Sandtables and the ABCA in a WW2 Training film

I recently completed a four week free FutureLearn course, a Military History sampler unit from the University of Kent / National Army Museum called From Waterloo to The Rhine: The British Army from 1815 to 1945 https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/waterloo-to-the-rhine

In the fourth and final week, there was a short section on this Future Learn: British Army From Waterloo to the Rhine course, which showed briefly a US Army training film clip on the British Army’s WW2 ABCA (the Army Bureau of Current Affairs). I spotted what looks like a sandtable in the midst of the education and training room, full of plane identification charts and models, German equipment and uniform.

Watch the ABCA film here, the sandtable is about 14:30 and 15:30 into the film:

Periscope Films YouTube ABCA film https://youtu.be/jtL3jQ3-87o

A screenshot close up reveals a little more fuzzy detail:

Donald Featherstone writes in War Games (1962) about the wargames use of the sandtables whilst almost wistfully for a former tank regiment sergeant, he remembers the military use of these at Bovington during WW2:

“… the author recalls, with some pleasure, a fascinating hut at Bovington Camp, Dorset, in the Second World War, where miniature tanks were made to move over realistic countryside, being made mobile by the movement of magnets under the table.” (P. 16, Featherstone, War Games, 1962).

There is more WW2 manual material on sandtable training for the Home Guard on my blogpost here as https://lookduckandvarnish.wordpress.com/2020/05/14/gaming-the-home-guard-with-sand-tables-1941/

Sandtables are a bit of a gaming rarity these days. They had many operational drawbacks, not least the weight of the sand, but several pages were devoted by Donald Featherstone to their use and construction in War Games (1962).

I recently spotted sand tables in use again for 1944 tank battles by some such as John Muzy on 1/72 forums and pages on Facebook, linked to a YouTube video here https://youtu.be/vNnOQJa7mvc

Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN, 6th July 2020.

Verda versus Griza FMS 20mm Pound Store Plastic Warriors skirmish now with added Esperanto!

Scene / seen from the Verdan border post, the attacking Grizan troops in grey

Cross posted from my sister blog Pound Store Plastic Warriors,

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2020/06/28/verda-versus-griza-pound-store-plastic-soldiers-20mm-interbellum-fms-skirmish-now-with-added-esperanto/

Now with added Esperanto and a Blog Post Script on US army 1960s training using Esperanto as the enemy language

Look Duck and Varnish – Gaming the Home Guard on its 80th Anniversary

 

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Left – an old  home cast Home Guard painted and gifted by Alan Tradgardmastre Gruber and right a Britains hollowcast Home Guard consult one of the volumes in my library.

 

Eighty years ago today 14 May 1940 was the founding day of the Local Defence Volunteers, the LDV or the “Look Duck and Vanish” as some unkindly folk called them – you might now them by their Churchillian rebrand as “The Home Guard”.

Here is the text of Anthony Eden’s original radio appeal for volunteers on the evening of 14 May 1940 – http://www.staffshomeguard.co.uk/J1GeneralInformatonEden.htm

http://www.staffshomeguard.co.uk/J2GeneralInformatonWOMessage1.htm

It would take another twenty five years and a TV sitcom for them to earn their modern nickname of “Dad’s Army.”

Over my last forty odd years or more of shoving tiny plastic figures meaningfully around a felt covered tabletop, vaguely inspired by historical events, the Home Guard has been a World War Two theme that I have often returned to.

Small numbers of Airfix German Paratroops and Infantry frequently encountered the lightly armed Airfix British infantry who were my “Dad’s Army” figures, invading some fictional village or small town, lashed together from spare buildings and scenery borrowed from my model railway making family. Sadly, being the 1970s, no photographs exist of these tiny titanic struggles.

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My 1980s painted (toy soldier style) 54mm versions of the 1976 Airfix OO HO German Paratroops.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/24/peter-laing-15mm-and-airfix-54mm-german-paratroops/

After the 1984 40th anniversary, gaming D-Day with my Airfix landing craft felt a little too close in history. It was well within living memory. My game scenarios often shifted and reversed then to a British setting for the familiar  Airfix Beach Head and Coastal Fort play-sets, manned by spindly Airfix British Infantry seeing off tankloads and Landing Craft loads of determined Germans and,  after 1976, OO/HO German Paratroops.

Watching the Dad’s Army movie and episodes, then and now often on TV, obviously had some influence on my childhood games. So too did the glimpse of the odd pillbox, dragons teeth by the railway line and occasional blank .303 bullet, found with a metal detector.

The fact that Britain wasn’t invaded keeps the tabletop game of war as one of “what if?” historical fantasy, rather than gaming people’s lived experience as I grew up.

Growing up in the 1970s, there were plenty of older men and women around who lived through the war as children, civilians or service personnel, my evacuee parents included, some of whom had unpleasant experiences.

I wish now I had spoken to them more about this period of history but the general rule of “getting on” and “putting it behind you”  meant that if they didn’t readily tell, you didn’t ask. As an older child, I slowly felt slightly conflicted that I did not want to trivialise their real-lived and often unpleasant experiences of war into my ‘games of toy soldiers’.

The Home Guard and the early war period of Operation Sea Lion, preparing for the invasion of Britain that thankfully never happened, were a different matter.

These Sealion and Home Guard  games were in many ways an Imagi-Nation of Britain in 1940 and 1941 in much the same nostalgic way many railway layouts are a fictionalised portrait of “Britain in Steam in the 30s to 50s”. “The past” as L.P. Hartley wrote in The Go Between (1953) is a “foreign country, they do things differently there.”

What happened during  four years from 1940 to stand down in late 1944 was effectively a series of mostly realistic gaming scenarios, live action role play, played with a deadly earnest and a determined purpose. These are set out in Home Guard training manuals (and often form the episodes of Dad’s Army, drawn out by Mainwaring in chalk on his black board ).

Pages from John Brophy’s Home Guard Manual

Dad’s Army at the same time on TV also gave me a key that it was possible to explore this invasion scenario in a respectful but imaginative way. It also gave the strong impression of the boredom, bravery and occasional buffoonery of service life.

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The training against other Home Guard patrols and regular troops also gives some interesting possibilities for “non-lethal warfare”.

Adapting rules to Home Guard  “non-lethal training exercises” against other Home Gaurd or regular units as “the enemy” should prove interesting.

These non-lethal training exercises are quite similar to the Scouting Wide Games that I have also been exploring on the Tabletop, working with fellow blogger and Tabletop gamer Alan Gruber, Tradgardmastre of the Duchy of Tradgardland.

I posted recently about Wide Games in Richmond Park based on a fabulous map drawn up by the First World War version of Dad’s Army, the Volunteer Training Corps (VTC) (dubbed at the time Grandad’s Rejects, Grandad’s Army or Gorgeous Wrecks).

Alan has also been posting recently about gaming the Home Guard.

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No 1 Company Falmouth Home Guard memorial, Pennance Point near Maenporth Beach, photographed by Alan Gruber 2019. This company was part of the 7th Battalion (Falmouth) of the Cornwall Home Guard.

The inscription reads:  “For Freedom. This seat and the path leading to it thereto have been provided as a memorial to the men of the Number [1?] Company  (Falmouth) Home Guard who during 1940, 41, 42, 43, 44, after their day’s work, nightly patrolled this coast armed and vigilant against German landings. Thus they watched 1000 dawns appear across these great waters which form our country’s moat.”

https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/57699

There are some excellent reprints of Home Guard manuals around, a short Shire History volume  and some great resources  for your local area about the Auxiliary Units of the Home  Guard from Coleshill House, the British Resistance Archive.

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A small part of my Home Guard library of training manuals, both reprints and originals.

The Home Guard look to be a suitable focus for future WW2 themed games.

As my free 3 Gigabytes of Man of TIN blog on WordPress are now three quarters full or used with photos since 2016,  I will give  “Look Duck and Varnish” WW2 Home Guard Games for the Tabletop their own separate blogspot as needed, as I have done with Scouting Wide Games for the Tabletop:

https://lookduckandvarnish.wordpress.com

There are many excellent training scenarios to try out and even a section in the Home Guard  Manual 1941 on military use of the  Sand Table for training games with a map and scenario, explored here https://lookduckandvarnish.wordpress.com/2020/05/14/gaming-the-home-guard-with-sand-tables-1941/

Now where do I source some cheap OO or 54mm Nuns for my next Home Guard game? Typical Shabby Nazi Trick!

The Home Guard 1940 – 1944, Brave men (and women) all.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN on the 80th anniversary of the LDV / Home Guard forming on 14 May 1940.

 

1955 British Army Infantry Training booklet no. 4 Rifle and Bayonet

No longer belonging to Corporal Riley …

I found this a few years back when there were still junk shops. I bought this because it was the Manual WO 8903 that would have been current when my late father did his National Service c. 1958.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/18/national-service-days-1/

He often talked about how rigorous the weapons training was but coming from a mechanical and engineering background, he would have found this far easier than me.

The figure poses remind me greatly of the Herald modern British Army figures that we all grew up with (featured in Tradgardland’s blog) and curiously of Airfix Multipose British Infantry.

Herald figures late 1950s to 1970s: These uniforms must’ve been very familiar to my National Serviceman Dad when he played toy soldiers with us kids.

The Bayonet Training chapters are interesting – not too dissimilar to the Cut Parry Lunge system of duelling that Donald Featherstone featured in Solo Wargaming.

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/duelling-in-the-sandpit-lunge-cut-and-stop-thrust/

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/more-duelling-inspiration-bartitsu/

This Manual certainly explains the many odd bayoneting poses by manufacturers.

Bayonet Drill or used in action – That would be a very niche toy soldier collection!

Update: As mentioned in my reply to comments, there is a range of military training manuals from a range of countries on the late Thor Shiel’s Milihistriot website (whilst this remains online). Check out his Sandpit rules and OMOG variants too

http://www.thortrains.com/getright/

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN 20 April 2020

Remembering Denmark April 9th 1940

Film poster (Image: Wikipedia)

Remembering the 80th anniversary of the brave Danish bicycle troops heading out to slow down the Nazi Blitzkreig as it rolled at dawn through Denmark, marking the end of the Phoney War.

Those unusual steel helmets (Film still / PRFoto)

If you have not seen the film, it is well worthwhile to track it down on DVD or online. I thought it was well handled, cleverly filmed and had real tension.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_9th_(film)

The uniforms are accurate as they were originals borrowed from a Danish Museum.

“The Mellem Slesvigs Grænser museum in Bylderup-Bov was approached by Nordisk Film in the autumn of 2013 with regards to assisting with uniforms and weapons. In March 2014, the film company collected 120 Danish steel helmets, 100 gas-mask canisters, 50 pairs of wool pants, 24 dummy-rifles, 32 cartridge belts, and a khaki officer coat. Moreover, the museum loaned two old Nimbus motorcycles with side-cars.” (Wikipedia article source)

See also the IMDB film website https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3542188/

I first head about this unusual film through Alan Gruber at the Tradgardmastre’s blog with his Duchy of Tradgardland interest in Danish things:

http://tradgardland.blogspot.com/2017/01/1940-danish-bicycle-troops.html

http://tradgardland.blogspot.com/2020/04/finished-danish-conversions.html

Alan has just finished some AIP figure conversions using heads with helmets moulded by the late Les White: https://littlewarsrevisited.boards.net/thread/488/remembering-les-white?page=1&scrollTo=3855

There was also a good blogpost from Bob Cordery at Wargaming Miscellany who has some useful screenshots of equipment http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.com/2016/08/april-9th-interesting-film-about-german.html

It is also worth tracking down the similar Norwegian (subtitled in English) film The King’s Choice (recently shown on BBC IPlayer Films) about defending the King of Norway in 1940.

http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.com/2019/10/the-kings-choice.html

Both interesting films worth watching that give a different European experience of the fast moving events of April and May.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, April Ninth.

#FEMbruary 2020 Girl Scout Patrol Challenge completed on Leap Day

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Daisy Patrol completed at last …

Crossposted by Mark Man of TIN 29th #FEMbruary 2020 – more photos of my finished #FEMbruary Girl Scout Patrol figure conversion  challenge here at:

https://tabletopscoutingwidegames.wordpress.com/2020/02/29/fembruary-leap-day-2020-girl-scouts-patrol-finished/

Happy Leap Day 2020. How have you spent your extra Leap Day? 

Women Soldiers – Girl’s Own Paper Article 1893

As part of FEMbruary 2020, here’s an interesting article on Women Soldiers from a random edition of the Girl’s Own Paper that I once owned, dated November 4th 1893

G.O.P. was sister to the Boy’s Own Paper – I wonder what their boy’s take on an article about Woman Soldiers would be?

The opening page with herald – Taran Tara!

A Victorian take on women in the military:

Column 3

Article written by Laura Alex. Smith, Girl’s Own Paper November 4th 1893

The Dahomey Amazons featured in my FEMbruary blogpost of 2018: https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2018/03/10/more-dahomey-amazons/

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/colonial-amazons-women-soldiers-of-dahomey-and-siam/

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 27 FEMbruary 2020

This is the GOP edition that this Women Soldiers article came from.

And for good measure, a fine military looking gent  in GOP, December 3rd 1887:

“Weirdos and Misfits with odd skills” Wanted – No. 10, LRDG, SOE, Commandos, GCHQ and Bletchley Park

Dominic Cummings, some Tory Brexit politico adviser, in his blog set out a Churchillian request for hiring people to make No. 10 and the Civil Service (and his Brexit / post Brexit team) much less ” public school bluffers” and “Oxbridge English graduates”, more “misfits and weirdos“.

He writes: “We want to hire an unusual set of people with different skills and backgrounds to work in Downing Street with the best officials, some as spads (special advisers to ministers) and perhaps some as officials. If you are already an official and you read this blog and think you fit one of these categories, get in touch.” He says the categories he wants to recruit are:

  • Data scientists and software developers
  • Economists
  • Policy experts
  • Project managers
  • Communication experts
  • Junior researchers – “one of whom will also be my personal assistant”

Send your CV to Mr Cummings if you think this applies to you. You may only last a week, in our “hired and you’re fired” modern world, as instant dismissal is threatened, in which case you will no doubt be known as a “Cummings and Goings.”

Well intentioned and headline grabbing as it may be, the whole “weirdos and misfits” thing is a gift to cartoonists and satirists.

Oddly Mr. Cummings forgot to mention on his list: wargamers and “board game geeks”.

Not so long ago, top secret GCHQ was publicly looking for a more diverse modern workforce of “spooks” and “spies wanted

I am reminded of Churchill’s wartime request to “leave no stone unturned” to recruit the right people to staff Bletchley Park and SOE. Part of GCHQ’s ancestry, Bletchley recruited a strange team of debutantes, crossword puzzle champions, Post Office engineers, mathematicians, linguists and graduate oddities to break German cyphers.

Too busy to read? Just watch the cinema shorthand, myth-making movie versions of such an eccentric cast of characters: Robert Harris’ Enigma and the Imitation Game.

After meeting Alan Turing and his other eccentric colleagues at Bletchley Park, Winston Churchill reportedly said to MI6’s Stewart Menzies, “I know I told you to leave no stone unturned to find the necessary staff, but I didn’t mean you to take me so literally.”

Extraordinary jobs require unusual people. Polar explorer Ernest Shackleton would agree!

Which is why my mind straight way turned to SOE, inspired by Churchill “to set Europe ablaze”, Bletchley Park, inventive backroom boffins, the Commandos and the scruffy but tough and talented Long Range Desert Group. All the cast of Mr Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare as they were termed in a recent book title.

St Nazaire? See the inspiring terrain with the promise of vintage Airfix Commandos https://gridbasedwargaming.blogspot.com/2020/01/st-nazaire-raid-project-more-terrain.html

 

Such people and characters in small teams are perfect for small scale gaming scenarios.

Weirdos and Misfits wanted? Small teams of characters (figures) who can see what is going on in this gridded aerial reconnaissance photo and improvise a plan when it is not what it seems …

What can you see?

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/01/02/aerial-reconnaissance-photos-western-desert-1941/

 

As pointed out in my comment to the vintage Airfix inspired Tradgardmastre himself,

“Sketch map in preparation by Desert Air Force Intelligence Officers, ready to brief some scouting parties of LRDG (D) – D For Demolition.

This is a mixed bag made up of various disruptive elements from the Royal Angrian Defence Force from West Africa (Bronte ImagiNations), some men of the Yestershire Regiment (Man of TIN Imaginations), various other upper class desert traveller, novelist and travel writer misfits, and some Royal Engineers and Commandos in training.

Two tooled up long range fast Desert Jeeps called “Ragtag” and “Bobtail” (Pound Store finest) being prepared.”

Vintage 1960s Airfix LMG teams and modern China plastic tat playset jeeps.

So a quick bit of internet searching brought me to various LRDG websites, seeking the childhood memory of LRDG box lids of Tamiya and unavailable vintage Matchbox LRDG kits (oddly featured in January 2020 Airfix Model World).

https://www.scalemates.com/kits/matchbox-pk-173-lrdg-30cwt-chevrolet-willys-jeep–130346

So preparing my teams, here are the vintage Airfix LRDG and 8th Army desert teams:

Vintage Airfix OO HO 8th Army (version 1) from my childhood collection and Tony Adams’ gift

Vintage Airfix 1960s Commandos and crawling woolly hatted (version 1) 8th Army
OMG! Vintage Airfix SMG, LMG and HMG teams – Airfix Commandos & 1960s 8th Army

Research and further inspiration:

https://gridbasedwargaming.blogspot.com/2020/01/st-nazaire-raid-project-more-terrain.html

LRDG Preservation Society (Research and Reenactment) website http://www.lrdg.org

Combined Ops Website https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/01/man-of-tin-advent-calendar-day-1-the-greek-sacred-squadron-combined-ops-1940-to-1945-ww2

I’m doing Popski on the cheap with vintage Airfix, inspired by this article in Wargames Illustrated Infamous Squads issue November December 2019

Donald Featherstone ‘Wargaming Commando Operations’ http://www.wargaming.co/recreation/details/dflosttalesvol2.htm

Weirdos and Misfits – your country needs you!

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN on 3 January 2020

And finally for The Tradgardmastre on LRDG Buffs Film Club:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053935/mediaviewer/rm2816642305

Tales of Derring Do: inspiring books for Scouting Wide Games on the Tabletop

New figures, new reading including a great little Shire Library book on The Scouts.
British and Dutch East Indies Sea Scouts encounter hostile Natives …

Christmas Present 2019: Some inspiring reading and some Scout Patrol reinforcements from STS Little Britons 42mm via Spencer Smith Miniatures, over in my Scouting Wide Games blog site:

https://tabletopscoutingwidegames.wordpress.com/2019/12/27/tales-of-derring-do-tabletop-scouting-wide-games-christmas-presents-2019/

Hope that you got some good “new shiny” this Christmas, ready for the New Year.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN (1970s Cub Scout, Bronze Arrow, Retired) on 27 December 2019