Plan B – Battle of Lissa on Hold

So the other day I noted that I was looking at the Battle of Lissa as a new Project. Over the last couple of days I dragged the fleets out of the boxes and had a look at them. Decided I would start on the Austrians first and the Radetzky and sister ships first.

A close examination of the Redetzkys suggest there will be a lot of work here, especially from the age of the moulds and the poor pouring when cast – see the images below for examples.

So, given the enhanced community quarantine here currently and the fact that I would need to get some green stuff to work on these, it is time for a plan B. Another planning session is in order this evening. And in the meantime, I will at least do some more reading and research into the Battle of Lissa and in fact, the war at sea in those times.

This could, of course, lead into a more full-on attempt at the Third Italian War of Independence on land as well, which was the war between the fledgling Kingdom of Italy and the Austrian Empire fought between June and August 1866, where Lissa was the unexpected win for Austria. The conflict paralleled the Austro-Prussian War and, like that war, ended in an Austrian defeat, with Austria conceding the region of Venetia and the city of Mantua to Italy, the Italians having been persuaded to war against the Austrians by Otto von Bismarck.

My worry is that this will ultimately lead into a desire to look at the Schleswig-Holstein War between Prussia, Austria and the German Confederation on one side and the Danes on the other. It is then only a short step backwards to the Second Italian War of Independence with France and Italy squaring off against Austria and then it all concluding with the Franco-Prussian War, a long forgotten project from my past, which I had started using Heroics and Ros 6mm figures.

Oh dear, time for my anti-megalomania pills again!

Time for a New Project — the Battle of Lissa

Enough plastic for the time being, and regardless of how great the detail is on those 1/3000 plastic vessels from Fujimi, it is time to return to the Real Man’s Wargamer MaterialTM … metal!

David Manley’s Broadside and Ram, published by Long Face Games, was purchased from Wargame Vault when there was a special on some of their other rules.

Sitting here in the enhanced community quarantine, I thought to myself, I have some ships here for Lissa somewhere. A rummage through the lead pile turned up two boxed sets of the Lissa fleets, from Houston’s Ships. I had no recollection of when I purchased these fleets, so a hunt through my emails and I discovered that after trading some emails with friend Doug, I ordered these when I was living in Singapore, on 2 January 2012!.  He was working on his Houston’s Ships in January 2012, mine have remained in the lead pile since.

The Broadside and Ram rules provide a brief history of the naval campaign between Austria and Italy 1866. This resulted in the largest ironclad fleet action in history, just off the island of Lissa on 20 July 1866.  Apart from a brief history the rules also include:

  • a campaign system
  • fast play rules
  • a complete set of ship data for the rules

The two boxed sets I purchased have been carried from Singapore to Manila and remained untouched in the lead pile for the past 8 years. The length of time figures have remained untouched and simply stored in the lead pile can usually be measured by the thickness of the dust layer on the top.

These had recently been cleaned off as a result of a deep clean of the apartment here in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. My cleaner insisted on cleaning everything in the condo … twice.  My grumpiness made no difference, nor did my grumpy explanation that COVID-19 does not live in dust layers on old books or unmade wargame models that have been sitting on the shelf for years, so in the end I simply ran the white flag up the pole and assisted the cleaning a little here and a little there.

The models and therefore the moulds they were poured from are old as well and you can see the amount of metal flash that needs to be removed from around the models to the left.

Houston’s Ships are no longer readily available with the exception of the American Civil War range. Great Endeavours (where I purchased these from) stopped making them sometime in 2017 and the range is dying away as moulds deteriorate. These models are therefore old. Houston’s Ships were always a little dodgy with regards to scale but they do have a lot of character and once the masts are gently straightened out, and the davits and lifeboats, funnels and ventilators are added, the ships will then be begging for paint. Prior to painting, the vessel will be added to a sea base, either like the ones I make for my 1/3000 scale vessels or made using acrylic gel, which will be a new technique for me.

The reference for these vessels is Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1860 to 1905. This is one of four volumes covering fighting ships from 1860 to 1995 and this volume, originally published in 1985, is still available from specialist booksellers with prices ranging fro US $98 to $125+. If you ahve any interest is warships, I can thoroughly recommend obtaining all four volumes from wherever you can source them. They are so good that my Conway’s 1906 to 1926 volume was stolen when I lived in Mongolia in 2005 and even then it was the devil’s own job to get a replacement volume.

Painting reference for these ships will be courtesy of Mr. Google. There are photographs of many art works of the battle in museums and galleries in Europe and they are available to view online.

So, time to put the other projects away and break-in a new one.

18 days to go … and wash your hands!

The Forgotten War Against Napoleon – Review

Gareth Glover’s The Forgotten War Against Napoleon – Conflict in the Mediterranean, published on 26 June 2017 by Pen & Sword Military, ISBN 9781473833951, 265 pages is a survey of the Napoleonic Wars in the Mediterranean over the period 1793 to 1815.

The Mediterranean theatre is one familiar to Napoleonic warfare buffs that but for a few engagements is generally is overlooked.

This book does not have a great deal of detail on any one engagement but rather provides a brief look at 55 or so engagements around the Mediterranean.

I’ll come out of the closet. I am a wargamer and the Napoleonic Wars are a period I keep looking at but never really get a head of steam up on a project – much as I have a deep interest in the uniforms, the ships, the battles, and the campaigns.

Glover has surveyed action around the Mediterranean and he provides between 2 and 7 pages per chapter discussing the various actions of the time. This includes both naval and land actions. Egypt is covered as is Corsica, Naples, Malta, Sicily and such. Each of the chapters provides a reasonable overview of the action and sufficient information to persuade the reader to look deeper.

For example, one action I had not heard about (or at least cannot remember reading about) is Algeciras in 1801. This was an action between the British, lead by Sir James Saumarez (the next book on my reading stack being his biography) and a Franco/Spanish fleet. The British 74s engaged a fleet consisting of 74s and Spanish 112s, capturing or sinking a couple. The following morning the French Formidable beat off the attacks of two British ships of the line and a frigate, so a mixed result for the British.

The book is full of short descriptions (the one above lasting just two pages) but will provide plenty of inspiration for either further reading or, in the case of wargamers, scenarios for future games.

The book finishes with the elimination of the Barbary pirates, using that as the conclusion of the war in the Mediterranean.

For the wargamer, a useful source for information for scenarios in the Napoleonic period. For the general reader of history, a useful summary of what went on in the Mediterranean during the Napoleonic Wars.

Naval Battle of Abtao – 7 February 1866

PaqueteMauleOh dear, lunchtime reading strikes again. Looking for some quick light reading over lunch I thought to myself that it was time for a little more research into the Guerra del Pacífico, that project I have had on the back burner for a while ((and which interestingly is driving me crazy as I cannot find the 10mm figures I had purchased for it)).

Up popped the Naval Battle of Abtao.

By the time of this battle, Chile and Peru were in alliance (which also included Ecuador and Bolivia) against Spain. Argentina and Brazil did not join the alliance, partly because they were busy fighting with Paraguay.

Spain had sent Admiral Mendez Núñez to South America and he decided to send two of his most powerful ships south to destroy the combined Chilean-Peruvian fleet. The Chilean-Peruvian squadron was under the command of Peruvian Captain Manuel Villar and had taken refuge at Abtao, a well protected inlet near the gulf of Chiloé in southern Chile.

The Spanish squadron appeared at the entrance of the inlet on 7 February 1866 but decided not to enter as they did not want to risk their ironclads running aground in the shallows. A cannonade lasting several hours was exchanged with little effect.

The Chilean-Peruvian squadron was at anchor and without steam (and it takes a long time to run steam up). Some of the vessels engines were also being overhauled so definitely the Spanish had the Allied fleet in a good position. Had the Spanish been a little less timid they may have won a good victory. However, in spite of the disadvantages, the Allied squadron mounted an energetic fight. The Covadonga, under the command of Lieutenant Manuel Thomson, managed to fire over an island and scored several hits on the frigate Blanca. The battle ended indecisively without further developments.

At this point the Spanish withdrew as the long range gun duel was not going to effectively damage anybody.

The Esmeralda was not at the anchorage on the day of the battle. The commodore had sailed to Ancud for coaling.

The Spanish squadron however managed to capture the Chilean steamboat Paquete del Maule (pictured above) which was transporting sailors to crew the new Peruvian ironclads Huáscar and Independencia.

More on the Guerra del Pacífico and the Guerra Hispano-Peruana/Guerra Hispano-Chilena later.

HMS Rattlesnake

HMS_Rattlesnake_(1822)HMS Rattlesnake was a 28-gun  corvette of the Royal Navy launched in 1822. She made a historic voyage of discovery to the Cape York and Torres Strait areas of northern Australia.

This is not the reason I am mentioning HMS Rattlesnake. Nor am I mentioning it because of it’s obvious North American name. The corvette was built after the Napoleonic Wars but managed to find employment through the middle of the 19th century as a survey vessel and the rescuer of young ladies in distress ((Rattlesnake was the ship that rescued Barbara Crawford Thompson, who had been shipwrecked on Prince of Wales Island, North Queensland, aged 13 years in November 1844 and who spent the next five years living with the local Kaurareg people, despite their reputation for being cannibals. The true and certified version of her life story can be found in the book “Wildflower” The Barbara Crawford Thompson Story by Queensland historian Raymond J Warren))

The reason I am mentioning Rattlesnake is that one of her sister-ships, HMS Samarang, surveyed Port Hamilton in 1845 by Sir Edward Belcher in the Samarang. Post Hamilton was named after the then secretary of the Admiralty, Captain W. A. B. Hamilton. I intend to post something about Port Hamilton in Korea in the future and the Samarang will be mentioned but I did not have a picture of her, hence the entry for the Rattlesnake.

Both vessels were members of the Atholl-class of corvettes and were armed with:

Upper deck: 20 x 32-pdr (25cwt) carronades
Quarterdeck: 6 x 18-pdr carronades
Forecastle: 2 x 9-pdr guns

The War of the Pacific – 1879 to 1883 – Naval Matters

So I was researching some ships last night to make up the fleets of what now is becoming my South American Project. I looked at some of the 1/1200th and 1/1000th available, Houston’s Ships again amongst others. However, I thought I’d go small as there is not so much space available here. I settled on getting some 1/2400th scale ships off Tumbling Dice UK. Twenty minutes on-line research at that wonderful mine of misinformation, Wikipedia, and I had enough information on the two fleets to spend another 20 minutes at the Tumbling Dice website. An order for the following has gone off:

Quantity Code Description No of Vessels Price
1 ASV61 Hauscar & Independencia 2 £2.00
1 ASV62 Aimirante Cochrane 2 £2.00
3 ASV15 Corvette Screw 6 £6.00
1 ASV11 Sloop Screw 2 £2.00
1 ASV13 Gun Boat Screw 3 £2.00
1 ASV51 USS Monitor 3 £2.00

The USS Monitor is to provide a couple of single turret monitors for the Peruvians. In fact, Peru had purchased two Canonicus-class monitors from the United States just after the American Civil War and these were used as coastal monitors. The Monitor is just going to have to serve the role as it was the only single turret monitor in the range.

Mind you, whilst I was in an ordering mood, I also ordered a pack of the Los Andes and a pack of the Javery, just to see what’s in them.

Heligoland

heliI mentioned somewhere the other day that I had picked up a copy of Heligoland. This is a story of an island close to the coast of Europe and about 290 miles from the English coast. It was populated by about 2,000 people who spoke a language closer to English than any other.

The importance of Heligoland is that it is at he end of the Kiel Canal. England took over the island in 1807 and it was instrumental in defeating Napoleons Continental System.

However, in the late 19th Century, Lord Salisbury, the English Prime Minister, traded the island with Germany for some territory in Africa. This was done without reference to the islanders, one minute they were English, the next they were German. I still have a fair bit of the book to read and I am sure that I will find other parts of it frustrating, such as the English using it as a practice bombing area after World War 2. During that war, the island was the first target for English night bombing.

There are some good scenario opportunities through the book, such as HMS l’Amiable chasing off some Danish privateers.

I bought the book in a Kindle version (my preferred method of reading at the moment). The downside with the Kindle versions is the lack of maps and illustrations in a lot of cases and this book is one that in hardcover has a number.

I can, however, recommend the book – well worth the read.

War of the Pacific – 1879 to 1883

Combate_navalI’m a wargames tart. Really. There I was this morning, contemplating which part of the painting pile to attack when I got back to Singapore Friday night and something bright and shiny flashed part my eyes. For some reason the iPad had a Safari tab open at Pendraken Miniatures and for some other reason unknown to me, I had been looking in there a while back at 10mm 19th century figures. I suspect I was looking for an alternative to 6mm figures for the Wars of 1859, 1866 and 1871 in Europe. My eyes passed across a range of figures for the 1st Schleswig-Holstein War Danish, an area I have an interest in. I was starting to think about starting my 19th century Europe project with that conflict. Then it happened. I saw it … 1879-1884 South American Pacific War.

I was, of course, superfluously familiar with this conflict, after all, we all know about the Huáscar and the battle between the Esmeralda  and Huáscar don’t we? Well, that was about the sum total of my knowledge of that conflict. I put the iPad down and went to some meetings and then over lunch back here at the hotel I read some more. A little conflict and one of the many that seemed to plague South America since independence, it involved Chile, Peru and Bolivia essentially fighting for four years over bird poo. The British were involved as well, after all, there was the odd dollar to be made then with bird poo. At the end, Chile won and a few years later artificial bird poo was created negating the whole point of the conflict.

However, it seems that the memory of defeat runs deep and every year Bolivia has a festival of the sea celebration, in remembrance of when Bolivia had a sea-coast, know held by Chile.

It was bright, it was shiny, I was starting to get hooked. The war started with Chilean armed forces at about 2,700 effectives and Peru and Bolivia between them able to field around 10,000 troops. Size was good. I also have not figures for this war either and my initial thought was that they were probably all in Napoleonic style uniforms still. Wrong. The Chileans were in French style uniforms with Pickelhauben and the Bolivians and Peruvians in a mix of dress with kepi. Colours were bright. Someone get me my sunglasses.

peruvian soldiersThe thought has been germinating in my head for the day so far. I did a quick look for some source books and discovered what seemed a good history on Amazon,  The Ten Cents War: Chile, Peru, and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific, 1879-1884 by Bruce Farcau (until I saw the Kindle version was a ridiculous $88.76). There were some other history books and uniform books around but all were expensive. I thought to myself, “self, why not do this as an online project?” So there is was – I had a nice little war and a way of researching it. What else was needed? Figures! Rules!

As I have not really got any 10mm figures and as the Pendraken Miniatures range has always tempted me, I thought I’d give it a go in 10mm. There was also, of course, the naval component to the war. Tumbling Dice Miniatures make some 1/2400th scale models of these vessels. Houston’s Ships (from Great Endeavours makes some 1/1000th(ish) scale vessels from this war as does North Head Miniatures on Shapeways so there is the naval side covered.

The next step is Rules – but more on those later.

So there is is, 10mm South American Wars of the late 19th century – another project on the go!

Königgrätz – Another Distraction

ST275-2So there I was, walking around Funan Digital Mall today, looking for some decal set. A trip to the Battle Bunker failed to get any decal set so on my way downstairs for some lunch, and to try some other shopping malls, I stopped into the Soldier’s Story. Strategy and Tactics volume 275 was there – just the magazine, not with the game.

The feature of this issue is the Battle of Koeniggraetz which took place on 3 July 1866 between Prussia and Austria. Other nations were also involved. The Italians also used this war to take Venetia off the Austrian Empire. The Kingdom of Bavaria and the Kingdom of Saxony were also involved.

I first read about Königgrätz when I was about 14 and was amazed at that time. This issue of Strategy and Tactics along with my recent purchase of Bruce Weitz’s 1866 rules really has my interest fired again. In between the other 6mm projects underway at the moment, and the 15mm American Civil War, I think I have one more project on the boil again!

Oh well, one more day, one more project.

Gefecht_zwischen_k.k._Husaren_und_preussischen_Kürassieren_in_der_Schlacht_von_Königgrätz_(A._Bensa_1866)

USS Swatara

Image from Naval History and Heritage Command As it was on this day, 19 May, in 1882 that Commodore Shufeldt landed in Korea from the USS Swatara, and as the Swatara has some connections to Australia, I thought I’d mention her here.

The ship is also quite interesting as she started life as a wooden, screw sloop in the United States Navy. She was named for Swatara Creek in Pennsylvania and was launched on 23 May 1865 by the Philadelphia Navy Yard; sponsored by Miss Esther Johnson; and commissioned on 15 November 1865, Commander William A. Jeffers in command. The details of the vessel are in the table below, comparing her to the rebuilt Swatara.

The first Swatara served with the US European Squadron until 1869, then serving in the Atlantic Squadron until 1871. In 1872, as part of the Secretary of the Navy George M. Robeson’s plans to overhaul and modernize ships of the Navy, the first Swatara was taken to the New York Navy Yard, ostensibly for “repairs.” In fact, the “repairs” constituted construction of a new ship, for Swatara was given a new hull and unused machinery which had been in storage since 1865. Embodying only certain fittings and equipment from the first ship, the second Swatara was launched on 17 September 1873 at the New York Navy Yard and commissioned on 11 May 1874, Capt. Ralph Chandler in command.

The Swatara transported five scientific parties to the South Pacific in 1874 to observe the transit of Venus. The first team landed at Hobart, Tasmania, on 1 October 1874 and then Kerguelen Island; Queenstown, Tasmania; New Zealand; and Chatham Island.

USS_Monongahela_(1862) She returned all but one of the parties, picked up by Monongahela ((USS Monongahela (1862) was a barquentine–rigged screw sloop-of-war that served in the Union Navy during the American Civil War finally being paid-off in 1908))(shown to the left), to Melbourne early in 1875 and then sailed back to the US where she joined the Atlantic Squadron again for a time and was then retired for a while.

Swatara was recommissioned on 24 December 1879 at Boston Navy Yard and departed on 21 January 1880 for the Far East. She visited numerous Mediterranean ports and transited the Suez Canal, eventually arriving at Hong Kong on 17 April 1880. Swatara called at many east Asian ports during her Asiatic Squadron duty, including long stays at Shanghai, Chefoo, and Yokohama. Departing from Yokohama on 7 July 1882, Swatara headed for home waters, via the Cape of Good Hope, and arrived at Hampton Roads on 4 December 1882 for an overhaul. She was eventually struck from the Navy list on 29 July 1896 and sold at public auction on 2 November.

Her connection with Korea, however, was in 1882.

The tale of this involvement goes back to 1866 when the US was attempting to spread its influence through the Pacific chasing trade amongst other things. Commodore Matthew C Perry had forced a trade treaty on Japan in a wonderful example of gunboat diplomacy. In 1866 however, the American schooner Surprise foundered in the Yellow Sea (East Sea) off Korea’s Coast and the crew abandoned ship and rowed to shore. The Korean authorities picked them up and returned them across the Yalu River and into Manchuria, being delivered to the American consul at Yingtsze on Liaotung Bay. They were returned from there to the US.

Meanwhile, at much the same time, the American schooner General Sherman was under charter to a British firm and sailed from Chefoo in China to Korea. This was supposed to be a trade cruise. The General Sherman sailed up the Taedong River toward Pyongyang and got stuck on a mud bank when the water lever dropped quickly. She remained stuck fast there. It seems that orders came from Seoul to clear out the problem so the Koreans attacked the vessel. The crew held out for four days until finally being overwhelmed. The ship was burnt.

In January 1867, curious to find out what had happened to the General Sherman, Robert W Shufeldt commanding ordered the USS Wachusett to Korea to find out what had happened. Bad weather forced the Wachusett before being able to receive a response from the Korean king about the General Sherman.

In spring of 1868, John C Febiger in command of the USS Shenandoah sailed to the mouth of the Taedong and made inquiries as to the General Sherman and her crew. He was told that a mob had destroyed the vessel and killed the crew after it had been intimidated. Febinger returned to the US.

In 1870, Frederick Low, who was the US minister to China was instructed by the US Secretary of State, Hamilton Fish, to secure a treaty from the Koreans for the protection of shipwrecked sailors. He was also told to secure an commercial treaty. Low sailed aboard the USS Colorado and along with a squadron of warships and gunboats, set sail for Korea from Nagasaki. They arrived at Chemulpo and contacted Korean officials. On 1 June 1870, four steam launches traversed the Yom-ha (Salée River) to make soundings near the island of Kanghwa at the mouth of the Han River. The Korean shore batteries opened fire and there was a short fire fight.

One year later, on 1 June 1871, Low ordered an attack on the Korean fortifications along the Yom-ha. This happened, the fortifications were destroyed and around 250 Koreans were killed in the process (3 Americans were also killed). The Americans, however, still did not get their trade treaty and left.

In 1876 a flotilla of Japanese warships sailed menacingly along the west coast of Korea and extracted the Treaty of Kanghwa from the Koreans, allowing unrestricted business and trade between the two nations.

h97294 In 1878, the now Commodore Robert Shufeldt left Norfolk in the USS Ticonderoga (pictured to the right in Chinese waters on this trip) with a fleet of American warships undertaking a round the world tour – sort of a precursor of the Great White Fleet. The objective of this fleet was the expansion of US trade. When he got to the east, he used the assistance of Japan to try and negotiate a commercial treaty with Korea (the fleet of warships may also have been of assistance). In 1880, however, the Chinese (the suzerains of Korea at that time) invited Shufeldt to Peking and discussions led to a treaty. Shufeldt eventually sailed from China to Korea aboard the USS Swatara in 1882 and on a hillside near Chemulpo a treaty of amity, commerce, peace and navigation was signed.

That then is the tenuous connection between the Swatara, Korea and Australia.

Details of the Two Swatara’s

 

Year Type Displacement Length Beam Draft Speed Complement Armament
1865 Steam driven Screw Sloop 1,113 long tons 216‘ (65.8 m) 30’ (9.1m) 13’ (4m) 12 kts 164 officers and men 1 × 60-pounder gun
6 × 32-pounder guns
3 × 20-pounder howitzers 
1879 Steam driven Screw Sloop 1,900 long tons 216’ (66 m) 37’ (11m) 16’6” (5m) 10.2 kts 230 officers and men 6 × 9 in (230 mm) smoothbore guns
1 × 8 in (200 mm) rifle
1 × 30-pounder gun