Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Odyssey of the Essex

         For some reason every 4th of July a TV station shows " Master and Commander".I can think of better movies for celebrating the fourth, but still it's one of my favorite movies.  I read much of "Master and Commander" was based on the cruise of the U.S.S. Essex. So when I got a copy of " The Odyssey of the Essex" by Frank Donovan, it seemed like a good time to find out about the Essex.  While I haven't finished reading the book, it is a great story that has wargaming potential.
   The Essex can be compared to the "Acheron" in that it rounded Cape Horn to go after the British Pacific whaling fleet. Captain Porter, talking to American whaling captains, was informed that the fleet would be found around the Galapagos Islands. The Essex did just that. The book goes on to tell of the Essex crew exploring the islands and how the ships' surgeon was also an amateur naturalist who spent a great deal of time researching the islands.

  Eventually the Essex starts capturing the ships of the whaling fleet. By this time the Essex has been at sea for a year and was in need of repairs and refitting. Captain Porter decides that the island of Nuku
Hiva of the Maquesas Island chain is ideal for the purpose.  For me this is when the story really gets promising with new ideas.
    The book goes into detail about the island and it's people. It describes the island being divided by a series of valleys, each valley having a different tribe. The tribes were made up of warriors who were constantly at war.  However, rarely did their battles result in anyone dying. The battles involve both sides using slings to throw rocks and darts at each other. Individual warriors would advance to challenge the enemy, who would then focus their rock and dart throwing at this individual.  If he would be unfortunate enough to be hit where he was disabled, both tribes would rush forward towards the downed man. If the enemy got to him first, they would bash his head in with their war clubs, spear him and carry the body off. If his fellow tribesmen reached him first, the enemy would retreat. Battles didn't last more than an hour. It would take the crew of the Essex to show them "civilized" warfare. Captain Porter is drawn into these tribal wars and introduces the natives to "Scorched earth" warfare.

     This story reminds me of a set of rules in a war-game magazine  for tribal warfare. It seems a fun and novel set as, if I remember, the tribal figures are mounted in beer caps and are used shuffle board style and are flicked onto the field which is divided into sections. I have dug out the magazine and plan to study the rules.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Age of Sail Wargame

        I am a custodian at a local high school. One of the more unpleasant tasks for me this summer is discarding books that the school library no longer wants. I believe the purpose is to make room for more computers. If there is a silver lining to this it's that my boss, knowing how much I read, has put me in charge of this detail and I can go "dumpster diving", keeping what I want. At first it seemed they were only outdated books such as almanacs and encyclopedias. However soon it was clear that every part of the library was being purged.
   When I got back from vacation, I went to discard more of the books. The librarian had finished the job, and there before me were stacks of history books!  I went through and picked out quite a few volumes. Right now my stepson is using my truck while he has his car repaired. I have been using my scooter to get to work, meaning I have to store the books until I get my truck back. However, three books I did take home were "The Battle of Lake Erie" by F. Van Wyck Mason, "The Age of Fighting Sail" by C.S. Forester, and "The Odyssey of the Essex" by Frank Dovovan.  This got me thinking of naval battles again.
     Any solo war gamer should get a subscription to the Lone Warrior" magazine. It is filled with ideas and rules for solo wargaming. One of my favorite contributors is Mike Crane. He makes fairly simple rules that can be played in a half hour or so. One game I have played is "Introduction to Fighting Rules for Sailing Ships" in Issue142. It is played using a grid board. There is a little paperwork involved as he uses a roster system to keep track of the damage to ships. So I dug out my model ships, a piece of paper, and playing board and in a few minutes had a game all set up.
Red fleet at top of page: Sultan (Flagship), Surprise, and Rose. Blue fleet at bottom of page:Terror (Flagship),
Typhoon, and Tempest. The Red fleet is entering from the north, the Blue fleet from the south.  The wind is blowing to the northwest, giving the Blue fleet the weather gage.

Red fleet is beating against the wind.

The fleets draw  in parallel lines.

The Sultan starts the battle with a broadside to theTerror.

The Surprise, next in line, dismasts Terror's mizzen,
 but Terror's return broadside  causes much damage to the Surprise.

Both fleets start the general engagement.

Both fleets draw off.

Both fleets come about for the next pass.

The Tempest crosses Rose's "T", causing severe losses to the crew.

Sultan delivers a broadside to the Tempest, Tempest returns fire and demasts Sultan's mizzen mast.

Typhoon follows Tempest and delivers another devastating broadside to  Sultan.

Terror brings up the rear; Sultan then losses it's foremast.

The Sultan staggers off to the north as the Surprise and Rose both turn their guns on the Terror.

As the Blue fleet draws off, the Red Admiral takes stock of the situation. The Sultan only has it's main mast,   over half the crew is down, and the pumps can't stay ahead of the incoming water. What's more, Blue fleet is going to have the wind to their advantage. 

Before Red fleet can do anything, Blue fleet swings around and closes rapidly on the Sultan. The Terrors broadside is too much for the Sultan, which quickly sinks.

As the Sultan goes down, the Surprise and Rose turns south and makes good their escape.

 The Red fleet suffered 25 hits during the battle, the Blue 13.

Dog Days of Summer

A picture is worth 1000 words. This picture of Molly pretty well sums up the kind of weather we have been having. By the end of work I have no energy to do much except do a little reading. Hopefully today I can get something done as far as wargaming.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Homecast Peter Laing Victorian Parade Cyclist

     In one of my new books, "Infantry Uniforms, Book Two 1855-1939" one of the illustrations is of the 13th Middlesex Volunteers. The picture has a sergeant and a cyclist. This picture is what made this a must buy book for me. As I have said in the past, one of my favorite Peter Laing figures is the Victorian Parade cyclist figure.  It took two tries to get a somewhat usable mold for this figure. I dug out one of my home casts and did a quick paint job. I must admit that I think I will try a third mold of this figure.
13th Middlesex Volunteers Queens Westminsters. sergeant & cyclist

My home cast

          I got two of the cyclist figures when I bought a large lot of WW1 Peter Laing figures. The first war-game I used the new figures in I had the cyclists act as cavalry with the capability of ranged firing. The British were fighting a Boer style enemy. The cyclists managed to flank the enemy and push two units back, but with only two figures instead of the usual three, was quickly eliminated.

Military Books finds from My Vacation

     Donna and my vacation plans didn't exist this time. I usually have to plan sites to visit when on vacation. This year on the job I have had to fill in for the boss and was leaving for vacation less than two weeks into the job so the last thing on my mind was vacation planning. What's more, the car needs new tires so I had to keep it local.  We decided to head for Maine, to an adult campground we have stayed at in the past. And,no, not THAT kind of adult campground. This is no kids allowed.  Also, my step daughter was getting over major surgery and we would be going right by her town, so we could check up on her on the way

  As I mentioned in a past blog, there is a bookstore about 30 miles from the campground with a good military section. I was trying to figure a way to get there without being too obvious. Luckily, my wife suggested going to a zoo which would take me close to the bookstore. I asked Donna if she would mind me making a quick stop there, which she said she didn't mind. Now on the way to this bookstore, there is another bookstore that I went to about 10 years ago that only specializes in military and history books. After that first time, any time I am in the area I drive  by it to see if it is open. Alas, it never is and I had come to the conclusion that something had happened to the owner. So imagine my surprise when I noticed an "open" flag hanging in from of it. It was too late for me to slam on the brakes to turn in. So I proceeded to the other bookstore, ran in and did a quick look in the history section. After buying a couple of books, I came out and my wife was surprised at how quick I was. You would have thought after 27 years of putting up with me she would have known what was coming next.  Once again I requested to stop at the other bookstore. As I sped down the road to the next stop, I almost past by it again and almost put my long suffering wife through the windshield!

    I entered the bookstore and was, as my mother use to say "in hog heaven". There were so many books that I was climbing over piles on the floor. I was looking through the stacks on the floor besides the shelves and the owner said something about the piles on the floor. I don't know if I was just so into the books I didn't hear a word he said. A couple of minutes later I saw a book that really caught my eye in a stack. As I dug it out he mentioned that the books on the floor were either sold or there was other copies on the shelves. As I was browsing I could hear the owner talking to himself. What's more, when one of his cats started sounding like he was having hairball issues, the owner started grooming the cat. As he combed the cat, he started carrying on a lively conversation with the cat. Hearing this, another cat  seemed to magically appear to join the fun. As I was finishing up I asked about the book in the pile that caught my eye. He checked the shelf, there was no copy there so then went to the book in the pile. He thumbed through it and then pronounced that it was sold. I got the impression that he really didn't want to sell it, but add it to his collection!

  It was well worth the stop. Below are the books I bought. The prices were reasonable, made more so by the fact that he gave me 20% off my purchase, which was very nice of him to do. And while I thought he was a little on the nutty side, he is from Massachusetts like me and was more than helpful with telling me how to get to the zoo. And he is a bookseller; they all tend to be eccentrics. I forgot to get the name of the store; luckily he had slipped a business card into one of the books.
I have the first part of this series so finding this was the highlight of
of the stop. I especially like the prints of the volunteer infantry in this book.

This book looked like it was for young readers, but had great color  uniform prints.

I like the fact that this volume has a great deal on the Zulus, showing how the shields are made and the layout
of Zulu villages.

Another great find. I am kicking myself because he also had 4 of the original  Osprey Regimental history books
including the Black Watch, the Buffs and the Connaught Rangers. I might just have to call him back.

This book I think was underpriced, at $10.00 and then with the 20% discount.

Another great find. Lots of picture of the period I've never seen before.

Oh, yes, I did get Donna to the zoo and I do believe she had a good time.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

More Peter Laing Crimean War Figures

As I prepare to leave on vacation, I decided to do one more posting using Ian Dury's Crimean figures. hopefully I can make it to a used bookstore near the campground where we are going to. It has a very good collection of military history books. Last year I got two books on the Crimean War at that store.

Cardigan's "Cherrybums"

Saturday, July 6, 2013

More 15mm Peter Laing Marlborough Figures

Here are some more of the Peter Laing Marlborough figures.

I find this artillery piece very interesting. It looks like a mortar on a regular gun carriage.
The Peter Laing figure with the wheelbarrow  reminded me of the poor soldier at the same task in the book "Uniforms of Marlborough's Wars" Lt. Col. Frank Wilson &  Arthur Kipling 

Friday, July 5, 2013

15mm Peter Laing Marlborough's Campaign Figures

With Bob Condrey's blog spotlighting Peter Laing, and featuring an ad with Marlborough 's Campaign figures, I thought I would show some of the figures in my collection.

The middle figure is a drover figure.

Some people complain about the detail of Peter Laing figures. However,  a good painter with  patience can turn them into really impressive figures. 

My photographs don't do justice to these figures.