Yesterday in the company of fellow Devon Wargame buddies, Ian and 'Mr Steve', a local in Cardiff parts, I spent a very enjoyable day at my first show for 2018, Crusade, hosted by the Penarth and District Wargames Society.
On arriving at St Cyres Secondary School, the expansive venue with plenty of car parking, I immediately set off to pick up some pre-ordered Lancaster and Halifax bombers from Magister Militum, together with some various paints, varnishes and MDF items before heading off to the room allocated to the guest historical speakers for the day.
The historical presentations are a feature of this particular show and a part that I really enjoy attending.
Crusade 2018 - Guest Speakers
First up was Dr Jonathan Hicks who when not appearing on BBC TV and doing his day job as Headmaster for the school we were now attending for the show also writes books on the First and Second World Wars amongst many other activities that help bring to public attention the role of British forces during those times and especially those from Wales.
Dr Hicks explained that he first began his research into Welsh airmen and Welsh air aces of the Great War following work on his book about the Battle of Passchendaele or Third Battle of Ypres, when he realised how many of the young men fighting the air battle at that time were from his native Wales.
The book that has followed looks at the early pioneers of flight in Wales along with the stories behind the thirty seven pilots rated as aces, that is a pilot with five of more enemy aircraft destroyed by him in combat.
As a pilot myself and rated on aircraft not that dissimilar to the ones discussed for this period all be it benefiting from the technology and experiences bravely gained by these earlier flyers, I have a great sense of kinship with these men as I do with anyone who has sat alone in a cockpit and pushed the throttle to move a heavier than air craft into the blue yonder and more importantly bring it back safely to 'terra firma', although any landing you walk away from is a good one.
Some of the names and feats mentioned were familiar to me but others were a revelation and I particularly enjoyed hearing about the early Welsh pioneers of flight such as
Charles Watkins, who designed and built his own aircraft the Red Robin complete with a seat from his living room and of which their is a replica aircraft in Swansea.
|Captain Willows landing his airship outside Cardiff City Hall|
In addition there was Captain Earnest Willows one of the airship pioneers of this period who was the first person to obtain a Private Pilots Licence and flew the first airship flight between England and France, seen above landing his craft in Cardiff City centre.
Captain Earnest Willow's - airship pioneer
The presentation went on to explain how, with the start of the Great War, Britain and France found themselves trailing the Germans in the thinking on how best to use this new arm of service.
The early flights were all about reconnaissance and artillery spotting, with occasional jousts between opponents firing pistols and rifles at each other as they passed in the air.
Things gathered pace with the advent of the synchronised machine guns and the scourge of the Focker Eindecker, but perhaps aerial bombing became a reality with the raid by the Royal Naval Air Service on the Fredrickshaven Zeppelin Works on the 21st November 1914 during which Edward Briggs, a Welshman, flew in his Avro 504 on a long distance flight in poor weather to drop bombs on the base from bomb racks designed by Charles Horace Watkins.
Edward Briggs was brought down and captured during the raid getting badly roughed up by his captors but on recovering from his injuries escaping in 1917 to return to flying duties in the UK.
Fredrickshaven Raid 1914
|Avro 504s on their airfield at Belfort just before the raid on the Zeppelin Works at Fredrickshaven 21st November 1914|
The talk then moved on to show the links between several of the German aces and the Welsh pilots they encountered on the Western Front.
It was highlighted that the German authorities glorified their aces with publicity portraiture that any modern day celebrity would immediately recognise. On the contrary, the British shied away from such glorification, fearing public dismay when inevitably these aces fell to enemy action.
However the British public would not be denied their heroes from what was a ghastly war and despite the losses of these brave men they were simply adopted as inspiration for those that followed in their wake.
The most famous of German air aces was of course Manfred von Richtofen who reported for flying duties on September 1st 1916 at Jagdstaffel 2's airfield, Bertincourt near Cambrai.
|Richtofen in front of his Albatros DII|
Under the command of another great German ace Oswald Boelcke, Richtofen began his career flying the Albatros II, capable of reaching 10,000 feet in less than fourteen minutes, half that of the old Eindecker.
On September 17th 1916 the great German air ace opened his score with his first 'kill' when Boelcke led his fledgling unit into the air in a V formation closing in on a formation of eight BE2c of No. 12 Squadron RFC, protected by six FE2B's of No.11 Squadron RFC.
|Fe2b of the type flown by Morris and Reece|
Diving into the attack from out of the sun, Richtofen went for an FE2b piloted by 2nd Lt. L.B.F. Morris serial number 7018 with Lt T Rees a Welshman, in the front seat observer/gunner position.
Despite being a pusher type aircraft and attacked from the rear, Rees was able to stand up and fire at the onrushing German, whilst Morris flicked the aircraft left and right to give his gunner a better field of fire.
However the British aircraft was riddled with machine-gun bullets and both men mortally wounded, although Morris managed a crash landing before dying in the ambulance later.
Richtofen's report read:
" ...... I singled out the last machine and fired several times at close range (10 metres). Suddenly the enemy propeller stood still. The machine went down gliding and I followed until I had killed the observer who had not stopped shooting until the last moment. My opponent went downwards in sharp curves At approximately 1,200 metres a second German machine came along and attacked my victim right down to the ground and then landed next to the English plane."
Another great perhaps infamous, for his later role in German history, German air ace from the Great War was Herman Goring.
|Herman Goring, the young WWI fighter ace|
Herman Goring is officially recorded as achieving 22 kills during his flying career, gaining his first victory on 16th November 1915 and awarded the Pour le Merit took command of Richtofen's squadron, Jagdstaffel 1.
|George Beaumont Bate|
One of his kills included an aircraft flown by Welsh pilot, George Beaumont Bate, who fortunately survived the encounter, but was sadly killed the following month.
As far as British aces, the Welsh airmen are recorded as having thirty seven among their ranks and Dr Hicks selected six of them to illustrate some of their air fighting careers.
- Captain Edward Barfoot Drake, 209 Squadron RAF, credited with five kills, shot down his fifth victim on the 27th June 1918; a Pfalz DIII piloted by Leutnant Helmut Steinbrecker, who is credited with being the first German pilot to successfully parachute from a stricken aircraft. Sadly Drake aged just 20 failed to return from a flight just two months later, reported missing presumed killed on 29th September 1918.
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty Double Crassieurs, France.
Group Captain Lionel Wilmot Brabazon Rees VC, joined the RFC in 1914 whilst serving with the West Africa Frontier Force. On the 1st July 1916, he joined what he thought was a group of friendly aircraft to discover they were in fact the enemy who started to attack. His citation in the London Gazette summarised the action that then ensued.
Whilst on flying duties, Major Rees sighted what he thought to be a bombing party of our own
machines returning home. He went up to escort them, but on getting nearer discovered they were a
party of enemy machines, about ten in all. Major Rees was immediately attacked by one of the
machines, and after a short encounter it disappeared behind the enemy lines, damaged. Five others
then attacked him at long range, but these he dispersed on coming to close quarters, after seriously
damaging two of the machines. Seeing two others going westwards, he gave chase to them, but on
coming nearer he was wounded in the thigh, causing him to lose temporary control of his machine.
He soon righted it, and immediately closed with the enemy, firing at a close-contact range of only a
few yards, until all his ammunition was used up. He then returned home, landing his machine safely
in our lines."
|Major Rees in the uniform of the RFC|
|Rees VC, DH2 during his combat with ten Rolland two-seaters|
Gripping Beast SAGA Participation Game, Aetius and Arthur
- Captain Richard Aveline Maybury, born in Brecon, Wales, Maybury is credited with twenty-one victories together with an MC and Bar. Described as "Too brave and too reckless" by one of his fellow pilots after his death on the 19th December 1917, he was part of the elite 56 Squadron RFC that included other aces such as McCudden (57 kills), Rhys Davids (27 kills) and Muspratt (8 kills)
|The SE5A in 56 Squadron colours, this aircraft flown by Major James McCudden VC|
- Lieutenant Arthur Rhys Davids was another of the aces that flew with 56 Squadron and credited with twenty-seven victories, the MC and Bar plus the DSO. He was with Captain Albert Ball(44 kills) on his first combat flight on the day the great ace was shot down and killed. Trying to intervene his gun jammed leaving him unable to help his comrade. He is assumed to have been shot down and killed on 27th October 1917 by German ace Karl Galwitz although his remains have never been found.
|Lt Arthur Rhys Davids MC & Bar, DSO by William Orpen, 1917|
- Wing Commander James Ira Thomas "Taffy"Jones DSO, MC, DFC and bar, MM finished the war with thirty-seven victories, all scored in the one year, 1918 and included a balloon. He had a pronounced stutter following, as he said, being put in a barrel by some local youths when he was a lad and rolled down a hill, an experience that left the man with his speech impediment. Joining No. 74 Squadron he became a firm friend of Captain Edward 'Mick' Mannock (61 kills) and they both took a heavy toll of enemy aircraft using the SE5a. Jones survived the Great War and the reported twenty-eight crash landings he had in that time. He also served in WWII as OC Bombing and Gunnery School RAF Porthcawl. It was during this service that whilst flying an unarmed Hawker Henley, the two seater tug version of the famous Hawker Hurricane, he spotted and attacked a lone Ju 88 over Swansea firing a Very (Flare) Pistol at the enemy aircraft and driving it off. Wing Commander Jones died aged 64 the day before I was born on the 30th August 1960 from complications following a fall.
|James Ira 'Taffy' Jones|
- Air Vice Marshal Raymond Collishaw was born in British Columbia, Canada, but qualifies as the leading Welsh ace of WWI given that his Mum and Dad hailed from Wales. He is particularly famous for his Sopwith Triplane fighter named 'Black Maria' purportedly after an Aunt! He ended up as the fourth highest scoring Allied ace of the war with sixty kills behind Fonc, Bishop and McMannock. In addition he reported to have shot down the German ace Karl Allmonroder (30 kills), at the time of his death the second highest German scorer after Richthofen, taking on the German ace in his bright green Albatros fighter in the classic ace versus ace encounter. He was a great fighter leader and was known to take new pilots up and set up a kill for them, thus raising their confidence levels and willingness to follow their leader into anything. He survived the war and lived to the ripe old age 82, passing away in 1976.
|Collishaw in 'Black Maria - C' leads the Canadian 'Black Flight' 10 Squadron RNAS|
Dr Hicks concluded his presentation with a picture of Hubert Williams from Cardiff who passed away in 2002 at the grand old age of 106 and was the last surviving RAF pilot having flown the Sopwith 2F1 Camel.
In his reminiscences of his service he remarked that the dangers involved and the chances of them being killed being so high that "we dedicated ourselves to death."
When you consider that 9,300 airmen and women died in the Great War, you have to marvel at their dedication to service and appreciate the debt of gratitude owed by those that came after them and the importance of remembering.
I really enjoyed the presentation and I hope this summary will give you a flavour of it and if you are interested in learning more to point you in the direction of Jonathan Hick's book 'Wales and the First Air War 1914 - 1918 as illustrated at the top of this post.
Next up we were treated to presentations from two regular speakers at Crusade, Robert Jones, Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds and part time lecturer at Cardiff University on Medieval History, followed by Gareth Glover, former Royal Navy officer and military historian who has written numerous books covering the Napoleonic Wars and about to publish his latest title looking at the British expeditions against Copenhahen in 1801 and 1807.
I have found Robert Jones is always interesting to listen to and has a great knack of linking the academic thinking to the wargames table and using the information to improve the games we play.
|Robert Jones' title 'Bloodied Banners|
His theme was chivalry on the battlefield and his talk presented some great ideas about how modern ideas about how to conduct warfare can not always be applied to medieval warfare because of this growing concept through the period from about 1066 to 1485.
The interesting aspects of the need to curb the excesses of the military orders which started with the armoured knights who though not being of high status were of course very powerful as a class because of their military training and capabilities.
In time to differences between the knightly class and the aristocracy diminished as the latter became keen to adopt the training and capabilities of their warriors who they were expected to lead into battle.
|King John, perhaps a unique case of someone who clearly didn't honour the chivalric code|
The big drivers to controlling this warrior class came from the religious orders and particularly in Christendom where rules of combat and behaviour were deemed necessary to curb the power of the military classes, hence rules governing the killing of the unarmed stakeholders in medieval society such as the young, women and priests, but of course male peasants could normally expect much less consideration.
Of course the requirements for the knightly class to be seen to be living up to this code sometimes overrode military common sense with foolhardy attacks taking place because some idiot decided it was a good idea to make a foolhardy attack and, if that idiot was the senior noble, forcing his subordinates to maintain their honour by joining him rather than commit a gross breech of the chivalric code by letting him meet his doom alone.
So do our medieval rule sets allow these situations to play out? To a point, with characters given traits and personal objectives that may override or detract from the military objective.
And what about those who went 'beyond the pale' when it came to being judged by their peers? Well it would seen there were not that many that jump out of the pages of history except perhaps one. The king everyone loves to hate, because he was just bad, King John, who even his contemporaries seen to question his chivalric honour.
The last speaker was Gareth Glover who presented his research into his forthcoming book looking at the two British expeditions against Denmark and Copenhagen in particular.
GG is a specialist at looking into the lesser covered but no less interesting aspects of the Napoleonic wars and I covered his presentation last year around his book that looked at Britain's war in the Mediterranean which was a fascinating look at the characters and engagements that took place in that theatre.
In this talk we were focused on the drivers that led Britain to intervene in the Baltic when Denmark together with her main backer at the time Czar Paul of Russia threatened British access to the important sources for hemp and all the relevance that had for naval supplies of rope and sail making materials, plus the massive amounts of timber purchase from the area.
GG went through the position before 1801 and the Danish control of access to the Baltic that allowed the Danish King, Frederick VI to garner a significant income for his treasury on tariffs levied on trade through the the area.
The situation was not a threat to British interests until the rise of Revolutionary and later Napoleonic French interests started to raise tension everywhere across Europe as the lines of alliances were drawn up making it difficult for so called neutrals to remain so.
|King Fredrick VI of Denmark|
Countries such as Denmark and Portugal found themselves squeezed between the factions and when both countries sizeable naval assets threatened the control that Britain felt necessary for its security, should those fleets fall into enemy hands then action was taken.
In the case of Denmark, she tried to counter British threats of action by building alliances with other Baltic states to combine their joint naval strengths into an armed league of neutrality, bringing the ships of Russia, Sweden and Denmark, supported by troops from Prussia together under Russian command.
The threat perceived by London of a fleet of some 30 ships of the line so close to home that could only force a redeployment of naval assets away from other British strategic areas proved to much and the first expedition was launched in 1801 to neutralise the Danish blockade on the Baltic and allow the Royal Navy to gain access to the Russian squadron with the objective of knocking them out of any alliance for good.
The attack was launched in March deliberately to allow the Royal Navy under Admirals Hyde Parker and Nelson to tackle the Danes whilst the Russian fleet was still iced in at their end of the Baltic.
This first major attack on the city was, to quote a certain British general who would turn up as a junior British commander in the next expedition of 1807, a close run thing, with Nelson's ships getting a severe mauling as they took out the Danish reserve fleet moored in front of the city gun batteries.
The Danes prevaricated over the British offer of a truce following the battle in the hope of Russian assistance turning up, only to hear that their ally and key supporter Czar Paul I had died on the 23rd of March and his son and heir Alexander I was less keen to involve himself in hostilities with Britain.
The 1801 expedition imposed restrictions on Danish activities in the area that were not entirely enforced or kept to but relieved the situation now that Russia had withdrawn her support leaving the Danes exposed to more robust British diplomacy.
The situation soon changed with the rise and rapid success of Napoleon between 1805 -07 sweeping aside all continental opposition to his regime and forcing the Russian Czar into an alliance as part of the terms for peace between the two empires.
Suddenly the Danish fleet threatened to upset the naval balance which with Portuguese vessels would put Britain back in danger of a potential Napoleonic invasion.
This would not be the last time that Britain's naval position was threatened by a continental enemy and when the situation occurred national interests trumped negotiations.
So as the British offer to Denmark to take her fleet into safe keeping in Britain for use by the Royal Navy and to be returned at the end of hostilities with France together with £100,000 payment to be made to the Danes each year of the internment was put on the table a large fleet of 20 ships of the line together with an army of 30,000 troops was assembled quickly to solve the problem once and for all.
GG went through in some detail the British bombardment and actions with Danish land forces that saw the capitulation of the fortress city and the neutralising of the Danish fleet.
I also managed to get a picture of his superb map illustrating in detail the British positions on land before the walls including for the first time the accurate positions of the three British rocket batteries that supported the three day bombardment and eventual capitulation.
I am really looking forward to getting a copy of GG's book as I couldn't help thinking during his presentation that there are some great what if scenarios and potential naval campaigns that spring from these two expeditions and this is a theatre that I really need to understand more thoroughly than I do. Not only that but I now have some great holiday destinations in mind.
The chaps from Gripping Beast were demonstrating their new SAGA II rule set with a nice collection of Romano Brit types up against Picts on simple but nicely sculpted terrain board.
Blood & Thunder, 16th Century Pirates - Newbury and Reading Wargames Club
This game of pirates caught up in a beach landing really caught the eye not only for the very nicely painted figures and models, but also the terrain mats being used in this example from Deep Cut Studios.
Terrain Mats really are along with plastic figures the quiet revolution that is taking hold in our hobby and is allowing all of us to have the style of games we had hoped to produce with simple but effective products.
Once laid out with plenty of scatter terrain items including in this case MDF jetties the lapping waters on shingle and sand are really easy of the eye and made this game a pleasure to linger over with the camera.
British v Italians, Ethiopia 1940-41 - Esprit de Corps
This game is shown under the web banner as a War of 1812 set to but as you can see it was very much not that.
I have guessed the period and combatants based on the kit and terrain on show and I must say that it was the attention to detail together with again simple but none the less effective terrain that drew my eye to the game.
The early WWII period in North Africa often focuses on the armoured battles in the Western Desert against the Italians and later Afrika Korps opponents; often ignoring the bitter struggle going on in the mountainous terrain of East Africa, before Mussolini's troops were finally beaten in the area.
Relief of the Residency, Indian Mutiny - Wessex Wargames Society
I love to see games covering the colonial conflicts that typified the era of British interest in the country and perhaps one of the most colourful and hard fought was the Indian Munity.
The chaps from the Wessex Wargames Society really captured the feel for the period with this 28mm rendition featuring elephant and oxen drawn guns and rebel Sepoys mixing it with the British troops presented on a simple but effective terrain scape.
The Battle of Shrewsbury - The Officers Mess
This game featuring the Battle of Shrewesbury, where Harry Hotspur met an untimely end at the hands of the impetuous Prince Hal, if Shakespeare is to be believed was covered in a post from August 2016 when Mr Steve visited the battlefield.
Battle of Shrewsbury
These figures are plastic 1:72nd figures mainly Red Box if I remember correctly and beautifully painted and based for this display game featuring a new set of rules under development with a card driven system.
The chaps even had a bit of light entertainment laid on for the troops after all that 'arrow storming' with a bit of bear baiting that never fails to lighten the mood and raise a laugh or two among the men.
Skirmish Wargames Group - Bolt Action 54mm German v British Demo Game
If big model tanks are what floats your boat then you would have certainly got your monies worth with this 54mm Bolt Action Normandy style skirmish game.
I use the word skirmish advisedly as the scale of figures and the rules play a bit too fast and loose with ground scale for me but my eye was drawn to the models and terrain which would have been sufficient distraction for me to sit down at the table and start rolling bones, not to mention a very nice bunch of chaps presenting the game.
Some of those German vehicles cost a fortune but really do grace the table.
Attack on Point d'Appui, part of the Battle of Na Sun 1952 - Major Brothers
This display game brought back memories of our holiday to Vietnam back in 2016 and the collection together with the terrain was a real feast for the eye displaying a passion for the subject.
The Battle of the Little Big Horn
Not exactly a display game but a pleasant reminder of my childhood; this game originally published by Waddington's the makers of Monopoly was advertised on television in the mid sixties and I have memories of the black and white adverts for the game featuring massed ranks of Indians and beleaguered 7th Cavalry troopers.
Probably one of my first influences that sparked an interest in wargaming and seeing this revamped version of the game suddenly made me feel very old.
Viking Breakout from Korsun - Escape Committee
Although never really having got into the WWII Russian Front in terms of collecting I have dabbled and still have a modest collection of 15mm WWII Russians and a sizeable library of books on the subject which is vast.
That breadth of the subject that covers such a titanic struggle requiring multiple amounts of terrain to model summer steppe to winter city scapes probably explains why I have only dabbled despite a fascination in the subject.
That explains why I lingered at the Escape Committee's table modelling this Korsun Pocket battle in 1:72nd or 20mm.
So another Crusade done for another year. Thanks to the Penarth and District Wargames Society for a very enjoyable day and to Ian and Mr Steve for their company.
Next up, Retreat to Albergaria, the next OTH scenario play-test