Wednesday, 29 June 2022

CONSTRUCTION OF LIMBERS.

HOW I MAKE AND PAINT LIMBERS.


Limbers are used extensively in my armies not only for artillery and heavy weapons but also in Cavalry and Horse Artillery regiments to tow supply, ammunition and utility trailers. The premise is that such regiments require full off road capability and that can only be provided by limbered transport.

Construction of limbers starts with a balsa block 15mm wide and 10mm deep cut from standard trailer stock of 5mm thick planking. To this is added a cut down toothpick shaft. The standard toothpick as used straight from the box for wagons is about 55mm long. To fit the smaller limber I cut them down to 40mm. This can be seen in the photo below.


The next shot shows a batch of 32 limbers with shafts attached. The next step is the usual one of applying sealer to the end grain which is sanded smooth when dry.



Next task is to add wheels, towing hook and the horse mounting block on the shaft, all as seen below and very similar to the work required to build GS wagons. Construction is now complete so the wheels and towing hooks can be primed ready for painting.


As is my usual practice I also cut out the horses required for a batch of vehicles and paint them up at the same time. The photo below shows the horses partially primed  in the normal  head up or head down situation.



As above but now painted my standard horse brown  ( Humbrol Burnt Leather ). The colour of horses is a constant issue with my wife who is most upset that I do not have a variety of horse colours to reflect reality.  She particularly wants me to have dapple gray horses.  I tell her the official Army view is that horses only come in one standard issue colour and that is brown !!!!!!!!!!



The limbers are now painted olive drab, my standard vehicle and equipment colour.


The next step is to glue the horses to the mounting block. It is vital to glue the painted side as the paint provides a key for the glue. It also makes it much easier to complete the painting of the horses.


This next picture shows the horses after all painting has been completed.


The final steps are to add the twisted wire harness and paint the limber wheels black as shown below.


Basically, other than the initial cutting of the balsa block body, the rest of the construction process is the same as described in the post on building GS wagons.  These principles also apply to all other vehicles and trailers used in my armies.


Thursday, 23 June 2022

BOOK REVIEW: RATTLER ONE-SEVEN.

 A VIETNAM HELICOPTER PILOT'S WAR STORY.


Yet another book from my library. I hope the reader is not getting fed up with all these Vietnam books, I wanted a change of topic. I have another couple of Vietnam books to review and will then move to another subject.

Although not to the same standard as the classic "Chickenhawk" book about flying helicopters in Vietnam, this is a good book.  The author joined the army straight after graduation from high school in 1968 and, on a whim, applied to be a helicopter pilot. He passed the tests and became a warrant officer helicopter pilot. In due course he arrived in Vietnam in May 1970.

The bulk of the book describes in good detail the various missions and general military life of the "huey" pilot. The author was clearly a dedicated officer and constantly strove to improve his skills if for no other reason than to enhance his survival chances. He became a Senior Aircraft Commander which demonstrates great skills and towards the end of his tour was probably the most experienced pilot in his unit.

Most of the authors work involved supporting the South Vietnamese army (ARVN) as by that stage of the war US involvement was diminishing. In addition the North Vietnamese army was providing most of the enemy opposition as the VC had been eliminated during the Tet offensive. These factors combined to give the combat an entirely different perspective with US pilots coming up against substantial heavy anti aircraft weapons manned by well trained soldiers while trying to support operations by less than effective ARVN troops who suffered one defeat after another.

After the war the author trained as a fixed wing pilot and secured his professional pilots licence and became an airline pilot.  Despite the inevitable bad memories the author concluded that his war experiences had been generally positive in developing his character and he remains proud to have done his duty.

Overall a good book and recommended.

Saturday, 18 June 2022

BOOK REVIEW: CREW CHIEF.

 



Another book from my library. The author served as a mechanic, door gunner and crew chief in helicopter assault companies in Vietnam in 1967-68.

The book is written as a novel rather than as a personal memoir. Therefore it is written in the third person about a character called Jim MacLaughlin and relates the story of his tour of duty as a helicopter crew chief. The author admits the stories told are a mix of personal experience, things that happened to friends and friends of friends and general war stories known to all but without  provenance.

Even with all that in mind I have to say that, based on reading dozens of books about Vietnam, this book is pure fiction. It is inconceivable that so much could happen to one person. I have no doubt that everything related probably did occur over the years to somebody or other but certainly not to one individual in one tour of duty. On that basis the book is "over the top" and loses a lot of credibility, which is a shame. This is perhaps a case where "less is more".

However the book is well written and is exciting to read as long as the reader remembers this a work of fiction based on fact. It does give a flavour of life as a helicopter crew chief and certainly illustrates the dangers for those who served in the helicopter combat environment.

Overall I do recommend this book but as a good story rather than a historical record.


Sunday, 12 June 2022

UPDATE.

 There has been great excitement in my little world over the past few days !!!!  

Back at the beginning of February I reported that I had been engaged in the process of buying a new car with delivery expected at the beginning of May. Well that timescale came and went, repeatedly !!!! However , at long last, after  20 weeks, almost 5 months, I at last took delivery of my new car yesterday !!!!! and I am very pleased with it.

However the major problem over the past months has been the total lack of reliable information from either the dealer or the manufacturer's customer services. In fact I learned more about what was happening from online forums. Eventually  last Tuesday the manufacturer's customer services told me the car had been delivered to the dealer the day before. When I called the dealer they didn't even know the car had arrived !!!! 

The lesson is not to buy a new car via a factory order at this time. Only buy what dealers have in stock...unless you have the patience of a saint...which I don't !!!!

Anyway, I have it now. The level of technology in the car is almost scary....it will take me  months to figure it all out but that seems to be the norm nowadays. That said it drives like a dream and looks stunning which are the most important things of course.

On the modelling front I have not been very active recently, too many social activities and of course gardening chores. I have managed to complete a batch of 40 house bodied headquarters wagons as shown below, note the rolled up awnings on the roofs,  together with yet another infantry battalion. The next construction task is a regiment of cavalry which I have just started.








Monday, 6 June 2022

FLAGS: CONSTRUCTION AND PAINTING.

FLAGS OF THE WOODSCREW ARMY.

My army has three types of operational flag. 

The national flag is carried by all battalions and regiments and is oblong, solid blue in colour with a single white star in the first hoist area of the flag. 

Each battalion/regiment also carries a battalion/regimental  flag which is triangular, with a blue field and  the battalion/regiment number in white on the field. The staff is coloured to the arm of service for that particular type of battalion/regiment. In the case of brigade command battalions the main part of the staff is coloured red for command but the top of the staff is coloured to the type of brigade, infantry or cavalry. 

 The third flag is the general's personal flag. These are also triangular with a blue field but the staff is gold and there are small stars across the field, either one, two, three, four or five to represent the general's rank. All the stars I use are decals purchased from Fantasy Printshop of Cornwall, hand painting small stars was just a step too far for my skills !!!!


This photo shows from left to right, the national flag, the battalion flag of 7th army command battalion, a two star major general's flag and lastly, a three star lieutenant generals flag. 

The only other flag in my army is the red cross flag which is flown by all ambulance wagons. Other medical vehicles carry a small red cross sign on each side only.

My historic reference for many of the design ideas of my flags is  based to some degree or other on the US army of the Civil war period.

CONSTRUCTION.

The construction of flags is straight forward and is in fact, based largely on the 1969 Miniature Warfare magazine article that originally introduced the idea of using screws as soldiers.

 I start with a pin and a piece of ordinary copier paper, that is 85gsm for the paper experts !!!!! I usually use scrap from the printer but avoiding any printed areas. Flags are 12mm high by 18mm long when finished so I cut strips at least 50mm long so as to allow for wrapping round the flag staff with a bit left to cut to length.  As for the flag bearers, I file a groove in the screw at about 20 degrees off vertical. I hope the groove can be seen in the photo below.


                                      

The strip of paper is then glued and wrapped round the pin as shown below. I then cut the flag to finished length and in the case of triangular flags I then cut the angles.


A drop of glue is placed in the groove on the screw soldier and the pin flagstaff attached. After half an hour or so I then apply a big blob of glue ( UHU HART ) to smother all round the flag staff ensuring the glue goes well into the thread of the screw. Don't worry if the glue goes right round the screw or how big a blob you have as it shrinks as it dries as shown below.


The next step is to apply primer to the whole of the flag, staff and the glue joint as shown on the left below. Its then just a matter of final painting of the flags which in this case are for 28th Infantry Command battalion.








Wednesday, 1 June 2022

BOOK REVIEW: STEEL MY SOLDIERS HEARTS.

 THE HOPELESS TO HARDCORE TRANSFORMATION OF 4TH BATTALION 39TH INFANTRY UNITED STATES ARMY VIETNAM.


Another book from my library. This one is written by the legendary Col. David Hackworth, one of the US Army's most decorated soldiers and a well known figure of the Vietnam era. 

Known as Mr. Infantry because of previous publications aimed at improving the performance of infantry soldiers, Hackworth had an illustrious career . He joined the army aged 15 as a private in 1945 and by the end of the Korean war he was a Captain. He served almost five years in Vietnam including a tour commanding the 4/39. 

This was a problem unit which had one of the worst casualty rates and poor discipline records of any Infantry battalion  in Vietnam. Full of drafted soldiers, Hackworth was given command with instructions to make the battalion effective and efficient. This book details his efforts.

Over the following months Hackworth introduced improvements on a daily basis, sacked and replaced inefficient officers and instilled discipline in the battalion. His soldiers initially hated him and there was a bounty on his head. By the end of his command cycle however, the battalion had the lowest casualty rate and the highest body and captured weapons count of any unit in country and his troops considered him the best officer in the army.

Hackworth was however unpopular with his peers due to his tough no nonsense and uncompromising view that most of his fellow officers were incompetent ticket punchers. Eventually he became so frustrated with the poor performance of senior leaders that he provided a press interview where he laid bare all that was wrong with the US Army.  Although promoted to full Colonel, the youngest in the whole army at the time, he was encouraged to resign his commision. He then turned to writing and completed a number of books including this one.

I am a fan of Hackworth. Even allowing for the inevitable bias of any author, his story is inspirational. There is little doubt that if the US Army had followed Hackworth's teachings, the Vietnam war would have had a very different outcome. Unfortunately the Army encouraged officers to pursue promotion via a series of ticket punches as more of a priority than to fulfil their real duty of winning the war by training, developing, protecting and leading their men.

I hope that attitude no longer exists today and Hackworth is recognised as the premiere infantry officer he undoubtedly was during the Vietnam era. This is a highly recommended book.


Thursday, 26 May 2022

BOOK REVIEW: TO THE LIMIT.

 AN AIR CAV HUEY PILOT IN VIETNAM.



Another book from my library. This one recounts the experiences of a helicopter pilot in 1967-68. The authors story is fairly typical  and reflects the severe danger that Huey pilots endured. The average death rate among US military personnel was 1 in 45 but for helicopter pilots it was a staggering 1 in 18.

The book clearly describes life as a pilot, and gives really good accounts of heavy combat operations as well as a lot about day to day life. The only thing I don't like is the "conversations" the author includes. Many of these are clearly intended to give background information about himself but they come across in a very stilted, unrealistic way that is just not  credible. Otherwise the book is well written.

The classic account of helicopter piloting in Vietnam is of course "Chickenhawk" which I also have in the library.  This book is not to that standard but is still a good read and illustrates well the particular horrors of  the Vietnam war.


Thursday, 19 May 2022

UPDATE.

It has been several weeks since I last gave an update. I seem to have been very busy although as usual I really struggle to remember everything I have been up to !!!!

I have been engaged in some substantial work in the front garden. We decided to remove the brick pavers at the side and front of the house. These had been down many years and we have been experiencing puddles at various places when we get heavy rain. Clearly the water was no longer draining away properly. Anyway the pavers were dug up over the course of several days and taken to the local tip. (15 trips altogether but still a lot cheaper than hiring a skip !!!!)  The ground was levelled and a number of soakaways were dug and filled with broken bricks. The whole lot was then covered in a little over a ton of small gravel.

In addition a couple of small conifer trees were dug up and the small flower beds in the front were also removed and gravelled over. The end result is a much tidier and nicer looking front and side and hopefully the elimination of the puddling issue. The whole exercise involved the hardest work I have done for some years but to my surprise I suffered little which at my age was somewhat of a bonus !!!!

On the modelling front I have continued to build vehicles and paint soldiers for my new fourth army. I have now added some 2500 soldiers towards the new army since starting last year.  Currently in hand is a batch of 40 house bodied command wagons as shown below. Construction is complete and painting is about to start. 


I am also currently working on a cavalry regiment and yet another infantry battalion.

Readers may have noticed I have started reviewing books about Vietnam recently. It has been some time since I read any books about that war and I wanted a change of subject. As I have another four books yet to review I hope readers will continue to find the reviews interesting.

Lastly, I have noticed that some of the blogs I follow have not had new posts for some time. There has been discussion that some blog authors are not getting the feedback to encourage them to write as regularly as before. I have certainly noticed a drop off in the number of "hits" I am getting since the start of the year. Maybe it is about society opening up and people having more to do with their time now the pandemic is fading away rather than a loss of interest generally.  Any thoughts ???


Sunday, 15 May 2022

CONSTRUCTION OF GS WAGONS.

HOW I MAKE AND PAINT GS WAGONS.

                                                                                                    
Having completed yet another batch of GS wagons I  photographed the whole process of construction and painting  so I can now share these with readers.

GS wagons are the most numerous vehicle in my armies. The total required for the army I am currently constructing is over 450. For the three armies already existing to date I have built almost 1400 !!!! The primary historical reference for these vehicles is the British mark X GS wagon made in large part by the Bristol Wagon Works and used in vast numbers in WW1 but I have also been influenced by the US army's Escort wagon and the products of both Studebaker and Murphy Brothers.

Construction starts with the cutting of balsa blocks. These are 30mm long and 15mm wide and are cut from 9mm thick planks as shown on the left of the photo below. I then take toilet tissue and cut small squares/oblongs which I screw up between my fingers as shown in the middle left and middle right of the photo below. These lumps are then glued to the approximate centre of the balsa blocks as seen on the right. The process is kept rough and non exact so as to ensure the lumps are all slightly different in size and shape as you can see in the photo.These lumps depict the cargo load in the wagons. 



The next stage is to create the canvas tilt cover to the wagon. I use the brown paper that comes from the large paper sacks in which we buy sunflower hearts to feed our garden birds !!!!!!!! These sacks are two ply and I use the inner ply. However you can of course just use regular brown wrapping paper too, I am just addicted to repurposing anything and everything I can to provide raw materials for my modelling activities because I am just odd like that !!!!  The idea behind using brown paper is simply that I have found it to be just the right consistency for this purpose. The paper is best used crumpled and a bit used, it then looks and creases more realistically.  

The photo below shows the roughly cut oblong of paper which is then glued onto the wagon body using hot melt glue around the edges. The paper is quickly and carefully pressed onto the hot melt glue to ensure a good bond all around. Any surplus glue oozes out and creases are created all at the same time. Practice will make perfect but be careful as hot melt glue is very hot and sticks to the fingers, and that hurts !!!!! The final stage of this bit of the process is to trim the brown paper tilt after the glue has gone cold as shown on the right side of the photo below. This can be done easily with sharp scissors which will also cut away any oozed out glue. After making hundreds of these wagons I have never found any two with the same exact pattern of creases which I think adds a lot to the aesthetics of the models.


The next stage  is to treat the end grain of the balsa wagon blocks  with sealer. I use MDF sealer which I find does a good job. This stuff is water based and soaks in well and drys quickly. The idea is to ensure a good painting surface that does not soak up gallons of expensive enamel paint, and it looks better too. I apply sealer at this stage because it is easier to file the end grain smooth after the sealer has dried  rather than later when other elements have been added. I follow the same process with all balsa block vehicles and equipments. For filing the end grain I use emery boards which are actually more effective for this particular task than my Excel belt sander as they are wider and do not create grooves if used too energetically.

The next step in the construction process is to add the shaft. These are made from long (average length 58mm.) flat toothpicks as shown below. Unfortunately these are only available in the USA but most large supermarkets over there stock them. I have bought large quantities over the course of a number of trips over several years. They can however be purchased on the interweb but the postage is high. Of course the best solution is to  actually visit the US or know someone going there !!!!. Please bear in mind that the wastage is high. You will find only at best a third of the contents are good enough to actually use so buy plenty.


Having glued the shaft on, next steps are to glue on the wheels and a towing hook made from a Bambi staple, also readily available online. In addition you will also need to cut and fix a block of 5mm thick balsa to the shaft on which you can mount the horses in due course. These elements are all shown in the photo below.


One last step before we  move on to the painting process is to trim the horse mounting block. I find that when fitting these blocks they are never quite square, therefore , to ensure the horses are fixed straight and level they need to be carefully trimmed by eye using a craft knife or the belt sander. Please ensure you trim the balsa block only and not your thumbs !!!!!!!!! I have a leather thumb stool but rarely remember to use it. Don't be dumb like me !!!!!!!! Once that is done painting can start. The first job of that process is to prime the wheels and the towing hook as seen below.


At the same time I also cut out the horse blanks needed to supply the batch of vehicles I am building and  prime them too. I find that partially painting the horses before fixing improves the strength of the glue joint. Therefore I  paint most of the inner surface of the horses. Do not forget that you will need mirror image horses for each side. The way I cover this is to paint either head up or head down. If you look carefully at the photo below you will see exactly what I mean by this expression.


Next job is to paint the wagons, in my case, olive drab.


At the same time I paint the horses brown, still one side only, again head up or down. Although my wife complains that my horses should be in a variety of colours, I decided long ago to have a standard "issue" horse colour, Humbrol Burnt Leather.


The next stage is to glue the horses to the wagons, ensuring you glue the painted side in. As soon as the glue has dried , the rest of the horse, that is the edges, outside and inside of the head can be primed and then painted brown just as soon as the primer has dried.


Almost there  !!!! Next job is to fix the twisted wire "harness" around the horses as shown below. I buy this wire online, there are many suppliers, just look for twisted wire. I originally used the sealing wire used on franking machine but that is no longer available in the UK. I just make a small hole in the wagon body and then bend the wire in my fingers then push home. Usually I can do it easily but occasionally there is a hard bit of balsa so then I just use pliers to push the wire home. I find no glue is needed. Be careful not to apply too much pressure to the horses during this operation or you will be re-attaching them  again and again and again !!!!

At this point I have a confession. The sharp eyed reader may have noticed that the photos above and  below are different in that the spare wheel has magically appeared on the vehicles below !!!!!! Despite the 1000 plus GS wagons I have now made , I actually forgot to fit the spare wheels to this batch until I was just about to paint the wheels black. I had to hastily fit the wheels and prime them. In fact, the spare wheels need to be added at the same time as the other wheels. I use no glue, just push fit the pins.


The very last job is to paint all wheels black as shown in the photo below. I only paint the outside of the spare wheel black. I paint the underside olive drab like the wagon, it's just easier.


The basic principles of construction and painting described above apply to virtually all the other vehicles and equipments I build. Unlike some of my other vehicles and equipments, the construction process for GS wagons is quite lengthy and complex. Given the quantities I make it may even seem arduous I guess to some readers. However the end results do look really good. To see hundreds of vehicles lined up alongside thousands of soldiers is what, being odd I suppose, gives me a buzz.







Wednesday, 11 May 2022

BOOK REVIEW: DOC: PLATOON MEDIC.


 Having exhausted my supply of new books I have turned to re-reading books from my library but decided to have a change of subject and look again at some of my large collection of Vietnam War books.

The author was drafted in 1968 and trained as a medic. He was posted to the 4th battalion 39th Infantry which was made famous by its illustrious commanding officer David Hackworth  also known as "Mister Infantry." Hackworth was a well known figure in the US Army of that era and his autobiography is a classic of Vietnam literature. Hackworth believed that even the average American draftee soldier could be victorious against the Communist enemy provided they were correctly trained and led. The author of this book was one of those soldiers and provides the soldiers view of that very successful strategy.

 Unfortunately for the US Army, Hackworth's example was not followed by other senior officers and he was consigned to professional oblivion by his peers who found his hard driving personality just too hard to handle. He was eventually forced to resign his commision following an unauthorised press interview where he laid out in great detail the failures of senior US Army officers which had resulted in the US losing in Vietnam.

Back to the book....the author provides a fantastic insight into combat in Vietnam with obviously a focus on the activities of medics in particular. The sheer misery of that war for the average US combat soldier is laid out in great detail and leaves the reader with a good understanding of why so many US soldiers who fought in Vietnam are still suffering to this day from the effects of their tour of duty. He also recounts the initial hatred  the soldiers of the 4/39th had for Hackworth before they realised that, in fact, Hackworths methods were working. From a situation where they rarely even saw the enemy but suffered constant casualties to a new reality where they started to inflict heavy losses on the North Vietnamese is clearly discussed.

The role of the medic is covered in depth and in the process the author provides a clear understanding of the bloody nature of combat in Vietnam. This is a really great book about the service of a very highly decorated medic in Vietnam and is highly recommended.


Friday, 6 May 2022

BOOK REVIEW: RADIO OPERATOR ON THE EASTERN FRONT.

 AN ILLUSTRATED MEMOIR, 1940-1949.

When I bought the book last reviewed, this one also came up. As it looked interesting I bought it too and I was not disappointed.

The author was a Sudeten German and was drafted in late 1940. He served with the 61st East Prussian Infantry Division as a radio operator through most of the war on the northern flank of the Eastern front. He took part in Operation Barbarossa, advancing through Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia into Russia to the siege of Leningrad and back again as the Russians counter attacked in early 1944. 

By late 1944 the division was moved to East Prussia. In January 1945 the author was sent on leave which meant he was then unable to rejoin his division when it was soon after cut off at Konigsberg and subsequently destroyed in April 1945.  However before his leave had even fully expired he was drafted into a reinforcement battalion and sent to Silesia where he was captured by the Russians on 10th May. He then spent the next four years as a slave labourer in Siberia before finally being released  and arriving back in Germany in October 1949.

The author states that he has no great adventures to recount or unusual stories to tell however he does himself a great disservice. His story is in fact an amazing account of combat on the Eastern Front. He does not hesitate to describe what he saw in graphic detail and certainly this book really tells in great detail what the average German soldier experienced in fighting Russia. He says his experiences of life as a prisoner would fill another book and uses only one paragraph to cover those four years of misery. Unfortunately, that second book was never written.

The book,  as is often the case with memoirs, is well illustrated with lots of the authors previously unpublished photos including quite a few of his comrades graves. Many of the photos show vehicles and equipment which is always of interest. Yet again the reader is left wondering how this man managed to survive four years of combat and then another almost four and a half years of Russian captivity, especially as barely ten percent of German prisoners ever got to return home.

A great book, well written and highly recommended. 


Sunday, 1 May 2022

BOOK REVIEW: MORTAR GUNNER ON THE EASTERN FRONT.

VOLUME 11:  RUSSIA, HUNGARY, LITHUANIA AND THE BATTLE FOR EAST PRUSSIA. 



Readers may recall my review of Volume 1 of this autobiography some months ago. That was purchased cheaply in The Works. This second volume was available from Amazon but at full price. Recently I noticed it had been reduced so I used a gift card I received at Christmas to make the purchase.

Once again a good read. Another account of the desperate fighting on the Eastern Front against a far more numerous and more lavishly equipped enemy which always makes me wonder how any German soldier ever survived the vicious fighting against Russia.  The author managed, with a few others, in the final chaotic days of the war to disengage from the Russians, and travel west until he was able to surrender to US troops.  As a member of the infamous Grossdeutschland division he was under no illusions as to his fate if captured by the Russians.  After a brief period of captivity he was able to return home in July 1945, one of the few members of his division to survive the war.

One of the most interesting features of this book is the large number of photos, never before published , from the authors private records. These include lots of illustrations of maps, orders,  award documents, propaganda leaflets and suchlike which are fascinating in their own right, together with many general photos of the author and his comrades and their vehicles and equipment usually at rest or on the road.

Another well written book on the titanic struggle between Germany and Russia.


Saturday, 23 April 2022

SCALE.

WHAT SCALE IS MY ARMY?

I thought it useful to outline the size scale of my army, its soldiers and vehicles.

The basic starting point is the screw soldier. I use ½ inch number 6 screws which are 12½mm long. Assuming a living soldier is around 6 feet or 1.8m  tall that gives a scale of 2mm to the foot or 300mm. That makes a scale of 1/150th by my calculation, give or take a bit, which is the equivalent of N gauge.

I have to admit here that some of the actual sizes of vehicles/horses I use are not quite right but I also take the view that it is just as important that things  look right and are practical as well as being as close as possible to the right scale size.

With that in mind my horses are about 16-17mm high at the top of the head but only 10-11mm at the withers which gives a height of 5½ feet which is 16 hands which is a good size for Cavalry and generous for draught horses. They are  19-20mm long which gives a scale size of 10 feet long. According to the British Army Field Manual of 1914 a horse is 9 feet long so clearly I feed my horses too much !!!!!! However the point is that my horses are close enough to scale.

 As for vehicles, my  GS wagons ( and all other four wheeled vehicles ) are 15mm wide and 30mm long. That gives 15 feet in length and  and 7½ feet in width. According to the book Horse Drawn Transport of the British Army a  mark X GS wagon was 13½ feet long and 6¼ feet wide so I am a little oversized.  My various utility trailers are 15mm square which is 7½ feet each way. The British limbered wagon , on which my trailers are loosely based , was  6¼ feet by 5¼ feet so again I am a bit oversized. The drawing pins I use for wheels are 10mm across which is 5 feet and a British mark X GS wagon had wheels of 4 feet 8 inches in diameter so close there.

I guess the overall message is that some of my models are not precisely to scale but are close enough for me. Finally I apologise for the jumping around in respect of using imperial and metric sizes, it's the product of a certain age which makes me use imperial measures for large sizes and metric for small , which I also do in my woodworking hobby.

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

BOOK REVIEW: SPITHEAD.

THE NAVY'S ANVIL



 I picked this book up recently in a local antiques centre for just £1. 

The book, published in 1977, covers in great detail the defenses of Spithead and the surrounding area from Henry 8th until the Second world War showing drawings and photos of the ever growing rings of fortifications built up over those long years.  In addition there are chapters covering such matters as ammunition types, numbers of guns at different times and even some photos of  late 19th century warships.

While not a subject of fascination to me, the book is very interesting and would be even more so to a student of the history of the Royal Navy and Portsmouth in particular. It would certainly provide a good tour guide of the area around Portsmouth for those interested in the various defensive structures that still remain today.


Tuesday, 12 April 2022

CONSTRUCTION OF ARTILLERY.

HOW I BUILD ARTILLERY.

The basic principles of construction for all artillery are the same regardless of being heavy, field or horse artillery. I start with an object that can be used to create a platform, that is an item that can be used as a chassis and gun shield. To that platform I add an axle, wheels,  barrel and trail.

In the case of field artillery the platform is a cut down plastic shelf support stud. I cut off the actual stud and the reinforcing web leaving an L shaped piece that makes a perfect shield and chassis.  The photo below shows the stud before and after being cut down.



For heavy guns the platform is a paint tin clip. Again it forms a perfect shield and chassis as shown below.




For horse artillery it's a little more complex. I use the trail spade from an Airfix 5.5 inch gun kit as shown below. I had a number of these in my spares box from years ago when I made up several of the Matador trucks but not the guns. Clearly I did not have not enough for all my needs so I have made more by means of silicon casting. I made a mould using three of the originals and cast from that. I find the success rate on such a small item is only about 50% but when it works it works well.




All axles are made of square matchstick modelling wood. These are glued to the chassis and the ends drilled very carefully to accept the pins on the drawing pin wheels. A trail is made from a flat toothpick sourced from Home Bargains and cut down and drilled at the widest end to provide a towing eye for the limber. The barrels are made from round modelling wood cut to length.

All assembly is carried out using super glue and activator. I make guns in batches so assembly can be time consuming but the results are good enough for me. The use of the various platform items is just the result of having a need and searching for a day to day object that meets that need. The items I use are all relevant to the differing sizes of the guns.



The three completed guns are shown above . From left to right, heavy, field and horse. The basic historic references for my artillery are British WW1 equipment. That is to say the 13 and 18 pound horse and field guns and the 60 pound heavy gun.

Friday, 8 April 2022

BOOK REVIEW: TEENAGE TOMMY.

MEMOIRS OF A CAVALRYMAN IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR.




This Pen and Sword book, edited by the great Richard Van Emden, is based on personal interviews by the editor with Benjamin Clouting who enlisted in the 4th Dragoon Guards in 1913 at the age of 16 although , as was often the case, his army age was recorded as 18.

By the outbreak of war Ben was a fully trained soldier. However, knowing him to be underage, his officer tried to stop him going to France in August 1914. Ben flatly refused to be left behind. Over the following four years he served on the Western Front in every major engagement except Loos and was wounded twice eventually joining the Army of Occupation in Cologne before leaving the army in 1921.

Although he did see considerable action early in the war, being in a cavalry regiment meant Ben was not in the trenches much after 1915. In addition Ben was fortunate, although perhaps he did not appreciate it at the time, to spend much of his time as an officers groom. 

The book obviously discusses in great detail Ben's experiences in action however it also gives much information about his day to day activities both before, during and after the war. These experiences make the book a great read and preserve for us what ordinary military life was like for a soldier during the war which I think is of as much value as the descriptions of combat. A very good book and recommended.


Sunday, 3 April 2022

IMAGI-NATIONS. PART 45

 THE SECOND SINO-UNION WAR.


At dawn on 11th June 1889 the opening salvos from UNION artillery started to fall on advancing Chinese troops.  Over the course of the following months the UNION and Chinese armies fought 7 substantial battles. Losses on both sides were severe but the UNION army just emerged victorious from each conflict. Eventually, in August, after a very closely fought battle which Chinese forces came very close to winning, the UNION 10th Reserve Army emerged very battered but victorious and the Chinese armies began the long retreat north. The UNION army was too seriously damaged to initiate a pursuit and was only able to send a small cavalry force to monitor the Chinese retreat.  

For a comprehensive account of these battles and the whole campaign, please refer to the ARCHDUKE PICCOLO blog under the Woodscrew Army Campaign label which gives a superb series of articles which are highly recommended.

Shortly after the cessation of hostilities the UNION 5th army crossed the border  into China to re-establish UNION control of the disputed territories and 10th Reserve army was withdrawn to base. Some two months later 10th Reserve Army was deactivated with the soldiers discharged and vehicles and equipment returned to strategic stores at Rock Island Arsenal. During that two month period, on instruction from the UNION high command,  General Sherman, commander of 1st Union army, with his senior staff, carried out a full review into what had been a fairly disastrous campaign for the UNION and presented a report.

Sherman's report focused on three major points. First; why did 10th army's cavalry perform so poorly, second; why did UNION artillery prove comparatively ineffective given it's vast superiority to the Chinese artillery and third; how effective was the leadership of Jackson, the general commanding 10th army. 

The conclusions were that Jackson, who had been recalled from retirement, had a strong belief that attack was the best form of defense. This, despite his instructions to conserve his forces while delaying the Chinese advance pending reinforcements, caused him to launch some assaults on the Chinese when circumstances were not favorable resulting in unnecessary UNION casualties. It was noted however, that Jackson was popular among his troops and he had been surrounded by a group of very talented brigade commanders who had been instrumental in securing his victories against the far more numerous Chinese forces.

As to the failures of 10th army's cavalry and artillery, the report concluded that both arms suffered from a loss of skills as a result of the manpower being reservists. 10th army was comprised of reservists in their 3rd to 5th years of being on the reserve and had only been expected to undertake garrison type duties. Those in the 1st and 2nd years of reserve service were used as replacements for the regular armies. Consequently the men in 10th army were often unfit and seriously out of practice. While this had some effect on the infantry and other arms resulting in a degree of poor performance, in the cavalry and artillery arms,  this loss of skill had a severe impact on combat effectiveness.

The recommendations in the report, which were fully accepted by the UNION army high command, were; one; that command of 10th reserve army would in future only be entrusted to a serving officer, two; that no action be taken against Jackson for reasons of UNION moral, and he had of course been successful eventually, 3; that the reserve army be formed in future from soldiers from the first and second years of reserve service and 4; that soldiers in the 3rd to 5th years of reserve service be used to reinforce the regular armies but in all cases only after a period of retraining. In order to provide time for that retraining, all reserves would need to be activated immediately on outbreak of hostilities rather than after casualties had been incurred which had been the practice to date.

The report also noted that the Chinese army had performed far more effectively and been better armed to some extent than had been expected and indicated that any historic complacency by the UNION regarding the combat power of the Chinese had been a grave error. The report finally recommended that the UNION high command urgently consider how to combat the threat to the UNION that the Chinese army now posed. In response to that particular issue, a study group was formed by Sherman to determine how the UNION could launch a campaign against China to destroy, for the foreseeable future, China's ability to threaten the UNION.

Sherman's study group noted that, apart from defeating the Chinese army, to effectively destroy China's ability to make war on the UNION, the Chinese centres of arms manufacturing in Peking and Shanghai would need to be destroyed. As these cities were about 6000 miles from the border with the UNION it was considered impractical for the UNION to invade China. Even if the Chinese railway network could be captured with only moderate damage, to guard a supply line of 6000 miles would consume more troops than the UNION army possessed leaving no troops to actually fight the Chinese army. In addition it was considered impractical to actually subdue and occupy a country the size of China.

After lengthy and tortuous debate, finally in early spring of 1890 a radical proposition was put forward. Using the port of Miami as a base, it was proposed to ship the UNION army to Bombay in India and launch an invasion into China from there, it being only 1000 miles from the Indian border to Peking and even less to Shanghai.


Tuesday, 29 March 2022

UPDATE.

 A month or so after my last update and, I am pleased to say, not having been reduced to  radioactive dust, well not yet anyway,  I thought it about time I gave an update on my activities in the world of the Woodscrew Miniature Army.

Since starting construction of my fourth army I have now completed the soldiers of two infantry battalions, two field artillery battalions and a quartermaster battalion. A third infantry battalion is almost complete and shown below. All that is required is the final coat of varnish to enable these troops to join the colours.


On the vehicle and equipment side of things, I have built and painted 30 light signals trailers, 30 caissons and 36 GS wagons . I have almost completed a further batch of 30 GS wagons as shown below. These only require painting of the wheels before issuing to units.


I have also just started construction on a batch of 30 limbers. As seen below so far all I have done is cut the bodies and glued on the shafts. The next steps will be adding wheels etc.


Those readers who have followed my Imagi-Nations stories will be aware that it has been many months since I  have published any articles on this subject. You will also be aware that Archduke Piccolo wargamed a fantastic campaign based on my posts and I had decided to hold off posting any more till he had completed his excellent series of battle reports. Well of course it has been some time since that happened and I been struggling to write anything. This is because the outcome of Ion's campaign did not reflect my preconceived expectations and I have struggled to find a way of continuing the narrative in a way agreeable to me, (its my Imagi -Nation after all !!!!), and yet still incorporate Ion's superb campaign with its unexpected outcomes.

Well at last I think I have managed to draft something that does justice to Ion's excellent battles yet enables my narrative to continue along the path my imagination demands. I will review the draft over the coming days before publishing at the end of the week unless of course in the meantime Putin decides to take us all with him on the road to oblivion. 

 On which matter I see yet another Russian general has bitten the dust making seven lost so far while trying to rally the troops. Such losses must be unprecedented and makes me wonder if they should become a factor in any post 1945 European theater wargame ????


Thursday, 24 March 2022

CONSTRUCTING CAVALRY.

HOW I BUILD MY CAVALRYMEN.

 I thought it may be of interest to explain the background to how I first designed mounted troops for my armies before detailing the actual construction methods.

On the matter of cavalry, the original Miniature Warfare magazine article on which my armies are based, proposed the use of a larger size of screw for cavalry. I never liked that idea at all. I already had a horse pulling vehicles so could not reconcile myself to not using that horse in some way for cavalry too. The issue was how ???

 To marry up a screw and a flat plastic card horse into a realistic cavalryman eluded me for many years. The obvious answer was to deepen the slot in the screw so it could sit on the horse but then the horse would fall over, so how to provide the stability needed ??? Than one day while doing some tiling I looked a little more closely at the tile spacers.....was this a pair of legs ???

After some experimentation I found that by cutting the spacer up I could indeed create a pair of legs, drilling a hole through a horse and fitting the legs provided a stable platform for a screw with a deepened slot to ride the horse.....hey presto a cavalryman !!!

I realize that a horse with only two legs sounds weird but  of course it is no stranger than either using a screw as a soldier  or indeed having a flat horse. The fact is it looks good and like virtually everything else in my army, it's a representation of the real thing rather than an accurate scale model. Anyway at this point in time my cavalry and horse artillery regiments have over 2100 mounted soldiers with an additional 700 on the way as I build my fourth army. 

I will now detail the actual construction method itself which I must warn is hard and time consuming. 

The starting point is a 2mm tile spacer. This is cut up to give a pair of legs.


Above is the before and after photo. Please note the flat cut at the top of the leg joint. The next step is to take  a standard horse and  drill a 2mm hole in the horse in line with the neck and about halfway down. Into this I force the legs. This is where the square cut comes in useful as it provides for accurate centring of the legs. I find that the square profile legs are a tight fit and usually require some force to get through the round hole. Be careful to cut off any flash on the legs before assembly otherwise you will not be able to force the legs through the hole.


The above photo gives two views of the assembled cavalry horse. The joint is covered with plastic modelling glue. The only time I use this smelly stuff I am pleased to say. I use  Revell glue simply because the long spout makes it easy to drip the glue into position accurately. I do find however that the glue can melt the plastic into holes sometimes so I usually drip some more glue onto the joints next day to be sure of a solid bond and good painting surface. 

The next step is the preparation of the screw soldier. Yet again this is a tedious job so I tend to cut 15 or so then do something else for a hour or two then go back and do some more until the required number are done. Basically the work involves cutting with a hacksaw into the slot on the screw head to make it deeper so it will sit on the horse. Interestingly the hacksaw cuts are the same thickness as the plastic card used for the horse. 

I long ago found that holding the screw in a vice damages the thread so now I screw the screw into a block of oak which is fixed in the vice. Using oak means I can cut at least ten screws using the same hole. You will soon know when a new hole is needed. My cavalry regiments have 109 mounted soldiers so the ten  or so holes needed use only a small area of the oak block. Every now and again I just saw the used bit off the block to enable a fresh start.



The above photo shows the cut screw. The depth of cut needs to be just less than the head and shank in total. The next job is to file both sides of the cut to remove any swarf, again tedious but essential. The penultimate task is to sit the screw on the horse. When the screw is sitting comfortably I use pliers to squeeze the cut end of the screw together as hard as possible, you will know you have got it right if the screw does not move.


The final task is to make sure the assembled cavalryman sits straight and level. Given the variations implicit in the manufacturing process it is almost inevitable that some adjustments will be necessary. It is trial and error to trim carefully either the length of one or both legs or trim a very small sliver off the bottom of the horse to achieve a good result. Don't rush this bit of work, it makes a lot of difference to the appearance and stability of the finished model. Don't get carried away either or you will end up with a Shetland Pony instead of a horse !!!

Finally, and after a great deal of work, you have a cavalryman ready for painting.....and he looks great !!!

Monday, 21 March 2022

BOOK REVIEW: FOR QUEEN AND COUNTRY.

 


Another book from my library which I picked up second hand some years ago. Originally published in 1981 it describes the British Army of the Victorian/Edwardian era. 

I can do no better than quote from the introduction in outlining the contents; "a profile of the army as it existed prior to the Great War, its attitudes, customs, pleasures, way of life, its character and its mannerisms, its opinions and prejudices."

This book is not a history or a campaign narrative but focuses on the day to day existence of the army as a "social institution prepared for every emergency except that of war." Apart from a fascinating content also included is a complete list of every regiment giving its original number and later post-Cardwell title in order of precedence, a very useful reference.

Unlike other such works on the British Army, this one really does illustrate life as it was for both officers and men. Subjects addressed include the regimental system, origins of officers and men, discipline, education and training, reforms, dependants and the rewards of soldering. Other interesting chapters cover the unique relationship between men and officers and the origins of the many strange customs and characteristics of some regiments.

Overall a very interesting and illuminating book that vividly illustrates the "small, odd, rather absurd British Army" and as such is highly recommended.