Saturday 31 August 2019

The Crimean War Heavy Brigade

The charge of the gallant three hundred, the Heavy Brigade!
Down the hill, down the hill, thousands of Russians,
Thousands of horsemen, drew to the valley—and stay’d;
For Scarlett and Scarlett’s three hundred were riding by
When the points of the Russian lances arose in the sky;
And he call’d, ‘Left wheel into line!’ and they wheel’d and obey’d.
Then he look’d at the host that had halted he knew not why,
And he turn’d half round, and he bade his trumpeter sound
To the charge, and he rode on ahead, as he waved his blade
To the gallant three hundred whose glory will never die—
‘Follow,’ and up the hill, up the hill, up the hill,
Follow’d the Heavy Brigade.

So starts Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Heavy Brigade”, the lesser known of his Balaclava poems that provides a convenient segway to the reason why my butterfly fluttering, that has seen me flitting between projects of late, has led me complete the Heavy Brigade for the Crimean War collection.

Persistent readers may remember that back in February 2018 I had completed the Scots Greys and the Inniskillings, but then there was issue getting supply of the figures because the moulds were damaged or lost. Then this February just gone, as the lead pile flattened, I painted three lone figures from the 5th Dragoon Guards that had been sitting around for a year waiting or their command figures. 

Last month I enquired of NorthStar if the heavies were back in production, and the answer was “yes”. I duly purchased all that was required to finish the brigade, and here are the remaining three regiments, left to right - the 1st Royal Dragoons,  4th and 5th Dragoon Guards

To which are added the Inniskillings and the Scots Greys... form the entire brigade.

All figures are from Great War Miniatures.

All that remains to be completed here is the brigade commander, Brigadier General Scarlett, who will follow in a due course..

And now the other four stanzas of Tennyson’s poem...

The trumpet, the gallop, the charge, and the might of the fight!
Thousands of horsemen had gather’d there on the height,
With a wing push’d out to the left and a wing to the right,
And who shall escape if they close? but he dash’d up alone
Thro’ the great gray slope of men,

Sway’d his sabre, and held his own
Like an Englishman there and then;
All in a moment follow’d with force
Three that were next in their fiery course,
Wedged themselves in between horse and horse,
Fought for their lives in the narrow gap they had made—
Four amid thousands! and up the hill, up the hill,
Gallopt the gallant three hundred, the Heavy Brigade.

Fell like a cannon-shot,
Burst like a thunderbolt,
Crash’d like a hurricane,
Broke thro’ the mass from below,
Drove thro’ the midst of the foe,
Plunged up and down, to and fro,
Rode flashing blow upon blow,
Brave Inniskillens and Greys
Whirling their sabres in circles of light!
And some of us, all in amaze,
Who were held for a while from the fight,
And were only standing at gaze,
When the dark-muffled Russian crowd
Folded its wings from the left and the right,
And roll’d them around like a cloud,—
O, mad for the charge and the battle were we,
When our own good redcoats sank from sight,
Like drops of blood in a dark-gray sea,
And we turn’d to each other, whispering, all dismay’d,
‘Lost are the gallant three hundred of Scarlett’s Brigade!’

‘Lost one and all’ were the words
Mutter’d in our dismay;
But they rode like victors and lords
Thro’ the forest of lances and swords
In the heart of the Russian hordes,
They rode, or they stood at bay—
Struck with the sword-hand and slew,
Down with the bridle-hand drew
The foe from the saddle and threw
Underfoot there in the fray—
Ranged like a storm or stood like a rock
In the wave of a stormy day;
Till suddenly shock upon shock
Stagger’d the mass from without,
Drove it in wild disarray,
For our men gallopt up with a cheer and a shout,
And the foeman surged, and waver’d, and reel’d
Up the hill, up the hill, up the hill, out of the field,
And over the brow and away.

Glory to each and to all, and the charge that they made!
Glory to all the three hundred, and all the Brigade!

Thursday 29 August 2019

Flutter, Flutter, Flutter...

The fluttering has continued as my ongoing butterflyism has me flitting between projects.

Bringing the British Peninsular project one step close to completion are these mounted commanders.

Another Spanish limber has been delivered to the army...

...and to the Russians too...

Sunday 25 August 2019

Russo-Japanese War Game

Today we played a Russo-Japanese game

The background story is that a Japanese force of three infantry divisions is seeking out a Russian force. A fairly basic table was set up with a few low hills and a couple of woods. The Japanese’s were instructed to deploy one division. They chose to deploy the guards division in the centre of their table edge. The Russians then could place a ridge anywhere within their own half of the table and then one meter of trenches, again anywhere on their half of the table: they chose to place both in the centre. The Japanese then placed a division, then the Russians placed a division, then the Japanese and finally the Russians. The result of all of this was that two Japanese divisions faced a weak Siberian infantry division, while on their left a single Japanese division faced a strong Russian division. The Japanese could count 12 batteries and 12 machine guns again the 10 Russian batteries and six machine guns.

The Russians chose to hold the trenches but attack the Japanese left in force. Despite heavy losses the plan worked and the Japanese left, with 12 battalions facing 16, collapsed after a hard fight.

Being pounded by the Japanese guns and machine guns, the Russians withdrew from the trenches, intending to reoccupy them when the Japanese got closer.

Although their left was destroyed, the Japanese pressed forward on the right trying to work behind the trench line.

In the end, with their left turned the Japanese advance stalled, although they were close to driving back the Russian left. Here we called the game a draw.

Thursday 22 August 2019

The Butterfly has Been Busy.

Last weekend we took a trip to Queenstown in the lower part of the South Island, just to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a winter break in a wintery spot.

Queenstown is a spectacular place nestled between towering mountains. This was my second visit, the first being several years ago when on a couple of warm days in February we investigated the town, ate some lovely food and had a great trip on a steamboat up Lake Wakatipu.  Those towering mountains haven’t changed, but this time they sported a fresh dusting of snow.

We had an eventful trip down. The approach to Queenstown airfield is challenging at the best of times, flying down a narrow valley, and our arrival was met with wind-shear as we exited the valley, forcing two go-arounds, followed by a diversion to refuel at Invercargill (85 nautical miles to the southwest) and then a third, successful, attempt at Queenstown. So our one hour forty flight took us three and a half hours, but with these gorgeous views, who cares, and we were still arrived in time for lunch.

On a fabulously sunny Sunday, albeit with a frosty -4C start, a gondola ride took us another 1000 feet above the town for a breathtaking view over the lake before partaking in the food and wine on offer. I must say I was a little disappointed in some of the restaurants this time that were charging absurdly high prices for some pretty small servings - I mean $32.00 for four scallops in a bit of sauce was a bit steep in an establishment that could hardly be called fine dining. Still we managed to find some places with value and atmosphere - especially as we watched NZ beat Australia at rugby.

Since returning home I have been working hard to catch up on the basing backlog and there are four groups of goodies for show and tell. The varied nature of these item shows an alarming tendency towards butterflyism as I flit between projects...I need to start that Bavarian project to get me back on the straight and narrow.

First is number one of eight Russian Napoleonic limbers I need to do to get the Russian army up to spec.

Second is the first of four Spanish Napoleonic limbers. Drawn by four mules and accompanied by two muleteers, this makes quite a different sort of limber model. I am sure this model will have a second life as a limber for the Carlist Wars.

Third is a unit of Don Cossacks. This is my first use of the Games Workshop Contrast Colours, with the blue being applied over a blue base coat and the hair completed with a coat of Snakebite Leather...really Snakebite Leather? I still need to practice some more with these to figure out exactly how to use them.

The fourth item is number two of what will be three flatboats from the Perrys. This time I have furled the flags. I love this model and am looking forward to the third one.

The butterfly fluttering will probably continue for another few weeks while the odds and ends of projects wrap up.

Friday 16 August 2019

Decisions, decisions, decisions

Almost all my existing projects are nearing their end. The British Peninsular army only needs some artillery and that will be ordered at the end of this month. The Spanish and Russian Napoleonic limbers are under way. There are a few units of Cossacks that need to be back filled and the Crimean cavalry is in the queue. The only project of any substance left on the plan is the Revolutionary War armies, of which I have completed three French battalions, but that is intended as an occasional project...adding a few units here and there. Since we are sadly lacking in British troops for the American Revolution I have started a foray into this period with the first of what will be six British battalions to face off against the vast American collection in our group ordered. The British might also be followed by a spattering of French just to provide some spice to our AWI games.

I have some ideas about expanding existing collections, such as the British Crimean army that could do with another half dozen battalions so that it can go toe to toe with the more extensive Russians, or the Russo-Japanese War cavalry and machine guns, or another couple of units of Wars of the Roses cavalry. An expansion to the early WWI is also a possibility. I will also add some supply vehicles to my various Napoleonic armies in the near future. While that list of additions could go on a bit longer, these are really just bits and pieces, but when it comes to a cohesive project I am not sure what I want to collect next. 

Whatever I do collect you can be certain it will have a heavy 19th Century focus. I have already decided that the criteria for all future collections is that they must have some connection to an existing collection which, given my broad 19th Century collections, opens up a number of options. In the Napoleonic period I can pretty much justify buying any nation because I can make a direct connection with another army. I have always been keen on the Bavarian army, but have shied away because another member in the group already has a collection, but his is an 1809 army and I would be interested in the 1813-1814 period when there was a higher weighting of National militia. So The Bavarians are option one. 

Option two is the Danes. There are logical connections here to existing collections like the British in 1807 and to the Russians and Prussians in 1813 – although the uniforms differ between those two periods and this would require two Danish armies. There is also a connection to the Swedes, both in 1807 and 1813, and that makes the Swedes option three. The Swedes in turn can be used against the Russians in the Finnish War...and there is option number four, but I would need buy another Russian army since the early Russians are substantially different to the 1812-13 Russians I have and this breaks the criteria of having an opponent in place, although the early Russians could fight the Ottoman Turks. Option five is the French 1805-1812 for use in Spain against the British and the Spanish, and a host of others, including the Austrians and they could be option six. 

Outside of the Napoleonic period the options become significantly less, well at least in areas I have any real interest in. The Danes for 1864, put on hold a couple of years ago, are still an option since I already have the Austrians and Prussians to face them, as are the Turks for the Crimea. If I could find a manufacturer that I like for the Austrians for the Franco-Austrian War of 1859 they would be a certainty. Likewise if a manufacturer was to introduce a nice range for the Austro-Prussian War (specifically the Saxons, Bavarian, Hanoverians and Wurtembergers) I’d be in like Flynn, but I think that very unlikely. 

So what is to be done? I need a focus or else I will risk becoming more of a wargaming butterfly than I already am. Thinking rationally – yes I know that is a strange concept in our hobby – the Napoleonic armies are most likely. The French are out for now because the new Perry plastics for that period are not yet released, but they will be a future "must do". I really like the Perry Swedish range,  but it is incomplete so that knocks out the Swedes and then the early Russians as a result. I am not sure about the Austrians – all that white worries me and there so many tempting troop types that could get out of hand. 

That leaves the Danes and the Bavarians. Both have tantalising uniforms and both can be allied to the French, and the Bavarians can change sides too.  Both forces are also relatively small and can probably be built in their entirety for 1813. The likelihood is that both will be done, but which one first? 

In the end my decision came down the availability of support equipment – the Perry Bavarians have limbers, caissons and wurst wagons that are just too tempting. The Danes do not have any equipment yet. The Bavarians will be done first. I have bought the reference book from The History Book Man, so watch these pages in the coming months for battalions of infantry in cornflower blue with their distinctive flags marching off the painting table.   

Speaking of the painting table, it is beginning to groan under the weight of items painted but waiting to be based. With a busy weekend planned they probably won’t be based for an other week, by then there will be much to present at show and tell.

Sunday 11 August 2019

Finishing off a few items

This week’s activity has been about finishing off a few units that have been on the table for a while.

First up is the 60th Rifles for the Peninsular British army. The rank and file for this unit were completed weeks ago, but the command for the unit were only received this week. So here is the whole battalion...

...and then in the smaller groups as they will most likely appear on the games table.

Also worked on during the week is another batch of figures from the ACW refurbishment.  One infantry unit and a couple of gun models.

Sunday 4 August 2019

American Generals and a Bit of Rebasing

With our fabulous week of gaming over and rapidly receding into distant memory it has been a long week, made seemingly longer by five days of software vendor presentations at work.

All these distractions have played havoc with my painting schedule, made worse by the fact that the lead pile is flat and orders placed to replenish it are still at least seven days away from delivery. Those same distractions caused me to overlook an event that would once have excited me - slipping past 200,000 visits to my blog. But as all bloggers know today such statistics mean very little since the Viagra advertisers and the bots from other dubious locations started worming their way through the blogger sphere.

Nonetheless I have had some items to paint. These were the Wargames Foundry American War of 1812 generals required for the recently played War of 1812 game that arrived too late (and with two horses missing I might add). So here they are, two mounted and four dismounted commanders. Two more mounted figures will join this set when the missing horses arrive.

Thanks to some miserable weekend weather I spent a bit of time rebasing some figures. These are the Crimean War British cavalry that I had painted back in 2016. So why rebase them? Well first of all I have committed to put on a Crimean War game at next year’s Tarawera gaming week and while that is still a long way off it has prompted me to look at completing the Heavy Brigade, the figures for which are back in production. Second, these regiments were originally organized in units of six figures and based two to a stand whereas my preference is to have three to a stand. So for the sake of consistency there was a need for change. Then I had the rather alarming thought that two stands of three made pretty small units and did I need to expand the size of these units?

Fortunately the answer to that question is no because the British only took two of squadrons of each regiment on the expedition and by the time they landed in the Crimea they had been ravaged by disease (which is why at Balaclava all five regiment of the Light Brigade counted only 668 officers and men), so two stands is not an unreasonably sized unit. It does mean, however,  that the Russian units, that were historically larger, will need expanding and the figures for that expansion have been ordered along with the Heavy Brigade troopers.

So here is rebased the Light Brigade.