Sunday 27 May 2018

Spanish Air-force - CASA C-101

CASA C-101

Whilst out enjoying the delightful weather in Spain just recently we were treated to an impromptu air display by the Spanish airforce who have a base nearby for fast jet training.

The Spanish airforce use the Spanish built CASA C-101 for training their jet pilots which is the equivalent to the the Hawk jet trainer used by the RAF in the UK.

Having been coming to this part of Spain for the last sixteen years these chaps are a familiar site in the skies together with individual aircraft practising 'circuits and bumps' otherwise known as take-offs and landings and intercepts out over the Mediterranean coast.

Back home in the UK, the RAF Red Arrows team make Exeter their home base in the summer as they tour the various air displays around the country and so we are very familiar with seeing their routines as they warm up for each season over the skies of East Devon.

However the Spanish airforce like to do it a bit differently with the occasional low level, un-manned passes designed to keep unwary tourists on their toes!

Friday 25 May 2018

Spanish Wildlife 2018

Black Winged Stilt 

As well as visiting the battlefield of Castalla which is just up the road from our place in Spain, Carolyn and I took time to enjoy other sites and just 'chillax'.

Regulars here on JJ's know I like to bring you pictures of natural history as well as the military stuff and often it is very easy to combine the two whilst wondering about the countryside looking at battlefields.

This part of eastern Spain has long stretches of beach bordering the Mediterranean interspersed with salt flats and reed beds providing excellent habitat for a wealth of wildlife and bird life in particular.

Some of these creatures are often seen only with fleeting glimpses as they dart in and out of cover or not seen at all but only heard from the depths of the reeds.

Ideally if I were taking more time and the facilities were available the best way to capture pictures of the more shy varieties would be from a hide, but we were just walking and enjoying the weather and I was keeping the camera to hand should something wonder across our path.

These beautiful black winged stilts announced their presence by giving their high pitched call and circling the area we had walked into trailing their long legs behind them in their somewhat ungainly flight style, only to land in a pool a bit further along our path, which enabled me to get these pictures.

These birds are an infrequent visitor to the UK and I had never seen one in the wild before now, but they have a wide spread coverage around the globe stretching from southern Europe to Australia.

One of our favourite places to walk are some nearby salt flats with their shallow white banked lagoons being the favourite habitat of a wealth of water birds including flamingos.

I am instantly taken back to Alice in Wonderland and surreal games of croquet every time I see these elegant and yet ungainly creatures.

I am thinking the next bird seen with its distinctive stocky shape and stumpy red legs picking over shore line debris is a Turnstone but I am open to correction.

We get lots of Shelducks in the Exe estuary back home but it was nice to see this large esturine duck in sunny Spain.

As mentioned at the top of the post, the coastline here is a mix of beach, reeds and salt flats and the path opened out on to a warm but blustery Mediterranean with boats out on the briny and a distant look at Torrevieja.

On our walk back to the car I caught a fleeting glimpse of an LBJ, known in bird spotting parlance as a 'little brown job' which after I managed to get the camera on it before it scuttled into the undergrowth turned out to be what I think is a Calandra Lark but again I am open to correction as I am far more familiar with UK than Spanish bird-life which is still a work in progress.

Can you see him?  - The Lark's camouflage doing it's job with only movement alerting you to its presence 

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Partizan 2018

Following on from last year's visit to Wargames Foundry and Partizan I had the pleasure of another 'Boys Beano' to Newark and Lincoln with a stay-over on the Saturday night and a very pleasant curry in Lincoln to attend this year's May showing of Partizan.

As with last year we spent Saturday as guests of Wargames Foundry playing a large game of Dux Bellorum, and a walk across the Stoke battlefield which is situated right next door and proved an excellent walk on a very sunny day after the drive up and wargaming.

I will post later about the fun at Foundry but thought you would like to see my highlights from Partizan.

I should say that Partizan has become my most look forward to show of the year and the games on show at this meeting made it perhaps one of the best I have attended in the many years I have been doing this kind of thing.

The other aspect that puts Partizan right up there for me in my show calendar are the great opportunities I had to chat with people in the hobby throughout the day which just makes this a show that stands out. 

This weekend also enabled me to put the finishing touches to the Ancient collection with a large order collected from Warlord and Foundry which will see me adding a German army alongside my Dacians and Sarmatians plus some extra wagons form Colonel Bill to allow baggage trains to appear on table when required.

Anyway enough of the preamble and lets get on with the review.

I should warn you that this post could seriously damage your sensory system to a point of overload with the many excellent games that were on show this weekend. Tom and I did our usual show routine of coming up with our top three games in reverse order but after putting this post together and reviewing what the camera had captured I felt less inclined to offer my verdict; suffice to say that the Battle for Crete game produced by Mr James Morris was so obviously a labour of love and had managed to produce cameos that were so obviously recognisable to anyone who has walked around Maleme airfield as many times as I have, not to mention the sand gathered from the battle site and sprinkled on his rendition of the Tavronitis river bed......... well you know where I am going with this!!

So in no particular order, my highlights of this year's Partizan.

The Battle of Soggy Bottom, 28mm ECW - Mr Simon Miller

I had the pleasure of chatting with Simon last year at Colours and saw his ECW version of Too the Strongest, 'For King and Parliament' on display in its early incarnation.

Simon has been busy putting together a glorious collection of 28mm ECW in recent months and his labours were on show which kept my camera very busy.

I really love the irregular bases that are used for these games and wish the MDF companies would make something similarly available in other sizes.

Another aspect of Simon's game I find rather appealing is the use of the replica period coins to monitor army break points and I am toying with the idea of using these in a similar way for future games I have in mind.

Blitzkrieg Miniatures 28mm WW2

The opportunities for the WWII wargaming community to be able to produce just about any particular battle from this era has never been so good and that includes pretty much all the scales.

As you will see WWII featured quite a bit at Partizan this year and this table was up there in the eye catching category.

Crete 1941 - Mr James Morris

Speaking of WWII, did I mention the Crete game? Enough said, I'll just let the pictures do the talking.

The Battle of Germantown, 28mm AWI - The Perry Twins

You pretty much approach any table put on by the Perry twins in great anticipation and as usual they had prepared a feast for the eyes.

Last Xmas I put together some of the 28mm plastic AWI figures and really enjoyed the way they had been designed and the variety of options they offered.

I have a plan to put a collection together using their comprehensive range of plastics and metals and was really interested in seeing how the chaps painted their figures and Alan kindly showed me the variations they had created and the way they had painted them.

Again the display really speaks for itself.

Suez 1956 - Gothenburg Gamers

You don't see a lot of games modelling this particular episode in military history and my eye was immediately grabbed by the model aircraft on display capturing the reassertion of British naval airpower following its catch up during WWII.

The Westland  Wyvern pictured above and below was designed to perform the role of a multi role combat aircraft with its 3,500hp Rolls Royce Eagle, later Armstrong Syddeley Python piston engine; the aircraft encountered many problems as it struggled to become operational with four Fleet Air Arm squadrons.

The Hawker Sea Hawk was a Sydney Camm design, designer of the Hawker Hurricane, and came on to the drawing board in the last days of WWII.

This naval jet fighter had a much more easier and successful development with over 500 aircraft built in the the thirty years of its service from 1953.

My familiarity with the Sea Hawk comes from passing the gate guard many times at RNAS Culdrose, HMS Sea Hawk, down in Cornwall.

In addition to the great models on show, Graham who talked me through his techniques for putting them together pointed out their historical gem of an actual British military map from the operation, still encased with its original bull dog clips - wonderful.

The Defence of La Gorgue Airfield April 1918 - Great War Miniatures

WWI is not really my thing but I have noticed more and more games covering the land conflict on the western front appearing at shows which is probably in response to the activity surrounding the centennial commemorations that have been happening since 2014.

As an historical wargamer it doesn't really matter what era or period is on display if the passion and commitment to the history is all to clear to see and this game had bag loads of those two attributes.

This game had so many great cameo shots to offer that I just had to get down at figure level to help illustrate the great effects achieved.

28mm Wars of the Roses - Mr Dave Imrie

At the moment I am very much focused on putting together my 28mm EIR Ancients collection, but am gradually building up a stock of 28mm Wars of the Roses ready to start the next project.

Hence anything with 28mm and Wars of the Roses in its title is going to draw my eye and these figures were certainly an enjoyable sight.

I was particularly interested in the use of clear perspex movement trays as an idea, which I have seen before but am in two minds about, not being a fan of either sabot bases or movement trays which can in my opinion detract the eye away from the figures.

The picture below really captures what the Wars of the Roses is all about in all its martial splendour.

Assault on the Lazur Chemical Plant, Stalingrad, September 1942, 28mm Chain of Command - Earlswood Wargames Group

How about this for a stunning piece of modelling?

I have seen a few Stalingrad games in my time, with several of them captured here on JJ's, but this has to be well up there with the best.

The Battle of Camden, 28mm AWI - Mr Steve Jones

Anyone interested in the AWI will be familiar with Steve Jones' name and his AWI rules 'Bloodybacks' which were in use for his game recreating the battle of Camden.

Some lovely figures on display and a table that really captured the spread out nature of this battle with many units separated from their neighbours by the broken terrain.

Battle of Isandlwana, 22nd January 1879 - North Hull Wargames Club

The chaps were well into the last death throws of the British Imperial Army when I showed up to the table with the Zulu impis in and among the wagons.

As well as the mass of warriors swarming across the table ready to overwhelm the last remaining British troops, I really loved the simple but effective recreation of that famous sphinx shaped rock that tells the viewer immediately what battle this is recreating.

How about that for that classic 'Why us Sarge?' moment - 'Because we're ere laddy, now face your front and mark your target.'

Hail Cid - Bramley Barn Wargames Group

With our next big summer game fast approaching next month, talk among the chaps over a Saturday night curry naturally turned to what are we playing next year?

One of the suggestions was a 28mm El Cid style game and the figure options we could use, so you can imagine Tom and my pleasure to stop and look at this lovely game from that era with some stunning figures on view.

Certainly lots of inspiration for our own efforts next year.

Attack on the Airfield, 28mm WWII LRDG - Westbury Wargames

Skirmish level games are really popular at the moment and desert raiders of WWII has always been a popular theme for this level of gaming.

The chaps from Westbury, near Coventry put on a really nice rendition of such an attack by the Long Range Desert Group against an Italian airfield in the Western Desert.

I couldn't help thinking that the ruined temple would also make an excellent setting for a Jason and the Argonauts scenario, taking on a group of flying harpies.

The League of Augsburg, 28mm Grand Alliance.

We have a large collection of Grand Alliance figures in the Devon Wargames Group and regularly play Under the Lilly Banners so it was nice to see the latest offering from the League with this War of the Three Kings presentation.

With a table like this I feel again obliged to let you make your own words up to capture the great modelling on display.

The Biscotti Wars, Garibaldi in Sicily 1860 - The League of Gentlemen Anti-Alchemists 

My knowledge of any European post 1850's horse and rifled musket stuff is superficial to say the least and I tend to lump these wars in with the American Civil War where the musketry starts to make the cavalry obsolete.

That said, my earlier comment about passion for the subject and its history still applies and draws me in every time, especially when I am looking at great terrain and thinking that would make a great Peninsular War Sharp Practice back drop.

The Battle for Perchory Monastery, 1701, 28mm Great Northern War - Derby Wargames Society 

A snowy table is always guaranteed to get my attention, having never built one myself I am always interested in the techniques used to get the right effect.

Likewise the Great Northern War has never been a subject I have played but given it falls into that classic horse and musket era I could quite easily take an interest.

This was the last game I included in my roundup but though last it is by no means least and both Tom and I enjoyed seeing the effects the Derby chaps had achieved.

As always a very partial presentation of this year's May meeting at Partizan and there were lots of other games I could have included but these featured were what made my cut; and I hope gives a flavour of what for me was a classic show and one of the best I have visited in my thirty plus years in the hobby.

I came away really inspired and eager to get back to the painting desk which is good when I consider the amount of stuff that came back with me from the opposite end of the Fosse Way.