Wednesday 28 October 2015

The Perennial Problem - How to avoid Painters Block or Lost Mojo

I was inspired to post some thoughts after reading Henry Hyde's post this week discussing the perennial problem of "lost mojo" or as I would describe it "painters block".

Just like in any artistic pursuit, writing, composing or painting we are all susceptible to self doubt, disillusion and a total lack of enthusiasm about something that many of us would consider a passion. I don't use the word passion lightly, I even include it in the title of my blog; and it is probably worth considering what that word describes

Most definitions talk about a strong and barely controllable emotion, or an intense desire or enthusiasm, and if the mountain of lead most of us have stashed together with all those new and shiny models that we just had to have is any indication, intense desire pretty well defines a big part of our hobby, or as my wife would say "little boys and their toys". Still, I like to nurture the little boy and reward his playful nature now and then, but am conscious that he lacks discipline and self control that the adult me has to apply now and then when I feel his pester power at work and his gnat like powers of concentration.

I think there lies the issue when it comes to applying ourselves to a commitment to work at something that can take time and very often frustrate the hell out of that little boy, or little girl, in all of us. Let's not forget that our hobby is about having fun. We all of us spend a lot of time, often at work, often doing what we need to do to put food on the table, but our hobby is different and it is there to meet the other needs in our life and I would suggest if fun is not part of that equation then we need to find something else to do with that precious time.

Regular followers of the blog will know that I am a keen advocate of the painting aspect of our hobby in the full and respectful knowledge that not everyone is. However given that our hobby requires painted miniatures in one form or another, otherwise we would just go and play board games, it rather seems to me that we have to engage with this aspect of the hobby in one form or another. Of course we could just pay someone else to paint our figures and if the funds are available, why not? However I guess, like many of us, funds are finite and money spent on paying for painting can't be spent on building the collection; and like Henry, I and many others are of that school that thrills in the painting and bringing to the table a collection of figures that carries our signature of turning them from exquisite fishing weights into painted metal warriors. In addition, if we want to play big games with lots of figures, and Napoleonics definitely falls into that category, we will probably need to get painting.

If we don't get control of this strong emotion, the frustration at lack of progress can at best see months slip by with little momentum and having to relearn lost skills and knowledge when we finally get back to it or at worst leaving the hobby and trying to distract oneself with a substitute only to never completely lose the bug and wind up coming back to our first love many years later often doomed to make the same mistakes as before. We all know friends who have had that experience.

The recently completed 54e Ligne three battalions of a twenty four battalion project and no time for block!
I was interested to see that given the time constraints Henry faced with all his other "plates to spin" activities he had come to the conclusion that binge painting was not the answer to overcoming the reluctance to sit down and paint and to get a project done in a few days of full on commitment. His diagnosis of "a little and often" chimes well with my own thoughts, in that given, as stated in my preamble, we are dealing with a very powerful emotive desire, the pursuit of our hobby and its goals requires discipline and good habit forming, not seemingly quick fixes.

I would totally endorse the practice of getting into the habit of putting in an amount of time we can commit to on a regular basis to paint. That could be half an hour three times a week or an hour and a half every evening, time permitting, whatever fits our schedule. The key is to keep doing it until it becomes a habit, and the manual suggests that it takes about a month of repeat behaviour to form a new habit. Bad habits as we know are very difficult to get rid off, so why not reverse the psychology and use that built in unconscious self discipline to develop a habit that will reward us over time.

Oh and the other reward for doing this is, like anything, the more we do the better we get at it and if we can bolt on the odd extra skill set now and then our work will get better and we will develop more satisfaction with it. That word "satisfaction" is important because there in lies another mental reinforcement to keep up the habit.

There are plenty of books and stuff on the internet to help learn better painting, with short-cuts using washes and dips to turn out good looking units in half the time.

My son Tom's recently completed Roman Auxiliaries took a bit of time but progressed continuously throughout his degree year. The new casualty figures inspired Tom to press on and get these done
I too go through ups and downs in my desire to paint but over the years have developed strategies to manage the emotional roller-coaster and one of them is to develop and reinforce this habit, even if I only do half an hour instead of my hour and a half, I can mentally reward myself for having put in some time. Other strategies include painting specific jobs so that when I sit down again I get the mental buzz of knowing that I have already done a particular task and can now add to that and progress the project.

I too keep a painting note book and copious PDFs stored on the IPad of other peoples work to remind me what I should be doing or to inspire me to try out something new, and there lies another mental strategy to encourage the work. The inclusion of a new figure or two into a unit that varies the work from that done previously can really excite the need to come back and work on the project further.

Don't forget our hobby is multifaceted in that we have the history to refer to, with all the reading and battlefield/museum touring that that implies and the inspiration to get back to the painting desk to bring form to the imagination those activities can engender.

So in summary my thoughts are that we are working with a strong emotion that needs to be managed with discipline to channel the passion into a productive habit of a little and often to avoid the frustration and disillusionment with something most of us can't walk away from anyway. We just have to find the fun in what we are doing. The last thing to try is to start a blog and record the progress and use it to help commit to the work and feed off of the enthusiasm of others. I really enjoy talking to fellow wargamers on this blog and others and it inspires me to produce new work and more stuff to talk about.

Keep at it Henry, feed the passion and find the fun.

3/54e Regiment de Ligne

The third battalion of the 54e Regiment de Ligne completes the fourth regiment and the twelfth battalion in this eight regiment twenty four battalion project, to put together Marshal Victor's I Corps at Talavera.

I Corps: Maréchal Victor
2nd Division: Général de division Lapisse (6,862)
Brigade: Général de brigade Laplannes
16th Légère Regiment (3 battalions)
45th Line Regiment (3 battalions)
Brigade: Général de brigade Solignac
8th Line Regiment (3 battalions)
54th Line Regiment (3 battalions)

The 54e Ligne fought alongside their comrades in the 8e Ligne under GdB Solignac during their involvement of the two days of fighting at Talavera and is covered in the post on the 3/8e Regiment de Ligne.

 3/8e Regiment de Ligne

There were only three regiments in Victor's corps that lost over five hundred men, or comparatively almost one battalion of soldiers and the 54e Ligne was in that unhappy group with 56 killed and 476 men all ranks wounded amounting to 532 casualties in total, with the wounded including their colonel. The bulk of these losses would have inevitably occurred in the afternoon assault by Lapisse's Division on the centre of the British line and bears testament to the ferocity of the fighting.

My 3/54e Ligne is composed of figures from the AB ranges from Fighting 15's with the fanion from GMB flags.

1/54e Eegiment de Ligne
2/54e Regiment de Ligne

Well with a project started back in May with the 1/24e Ligne and now twelve French line battalions done and the half way point achieved its time to take a few moments to celebrate the milestone which I intend to do next week with a few days away in Florence and Pisa to celebrate Carolyn's birthday, another even more significant milestone, and to prepare for the final run in to complete this project.

So what is to come?

I thought I would break the French infantry painting up with the two battalions of Brigadier Alan Cameron's brigade in Sherbrooke's 1st Infantry Division, namely the 1/61st (South Gloucestershire) Foot and the 2/83rd (County of Dublin) Foot. These two battalions will complete the British order of battle, just leaving the twelve remaining French battalions, and then we will finish with the seven battalions of Spanish infantry in Bassecourt's 5th Division and the four full regiments of cavalry under General Albuquerque.

I had a lot of interest in the French infantry painting tutorial so I will put a similar PDF together for the British and Spanish infantry, starting with work on the 61st Foot, when I get back from Italy.

Colonel Philipon and the 54e Regiment de Ligne
In addition we will be running the final play-test of the Talavera - Dawn Attack scenario to try out the game with a full on two divisional French attack, which might give the British players a few issues to deal with! Then it's on to the final additional scenario, Talavera - Attack on the Pajar, which I dabbled with at the Devon Wargames Group back in May, but want to try out using C&GII.

The testing of this scenario will take us through to the full game on completion of the Spanish. On the run in to playing the afternoon attack we will play through all the previously tested scenarios and carry forward the casualties and victory points into that final big game to link them all up using the tried and trusted C&GII. I think that sounds like a plan, and I hope to have a tested set of scenarios that can be played as stand alone games or linked into a mini campaign.

Onwards and upwards

Thursday 22 October 2015

Colonel John Rouse Merriot Chard V.C. R.E.

Colonel John Rouse Merriot Chard VC RE was a Devon man, born in Plymouth on 21st December 1847 and achieved immortal fame for his, and his small garrison of 139 soldiers, stand at the isolated mission station of Rorke's Drift on the 22nd-23rd January 1879 when it was attacked by about 3-4,000 Zulu Warriors. He and ten others of the defenders were awarded the Victoria Cross with seven VC's awarded to soldiers of the 2/24th Warwickshire Regiment of Foot, the most awarded to any one regiment in any one battle.

The Defence of Rorke's Drift by Alphonse de Neuville. Lt Chard can be seen on the right in the pale grey trousers at the perimeter
Of course I and many others can't help thinking of Sir Stanley Baker's performance playing Chard in the film Zulu, and I found a great picture of the actor visiting Chard's grave with a link to it at the bottom of this page.

Earlier this year during my posts commemorating the bi-centenary of Waterloo, I mentioned that along with the grave of Cavalie Mercer commander of G Troop RHA at Waterloo who was buried locally in Exeter, we also had another great soldier buried locally in the South West, from a smaller but no less noteworthy action, namely John Chard.

Vince very kindly sent me a picture of Mercer's restored grave in Exeter which I posted the picture of back in June.

I mentioned that I needed to take some time to search out John Chard's grave in Hatch Beauchamp  (pronounced Beecham) and so on my travels I finally made time to do just that.

The pretty Parish Church of St John the Baptist in the little Somerset village of Hatch Beauchamp
The church took a bit of finding, but the grave is in excellent condition and given the wreath of poppies upon it, Colonel Chard is clearly not forgotten.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Woodbury Castle - Iron Age Hill Fort

Isn't it strange that places of interest, that we are so familiar with, often go unnoticed by us and yet most strangers would spend time to stop and look and want to know more.

I have spent time walking around and over the ramparts of Woodbury Castle for years and it falls into the category of "taken for granted", which I decided to put right with this post as it really is an impressive structure that has dominated the highest local point for over two and half thousand years.

Devon Archaeological Society Leaflet page 1

Devon Archaeological Society Leaflet page 2

The pictures above and below show the depth of the ditch and height of the ramparts on the north east face of the fort and those ramparts would have had a wooden palisade on top which would have made them even more imposing to any would be attacker

The picture below gives an idea of how steep the ramparts are and that time has probably lessened that, but they still pose a significant obstacle today.

The earliest part of the works have been dated to about 1000BC, and it seems the castle was abandoned by about 300BC. Excavations have revealed the presence of wooden buildings within the main part of the work, and the importance of the area as a site for a local chieftain is further supported by several burial mounds close by, one of which revealed, in a dig,a stone battle axe and bronze dagger which are now housed in Exeter museum.

It is believed that the Castle was resurrected as a defence structure in 1798 - 1803 as a centre of resistance to a possible Napoleonic invasion

The castle is covered in Beech trees which would not have been present when it was constructed and it is only when you step out from the small wood that covers the sight that you see the strategic view offered, giving views out to Somerset and Dartmoor.

In 1549 Woodbury Common was a battle field during the Prayer Book Rebellion when Lord Russell leading the King's army against Exeter was attacked near a windmill near to the village of Woodbury by the men of Devon and Cornwall, but saw off the attack taking 900 prisoners who were later murdered in the killing field at Clyst Heath.

The area retains it's connection with the military today as a training area for the elite Royal Marine Commandos and the occasional cartridge case can be seen around as evidence of that training

Woodbury Castle is on Woodbury Common, a pebble bed common with sandstone pebbles originating from about 440 million years ago. The land is owned by the Clinton Devon Estates but was opened to the public in the 1930's and remains a much valued leisure walking area today.

Monday 19 October 2015

Roman Auxiliaries - Third Cohort

JJ's Wargames has lost its apprentice wing-man as Tom flew out to Australia yesterday to begin his gap year in the land down under and the far east.

Tom had been working on completing another Roman auxiliary cohort whilst finishing off his degree this year so progress slowed up for obvious reasons and with my focus on the Talavera project our Roman collection has taken the back seat for the time being.

However Tom signed off his previous work by finishing the third cohort of auxiliary infantry before he left, well almost. I had to get the basing done but the paint job is Tom's work

The two previous units were kitted out with blue shields so the change to green makes a nice variation and I think look really eye-catching.

On our trip to "Colours" last month we picked up some casualty figures from Wargames Foundry to see how they would work with the Warlord plastics. The cameo base has the Optio, with tattooed arm, checking on his fallen comrade who has lost his helmet and shield whilst clutching at a blood stained wound under the ribs. The rear rank look to cover their man with spear thrusts overhead. The helmet is a Warlord plastic Roman head with the helmet contents carved out.

I will look to pick up the work on the Romans when the Talavera collection gets finished early next year as we are keen to get these bad boys out on the table and we are going to need a few barbarians as well to give them a run for their money.

Anyway here's wishing Tom a fantastic time down under, his mum and I are missing him and looking forward to seeing him home.

Friday 16 October 2015

On the Napoleonic Wars - David G Chandler

"History is an argument without end." 

A great quote to end a fascinating and, what I found, very personal collection of essays, anecdotes and a semi-autobiographical account from one of the great historians of the twentieth century, Dr David G Chandler.

On the Napoleonic Wars was first published in 1994 following Dr Chandler's retirement as Head of War Studies at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, a post he held for nearly fourteen years. In a glittering academic and literary career, Chandler's influence and contribution to military history and particularly the Malburian and Napoleonic eras was enormous and extended into all aspects of the subject to include the arts, with his work as adviser to the BBC TV production of War & Peace in the 70's plus other TV and film credits with Channel 4 and NBS.

His support extended to the Sealed Knot and  Napoleonic Association re-enactment groups and for our hobby, wargaming, with his editorship at Osprey publishing and his attendance at shows such as the Napoleonic Fair in London where I met the great man in 1996 and got his autograph.

I feel I have grown up under the influence of Chandler's writing and thoughts which have had a great influence on my own thinking particularly about Napoleon's contribution and place in military history and he remains, for me, a huge hero in the subject and a member of that glittering group that included some great names and personalities from that time, such as Brigadier Peter Young, Christopher Duffy, Anthony Brett James and John Keegan.

I was prompted to finally get around to reading this book following its reference in the last book I reviewed back in August "The Peninsular War, A New History" by Charles Esdaile and I am more and more finding this is an interesting way of linking up my reading by following up on referenced books that featured in the one I have just finished.

So this book is a collection of essays presented by David Chandler at various venues and times through his long career. The collection is prefaced by an introduction about Chandler's early life, schooling, joining the army and university education which gives a great insight into the influences and experiences that shaped the man and gave direction to what he wanted to do with his life. This is neatly followed by a short three page summary on what is military history? This question is developed further with a follow up question, what is it for?

Both questions set up the description of the conversation, some might say argument, about our understanding of events and the people that shaped them. The author goes on to illustrate his inclusive approach to the study of history by his welcoming of all those with a passion for the subject, not just the academic elite, adding "all have a valuable role to play providing they accord the same toleration to other views that they require themselves."

What then follows are sixteen distinct chapters covering the essays and lectures with Dr Chandler's introduction to each explaining the background and other additional information about the subjects presented. The subjects covered are varied and range across the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period.

Specifically they are:
1. The Origins of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars
2.The Reconquest of Egypt: the British View
3. The Egyptian Campaign of 1801
4. Adjusting the Record: Napoleon and Marengo
5. The Napoleonic Marshalate
6, Napoleon's Masterpiece: Austerlitz, 2nd December 1805
7. Column versus Line: the Case of Maida, 1806
8. The Battle of Sahagun, 1808
9. Wellington in the Peninsula: a Reassessment
10. Wellington and the Guerillas
11. The Russian Army at War, 1807 and 1812
12. Borodino 1812
13. Retreat from Moscow
14. An Undergroom at War: Edward Healey, 1815
15. How Wars are Decided: Napoleon - the Fall of a Giant?
16. Napoleon: Classical Military Theory and the Jominian Legacy

I have to say I to say I thoroughly enjoyed my journey through this great selection of titles so entertainingly constructed with nuggets of facts that illuminated the work throughout. I found myself wandering what the author would have made of the recent BBC TV production "Napoleon" by Andrew Roberts and I am sure it would have provoked a lot of good natured disagreement and I am of the Chandler school of thought when he described the quote from Clarendon describing Cromwell as a potential descriptor for Napoleon, "a great bad man" adding that he undoubtedly marked history.

This book is a great read for the Napoleonic enthusiast and I would recommend you make a point of getting a copy and reading it if you fall into that category. As before, one book leads to another, and after agreeing with Chandler on how difficult a read Clausewitz can be I am now going to take up his recommendation to get stuck into Jomini's "The Art of War" which has been on my must read shelf for too long and deserves my serious study.

Dr David Chandler sadly passed away on the 10th of October 2004 at the age of 70 and his legacy of great works still informs Napoleonic studies today  and he rightly commands great esteem alongside the likes of Sir Charles Oman.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

2/54e Regiment de Ligne

The 54e Regiment's first involvement in the Peninsular War began in early January of 1808 when as part of the 10th Provisional Line Regiment in Moncey's Corps, it moved across the border as part of the forces sent in to relieve Dupont's troops in the Navarre and Biscay towns (1), allowing the latter to move south west and occupy Vallodolid.

On the 8th March 1808, Joachim Murat arrived in Burgos collecting both Dupont's and Moncey's troops to march on Madrid arriving in the capital on the 23rd  March (2). On the 2nd of May the revolt began in Madrid against French occupation only to be put down by the French troops, but providing the catalyst for further Spanish insurrection. In his report Murat wrote, "Grapeshot and the bayonet cleared the streets." The Guerre de la Independencia had begun.

Towards the end of May, Murat became ill and handing over command to General Savary headed back to France to convalesce, not before sending back several reports to the Emperor playing down the level of the national uprising and describing the situation as localised riots.

Napoleon issued new orders which focused on maintaining a strong hold on the LOC from Madrid via Burgos back into France with the two corps in and around Madrid providing troops to march on Valencia, with Moncey detaching 6,000 men of  Musnier's 1st Infantry Division and Wathier's Hussar brigade to capture the city (3) and the subjugation of Andalusia with Dupont taking Barbou's infantry division and Fresia's cavalry division to complete the task set (4). The balance of Dupont's and Moncey's troops, including the 54e Ligne remained in Madrid to act as a support to either commander or to Bessiers troops holding the north.

French Corps d'observation des Cotes de l'Ocean, l January l808
Commanding Officer: Marechal Moncey
Chief of Staff: General de brigade Harispe

3rd Division: General de division Morlot
lst Brigade: General de brigade Lefebvre

9th Provisional Line Regiment
8th Line Infantry Regiment (l)(6/299)
22nd Line Infantry Regiment (l)(2/ll5)
45th Line Infantry Regiment (l)(6/299)
l05th Line Infantry Regiment (l)(8/556)

l0th Provisional Line Regiment
l2th Line Infantry Regiment (l)(ll/574)
40th Line Infantry Regiment (l)(8/l43)3/237)
54th Line Infantry Regiment (l)(5/220)
30th Line Infantry Regiment (l)(l/50)

Shako of the  54e Regiment de Ligne 
Two cataclysmic events were set to derail the Emperor's plans with the surrender of Dupont's expedition to Spanish troops at Bailen on the 19th July followed up by the defeat and repatriation of Junot's Corps in Portugal by the British in August.

On the 1st of August King Joseph reacted to Bailen by falling back on Burgos forcing the remaining 70,000 men of the French army in Spain to pull back beyond the River Ebro to form a defence against the increasing threat of a Spanish offensive designed to drive the French out of the country.

The movement, however, of the gathering Spanish armies was slow in following the French retreat up and the time allowed the French to reorganise following Napoleon's decree on the 7th September reorganising his army in Spain into eight corps.

We next see the three battalions of the 54e Regiment de Ligne as part of General de Division Lapisse's 2nd Division, in General Darricau's brigade alongside the 45e Regiment de Ligne and part of Marshal Victor's I Corps.

French Army in Spain, 15 November 1808 - Source Oman
I Corps: Maréchal Victor
2nd Division: Général de division Lapisse

Brigade: Général de brigade Maison
16th Légère Regiment (3)(47/1,739)
8th Line Regiment (3)(52/1,922)

Brigade: Général de brigade Darricau
45th Line Regiment (3)(52/1,703)
54th Line Regiment (3)(59/2003)

7/1st Foot Artillery
2/8th Foot Artillery
8th Artillery Artisan Company

The structure of I Corps remained consistent up to Talavera and the part played by 2nd Division in particular was covered in the history of the 8e Regiment de Ligne, where a detailed account of the division and it's movements were covered.

Suffice to say after the battle of Espinosa in November 1808, the whole of the division was detached from I Corps to garrison Salamanca and missed the actions of Ucles and Medellin rejoining the corps on the 19th April 1809 just prior to Talavera.

My 2/54e Ligne is composed of AB figures from Fighting 15s and the fanion is from GMB Flags.

1/54e Regiment de Ligne

Other sources used in this post;
Napoleon's Line Infantry, Osprey Men at Arms - Philip Haythornthwaite, Bryan Fosten
French Napoleonic Line Infantry - Emir Bukhari
Napoleon's Soldiers, The Grande Armee of 1807 (The Otto Manuscript) - Guy C Dempsey Jr.
Napoleonic Armies, A Wargamers Campaign Directory - Ray Johnson
Talavera, Wellington's First Victory in Spain - Andrew W. Field
The Peninsular War Atlas - Colonel Nick Lipscombe

Sunday 11 October 2015

Preparation for Pouppeville - Devon Wargames Group

This weekend was the October gathering at the Devon Wargames Group and I put on an "I Aint Been Shot Mum" game recreating the fight for Pouppeville on Exit 1 from Utah beach on D Day.

After Napoleonics, my first love, WWII, particularly late war western Europe, is a close second and my family have suffered to allow me the time to take several trips and journeys wandering around the key battle sights of this period with summer holidays to Normandy being a highlight of those trips.

We spent two summer holidays in 2008 and 2011 staying at a lovely holiday let in the pretty village of Fauville just outside of St Mere Eglise and was the base camp for several forays around the beaches and landing areas trying to find and identify locations from battle scenarios and pictures taken at the time

Memorial erected close to Brecourt Manor in memory of the men lost from Easy Company 506th PIR
Trips to battlefields really inspire and inform my wargaming and push me on to play games that capture the feel and the look of the place and period I am seeking to portray. Thus when I was thinking about putting on a game this month my mind was drawn back to playing another one of those hard fought little battles that made up the complete struggle to get control of the landing area in and round Utah beach on D Day.

These were some of the ideas and places considered for my game


The edge of the field at Brecourt Manor where the gun positions were attacked by Easy Company as portrayed in the TV series "Band of Brothers"

The gateway into Brecourt Manor
I have still to game Brecourt Manor. I think I will save this one for a nice little project to build some 28mm models and terrain.


German modified French tanks litter the causeway at La Fiere

La Fiere Bridge over the River Meredet

Remains of the foxhole used by General Gavin at La Fiere

I have played the attack on the bridge at La Fiere a few times and this is always a tough nut for the Germans to crack but makes a good looking game and I will play this again using IABSM3.

Lt Turner B Turnbull

The farm building at the centre of Turnbull's position where he placed the 57mm AT gun and bazooka team
Turnbull's resolute defence of Neuville, north of St Mere Eglise is a fascinating and great little scenario to play and I recorded our last go back in 2012.

Whilst flicking through the photo archive I found some great before and after pictures with a 12 year old Will in 2008 standing in for the warriors from another century.




In the end I settled on a battle that took place at Pouppeville just down the road from, and one that happened around the time this picture was taken in, St Marie du Mont.

Thus concludes my trip through the inspiration to play Poupeville. If you would like to see how the game played then follow the link to the Devon Wargames Group where I go through the scenario and some of the changes I made together with an AAR on our game.

Next up the 2/54e Ligne