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.

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Silver State Dreadnought – The Remarkable Story of Battleship Nevada

Received in the post today from the Naval Institute Press – there goes my painting and other reading for the next few nights. Very much looking forward to reading and reviewing this one.

Review next week I hope.

The Naval War in the Baltic – 1939-1945 – Review

I read Freeing the Baltic 1918-1920 about six months ago and as a result I was looking forward to The Naval War in the Baltic 1939-1945. Wow! I wasn’t disappointed.  This book arrived a couple of months ago and I finally had a week where I read rather than painted figures or headed to the pub and this was on the top of the reading pile.

The Naval War in the Baltic 1939-1945 was originally published on 17 May 2017 however it appears to have been sold out and is now due to re-release on 28 February 2018. The author is Poul Grooss. The book is 400 pages long with ISBN 9781526700001.

Poul Grooss is a retired Danish Naval Captain whose career was 40 years long. He served as an intelligence officer and Soviet analyst. He also speaks Russian. He currently is a teacher at the Royal Danish Naval Academy.

I reckoned I knew a bit about World War II and I also knew there was a lot I didn’t know. Reading Grooss’s book has reminded me of how little I do actually know. Grooss starts setting the scene in the book by describing the geography and the history of the Baltic region, then goes on to discuss the political manoeuvring and naval developments between the wars. His coverage of the 1939 to 1945 period starts with the attack on Poland then looks at the Baltic region through to 1941. Later chapters cover the attack on the Soviet Union to Spring 1942; the war between Spring 1942 and 1944; Spring 1944 to New Year 1944/1945; then from that New Year, month by month to the end of the war. He then looks at the aftermath of the war and a retrospective.

The book is easy to read and Grooss has taken advantage of his Russian language skills to collect data from sources not usually referred to western histories. Grooss was writing for the general reader but has managed to write a book that will appeal to both general readers and the more professional historian.

He covers and uncovers the degree of Swedish cooperation with the Germans. He covers the interactions between the Soviets and the Swedes and while this is a naval history of the Baltic, the land battles are included for context, especially Kronstadt and Leningrad. Hitler’s desire to hang on to Narva is also covered.

The Baltic was a training ground for German U-boat crews but what really amazed me was the quantity of mines that were laid there and the amount of shipping that suffered. I should also mention that the Swedes were not as pro-German as we perhaps think, permitting the British to build a listening station on Swedish soil, for example. Both the Germans and the British seemed to have a laissez faire attitude to Swedish neutrality.

This book is not all about Sweden though. Grooss also covers the minor states (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) as well as Denmark, Norway, Finland, Poland and of course the main protagonists. The book is supported by many fine photographs, most of which have not been seen in print before as well as well drawn maps. There are a number of appendices and indexes with an index of people and another of ships. There is an appendix containing a chronology of the conflict, a glossary of abbreviations, ranks, terminology and explanations. Another appendix is a cross-reference of place names in various languages as well as an extensive list of sources and bibliography. This book is one I will return to many times in the future I think. For the naval historian, the wargamer and the general reader, it is well worth waiting for this re-release and grabbing a copy.

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.

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.

Oops.

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.

 

Philippine History – Now That’s Frustrating

I was in the National Bookstore again today searching for a book on a topic near and dear to the heart of me, history. Ancient history to be accurate. Philippine ancient history to be really accurate. From what I can see, Philippine History only seems to start around 1581 with the arrival of a Jesuit.

I kept checking history books and apart from being filled with what seemed to be polemic and chapters on how wonderful Filipinos are, some even had chapters on Jewish inventions, like Google, for goodness sake, in a book on Philippines History. There was nothing I would describe as objective history and certainly nothing on life here before the Jesuits.

Now I will admit I was only having a quick scan of the books, scanning the odd chapter and the table of contents but what I saw was not really all that encouraging for a view of life in ancient times. The word “pre-history” turned up a lot to describe everything before the Jesuits as no one could write then and the most useful thing I learned was that Barangay may have referred to a boat (thank you Jesuits for that piece of information) and four Filipinos turned up in Japan (two blokes and two ladies) in the 600s or 800s C.E., and they were not the first singing group to go there!

I would be happy if someone could point me to a decent history of the early Philippines but so far everything I’ve seen suggests that this may not be all that likely to find.

I think I need to find a bigger bookshop.

Philippine History

Well, it ain't historical but it is modern Manila - a view along Makati Avenue looking towards Ayala Avenue and Ayala Triangle Park
Well, it ain’t historical but it is modern Manila – a view along Makati Avenue looking towards Ayala Avenue and Ayala Triangle Park

We’ve sort of settled into Manila and after a couple of walks around the Makati City area I thought I would do what I always do when arriving in a new country long term, I had a look for a book on Philippine history. Two bookshops, both large and the only book I could find was on Philippine History after the Cross.

Now I know that there is a rich history in these 7,000 odd islands stretching back a number of years but published works in English on the period between pre-history and the Spanish arrival seem to be rare – or at least hard to find.

Given my hobby and love of Ancient and Medieval History in particular, this is kind of frustrating so I can see I will have a decent chunk of research to keep me amused as I learn more and travel these islands.

So, what do I know about the pre-Spanish history of the Philippines. I can summarize is as follows:

  • Negritos are believed to have migrated to the Philippines around 30,000 years ago (yes, I know, that is pre-history)
  • They apparently came from Borneo, Sumatra, and Malaya
  • More Malayans followed over the years
  • the Igorots display today some of that older Malayan culture
  • a bunch of Austronesians also migrated in and generally took over from the Negritos
  • the ancient Philippines (say, from about 1 C.E. to 1,000 C.E.) were influenced by the Hindu kingdoms, then perhaps by the Chinese and Indonesian states they were trading with. This lead to:
    • the Rajahnate of Butuan and Cebu
    • the dynasty of Tondo
    • the august kingdoms of Maysapan and Maynila
    • the Confederation of Madyaas
    • the Country of Mai
    • the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao
    • these were small maritime states trading with China, India, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia
    • the remainder of the settlements were independent Barangays allied with one of the larger states
  • the period of Philippine history I am most likely to be interested in is that period following the creation of the Laguna Copperplate Inscription which is the first written document found in a Philippine language
More Historical - Gabriela Silang ("Generala") who was first Filipina to lead a revolt against the Spanish in the 18th Century after they killed her second husband. She was eventually captured in the mountains and hanged.
More Historical – Gabriela Silang (“Generala”) who was the first Filipina to lead a revolt against the Spanish in the 18th Century after they killed her second husband. She was eventually captured in the mountains and hanged.

The first interest in the local history will end about the time to the Spanish colonization and settlement, which began with the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi’s expedition on 13 February 1565. He established the first permanent settlement of San Miguel on the island of Cebu. We will soon (I hope) be moving into an apartment in Legazpi Village, in Makati City, Metro Manila.

So, a lot of history to research. I expect the military history of the area is likely to mirror that of the Indonesia archipelago.

The hunt begins.

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.

Some Interesting Naval Reading

There was a post to one of the Yahoo groups I subscribe to recently from Jan who noted:

The Naval War College recently posted the latest of their Newport Papers to the Publications page of their website, and I would highly recommend it to all members of this Group site. This publication is titled:

NAVAL WAR COLLEGE NEWPORT PAPERS 40 Commerce Raiding: Historical Case Studies, 1755–2009

Location is:

http://www.usnwc.edu/Publications/Naval-War-College-Press/Newport-Papers.aspx

It weighs in at 356 pages and 3 Megabytes in PDF format.

An excerpt from the Foreword:

"… A consideration of the range of historical case studies in this volume provides an opportunity to reflect on the ways in which old and long-forgotten problems might reemerge to challenge future naval planners and strategists."

And an excerpt from the Introduction:

"… The sixteen case studies in this book reflect the extraordinary diversity of experience of navies attempting to carry out, and also to eliminate, commerce raiding. Because the cases emphasize conflicts in which commerce raiding had major repercussions, they shed light on when, how, and in what manner it is most likely to be effective. The authors have been asked to examine the international context, the belligerents, the dis­tribution of costs and benefits, the logistical requirements, enemy countermeasures, and the operational and strategic effectiveness of these campaigns. …"

This is right up our street!

Enjoy your games,

Jan

Apart from just the mentioned work, the full list of works available from that website includes:

  • Commerce Raiding: Historical Case Studies, 1755-2009, edited by Bruce A. Elleman and S. C. M. Paine (2013)
  • Influence without Boots on the Ground: Seaborne Crisis Response, by Larissa Forster
  • High Seas Buffer: The Taiwan Patrol Force, 1950-1979, by Bruce A. Elleman (2012)
  • Innovation in Carrier Aviation, by Thomas C. Hone, Norman Friedman, and Mark D. Mandeles (2011)
  • Defeating the U-Boat: Inventing Antisubmarine Warfare, by Jan S. Breemer (2010)
  • Piracy and Maritime Crime, edited by Bruce A. Elleman et al. (2010)
  • Somalia… From the Sea, by Gary J. Ohls (2009)
  • U.S. Naval Strategy in the 1980s: Selected Documents, edited by John B. Hattendorf and Peter M. Swartz (2008)
  • Major Naval Operations, by Milan Vego (2008)
  • Perspectives on Maritime Strategy: Essays from the Americas, edited by Paul D. Taylor (2008)
  • U.S. Naval Strategy in the 1970s: Selected Documents, edited by John Hattendorf (2007)
  • Shaping the Security Environment, edited by Derek S. Reveron (2007)
  • Waves of Hope: The U.S. Navy’s Response to the Tsunami in Northern Indonesia, by Bruce A. Elleman (2007)
  • U.S. Naval Strategy in the 1990s: Selected Documents, edited by John Hattendorf (2006)
  • Carnes Lord, ed., Reposturing the Force: U.S. Overseas Presence in the Twenty-first Century (2006)
  • The Regulation of International Coercion: Legal Authorities and Political Constraints, by James P. Terry (2005)
  • Naval Power in the Twenty-first Century: A Naval War College Review Reader, edited by Peter Dombrowski (2005)
  • The Atlantic Crises: Britain, Europe and Parting from the United States, by William Hopkinson (2005)
  • China’s Nuclear Force Modernization, edited by Lyle J. Goldstein, with Andrew S. Erickson (2005)
  • Latin American Security Challenges: A Collaborative Inquiry from North and South, edited by Paul D. Taylor (2004)
  • Global War Game: Second Series, 19841988, by Robert H. Gile (2004)
  • The Evolution of the U.S. Navy’s Maritime Strategy, 19771986, by John Hattendorf (2004)
  • Transformation and the Defense Industry after Next: The Defense Industrial Implications of Network-Centric Warfare, by Peter J. Dombrowski, Eugene Gholz, and Andrew L. Ross (2003)
  • The Limits of Transformation: Officer Attitudes toward the Revolution in Military Affairs, by Thomas G. Mahnken and James R. FitzSimonds (2003)
  • The Third Battle: Innovation in the U.S. Navy’s Silent Cold War Struggle with Soviet Submarines, by Owen R. Cote, Jr. (2003)
  • International Law and Naval War: The Effect of Marine Safety and Pollution Conventions during International Armed Conflict, by Sonja Ann Jozef Boelaert-Suominen (2000)
  • Theater Ballistic Missile Defense from the Sea: Issues for the Maritime Component Commander, by Charles C. Swicker (1998)
  • Sailing New Seas, by J. Paul Reason, with David G. Freymann (1998)
  • What Color Helmet? Reforming Security Council Peacekeeping Mandates, by Myron H. Nordquist (1997)
  • The International Legal Ramifications of United States Counter-Proliferation Strategy: Problems and Prospects, by Frank Gibson Goldman (1997)
  • Chaos Theory: The Essentials for Military Applications, by Glenn R. James (1996)
  • A Doctrine Reader: The Navies of the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Spain, by James J. Tritten and Luigi Donolo (1995)
  • Physics and Metaphysics of Deterrence: The British Approach, by Myron A. Greenberg (1994)
  • Mission in the East: The Building of an Army in a Democracy in the New German States, by Mark E. Victorson (1994)
  • The Burden of Trafalgar: Decisive Battle and Naval Strategic Expectations on the Eve of the First World War, by Jan S. Breemer (1993)
  • Beyond Mahan: A Proposal for a U.S. Naval Strategy in the Twenty-First Century, by Gary W. Anderson (1993)
  • Global War Game: The First Five Years, by Bud Hay and Bob Gile (1993)
  • The “New” Law of the Sea and the Law of Armed Conflict at Sea, by Horace B. Robertson, Jr. (1992)
  • Toward a Pax Universalis: A Historical Critique of the National Military Strategy for the 1990s, by Gary W. Anderson (1992)
  • “Are We Beasts?” Churchill and the Moral Question of World War II “Area Bombing,” by Christopher C. Harmon (1991)

There is some very interesting reading in there, especially if you have spare reading time Smile

The British Pacific Fleet – World War 2

2013-10-18 08.31.45The most powerful of the British fleets in World War 2 was the one that eventually ended up, facing the Japanese as part of the US Fifth Fleet then the US Third Fleet. The vessels in the British Pacific fleet were from Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand principally.

The British Pacific Fleet is one that I have had an interest in since my time in Mongolia and in 2005 I bought a book about Task Force 57/37. In 2009 I purchased enough 1/3000th scale Navwar vessels to reproduce that Task Force and to provide an alternate opponent for the Japanese from the Battle of then Philippines Seas set.

The United States Navy had control of Allied operations in the Pacific Ocean areas during World War 2 and so gave the British Pacific Fleet the designation of Task Force 57 when it joined Admiral Raymond Spruance’s United States Fifth Fleet on 15 March 1945. On 27 May 1945, it became Task Force 37 when it became part of Admiral William Halsey’s United States Third Fleet.

The fleet itself consisted of 2 battleships, 10 aircraft carriers, 9 escort carriers, 11 cruisers (heavy and light) as well as 41 destroyers, 14 frigates, 18 sloops, 19 corvettes as well as submarines, auxiliaries, fleet oilers and so on.

It was a reasonable fleet and the carriers embarked 34 fleet air arm squadrons.

I saw the David Hobbs book and thought it was a useful addition to my naval library. Hobbs covers the history of the fleet with the eye of someone who served in the Fleet Air Arm for 30 years. The book itself has 16 chapters that cover (1) Background, Theory and Experience, (2) Forward Planning, (3) Evolution and Expansion, (4) Strikes against the Sumatran Oil Refineries, (5) Australia and Logistic Support, (6) Operation `Iceberg I”, (7) Replenishment in Leyte Gulf, (8) Operation `Iceberg II’, (9) Operation `Inmate’, (10) Repairs in Australia and Improved Logistic Support, (11) Submarine and Mine Warfare, (12) Strikes against the Japanese Mainland, (13) Victory, (14) Repatriation, Trooping and War-Brides, (15) A Peacetime Fleet, and (16) Retrospection.

There are also 12 appendices.

I’m just starting to get my teeth into the reading of this book and so far the narrative is easy to read. I think I will be recommending this in the future.