Oops, did I order that many?

“Sir Ian, there is a parcel for you”.

With those words from the Concierge at the condo, I was handed two cards from the PhilPost Central Makati Post Office telling me there were two parcels there. Now I was expecting a cover for my LG tablet, a couple of books and some wargame figures (English Civil War 6mm to be exact). I wondered which two parcels they would be. I had a meeting in Pasay in the morning then thought I would come back to the Post Office as it would be lunchtime. I prepared to travel back in time to 1954.

I dropped in and handed the cards over with my ID card. In record time the staff returned with two parcels for me – a small envelope and a huge box from Amazon.com. I had one of those moments looking at the box, paid the 224 pesos for the retrieval of the two parcels and returned home for lunch (and to open the parcels of course).

The stack that came out of the box
The stack that came out of the box

The small envelope certainly contained a cover for my tablet. I then opened the large Amazon box and found 7 books there, 5 more that I had recalled.


At least none of the books were repeats of books I had previously purchased and I recall now that I had purchased a few book as they were all in my sphere of interest.

Next time I think I will leave a note to myself on the fridge with details of each order. Then again, opening the parcel was like Christmas as I had not remembered what I ordered so each book was a pleasant surprise.

The loot is shown below! Oops, I did I order that many? I guess I did.


Amazon.co.uk makes business more interesting

Amazon.co.uk redefines business for me
Amazon.co.uk redefines business for me

I was surprised, sitting down to my morning coffee and catching up with the overnight emails. Amazon.co.uk has put a smile on my face even larger than the smile the coffee produces. I received this on their email this morning … “As you’ve shown an interest in similar books, you might like to know about these Business, Finance & Law Books titles from our Books Store” and “More in Business, Finance & Law Books.”

Now these are my type of Business, Finance & Law Books books!

Boys Own Battleships – Book Review

20160518_211843[1]Pen & Sword Military have produced the first volume of what will be a wonderful series of books. This is British Warship Recognition – the Perkins Identification Albums originally written/illustrated by Richard Perkins. This is Volume 1 dealing with Capital Ships 1895-1939 (ISBN 9781848323827).

First off I must note that this book is not for everybody. It is a book that you will either love or “just not get”. The older reader (and I count myself in that group) who can remember part of their childhood being spent with an exercise book, coloured pencils and a book on, say German World War 2 aircraft and who then spent hours redrawing the aircraft from the pictures in the book will “get” thins book. I can understand what Perkins was attempting. Had I been in his position and possessed half his talents I would probably have done the same thing.

Perkins was a keen amateur photographer and he photographed and ended up with one of the largest collections of photographs of warships. His collection of photos was bequeathed to the National Maritime Museum where it can still be seen today and where it forms the core of the historic photos naval section. Whole he was photographing he found many photographs were neither identified nor accurately dated. He then decided to compile an album of his own drawings incorporating as much detail as possible on the individual ships. He really looked closely at the details, the differences between ships of the same class and then differences in a vessel over time.

This project grew into an enormous resource covering virtually every Royal Navy ship from 1860 to 1939, when security restrictions forced Perkins to stop work.

The book is, in essence, a photographic reprint of Perkins’s original art books where he set about to draw and paint the British fleet. He then noticed over time that vessels changed – davits were moved forward, funnels thinned or thickened, smaller calibre weapons moved around the vessels, masts removed or changed and so on.

20160518_211937[1]He then decided to paint the differences in the vessels as he saw them. The example I selected is five slightly difference drawings of HMS Agincourt seen to the right.

You will notice that I do not have any scanned images to illustrate but rather photographed off my phone. There is a reason for this. The book is big. A page was bigger than my scanner plate. I could not sit back in my favourite chair with this book in my lap. My lap is not big enough. To look through this I had the book placed on a table and work from there.

The book however in and of itself is superb and the drawings speak for themselves. Younger readers may not understand the significance of this work but all will be able to appreciate the art involved. This book belongs in the collection of any naval enthusiast or historian. Best of all, it is the first of 8 volumes. The next volume is due for release in September this year – it will deal with Armoured Ships 1860-1895, Monitors and Aviation Ships. I for one will be interested int he aviation ships extant before 1895.

As to Perkins’s first volume. One word.



Images of War – Two Books Reviewed

SCAN0015Two more books from Pen & Sword Military came into my hands recently. These are both in the series of Images of War designed to provide a general military history of a war or campaign with an emphasis on contemporary photographs. The ones I have seen have concentrated on the Eastern Front of World War II, although other theatres are covered as well.

The first of the additions to my collection was the Battle for Kharkov 1941-1943 written and compiled by Anthony Tucker-Jones (ISBN 9781473827479).

By the time of the Battle for Kharkov the titanic struggle between Germany and the USSR was well underway with both Hitler and Stalin does their best to stymy their professional generals – one by interfering micro management, the other by bloody pogroms eliminating generals that were perceived as a threat.

SCAN0011Kharkov was the site of four battles during World War 2. The first was when the Germans took Kharkov, but were too slow to prevent the Soviets moving the tank factory  the home of the T34 tank. The second and third battles were unsuccessful attempts by the Soviet forces to recapture Kharkov and the fourth, after the Germans loss at Kursk, finally saw Kharkov liberated and back in Soviet hands.

Most of the photos in this collection have come from the Scott Pick WWII Russian Front Original Photo Collection which consists of over 2,500 photographs, not only of soldiers and tanks but also of buildings and civilians. There are a lot of inspiring photographs in there for the modeller and wargamer.
The second Images of War has the general title of Hitler versus Stalin – The Eastern Front 1941-1942 – Barbarossa to Moscow. This volume was written and compiled by Nik Cornish (ISBN 9781783463985).

Mongol in Russian Service - a German POW
Mongol in Russian Service – a German POW

This volume is a more general volume than the Kharkov one and covers the first two years on the Eastern Front with a fine collection of photos.

Included in the photos on this volume are lend lease tanks in Soviet service (see the image of the M3 Grant below) including American and British tanks.

Also included are images of the French Hotchkiss H-35 pressed into service with Souma tanks in German Panzer Battalion 211. About 100 French tanks were pressed into German service and for me it is a good excuse to purchase some more models.

One of my interests has been the Battle of Khalkin-gol (Nomonhan) where the Soviets and Mongolians defeated the Japanese and Manchurians. Also of interest were the Korean soldiers captured by the Soviets from the Japanese and pressed into service, only later to be captured by the Germans and then the Americans.  The blog post here, Korean Soldiers in WW2 German Army, tells tha tale.

Central Asian (maybe Kazakh or Mongol) in Russian Service
Central Asian (maybe Kazakh or Mongol) in Russian Service

I was also aware of the Mongols having marched into Berlin with the Red Army towards the end of the war. This is highlighted by the T34/85 tank donated by the Russians to the Mongols and on a pedestal and permanent display in Ulaanbaatar at the foot of Zaisan.

It was then interested to see the next two photos. The first is clearly a Mongol, also captured by the Germans. Some of the captured troops from the more disaffected areas of Central Asia were pressed into German service, the others were parked in concentration camps.

Hotchkiss H-35 tanks in German service
Hotchkiss H-35 tanks in German service

The next figure down is also from Central Asia but his nationality is less clear. He appears to a Kazakh or similar.

M3 Grant tanks used by the Soviets
M3 Grant tanks used by the Soviets

These two books are a great addition to my World War 2 library and provide wonderful evidence for my having a German tank battalion of Hotchkiss and Souma tanks facing off against Soviets using M2 Stuarts and M3 Grants.

The things I enjoy mostly about this series are the photographs. The books are well illustrated and provide inspiration for modellers and wargamers as well as providing source material or evidence for the more serious student of World War II history. Most of the photos were new to me and this series provides good value for money. They are available in traditional softback bindings as well as eBooks. Recommended!

German Battlecruisers – Book Review

9781848321816The good folk at Pen & Sword Military sent me a care package recently with four books in a very large package. I will look at the others later but the first book to take my interest is ShipCraft 22 dealing with German Battlecruisers.

This book provides a useful companion to the modeller when engaging in a build of one of these vessels, however the images of Jim Baumann’s scuttled Hindenburg model in 1/700 scale alone is worth getting the book for!

The ShipCraft range of publications are a combination of contemporary photographs coupled with colour references for paint schemes and a critical review of available model kits. In short, they are the type of publication aimed at the ship modeller or perhaps naval wargamer to help get the colour and appearance of their models correct (or at least to the stage of “that looks about right”).

The publication would also be useful to the naval enthusiast as well although to be honest, if looking for information on the vessels, the first book I would reach for when looking for would be my copy of Conway’s. If looking to paint some German Battlecruisers, then this publication would be first to come to hand.

The book runs to 64 pages, a size familiar to modellers and. There are sections in the book covering Design; Careers; Model Products; Modelmakers’ Showcase; Camouflage Schemes; Appearance; Plans; and Selected References.

The vessels covered in the book are Blücher; Von Der Tann; the Moltke class (Moltke, Goeben); Seydlitz; and the Derfflinger class (Derfflinger, Lützow). Mention is also made of the Battlecruisers that were not completed.

The Design and Career chapters provide a reasonable summary, largely covering the service life of the vessels and briefly the battles they fought. There are some useful comparison tables as well. The table looking at the armament characteristics for example is quite useful and illustrates the difference in range for guns of the same weight (see the slight range differences between the 11” L/45 and the 11” L/50 guns).

The next chapter deals with both the model kits available in plastic, resin, paper and white metal along with extras for gilding the lily on those kits. The extras discussed include photo-etched parts, wooden decks, brass gun barrels and masts to add a greater level of realism to the models. A fair roundup of the kits available is given.

Next is for me the pièce de résistance, the chapter dealing with the work of many modellers. Work by the likes of Jim Baumann (perhaps the best ship/water modeller I have seen), Horst Luecke (I can’t believe it is a paper model), Kostas Katseas, and Nick Dogger amongst others. Baumann’s scuttled Hindenburg is special as well as the 1/700 scale crew on Dogger’s Lützow.

Two colour illustrations follow, one of the Derfflinger in standard SMS colours circa 1917 and the other showing a camouflage pattern for the Yavuz (Goeben) circa 1942. There is then a discussion on the Appearance of each of the vessels noting the differences between sister ships. The section also discusses camouflage and the lack of it on German vessels in the First World War noting that the standard scheme for vessels was based around light grey. The book finishes with a number of plans and references.

This book provides a useful companion to the modeller when engaging in a build of one of these vessels, however the images of Jim Baumann’s scuttled Hindenburg model in 1/700 scale alone is worth getting the book for! The authors are Robert Brown and Steve Backer with George Richardson drawing the plans and the colour artwork. It is published by Seaforth Publishing, ISBN 978-1-84832-181-6. The ShipCraft series of books are designed to provide information for modellers and enthusiasts.

Ancient Warfare VIII/3 – Horsemen of the Steppes

One of the magazines I always look forward to is Ancient Warfare and this latest issue is of particular interest to me for two reasons:

  1. There is no coverage of the Mongols – they deserve separate treatment purely because of their success and the size of their eventual empire
  2. The coverage of the Amazons – something that has been an interest to me since seeing the Amazon sculpture frieze and mosaic in the Louvre
The Amazon Mosaic from the Louvre in Paris
The Amazon Mosaic from the Louvre in Paris

This issue then covers many of my interests whilst focussing on the Pontic Steppes where the majority of classical period nomadic horsemen originated. Included then are articles about the Amazons; a look at Herodotus’s examination of the Skythians; Dugdammi (Lygdamis), who managed to cause some trepidation in Ashurbanipal of Assyria when he united a number of nomadic tribes; Darius the Great’s Scythian expedition, 512 BCE; The battle for the Bosporan Kingdom, 310/309 BCE (Skythians face off against Sarmatians); and Alexander the Great’s mauling of the Skythians at the  Battle of the Jaxartes.

The Amazon sculptures from the Louvre in Paris
The Amazon sculptures from the Louvre in Paris

There are a number of other articles as well on Rome and Egypt but perhaps most interesting for me was the article noted as an obscure debate over a very long spear – How Long was the Macedonian Sarissa? There are a couple of good illustrations of both the reported length of that spear and it relative reach compared to the spears of regular hoplites.

It is also strangely appropriate and good timing that this issue comes out during the Naadam festival, the celebration of Mongolia. As I type this I have been watching the nine standards of Chinggis Khaan paraded and placed for the festival.


I was on the bus late last night, coming back from an evening swim at one of the public pools in Singapore1 and I was looking for a book to read from my Kindle cloud2 when I noticed a young lady further up the bus take a near new paperback from her bag and start reading.

The book itself, physically, was appealing and it occurred to me that since I have been reading books and magazines almost exclusively on my phone and tablet3 I may have lost something. I remember posting  back on 15 February 2006, whilst I was still working in Mongolia, that I enjoyed writing, not so much stringing words together on a page to communicate an idea but the physical action of writing words with a good pen that just felt right into a notebook that similarly felt good.

Reading a physical book gave me the same pleasure, a pleasure that I have sacrificed to technology and the future.

I still have physical books and some of them I would not trade for electronic versions. These are books like reference works on uniforms and such. To use them electronically would require a whole rethink by the publishers on how to present them, something that has not happened yet.

So, have e-books and magazines taken something away from me? Yes, they have.

On the plus side however, on the bus after finishing my book, I did have the choice of reading one of about 5 pieces of Scandinavian crime fiction that I had parked in the cloud. I also did not have to worry about whether or not I would finish the book I was reading before going out as I could always select another from my cloud based bookshelf!

Technology giveth and technology taketh away!

Really Intelligent Comments

1. $1 entry, $2.60 in bus fares … winner for those of us with absolutely no bloody income whatsoever
2. Yes, like the physical bookshelf, I have purchased books in the past on my Amazon Kindle accoiunt on the grounds that I will get around to reading them in the future
3. I have even given up using my Kindle now!

Publishers Piss Me Off – Amazon – this is you!

This is me on Amazon UK:


And from Amazon US:


Then, when I sign on as my mother:


Difference here is my Mum has an Australian address only. I have the same Australian address, a Singapore address and I had forgotten to remove my old UK address when I moved from there. So I can be living in Singapore (where apparently Amazon will not ship a Kindle to) but will let me buy hard copy books and deliver them to me (from either Amazon UK or US). I can be living in Australia which is part of the British publishing house sphere of business and again, I can buy hard copy books and have them delivered to me (from either Amazon UK or US). But try and buy a Kindle book from the UK with just an Australian address – problem. I can buy from Kindle US with just an Australian address unless it is a “restricted” title and not available in my area ((and how that works I will never know – Amazon sells me a Kindle to read books then refuses to sell me books)).

So, the solution? I leave my old UK address on file, leave my Australian or Singaporean credit card as the default payment card for “1-click” and suddenly I can buy Kindle books for Whispernet delivery from Amazon UK (and probably unrestricted from Amazon US but I am yet to try that).

Is this system screwed up? You bet (and don’t start me on protectionism of Australian publishers – that’s another disgrace)!

Spots the Space Marine

So in what seems like a silly bit of corporate bullying Games Workshop ((known by many wargamers as the Evil Empire)) sent a cease and desist order to Amazom.com over a book called “Spots the Space Marine”.

Games Workshop contended that the use of the term “Space Marine” infringed their copyright and weakened their intellectual property.

Amazon.com blocked the sale of the book, probably just to be on the safe side.

So, looking at the book’s cover to the right, there is nothing even remotely resembling a Games Workshop Space Marine.

In any case, Games Workshop didn’t invent the term. Robert A Heinlein wrote about Space Marines in the 1930s.

Bob Olsen also wrote about Space Marines in 1956 – indeed, these space marines, it seems, were fighting with slavers.

I seem to even recall reading some stories by E.E. “Doc” Smith when I was a young lad that made reference to space marines as well.

On a positive note, the hue and cry that occurred across the Interwebs about this seems to have reversed Games Workshop’s position.

I guess the morale for this story for Games Workshop at least is that there were books and stories before there were figure ranges illustrating them – time for the Games Workshop legal department to try reading a little pre-1990 literature!

Space Marines! Space Marines! Space Marines! Space Marines! Space Marines!Space Marines!

Australian Army Campaign Series

Australia's Palestine Campaign: 1916-1918There was no painting of the DBA armies the last few nights but as I had some spare time, I thought I’d mention the Australian Army Campaign Series, seeing as I have a couple of issues.

The aim of this series of books is to record the Australian Army’s performance in different battles and campaigns over the history of the army. The books in the series are written and researched by prominent military historians. The books focus on leadership, command, strategy and tactics, personal experiences and so on. The objective of the series is to record information about a battle or campaign and to be able to provide that information for future generations.

Some of the battles and campaigns covered are well known, such as North Africa 1940-41 and Crete whilst others are less well known (the Battle of Bardia for example). In all cases the work adopts a reasonable neutral approach to the description of the battle whilst trying to avoid dropping into Australian jingoistic rhetoric.

I have been adding titles in the form of eBooks which suits me because if the transient nature of life at the moment – an iPad and a Kindle are much easier to carry than a bag full of books. However, in what can only be a mystery to me, The North Africa 1940-41 volume I could buy in Google PlayBooks or Kindle, but not in iPad version when all the other titles I have are in the epub format used by iPad.

Even sillier was the fact that I needed to change my address back to my Australian address to purchase the Kindle version of North Africa 1940-41 as Amazon did not have permission to sell the eBook version in Asia Pacific (by that I think they meant that they could not sell it to me in Singapore, although they will happily sell and post the hard copy version to me at my Singapore address.

This publishing protectionism is really starting to annoy me.

Anyway, I can recommend the books. You can find a lead to them at Big Sky Publishing and from their link to the physical or eBook version at your favourite bookseller.’

Otherwise, there is a magazine app in the iTunes App Store that con be used if you are within the Apple Universe.

Important: Read the comments here before accessing the magazine app in the iTunes App Store!!!