Narrow Gauge in the Somme Sector – by Martin J. B. Farebrother, Joan S. Farebrother – Book Review

Something a little different for me although I guess like many wargamers, I do have at a minimum a passing interest in model railroading. My father was a fan of model railways and had an extensive layout in HO under the house in his retirement, with an Australian outline layout, particularly the New South Wales Government Railways. As a small child I had asked for a train set which I played with for about six weeks and which left my father hooked on model railroading for life. I diverged and became a wargamer but had spent many a pleasant hour with Dad talking railways, photographing them, building model kits for him and generally being one of his sounding boards when he needed some advice about some sticky issue with wiring or weathering or painting figures for his layout.

As a wargamer I have enjoyed various model railroad conventions and will from time to time pick up model railroad magazines, if only for modelling tips for terrain to use in a wargame.

This book covers a topic that crosses the boundaries between military history, model railroading and wargaming. Pen and Sword Books are releasing a series covering the Allied Railways of the Western Front (or rather more correctly I suppose, Triple Entente Railways of the Western Front). The first book in this series looked at the Arras Sector. This release covers Allied Railways of the Western Front – Narrow Gauge in the Somme Sector – Before, During and After the First World War. It has been written by Martin J. B. Farebrother and Joan S. Farebrother and is from the Pen & Sword Transport imprint. The book is 256 pages long and was published on 30 January 2019 (ISBN: 9781473887633).

The book covers the metre gauge networks built prior to the war, then the build up of the light (60cm gauge) railways around the French sector and then later the British and Dominion sectors. The book has a number of contemporary illustrations of both rolling stock as well as terminals and goods sidings. There are also illustrations of preserved narrow gauge locomotives from the period that are still existing in museums.

The book is well researched and follows a detailed process chapter by chapter where the flow of the text is secondary to the information passed along. In parts it is a difficult read however a fresh cup of a good java eases that problem.

The structure of the book is to look at the Somme Sector chronologically which shows the development of the narrow gauge rail systems from 1888 through to the commencement of the war in the Somme department as well as the Oise and Aisne departments, then during the First World War. The First World War sections are a general 60cm gauge light railways during the war (1914-1918); the light and metre gauge railways of the Somme battlefields 1916-16 March 2917; 17 March 1917 to 20 March 1918; 21 March to 7 August 1918; 8 August to 11 November 1918. This is followed by post war sections of the light railways of the Somme Sector 12 November 1918 t0 1974; metre gauge railways of the Somme department 12 November 1918 to 1955 and metre gauge railways of the Oise and Aisne departments 12 November 1918 to 1955. The main text of the book is rounded out with a chapter on things to see and do now.

To book has many maps of the railway lines and the connections between the 60cm narrow gauge and metre gauge lines. Also illustrated are the track plans to various stations. The track plans of the smaller stations and depots, many of which would provide an excellent track plan for the shunting puzzle are also mapped.

There has been a growing interest the railways of the First World War and model railways in particular with, for example, the Amiens 1918 OO9 narrow gauge railway modelled from the First World War being a good example.

This book is a very good summary of the railways of the time with a great deal of information contained. It has been well researched and from my perspective it has dominated my reading over the last few days, covering a topic that I knew nothing about but that I have now been researching further. I can recommend this book to those interested in the history of railways as well as readers into military history, particularly of the 20th century. It will also interest narrow gauge model railroaders and railway modellers who have more esoteric tastes than the regular modellers. It will also find some interest among the wargaming community, especially those taking more of an interest in the First World War.

This is a book I found particularly interesting and I am happy to recommend it. Best, it is on sale at Pen and Sword currently with a good discount (April 2019).

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Vikings in 6mm – the Project Start

As if I did not have enough half finished and unstarted wargames project, I am about to add another one to the list. I really must get organised with more painting time though and start to clear some of these.

It has started with this book. A modern telling of the tale of Erik Haraldsson known as Bloodaxe. Erik Bloodaxe lived from the late 7th century until he was finally assassinated in 954 C.E.

The book has been (and still is) a ripping read and of course it has fired my interest in adding some Vikings to my wargame collection.

As I mentioned in Another Project – Vikings in 6mm, I have a fine collection of Two Dragons Vikings here in 15mm but I want to build the Vikings in 6mm. I originally started thinking about just two armies in 6mm and set them for DBA and/or Basic Impetus. That would have required about 400 figures all up using the basing scales I use of 15mm base sizes and 3 or 4 6mm figures for each 15mm figure.

Baccus 6mm – EMV01 – Armoured Spearmen. Image from http://www.baccus6mm.com web catalogue

Wargamer’s megalomania has now clicked in and I am thinking that 10 armies would make a nice collection. With those I could probably morph a few other traditional enemies if I wanted to.

So Baccus 6mm Vikings are nice and while the ones illustrated to the left from the Baccus website are based on a 60mm base, basing on 40mm will look similar, just 4 figures per rank less.

So, adding to the Vikings (DBA army III/40b) I am looking to add:

  • Northern Slav (III/1a)
  • Breton (III/18)
  • Anglo-Saxon (III/24b) – two of these 🙂
  • Andalusian (III/34b)
  • Leidang Army (III/40c)
  • Norse-Irish (III/46)
  • West Frankish (III/52)
  • East Frankish (III/53)

Thinking about a Pre-Feudal Scots as well – such is the megalomania!

So, I will need more than the original 400 digures considered and this will therefore go from being a nice little project to a big one.

The option other than Baccus is to use Heroics and Ros figures who also have their Vikings, Saxons and Normans and could therefore provide most of the figures here. This will lead, of course, to a few days pleasure planning and combing through catalogues.

I am also still considering the naval side with some additional bits, such as 6mm Snekke and Drakkar from Heroics and Ros. Another option is the 1/1200 scale Viking and Saxon vessels from Navwar.

Let the planning begin!

 

Another Project – Vikings in 6mm

So one thing that I have come to hate is the “Read Sample” option on Amazon Digital Books. You get about 30 pages at the start of a novel and then if you are hooked, you end up buying the whole book.

This was one. Many of the settings in this are found in the Trondelag which is where I spent most of my time in Norway. Familiar areas and towns such as Lade are included.

I find the description of the way of  life of the men of the Nor Way fits with the historical records (O.K., the sagas) as well as the archeological evidence that I studied at University.

So, after 30 pages of reading I decided that I needed to buy the book (in Kindle version) and it has become my lunchtime reading this week. The only problem is that now I am tempted to build some wargame armies … sigh, another project to add to the growing list!

I have a fine collection of Two Dragons Vikings here in 15mm, a gift from friend Lee but in keeping with my latest passions, I want to build the Vikings in 6mm. I would want to build two armies in 6mm and set them for DBA and/or Basic Impetus. I figure I would need about 12 elements of Vikings which would be 192 figures plus some extras. Need to build two sides so that is 384 figures. I would also need some opponents but I have not read far enough into the book to see who the enemies were in this story. It could be Normans although Erik bypasses the French lands of Hrolf, the brother of Harald Finehair (Erik’s father) and heads further south. I can see that I am going to buy to build a second force.

As for figures, around 400 Viking figures would give me two armies. Baccus 6mm have some lovely figures as well as a boxed set for £57.50 plus postage of Vikings. The set contains over 700 figures however (megalomania bubbling to the surface). Baccus also make Saxons and Normans which are likely to make up the basic figures for opponents.

It appears as though Andy at Heroics and Ros has finished his reorganisation after Heroics and Ros moved. They also produce Vikings (and Saxons and Normans). The also do some interesting additional bits, such as 6mm Snekke and Drakkar among others – plus crew for the vessels. There is an attraction in that along with the fact that I could get roughly the same number of Vikings from H&R as Baccus for about £57.60 plus postage.

Decisions, decisions. Curse you Amazon “Read Sample”!

P.S. Oh and the book is a ripping yarn to boot!

 

Blitzkrieg Commander IV – a Quick Read … not a Review

Blitzkrieg Commander IV Cover

I mentioned that Blitzkrieg Commander IV was being released at Salute last Saturday. Those of us with digital copies however managed to get our hands on it a couple of days sooner than those waiting on physical copies.

It is much better than BKC III was. The army lists have been corrected, at least the ones I had a look at seemed to be better aligned with Historical organization and equipment.

I’m looking forward to some downtime soon so I can read these in detail and maybe organise a little Soviet on Soviet action to test them out.

I believe the hard copies of the rules are mostly in the post to those who ordered BKC III previously, us digital folks already have our copies. World War II micro armour has suddenly just become more interesting, just as I have a mountain of modern Poles and French to paint for Cold War Commander!

Slingshot 323 – Arrived in Manila

Rather, it arrived in the office today. It arrived in Manila on March 28 then spent until April 4 making its way the 5 kilometres from the airport to Makati where the office is. Still, it is an anticipated read every two months and with postal times, it gives me a wargaming fix between the digital editions of Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy turning up.

Also, in perfect timing, it arrived immediately before lunch, so it was sandwiches today, manageable in one hand and no dangling bits flicking chilli sauce everywhere and spotting magazine and shirt. Sandwiches also left one hand free.

So, what is in this read?

The issue starts off with a continued “fiery” discussion of the New Chronology of Egyptian Dynasties as well as the Jebel Barkal temple. Both these discussions have been moved to the SOA forum to keep relevance and stop us all hanging on for two months for the counter-arguments or the gracious folding of a position.

Aaron Bell discusses the Battle of Thapsus between Caesar and the Pompeian forces there led by Scipio and Juba. While a battle I knew of, for some reason I had never really got around to reading about it in detail. Lunch stretched a little past the hour today.

Of particular interest to me is David Kay’s use of 3D printing to produce 6mm accessories. Now that honourable number two son has a 3D printer and is printing Dystoptian War type vessels I may pay more attention that when he is telling me than in the past.

The refighting of the Battle of Arausio with DBA from Andy Offer was also interesting to me.

Of a high interest as well is the item by Periklis Deligiannis in the Battle of the Kalka River. After a fair time living in Mongolia I still have an interest in Mongol goings on. I also have this battle at home in a board game which I have not even punched the counters on. I may get that down off the shelf this weekend – the article is tonight’s post dinner reading.

Also including in Slingshot 323 is:

  • Over by Vespers: a Mediaeval Scenario Game – by Anthony Clipsom
  • Inventing Early Bronze Age Scenarios – by Steven Neate
  • The Long, the Short and the Flat: the Origin of the Longbow – by Anthony Clipsom
  • Slingshot Figure Reviews: 15mm early Imperial Roman Equites Auxiliares – by Mark Grindlay
  • Slingshot Figure Reviews: 28mm Viking Age Scots – by Thane Maxwell
  • Slingshot Book & Game Reviews: Roman Heavy Cavalry (1) – by Duncan Head
  • Slingshot Book & Game Reviews: Ptolemy I Soter, a Self-made Man – by Jim Webster
  • Slingshot Book & Game Reviews: Pandemic, Fall of Rome – by Gavin Pearson

If you are not a member of the Society of Ancients but have an interest in Ancient History and in particular wargaming, the Society’s membership fee is well worth the cost. Recommended.

Cheap Kindle Books on Amazon.com

Some of the recent cheap purposes (and yes, some more expensive pulp fiction in there as well)

So every so often an email turns up in my inbox from Amazon offering me a publication from Pen and Sword or other publisher for $1.04 in Kindle format.

This is wonderful as it allows me to grab some titles I would not normally grab in hard copy due to cost, space limitations or their being out of print.

Even those books with lavish illustrations are OK to read on a 10-inch tablet and have the advantage of being able to be carted around with me much more easily than the printed word – well the word printed on paper.

More of the cheap purchases

There is a down side to this however. Once you have selected a book for $1.04, Amazon will then make other recommendations of related titles also at low prices for Kindle versions.

Still, 8 books for about $10.00 (520 pesos) is excellent value, except for the interruption to my painting time and the reading of hard copy books piling up on my table.

At the prices charged, even if I think the book is poor value, with the price, it is good value!

I will admit, I am enjoying Graves’ American Siberian Adventure and there is a certain pleasure in being able to whip out the tablet at lunch and browse the The Wargaming Compendium over a bowl of noodles.

A Parcel from Baccus – 6mm Napoleonics – Dutch-Belgian and Brunswick

I received some Napoleonic reinforcements recently and I now how wargamers like to live vicasiously, looking at others toys so here I the unpacking of the Baccus 6mm reinforcements – Dutch Belgians along with a few Brunswickers. Just what I needed, more figures in the lead pile. At this rate I will live forever.

Blitzkrieg Commander IV – the replacement for BKC III

Blitzkrieg Commander IV Cover

Back in May 2017 I published a couple of blog posts here in Thomo’s Hole on the furore that surrounded the release of Blitzkrieg Commander III (BKC III) by Pendraken Miniatures. See Blitzkrieg Commander III and Blitzkrieg Commander III – The Final Decision for my thoughts at that time. There were a considerable number of flaws in the rules and the BKC playing community was almost unanimous in its criticism of the rules. This left Pendraken with a commercially difficult decision to make at the time and they decided:

  • to pull PKB III from sale
  • to provide a copy of BKC III.1 when it is produced
  • to attempt to do it all over a three month period

This has, of course, cost Pendraken moneywise but again I can only applaud Pendraken for their commitment to quality. While Pendraken were originally hoping to have a corrected BKC III (called BKC III.1) over about a three month period they have taken the option of taking their time and doing it right, judging by the reviews I have read recently.

It has taken nearly two years to correct BKC III and this correction will be released early in April 2019, at Salute, as Blitzkrieg Commander IV. Blitzkrieg Commander IV contains 44 army lists and 15 scenarios. Pendraken also note that a Quick Reference Sheet, Optional Rules and further material can be found in the Blitzkrieg Commander IV section of the Pendraken Forum.

Given the problems with BKC III I guess there will be some caution from wargamers about this new release, some reluctance to be early adopters of this version. I would also expect that many gamers who would have tried BKC may have, over the last two years, drifted off to other World War II wargaming rules. Recognizing the caution of gamers after the last release, I note that Pendraken have some reviews of the new rules out already from some veteran gamers and some who were rather critical of the previous release. Positive reviews have been provided by Mal Wright and Nik Harwood that I have seen to date.

As for those of us who purchased BKC III, the news is good. Pendraken have noted in their forum in BKC-IV Released at Salute 2019 that:

Replacement Copies

Now our first priority is to get a copy of BKC-IV out to everyone who bought BKC-III when it was released.  How this is done will depend on how you purchased originally:

Bought Online / Not going to Salute 2019
– You will already be in the replacement queue and don’t need to do anything.  Your copy will ship out first, possibly before we leave for Salute but most likely on the Monday/Tuesday after the show.  If you’ve moved house since April 2017, you’ll need to drop us an email with your new address.

Bought Online / Going to Salute 2019
– Please contact us to let us know that you will be attending Salute and we will pull your original order from the replacement queue.  We’ll bring your new copy along to Salute for you.

Bought at Salute / Not going to Salute 2019
– If you bought at Salute but won’t be attending this year, we’ll need you to either send us the cover of your BKC-III book, or a picture of it by email, along with the address that you’d like your replacement sending to.  We apologise for the hassle involved in doing this, but it’s the only way for us to verify that you bought a copy of BKC-III.  If you’re outside the UK, it’s probably easier to send a photo, but contact us if you’re having any problems.

Bought at Salute / Going to Salute 2019
– If you’ll be attending Salute again this year, simply bring your copy of BKC-III along to the show and we’ll swap it for a shiny new copy of BKC-IV!  If you’d like to keep hold of the previous rules for any reason, we’ll need to either remove the cover or mark the inside to show that the copy has been replaced.

Bought on Wargame Vault
– You don’t need to do anything at all, you will receive your new pdf copy of BKC-IV through Wargame Vault automatically.  We don’t have a confirmed date for this just yet, but you should receive your replacement pdf by Monday 8th at the latest.

If there’s any queries on that, please let me know and we’ll get you sorted out.  If you’ve already been in touch or given us your BKC-III cover, then you’re already in the replacement system and don’t need to worry.

So, more power to Leon at Pendraken for doing not just a good thing but also the right thing for hos customers.

I am looking forward to my copy arriving soon.

Early Days of Wargaming

A YouTube video turned up in my “Recommended Viewing” box the other day so I viewed it. It basically covered the early days of wargaming and in particular wargame figure manufacturing. I had pause to think then about my early days of wargaming and what was available then. I started gaming in the early 1970s I think. I can’t recall the exact date and time but I am certain it was after I left school and had cash in my pocket – that would have been 1972 for being out of school but I guess 1975 when there was cash in the pocket. So, around that time, a mate, Jeffrey, called and said, “come around home and let’s have a wargame?”

“Great” says I, “er, what’s a wargame?”.

Rolled up to Jeff’s and he had set up, on a Masonite board, Plasticine hills and a number of Airfix Union and Confederate soldiers and a copy of Donald Featherstone’s War Games. Jeff took the Confederates and whupped my boys good! It was great fun.

The following week we played again, this time Airfix Romans and Ancient Britons (oh how good those Roman Chariots looked). Jeff took the Romans and I the Britons. Let’s just say that the result was Boudicca’s revenge! Both games were probably the most fun I had playing in the early years. Simple rules, two people who did not know enough about the rules or the history to argue the finer points and unpainted plastic figures on the table.

Later we became more mainstream and started frequenting a shop, Models and Figurines, firstly at Naremburn in Sydney and later in Crows Nest where it eventually changed its name to the Tin Soldier.

In those heady days of pioneering wargames in the 1970s (back then it was “War Games” now we refer to “wargames” regardless of the failure of spell checkers to recognize the new fangled spelling from world wide usage) we were somewhat restricted in the figures available. Leaving aside the “flats” (German manufactured historical figures, moulded as flat figures), at the start there was HO/OO/20mm or 1/76 scale (Airfix) and 25mm size figures. The main suppliers we had access to at the start were Airfix (plastic figures and the subject of much conversion work); Hinchliffe (Frank Hinchliffe and designer and wargame figure painter extraordinaire, Peter Gilder); Lamming Miniature (from Bill Lamming); and Minifigs (owner Neville Dickinson and designer Dick Higgs). The clip below shows a news piece from around the mid to late 1980s I think about the setup of Miniature Figurines, the production of figures and wargaming in general. Worth a look for the history of it all.

Recent Book Arrivals

I had a couple of packages arrive recently with the odd book to read. OK. so there was a lot. Some interesting titles in there however and I wuill get around to reviewing when I get a chance (which means when I actually finish reading a few. The temptation is to read them concurrently rather than serially. I shall try and resist that temptation.

The first batch will be pretty quick reading:

The second batch will tale a wee bit longer I will admit:

Mind you, I started on the second batch, in particular Steve Dunn’s. Southern Thunder, The Royal Navy and the Scandinavian Trade in World War One, which frankly I new absolutely nothing about. I can see some great scenarios for a wargame or three there as well as the need to acquire some more ships. Navwar order coming up.