French Battleships of World War One – John Jordan & Philippe Caresse – Review

French Battleships of World War One by John Jordan & Philippe Caresse, published by Seaforth Publishing, on 30 May 2017, ISBN: 9781848322547, 328 wonderful pages.

I know John Jordan works from the wonderful Warship series, Warship 2017 sits on my bookshelf waiting for me to get some spare reading time. Jordan has been the editor of that publication for a number of years. Recent books of his for Seaforth Press include French Battleships 1922-1956, followed up with French Cruisers 1922-1956 and lastly French Destroyers 1922-1956. This book then is a prequel to those.

It is, simply, wonderful. French World War One Battleships were perhaps the most stylish, certainly the most distinctive of the period. The large tumblehome, pronounced “ramming” bows and the eccentric grouping of funnels give French Battleships of the First World War such a unique look that it is impossible to mistake them for any other’s battleships.

Philippe Caresse co-authored this work and is himself a respected author of matters nautical, in particular the German Navy of both World Wars.

That Jordan has spent many years researching French warships, especially of this period and immediately before the war, is clear from reading the text. Caresse provided the historical background as well as many of the photos. This book is worth having for the photo collection alone. That is also has line drawings of the class leaders b Jordan, many in both elevation and plan as well as cross-sectional drawings, discussions of propulsion machinery, hull form and superstructure as well as technical tables of the vessels, and periodically comparisons between the main competitors from other navies makes this book an invaluable sourcebook for French Battleships of the period 1890-odd to the mid to late 1920s.

To the above, add 8 pages of watercolour paintings of various vessels from Jean Bladé and here is a book that I will happily sit and just flick through, looking at a picture here, reading some text there, but all the while admiring the style that was the French battleship of the time.

The book has chapeters on:

PART I TECHNICAL SECTION

  • Pre-History 1870-1890
  • The Flotte d’Echantillons
  • The Charlemagne Class
  • Iéna and Suffren
  • The Patrie Class
  • The Courbet Class
  • The Bretagne Class
  • The Normandie Class
  • The Projects of 1913

PART II HISTORICAL SECTION

  • The Fleet and its Ships 1900-1916
  • The Great War 1914-1918
  • The Interwar Period 1918-1939
  • The Second World War

The chapter on the Second World War is because many of the vessels from the First World War were still in service.

If I had to give this book a rating out of five stars, then I would not hesitate to give it 5-stars. Did I mention that it is wonderful?

Another book that I would recommend to anyone interested in the pre-Dreadnought and Dreadnought periods of battleships, a must have on the naval historian’s bookshelves and under the naval enthusiast’s coffee table.

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Napoleonic — Battle Five at the Gun Bar — Another Last for a While!

I noted back on 30 June 2014 that I was having the last battle at the Gun Bar for a while as I was taking up a new job and moving from Singapore. Well, as is the way of things in IT and Banking, that move was delayed a week, then another week, then another week and we are still sitting here.

So, it was off to the Gun Bar again, this time with plastic soldiers painted ready for Anthony to base (see previous posts here). To make the trek worthwhile, another Napoleonic game was organised with Général de Corps Anthony facing off against Major General Thomo the Lost again. This was also a special battle as again it was likely to be the last time I was going to be in the position to battle with Anthony, face to face, beer to beer, for some time to come as I up sticks and hopefully high-tail it out of Singapore.

The battlefield was laid out as I arrived, with the battle being taken from Stuart Asquith’s Programmed Wargame Scenarios. The scenario was the British were withdrawing in the Peninsula to the defence lines at Torres Vedras and a rearguard had been left to delay the French by holding a village and a bridge. Again, for depth, it was decided to play along the battlefield rather than across it.

Now, I have mentioned the dice feng shui before so this time I suggested I take the poorly rolling blue dice and Anthony used the high rolling red ones. We again diced to see who would be French and who would be British. Again, I ended up as the British commander.

The British had two battalions of green Portuguese Line and a Battalion of veteran Caçadores. Accompanying the Portuguese were two battalions of British line troops (one understrength) and a battalion of Highlanders (who also were veteran).  There was the 5th battalion of the 60th foot, armed with rifles and already having taken casualties earlier in the retreat. In support was a regiment of Light Cavalry, a foot battery of artillery and a horse battery.

The French started the battle with two regiments of light cavalry already in the table with the rest of the French force arriving one unit at a time, one bound at a time.

I based my tactics around holding the village on the British right with the poor quality Portuguese. Meanwhile the British would hold the more open ground as well as defend the bridge. The Horse battery was deployed forward with the 5/60th to slow the French advance a little and the foot battery was deployed on the hill to the rear. The Caçadores were forward on the British right flank.

The Highlanders were held as a reserve in the centre of the line, able to turn either way as the situation required.

The French advanced and the British fired. The blue dice were indeed rolling low, at one stage I rolled 9 dice and scored nothing higher than a three. However the British tactics were sound and the French élan was such that they came forward rather piecemeal.

The Caçadores went into square on the right, holding up and preventing the French cavalry from attacking the British right. In the meantime the horse battery and the 5/60th fell backwards firing all the while. After 10 bounds, with the scenario due to end, the British still held both the village and the bridge. Victory in yet another of my last games at the Gun Bar. To be fair, 10 bounds was not really enough time for the French and I suggested for the depth of table we were using that a variable finish between 12 and 16 bounds would be more interesting and give the French a better chance.

The photos below are from Anthony’s phone as for some reason as yet unknown, my phone was talking really odd photos and they were not at all clear,

Interestingly, throughout the entire game I won the initiative roll only once, Anthony won that nine times. I inevitably rolled down, he rolled up. I think there is definitely dice feng shui here and the next time we play, the blue dice will be reserved for marker duty, replaced by the green set perhaps.

Dice feng shui exists – at least with those blue dice! After the game finished, I rolled the nine dice again and had seven numbers four or greater! Go figure. The only dice that rolled well was the 8-sided dice being used for morale checks. I should also note that Anthony’s rolls were generally positive – split about 50:50 around 1,2,3 and 4,5,6 on using the red dice so, dice feng shiui exists!

Napoleonic — Battle Four at the Gun Bar — Last for a While

The last time Général de Corps Anthony faced Major General Thomo the Lost was the 5th of May.  Nearly eight weeks later we faced each other across the field of battle one more time. This was a special battle as it was the last time I was going to be in the position to battle with Anthony, face to face, beer to beer, for some time to come as I up sticks and high-tail it out of Dodge … er … sorry … Singapore.

The battlefield was laid out as I arrived and it was decided to play along the battlefield rather than across it. Because of the wicked dice feng shui plaguing Anthony in the past, we decided to dice to see who took the French, with the winner to take them. Once again, I ended up as the British commander.

Forces were equal so we set about deploying. At about this moment, a very nice beer was offered by the commander of the French so toasts were drunk and we retired to the balcony for the Singapore version of a sausage sizzle and that marvel of Australian gastronomic delight – the sausage sanger! The sangers were despatched, as was the beer, so we returned to the table.

I had based my tactics around holding the village in the centre of the table with my forces able to run back into the forest should the going get a little tough. My artillery was massed on my left. The rifles were in the best position to take the town and they were ably supported by the Portuguese.

My right flank was protected by three battalions of English and Highland troops. Battle commenced, dice were rolled, the French were rolled, au revoir, c’est tout ce qu’elle a écrit.

Whilst I lost a light cavalry regiment carelessly, and a few troops from other battalions, the French lost heavily. Again, the dice smiled upon me and laughed at Anthony. I must remember to take my pilgrimage to the shrine of St Magnus (the patron saint of dice rollers – read the Orkneyinga Saga for verification)!

In any case, thanks Anthony for the hospitality, beer, sausages, the games and most importantly, for being a mate!

And then, what better way to complete the battle than …

Bang on!
Bang on!

Bang On!

Napoleonic — Battle Three at the Gun Bar

Back in December 2013 we fought Napoleonic — Battle Two at the Gun Bar. About six weeks ago we started Battle Three. However, a period of high stress as well as hunting for a new job meant that whilst we started Battle Three, I had not had a chance to return to the Gun Bar to finish off the French.

Today I returned to the Gun Bar and finished off the French!

The British cavalry “got tore in” to the French horse and guns on the right, quite effectively, destroying the gun and forcing a retreat from the French. Further time was spent as the British and the French rested their horses before engaging further.

Meanwhile, in the centre, the French columns came forward. They managed to survive a light cavalry charge on them, pretty much destroying the light cavalry but then for some reason the French advance slowed and this allowed the British lines to engage in what they do best, shooting!

“Make Ready! Present! Fire!”

They shot! Devastating volleys delivered on the hapless French.

Game Three at the Gun Bar was over, the gallant French again victims of outrageous fortune (a number of dice rolls came up 1 at the time the French needed 4+).

Adieu!

And thanks Anthony for the brunch. Lovely!

Napoleonic — Battle Two at the Gun Bar

It was a dark and stormy night … well OK, it was dark, all nights are generally dark in this neck of the woods, and it was raining, some of the time. Well, raining really for just the most inconvenient time.

I finished a late afternoon coffee meeting down-town then jumped into a number 700 bus (I almost missed the bus as I was sitting in the bus-stop reading Jack Campbell’s The Lost Stars – Perilous Shield, on  my phone. The driver nicely waited for me making the last minute dash for the bus door with a smile on his face. I boarded and settled in to the one hour bus trip.

The view out the window obstructed by condensation, so it wasn’t raining. It started raining. I checked, it wasn’t raining at the Diary Farm so no problem (I did not have an umbrella with me). As we approached the bus-stop before Diary Farm Road the rain started again. I alighted and waited in the bus shelter the required 20 minutes for the rain shower to pass. It passed. I started walking. At exactly the half way point between the bus shelter and Anthony’s place, the rain started again. I got soaked. The start of this battle report then was written by the shirtless British commander in the wet trousers 1!

It was time again. The last game we had was back on 5 November 2013. My back hack from Dr Bloodaxe 2 as well as a business trip and some other family issues had conspired to keep the protagonists apart until last night. The British had been reinforced since the last battle with another battalion of Highlanders. The British were also handicapped with a wet general. We started.

As the British commander and having less cavalry than the French, I was out-scouted and deployed first. I had a plan. Anchor flanks on the river and the farm and let the French wash over me, destroying them as they came. To that end I deployed the Light Division around the river to keep the French honest there, the Portuguese Division on the Left where they could anchor on the farm, the British and Highland Divisions were in the centre with the Light and Heavy Cavalry Brigades held in reserve. Two British batteries were also deployed in the line.

There were a lot of French. They were in front of the British.

As with the last battle, the British plan was to let the French run onto the British bayonets and then riposte! I did not expect the French to also run onto the batteries but had hoped that the positioning of the two batteries would cause the French to funnel their attack through the centre where a wood would nicely break their formations up.

The French ran into one of the batteries! It was not pretty.

On the British right, the commander of the Light Division seems to have been out on the town with the lads the night before and deployed them where their only option of evading way from the French who got to close was to swim away. This was countered however by the rashness of the French Light Cavalry commander sending his forces into a Balaclava like charge at some British guns, supported by Portuguese battalions.

In the centre, the Old Guard advanced against some stiff volleys from the British Line, eventually closing with the line and forcing them back. The Highlanders were handled roughly by the French Grand(ish)  Battery however managed to weather than storm and were ready to commence the push onto the left flank of the French centre, the Portuguese being ready to do the same on the French right.

The French commander, seeing that his infantry had somehow managed to get themselves caught en masse in the centre decided at this point to commence withdrawing his forces from their current positions whilst he still had an advantage over the British right and whilst the Portuguese had a long march to close with the French right.

This game was also played under the Rank and File rules. As with the last, there were a number of odd things that turned up that I will really get around to discussing in a separate post but overall, a quick game. I think we are thinking of trying FoG Napoleonics next in our question for a set of Wargame Rules that does, as Anthony described it, have “war” and “game” in the same font size or a font size that has “war” a lilttle larger than “game”. Rank and File seems to put the emphasis on the “game” part of “wargame”. Pizza, Beer, and a Wargame – could there be a better way to spend a rainy Thursday evening?


Footnotes

1. Perhaps the most interesting comments were when I sent a selfie to the lady ‘erself at the start of the game after she asked if I had got to the game OK and was I having fun? The selfie was all I replied with and her immediate reply to that was “Where r u?” 🙂

Then there was Anthony taking photographs and saying “I need to be careful not to get a topless Thomo in shot”. My comment back was “don’t worry about that, if anyone asks, just tell them we were playing strip wargames!”

2. “The back hack from doctor Bloodaxe” has a degree of assonance that I did not notice when I first wrote it however it has a definite musical quality to it … unlike Dr Bloodaxe’s skills with a sharp object and my back!

Napoleonic — Battle One at the Gun Bar

It was time – we’d had a couple of games of French-Indian Wars and a couple of games of Rapid Fire, now it was time to turn to something new. We decided to play with Anthony’s new Napoleonic French and his old but still being based British. We’d decided to do a mid-week as my weekends are a bit full just at the moment. Last night I trekked up to Anthony’s Gun Bar at The Dairy Farm. I felt a bit like the postman as I did, trekking bravely and gamely through rain and hail and sleet and snow to get to the game 1.

There are some pictures below. I was the British and decided to demonstrate with the light division in front of the rather extensive convent to the front of my right flank. My artillery was placed in two batteries on a hill where they could command the battlefield. For once the British had the advantage in cavalry and they provided my left flank – facing as they did the outnumbered French cavalry. My remaining divisions, one British and the other Portuguese held the centre. The plan was to let the French run  onto the bayonets of Allies. As a plan, it worked.

The only problem was that some of the bayonets were bent. The French Old Guard managed to slice through the Portuguese battalions facing them. The British Light Horse were severely handled by the French Dragoons although in a bright spot on the British left the Household Cavalry managed to catch a French Light Horse regiment and saw them from the field. Sunset was approaching and the French were taking casualties from the British muskets and although the French Guard was slicing its way through the British line there was a battalion of Highlanders who had managed to work their way around to the flank of the French battalions and were set to cause some strife. We agreed at this point that a draw seemed most seemly!

The game was played under the Rank and File rules. There were a number of odd things that turned up that I will discuss in a separate post but overall, a quick and satisfying game. Fish and Chips, Beer, and a Wargame – could there be a better way to spend a rainy Tuesday evening?


1. OK, so it is Singapore and we were missing the sleet and snow … and hail for that matter but it was raining and that made the traffic and the 300 metre walk at the end of the trip somewhat more challenging!

Finished – the WW1 French are launched … to the US

The fleet - set to sail - about 90 vessels in total
The fleet – set to sail – about 90 vessels in total

I finally finished painting, labelling and varnishing the 1/6000th scale French World War 1 fleet. These were being painted for John  in California. I opted for the simple French mid-grey scheme that the vessels were using in the later way period.

I also looked at “bronzing” one turret (A-turret or Z-turret), at least on the battleships and larger cruisers to account for the French disciplinary practice of having sailors paint a turret in used cooking oil when they were found guilty of a charge. I tried on one vessel and the result was that it was not really visible in this scale, so went just straight grey for the fleet.

The vessels come from Figurehead – from Noble Miniatures in the US and Magister Militum in the UK.

The detail on the vessels really is quite remarkable given their size. I would also recommend that when painting them, use a shade of grey two or three shades lighter than required and then use a black ink wash over the vessel to bring out that detail.

A close-up(ish) of some of the vessels.
A close-up(ish) of some of the vessels.

The close-up will give you an idea of the amount of detail present on the vessels.

You will notice that I opted for white canvas covers to the ships boats. The French used, as far as I can tell, a grey cover however I am assuming a sun-bleached grey that is white here. It is an aesthetic thing to bring out that extra detail and make it visible.

I do not have a sea surface to photograph on here in Singapore so the cutting mat has to do – the square are 1 cm square so yes, some of the vessels are less than 2cm long.

I know John has a US, British and German fleet still to paint up but after doing the French, Italians, Austrians, Turks, Greeks, Russians (both main fleets) and the Japanese Mediterranean Squadron, I’m not sure I want to paint any more 1/6000th ships. The feeling is compounded by knowing that the US was experimenting with dazzle patterns as a camouflage during the First World War. I’ll see how I feel in a few weeks time.

In the meantime, I will have a pleasant evening sitting in the man cave tonight, wireless on, air-con on, cup of tea in hand and starting to ponder what actually will be the next project!

All ahead full!

Painting Progress – the 1/6000th French – labels

2013-05-01 22.28.25I finally got some time yesterday, May Day, to start on labelling the vessels. I may have mentioned the process before but I’ll cover it again as someone asked me how I did them.

Using Microsoft Word (or any Word Processor really) create a table, in my case I make one 8 columns by 2 rows to start with. Then insert a couple of blank lines in the document and create a second 8 column by 2 row table.

Then a couple of blank lines and create a third table 8 columns by 2 rows.

In the second table, record the name of each of the vessels in the fleet. Record them in columns 2, 4, 6 and 8. Font and font size does not matter at this stage. You can then copy the table over table three (so that in both tables columns 1, 3, 5 and 7 are empty and columns 2, 4, 6 and 8 now contain all the ship names).

Now, to table three. In columns 1, 3, 5 and 7, next to the ship names, insert a code number for the vessel. For example, BB01 goes in column 1, next to the name Bretagne in column 2. DD03 goes next to the destroyer Epee and so on. Now you have two tables with some information in them, the second table with the ship names and the third table with a ships code number. I use the same code numbers between fleets so, for example, BB01 is Bretagne in the French, Hapsburg in the Austrian fleet, Tri Svititelia in the Russian fleet and so on. In the case where you are having a wargame with allied fleets fighting, well, I hope the paintwork will avoid confusion Smile

Highlight column 1 in table 3 (the ship codes). Now copy that and paste it into column 1 of table 1 and column 5 of table 1. Repeat this for column 3 table 3 (copy to columns 2 and 6 of table 1); column 5 of table 3 (copy to columns 3 and 7 of table 1); and column 7 of table 3 (copy to columns 4 and 8 of table 1).

Save the document.

Now there are three tables with only table 2 having empty columns. We now start formatting, Firstly, table 2. highlight the table (all columns) and select font “Calabri”, click on bold, change font size to 6 point or 8 point. The size of the font is something you will need to guess to make sure when finished the label will fit in the bottom of the ship base – so destroyers may need to be smaller than capital ships.

2013-05-01 22.40.25Next, search the internet and find the naval ensign for the World War 1 fleet you are painting (this is of course optional but adds a nice touch). Copy the image and paste it into cell 1, (row 1, column 1) of table 2. It will be very big but resize to until it is small and matches off with the text – you may need to adjust the column width here too. Play around a little and it will work out one way or another. Align the image either Center Left or Center in the cell. When it looks right, copy the image and paste it to each of the empty cells next to the ship names. Format the columns with the flags is to Center Left or Center alignment. Save the document.

Now comes the interesting part. The sea bases I have painted are coloured with a base coat of Prussian Blue then a light blue dry brush and a white dry brush. I have found that a background colour of dark blue works – the colour details are for R:G:B colour 23:54:93. This matches fairly closely with the Prussian blue as you can see in the photo to the right.

Now select all columns of table 1 and change the font to “Calabri”, the size to 6 point, select “bold”, select font colour “white” and then select fill colour –> more colours –> custom and use the R:G:B figures mentioned above. Your sea base labels should be starting to look good. Whilst the table is selected, go to design –> borders and turn borders off.

imageThe last step with the blue labels is to select columns 5, 6, 7 and 8 from table 1 and amend the character spacing, This is done so that the labels will fit the smaller label tabs on destroyers, torpedo boats and so on. Go to home –> font –> advanced and set scale on character spacing to 75%.

It does make the label a little harder to read, but not impossible but also ensures that it will fit most bases.

We have a sheet of labels. Save the document again and now it is ready for printing. Print on standard paper on a colour printer((OK, so I win a prize for stating the bleeding obvious but I needed the line in there for continuity)) and you are ready to stick on your models base.

Note that if you are using spray varnish, go right ahead and stick. If you are using varnish applied by a brush, then test first to see if the varnish will make the label run, especially if you have used an ink jet printer rather than a laser printer.

Simply cut the little blue label from the sheet with a sharp knife (I use one of the ones with a snap-off blade as it is best done with a very sharp knife and paper blunts the knife fairly quickly). I attach the blue labels with a dob of white glue (the stuff that dries clear) and then when the glue is dry varnish the vessels. They can then be separated from the tongue depressors I use to hold the vessels whilst painting.

Now you have labelled and varnished vessels. There is one final step. Using table three as a guide as it tells you which vessel is which code number, cut out and stick the vessel’s name label and ensign to the underside of the sea base. Voila! Finito!

Pick up the ship, look underneath and you know the vessels name. Use the code number on the sea base label to identify for damage and firing results during a game.

austrian_smaller russian_naval_jack italian_small japan_naval_ensign royal-navy-ensign_small sms_navy_ensign_small

Work in Process – the WW1 French Fleet

The second batch of World War 1 Ships - most of the battleships a some Armoured Cruisers - finished and just waiting their labels
The second batch of World War 1 Ships – most of the battleships a some Armoured Cruisers – finished and just waiting their labels

This is progressing nicely with 2/3rds of the vessels complete and a list of ships prepared ready for making labels for the navy. So, that is the destroyers complete and most of the battleships plus a few armoured cruisers.

The rest of the armoured cruisers, the protected cruisers and the Japanese cruisers (can’t remember why I have them) are almost complete – they are the ones shown in the picture below.

All that remains to be done on them is their lifeboat covers and the sooty funnels tops and such.

The remaining vessels that need two more coats of paint to compete
The remaining vessels that need two more coats of paint to compete

All vessels will be given a few days for the paint to really dry (well, the truth is I am off to Indonesia on Tuesday for a couple of days) and then I will glue the labels on the tab at the back of the base.

Vessels are then varnished – I use Vallejo Satin Varnish for ships as it gives them a nice moist appearance.

The vessels are then removed from the tongue depressors and a name tag stuck to the bottom. They should be ready for posting Monday of next week with a bit of luck and a good following wind!

Work in Progress

The French World War 1 fleet from Hallmark (with a few extra vessels)
The French World War 1 fleet from Hallmark (with a few extra vessels)

On the bench at the moment, John’s 1/6000 French World War 1 fleet.

Progress today has been good with the sea bases all finished and the ships having had their first wash.

The destroyers and torpedo boats have had paint as well. So have 13 battleships.

Currently there are 44 destroyers and torpedo boats that I expect to have finished tonight (well, finished except for the labels and final varnishing).

Also being worked on is 55 battleships and cruisers. I am hoping to have them finished except for labels tomorrow night, as I am off to Jakarta for a few days again on Tuesday.

For the curious, the squares on the mat on the painting table are 1cm square so that will give you an idea of the size of the vessels.