Saturday, 17 August 2019

Defence of the Bridge

Another 54mm outing for Fistful of Lead, this time taking place in the killing grounds of the American Civil War. Tim C, John and Tim G (proud owner of a new US Cavalry hat) took the dull northerners, while Jerry and I were the plucky Rebs.

Various sorting of playsheets and toys taking place. The Rebs had to hold the bridge and road until nightfall, while the Yanks had to take them. Nightfall and/or the arrival of massive US reinforcements was signalled by the playing the sixth joker by each side.

Jerry had a very appropriate butternut hat.

While John sported this rather grand US Generals kepi. You do realise we only play these games in order to wear our hats in public.

The Rebs. A squad of infantry with an officer, and a squad of Zoaves armed with proper rifles.

The Union commanders confer. They had three equal units of infantrymen.

We put the regular infantry forward into the tree line with a bridge guard. The Zoaves hung back to take advantage of the range of their rifles (even if the reload times were hideous). The Union lines were soon engaged with hot fire.

World class pointing from John. The Union plan was apparently to walk slowly forwards towards the enemy. Already one of their number has fallen wounded.

My Zouaves opened fire. The little black markers indicate the figure is unloaded. Rifles take up to four(!) actions to reload, whereas the more normal rifled muskets only take one action. The 'six' cards which allow an automatic reload were highly valued by the Zouaves. 

The bridge guard was out first fatality. In death his rifle appears to have morphed into a cannon swab.

The Union troops directly opposite my troops were gradually worn down by long range fire. 

Johns remaining troops were under heavy fire. Fortunately the Union infantry seemed reluctant to close to effective range, which means the trees continued to provide excellent concealment against their long range musketry.

The Union centre was looking a bit ragged by now.

In a shock development one of the Union soldiers ran for the bridge.

He kept on going and promptly bayonetted one of the Rebel infantrymen. What a hero!

The Rebel officer was somewhat put out by this and rushed over to help with his sword and Navy Colt.

Sadly, if  Stephen Crane has taught us anything about the ACW, it is that heroism usually results in a 'Red Badge of Courage'. The lone Union infantrymen was gunned down by the rebel officer.

The bridge approaches were now littered with wounded or cowering Union soldiers.

While our forward firing line was still holding on.

And the Zouaves hadn't suffered a scratch. So at that point it was fairly obvious that the Union weren't going to take the bridge, so we called it a day. "A fly spec on Headquarters maps" as the Union Captain in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly observed, and as Clint himself said "I've never seen so many men wasted so badly".

In retrospect the Union would have better off massing their troops against our forward detachment and closing to effective range as fast as possible, accepting the losses on the way in. At long range against troops in cover they only had a 20% chance to hit, whereas out aimed rifle fire had a 40% chance. At close range the firepower differential was much more even (50% vs 60%) and their superior numbers would have blown us away.

So, another fun game, although this one seemed to take a bit longer than the previous one, partly as we kept forgetting which cards we all had and partly as it bogged down into an indecisive long range firefight (all very realistic no doubt).

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Zvezda 1/144th IL-2

Recently I seem to have been borrowing a lot of Tims 1/144th aircraft for games, and I thought it was about time I got some of my own rather than my ratty old 6mm ones. Amazingly, PSC had some of the vanishingly rare Zvezda Sturmoviks in stock so I ordered one. I wish I'd ordered two as now they are unobtainable again.

Anyway, here is the finished article. I haven't built a plastic aircraft kit since the early 1970s, so I was pleased how it came out. It was a lovely clean little model and went together beautifully.

I finished it in a khaki/green scheme lifted from one of my aviation books. I copied Tims method of painting over the canopy in light blue, and  don't think it looks too bad. The decals are OK,but the red centres are slightly offset. They are the only Russian stars I have though, so they will have to do.

The model comes with options for undercart down or up, I went for retracted. I did the underside in a light grey and didn't bother with underwing decals. Those stars may come in handy for something else.

Here it is in flight over the dining table looking for some fascist tanks to blow up. My only criticism is that some of the smaller plastic parts are a bit fragile (the gun barrels and radio antenna post). If they break off 'll replace them with wire. I snapped the prop blades off anyway to save my big fingered pals the trouble. I'm not up to making clear plastic discs for the prop, so just imagine the propeller is going really, really fast.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

I have been to... Bamburgh

We recently returned from a trip to Northumberland, where we stayed in Bamburgh, ancient seat of the Northumbrian kings and as fans of The Last Kingdom will also know, the stolen hereditary home of Uhtred son of Uthred, Lord of Bebbanberg (as Bamburgh was once known).

It is a fairly historical part of the UK, with Lindisfarne visible on the horizon and Dunstanburgh Castle to the south, and the Church of St Aiden in the village itself.

While we spent a lot of time swimming in the sea and eating, there were also a few points of historical interest.

Bamburgh Castle looking imposing. The site has been occupied since the Dark Ages and there was a dig on while we were there. It was owned and extensively renovated by Lord Armstrong before the National Trust took it over.

The batteries featured a range of artillery, this is an eighteenth century 18pdr.

A carronade.

And a lovely mortar, date 1770.

The great hall, originally medieval.

A rather nice suit of sixteenth century armour.

The armoury was well stocked, a stand of muskets.

Blunderbuss with spring loaded bayonet.

Adams revolver.

Some really nice Anglo-Saxon relics. The tiny bits of gold include the often reproduced image of the Beast of Babbenburgh. The sword looks a bit wrecked, but is the only surviving example of an Anglo Saxon sword made from six interleaved iron rods with steel edging. Supposedly a kings blade (but Uhtreds sword Dragonbreath is made the same way!).

Well, it had to be done. The castle was also interspersed with the Anglo-Saxon legend of the Laidley Wyrme, a fire breathing dragon, laid to rest by Childewynd. He is still commemorated today in the nearby Wynding Road.

My attractive assistant models King Oswalds throne. A reproduction based on fragments, it also has a dragon motif.

Both attractive assistants are in the stocks!

The Norman Keep.

There was a repro Anglo-Saxon encampment inside the curtain wall.

We also took a trip to the Farne Islands. Breeding season for puffins, kittywakes, guillemots and shags. 

Puffin burrows, various teenage pufflings were in evidence.

Dunstaburgh Castle. One in the eye for Edward II from the Earl of Lancaster. The earl was executed for his trouble and the castle passed to John of Gaunt.

The main keep.

View across the marshes under the cliffs.

Inside the keep.

Near to Dunstanburgh is the village of Craster, famous worldwide for its smoked herrings. The smokehouse was in full flow, and some packets of herrings duly purchased. In their UK Food Standards Agency mandated packaging, naturally.

Craster is also famous for its seafood in general. Mmmmm.

A local heroine is Grace Darling, who was born and died in Bamburgh. There is a really well done done museum in the village covering her life and her famous rescue.

Here is the very boat she used to rescue the survivors from the 'unsinkable' Forfarshire.

And her grave in St Aidens churchyard.

St Aidens was first founded in the 600s, and was originally made of wood. The stone building now on the site dates from the 1400s and is largely unchanged from then, and there is some surviving Norman stonework.

This beam has been dated to 637, and is the last surviving part of the original church. Supposedly St Aiden was leaning against it when he died, and it was built into the roof to stop pilgrims shaving bits off it!

Cragside, one of the (many) homes of Lord Armstrong. Famous, and vastly wealthy, for the Armstrong rifled cannon. This was a stunning Arts and Crafts house set in amazing grounds.

The estate was dotted with examples of mid Victorian engineering, this is one of the many water powered engines. Te house was one of the first in the country to have electric light, power from one (later two) hydro-electric power stations.

Kiplings Kharkee Gentleman. Handwritten and signed by the author.

The magnificent kitchen range featured water powered rotating spits.

The inevitable long gallery, painted Farrow and Ball Picture Gallery Red.

I rather liked this, which I thought was a Turner It wasn't.

We also took a trip to Lindisfarne. The Tudor fort dominates the landscape.

A bit of a scramble up, but not as high as Bamburgh.

A depiction of the Spanish Armada being seen off by the plucky English.

After the fort fell into disuse, it was taken over by a number of well heeled individuals and converted into a holiday home. Like Cragside, it was plastered with beautiful Arts and Crafts features.

One of the gun platforms. Not quite Vauban, but the walls are already low and thick.

The remains of the priory.

Looking back to the mainland. The marked footway is invisible but the road causeway is off to the right. In the foreground is St Cuthberts Island, where he lived as a hermit for some years. He died in 687 and was buried nearby but after repeated Viking raids his remains were later moved inland and reputedly formed the site of Durham Cathedral.