A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Thursday, 7 December 2017

1809 Spaniards - More Light Horse

Yesterday I received a couple of commissioned units which have been in the pipeline for a year or so. Mr B has been somewhat indisposed recently, with one thing and another, but he duly delivered in time for Christmas, so I now have a nice present to give myself - or perhaps it was for last year - doesn't matter really.

Here, in Mr B's trademark style, are two custom-built units of converted Hinton Hunt figures. One is simply a Creeping Elegance project, to replace another unit of the same name, which I was never really happy with - so here is the new version of the Husares Españoles...

Heavily converted HH figures - French mirliton hussar, hacked about, plume moved
to left side - not quite sure what the provenance of the horses is - if you're an HH enthusiast,
please spot the donor castings
I'll attempt a team photo of all the Spanish light cavalry for 1809 - that's
6 units of converted Hintons
The other unit utilises a very nice converted figure which I've admired ever since Clive (I think) got some a few years ago. Here, ladies and gentlemen, are the Lanceros de Carmona, all ready for Bailen.

Something a little different - straight from the pages of Jose Maria Bueno
They're nice, aren't they? Complete with stripey blankets - businesslike.


And that is the Spanish light cavalry complete, except....

Well, except that it would be a shame to waste the older version of the hussars, so I may repaint them and re-recruit them as the Husares de San Narciso - not sure about this. Beyond current planning, anyway.


There are now just 4 units of heavy (well, heavier) cavalry still to be painted for the 1809 Spanish army. - 1 of dragoons and 3 of line cavalry. They are in the new, all-singing, all-dancing plan for 2018.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Hooptedoodle #287 - The Sun Made It Again

08:13am 6th December 2017, South East Scotland
Having got up early this morning (lots to do), and having been subjected to the radio news long enough to get up to speed on what those ridiculous clowns in Westminster have been doing, and having heard the latest forecasts for the economy and the weather, I am almost surprised that the sun bothered to come up today.

In fact it did such a good job that the Contesse went out on the steps with her camera.

Perhaps there is still a little hope.

Coffee. Toasted bagels. Franz Schmidt's 1st Symphony. It all helps.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Getting Better Organised - Productivity Is a Good Thing

Painting has been going pretty well recently - by my standards! Only bad news is that I'm adding to the queue faster than I'm getting through it. Current big refurb job on a load of vintage Napoleonic French infantry is doing OK, though not setting the grass on fire - I've just finished a second coat on the white, and it's still not as opaque as I'd like it, so a third coat is coming up. Elsewhere I have some jobs outstanding for the Spanish and Portuguese - notably some pretty challenging cavalry - and then there are some other Peninsular War things, but the big monster coming up on the blind side is the 20mm Bavarian army which is to start after New Year - there are plenty of figures ready now and there's more on the way.



In the circumstances I am very pleased to have re-established contact with David, who did some nice painting for me a few years ago - this should be a big help. I'll be shipping off some 1809 Spaniards for his attention in a week or so. I've unearthed the pilot figure for this first batch - these will be the Reales Guardias Españolas, who are destined to be brigaded with my existing Guardias Walonas in the Reserve division. The figure is a modified NapoleoN casting - some tweaks in the cuff detail to make him into a guardsman. Two battalions of these chaps will be a weight off my conscience - less little voices to nag me about not being painted yet. The intention is to have one battalion in the brown overalls illustrated, the other in dark blue.

If all goes to plan, the finished troops should be ready in about a month, and there are some more Spanish light infantry next up...

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Hooptedoodle #286 - A Brief Journey into the Unknown

Saturday was the day for my exciting trip to Perth & Kinross, which is unusually exotic for someone who doesn't get out much. Since I am not too confident about the last bit of the route, I transferred the satnav from my car into the van and loaded up the route. It is a very ancient Garmin Nuvi 250 - the only reason I persist with it is because I invested in a lifetime supply of map updates. Whether it is for my own lifetime or the device's is a matter of moot - I could never raise the courage to find out.
I was aware that there would be a strange bit in the middle of the run, since, though my maps were updated pretty recently, they predate the September opening of the new Forth road bridge, the Queensferry Crossing. I was interested to see what Martina (Ms Satnavrilova, the resident female voice in the device) would make of the lack of information.

Last time Martina had a nervous collapse was some years ago, on a very wet day in Inverness, when she got into an eternal loop in the one-way system, and the display briefly turned psychedelic before I switched her off, out of sympathy as much as irritation.

On Saturday, probably predictably, as I left the approach road for the old bridge, the display showed that I was travelling through a clear white space (previously farm fields), which became a clear blue space as I reached the water. There was the usual image of the rear of a car in the middle, but the rest of the display was blank. Martina said, "recalculating...  recalculating... recalculating..." over and over, for about 3 or 4 minutes, and then sort of trailed off. The display still showed me heading off into the unknown - although the view outside the windscreen was of traffic, and of the road over the new bridge on a nice sunny morning, the display made me feel rather lonely - almost homesick. I felt a bit like the Voyager spacecraft heading into the depths of space.

Voyager on its way to Kinross
As I approached the other side, Martina suddenly brightened up, though she didn't sound too confident.

"In one mile," she announced, "enter roundabout...", though there was nothing on the screen apart from the little car. Soon after, the road joined the Northern approach for the old bridge, and Martina was back to her businesslike self.

"Enter roundabout, and take first exit...", and normal service was restored. It was amusing to see what had happened, but I have to say it is not comfortable to behold that you are lost at sea. Today I am updating the maps again - that should sort it. Mind you, even the latest Garmin updates still give warning of a temporary 40mph speed limit on the A720, the Edinburgh By-pass, between Sheriffhall and Musselburgh, which was removed at the end of a spell of roadworks in about 2007. I keep a careful eye on Martina for signs of dementia. As it used to say in the audit manual, Trust but Verify.



Sunday, 26 November 2017

Möckern Around on a Saturday Afternoon

Tough nut - the French-held village of Möckern, complete with medieval tower
and - can that be Felsham church...?
Yesterday, before dawn, it was all busy, busy here at Foy's Travelling Wargames Inc, the van was packed and I set off with many little friends packed in magnetised boxes, headed for 16th Oct 1813 and that far corner of the Kingdom of Fife which calls itself Perth and Kinross. Very nice too, despite the weather forecast and rather snowy conditions.

Goya hosted the event at his baronial palace, where he has busily been painting Prussian troops to make up the cast list. The combined Prussians of the armies of Goya and Baron Stryker (under Goya's command) were to fight the French VI Corps under Marshal Marmont (played by Stryker himself, still glowing with the glory of his recent French success at Talavera). I was the umpire, a role which I enjoy (leveraging, as Dilbert would say, my OCD tendencies to advantage) and which gives a very good chance of avoiding defeat.

Möckern, of course, is one of the outlying precursors to the Battle of Leipzig, which took place two days later. Research is hampered a little by the fact that there was another battle of Möckern, some 6 months earlier, which, since it was a French victory, is rather better documented [discuss].

The large village of Möckern at that time was some distance from Leipzig, and sat on a road from the north which went to the Northern gate to the city. Our battle was only part of the real historical one - we covered the left of the French defence - that part which was opposed by Yorck's Prussian I Corps of Blücher's Army of Silesia. Our scenario comes from the official Commands & Colors: Napoleonics Expansion #5 booklet - the only amendments were some substitution of Prussian units to fit with the miniatures we had available, and a house rule tweak to include a couple of roads, and allow a small measure of quicker movement for regiments which used them.

The French start the day strongly positioned in the village (thus having 2 bonus Victory Points at the outset, which, if they lose the place, will disappear and become 3 for the Prussians). There were also bonus VPs available if the Prussians managed to exit any units over the French baseline (which in rugby terms is known as a try, we think). 10 VPs for the win. Standard size 13 x 9 hex table. A couple of scenario rules concerned the small bend of the River Elster and the minor stream (Pleisse? - Parthe? - can't remember) on the French right flank, and a more significant rule, in that the outlying Manor Farm of Möckern was a strong, walled strongpoint allowing defenders to disregard one "retreat flag" if one came up.

The Prussians, being Prussians, are allowed an allocation of Iron Will counters by the C&CN rules - on this occasion they had 4 available for the day - these may be used as a last-resort means of cancelling retreat flags - 1 counter per flag. [We used 20-cent Euro coins, in fact]

In the real battle, the Prussians made pretty slow progress attacking the village, suffered heavy losses and retreated. The French were somewhat inconvenienced by an exploding ammo cart (so Marmont says, anyway, in his memoirs), but the Marshal ordered up his corps light cavalry - a brigade of Württembergers commanded by Generalmajor Normann - to pursue the repulsed infantry, and - allegedly - Normann refused. Marmont then ordered forward Lagrange's infantry to carry out the pursuit, and they were caught by the Prussian cavalry, and very badly handled, falling back in disorder onto the village of Gohlis, where they joined Ney in an attempt to hold off the Russian advance the following day.

Normann's disobedience may seem less surprising when it is remembered that the Württembergers were one of the German states which defected to the Allies on the 18th.


Our game started with the Prussians butting their heads against the walled farm, in authentic style, and they started losing men rapidly - a tendency which became established as a general theme for the day. They then had a quick, dramatic success when a battalion of French légère received two retreat flags and - special rule or not - were forced out of the farm, to be replaced by some Prussian grenadiers, who held it for the rest of the engagement. That was as good as it got for Yorck. Hampered by astonishingly poor dice (unbelievable - it quickly passed beyond amusing to downright embarrassing, so after a little while no-one laughed any more...), Yorck also had problems with the quality of his army - he had a lot of Reservists (double retreats) and militia (triple retreats), and thus had to use the Iron Will counters to stop his militia cavalry disappearing to the rear - and his cavalry, though much more numerous on the face of it, were relatively puny, the scenario stipulating 3 "blocks" per unit, compared with the French 4 per unit.

The French at one point were 8-0 up on VPs, though the Prussians did eventually wear a few units down, and then there was the extraordinary episode of General Lagrange. Lagrange was present with a French line unit which was eliminated. He survived, though was only able to retreat to a very hazardous position adjacent to the farm, where the resident grenadiers duly used him for target practice. They missed. Apparently crazed by his luck, Lagrange hung around for another volley, waving his hat to goad them - they missed again. At which point a unit of militia lancers appeared, and captured him, which certainly served him right.

The Prussian attack on the left fizzled out from lack of sufficient good-quality troops, and the game ran out a 10-4 win for the French - still with the initial 2 for holding most of Möckern village, and with the Prussian 4th VP counter entirely due to the death-wish of General Lagrange.

Interesting game - very interesting. None of us has any idea how the Prussians could have won; once again we overturned history. They never got close to securing any bonus VPs for scoring a "try" on their left - they couldn't have spared the troops anyway. One alternative strategy would have been to ignore the very strong village and concentrate on an assault by the Prussian left - it would be necessary to clear away a good few French units to rack up VPs, and then exit over the French baseline with enough units to get up to 10VPs with the scenario bonus.

As it was, this was never a possibility, and the day's bloodshed made very little contribution to the overall cause of Befreiung. Not to worry - an excellent day's entertainment, and excellent food, as ever. Special mention must be made of the personal efforts of Count Goya, who had banished his family, along with all the servants, to the country for the weekend, and did a fine solo job of the catering. My thanks to my colleagues for their excellent company and good humour.

Thoughts on C&CN scenarios? Not very much - we should maybe be suspicious of general application of the standard C&CN national characteristics. In particular, the French line infantry get an extra combat die in melee combat against infantry, simply because of their famed élan and effectiveness. That's well and good, but the point is well made that, though Marmont's Corps was among the better of the French line troops at Leipzig, the French army was nothing like what it had been in 1809. We should have a look at scenario rules more carefully in this respect. The French OOB for VI Corps includes many provisional regiments which consisted of battalions of veteran Peninsular War regiments, but typically these were the 5th or 6th battalions of such regiments, and the large numbers of "Marine Infantry" present are something of an unknown quantity - whatever some of the historical paintings may show - these were not the Marins de la Garde - nothing like.

Right - to the pictures. Please ignore the labelling you see on the units - there were a great many sabots on loan from other armies, so the presence of apparently Spanish or Portuguese units should be disregarded.

General view - French on the left, Prussians and the North to the right, and the
village of Möckern dominating the Leipzig road at the far end
From behind the Prussian left, at the start (about 11:30)
The village, with its outlying walled farm, seen from the French side, with the
little village of Wahren on the far edge (featuring a town gate which I like, and
which doesn't get played with very often, on account of the clock in the tower being
a poor fit with the ECW). General Lagrange is already practising his hat-waving
act, just this side of the village (with the white border to his base).
Yorck's Prussians make a start against the walled Manor Farm
Though the farm is not very promising, the main village itself is a very formidable 
objective, with enough size to allow garrison units to provide mutual support
Just for a moment, things seemed to be swinging a little, as the Silesian grenadiers
drove the French out of the farm
Further left, the Prussians under Horn and Steinmetz ponder the chances
of a breakthrough
And on the far left flank of the Prussian force, Hünerbein did at least have some
better quality regular troops
General problem for Yorck was that his cavalry was understrength, and he had
too high a proportion of Reservist and Landwehr units...
...more particular problem was his spectacular lack of luck with the dice. Here's a
good example - this is the result of a 3-block militia lancer regiment attacking in
melee. Normally, 3 sabres would be 3 hits, but of course militia don't get to count sabres
in a melee under C&CN rules. We did have a laugh at this one, in fact.
Action on the Prussian left - a brief glimpse of the legendary French 15eme
Chasseurs à Cheval (on the road) who did not manage to live up to their celebrated
success at Talavera
The battle for the farm reaches its peak - the French were driven off here
Having driven off an attack by the French (Württemberg) cavalry in the centre,
the Prussian cavalry here are too weakened to contribute further
The extraordinary adventure of General Lagrange, waving his hat in defiance of the
Prussians in the farm. The lancers in the background did for him shortly afterwards.
The final situation - stalemate on the French right, the Prussians have failed to capture
the village and - ultimately - lost too many men. If you have good eyesight, you may
see the white Victory Point counters on the respective baselines - 10 for the
French (including 2 green ones for hanging onto most of Möckern) and 4 for the
Prussians.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Hooptedoodle #285 - Drawing the Line Somewhere - another crap post

One of the hazards of living in a rural area.


With all due apology for lack of taste, here's a minor item of local news from here in East Lothian. Apparently, council workmen painting lines along the road near Longniddry managed to paint over a patch of horse manure. Shock horror. My first reaction was that it obviously must have been the responsibility of a different department to shift the stuff, but the council have already explained.

They claim that

(1) it wusnae us - it was a contractor - so that's all right then

(2) it's no so easy to spot this stuff, they paint the lines with a special wagon, you know, and the driver is in a cab, well above the road. Anyone who thought that the painter would be on his knees in the road, working with a big brush and a ruler, go and stand in the corner.

While I was looking for a better picture, I found a much more graphic example, but this is from Kirklees, courtesy of the Huddersfield Examiner [a Mirfield Conservative Councillor described this as "careless" and "beyond belief" - anyone who regards this as evidence of some lack of imagination may also go and stand in the corner].


Since I was now on some sort of roll, I looked online to see if this is a more common problem than I had thought, and came across a show-closing photo of a road line painted over a dead raccoon, from California, at which point I decided to stop. I'll spare you the dead raccoon - I'm sure you can find it through Google if you really want to.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Hooptedoodle #284 - Napoleon (1927) - something of a breakthrough


In a recent post, I mentioned that I have had another bash at watching Abel Gance's classic Napoleon, from 1927, in its restored and enhanced new edition, with magnificent new musical score, previously unseen material and all sorts of bonus wonders. I also admitted that I had made a pretty poor fist of appreciating it thus far, had decided that a casual "bash" at watching it is obviously not the best approach, and had determined that I would set about it in a more businesslike manner.

This, after all, is FILM as high art. Thus it behoves me to approach the matter in a suitably studious and appreciative frame of mind, and there is the other matter of potentially having to write off the £28 or whatever the box set cost me if I don't shape up. Deep down, though, is the awareness that it is not cool to have to admit that one has watched one of the acknowledged classics of the cinema - of all time - and has made nothing at all of it. This is not recommended as a chat-up line at arty parties.

Abel Gance
The experience is not to be taken lightly - there are some snags. One is that the storyline does not always hang together well - the box set - all 5-and-a-half hours of the movie, plus some hours of additional material - is assembled from bits of a much longer, incomplete film series on the life of Napoleon which Gance had envisaged, and Gance himself had several attempts to re-edit what he had. Thus far, I have watched the first two of the four discs, and have got as far as the Siege of Toulon. There were plenty of points of confusion;  the second Act includes - completely out of context - the murder of Marat in his bath by the extremely foxy Charlotte Corday (played by the Mme Gance of the day, apparently); also, bewilderingly, the Extras section on the second disc includes a lengthy clip entitled the Centre of the Triptych, which covers the start of the Campaign of Italy, which is blatantly outside the scope of the story content of the remainder of this disc. Hmmm - some spinning of the head.

Let's revisit the timeline a bit here - the section of the film which now exists was published by Gance in a 5-hour "Opera" version and a 9-hour "Apollo" cut (cut??). The film in the box set (I think, though I cannot promise I fully understand this yet) was originally to be a section subtitled Bonaparte, which takes us as far as Arcola. Clarity is not helped by the frequent use of colours in printing the movie - by which I mean that it is not a colour film, but that it occasionally switches into monochrome blue (which makes the chaotic battle scenes at Toulon almost impossible to follow) or red, or whatever Gance decides is artistically appropriate. I also still have a problem with the acting - the inserted caption screens with bits of dialogue are few and far between, and some fairly routine exchanges appear to involve a level of melodrama completely out of all proportion to the subject matter. One has to remember that this was a very long time ago, and all the actors on view - including real giants such as Antonin Artaud - came from a theatrical background in which it was necessary for the dimwit on the very back row of the auditorium to realise that a cast member was rolling his eyes. Thus the acting is hammed to high heaven throughout. Remarkable bravura piece of hamming is offered by Artaud himself, as Marat in his bath, who crams more hysteria into a short scene than you would believe possible - and this is before he realises he is being murdered.

Blue
Purple


Albert Dieudonné as young Bonaparte
Antonin Artaud - who takes getting murdered in the bath to a new level
The puzzle of the out-of-context Extras material encouraged me to re-think my approach. I don't usually bother with the Commentary option on a DVD, but in something approaching desperation I have tried it on this movie.

Aha! A glimmer of daylight! The commentary is added by Paul Cuff, an expert on the works of Gance, and the author of a number of books on exactly this topic. Thus my new approach is, first of all, to watch each disc with the commentary switched on, and suddenly it all makes a lot more sense. Thereafter, I am all set up to watch it again with the commentary turned off, and I can enjoy the full spectacle and Carl Davis' lovely music soundtrack without worrying about it. This is a major investment of time, but for me it's the only method which is likely to work.

This is the new, restored and heavily revised edition I'm watching
It is necessary to get very clearly fixed in my mind that this is not just a nice movie about the life of Napoleon. I need to have some understanding of:

(1) the underlying history - the Napoleonic Wars and all that - that's a given

(2) the history of the film itself, including

* Gance's intentions, and most of the screenplay was only sketched out when they started
* Gance's own adventures with successively cutting and re-editing his movie, given the drastic changes of scope it was subject to
* where the movie has been since, and the various re-issues for cinema presentation over the years
* the digital enhancement and restoration of the latest version, and the way in which it has been changed around to incorporate unpublished sections and to make the story hang together rather better

As a random example - in last night's (second disc) re-run, there is this young lady gazing adoringly at young Bonaparte - who is she? Well, the commentator explains that she is the daughter of a chap who was the general dogsbody at Napoleon's school at Brienne (on Disc One - who mysteriously manages to follow the great man throughout his subsequent career, and has duly arrived at Toulon, where he keeps an inn, in time for the siege), and that Gance had loosely planned that she would be a casual love-interest, though the scene which was to explain this has vanished. Further, the murder of Marat was to appear in a later (unpublished) reel, but was stuck into its current location to give a better fit with the historical timeline. You can see how this sort of insight might help.

So it's all good, now - the need for time planning is increased because of the double viewing, but it is a whole lot better.


I shall proceed with greater confidence. I'll start Disc 3 tonight - I'm now actually looking forward to it. If anyone has watched this new edition of the movie, I'd be very interested to hear what you thought of it. I've always had a little problem with the Great Art thing - ever since childhood, I have had a split view - one side of my brain tells me that this is a wonderful, enriching experience, and that it is a privilege to see it and marvel at the creativity and imagination which produced it, while the other side of the brain keeps interrupting with mutterings about my having no idea at all what is going on, and wondering if there are any scones left in the cupboard.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Hooptedoodle #283 - Good Will to All Men


If you haven't seen this before, it is an illustration from one of a series of Christmas-themed adverts produced by Gregg's, the UK bakery chain. Yes, quite so - probably a bit ill-considered. Daft, in fact. Gregg's reckoned it was meant as a bit of fun, apologised and promptly withdrew it - presumably they will try to recruit some grown-ups for the marketing department. That, you might think, would be an end to the matter - least said, the better.

Now I refuse, point plank, to get into any kind of argument about this. Not unpredictably, there is deep outrage in Twitterland, where the sanctimonious and the disapproving are thick upon the ground. Now people are not only outraged about it, but some are outraged because others are outraged about the wrong aspect of it. You can read about all this (if you can be bothered) in an article in the Independent, here.

There are more things wrong with this picture than you might guess at first glance. Obviously, replacing the infant Jesus with a sausage roll, for the adoration of the wise men, is a bit unorthodox, though, of course, the advert doesn't say that it's a straight swap - it's sort of implied. But never mind that, there's also the further business about Jesus being a Jew, so that not only is this horrifying to rather literal-minded Christians, but the association of pork sausages with Jewish people is also deeply offensive. Also, the wise men are almost certainly manufactured in China, which brings some further issues, but we'll swerve that one.

Also featured in the Independent article is a brief snippet about people wishing to boycott Tesco because their Christmas advert included a brief glimpse of a Muslim family. Ah yes. Christian charity in action - how lovely.

I tell  you what - I hope you have a very pleasant, peaceful Whatever-You-Prefer-to-Call-This- Festival; perhaps someone will be kind enough to come and wake me up when it's all over. I'll be in the attic. I have no problem with Christmas, it's just the bloody people.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

A Couple of Follow-Ups... old figures, old scales

Today's post is a bit of a quick revisit of a couple of recent topics. If there is a common theme, then it might be the subject of "the way we were", which will hardly be a first for this blog.

Old figures, old magazines - must get a cup of Horlicks...
First off, I received a very nice email from France, courtesy of Jean-Marc, which was sparked by the discussion of 5mm Minifigs troop blocks.

J-M included a reader's letter from the December 1983 issue of Military Modelling, contributed by Roger Styles, the main man at Heroics and Ros. Apart from the fact that he was obviously very close to the subject of very small figures, it is not lost on me that this letter is pretty much contemporary with the 1984 Claymore show which featured in my earlier post. It also emphasises my point that Peter Gouldesbrough's efforts to popularise the 5mm blocks were at a time when the blocks were OOP and - according to Mr Styles - 5mm as a scale was "moribund if not defunct".

I hand over to Jean-Marc at this point...


My [J-M's] remarks : 

1) I have never seen these 5mm blocks "in the flesh", only pics. But I have, in the past , looked for  them with determination.
2) As far as I know, the moulds are now in the US. [if they are, then one hopes they have the masters, because the moulds were shot to bits before the blocks went out of production - the problems of missing heads and generally unrecognisable artillery becoming major show-stoppers - MSF]
3) The 5mm blocks were produced in 1972. Heroics and Ros company was launched in 1973. 
4) By 1983 Roger Styles (owner and sculptor of H&R) considered that 5mm blocks had ceased to exist, a comment made in a letter to Military Modelling that I reproduce here.


MILITARY MODELLING DECEMBER 1983  (Readers' Despatch)

Question of scales    

Dear Sir,

We were most interested in Charles S. Grant's article on scales for wargame figures (Nov. 1983). Although we agree with his general remarks on 15mm and 25mm scales, we would like to correct some details about 1/300 scale.

There has been a tendency to call figures in this scale ''5mm''. This has its origin in the regimental blocks of figures which were produced by Miniature Figurines some 12 or more years ago. These have not been available, we believe, for some years.

The figures produced by Heroics and Ros have a different beginning. In the USA several firms began making model tanks some 15 or so years ago in a scale known as 1/285. In the UK, soon afterwards, model vehicles began to be made in '1/300 scale', The difference in the two scales is minimal, of course, and 1/300 was chosen because it is easy to understand and work to. One foot is almost exactly 300mm (304.8 actually), so that 1/300 scale means one millimetre on the model represents one foot in reality. Except in models of very large items indeed the fractional difference between 1/300 and 1/304.8 comes within an acceptable margin of error. Models of vehicles made in 1/285 are often considerably larger than those made in 1/300, but I am not aware of the reason for this.

Whilst several firms produced WW2 tanks in this scale, Heroics and Ros began to make figures of the same period to match. If 1 mm equals 1 foot, it follows that a model of a six foot man would be 6 mm in height. This is the scale that we have always worked to.

So when Mr Grant says ''5mm figures are very approximately 1/350 scale (although they are sometimes referred to as 1/300'' he is, we are sorry to say, confusing the issue more than somewhat. Our 6mm figures are very accurately 1/300 scale, as are our vehicles and equipments of all periods. The scale of 5mm is moribund if not defunct, and there is no-one working commercially in 1/350 scale to our knowledge. The wargaming hobby has been plagued by the scale problem since the early days. Terms such as''15mm''or ''25mm''are said to mean the height of a man from head to foot without equipment. Some men are indeed smaller than others, so variation in figure size is permissable, though this does not excuse the seven, eight and nine foot men that are often made in 15mm and 25mm scale. If figure makers adopted an accurate scale, as we have in 1/300, customers would know where they stand and each company's figures would presumably match, size for size all others.

Mr Grant brings up the point of painting 1/300 figures. He says ''painting is quick, there being little detail''. In fact our figures compare favourably for detail with larger scales, and have if anything, more detail than many 15mm figures. But painting is quick, not because the models cannot be made as colourful and striking as in other scales, but because there is less area of bare metal to cover. A whole unit of 1/300 figures may have less metal to be covered than one 25mm figure, and so takes less time to paint. Many of our customers paint them exquisitely, though, and take much trouble over them. As far as wargaming with the figures is concerned, there are no problems either for ''beginners'' or for old-timers. Conventional rules can be used by simply quartering all ground scales. The figures can even be based on single figure bases for Micro-Skirmish games. But the small scale allows enormous advantages on full-size tables. Unit sizes can be increased to give more realism, and units can be manoeuvred without falling off the edge of the table so often. I should point out that 1/300 scale is the choice of many wargamers, and they have been in existence as long as 25mm, and much longer than 15mm, and are still expanding into new periods.

R. B. Styles, Heroics, & Ros Figures.


Apart from the fact that his letter is an unashamed plug for his figures (and quite rightly so), Mr Styles is in some danger of getting us all back into the eternal "how tall is a man?" and "height or soles-to-eyes?" debates, which in turn will get us back into the traditions of the German flats industry and all points south. J-M mentions in passing that Styles is wrong about the existence of 1/350 as a viable scale, since Helmet Products made 1/350 aircraft from about 1975 - some visible here.

The important point (if there is one) is that the letter gives a manufacturer's view of scales from the same period as the Claymore show I referred to.

Since I am nothing if not persistent (or, alternatively, since I am a relentless bore when I feel the urge), I have come up with the original article by Charles S Grant, from the November 1983 issue. It seemed that it must have said something fairly controversial, judging from Mr Styles' response. So here it is - in fact it is pretty bland (with all due respect) - it also reminds me, now I come to think of it, why I stopped reading Military Modelling a couple of years before this - too many interests covered too thinly, too much vanilla, too much courtesy offered to the advertisers.



Still on the topic of very small men, I received an email from the Jolly Broom Man (who is also in France, as it happens), with some pictures of his 6mm Baccus ECW troops. I like them - they have a determined, jaunty look which is very pleasing - don't mess with these boys!



JBM was inspired by my guest picture of Steve Cooney's Hinton Hunt ECW cuirassiers to make the point that headswaps in 6mm scale are a daunting idea - though I'm sure someone has done it. In fact, if anyone has ever done it, I would suspect it might have been my good friend Lee, which gives me an excuse to show some old photos of his 6mm Baccus ECW troops, which have subsequently moved on to a new owner (and I, for one, miss them!).




To enlarge the view to 20mm, I was encouraged by Stryker to give a progress shot of the batch of vintage Der Kriegsspieler Napoleonic French infantry I am currently restoring. I am rarely embarrassed about publishing photos of my armies, but I produce these with some trepidation, since they are really just a recruitment exercise, and not really the sort of thing I would choose to expose to the risk of supportive criticism and the tender mercies of Dr Raul, Marc the Plastic Accountant and assorted other worthies and reluctant friends of mine at a certain American-based miniature modelling forum whose name I am not fit to mention. Perhaps I shall be spared this time.

I am working on generating 5 line battalions from these old DK figures. These are heavily converted, old figures (certainly 12 or 13 years older than the magazine I have just been discussing), and the paint needs a bit of attention, to correct yellowed whites, faded reds and the general ravages of time and the spares boxes. I have still to source a full complement of command figures. I have retouched half of the fusiliers (who are now mounted on their bases, just to keep things tidy and organised), the other half of the fusiliers are in the official Next in Queue box, and the flankers are waiting for the next shift after that.

These photos may give an idea what is involved. Some of the chaps who have been finished are in the picture at the top of this posting. Some thoughts:

(1) Retouching is always - repeat always - more work than I think it's going to be, partly because I change my ideas on what I'm going to do once I see the effect of the new painted bits

(2) A half-batch of 30-odd fusiliers seems a lot when you're painting them, but they don't look like very many when you stick them on the bases!

The second half of the fusiliers are ready, in the Next in Queue box - scheduled
to start on Monday evening

The flankers and various command odd-bods are in one of the big store
boxes, along with the finished chaps, who don't cover much of the base area yet!

***** Late Edit *****

I received a rather apologetic email from Steve C, who supplied the big shipment of DKs, lamenting that he might have given me a huge amount of work to do to get them into shape; somewhat shamefaced, I've been re-reading my post, to check I hadn't accidentally been rude about them!

It is kind of Steve to get back in touch with me, but I have to emphasise (to him and everyone else) that I bought them knowing exactly what they were, am very pleased with them, and really wouldn't have started on the job if I hadn't thought they were worth the effort. I'm sorry that I sometimes express myself imprecisely - enthusiasm rather than malice! - and I shall attempt to be more careful in future. Thanks again Steve - no worries, mate!

********************


Friday, 10 November 2017

Guest Spot - London Lobsters

Steve Cooney was kind enough to send me photos of some more of his ECW troops last week.


He writes:

Thought you might like to take a look at a couple of photos of an ECW unit I just refinished.

It's Sir Arthur Hesilrige’s Cuirassier Regiment, the Heavy Cavalry of Sir William Waller’s Parliamentarian Army 1643. Figures are Hinton Hunt with a couple of recasts to make up the numbers; Officers and Cornet are Hinton Hunt conversions and the trumpeter is a Les Higgins conversion.


Steve is very skilled with his conversion work - a true master of the soldering iron. He has recently supplied me with a shed-load of French Napoleonic infantry; these are mostly old Der Kriegsspieler castings, which he has modified to lengthen the legs a little, to make them more directly compatible with Hinton Hunt. I'm working my way through these, retouching as necessary to freshen the colours and rejuvenate them a bit. Retouching is always a challenge - knowing when to stop is important, and I have the further benchmark of trying to make sure that the figures end up somewhere close to the quality of Steve's original paintwork!

Since there will be a delay before my proposed Bavarian project can start in earnest (I'm waiting for a shipment of figures, and have a lot more to order up), this job will serve to keep my eye in. Because I'm using many colours simultaneously, I've set up a proper (well, improvised) wet palette, which is a big help, saving time and cutting down the waste of paint.

These French troops will need a few weeks' work, and I also have to collect some suitable command figures for them, but once completed they will contribute most of another division for my Salamanca forces.

Thanks again, Steve.