, attacked the FW 190 and shot it down. F/O. J. Small was killed at this time, despite being seen to bale out of Typhoon Mk.Ib DN296.
F/Sgt. Erasmus attacked a number of enemy aircraft, and claimed one damaged, but was attacked several times himself. He submitted the following combat report:

We turned hard through 180º; I positioned myself about 500 ft above, up sun of Red 1, when he called out ‘190’s’. He went for the first of the two which rolled on its back. The second one opened fire at Red 1. I fired at this one from long range and it dived away. I turned hard port to look for Red 1 and was immediately attacked from above and behind, I turned into it and the 190 overshot.
I then saw a 190 about 1,000 feet below on its back, I dived at it opening fire at about 300 yards and saw strikes in rear of fuselage. I then did a climbing turn into sun and called up Red 1 but received no answer. I immediately saw a 190 close behind a Typhoon below me, to port. The 190 opened fire, black smoke came from the Typhoon and the 190 went into about 50 yards, there was a flash from the Typhoon which turned on its back with black smoke and flashes coming from it.
The 190 did a steep climbing turn just as I opened fire out of range. I then closed into about 150 yards firing with 30º deflection. There was a bright flash in the cockpit and it went down burning. I saw it crash near three other aircraft burning on the ground.
I was then attacked by another 190 which I turned with. I turned inside him and before I could fire he turned on his back and dived, I followed him as he had black and white smoke coming from his engine, and wing tip trails, I think he had been damaged before. I was closing rapidly but he was heading in towards France so I gave him a quick squirt and turned hard for home.
On the way over the coast I passed a 190 with long range tank. I called up Red 1 but there was no answer. I also heard ‘Circus Leader calling Finnan Leader.

Judging from his gun camera stills, it is clear that F/Sgt. Erasmus had downed an FW 190 with long-range tanks. There are six shots in total. In the first two, a hit can be seen in the tail. In the third a major hit is seen at the base of the port wing. In shots four, five and six, this hit develops into a major explosion covering the port side of the aircraft.

F/Sgt. Erasmus returned to base alone, and belly-landed at Portreath. The three other 266 Sqdn pilots met up, closed formation, and headed for home at low-altitude. F/Lt. Wright reported:

“I was flying as Yellow 1 and as we were coming down out of France I reported aircraft at eleven o’clock coming around to seven behind, there were about six or seven. Pinnan Leader told us to turn to port and we engaged the aircraft. Two enemy aircraft came up behind us (Yellow 1 and 2), I turned sharply warning No.2, I got a deflecting shot in at the enemy aircraft, saw strikes, enemy aircraft rolled on his back and went down.
I then saw my No.2 flying towards coast with white smoke coming out of his aircraft, I saw him bale out and get caught up with tail plane. His parachute then dragged him free. I then turned towards coast and met Blue section as we were diving towards sea.

There was a subsequent engagement but, to keep things simple I'll stick to the first clash between the six Typhoons and the six or so FW190's before the later action developed, otherwise it ends up being too complicated. It's a simple dogfight scenario but no less interesting, as it pits the Typhoon Mk1b in a pure fighter role against the FW190-A4,  which will be a fairly tight match.

Rome and Carthage

We went to Quimper yesterday and, as usual, popped into the local games shop to pick up some travel games for the kids. It's an excellent little shop and has a wide range of board games, puzzles and traditional strategy games. I had a rummage and found an English language copy of Rome and Carthage, which looks like a simple version of Successors, so I've added it to the collection.
I also located a copy of Vae Victis with the full rules, counters and board for Age of Aces, which I'm going to have a playtest of sometime during the week. The rules look pretty straightforward and have some interesting mechanisms, with the English version available as a download from the Vae Victis site, along with the various record sheets and tracks.

Saturday 23 August 2014

Last Mission of B17F 42-29901 LF-K 'The Flying Bulldog'

A bit of googling and I've identified the 379th Bombardment Group, 526th Bombardment Squadron B17 that was destroyed on September 16th 1943. This was a mission targeting the ball bearing plant in Nantes, Brittany. The crew, who may have been known as 'The Nasty Ten', were flying B17F 42-29901 LF-K, which was either 'The Fighting Bulldog' or 'The Flying Bulldog' but, as there are no photos of the nose art, it's difficult to be sure.
The B17 was hit by an aerial bomb dropped by an FW190-A6 of 10/JG-2, flown by Fw. Alfred Geisthardt. It seems likely that this hit the foreward fuselage as none of the crew in this section survived, whilst most of the rear fuselage crew managed to get out before the aircraft crashed near Grand-Fougery. The attack took place at 7000m at 15.48, as recorded by the Fw190 gun camera. although why an aerial bomb was used is an interesting question?

The crew were led by 1st Lt W.C. Euwer (KIA), with 2nd Lt L.M.Brown (KIA) as co-pilot. The navigator was 2nd Lt S.A.R.Evans (KIA) and the bombardier was 2nd Lt E.F.Connolly (KIA). The radio operator was T/Sgt S.N.Blatchford, who managed to parachute to safety and was subsequently hidden by the resistance, only to be captured in January 1944 and sent to a PoW camp in Germany. The flight engineer / top turret gunner was S/Sgt L.A.Hamilton (KIA).
In the rear fuselage, the ball turret gunner was S/Sgt E.W. Schroeder (PoW), the left waist gunner was S/Sgt A.D.Held (PoW) and the right waist gunner was S/Sgt C.G. Koval (PoW) who was also helped to evade by the resistance until captured. It seems likely that the bomb separated or otherwise destroyed the fuselage ahead of the bomb bay section, allowing these men to bail out. The tail gunner was S/Sgt C.M.Hart (KIA).
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a photo of either the aircraft or the crew, which is a bit disappointing. However, I have found a photo of the Fw190-A6 pilot Fw. Alfred Geisthardt's grave in Ysselsteyn, Holland, where he was shot down near Beuningen on 16th December 1943. I'm guessing that this would have been by the RAF but I'll have to check. That's another story to investigate....

Normandy Trip [2]


On Thursday morning we were looking for something interesting to do, so picked up some leaflets in the local tourist office. The result was a trip to the Chateau de Landal near Dol de Betagne, which has recently been opened to the public and is in the process of being restored by a heritage trust. They have a website here:
In the UK this place would have been tidied up by English Heritage or the national Trust but in France it has been left pretty much untouched, with goats in the moat, overgrown walls and crumbling masonry. The atmosphere is very low key and we could wander around pretty much as we wanted, with no health and safety warnings to be seen.
It's a fantastic place and made all the more enjoyable for the kids by a wide selection of games that are distributed around the site for anyone to pick up and play. I spent most of the time taking photos of the architecture, which is great as inspiration for terrain scratch-building and as a source of ideas for scenarios, from the Hundred Years War to the Three Musketeers.

Normandy Trip [1]

We had a great time camping for a few days in Normandy. The campsite was excellent and situated within walking distance of Mont St Michel, which we visited (again) in the rain on Tuesday. On Tuesday we visited the nearby German Military Cemetery at Huisnes sur Mer followed by the American Cemetery and Memorial at St James.
The contrast between the two is obvious but both are set in very beautiful countryside and are very peaceful. At the American Cemetery I found a row of headstones with the same date and unit, which I think are the crew of a single B17, which was probably shot down over St Nazaire, Lorient or Brest. I'll have to do some research to find out what happened to the aircraft and crew involved.


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