Monday 28 February 2022

I dont need any more Soviet tanks for the Winter War project, but…………

……..I do need the variety. So, a few more Soviet tanks, a mixture of plastic kit and 3D printed models.

Two OT-26 chemical tanks, ie with flamethrowers. These are 3D prints by me.

We next have a company of BT-7 fast tanks. I have one more to do to complete the unit.

Same vehicles, four different marks. From the left, the first is a plastic kit, the second is a resin print of the artillery model with a 76mm howitzer in the turret, the third is a 3D printed OT7 with flamethrower in the hull, the fourth is the command variant, again 3D print by me.

 I’ve been trying to get on top of the pile of pine forest I need to turn into terrain sections, but real life has got in the way over the last couple of weeks and will do for a while to come as my wife Katherine has been diagnosed with what looks like very early stage bowel cancer. Praying the prognosis is good after they’ve done all their tests.

Sunday 27 February 2022

The French Wars of Religion 1572-98

Things have been a bit subdued here in the Burrow over the last couple of weeks, no games, not much painting but plenty of reading. So here’s my take on one of Helion’s latest offerings.

What a fascinating and interesting book on a subject I didn’t know a great deal about in any detail. I’ve always believed that the French Wars of Religion were an incredibly bloody and complicated era and can honestly say that this book has proved to be very enlightening and me to be right! I now at least understand much better what lay behind the wars, as well as having an insight into the politics and of course the armies involved and the battles they fought. This is a refreshing new take on the Wars and the publishers are to be commended yet again for making such a wealth of information on an often overlooked conflict available to a wider audience.

The book is No. 10 in Helion’s ‘From Retinue to Regiment’ series, written by T.J. O’Brien de Clare whomI’ve not come across before. The first part gives us a comprehensive summary of the wars and major battles, accompanied by several newly researched maps which are particularly well done. We then get sections, equally detailed, on the commanders, the armies and the soldiers; what they wore, how they were armed and armoured, their flags, training, organisation and changes in military doctrines as the Wars progressed, all of which makes fascinating reading. The military biographies of no less than 43 commanders are very helpful in placing their actions within the context of the Wars. The author makes some interesting and new conclusions on the impact of the Wars on warfare in Europe during the later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

The book is packed full of black and white illustrations, many of them contemporary, and a large number of pen and ink drawings by the author of different types of troops found in the armies during the Wars., and the central colour plates, again by the author, give yet more examples of dress as well as a large number of flags.

The use of ‘Middle’ French terminology for many of the technical aspects threw me to start with but the reasoning behind it’s use is explained at the start and aided by a useful glossary at the end of the book, and it all makes perfect sense and adds to the narrative. Without doubt an excellent book on an often neglected period, and as a wargamer I shall have to resist the urge to add to my collection.

Monday 14 February 2022

The Battle of Almonacid, Central Spain, 1809

 On Saturday we gathered in the Burrow for a Napoleonic game, organised by Mike using his extensive and gorgeous collection of 1/72 scale figures. The battle chosen was Almonacid, fought between the French and Spanish in central Spain in 1809. Click HERE for more information. We used ‘Absolute Emperor’ with a few house rules. Mike umpired, Shaun and Neil were the French, while John, Nigel and me were the Spanish. The Spanish had to hold on for 12 turns without loosing two divisions to win. The French had to crush the Spanish. 

Our plan was to hold in the centre and maybe when the time was right counter attack on the left and right flanks. Of course the Spanish command and control was nowhere near as good as that of the French, and our troops were outclassed and outnumbered. Much of the army were militia but when we tested for their abilities most ended up being classed as seasoned rather than militia. This was very fortunate and perhaps a great influence on the outcome.

For some reason the photos have been scrambled up out of order. I don't think it matters,  but I shall let the readers be the judge of that.

The Spanish centre at the start of the game.

The battlefield.

This time from the other end. The Spanish had garrisoned the town with a grenadier battalion.

The French attacked all along the line. Pressure was being continuously put on the Spanish centre, but it held. Just. The French eventually captured the town but on our left their attack on our division holding the hill was held and eventually rolled up when the Spanish reserve swung round to take them in the flank. The Spanish cavalry even held their own against their French counterparts. Here a some photos of the action.

The French dragoons in the centre were contained by a combination of cavalry and infantry who prevented them from punching through the Spanish line. 

We played through till gone 4pm, and the outcome was a Spanish victory of sorts. The centre was holding, the left had stopped the French attack and our reserves had rolled up the French right flank. On the French left they’d finally driven the Spanish out of the town but were being funnelled into too narrow frontage to make best use of their superior numbers, and Nigel’s fresh division from our right was moving up to support our centre. It was an incredibly tense and hard fought game, with both sides being laughed at by the dice Gods throughout the game, but maybe the French were laughed at most. The rules worked really well and provided us with a great game. Mikes collection is superb and just shows what you can do with the vast array of 1/72 scale plastic figures available these days; and what’s not to like about a Spanish Napoleonic army?

 Two things to take away from the game were a question over why the French didn’t use their cavalry to outflank our army rather than being used as battering rams in the very congested centre, and that I should not have had two chocolate doughnuts AND a slice of Shaun’s birthday cake!

Friday 11 February 2022

The Battle of Nordlingen 1634 reviewed.

I enjoyed this book immensely. Post-Lutzen Thirty Years War has always been a bit of a grey area to me but I have to say that after reading this book things are much clearer. ‘The Battle of Nordlingen 1634. The Bloody Fight Between Tercios and Brigades’ by Alberto Raul Esteban Ribas is No.77 in Helion’s superb and ever expanding Century of the Soldier series, and yet again they have published a tremendous book.

The main focus of the book is on the events leading up to the battle of Nordlingen, culminating in the battle itself, where the Swedes and their Protestant German allies were soundly defeated by the combined Spanish/Imperial/Catholic League armies, and the book begins with a detailed description and analysis of the armies of the protagonists, including their organisation, drill, equipment and tactics and of the various personalities and commanders present at the battle.

The author’s description of the war in Germany and the campaign, the often conflicting interests and events that led up to the battle are described in great detail, and the chapter covering the battle analyses and describes each brutal and bloody phase of the battle, where the advantages and disadvantages of the Spanish and Swedish formations are discussed; certainly the tactical flexibility, superiority even, of the Tercios was something I had never considered before and found a fascinating perspective. Indeed, the author’s final analysis and conclusions are well argued and evidenced, and it is clear that the Swedish army was out fought and poorly led by comparison to their Catholic enemies, who were to make superior command and control and the professionalism of their commanders especially at a junior level instrumental in their victory.

The book is well written, illustrated with numerous black and white illustrations, some contemporary, some photographs of the battlefield today, and several useful maps of the theatres of war and of the battle. What I found really useful was the cross referencing of the photographs with a map of the battlefield showing how the action unfolded and giving an idea of the terrain involved.

Of course no Helion book would be complete without the traditional colour plates, and there are eight pages of gorgeous images by the brush of talented artist Sergey Shamenkov, depicting examples of uniforms or dress of the varied troop types present at the battle. Another highly recommended publication.

Thursday 10 February 2022

Winter terrain


I’ve managed to make a start in some terrain for the Winter War project. The pieces above are supposed to represent broken or difficult terrain. I’m very happy with them but I think the two bases with tree stumps need some fallen tree trunks adding as well. 

Winter woods are next. I have about 80 assorted pine trees which I shall base up and wintrify so they fit in with the broken ground bases. That’s next weeks job though. 

Tuesday 8 February 2022

Winter War additions


I’m not really used to painting tanks, being more of a 'big battalions or plunderhosen' kind of guy myself. Nevertheless, the new project calls for some tanks. Not too many (fat chance!) but enough to give me some choice or flexibility. Here then we have a company of 1/72 scale Russian multi-turreted T28 tanks. Two are 3D resin prints (closest to the camera) and the other two are Trumpeter plastic kits. 

Next is a true monster, a T35, and another 3D resin print. None took part in the Winter War but I’m afraid history will be rewritten at some point. I mean, who can resist a model of this useless pile of junk, er, iconic Soviet tank. 

Interestingly, a Soviet 'super tank' the SMK, named after assassinated Communist hero Sergei Mironovich Kirov, was in development at the start of the war. The prototype was used in action once, and predictably, was disabled by a mine and captured by the Finns until recovered a few months later. Observers mistook this beast for a T35, hence the confusion. Prototypes of the KV-1 tested at the same time were judged far superior and ordered into production. I need some more snow and ink to finish this model.

Monday 7 February 2022

Saarbruck to Sedan by Ralph Weaver.

I’ve been a follower of Ralph Weaver’s work with the Continental Wars Society for more years than I would wish to remember, so when Helion announced that they were to publish his new book Saabruck to Sedan, the Franco-German War 1870-71, I was quietly excited. Volume 1 (this is to be a series) looks at the uniforms, organisation and weapons of all the armies engaged during the short ‘Imperial’ phase of the war. The book claims to be the first to look solely at the armies themselves, how they were dressed, organised, supplied and equipped, rather than giving us yet another potted history of the demise of the French Second Empire after a series of disastrous battles and the capitulation of Sedan. This focus is good, as another book on the battles of the campaign would probably just be a regurgitation of the same old stuff available elsewhere in numerous other publications, whereas what we have is a precisely detailed investigation of the multitude of uniforms worn during the campaign, both on and off the battlefield.

The book also highlights the widely different approaches adopted to clothing and supplying soldiers in the French (centrally produced by government contractors) and Prussian (the responsibility of a unit’s depot company/squadron) armies, and advances in the development of armaments on both sides are also discussed. 

The author has consulted a wide range of recently published references as well as many contemporary accounts, official publications, private letters and memoirs, together with accounts of what the foreign English language press of the time had to say about the conduct of the war.

The book is broken down into comprehensive sections on the armies of France, Prussia, the North German Confederation, Southern Germany and, interestingly, the various neutral states on the peripheries of the war. These sections are well written, very detailed, looking at each and every different type of infantry, cavalry or artillery unit found in each army, in some ways pleasantly reminiscent (but significantly more detailed) of the series of articles in Airfix magazine from the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. 

The book contains numerous contemporary black and white illustrations and 20 pages of colour plates specially commissioned for the book, showing a range of uniforms, including some rather less than mainstream such as the French remount service and the Prussian postal and medical services.

Overall, this is an excellent book. Unlike many recently published works available on the uniforms of thewar, the focus is on providing good solid information rather than the expensive portrayal of each and every uniform worn. There’s a welcome place for that kind of book, just as there’s an equally important place for a book such as this where the focus is on the detail. I look forward to the next volume in the series. 

Thankfully, I won’t be rushing out to buy some more figures as I have more than I can comfortably use at once as it is. Well, I might do an ambulance or two, and a few vignettes; you can never have enough of those.

Saturday 5 February 2022

Something new for 2022

I’m not a big WW2 wargaming fan, certainly nothing beyond 1940 and ideally not mainstream. That said, for as long as I can remember (sometimes as far back as the day before yesterday) I’ve had a smouldering interest in the Winter War 1939-1940 between Soviet Russia and the Finns, and by extension with the Continuation War 1941-1944.

I’ve also been infected by the 1/72 scale bug recently so when looking for a new project for 2022 the Winter War won hands down; all those other ideas will have to wait. One of my favourite movies on Amazon Prime is The Winter War, a Finnish production, which is really very good indeed. Added to this we have The Unknown Soldier (another cracking film, an adaptation of a classic of Finnish literature) and 1944 The Final Defence, both of which cover the Continuation War, the latter in a semi docu-drama format.

Anyways, I decided to start with the Winter War, and found some Strelets Finn and Soviet infantry to get me going. I found some stuff on eBay which helped pad out the Finns with some resin cast ski troops amongst other bits. I then realised Tumbling Dice produce some 1/72 Soviets in greatcoats and shlem caps (the pointy ones with the red star on the front). Then, almost by accident I came across another company, 1/72 Miniatures, who produce a great selection of Finns and Soviets for the Winter War. 

1/72 Miniatures Soviet command set
1/72 Miniatures Soviet infantry. These are resin.

1/72 Miniatures Soviet LMG and SMGs

1/72 miniatures - resin Finnish infantry on skis pulled by reindeer, who have separately cast antlers for you to stick on!

Although set in 1941-44 this is a superb piece of entertainment.  Lots of ideas in the terrain department as well…..
For all Stug lovers everywhere. More docudrama than strictly fiction, but  highly enjoyable.

Here’s a few of the things I’ve managed to complete so far. A right old mash up of manufacturers and way too many tanks, but it gives me options…..
The sum total of the Finnish armoured contingent, a pair of old machine gun armed FT17s of WW1 vintage and a sole Vickers 6 ton tank. 

A company of Soviet T26 light tanks from various sources, including a couple of 3D printed versions.

Finnish machine gun team. These are resin 3D prints rescaled from 28mm to 1/72

The T26 company again.

Another 3D resin print rescaled to 1/72 is this Finnish sniper.

These are resin 3d prints of Finnish pack reindeer. 

Three platoons of Soviet infantry plus headquarter elements. All to be based. 

Another Finnish sniper. 

BA-6 Armoured cars

A platoon of Russian infantry.
I’ve planned to raise a company of Finns with supporting weaponry, facing at least two if not three companies of Russian infantry, plus armour. I’m working on the remaining vehicles and AFVs at the moment so might get them posted here in a few days. Then it’s back to the infantry and an aeroplane or two……