Thursday 21 July 2022

The Rise of the Sikh Soldier - Review

The Rise of the Sikh Soldier - the Sikh Warrior through the Ages, c.1700-1900 is the second book by eminent researcher and author of Sikh history and heritage Gurinder Singh Mann published by Helion in their ‘From Musket to Maxim 1815-1914’ series.

This new book considers the significant military developments that led ultimately to the formation of the Khalsa (or fraternity of the pure) and the rise to pre-eminence of European-drilled infantry over feudal cavalry under the great Maharajah Ranjit Singh. The author takes us through the incredibly complex institution that was the Sikh State, including ‘first contact’ with the British Honourable East India Company and the formation, and fall, of the Sikh Empire of the nineteenth century.

The impact of the many European officers employed by the Sikhs to train and command the army was massive, and the western training and discipline together with the Sikh soldiers’ tremendous personal courage and ferocity was to be encountered by the British in the first and second Anglo-Sikh Wars. The events of these two landmark conflicts are discussed in great detail, as are the earlier campaigns against the Afghans and Mahrattas. In fact it is the pre-Anglo-Sikh wars material that I found the most interesting, as much of it was to a large degree previously unknown to me. Indeed, the level of research involved in writing this book means that there is much new information, drawn from original sources. Following the Anglo-Sikh wars the Sikhs became a significant part of (briefly) the East India Company’s army and then Queen Victoria’s Indian Army, and some of these campaigns are also discussed.

There are seven excellent appendices, including the treaty of friendship between the East India Company and the Sirdars Ranjit Singh and Fateh Singh, and several important contemporary letters and other communications. The letter by Baron Hugel describing the Khalsa is particularly interesting as I’ve seen extracts before but not the whole thing.

The book would not be a Helion book if it was not jammed full of pictures of people and places, and we are treated to some fantastic contemporary black and white and colour illustrations or photographs, many of which I’ve not come across before, and plenty of decent maps of the region and of the main battles during the Anglo-Sikh Wars.

This is a formidable, scholarly and information packed publication. It might just spur me on to finish what’s left to do of my Sikh Wars collection. There are mainly Sikh irregulars, Hillmen, a battalion of Gurkhas and some regular cavalry left to do plus some more European cavalry but I don’t know when they will appear on the painting desk. Well, it’s not like I don’t already have enough finished figures already is it?

ISBN 978-1-915070-52-4, 290 pages 15 colour & 32 b/w illustrations, 16 colour & 22 b/w photos, 10

Saturday 16 July 2022

Pendraken 30 years old!

John and I popped down the road today to visit the premises of Pendraken who are celebrating 30 years in business with an open day, with several games on the go, plus a tour of the factory, a free spin on the casting machine, (I asked for more sheep of course), discounted figures and other products and free pizza and donuts!  

Pendraken are definitely a local SME success and have grown massively since they first set up a workshop in their garage. I don’t have any 10mm figures and no plans to get any but they do look very nice en masse. I’m too long in the tooth to switch down to 10mm; I mean it’s taken 30 years or more to go into 1/72 scale!

Here are a few pictures of the some of the games being played. It was a pleasant couple of hours.

Wednesday 13 July 2022

Army of the Kingdom of Italy by Stephen Ede-Borrett reviewed.

Napoleon ‘s Kingdom of Italy was an important cog in his war machine, both geographically, and as a provider of well trained and led troops to help satisfy his continued and growing need for manpower. On that basis alone this new book in Helion’s ‘from Reason to Revolution’ series by Stephen Ede-Barrett is a most welcome addition.

The author kicks off with a necessarily concise but useful introduction covering the Kingdom of Italy from 1805 to 1814, followed by a much more detailed section on Italy in the Napoleonic Period 1796-1814. This chapter really imparts the chaotic and fragmented nature of the Italian Peninsular and its constituent and often warring states and is an excellent introduction to the period for those not fully up to speed on Napoleonic Italy or in need of a brief refresher. The Kingdom of Italy supplied Napoleon’s army with a large number of men, and these were deployed across the Empire in their own discrete formations not only in Italy, but as far afield as the Iberian Peninsular, the Balkans, Germany, Poland and the wilds of Russia where a strong corps fought tenaciously but in the process was annihilated with around 98 percent losses.

This is the first wholly English language book on the uniforms, organisation, personnel and campaigns of the army of the Kingdom of Italy (and not the Army of Italy which was an entirely different organisation; the difference is explained in the book for the benefit of the uninitiated).

The main body of the book is dedicated to the different arms and services of the army, so we have comprehensive chapters on general officers, the Royal Guard, cavalry of the line, infantry of the line, artillery and support units and lastly naval units. The book contains many contemporary black and white illustrations and sixteen pages of gorgeous colour plates depicting the various different troops found within the army. Everything is rounded off with a number of useful appendices and without doubt this book will be of great interest and value to students of the Napoleonic Wars and in particular the army of the Kingdom of Italy. Another great title from Helion, an an enjoyable read and one more publication deserving a place on my bookshelves.

Incidentally way back in the day (the 1980s iirc) I had  the entire Army of the Kingdon of Italy for the 1812 campaign in 15mm, ALL of it. I wonder where it is now?

Saturday 9 July 2022

RIP My Wargaming Cat Esme 😢😰😰😥

Everyone who’s visited the Burrow over the last couple of years will have encountered Esmerelda our little wargaming cat. She was the friendliest and most chilled cat I’ve ever known with a wonderful temperament. We nipped out for half an hour today and when we returned she was laying in the middle of the road outside our house, obviously clipped by a car and killed.

She loved being in my games room especially when we were playing a wargame, often taking a greater interest in the proceedings than one might have expected from a cat. She gave us great joy and as a rescue cat (from Romania) she settled down among the puppies and other cats remarkably well. 
She will be missed very much..😢


Friday 8 July 2022

The Battle of Lissa 1866

Prolific author Quentin Barry’s latest is this fascinating and comprehensive study of the campaign leading up to the naval battle of Lissa in 1866. I’ve read most if not all of the author’s other work which focus on mid nineteenth century land campaigns such as the War of 1866, the Franco-German War and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 so the nautical focus of this book is a welcome departure. The fleets of the Kingdom of Italy and Austria met in the first major engagement of a new age, between significant fleets of ironclads and steam powered wooden warships armed with powerful new rifled shell firing guns. The result was a resounding victory for the Austrians under Admiral Wilhelm von Tegetthoff.

The book explores the development of steam powered screw driven warships, and the Introduction of armour. The fact that the author traces the development of ironclad warships in some detail in the years and wars leading up to this conflict rather than just providing a narrative around the campaign and battle of Lissa certainly adds value, as the battle is firmly placed within the context of the technologically innovative yet sometimes stumbling advances in warship design and development.

Chapters on the Austrian and Italian navies including tactics, weaponry and the strengths and weaknesses of their respective fleets lead nicely into a comprehensive and clearly written account of the battle. The stark differences in the opposing fleets’ tactics stand out as a contributory factor in the Italian defeat, although the Austrian use of the ram did set a rabbit running (in the wrong direction) among naval powers for a while regarding future tactics.

The book contains several very useful colour strategic maps to support the narrative together with others detailing the manoeuvres of the fleets in the battle. There are also a number of contemporary black and white photographs of some of the key personalities and several of the warships engaged.

Overall then, if this era and type of warfare interests you then I can recommend this book as a worthy addition to anyone’s library.

Wednesday 6 July 2022

French Revolutionary Wars game using Soldiers of Napoleon Rules

It must be well over a year since I had any of my French Revolutionary Wars collection on the table so last Saturday men were recalled to barracks and mobilised to have another game using the new Soldiers of Napoleon rules. Richard, Paul and Conrad have played a couple of times since I put on the War of 1812 game a couple of weeks ago so between us we had a much better idea of how to use them. 

For this game set in 1794’ish, the French Army of the Moselle under Lazare Hoche facing the Austrian Army of the Rhine under Gen de Kavellerie Wurmser. Still no sight of Napoleon anywhere. The orders of battle were adapted from a game we played three or maybe four years ago when we did Wissembourg (not the 1870 version). The French, commanded by Conrad and supported by John and Nigel were a hodgepodge of former royalist regular battalions and lots of volunteer and levy battalions of dubious quality that I classed as militia under the rules. The Austrian force included a brigade of Bavarians (‘cos I have some) and another of French Emigres. Both the latter two brigades were militia quality bar one tenuously better Emigre units. The Austrians were commanded by Paul, ably supported by Richard and myself (my second game, actually playing, in a row; what is the world coming to?). We had a plan which involved demonstrating on the right and in the centre while attacking on the left with the grenadiers supported by two batteries of heavy cannon. I don't know about the French plan, although I'm sure they had one.

Anyway, it was a simple encounter battle to further test the rules. Each side had seven brigades in three divisions. One brigade each had to be held back as a reserve to hopefully appear from turn 3 onwards. For those not familiar with these rules, they are card driven and so far I’d say they were quite innovative and challenging, especially for the CinCs as they must allocate cards to their subordinates who have to take what they are given. We’re still working on the best way to handle proper-sized multi-player games (the rules are aimed at one-on-one games really but there is limited provision for my-sized battles, ie big). So, in time honoured fashion here are some photos and a brief commentary on the game. 

The French hoards ready to sweep forward.                      
The Bavarian brigade resplendent in their silly Rumford uniforms. I love them.
Dipping their collective Bavarian toes in the river......
Conrad’s French horse artillery on the crossroads.
Richard on the left was leading an impressive assault force of four grenadiers battalions supported by two 12-pdr batteries.

Meanwhile Paul was on our right with a brigade of cavalry covering the extreme flank.

More of Paul's command in the centre.

I made an error loosely resembling the one made by Ambrose Burnside at Antietam 60-odd years in the future  when I didn't bother with the bridge but pledged very slowly across the river.

The French left.

More French under Nigel.

One of my brigade commanders.

The French quickly took control of the high ground at the crossroads.

French cavalry on their extreme left. The volunteer Hussars du Mort in black  supporting dragoons.

The Emigré Mirabeau Legion and Regiment de Bourbon (in green) fording the river.

The Emigrés about to assault the French-held village.
The rest de Bourbon failed to stop the former French regular battalion's counter attack and were pushed back.
The Austrian reserve cavalry smashed into the enemy dragoons, pushing them back in disarray.

The French centre.

More Austrian heavy cavalry on the right.

Richards attack was stalled and by the presence of enemy cavalry but his artillery made short work of the enemy guns.

Even Esme pretended to be shot!

My command figure dickering about in the river.

Looking along the Austrian line from the right.

Lots and lots of Austrians on horses.
The French reserve, three regiments of cavalry (Carabiniers and heavy cavalry)

Despite taking a hammering the French centre was holding and was probably too strong to tackle head on.

We called it a day when the Austrians were clearly romping ahead in terms of VPs. Although a victory for the Kaiserlichs the French were still in a strong position all along the line except for their left flank where the superior numbers and better quality Austrian cavalry were likely to roll up in time. But who knows….? The Emigrés did a good job on the left but the brigade was shattered after failing to take the town; the grenadiers had been stopped by the presence of cavalry on their flank but were still inching forward. My 'demonstration' in the centre had been slow and pretty pointless although the enemy had rushed their reserves into the centre, and my Bavarian brigade was still stuck in the river. 

As we'd run out of time and although there was no clear tactical advantage the Austrians were deemed the victors due to their far greater number of VPs. They were also likely to roll up the French left with five regiments of cavalry!

Another great game and a good run out for the rules. It was easy enough to fit the armies into the troop types and qualities dictated by the rules and we shall have another game this coming Saturday.