Saturday, 28 November 2020

ACW Fleet Lists

I know the Confederate Naval Ensign was different to the above but the picture is quite evocative.

As the current batch of four ships are currently ‘under the brush’ I thought it might be a good idea to list the ships of the collection and their names. I have opted for hypothetical names so any resemblance between them and anything historical is purely coincidental and not intentional! Having said that the models are very much ‘based upon’ actual historical types and their names/classes are in brackets.

Union Fleet

U.S.S. New Glory (U.S.S. New Ironsides)

U.S.S. Potomac (U.S.S. Roanoke)

U.S.S. Senator (U.S.S. Monadnock)

U.S.S. Hiawatha and Pocahontas (U.S.S. Passaic type)

Confederate Fleet

C.S.S. Cheops and Sphinx (C.S.S. Stonewall)

C.S.S. Secessionist (C.S.S. Louisiana/Mississippi any of the larger Confederate casemate ironclads really)

C.S.S. O’Hara and Butler (pretty much any of the small to medium sized casemate ironclads with a single gun port fore and aft)

The Confederate fleet is far more fluid in respect of the inspiration for the models and I intentionally kept the casemate ironclad designs simple for ease of construction. I plan to add a small ironclad to the Confederate fleet but then it will be gunboats and converted merchant vessels including paddle driven types. The same will apply for the Union in respect of gunboats etc although I am toying with an obvious deep water type. 

I have not read too much about the blue water naval operations of the civil war but I know there was a lot of activity so I am thinking that the old naval standby of ‘hunt the raider’ may be fun to do. Another alternative would be a Confederate attempt to get one of their newly European built ships back home.

I had even thought about building a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea style Nautilus....

As ever plenty to think about!

Friday, 27 November 2020

Madasahatta: “There is nothing a German Officer cannot do”

General Freiherr Wilhelm Von Boozy, Iron Cross (First Class) with his ADC, Trottel, seen on manoeuvres in Germany prior to their transfer to Madasahatta.

When we last visited Madasahatta we had a situation whereby the French had set up a small landing  stage midway along the Northern side of the Ogopogo Delta. This was garrisoned by a detachment of the French Foreign Legion and had been set up to ensure that the flow of French gastronomic comestibles to El Toupee and the French Embassy in Port Maleesh was uninterrupted. The arrangement suited everybody - Makmi Anoffa continued to ‘turn a blind eye’ for as long as he received his percentage. Jacob Geltmeister, the principle German trading partner, was excluded from this cosy arrangement - El Toupee was his enforcer after all - and so, with his boss, General Freiherr Wilhelm Von Boozy, Iron Cross (First Class) - the governor and military commander of the German Colony of Hansaland - they made their plans to disrupt this cushy little number thereby ensuring that French comestibles would attract the higher tariffs (of which a percentage would find its way into the coffers of Geltmeister and Von Boozy).

The German Response

Whatever his shortcomings as an individual (which were many and varied) Von Boozy was no mean commander. He was well aware that any overtly military action would attract the attention of the British and he could ill afford the potential diplomatic repercussions. The honour of the Fatherland demanded some action against the accursed French for this outrage (actually as his income stream for the usual tariffs on French goods had been interrupted, Von Boozy was also a financial pragmatist) and so he resolved to do something about it.

After an exceptionally chilly ice bath, a strenuous workout and a large helping of Bratwurst and Sauerkraut, Von Boozy, his faithful Dachshund, Hochhetzen at his feet (being a small dog that was as high as he could reach) and his obsequious ADC Trottel set to work over a large map of the Ogopogo Delta.

Unknown to all but a handful of the German High Command the dense and seemingly impenetrable jungle on the northern side of the Ogopogo river had in fact a long and meandering narrow stream that started due East of Gindrinka’s Kraal and emerged very close to where the unsuspecting French had built their small landing stage. The stream was overgrown and infested with all manner of disease bearing insect life,  poisonous plants, venomous snakes and crocodiles - and that was in the easy stretch - and so was largely unknown and unused. It had been ‘rediscovered’ by the famous Boer big game hunter Isaac Maarten Bloemingdeer whilst on a hunting trip and who, at an exorbitant fee, had offered to act the guide for the German expedition. The stream itself could just about support a small launch so Von Boozy would need to use three of these meaning that a platoon would require three vessels with Bloemindeer in the leading craft along with the platoon commander, Oberleutnant Dieter Von Trumpf.

Oberleutnant Dieter Von Trumpf was a highly regarded and efficient officer currently assigned to the 1st Battalion Askari Infanterie stationed at Festung Teufel charged with watching the Breakneck Pass. Is record was exemplary, mainly because he possessed that rarest of qualities - an almost pathological unwillingness to deviate by as much as one iota from the text of the German Army Officers handbook. If it was not in the book then it could not be done. He could be relied upon to follow any orders given to him without question and to the letter. This endeared him to Von Boozy who would not tolerate any displays of initiative from his junior officers. Von Trumpf was fully convinced of the fundamental correctness of German military training and doctrine and through the sacred and hallowed pages of the various field manuals he regularly carried about his person (even, it was rumoured, in the bath!) and via them his oft repeated mantra of ‘There is nothing a German Officer cannot do’ was nothing short of a statement of bald fact. He was also a royal bore of the first order. 

When selected by Von Boozy for command of the landward part of the operation he immediately consulted the relevant section of ‘Schlieffen’s All the World’s Battle Plans’ and drew inspiration from the text therein. Truly he would be striding in the shadow of giants and as long as the right hand sleeve of the right hand man brushed the right hand or northern edge of the waterway all would be well because Schlieffen had said so and his word was gospel.

Isaac Maarten Bloemingdeer (his business card had his name as I.M. Bloemingdeer) was a first rate hunter and tracker and was a well known personality - both on the island and across Africa. He organised hunting parties for the rich, famous and richer still and so his services were eye-wateringly expensive. Von Boozy had nearly turned him down flat until Geltmeister pointed out the advantages to having someone that could actually find his way about through the trackless jungle of the expeditions route. The cost could be written off as expenses and the potential long terms gains far outweighed the short term bill.

The naval side would be rather more straightforward. A German merchantman would anchor in the road stead and would send three small picket boats - with a platoon sized landing party - to attack the landing stage under the guise of ‘clearing out a nest of dangerous pirates and criminals’. The small matter of the French Flag would be airily dismissed as being ‘false colours’. A gunboat was to be made available to support the landing and the plan required the landward assault to arrive simultaneously with the naval one.  This was going to depend on how well Bloemingdeer could navigate the meandering, fever ridden waterway through the heart of darkness....

On the face of it the plan was a sound, if complex one. The French would be assailed from all sides and quickly overwhelmed. The landing stage would be destroyed and any comestibles carried off as seized contraband. In the confusion of battle mistakes are made and the so the party line was that it was all a case of mistaken identity. In the meantime though, the diplomatic part of the operation had began with the first of a series of strongly worded notes to the authorities at Port Meleesh as well as making anti-piracy overtures to the British. Von Boozy considered the diplomatic smokescreen to be of pivotal importance as it was imperative that everybody acknowledged the aggrieved status of the Germans in respect of how badly smuggling was impacting on the finances of the colony (no mention of course being made of Von Boozy or Geltmeister’s involvement in the said trade) and that they had the right to protect their property and the lives of their countrymen, by force if required.

Von Boozy had gambled on the indifference of the authorities in Port Maleesh and that the British would be unconcerned unless there own traffic was in anyway impeded. In this he was correct as smuggling and piracy were almost a way of life in the Arab Concession and the British were far enough away not to be overly concerned by low level German naval activity.

Both the Arab Concession and the British had overlooked one small thing in all this bluster and German sabre-rattling. 

The object of all this diplomatic ‘flam and paradiddle’ was not any old gang of smugglers or pirates - it was the French.

To be continued....

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Undercoated and ready to go

No prizes for guessing what I will be doing this weekend! The items on the green milk bottle lids will be fitted in place once painted - same with the masts.

The four models I have been building are now undercoated and ready for me to start painting. The two Union vessels - the three turreted monitor and the ‘not quite U.S.S. Ironsides were by far and away the easiest to build of the four but that was mainly due to the construction involved in the masts for the two Confederate ships. 

I am some way from realising the Essex based ACW project - the first port of call will be doctoring a map - but I have made a start with some ideas for place names etc. To be honest getting this part of the project done will probably require the most effort but I am looking forward to tackling it. Supporting the ship models will be the block armies which will be having a minor upgrade in due course. 

As mentioned previously I will build a further two models for this group meaning that I will have twelve in all which will be fine for this phase of the project. When I get back to the ACW I will be looking at gunboats and similar with some paddle steamers for good measure - at present this will mean another dozen ships.

In the meantime though, research has begun on the Madasahatta shipbuilding programme - which will be primarily low level stuff - gunboats, tramp steamers, coasters and assorted inshore craft. I am really looking forward to this and so will also need to continue the evolving story concerning the activity along the banks of the Ogopogo River delta.

So at present I have a great selection of model making, writing and planning for my various projects, all of which are good fun and so I am thoroughly enjoying myself!

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Ship Shaping and Brigantine Fashioned

Nearly there! The overall sailing rig I am happy with although it is a little on the ‘heavy’ side. I have also yet to decide about fitting the top spars. The ‘heavy’ style of construction was for practicality as much as anything as it ensures that they masts etc are reasonably sturdy

One of the two internet guides I used - this is a paper model, and very nice it looks as well!

Thoroughbred Models 1:600th version 

It has taken a little longer than I planned but I certainly did not want to rush the process! I have finally completed the four masts for the two Confederate ACW ironclad rams based loosely on C.S.S. Stonewall. These have been built with strength in mind so lavish quantities of glue and cunningly placed pieces have been the order of the day. They are not strictly accurate but certainly pass muster as looking more or less what they are supposed to. 

The main differences - I am not going into fixtures and fittings etc and am only mentioning the big stuff - are the hull form in that I have not been able to represent the ram bow and tumble home of the original and the fighting tops are the wrong shape. These are larger than they should be as they play a clever role in adding strength to the whole thing as the spars are for most part glued directly to them as well as the masts. Once the mast assembly has been sealed prior to painting this will provide another layer of strengthening to the whole thing. The subsequent paint and varnish will also help.

I have used strategically placed Blu Tack for the photo shoot as some of the pieces will only be added once the hull has been painted. This includes the funnel, masts, ‘turret’/gun house and the bowsprit. 

I learned a lot from making these masts and for sure there are a couple of things I could have done differently but it is all part of the learning process.

I have two of these at this stage of building and have decided that they will maintain their undercover names of Cheops and Sphinx. I have also taken the liberty of using the turret/gun house as a turret. The Confederates had ordered a pair of double turreted ships that became HMS Wyvern and Scorpion so my two ships really represent a hypothetical composite type that could have been built. 

I can at last get these sealed and under coated prior to painting, along with the USS New Ironsides and the three turreted Roanoke - both of which I need to think of names for although the monitor will be the USS Potomac.

I shall be using the paper model colour scheme above for the two Confederate ships as well as the USS New Ironsides. The plan is to then build two other models - one for each side - so that I have a dozen completed and then the ACW will be parked for the time being. I shall return to it as I need to build around another dozen models but first up will be some models for Madasahatta.

I am really enjoying myself with this model making - it is hugely therapeutic!

News of the Crusades


Oh yes indeedy! I am really excited about this expansion so hopefully I will not have too long to wait before it is available

Command and Colours: Medieval is the base game in what I suspect will be a large series covering the wars of the late Roman Empires up to the Renaissance period. I acquired a copy of the base game in anticipation of the expansions that would cover the periods that would be of most interest to me. This would be the period of the great Arab Conquests and of the Crusades in the Middle East as my primary interests and for the latter I have quietly amassed a good selection of reading material with the avowed intention of gaming it at some point.

There have a been a few Crusades near misses over the years in that I have looked at a few rule sets and even got as far as buying some as well as a selection of figures but thus far this has come to naught. What of Command and Colours Medieval then? Well, to be honest the period of the base game - the wars ‘twixt the Late Romans/Early Byzantines and the. Huns, Goths and Sassanid Persians - are interesting but it was not for them that I originally purchased the game. It was always acquired as the stepping stone onto other periods of greater interest for me. Having said that I have retroactively picked up some reading material about the period to round out my knowledge and to put the scenarios into some kind of context but it was always a kind of ‘take it or leave it’ interest. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the acquisition of some reading material has led me to develop rather more of an interest in the period than initially - such is the way I routinely get seduced into projects!

Chronologically one would have expected the first expansion to cover the period up to the Crusades so the early Arab Conquest and the rise of the Vikings etc would feature. This I would have really enjoyed but Richard Borg and the team at GMT Games have pulled a rabbit out of the hat in the shape of the first expansion being described as part 1 of the Crusades. The expansion is currently in what is known as P500 status meaning that once it gets to 500 advance orders then it goes to press. Take a look at the blurb from the GMT Games website and you will see what I mean.

I am really excited about this expansion as the Crusades are probably my favourite period from the medieval world (the Arab Conquests come a close second) and to have it ‘Command and Coloured’ is a great development. Best of all I still have a ton of Risk: Europe medieval figures (roughly 20mm and very generic looking) that could serve for the period with little difficulty. I am now rather pleased that I hung on to these as they had been earmarked for disposal!

All being well this will be certainly something to look forward to next year at some point.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Madasahatta: The Naval Dimension

A superb set of rules with a neat campaign system for refighting the naval battles on Lake Tanganyika during WW1.

The first supplement extends the coverage into Europe

 Before the next instalment of the adventures and misadventures of the island of Madasahatta I thought it would be a good idea to outline my thinking in respect of the naval dimension. When the campaign itself was fought, way back in the late 1970’s, the models were 1:1200th and the rules of choice were Fletcher Pratt. The number of models used was small although representative of everything from dreadnought battleships down. Using the models on a tabletop worked well as the number of models in use was very small. In many ways it worked rather too well which led us into the following South East Asia naval campaign which, although enormous fun to fight, really stretched the rules beyond that which was practical as they did not handle fleet level actions particularly well - typically there were too many models in too small an area.

Some of the naval actions are recounted in Bob Cordery’s Madasahatta book and suffice it to say that although they were enormous fun they were all low level affairs with few models in evidence.

So what of Madasahatta before the events of the famous 1914 campaign?

To me this falls squarely into the realm of Colonial cruisers, gunboats and the odd old ironclad or obsolete battleship. Small, purpose built patrol vessels or extemporised warships from whatever was to hand would be the order of the day, perhaps with the occasional flag showing visit from a modern warship. This is pretty much how I am going to play this. Needless to say the ‘real world’ naval situation can be replicated in a small way so the British would be the dominant force although from a quality perspective perhaps not quite premier league status. They would have the numbers and the prestige. Old and second class cruisers, gunboats and the odd old battleship as the flag would be about right.

The Germans would have a very modern and efficient but small force. Anything large that would impress the locals, regardless of any tactical value, would be used to fly the flag - typically an old cruiser or similar. With Teutonic thoroughness they would also have earmarked vessels for conversion into armed merchant cruisers should the need arise. They also possess a number of torpedo boats.

The French are limited in what assets they can deploy mainly as they do not have an official treaty in place allowing them to bring in warships. Having said that, they have a number of small craft for patrol and escort duties and a couple of purpose built but old gunboats. 

The Arab concession maintains a small navy but this is chronically underfunded, undermanned and, if the Germans had their way, under their control. It is made up of a mixture of vessels including two ironclads currently rusting away at Port Maleesh and a number of smaller craft. As a force it is of negligible fighting value although the Germans have offered to take it in hand to bring it up to date - something the British naval attaché has taken a dim view of.

Gaming Implications

This will not be a campaign of great squadrons of dreadnoughts fighting it out. It will be low level stuff with the odd cruiser fight in extremis - remember that technically there is not a war on as such. All sides are not above using small craft to patrol and police their interests and the incidence of ‘mistaken identities’ to justify opening fire is quite high. As long as no one side gains the upper hand then the status quo is maintained and such ‘incidents’ are politely dismissed. All are aware of the dangers of escalation though so keeping a lid on things works to the advantage of everyone for the time being.

David Manley’s collection for Lake Tanganyika - this lot could readily be transported to the River Ogopogo on Madasahatta!

Given the scale of actions I envisage fighting and the type of craft typically being used my first thoughts went to David Manley’s excellent set of rules: Steamer Wars and the River Wars supplement. These are designed for low level fights in rivers and lakes and by extension I reckon that inshore would work just as well. When the bigger stuff comes out then I would look to use another set - probably something from the Gridded Naval Wargame although I will think about that as and when it happens.

In the meantime though, I have the last of the current batch of ACW ships to finish building and then it will be on to Madasahatta for some shipbuilding.

Monday, 23 November 2020

On WW2 in the Pacific and Vietnam ‘65

Memoir ‘44 Pacific style. The playing pieces seem to made from a harder plastic than those from the base game. I have a plan about these in any event.

I have lacked a degree of focus recently in that I have seem to have been flitting from one project to another without any apparent rhyme or reason but there is a plan of sorts in play! One of these that has been neglected slightly is of course the WW2 in the Pacific - specifically Burma or the islands around New Guinea. If you recall my original intention was to make use of the 14th Army figures from Eric’s collection and then to add some Japanese and US Marines. I fully intend to expand the action by adding the naval dimension using Avalon Hill’s Flat Top and possibly even taking to the air in some fashion.

A while back I picked up a copy of Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal bu Academy Games. This is a sumptuously produced tactical level board game that focuses on the fighting on the island during those critical months of 1942. It is a lovely looking game but I think I may have pulled the trigger too quickly when I acquired it. I may have been better getting Combat Commander: Pacific with the New Guinea supplement for a broader coverage as it not solely focussed on the US Marines. I was thinking about this when the answer of course came from a completely different direction!

Memoir ‘44 is a light WW2 themed board game that I have enjoyed countless times although it does lack depth. This can be rectified very easily and indeed, I know of many gamers that have done so in order to make it more ‘wargamey’. The first iteration I used of this was devised by Bob Cordery a few years ago and was called MOMBAT - Memoir Of Modern BATtle. I fought many great games using this system and tweaked it quite happily to suit my own requirements. I own a fair amount of Memoir ‘44 stuff but the me thing that eluded me was the expansion for the Pacific. I say eluded me because I did own this a few years ago but it went during one of my periodic reorganisations. In recent times it has been really hard to get a hold of and has advertised for silly money in places like eBay.

A lovely looking game and really well produced but sadly too limited in its scope for what I wanted. Its disposal has served to finance the replacement Memoir ‘44 pieces though so all’s well that ends well!

I saw a brand new copy of the Memoir ‘44 Pacific expansion that was listed on eBay at what I thought was a really good price - £25 - so I watched it and at the appropriate time slapped in a bid. I was absolutely gobsmacked when I won it and indeed, I was the only person that placed a bid despite there being some 13 watchers! I also ordered a copy of another expansion called Through Jungle and Desert which includes scenarios and special rules for combat in both environments. The Jungle part of this expansion features the British retreat through Burma which I am currently reading about so is a welcome addition to the collection - or at least it will be when it arrives!

Aside from the scenarios and preprinted maps there are also some jungle and desert specific command cards which will be very useful.

In common with my usual hobby modus operandi I first of all disposed of some items to fund these two new additions (actually three but I will get to that in a moment) and so Conflict of Heroes went to a new home. It was a break even sale so no harm was done to the budget!

Whilst the film took a number of, ahem, liberties, the combat scenes were well done and even Hal Moore himself said that it was the first Vietnam film ‘to get it right....’

The final acquisition from the sale proceeds was a replacement hardback copy of We Were Soldiers Once....And Young by Lt. Gen. Harold (Hal) G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway detailing the action in the Ia Drang Valley in 1965. I really enjoyed this book (if enjoyed is the right word) in that it gives a very good account of the brutal, close range nature of this battle and how it was fought. I have long wanted to game this operation in some form and indeed, I penned a blog past about some years ago. The Pacific expansion for Memoir ‘44 includes some very ‘Nam terrain types - caves, jungle, paddy fields etc - so there is room for a lot of crossover in terms of elements of the rules. Again, it is a project that I would enjoy doing that in theory would not take a lot to set up but for the present I would need to use proxies of some kind.

The film of the book starring Mel Gibson is a visceral experience once the shooting starts and really gives a harrowing impression of what a close in firefight using modern automatic weaponry must be like. There is a haunting Scottish lament that features in the film and it really plays on the senses. 

Sgt. McKenzies Lament

Lay me down in the cold cold ground 
Where before many more have gone 
Lay me down in the cold cold ground 
Where before many more have gone 

When they come I will stand my ground 
Stand my ground I’ll not be afraid 

Thoughts of home take away my fear 
Sweat and blood hide my veil of tears 

Once a year say a prayer for me 
Close your eyes and remember me 

Never more shall I see the sun 
For I fell to a Germans gun 

Lay me down in the cold cold ground 
Where before many more have gone 
Lay me down in the cold cold ground 
Where before many more have gone 

Where before many more have gone 

In memory of Sgt. Charles Stuart MacKenzie
Seaforth Highlanders - killed in action 1917