Sunday 28 November 2021

The Portable Market Garden Wargame

 Two titles from my Operation Market Garden library. The Martin Middlebrook title focuses on the  British Airborne part of the campaign

“This will be a story to tell your grandchildren….and mightily bored they’ll be….!”

First of all a massive thanks to everyone that sent their best wishes to us following Gordie’s passing a week ago. Laurel has especially tasked me to thank you all on her behalf. 

Over the course of the week I found myself thinking about various paratrooper based conversations that Gordie and I had over the years and so my thoughts kept coming back to Operation Market Garden in 1944. The story of course needs no introduction but it certainly captured my imagination when I first began to read about in earnest following the release of the film A Bridge Too Far in 1977. My imagination was properly fired up when I met Laurel in 1980 especially as Christmas of that year Gordie was coming over from Canada for a visit. I remember being in awe of him (and a little bit intimidated if truth be told!) but I needn’t have worried as he really was a top bloke. I remember we visited the Imperial War Museum in South London and he really enjoyed it (and the beers on the way home!). I have probably mentioned that Laurel’s late uncle, Staff Sergeant Gordon Jenks (whom Gordie was named after) of the Airlanding regiment, was captured at Arnhem. The airborne connection in her family is strong as another uncle served in the parachute regiment alongside Gordie.

Gordie always said that the sheer stubbornness in the face of adversity is very much part of the paratrooper DNA due to being lightly equipped and usually outnumbered by a far better armed enemy. They are trained to fight, and fight hard. He regaled me with tales of ‘milling’, the infamous ‘P’ Company and learning to field strip and clean weapons blindfolded. Endless training exercises and peak physical conditioning were paramount. He was hugely proud of his regiment throughout his life and at age 70 was still down the gym three times a week and completing 10K runs.

The Memoir ‘44 campaign map

Fast forward to today and an idea. I wanted to do something to honour Gordie’s memory in a small way and so found myself thinking about Operation Market Garden once again. I have fought the entire campaign on a couple of occasions - once using the board game Hells Highway as the basis for a Command Decision campaign. It was great fun, as was the Memoir ‘44/MOMBAT based refight I reported on the blog here (and I am surprised it was eight years ago!).

From the Flames of War range

The back of the box

The rule book

I rather fancy tackling the campaign using the Portable Wargame for the battles and the contents of the Flames of War Firestorm game of Operation Market Garden to generate them. I would use my block armies for the units involved and the whole thing would be highly stylised and representative rather than a strictly detailed refight. It also has the major attraction of being something that can be picked up and put down as required meaning that other priorities can be addressed alongside of it.

I owned a copy of this some years ago but this was disposed of during one of my periodic clear outs. The replacement copy is courtesy of Mr Fox to whom I am extremely grateful.

Gordie was not a wargamer but he would have been keen to know how the British Airborne were progressing in this most famous of battles. He would have quite sure that they would have acquitted themselves well!  I will of course need to rewatch A Bridge Too Far and reread the book - this time it will be a pleasure of special significance.

Monday 22 November 2021

“Utrinque Paratus” - Ready for Anything

 The Wings of Pegasus - the emblem of the British Airborne Forces

I arrived home from work tonight to the news that Laurel’s brother (and my brother in law) had finally lost his battle against stage four cancer yesterday evening. It was not unexpected but it still has the power to stop you in your tracks. Needless to say we are all pretty raw around the edges.

Gordie was a real character, a gentle giant, fond of West Ham United and the odd beer or six, incredibly proud of the eleven years he spent with regiment and to his dying day he fought against the odds as any paratrooper would.

I have known him since 1980 and his visits to the UK from his home in Vancouver invariably involved beer and trips to military museums - naturally I was a very willing participant in both! I was quite surprised to note that out day trip to Duxford (in the photo below) was just over a decade ago - it feels like it was only recently.

We often spoke about his time in the Paras and he would regale me with accounts of incidents he was involved in during the Radfan campaign. To me he was larger than life (he was certainly larger than me at 6ft 3 inches tall and built like a tank) and for sure he will be missed by us all.

When he first received the diagnosis of his final illness he was very philosophical about it and said that he was content with how his life had gone. He resolved to fight as hard as he could but even his legendary resilience and paratrooping stubbornness in the face of overwhelming odds could not overcome his illness. My thoughts are with his partner, Diane and indeed, all that knew him

At a personal level I consider it an inestimable honour to have both known him and to have shared many memorable times days out in his company.

Duxford 2011. Gordie (on the left) made a beeline for the ex paratrooper volunteer guides and they swapped stories with yours truly taking the pictures and listening from the outside.

R.I.P. Gordon ‘Gordie’ Cormack - raising a beer for you.


Sunday 21 November 2021

Today I have been….

 Next steps will be cutting out the flagstaffs, drilling some holes, modelling the pilot houses and then putting it altogether prior to painting.

….mostly packing parcels prior to posting (special mention for tradgardmastare and Aly!) and assembling masts for the remaining ACW ships. Pay no attention to the MDF templates the masts are currently located in as I was merely using these as stands while the glue dried. You can see the hulls the masts will be finishing up on in the background. I have one more ‘full’ mast to build and a bowsprit and then it will be rather a lot of drilling.

Taking a look at some of the earlier models I have a small amount of refurbishment to undertake. These are not repairs but a couple of minor changes. A good example is the pair of Union City class ironclad gunboats. I shall be changing their current pilot houses from the square shape they have to a more accurate looking octagonal one. Strictly speaking these pilot houses should have angled sides but mine will be straight sided due to how the MDF has been cut. At least the overall look will be more accurate looking than previously.

I also want to add some more guns to my version of U.S.S. Kearsage and C.S.S. Alabama as they represent the more ‘modern’ version of the sloop compared to the earlier broadside type.

Whilst in the ACW vibe I gave the rules a further review and have come to a couple of conclusions. To begin with, I am going to revert to my original idea in respect of firing and am also looking to greatly simplify the whole ‘critical hit’ system as it is a little clunky. In either case the changes are really quite minor and in retrospect I think I should have stuck with the original idea but one lives and learns!

I am also more or less at the stage where I can take the rules for an airing using live opponents. I have broached the idea of running a test or two at the club so will look to get something organised as soon as the redraft has taken place which should coincide with finishing the remaining ship models.

It has been a very therapeutic afternoon working on these models once again and I hope that I can continue the momentum. There are some big domestic things coming up that nay well impact on this but hopefully I can keep on keeping on.

Thursday 18 November 2021

A Pleasant Way to Spend an Evening

 H.M.S. Dragon - Mr Manley will know why!

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of meeting up for a couple of beers and pizza with David Manley, the well known writer of naval rules, self confessed motor racing addict and collector of assorted wildlife. He also happens to be the Professor of Naval Architecture at UCL in London and a thoroughly nice bloke to boot!

As is his work schedule means that he is in town fairly frequently so it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up and so we arranged to meet in the city. There was also the small matter of passing over the rules I picked up for him at Salute last Saturday.

The conversation was broad and covered many things naval related and gaming stuff more generally and for me it was great to be able to finally thank him in person for the support he has extended me in respect of my ACW ship and rules project. He has given me a number of ideas to think about and as I sat on the train home I thought about all the things I didn’t ask him - but they will be for another time I am sure!

I would like thank Mr Manley for taking the time out to meet up - it was an absolute pleasure for sure and one I hope to repeat soon!

Sunday 14 November 2021

Salute 2021 - One Wargamer’s View

 ….And so it was that on the 13th day of November, the year of our Lord 2021 that David ventured out unto the promised land of the Excel centre to attend the wargames show that is Salute and in doing so saw many wondrous things and met with many similar and like minded individuals. He was by turns, impressed and depressed and returned from his journey beset by nagging doubts….

Apologies for the rather rambling introduction but I am feeling in a rather whimsical frame of mind!

The modest amount of Salute ‘loot’. The brown bag contains my order of bases for the block armies. ‘O’ Group are a battalion level set of WW2 rules published by Reisswitz Press - I had a chat with the author, David Brown whom assured me that the rules were worth far more without his signature! As a show special they came with the MDF order counters you see. Battle for the Bundu I picked up from Dave Lanchester and was really pleased to do so as this was also one of the books disappeared into the ether some time ago

Salute needs little introduction from me so the following post is very a personal opinion and is not in any way intended as a criticism of those that spent an enormous amount of time and effort organising the show  for the thundering herd that attended. 

My first issue was with the cost of the parking - a flat fee of £20 for the day! Taken into consideration with the entry fee and the possibility of a ULEX charge going forwards it becomes a pretty expensive day out even before you hit the trade stands. I know that this is an Excel charge but it still seems very dear especially if one is only going for half a day.

I arrived at around 1:30 and by the time I had paid for my parking and had gotten passed Covid control I was barely able to make the bloggers meet up at 2pm, for which I was only able to spend a short time due to a few show related errands. I did meet up with Postie’s Rejects, Tamsin and David in Suffolk (all of whom I bumped into on various occasions during the afternoon) which was a real pleasure after so long.

As is my usual modus operandi at shows I was going to be helping Dave Lanchester pack away his book stand (usually I help him set up but at his request it was the other way round this time) so after having dropped some items off with him I went for a wander about.

I was really keen to visit the Warbases stand to say hello to Martin and to thank him for the excellent work on the bases for my block armies and the various bits and pieces I needed for my ACW ships. What a very nice chap he is! 

I was also able to have a brief chat with Simon Stokes of the Naval Wargames Society - he was hosting a Saga based game featuring 28mm Viking longships.

It was also great to say hello to Dave Ryan of Caliver Books and Tony Francis at Brigade Models - both of which seemed to be pretty busy.

It has been a long time since I attended a show and probably even longer since I attended one in the afternoon so perhaps that is why it all seemed a little flat. The venue is massive but it felt slightly under occupied and the sight of empty tables that had been reserved for clubs that for whatever reason had not attended made for an even more ‘spaced out’ feeling. Perhaps it was just me but it all felt very much as if it was going through the motions in a way.

I took a few pictures of things that caught my eye so I will let the do the talking.

Mexican Revolution in 54mm

‘O’ Group in action. I forgot to take a picture of the other end of the table which featured a very nice river. Russian Front in 15mm

Viking ships in 28mm using Saga rules. Kirk Douglas was conspicuous by his absence….

10mm Great Northern War. Large scale loveliness

Star Trek meets the Battle of Britain - that would be a great idea for an episode!

One of the few….

….and its workhorse stablemate - a ‘gentleman’s aerial conveyance’ indeed!

Overall I enjoyed the show but it did seem a little flat in respect of the atmosphere. It was great to catch up with some familiar faces and of course, the modest amount of retail therapy made a pleasant diversion from recent weeks. As usual with this venue my left leg was very unappreciative of the effort it had to make wandering about and after having filled up Dave Lanchester’s van at the close of play, my shoulders and back joined it in sympathy!

The final twist on the day was when I went back to my car I had made the mistake of parking it under a previously unseen bird’s nest located in the ceiling conduit. The roof of the car looked like it had been carpet bombed…

Tuesday 9 November 2021

The Road Goes Ever On and On....

Budge, the Norwich Cathedral cat relaxing on one of the underfloor heating air vents.

Budge, Budge, fur brown like fudge, Cathedral cat and hero"

This will be something of a mish mash of a post and it has been written with the intention of bringing you up to date with what is going on in my world - domestically and gaming wise.

Laurel is pretty much back to the same condition she was prior to her angiogram meaning that once again she has severe nerve pain in her lower back and legs. She has said that it is not as bad but make no mistake, it is still enough for her to be taking industrial quantities of heavy hitting painkillers. She had an additional couple of scans last week, the results of which will be discussed with her consultant this coming Friday. Hopefully we will have better news this time around.

The news from Canada continues as expected. We talk to Gordie every week and whilst he remains remarkably upbeat his strength and endurance are, predictably, gradually wearing away. We do not know how long he has but friends and family are making sure that he and his partner has plenty of support.

Laurel and I managed to visit some of the Norfolk based family over the weekend - the first time in fact for nearly two years. We paid a visit to Norwich Cathedral - the whole complex is a very impressive affair - and enjoyed a nice lunch in the Refractory cafe. This is run by Jarrolds - a famous Norwich department store - and featured some of their delicious home made scones. These are huge and an absolute must if ever you are in Norwich! We also made the acquaintance of Budge, the cathedral cat. He is well used to visitors and being petted so was completely unconcerned by our making a fuss over him. 

Aside from Laurel's sister we also visited her step father who lives deep in the heart of the broads. He is an avid model railway enthusiast so we spent a pleasant couple of hours discussing the overlap between our respective hobbies - mainly concerning terrain - and he very kindly gave me a couple of rolls of grass mat, partially used. There is enough on each roll - one is meadow grass and the other is more heath like - for a specific project I have in mind, more of which in a later post.

We arrived home on Sunday afternoon and as I had a couple of hours spare I spent some time working on the ACW ships. I have rather a lot of masts to fashion which is not difficult to do but does take a while. It was very therapeutic for sure and served to take my mind off 'stuff'.

This Saturday I shall be going to Salute but by way of a complete break in my usual show attendance tradition I will be there in the afternoon and not the morning. I plan to arrive around 1:30 if I can and so will be attending the blogger's meet up scheduled for 2. If you are there say hello, it will be good to interact with real people once again!