Sunday, 10 March 2019

Leeds Royal Armouries visit

Last Friday my Dad and myself decided on a day trip to the Royal Armouries in Leeds. I had never visited before, which is surprising seeing how easy it is to get to from here and they have a regular Wargames show (Fiasco!) every year.

The building that houses the armouries is an impressive modern construction (I seem to always assume these collections are kept in castles or similar period buildings). Stepping through the door we were told to take a look at the Hall of Steel at the far end of the reception area. It didn't disappoint. Not only was it surrounded at its base with rows of cannons, mortars etc, but above us were a lofty arrangement of steel breastplates, swords, helmets and the like that gave the impression of stretching into the sky.

We decided to start at the top floor and gradually work our way down. It soon struck me that there was so much to see you could easily spend a full day here. Especially if you wanted to intersperse that time with one of many daily talks they have, or as we witnessed, a display of sword fighting in one of the halls.

My favourite part of the exhibition was the medieval section. I'm always intrigued by the craftsmanship that goes into suits of armour. Especially when they are so intricately decorated and engraved.

We dropped by the Waterloo display and I was immediately drawn to one of the two Siborne dioramas in existence. This was the smaller one apparently, but was nonetheless fantastic. Given the fact that it's over 100 years old it easily stands up to today's Wargaming standards. The figures are painted nicely and the foliage of bushes made with twisted wire and brushed fields is superb. We bumped into a museum assistant who was also an avid Wargamer, and he mentioned that each figure had been made by a silversmith and added that there was a rumour that the French Eagles on the flag tops were made from real gold.

In the same area they had on display Wellingtons telescope from Waterloo, and Napoleon's sword that was given to him by Tsar Alexander at Tilsit. As the assistant pointed out, it was the same sword that is mentioned in Tolstoy's 'War and Peace'.

If you haven't yet been, it really is a great day out. It's free to get in, the parking nearby in the multi-storey is not expensive and if you're going to combine it with the Fiasco! Wargames show it would be one to remember.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

28mm Warlord Norman Cavalry

Warlord Games apparently bought the entire Dark Age range from Saxon Miniatures a couple of years ago. Very nice figures, the only quibble being that I swapped out the original white metal spears because they were a bit fragile and replaced them with steel ones. Much more sturdy. Though the steel ones can be sharp as hell, so best to blunt them down slightly with a small file.

The Normans in the photo are a commission job for someone. I finished them (after a very long delay) whilst convalescing at my parents. Since last year I've taken a knock with yet further health problems and only recently picked up a brush again. I did manage to do some reorganising of my lead mountain, and was stunned to realise exactly how much I had accumulated. There were three entire 15mm Essex ancients armies in one box I unearthed. It did also inspire me to finish some projects I began years ago. One of which is my 15mm Seven Years War Prussians. I'm determined to complete these by summer so I can finally face them off against my Russians.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Bosworth Battlefield Tour 2018

At the suggestion of fellow club member Chris, we decided to sign up to the Battlefields Trust Tour of Bosworth last Sunday. This was partly influenced by the revelation that local councillors had recently (and controversially) agreed planning permission for a multi million pound vehicle test track on part of the Battlefield. As Richard Mackinder (our guide for the day) pointed out, this may be our final chance to see that part of the field in its current condition. Also, this would be the first time either myself or Chris had walked the area since either the discovery of Richard III's remains, and the proposal of the 'new and actual' battlefield site.

We started the day near Sutton Cheney where Richard led us to the area of the old Roman Road which came from Leicester, and is most likely to be the route that the Yorkist army took that day. It was pointed out that an army of such significant size would have needed to travel on the most reliable road, and seeing as all the others in the area would have been small dirt tracks (and that many of the fields nearby would have been covered in wheat, which made slow passage) this was now accepted.

(The small clump of bushes at the centre of this photo marks the edge of the Roman Road as it cuts from left to right across the fields).

More significantly, this theory puts paid to the idea that Ambion Hill was the Yorkist camp site. Both Sutton Cheney and another nearby village lay claim to being the place that Richard III heard mass the night before. As our guide suggested, a closer interpretation of medieval documents has revealed that it's more likely that the army itself camped spread out across these points, with many of the men choosing to visit the churches nearby. It's known that Richard III travelled with his own clergy, so was likely to hear mass in his own private quarters. The fact that the area of Sutton Cheney had a supply of fresh water and is on a raised area of ground, as the guide said "makes you wonder why the army would bother going all the way to Ambion Hill, only for them to travel back again the next day".

(Photo taken from near Sutton Chaney, looking out towards Shenton)

As it's likely Richard III had a plan (and was already aware of the Lancastrian movements and his own forces outnumbering Henry's), it's thought he decided to form up and then throw out Norfolk's force onto his right flank. He could use the folds in the land to hide Norfolk until he could advance onto Henry's left. Tactically this seems pretty sound, as Henry would then need to draw forces from his centre to deal with Norfolk and present Richard with an opportunity to launch an attack into his main body.

(Richard Mackinder, our guide)

We next did a brief visit to Norfolk's position near Shenton, which is now marked by the line of the canal. Unfortunately part of the road was closed due to works, but it was still worthwhile as Richard showed us the area where Norfolk was brought back to and eventually died from his wounds, after the initial clash.

Travelling onward, we now came round behind the Lancastrian lines passing the area which the new test track will be built upon. Richard Mackinder pointed out that it's likely that this is in the area where the Lancastrian camp was. Himself and other researchers had recently been given access to "200 yards inside the fence" of the proposed site and expressed his frustration at having discovered medieval round shot and other items fairly quickly. The only positive aspect is that the company landowners have given permission for a deep dig investigation on the site before any building takes place - although this will be restricted to a two week window.

As an example of the round shot being found (and marking the site of the 'new' battlefield), Richard handed out a replica 33mm shot which I managed to photograph below. He said that they had found some examples of 94mm shot suggesting the use of Saker sized artillery in the battle.

(A replica round shot)

We finally arrived at what is considered to be the centre of Henry's line. This is an impressive area situated on the edge of a farmyard, which gives a perfect view of all the positions for both armies. I did mention that it was incredible to see how small the battlefield was, but as Richard pointed out, both archery and medieval gunnery required that you could visually identify your targets. Bringing everything much closer together compared to later conflicts. This was the area of the most significant archeological finds, such as the silver boar badge.

He pointed straight across to Shenton and noted again where Norfolk had attempted to attack Henry's left flank, and also the rising ground on the right where the Stanley's had placed their force "betwixt the two armies" and was later proclaimed as Crown Hill.

We then walked to the very edge of the field as Richard explained how the Yorkist mounted charge had come directly toward us (taking nine and a half minutes from trot to canter then charge), smashing into Henry and killing Brandon the standard bearer as well as many others I expect. The archeology had given the impression that the force of the charge had probably pushed Henry backwards initially but Stanley looking on from the rising ground to the right had then decided to throw in his cavalry, which according to one theory had come round behind Henry's beleaguered force and then gave impetus to a counter charge. This in turn pushed back the Yorkists and where Richard III finally fell. The silver boar badge was incidentally found at the very end of the tractor tyre marks in the field photographed below, and right next to what was identified as the only medieval marsh in the area dating from that period. As a footnote, Richard told the amusing story of searching for the oft mentioned marsh. Apparently he had received disappointing news one day that an earlier marsh they had looked at had in fact dried up 200 years prior to the battle, and decided to retire to the pub. A farmer friend asked him what was up and Richard aired his woes only for the farmer to say "well, you're looking in the wrong bloody place aren't you" and asked to look at the map. The farmer friend circled the area which later turned out to be bang on the money!!

(The tyre tracks ending where the silver boar badge was found)

Lastly we ventured up onto Crown Hill, which had been Stanley's position and where Henry had been crowned King of England. It was another impressive view, and you could just imagine Stanley himself sat up here with his men balancing his options in joining the fray. Richard the guide interestingly mentioned Dadlington church nearby, where locals had insisted on a rumour that people from the village had climbed onto the church roof to watch the battle. This had often been dismissed as nonsense when touring the original battlesite at Ambion Hill, simply because it would have been impossible to see. As it turned out, the 'new' battlefield was easily viewable from the church roof. Hence the likelihood that rumour could be true.
(Our transport for the day!)

In conclusion it was an absolutely fantastic day. A couple of things are worth mentioning however. The actual visitors centre and exhibition are now some distance from the Battlefield, so it's well worth hiring a proper guide with transport! The visitors centre is still very nice and the restaurant there is the perfect place to recover and relax after the tour. If you were visiting from afar and wanted to do a complete Bosworth weekend you should definitely combine it with a visit to the Richard III museum and tomb in Leicester. Finally I'll add what's obvious to most, and that is walking a Battlefield is a whole different experience to just perusing maps or photographs. It's essential to accurately visualizing a battle, and understanding the experiences of those involved.

(On the gentle rising ground looking from Stanley's position to Henry's position on the left. The Yorkist charge would have come in from right to left as you look at the photo)

Monday, 2 July 2018

Arnhem Battlefield Tour, and a family coincidence.

Arnhem Battlefield tour. The Oosterbeek Perimeter 1944

Bit of a coincidence. Walked into the Airborne museum at Hotel Hartenstein and came upon an exhibit of a piece of wallpaper with some graffiti on it taken from a house at 34 Pietersburgseweg which had been defended by two British members of the 21st Independent Parachute Brigade. One of which was named in the exhibit as my great Uncle Fred Hocking and his mate Tony Crane. The graffiti reads (excuse the language) "Never Surrender. F**k the Gerrys. 1st Airborne Division. Germans Killed or wounded" and then a tally of over five days as they defended the house from attack. On the 25th they made it down to the river and crossed under fire. The picture above is myself with a photograph of him next to the graffiti, the video interview with Tony Crane, and then myself outside the house which they defended during that time in September 1944.

Friday, 8 June 2018

15mm Sudan. Mahdists vs British and Egyptians

Bit of a change for the gaming table today. Last weekend I found a box of Sudan British that I'd painted but hadn't got round to basing. Feeling a bit inspired I decided to get everything out and see what it was like in full battle array so to speak.

They're all 15mm, so give a nice sense of mass. I'm quite pleased with myself in having painted so many over the years to give myself two completed opposing armies. Too often I've pushed myself too hard on a project and jacked it in part way through. The fact that I've done well with these I think is because I've limited myself to finishing just a handful at a time. 

The models are mainly Old Glory and Peter Pig. Usually two ranges that don't mix very well size-wise, but are fine kept in separate units.

The buildings are Timecast I think, and the desert battle may is by Deep Cut Studios.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Versailles TV Series

When I'm painting in the back room I've usually got something jabbering away on the BBC iPlayer. A typical choice would be a documentary, but a work colleague suggested the Versailles drama series. It was a risk, as I normally consider these historical dramas more my partner's domain than mine (she absolutely loves The Tudors). Anyway, I thought I'd give it a shot.

It's lavishly filmed with both outstanding costumes and sets, so that caught my attention initially. However I was also gradually drawn in by an excellent storyline that involves a carousel of court intrigue and plotting (they're definitely handy with the old poison, with quite a few characters gruesomely taken down while coughing blood and clutching at their throats). It seems that the weakness of the French aristocracy was that none of them knew how to prepare their own meals, which gives endless opportunity for some ne'er do well to slip arsenic into the spiced partridge.

The acting is very solid. The background of a few of the main cast is quite surprising once I'd had a search for them on the internet. George Blagden for instance, who plays Louis XIV also starred in the recent Wrath of the Titans film, absolutely shines here. As does my favourite, Tygh Runyan, who plays the King's Chief of Police. He appears as the plotters nemesis, and is quite often equally as bloody minded when it comes to protecting the Crown. 

The DVD set of series one and two are available at a reasonable amount. I picked it up for £15, knowing well that it'll probably be taken off the iPlayer after a few weeks. Definitely worth a viewing!

Sunday, 20 May 2018

King Richard III Retinue 28mm Wars of the Roses

Today myself, Chris and Dave went to the Partizan Wargames show near Newark. It's a very good show, and the venue is the same as the Hammerhead one which was a few weeks ago - so naturally I was pleased with what is now a familiar place with plenty of light, cafeteria facilities etc.

Being only thirty minutes away, it resulted in us getting home before 3pm and I decided to set up my painting station in the garden and make a start on the figures I bought (painting figures on the same day I'd purchased them would have been unheard of a few months ago!). Clearly a sign I'm getting back on top of things.

Anyway, while the undercoats were drying I dug out my Wars of the Roses Richard III retinue and took some photos. As with the Warwick one they're all Perry's plastics and still a part of the eBay haul. I did have to chop and readjust some of the arms and legs, as the previous owner had been a bit overzealous with the glue! Something I was guilty of with my first set of Victrix Napoleonic many moons ago.

I'm really pleased with these, and how the Wars of the Roses project is coming along in general. Next time, some Burgundian Pikemen perhaps?