Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Forgotten General

I recently finished reading ‘The Forgotten General” (ISBN 978 1 877505 07 2), Jock Vennell’s biography of Major General Sir Andrew Russell (Allen and Unwin, 2011).

I first became aware of Russell’s extraordinary achievements when reading Glyn Harper’s ‘Spring Offensive’, detailing the New Zealand Division’s part in the Second Battle of the Somme in March 1918, and recall thinking at the time that Russell must surely rank as one of the truly gifted generals of World War 1. Indeed, Vennell joins Harper and Pugsley in saying so.

Russell was born in New Zealand and sent to England for his education, at the end of which he passed out from Sandhurst with the sword of honour for the best cadet officer of his year in 1887. His professional career with the British army came to an end when he left the army, bored with the frontier duties and attitudes that he found. He commanded the NZ Brigade at Gallipoli and came out of the campaign with a Knighthood, and command of the NZ Division that was then sent to France. He commanded the Division right through to the end of the war, turning down a Corp Command suggested by of both Haig and Godley, as his health failed in the last few months of the war.

This is the story of an extraordinary man who made (and admitted) his  share of mistakes (the NZ Division’s losses in their 12 October 1917 attack at Passchendaele would be his worst) but who learned quickly. He valued the lives of his men, and combined tough discipline with tactical innovation and thoroughness of preparation and planning, to create one of the best performing divisions on the Western Front.

In the Preface, Vennell writes: 

“… prominent military historian Dr Chris Pugsley went much further, rating Russell as not only the outstanding divisional commander among the British armies that fought on the Western Front, but the one military commander of genius that New Zealand produced in the twentieth century.”

If you are looking for an in depth analysis of Russell’s performances on the battlefield, then you would be better advised to read Harper’s ‘Spring Offensive’, but for a fascinating view of the life of New Zealand’s ‘Forgotten General’, you could do little better than to read Vennell’s biography. I highly recommend the book to all 'students' of World war 1, and New Zealand military history.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Russian project gathers steam...

I hadn't intended this blog to become an 'Army Diary'. This week's work however has added the first of the new infantry stands, and a few of the required MMG stands, and as these are the first for several years I thought I'd add them for completeness (but I have no intention of adding photos every time a few more stands roll off the painting pins!!)

These first infantry are painted as reservists might have been equipped -  clothed in old reserve (i.e. 1904) uniforms. There are a few (the lucky few) in this batch who have been issued with the correct post 1912 green khaki uniforms too. The bulk of the divisions will of course be painted with the green-hued khaki, but these 'reservists' will make a nice visual break, and a break in the painting tedium as well. The 3 new MMG stands are in the background.

This is the Divisional Command stand, and I thought that painting these guys with blue 'Cavalry Uniform' trousers might represent the probable 'hierachy' that existed in so many 1914 armies.

In Great War Spearhead each infantry stand represents a company, and the base size represents the area occupied by a deployed company in the context of the ground scale used in the rules. Typically a full strength battalion in GWSH would be represented by four company stands, and the theoretical Russian TOE has one MMG stand per battalion (representing the allocation of the Regimental MMGs  to the battalions).

All of these figures are from the HaT 20mm range. The infantry come from the Russian infantry set, while the MMGs and the Divisional Command stand use figures from the Russian Heavy Weapons set.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Russian artillery finished ...

The artillery component of the 1914 Russian force is now finished with the completion of 5 stands of Putilov 76mm with the crew painted as foot artillery. The figures on the end battery show some of the crew painted in the 1904 style green trousers. I also tried to get quite a variation in 'khaki' with varying shades of the theoretical green khaki, some with more of a brown tinge, and quite a few faded to greyer khaki (attained by mixing grey with the khaki colour itself.) I mix the colours on the palette in small quantities so tat I ma mire likely to get differing shades as I work.

When Stan brought along the Putilovs, he also handed me a box of British 4.5 Howitzers (also but HaT), announcing that according to his sources 900 of these were shipped to Russia. Now these were not guns I'd planned on painting.. in GWSH they are most likely to be off table, so no models required. However (as Stan obviously knew) once I'd seen them there was no going back. I'd run out of Russian artillery crew, so resorted to crew from the Heavy Weapons box to crew these guns.

So finally here is the 'artillery park' complete. Five stands of foot artillery, three stands of horse artillery, and 3 stands of heavier Corp guns.

As a final note, a commment on the HaT kits. These are moulded in hard plastic,  are historically accurate, and go together like a dream. The crew are the modern gluable soft plastic that HaT now uses, althugh I had no cause to glue anything about the figures themselves. Highly recommended.

Next step - the infantry heavy weapons.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Restart WW1" .. first fruits.

I'm surprised at how quickly I've managed to get back into the swing of things with my "Restart WW1" project (although the end of the academic year helps). So here are the first fruits of my labour (and the first 20mm WW1 figures I've painted in quite some time). The three guns (HaT Putilov 76mm field guns) represent a Great War Spearhead artillery regiment, with each model representing a battery. These guns are horse artillery (hence the blue trousers on the crew), while the remainder of the guns I paint will be field artillery.

I thought I'd pose them with some cavalry (Dragoons) to create a little of the feel of these guys on the table top. The foot figures are Hat Russian infantry, while the mounteds are Strelets Russian Dragoons.

My earlier work on WW1 armies can be seen here:

if anyone is interested.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Restart ...

'Restart' is something of a catch cry for those of us living in Christchurch at the moment. We have a 'Restart Mall', a new beginning for retailing in our quake shattered CBD, and it has now hit my wargames/painting table.

I have restarted a project I began a couple of years ago to complete a 1914 Russian force suitable for playing Great War Spearhead. I played a very cool 1914 scenario with Nick well over a year ago, and the 'Random Morale' status of the infantry regiments (an option, but not compulsroy in the scenario generation system - you can pay the points and take Green, Regular, or Veteran regiments if you wish) makes these guys so much fun. The unpredictability of the random morale status means you can never be sure quite what will happen.

I had already painted one infantry regiment, and several regiments of cavalry (Cossacks and Dragoons). In the time since I started (and stopped) the project, HaT has since released a large number of WW1 artillery guns, and accompanying crew, so I thought that to get the 'gaming juices flowing I would start with the necessary on-table field artillery stands to support the force. The HaT Putilov 76mm (or 3", depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on) is first in my sights. The first four of these guns is neairng completion, with photos to follow: four guns and accompanying crew.

It's good to be back in the saddle (or on the limber!!)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dwarf gyrocopter

Well, here it is.. finally... I've already 'vented spleen' at the frustrations of assembling this, so enough said. It is most likely to see service as a 'Steel Behemoth' in the Kings of War Dwarf army, although I may well use some sort of flying hero stat line from another army to model "King flying incredibly noisy and occasionally effective beastie" character.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dwarf gyrocopter revisited.

I'm currently undertaking my third (and hopefully final) attempt at assembling the GW Dwarf gyrocopter. My previous two attempts, using two different types of superglue, were to no avail, the complete assembly falling apart on me. The kit was therefore put aside for quite some time (well, over 12 months actually) and I've finally decided to take it out and try again.

So.. a little research on the web first, and I find comment that this may well be rated as the most difficult assembly in the entire GW range.. fantastic!!

The consensus was however pretty clear: you need to pin the model, especially the rotor assembly. So pin it I did. The holes were drilled with a long unused motorised drill of French manufacture, and pins were inserted down the length of each blade, and throiugh the hub itself. It was glued with two part epoxy. I also picked up another very cool tip: glue the rotor hub to a washer - inspired!!

So here is a photo of the rotor assembly from the underside at that stage.

I then went on to strengthen the hub further with a band of green stuff, creating what now looks like an elegantly enlarged hub, perfectly in keeping with the concept of dwarf engineering.

The landing skids also required pinning, and the assembly is now being painted - photos to follow.
I haven't been this challenged with any model since I used to scratch build models of ships and aircraft as a teenager - those were the days!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

And now for something completely different

Adrian and I had been trying to arrange a Marlburian game for a couple of months, and finally managed it last night. The game was a fictional one pitting Imperialists against French, and we used Adrian's 5mm Marlburian armies. I was too involved in the game (commanding the French) to gather a detailed AAR, so here are just a few photos from the game.

The game was loosely based on some historical OOBs with the French outnumbering the Imperialists, and with a generally lower morale grade army. The battle was fought using the Volley and Bayonet rules.

My French Horse were first to strike, tackling the end of Adrian's defensive line.

The other end of Adrian's line was anchored on a town sector which he quickly occupied with some dismounted dragoons.

The lines went toe to toe in the centre.

I tackled Adrian's right flank with this column style push (must have been thinking about Marlborough himself).

The game ended in a French victory, having driven three of the four Imperialist infantry commands, and one of the two cavalry commands, into exhaustion. Just another damned good game using Volley and Bayonet.... and a nice change away from fantasy to some good solid historical gaming.

Random photos from HotT Carnage ...

Finally for HotT Carnage a few random shots of my other games... just to showcase a few HotT armies.

First up, Carruthers had to take on some wild stuff from the Lost Worlds ...

The airboat fleeing from a magician's curse...

And the savage warbands closely engaged the British shooters ..

Having disposed of the magician, the airboat came to the support of the shooters, and it was all over really..

Then it was the turn of some pesky dwarves ..

The Dwarf hero seemed mighty interested in the airboat, but couldn't quite reach him... move distance you understand, not a politically incorrect comment on his height...

The imperial flyers did some fancy manoeuvring while the steam robot behemoth stomped all over the that's definitely not politically correct.. oh dear...

HotT Carnage results

HotT Carnage 2011 was a pretty amazing little competition, even though this year numbers were down to 6 players: Mark, Gordon, Kevin, Stan, Nick and me.

That made the draw pretty simply, 5 games, one against everyone else. I reported last week on my most amazing game against Nick, and Stan's wonderful 'Thomas the tank engine' army (my two losses for the day) but omitted to say that it was Nick who took a well deserved win for the competition - his first since we began the biennial HotT competitions in 2008.

With some time up our sleeves at the end, four of use remained behind to play a Big Battle HotT.. well a double battle actually. Nick and I took the two British VSF armies against a bunch of rebellious adventurers and some swarthy Zulus commanded by Kevin and Gordon. Carruthers being Carruthers, he shared command rather than cede control totally to any 'johnny come lately'!!!

Here are just a few shots from the game which ended in a British victory over the uncivilised hordes (well what else would you expect of Carruthers, eh wot??).

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'Thomas the Tank Engine' and HotT

One of my two losses at HotT carnage was against one of the most innovative HotT armies I have ever seen - Stan's 'Thomas the tank engine' army. Thomas wasn't the rage when our kids were little, so I never really got to know the characters.. if you are a fan, you'll recognise them immediately. However the army certainly included a flyer, riders, a paladin, a knight and a God.

Stan brought the riders into action against Carruthers' line very quickly.

Carruthers' aerials tried to get around the flank ..

But his battle line fell apart far too quickly... ouch!!

A great game, albeit a little short for Carruthers' taste...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Carruthers' big day out: HotT Carnage

Today was the annual Carnage tournament, the second of the two annual Christchurch HotT tournaments, combining a Warhammer Fantasy battles tournament, and of course HotT.

This year a slightly reduced field of six veteran players took to the tables: Mark, Stan, Nick G, Gordon, Kevin and me. The format was simple: with five rounds we each played one game against every other player.. simple!! Having one the tournament twice before, this time I managed a credible third, with a long overdue tournament victory to Nick G.

I played Nick in my third game of the day, and while Nick beat me, it was perhaps the most memorable game of HotT I can recall playing. While I'll post sundry photos of the other games in another post, I thought I'd offer a detailed account of this game.

Nick fielded an Early German army which included warband ...

and a host of ghostly hordes.. the dead of Teutobergerwald. It also included a dragon... hmmm.. did i mention the dragon? mumble mumble mumble....

Carruthers had at this stage had a successful campaign so far, having used his recently arrived air wing to good effect to beat off both previous opponents. Confidence in the new technology was high...

Early in the game the German dragon arrived, and .. in a rush of blood to the head it appears in hindsight, he ordered the air wing into action, with the airboat, supported by two flyers, hurtling towards the dragon pinning it against the base line.

Sadly, Carruthers had indeed over-estimated the combat power of his air wing, as the German dragon breathed vivid red and orange flame at the attackers,  bringing the airboat down in a fiery ball of flame.

In its next turn the dragon clearly felt that it liked the taste of British air, and took on one of the remaining flyers.

The other flyer fled across the table, but was quickly caught by the dragon. Carruthers was heard to scream some curly language at his advisers...


The dragon then decided to take the action to the enemy,  and with a flap of its wings, soared across the sky and settled itself behind the British lines in preparation for its next assault.

The British shooters had meanwhile swung around the German left flank, and were kept busy dispatching Hordes as they reappeared adjacent to the German stronghold.

The dragon then began a game of cat and mouse as it tried to attack the British line which included Carruthers himself. Absolutely 'bloody anoyed' at the poor performance of his new flyers, Carruthers himself took the responsibility of dispatching the aerial menace.

'Nothing beats the cold steel, I tell you... blood, guts and cold steel...' Carruthers' voice was heard echoing across the battlefield as the dragon fled from the onslaught.

Carruthers then turned and lead his steam robot against the German hero, but the hero was tougher match, and the end was at hand,  Carruthers' army was beginning to dissipate. Carruthers himself was extracted from the battlefield by his loyal staff, filled as they were with admiration for the man who had single handedly dispatched the nemesis of the British air wing.

This was an extraordinarily good game which swung one way then the other. Carruthers' victory against the dragon had looked to be a turning point in the battle, but it was not to be.

Thanks Nick for a wonderful game of HotT.

Forcing the Uvarova

The vastness and the difficulty of the terrain through the Caucasus meant that by 1915 there were still avenues to be explored if victory wa...