Monday 31 August 2009

From Narva to Poltava reviewed

Strelets new Swedish GNW set reviewed on PSR here.

Marine Bombardiers 1725

A couple of anonymous watercolours of these navy soldiers. More images of French naval types by Vernet on my Flintlock and Tomahawk blog.

Le Roi Danse part 1

Someone has uploaded all the parts of this 2000 movie on the life of Louis XIV's court composer Lully. It's worth watching if you enjoy music of the period.

Sunday 30 August 2009

Defoe 1666

Image from artist Leigh Gallagher's blog - more pics there
If you like comics then you'll know 2000ad - Britain's own weekly - sometimes the serials make it into graphic novels and this is the case with this historical alternative universe set in the Restoration. The bumph reads:
London, 1668. It is two years since the city was devestated by the Great Fire, the inferno caused by a comet passing over the capital. But from the ashes rose the undead, hungry for the flesh of the living. Protecting the populace are zombie hunters like Titus Defoe, a former soldier who now makes it his mission to purge the ghouls
Defoe: 1666

A slice of Britain: The strange attraction of 'bang-bang, you're dead'

'It was all moustaches and musket brandishing in Kent this weekend as tens of thousands gathered for Europe's largest battle re-enactment festival' - article from the Independent here

Friday 28 August 2009

English civil war action this weekend

As usual the bank holiday weekend sees the two major civil war groups up to their usual pike and shot tricks. The Sealed Knot are at York doing the Battle of Marston Moor as part of a week long civil war event. The English Civil War Society are at the Military Odyssey in Kent which boasts of being the largest multi period show in the world!

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Chatham Defences 1667


In 1574 the entrance to St Mary's Creek which cuts of a bend in the Medway had been blocked by wooden piles. In the same year the need for a lookout ship on permanent patrol off Sheerness was identified and the watch established. In 1585 a chain was stretched across the Medway just below the Elizabethan Upnor castle, itself completed in 1567 and enlarged in 1601. finally, a fort at Sheerness was begun in 1666. (Asquith, MM 1986)

This is an excellent short summary of the defences along the Medway but when you start researching and visiting the site this becomes a topic in itself!

Queenborough Castle, the picture at the start of the article,was built on the isle of Sheppey by Edward III in the 1360's to defend the Kent Coast along the Swale Estuary.

Built of Stone it was a novel design for its time anticipating the centrally planned castles of henry VIII by nearly 200 years. the castle was one of the 1st to be designed to withstand cannon fire. Looking at its plan it would have been difficult to storm.

The attackers would have to cross the moat, breech the outer gate, force the inner gate, pass halfway around the outer ward while being exposed to heavy fire from above, force another inner gate and then penetrate the Rotunda gate leading to the living quarters which were completely compartmentalised. No easy task!!

The importance of the castle declined with the decline of the River Swale as a shipping route. The castle was declared obsolete in 1650 and demolished soon after. The loss of this very defendable fortress was badly felt when the Dutch attacked and landed on the isle of Sheppey just 17 years after the castles destruction and before adequate defences had been completed at Sheerness.

Nothing now remains above ground of Queenborough Castle the site now a park and childrens play area but what of the Garrison at Sheerness? why did it fall so quickly. Well as mentioned the fort was only begun in 1666.

Here is an excerpt from 'The ville of Sheerness', The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 6 (1798)which describes the poor defences at Sheerness and the Medway as a whole and the king visiting personally Sheerness to establish a 'Royal Fort'

'The king took this charge upon himself, and in the beginning of the year 1667, made two journeys hither in the depth of winter, taking an engineer and some officers of the ordnance with him, and having seen the work begun, he left at it his chief engineer Sir Martin Beckman, whom he designed for governor of the fort, and committed the overlooking of the whole, that every expedition might be used, to one of the commissioners of the ordnance; notwithstanding which, very little or nothing had been done towards it, when the Dutch, that year, made their memorable attempt upon the royal navy in the river Medway, which was then in a most defenceless state, there being at that time, besides the twelve guns here as before mentioned, only four that could be used at Upnor, and scarce so many at Gillingham, for the defence of it.

From the excellent web site 'Fortified Places' which provides information on bastioned fortifications, primarily the work of Vauban and his contempories:

'In 1666 the engineer Sir Bernard de Gomme (The Dutch-born engineer Sir Bernard de Gomme was responsible for the majority of fortification works undertaken by Charles II of England. Having served under Charles I in the Civil War, de Gomme was knighted and given a promotion when the monarchy was restored in 1660)was sent to Sheerness to review the fortifications. He designed a simple square bastioned fort to enclose and strenghten the existing blockhouse and earthworks.

In 1667, the Dutch fleet sailed up the Medway, landing troops to capture the unfinished fort at Sheerness on the way. The Dutch took supplies, ammunition and guns, then burned everything that was combustible and moved upriver to attack the fleet at Chatham.

Following the destruction caused by the Dutch raid, the fortifications at Sheerness were remodelled according to new plans drawn up by de Gomme, which may date from before the raid, but cannot have progressed very far by that stage.

Of de Gomme's 17th century fort only a few bits of Portland stone are visable now along the eastern side and these are in poor condition.

The view from the beach in front of the fort which the Dutch attacked at the mouth of the Medway. I can recommend a visit to Sheerness if you are interested in military fortifications, the Victorian and WW2 emplacements on top of the old Sheerness fort protecting what was then a naval dockyard are quite impressive as good as any examples on the channel islands my Photo's of which I will post on Victory V today as these are not relevant here.

Friday 21 August 2009

The Dutch Raid up the River Medway 1667

I shall cover this raid by the Dutch against the English Men O War moored on the Medway, a handy anchorage for a fleet defending London, in a series of articles here using as a basis the October 1986 Military modelling article ‘Battles for Wargamers’ by Stuart Asquith and illustrated by the excellent and much lamented Richard Scollins.

I can also recommend the book ‘The Dutch in the Medway’ by PC Rogers published in 1970 and can be found if you are lucky in an antiquarian bookshop. I am currently reading this excellent book which is very well written and the first chapters setting the context of the Dutch struggle for independence and the development of their trading and naval power have been an easy read and very informative.

The raid was conceived by the Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt in May 1667 at a time when peace talks were underway at Breda to conclude what has become known as the 2nd Anglo Dutch war and apart from the obvious objective of destroying English ships and shore installations, the principle target being Chatham Dockyard, it would also strengthen the hand of the Dutch at the peace conference table.

Some 70-80 warships of varying sizes were to be used plus 3,000 – 4,000 troops under the command of Lt. Admiral Michael de Ruyter.

The action can be split up into ‘opening moves’ and three subsequent phases; the Attack on Sheerness at the mouth of the Medway, the action at Gillingam Reach and finally the defence of Chatham at Upnor Reach.

Next blog entry the English fleet and the first action!

Battle of Dunkeld 1689

Today in 1689 was the day of the Battle of Dunkeld - fought between clansmen and Williamite forces around the streets of this Scottish town - sorry, city.
Image Uniform and equipment worn by Sentinel John Thompson at Dunkeld from the Cameronians website
The website gives the background to the Cameronians:
The Regiment took its name from Richard Cameron, 'The Lion of The Covenant'. Originally a field preacher he was killed, a bounty on his head, at the battle of Airds Moss in 1680. Cleland had led the Covenanters in battle at Drumclog and Bothwell Brig. His sword, one of the treasures of the Regiment, can still be seen today in the Regimental Museum in Hamilton. There too is the 'Bloody Banner' carried by the Covenanters at both battles.
Within weeks of their formation The Cameronians saw action as regular soldiers at the
Battle of Dunkeld*. There they showed their mettle with a staunch defence against a hugely superior number of rebel Highland troops, though it cost the life of the 28 year old Cleland. This fighting spirit was carried on in campaigns all over the world for the next 300 years.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Holmes' Bonfire

Today in 1666 this naval attack on the Netherlands took place - wiki here .
It seems the English thought a great deal about this success and lit celebratory bonfires and wrote a poem and so on.
Naval Wargamers?
I wonder if there are any 17thc Naval wargamers reading this? I remember Fraxinus was planning to do the Anglo-Dutch naval wars on the tabletop so there must be ship models out there. I'd be interested to know if these sort of engagements like the Raid on the Medway would be feasable.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

More New Plastics!

Saw a news item on Plastic Soldier Review here about a new set from Mars, Polish "Mercenary" Haiduks that looks quite interesting. These do not appear to be direct copies of the Strelets or Zvezda Russian Streltski, but new sculpts of actual Polish infantry! Quite useful for our friends fighting in the Eastern Theater.

While visiting Mars web site (not all the links work), I also discovered that they have produced a set of TYW "Arquebusiers" which actually includes pikemen and command as well, and also doesn't appear to be a direct copy. Now, for those not familiar with Mars or their history, this probably bears a bit of an explanation. Several years ago now, they began offering direct copies of the old Revell-Germany TYW range. The arrived in plain wrappers, were cast on rounded sprues like a centrifugal cast product, and the detail left a bit to be desired. Will McNally can speak to the quality, as I passed-on to him several sets of their Swedish Cavalry, some of which he's painted. Many of us assumed these were pirated castings, as we couldn't imagine Revell going along with the quality or the "low profile" maintained by the company.

Now however, they are offering almost the entire Revell-Germany TYW range (they split the huge artillery set into two sets, same with the Swedish Cavalry) as well as the Spanish Conquistadors and some other Revell-Germany product. They have been reviewed on PSR and are even credited as copies there, much like Hät's copies of the older Airfix sets. They are properly boxed with suitable artwork (some from the film "The Deluge"), advertised openly and everything. So, either the folks at Mars have a very large set of "cajones" as we say here in Tejas, or they have worked out a licensing arrangement with Revell-Germany.

Assuming everything is on the up-and-up (and I feel it is if PSR is reviewing them), this is a great deal for those interested in the early years of our Good King's reign (you knew I had to tie him in somewhere, now didn't you?). We must remember that Louis XIV's actual "birthright" as King began in 1643, within days of the victory at Rocroi, although under a regency of Anne of Austria and Cardinal Mazarin until his ascension in 1661.

We tend to focus on the "Sun King" era on this site, post 1672, and with good reason. However, we could just as easily use these Mars figures, mixed with Zvezda's recent "Austrian Infantry" and any old Revell sets we can find, to model the later period of the TYW around Rocroi; the period of the Frondé in the 1650's leading up to the 2nd battle of the Dunes at Dunkirk (where we could add in "A Call To Arms" ECW figures for the British on both sides and a few Conquistadors to the Spanish Tercio's); to the French expedition to the Turkish Wars and the battle of St. Gotthard in 1664, since several makers produce Ottoman's and their allies/clients. When all is said and done, if you're into a bit of plastic, it's a pretty good time to look into some of these periods. Since "formal" uniforms (as opposed to whatever the Colonel paid for) really didn't arrive until the Dutch Wars, one could paint a single French army (a few extra standards as some of these did change), and then bits of British, Irish, Scots, Swedes, Imperialists, Spanish, Walloons and what-have-you and have some pretty fair battles.

And here's a tip, if you want to add a little variety to your Cuirassier's and model some of the "German" or Eastern Imperialist units, pick up some of the Orion or Zvezda Winged Hussars, fill the holes in their back with a bit of Milliput or Green Stuff, and you have some fierce looking Eastern Cuirassier's!

If I didn't already own all the figures to do this in 15mm (and don't have the time to finish painting them), I would seriously consider it. For a nominal investment, one could produce some very colorful units and fun battles.


Monday 17 August 2009

Apologies For My Recent Absence

My apologies to the Gentlemen of the Mess for my recent absence from these pages. I am afraid that I allowed myself to get temporarily overloaded, a fact I shall be addressing and changing shortly.

I am involved in not one, but two playtesting groups at the moment and both have possible import for the readers of this blog (at least the gamers among you). One involves taking an established set of later 18th century brigade-level rules and "backdating" them to do earlier linear warfare (at the moment only as far as the AWI, but more is possible). This looks promising as a possible set for the 9 Years War and the WSS. I am but one of several players worldwide participating in this playtest and, once I get properly started, should be able to minimize my time. The second involves a very successful US set of Ancients rules that has already been successfully modified and demonstrated for the ECW. It allows single-player play at the corps-level or multi-player play at the brigade-level. I am working with the author and a select group (including the chaps who successfully modified it for Italian Wars and ECW), to modify it and "tweak it" further to allow it's use for the period from 1640 to 1680, in other words, from a French perspective, from Rocroi to the Dutch Wars.

I'm not at liberty at this time to name either set of rules, but they are both recognizable. In the modification of the Ancients/ECW set, when they are ready, experienced gamers will recognize bits of gaming philosophy and theory borrowed from Gush, Wise and Millward among others, but in a novel way that produces a very pleasing multi-player game that can be resolved in 2 1/2 to 3 hours. I think many will be pleased with the outcome.

I am still continuing the 15mm figure review and have been lax with it lately, partly due to obtaining all the required samples (and figuring out who's "in" and who's "out"), and partly to forgetting some family commitments that conflicted with both my painting and my aforementioned playtesting efforts.

I am also continuing work on the "Resource Guide" and have received Dan Schorr's "select" bibliography. I should receive Curt Johnson's when his own family commitments free up after August, but I still haven't received anything on reenactment sites from some of the folks I was counting on.

And finally, should I feel the need to place blame for this scheduling fiasco anywhere, well, yesterday I celebrated the anniversary of my birth, so "Sir William the Aged" is now more "Aged". I celebrated in typical style, with presents received, good wishes from some close friends and family, and a "private" celebration with that noted elixir that the monks of Saranno, Italy, began producing centuries ago in 1525 (or two young lovers, depending on which legend you believe). It made me feel quite "religious" in it's own way!

By the way, for any prospective spouses and/or parents out there, have at least one Son, as they are consistently the ones who seem to remember that this is the appropriate present for a man of age and refined tastes. No doubt the same is true for aficionado's of fine Scotch's and Bourbon's as well. At least the Wife remembered to gift me with Spinal Tap's new release, "Back From The Dead", complete with "pop-up" vignette of the lads and their famous mini-Stonehenge set. And, like any true child of the 50's, I shared my religious experience with the spirit of the monks (or lovers) by watching the new "director's cut" of Woodstock on it's 40th anniversary, a gift from my two Daughters to accompany the original VHS copy and the original "enhanced" DVD I already had.

And no, I was not there 40 years ago, though not by my fault. I was caught "red-handed" by the parents sneaking out the window with my backpack and map, apparently (and probably quite stupidly in retrospect) prepared to navigate my way from Texas to upstate New York no less (never tell a 17-year old girlfriend your plans, they can't keep secrets)! However, I did manage to hike from Texas to Atlanta, Georgia, the following year for a similar event and survived, but more on that at a later date.


Saturday 15 August 2009

Peter the Great artillery

Plastic soldier review have put up their assessment of this set. Also in this scale and medium they recently announced that GerMan are about to release their 1/72 WSS sets. Good times! While on the subject this Italian blog dedicated to the period now has English abstracts.

Thursday 13 August 2009

Battle of Blenheim 1704

Today is the anniversary of this pivotal battle.
I was actually offered the role of French commander for the 2004 anniversary reenactment but I turned it down. I had become a little jaded by then.
This Bavarian group for the period look good - not sure what regiment they represent but they look the part. One of them is a Prussian btw. Picture and more images from here.
If you want to see tv footage from the recent Minden 250th go to my Flintlock and Tomahawk blog.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Dutch Raid on the Medway 1667

Anyone interested in this might find this Kent history forum interesting.

Redcoats 1685

Browsing the internet I came across this reconstruction of Foot Guards of the time of the Monmouth Rebellion, presumably by Angus McBride. Not sure what book its from.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

La cavalerie de l'Ancien Régime en Champagne méridionale

Excellent French language piece on cavalry here.

Minden and Fulda photos

Great images from Kersten Kircher from the recent Minden 250th and the gathering at Fulda here.

Saturday 8 August 2009

The First Churchills - episode 1

The Churchill channel has uploaded all 63 parts of this tv miniseries - one of the first I suppose -on the life of the Duke of Marlborough released around 1969. As I have said before this is mainly an indoors-set series but this first episode is worth watching as it depicts in a smallish way Churchill's early career under Monmouth at the siege of Maastricht. Even has the death of D'Artagnan thrown in for good measure.

Friday 7 August 2009

The Battle of Gangut 1714

Today in 1714 this naval battle in the Great Northern War was fought. This image shows captured Swedish vessels being paraded in St Petersburg. This battle is known to Swedes and Finnish people as the battle of Rilax.
A naval victory comparable to Poltava the Russians also won another naval battle on the same day six years later.

Thursday 6 August 2009

Saluting Harry Patch

Time to raise a glass of cider for Somerset's Harry Patch who was buried today just down the road at Wells. If you don't know he was he was the last surviving British soldier to have fought in the trenches of the Western Front. He was in the Duke of Cornwall's LI who started life as Fox's Regiment of Marines in 1702 and whose first battle honours were from the Storming of Gibraltar.

Wednesday 5 August 2009

More Copplestones

Thanks to Clibinarium again for alerting me to these new figures from the Glory of the Sun range. His mail out says
A few new packs for the Glory of the Sun range:
GS13 Sergeants
GS14 French Sergeants
GS15 Dutch Musketeers Firing
GS16 Dutch Musketeers at Ready
GS17 Dutch Unarmoured Pikemen
I`ve called the last 3 packs Dutch because they were inspired by a contemporary print of the siege of Naarden in 1673, in which very wide-brimmed hats are worn by many of the troops. Although I`ve called them Dutch they could be equally well be mixed in figures from other packs or used to represent soldiers of other armies. The bigger hats somehow give them a scruffier look probably fairly typical of the time. The idea of uniformity was new at the time and I suspect most soldiers of the 1670`s would not look very smart or soldierly to us. I do have a couple of pictures of the musketeers painted by Mark Allen:
Mark Copplestone ps I am workin on the cavalry - honest!

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Admiral Sir George Rooke

Carrying on the nautical theme today is the anniversary of the capture of Gibraltar in 1704 by Sir George Rooke - someone who had a very distinguished Naval career. Gibraltar was captured by a land force of British and Dutch Marines. Read more about the Marines here at the Royal Surrey's excellent page.
Read an account of the storming here.

Monday 3 August 2009

Le Griffon

According to the Wiki article today is the day in 1678 when le Griffon was launched by Sieur de la Salle. 'Le Griffon was the first full-sized sailing ship on the upper Great Lakes of North America and led the way to modern commercial shipping in that part of the world'.
The wreck may have been found - see here for more on this legendary craft.
More on the Lake craft of North America on my Flintlock and Tomahawk blog.

Saturday 1 August 2009

Battle of Saint Gotthard 1664

Today is the anniversary of this important battle. Wiki here

Media relating to the battle here.
Articles by Bill on the forces involved can be found here and here and Carignan-Salieres zinnfiguren by Mignot are here.