Wednesday, 28 September 2016

I Made a Cup of Tea for the Warhammer Author Dan Abnett Today

Today at the Academy where I am employed as the careers and guidance Tutor we had a visit organised by the English department from Dan Abnett who is probably most famous in certain wargaming circles for the huge number of Science Fiction novels he's written for the Warhammer 40,000 universe ...Gaunts Ghosts etc. Now I must confess I am not the greatest fan of the Warhammer franchise as the wargaming side is in my opinion a complete rip off with the ridiculously high prices for miniatures,  but I may just pick up one of Dan's novels as his talk on being a writer was absolutely superb and enthraling, and our students were very well behaved as he captivated them with his stories relating to his writing exploits,  not just for Warhammer, but also the comic 2000AD (2000th copy published yesterday) Marvel, Torchwood and the Dr Who radio series.

Cover art by Cliff Robinson from the 2000th  edition of 2000AD

Dans military novels for Warhammer have been based on researching the experiences of soldiers from History. The experience of the crews of his invented giant war machines are based on WW2 submarine crews, and veterans who read his novels and comic strips believe he has served in the forces  as his depiction of camaraderie and military life is so convincing. His belief being that the human experience and condition doesn't change even if the weaponry and universe does.

He has been lucky enough to visit the private weapons collection of the British  Army on  a couple of occasions and has had the chance to feel the weight of weaponry and understand how different weapon systems are used (he has handled Napoleons dueling pistols while there!). Dan is also able to contact serving soldiers and airmen around the world who have entered into correspondence with him enabling him to enquire about aspects of service life.This attention to detail provides greater 'realism' in his science fiction writing.

Apparently a Canadian Leopard Tank crew in Afghanistan were pinned down for a day in a hull down position and to offset the boredom of not moving in a closed down tank for 24 hours the commander read his copy of a Dan Abnett Warhammer novel breaking the paperback into 4 sections and passing it on to the other crew members as he read it. They gave Dan the tanks flag as a thank you!

 Leopard Tank

It was very interesting hearing how a comic strip is produced and how his Warhammer 40,000 novels have developed a more fleshed out fictional universe. The characters, vocalbury  and geography he's created have now influenced the rules and the game. After making Dan a cup of tea at break time I asked if he wargamed at all and he doesn't apart from visiting the Maidstone Warhammer shop to play the occasional game to help with his writing. 

Saturday, 17 September 2016

The Annual Pilgrimage to Euromilitaire Model Show, Folkestone, Kent

The show usually takes place mid September and always cheers me up as the summer draws to a close. It is in its 31st year at the Lees Cliff Hall in Folkestone and although its not a wargames event it is usually inspirational in terms of the modelling and artistic side of our hobby. The competition attracts international entrants and cannot be classed as a local model show although the usual support from Kent and Surrey modelling clubs is in evidence and gives the event a friendly feel.

Was this years event as good as previous years? well apparently entrants to the competition hall were apparently down by 400! and I must admit I did notice a lack of Dioramas this year and there was not one that made me go WOW (or words to that effect!) If it wasn't for the Fantasy class entrants the hall would have looked threadbare. The military vehicles section wasn't overly inspiring either but still there was some fantastic artwork on display in the other classes which can either inspire you or make you think 'I'm unworthy'!!

The above diorama made most smile entitled 'Window Shopping, a Room With a View' it showed some barefaced cheek! Another frivolous diorama (see below) was probably the best in this category the construction of the building itself must have taken hundreds and hundreds of hours even before the rest of the scene was populated and dressed  with incredible detail.

The single figure section was reasonably well supported with some excellent painting on display and a nice mix of painting styles which caught the eye, although I must admit there was not one outstanding figure , which sometimes helps ones own confidence as you think 'well perhaps with a little bit of care and practise I could be as good as that'.

The Fantasy section again demonstrated some fantastic technical painting skills and it's these guys and girls who seem to have perfected embellishing figures in a context setting with some fantastic groundwork, foliage and 'extras' that make some of these figures really standout even if you are not a Fantasy fan.

There were few Aircraft entered into the competition classes which was a shame but the naval subjects although few in number were exceedingly well finished the pick being USS Wasp

The details in the 'cutaway' sections of this modern assault carrier were exceedingly well done

Instead of overloading this post with many more pictures I will add pictures from the day to my other posts and include the pick of the bunch from last year as well, which included the Battle of Waterloo which was an exhibition piece on the main stage. The trade area was where I noticed visitor numbers were down on previous years especially as the Saturday of this two day event is usually the busiest. Most stallholders were reasonably happy with sales but some of the prices of the hyper detailed resin figures made my eyes water! It was nice to see Tommy's War there with their first world war resin figure range and Mitches Military Models had a superb WW2 British Para in 75mm and 120mm scale running with a mortar round container.  

I did buy a few things mostly wargame orientated which included Attack Kits 1/72 Marmon Herrington MK II Armoured Car and a few boxes of Hat figures for my Ancient and Napoleonic armies. I will also have a crack at the Master Box French Cuirassier  vignette as I saw a couple nicely painted at the show and injection moulded plastic is far cheaper than limited run resin.

Well thats a long enough entry on the blog and to sumarise a good event but perhaps a little on the wane compared to the heady years when re enactors were present outside, demonstrators showed off their painting or sculpting skills and bargains were to be had from the retailers.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

A Return to Military Boardgames

The Friday before returning to work after the long summer education break I eventually met up with my Wargaming opponent Mark who is also lucky/unlucky (delete as appropriate) enough to be in the secondary education sector. To cheer ourselves up we had a game of Memoir '44 a game by Richard Berg. Now I haven't played 'Wargame Boardgames' since the 1980's when it was Advanced Squad Leader, Cry Havoc (would love a copy of that fun game again), Storm Over Arnhem, Third Reich  and the massive 'Europa' series of games which if I remember correctly had different WW2 campaigns. Case White the invasion of Russia had maps big enough to cover a ping pong table and 3,000 card pieces denoting Russian and German units...mind blowing stuff in my late teenage years.

Now Memoir '44 is a stylised game with very easy to learn rules and scenarios based on simplified major engagements in WW2  from D Day onwards. Mark had been playing his son over the summer and recommended this game for light entertainment although it is surprisingly strategic and you need to time the playing of key  command cards to achieve your objectives and wiping out enemy units to earn yourself  'medals', Huzzah!

We played the first scenario, Pegasus Bridge which just involved infantry units enabling me to learn the basic rules quickly. As you can see in the pictures (although others will be more acquainted with this game I'm sure)it is a very basic representation of the terrain encountered with the two objectives the famous Pegasus Canal Bridge on the left and the Orne River Bridge on the right.

Initially I tried to attack Pegasus Bridge head on dashing like the glider troops did straight up to the bridge....this resulted in many casualties and my Paras took a real hiding, however the Orne Bridge was simpler and taken relatively quickly. Mark is a superb defensive wargamer and usually enjoys many wins against my more headstrong attacking mentality.....however eventually I outflanked the German  defenders and with a few fortuitous attack cards turning up from the deck giving me heavy weapons support bonuses and a change in my dice rolling luck led to final victory for the plucky Paras after being behind for most of the game.

The playing pieces again are stylised representations of Weapons/Tanks & Infantry but with Marks superb painting skills they end up looking brilliant and much more inspiring.

The smug look of Victory for Fraxinus or was it the happy consumption of Jam doughnuts during the game! After an enjoyable mornings play we had to visit one of Dovers micro pubs the 'Rack of Ale' for an enlightening tour of the tap room & quafing of Firkin summer ale.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Flash Gordons and the 1st Dettol Highlanders

After perusing the rejuvenated Waterloo to Mons Blog I  have decided to join Matt on a retro Airfix Waterloo project...although other 20mm plastic manufacturers figures will be added to the core set. This led to me exploring that part of the loft insulation rarely visited plus a couple of chance buys at local collectors shops.

Thinking about it I am not sure I have ever had a project as such but in all truth I dip without any planning into whatever takes my fancy at the time with my modelling table groaning under figures and kits from all eras. I do envy those who see a project to the end.

To start with I found similar to Matt that the current catalogue Airfix Battle of Waterloo set suffers from the age of the injection moulds which although not in the same league as the flash on current WW2 Revell German paratroops (that is another story!) is still frustrating when you are dealing with cleaning the mould seams off 'soft plastic' 20mm figures. New pack of razor blades, magnifying glass and elastoplast at the ready.

The first figures I will try to paint are usually the hardest those 'amazons',  the Highlanders, first produced by Airfix in 1969 as one of two packets of HO OO figures that started the Waterloo series. In a toy collectors shop at Herne Bay I found residing sadly forgotten in a shoe box, plastic bags of Airfix figures mostly Waterloo and American Civil War....I did a deal and bought the lot! Many are painted very badly but the Waterloo figures are in that cream plastic of the original sets with no flash. So goodbye Flash Gordon's but I needed to remove the paint. Time to try the Dettol method as recommended  online after some google research. Easier and cleaner than car break fluid apparently! definitely don't go there.

Take one plastic carton of Coop 'Loved by us' Tomato and Basil soup.....add garlic bread and eat for lunch. Wash up cartoon which has an excellent sealing lid add 2 inches of ordinary brown Detoll add Airfix highlanders and leave for a day occasionally shaking the carton when visiting the bathroom. I in fact left them 3 days as I had a short holiday break in between. Use a toothbrush and some running water and scrub and all the paint lifts off leaving 'as good as new' 1970's Highlanders. At least when they are hit by musket fire they should be resistant to infected wounds!!!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

A Difficult 3 Years

Well it's been a long time! 3 years ago as mentioned in my last post in the summer of 2013 my father was taken ill. Well a lot has happened since, including selling the family home in Surrey, moving mum into a bungalow near me and dad into a nursing home also nearby. The working life of an academy careers tutor has also become a lot busier as well, and modeling and wargaming has taken a back seat although some activity has taken place, usually short 1 hour games and just a few figures painted. Reporting this on a blog has been a call on time too far hence the blogging 'radio silence'.

February this year my father passed away and my partner Hazel's father also passed away 3 months later. We are just about recovering from these expected but still distressing events.

Earlier this year someone used a photo from my blog on Facebook saying it was their collection of Airfix figures! I made a suitable comment but it got me casually reading some of my favoutite blogs again although Matt and 'Waterloo to Mons' seems to have ceased again a great shame. I then decided I would soon revisit Victory V as I enjoyed the discipline of writing the blog and occasionally someone may perhaps have enjoyed reading it!

The regular article in Miniature Wargames on blogs has also brought some new sites to look at , but I must start looking at 'freshening' Victory V up a bit as it had become  a little cluttered and dated, tips welcomed as I am not in any way an IT 'techie' this may take some time!

The above photo shows one of my old T34/85's (not Joseph Stalin thanks Simon!) behind an Airfix Strongpoint in a '1 hour wargame' in the 2016 Easter Hols. Oh and while I may not have modelled and wargamed much the loft insulation, stashes and lead mountains have increased vastly out of all proportion to activity.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Battle of Otterburn 1388 & Shortened Holiday

Two weeks ago it was all systems go for a Northumberland Holiday staying in Kielder Forest. Hazel and I had a large itinerary of places to visit and walks to do;  Hadrians Wall, Bamburgh castle, Cragside House, Alnwick Castle, Warkworth Castle, The Cheviot Hills, Flodden Battlefield, Farne Islands etc etc etc. All initially went well an excellent drive of 430 miles from Kent followed by a 12 mile walk next day along the Kielder Lake footpath, superb scenery and some jolly nice ale sampling at a local hostelry!
Kielder water is huge and surrounded by  massive commercial forestry operations which cut off the local electricity supply to Kielder Village when felling is in progress nearby. The whole area is set up for outdoor tourism with campsites and water sports centers 'all over the shop'.
The wildlife was superb and for a qualified Countryside Manager like me I was amazed at the amount of Orchids (lesser Spotted) growing like weeds along the footpath on our walk along the shore line.
Anyway BEER! I was delighted to sample two local brews by the Wylam Brewery 'Dognobbler' a 3.9% light hoppy and very refreshing ale after a hot walk followed by a more mature ruby red ale 'Red Kite' at 4.5% a very wholesome ale along the lines of Shepherd Neames 'Late Red'. The one thing you do need to do when walking along Kielder water is to cover yourself entirely in 'Mossie Guard'....them midges assemble in 'fighter gruppen' and descend on any exposed white flesh available!
The second day of the holiday included Cragside House famous for being the first 'domestic' home with electric light and the country seat of the Victorian Industrialist and arms manufacturer Lord Armstrong. A fantastic 'pile' with an 8 tonne Italian marble fireplace on the third floor supported on the rock face which the house is built into, interestingly for an industrialists house it was furnished in very much a William Morris Arts and Crafts sort of way although it can be said the whole house was definitely the domain of 'chaps' with Billiard rooms and hunting pictures and collections everywhere.
A picture of a Military Chap
A Victorian Painting 'After Chevy Chase' The Battle of Otterburn 1388 usual Victorian sentimentality and wrong period armour by about 150 years!
More BEER before 'doing the gardens' this time 'Nels Best' by the High House Farm Brewery a deep golden 4.2% ale another clean and refreshing modern ale named after the local farms Collie Dog!
The formal gardens were a good walk from the house but what a view!
Returning from Cragside to Kielder we went via the Village of Otterburn famous for its 'Private Battle' in 1388 basically English V Scots but in all reality it could have been billed as Percy V Douglas which Douglas's men won although Douglas himself was killed and Henry Percy 'Hotspur' was captured. Both armies were about 7,000 strong and the conventional English tactics of using longbows failed as it was getting too dark to fire arrows. The Ballad of Chevy Chase described the bloody encounter these three verses seem appropriate;

The battle began in Cheviot
An hour before the noon
And when even-song bell was rung
The battle was not half done

They  took 'on' on either hand
By the light of the moon,
Many had no strength for to stand
In Cheviot the hills above

Of fifteen hundred archers of England
Went away but fifty three
Of twenty hundred spear men of Scotland
But even five and fifty

The memorial stone to the battle is in the photo at the top of this piece and is contained within a grove of Larch trees planted by the national Trust in 1977 there is the one interpretation board and a few sorry looking picnic tables. behind the larches the land where the battle took place is shown above. A nice range of wargames figures are produced for this battle by Claymore Castings in 28mm
On Friday evening we heard my father had been rushed into hospital during the day so after a bad nights sleep we decided we would do Alnwick castle and then return south so we made the most of our last day in Northumberland by spending it entirely at the castle which I will follow up on in a future posting especially with regards to the Northumberland Fusiliers Museum.
Its  a very impressive edifice and has remained in the Percy Family the Dukes of Northumberland for over 700 years
The state rooms were very ornate (no photos allowed sadly) and some impressive masterpieces were on display including some Canaletto's which I always love seeing, the 'light' he put into his paintings always astounds me.
Never ones to miss an opportunity to look stupid we duly got togged up and got stuck in the stocks!
The castle gardens were equally impressive and the children were enjoying the joke fountains! Sadly the next day we left for Surrey and I have spent the last 10 days helping my parents, dad is now out of Hospital after contracting Pneumonia and blood clots on his lungs and is making slow but steady progress. I did take my 'modelling crate' thinking I would get time to complete some Panzer IV's etc but it was full on being a carer and sorting out medical appointments and support .... I also visited the Local Sainsbury's supermarket more times than I care to remember!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

100 Blog Posts - Airfix Sam 2 Missile Set

To celebrate actually having written 100 blog entries ...only taken 5 years! as slow as one of Geoffrey Boycotts England innings! I am posting two pics for your amazement and wonderment of the Airfix Sam-2 Guideline Missile set.This I purchased at the weekend at the War & Peace Revival much to my amazement. There were hundreds of stalls selling everything from jeep and tank spare parts-kits-1940's underwear - Bren guns (£640 if you are wondering) etc etc. One stall was selling kits, the purveyors were from deepest darkest Cornwall and were jolly enough but their kits were priced at £15 for series 1 Airfix & Novo (bagged & plastic/card ) and almost went up by size of box with no relevance to rarity of the kit. I almost turned away thinking 'all a bit rich for me' when I noticed stacked with series 2 &3 1970's boxed Airfix kits one of my 'holy grails' an almost mint Sam 2 set, only marred by an ancient Woolworths price sticker.
Now as any collector and follower of the Airfix brand knows this is one of the kits which along with the Ferguson Tractor, SS France, Original Spitfire, the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 will not re appear as its mold was damaged or lost. Its price £10 I rapidly invested! (it seems to go for anything between £15 - £70 on e bay or at auction, with about £30-£35 being the norm) The original 1973 Airfix Catalogue description ' 19 No A303V SAM-2 Guideline Missile. This Russian defensive surface-to-air missile is currently deployed in North Vietnam and Egypt. This new 124 piece kit provides cab and trailer together with launching platform.'
 To celebrate the Sam -2 I also succumbed to the original Airfix Provost with Rocket rails in RAF Training Command colours, love the box art too. I remember my dad making this kit in the 1970's.
 Also at War & Peace Revival were some model displays and trading area but outside the racecourse main stand near the Battle of Britain exhibition with no clear signposting was a tent which contained this fantastic model collection of RAF aircraft involved with intercepting the V1 menace and late war fighter operations
 It looks like a lifetimes work sadly there ws not anyone present to quiz over how long it took to build this lot, but what a collection and shows how effective building to a theme can be.
 Below is a superb model of a V1 launch site. The whole display was well 'labelled' with information sheets
 At the back of the tent was a wargame display by the guys from 'Crush The Kaiser' who write fast play wargames rules for the Western Front. They also have a blog crushthekaiser.blogspot a set of WW1 aerial combat rules will be out by Christmas a sneak preview I have saw last autumn it uses telescopic stands adapted from a product bought from Tesco for 99p to give the 1/72 model planes different height levels. I hope to get a game with them sometime as they are East Kent based.
 The game at War & Peace depicted an early engagement of the battle of the Marne, the poppies a nice touch.
Will post a few pics of models from the MAFVA stand plus WW2 vehicles soon,  anyway on with house maintenance for the rest of the day in between thunder storms!