Friday, August 30, 2019

Checkmate King 2, This Is White Rook, Over

"Cage, why doesn't this damn walkie talkie ever work?"

The characters (L to R): Lt. Hanley, Kirby, Cage, Littlejohn, Doc and Sergeant Saunders.

I have been binge watching episodes of the 1960s television series "Combat!" over the past couple of weeks. The series began ran for five seasons from 1962 to 1967 and the first four seasons were filmed in black & white and the final season was in color. I always thought that the B&W version was much better than the color episodes.

Black & White gives the series a feel for WW2 film footage of the war.

So how did my interest (revived) in Combat! come about? Well, I was working on some SYW and AWI skirmish game scenarios and the thought occurred to me that it would be fun to name a squad of American Continentals Lt. Hanley, Sgt. aunders, Kirby, Cage, Littlejohn and Doc (and Nelson was a regular for the first 2 seasons). Well, as you can guess, one thing led to another and suddenly I was watching episodes of the series on You Tube every evening before going to bed.

It's fun to see some future stars taking small roles in Combat, before they became well known: Leonard Nimoy, James Caan, James Coburn, Beau Bridges to name a few. Plus, most of the episodes featured a guest star such as Robert Duval, Telly Savalas, Eddie Albert, Frankie Avalon, James Whitmore and many others.

I am through most of Season 3 by now, although I skipped several of the multipart episodes shown during the first two seasons. In my opinion, the show holds up fairly welll by today's standards. The producers had to make do with what they had so one often sees the same old village (a set actually) being fought over, arrid California terrain as opposed to verdant green France, and the occasional water run off ditches and culverts. However, that doesn't really spoil the show by any means.

My Combat! Questions and Observations

So here are some of my observations and questions about Combat!:

1) Why do the Germans (Krauts - are we allowed to say that in these PC times?) always leave really great cover and run out into the open where they get gunned down like ducks on a pond? I mean come on, a squad of Krauts have the Americans pinned down with machine gun fire, yet it's like they all say, "hey, this cover is too good, why don't I run across the open space and hide behind that wooden water barrel?"

2) All of the above led to what the late Jim Mitchell called the Nifty Falls" game. The Germans did all manner of summersaults and dives when they were shot, using moves that a modern day Olympic gymnists couldn't do. So when we would go out into the woods and play "Combat" we would try to immitate all of the Nifty Falls that the Krauts did on television.

3) when we played "Combat!" everyone wanted to be Sgt. Saunders, or PFC Cage as a second choice. I remember that you could buy an official plastic Thompson machine gun just like the one that Sgt. Saunders carried. Nobody wanted to be Lt. Hanley for some reason.

4) PFC Cage is obviously the best soldier in the squad. He is smart...and he speaks French, plus he gets to wear that cool looking beret. So why does Saunders alway put Cage "on the point" when they are traipsing through the countryside? Point is the most dangerous duty in the squad, so why put your best man in the most dangerous spot on the battlefield?

5) Geez Louise, how many times does Littlejohn have to get wounded before he can get a free ticket stateside? Littlejohn has to be the unluckiest soldier in the squad.

6) does every German carry a burp gun and does every German squad have heavy machine guns?

7) Nobody gets mangled by bullets - "it's just a flesh wound," or "I will be all right after they get a couple slugs out of me".

8) Sgt. Saunders' squad is more or less bullet proof (see #1 above) - they can run across open space and not get hit by German machine gun bullets.

9) Many of the episodes begin with some great film footage taken during WW2

10) German tanks - yes, I know, these are usually old American tanks taken from the scrap heap and tarted up as German tanks. Also, the same German half-track gets used over and over again (it's probably an American half-track, but I'm not a WW2 vehicle expert).

11) American squad tactics seem to be sound. Saunders is always sending a few guys off to "outflank the Krauts" which makes sense to me.

12) Sgt. Saunders and Lt. Hanley expose themselves to gunfire too often, "I'll run over there while you guys cover me!" Send one of the other guys instead, you know, the guys that aren't regulars on the show.

13) Sgt. Saunders' squad is way too small at four or five guys. Where is the rest of the squad?

14) The Americans never run out of ammo whenever they get into a firefight.

15) Why doesn't that frickin' walkie talkie ever work when you need it the most?

16) Is the opening music the best theme music that you have ever heard? And the explosion graphics were pretty neat too.

I'm having a good time strolling down Memory Lane with my binge watching of Combat!

This is White Rook. Over.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Gendarmerie de France Painted Figures Update

Gendarmerie de France - Minden Miniatures

I have painted six of the new Minden Gendarmerie de France figures as the Gendarmes du Dauphin company. The regiment's organization paired two companies, each named after a prince of the realm, together to form a squadron. the du Dauphin company was paired with the Gendarmes d'Orleans. Both companies were similar in appearance, having blue crossbelts edged in silver.

There was a total of 8 squadrons in the Gendarmerie de France.

Thus in my army organization for my own Der Alte Fritz Rules, I have cavalry squadrons of 12 figures and 2 squadrons in a regiment. This isn't historical, but I want to limit my cavalry regiments to 24 figures.

I chose the Dauphin Company because it is one of the ones for which there are GMB Designs flags. The flags of all of the companies are way too complex to paint freehand. Probably Mark Allen has the talent to paint the flags, but I doubt that anyone else on the planet can hand paint the flags. Hence my choice of GMB Designs flags.

Gendarmes du Dauphin standard
(source: Kronoskaf)

Now I have a bit of a conundrum: how to base the Gendarms?

My standard cavalry base is a 2-inch square base that has two cavalry figures per stand. This would result in my having 3 stands of 2 figures for each Gendarme company. The picture below illustrates how this might look.

Gendarmerie de France - Minden Miniatures
My other idea is to mount three figures on a 3-inch wide by 2-inch deep base, thus keeping the same figure frontage and two bases of three cavalry figures per company. With the other company having the same number of figures and organization, the squadron of 2 companies would have four stands of three figures and a total of two standards in the squadron. It might work. The picture at the top of the page illustrates how this might look for a Gendarme company (noting that for the purpose of taking the picture, I placed all 6 figures onto one single 6-inch long base).

So I am going to throw the question out to my readers and get their ideas on which basing method to use for the Gendarmes. Please do so in the comment section below.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Charge of the 21st Lancers Redux

Painting by Stanley Berkeley (Source: ASKB)

The Charge recreated with Trophy Miniatures toy soldiers.

I thought that it would be interesting to compare a famous painting of the charge of the 21st Lancers at Omdurman to the portrayal that I recently presented with toy soldiers.

Some New Toys Arrive

I was fortunate to acquire this Nile River gunboat, suitable for 54mm toy soldiers, just in time for our upcoming Sudan toy soldier game in September 2019. Kitchener employed a fleet of shallow draft gunboats to support his advance up the Nile towards Omdurman. The fleet included older paddle wheel boats as well as some new twin-screw driven boats. There were ten such boats in the fleet, one of which, the flagship boat Sultana, blew up before the campaign even got started.

The gunboats were equipped with artillery pieces and Maxim and Nodenfelt machine guns. My model is armed with a Maxim MG and is manned by Camel Corps gunners. Some brown-uniformed Soudanese infantry also provide protection to the boat.

Nile River Gunboat recently added to the 54mm toy soldier fleet.

The Egyptian-Soudanese regiments form a battle line and await the outcome of the cavalry charge by the 21st Lancers.

September's Game: The Battle of Firket (June 7, 1896)

For our first toy soldier game of the season, I chose to run a battle loosely based on the Battle of Firket. The unique aspect of this battle is that the Imperial army was made up of mostly Egyptian infantry and cavalry. The Egyptians were officered and trained by British officers and NCOs. I thought that it would be more interesting to have a battle comprised of only non-British troops. The army was commanded by Major General Sir Herbert Kitchener

We will have a brigade of Egyptian infantry and one of Soudanese infantry, supported by a regiment of Egyptian lancers and two light Krupp cannon The gunboat will provide additional support with its Maxim MGs. Each infantry brigade has approximately 60 figures and the three squadrons of cavalry will number 36 horse in total. With the artillery crew and other support troops, the Egyptian army will have approximately 170 figures.

While the Egytian army outnumbered the Dervish by 9,000 men to about 3,000 men , our game will have more even numbers of Mahdists so as to make more of a game of it. So I am thinking of having 250 to 350 Mahdists in the game.

Comments Make the Blog World Go Around
Long time bloggers (like me) enjoy posting articles and content, otherwise why would we do it? I've been blogging since about 2007 and there are no signs of letting up. The one thing that puzzles me though, is the lack of comments that this blog draws. I read other blogs and see another blogger saying something like "I walked my dog today" and he garners 20 comments, and yet I am lucky to get 3 to 5 comments in most cases.

Comments and feedback are very much appreciated by bloggers and they, at least for me, make us feel like there are actually people out there who read and are interested in the content that I post several times each week. If a person can get so excited about dog walks and gardening on wargaming blogs, wouldn't you think that wargame articles and some military history would also merit comment?

It puzzles me, is all that I can say.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Painting W.I.P. on Bosniaken and French Gendarmes

New Minden Bosniaken (left to right) lancer, trumpeter and officer.


Yesterday I spent some time painting samples of some of the new Minden figures that arrived from the caster this week. I was particularly keen to paint some Bosniaken, which are really fun to paint. I also painted one trooper from the Gendarmerie de France figures.

Here are some work in progress pictures, noting that the horses aren't finished.

Minden Bosniaken figures.

The rear view of the Bosniaken.

Gendarmerie de France trooper.

Rear view of the Gendarmerie de France trooper.

I will start working on the Gendarmerie de France command figures today. The officer figure is an absolutely gorgeous sculpt by Richard Ansell.

Later in the week I will paint samples of the Prussian Garde figures and post them here on my blog.

If you are interested in adding these figures to your Minden armies, then click on the link to the Fife and Drum Miniatures web store.

More to come...

Thursday, August 22, 2019

New Figures Have Arrived - Bosniaken, Prussian Guards, French Gendarmerie

I am really excited about the latest batch of new Minden SYW figures that arrived from the caster yesterday. Richard Ansell has really hit the ball out of the park with these figures and I thinkk that you are really going to like them.

The new figures include the IR15/II and IR15/III 2nd and 3rd battalions, respectively, of the Prussian Garde; the elite Gendarmerie de France cavalry; a Hanoverian infantry officer carrying a musket rather than a pole arm; and finally, those exotic Prussian Bosniaken Lancers.

You can purchase the new figures through the Fife and Drum Miniatures webstore by clicking on the link below:

Prussian Garde regiment IR15

The first group of new figures, shown below, are the Prussian Garde of IR15. The first battalion of the Garde (or designated IR/I) was the ceremonial battalion decked out in fine silver lace. They only fought at one battle during the SYW - at Kolin.

The second battalion of the Garde (IR15/II) wore tricorn hats and the third battalion of the Garde (IR15/III) wore miter hats. Note that officers in both regiments always wore the tricorn hat, so officers in the 3rd battalion wear tricorn hats rather than grenadier miters.

Prussian Garde - 3rd Battalion

MP-023 3rd Battalion of the Garde, wearing grenadier miters.

MP-022 3rd Battalion of the Garde, in miters, except for the officers who wore tricorn hats.

Prussian Garde - 2nd Battalion
MP-020 2nd Battalion of the Garde Command group

MP-021 2nd Battalion of the Garde, wearing tricorn hats.

Prussian Bosniaken Lancers

Christopher Duffy refers to the Bosniaken as "the comical performance of the Bosniaken", so that might hint at the quality of this unit, which eventually numbered TEN squadrons. Yikes! The Bosniaken were usually attached to the HR5 von Reusch (Black Hussars) Hussar Regiment. 

MPC-010 Bosniaken Command

MPC-011, side view

MPC-011 Bosniaken Lancers (2 figures per pack, even though the picture shows three lancers)

Side view of the Lancers.

The Bosniaken wore black coats and trousers edged in red and they wore white turbans that gave them an exotic Turkish appearance. Each of the ten squadrons had different colored lances, done in a striped "barbershop pole" pattern. That should challenge your painting skills, but I might post a striped flag pole, lance pole tutorial on this blog.

Gendarmerie de France
This elite cavalry unit was ranked a half-step below the Maison du Roi French cavalry and were an awesome unit to behold on the battlefield.  They were raised in troops (half squadrons, in effect) each with different names of princes of the kingdom. Two troops were brigaded together to form a squadron of cavalry. There were 8 companies of Gendarmes and 8 companies of Cheveaux-legers, and thus 8 squadrons in the entire fighting force. The Gendarmerie de France made a valiant charge at the battle of Minden, but they were decimated by the steady British regiments' accurate musketry. The Gendarmes were one of the few French cavalry units to break through the British battle line.

MFC-014 Gendarmerie de France Command

Rear view of the Gendarmerie Command figures.

Side view of the Gendarmes. The officer on the right wears his cuirasse outside of his coat  and is a magnificent work of sculptural art by Richard Ansell.

MFC-015 Gendarmerie de France troopers.

MFC-015 Gendarmerie de France troopers.

And finally, something completely different 

One of my steady customers over the years has been asking me to add a Hanoverian infantry officer that is carrying a musket rather than the pole arm figure that is in the Minden range. Officers in regiments of many countries began to discard their pole arms during the war and carry a musket or a short fusil instead. Good idea guys! I might add similar poses for French, British and Austrian officers in the future.

I plan on adding this figure to the Hanoverian infantry command packs, but will also offer the figure as a single figure with a product code of "MH-008" in case you only need one or two in your existing Hanoverian battalions.

MH-008 Hanoverian infantry officer with musket

And Even More New Figures Are on the Way!

As I post this blog, Richard Ansell has finished the greens for 15 more new SYW figures plus two different sprues of muskets.

Prussian Hussars in both busby and mirliton in a shouldered sword at rest pose. He has also made a new hussar horse for these figures and they sport the appropriate horse tack bling. I've also added a dismounted Prussian hussar firing his carbine, busby and mirliton versions, and these figures will be added to the dismounted Prussian hussar figure packs.

Russian Horse Grenadiers: five poses with one of the troopers wearing the summer waistcoat rather than the regular green coat (although we have that figure too)

Ferdinand of Brunswick has arrived to lead your Allied army in western Germany. Ferdinand is mounted on a horse - we already had a dismounted version of Ferdinand in the Minden range.

Finally, a mounted Croat officer with an attitude! He is wearing a tricorn hat and his cape is draped over his shoulders.

I will post pictures of the new greens within a couple of days, on this blog.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Charge of the 21st Lancers at Omdurman With 54mm Toy Soldiers

The 21st Lancers are surprised to find a hoard of Dervish warriors hidden in a donga.

Several days ago I decided to take several hundred of my Trophy Miniatures 54mm Sudan toy soldiers and set up a diorama of the Charge of the 21st Lancers at the Battle of Omdurman. I had received a batch of six new lancers that I had won in an auction in the UK and wanted to put them on display for awhile. Having 10 other of the lancers, I now have 16 of them, which gives me suitable "mass" to make a really good display.

I used a standard 6ft by 2.5ft table and covered it with an off-white muslin material that passes somewhat for desert scenery. I then added small bits of brown lichen and a little bit of dark green lichen to represent desert scrub bushes and to break up the all-white look of the table cloth. Finally, I added a couple of King & Country Egypt-Sudan buildings, large rocks and some Acacia trees (made from offcuts from plastic floral arrangements).

All of the toy soldiers are Trophy of Wales Miniatures. Unfortunately, the owner passed away and so too did his toy soldier business. The figures are no longer in production. However, there is an active marketplace for the figures on eBay.

I will let the picture captions tell the story of the battle:

Egyptian and Sudanese soldiers nervously await the outcome of the British cavalry charge.
Their backs are to the Nile River, so they have nowhere to retreat.

A battery of Egpytian guns support the infantry.
British officers command the Egytian-Sudanese troops and provide a calming presence.
An Egyptian colonel provides a report of the battle.

A view of the cavalry charge from the perspective of the British and their allies.
Off in the distance you can see the town of Omdurman.

Where did all of those Dervish come from? It's as if they sprung up from the ground!

Undeterred, the 21st Lancers charge forward to meet their fate.

The Khalifa views the developing battle from the safety of a building roof top in Omdurman.

A view of the battle from the Khalifa's point of view.
The Khalifa orders his cavalry to counterattack.
The Khalifa's Black Banner leads the way.

The Dervish cavalry surge forward... do the Dervish warriors on foot.

The Colonel leads the charge, but his horse goes down, hamstrung by the warriors.

One of the lancers spurs forward to rescue his Colonel.

A young subaltern named Winston Churchill, seeks fame and glory.

Young Winston Church, young man in a hurry, also rides to rescue his Colonel.

A Dervish warrior rises up unexpectedly from the brush and attempts
to hamstring Young Winston's horse to bring him down.

Two more Dervish close in on Churchill, who dispatches one of them with his Mauser pistol.

Sir Harry Flashman's horse is stung by a wasp and bounds forward, out of control, but this places him in the right place at the right time as he is positioned to skewer on of Churchill's assailants. Flashman will receive the Order of the British Empire for his, ahem, "bravery".

The history books tell us that there was a happy ending to this little episode
that was part of the greater Battle of Omdurman.
It was fun setting up this diorama in my Man Cave. I will probably keep it on display for several more weeks and then either move it to a side table, or pick up the figures and store them away. My Trophy collection includes Zulus and Pathans and even a few Boers, so there is plenty of grist for more dioramas in the future.