National Service Days # 1

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Britain’s Herald plastic soldier National Serviceman and metal Britain’s grey sentry box. (Photo / figure: Man of TIN)

Happy Father’s Day!

My Family History in Toy Soldiers Part 2.

Part 1 for Father’s Day 2016 covered my Dad and RAF Grandad’s War wartime experiences through a Britain’s RAF Firefighter figure. https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/20/fathers-day-raf-firefighter/

Part 2 – This Herald Infantryman figures reminds me of my late father’s many tales about his National Service days.

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I love all the details of kit (helmet, pouches etc.) required on parade. All these would be wearily familiar to the 1950s  and 1960s National Serviceman like my father.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription_in_the_United_Kingdom

I recall seeing the shapeless uniform and beret of a National Serviceman in the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry Museum at Bodmin and on visits with my Dad to the National Army Museum in Chelsea.

Dad told me how itchy this battle dress was and how they used to soap the insides to reduce this itchiness. It’s true – having worn battle dress trousers for a re-enactment event a couple of years ago, scratchy they certainly are! Boots were softened and broken in by peeing in them, leaving it overnight. How fragrant they must have smelt.

My late Dad as a lowly private was pretty philosophical about his National Service,  talking about it 25 to 30 years after the event. He understood that what they were doing by keeping you away from family, shouting at you, making you work or fail as a platoon, not wanting to be the weakest link etc. It was all about “breaking you down as a civilian” to build you up as a soldier who follows orders without question – he understood the cult psychology of training, which somehow made it easier.

One day he was up on a charge. His crime? Having his back pocket undone, whilst lying down on rifle firing practice at targets. Why? Next time, he was told, it could be an undischarged round in your rifle when cleaning. Attention to detail.

This photo from the IWM’s National Service collection reminds me of this training story and of my Herald British Infantry figures.

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212572

It’s odd how some of these wartime or army sayings make it into family life including from someone  my family their WW2 maxim that “Time spent on Reconnaissance is rarely wasted” (or “seldom wasted”).

Dad told me lots  of stories of his National Service Days, but sadly I can’t remember them all now, as he died almost 20 years ago. He never wrote them down or recorded them.

Stories of navigation training  and map reading, involving  an army lorry drop off in the middle of nowhere, tasked to find your way home using a compass and map. Who would be home first? He seemed to enjoy this as a bit of a country lark.

Stories of sleepwalking squaddies found by civil or military police wandering naked in the centre of Aldershot, having climbed over a barbed wire fence to get out of camp unobserved – the sentries on duty that evening got a rocket for that one.

Guarding the gatehouse and camp armoury against arms theft (by the 1950s IRA?)  Cycling back from leave, Dad said that you could wake the sentries up by holding your bike pump out and rattling it along the camp railings so that it sounded like a machine gun. That put the wind up the sentries!

Being in a technical trade (REME), Dad reckoned he could still strip down and reassemble a Bren Gun with his eyes closed in a remarkably short time of a few minutes. One day in the mid 1990s I saw a Bren Gun still crated, greased but deactivated. I was tempted for a few moments to buy it as an unusual retirement present. Similarly he could rattle off his National Service number many years later.

Wise words from my Dad’s National Service days 

Wearing boots all the time will apparently give you weak ankles.

“Get a trade or a certificate so you have something to fall back on”, said this former REME Craftsman.

He seemed to spend a lot of his National Service time fixing the electrics of  tanks and lorries – it made him very practical around the house, competent with tools and DIY, something that didn’t get passed on to his cack-handed son. He was also pretty keen if any of were thinking of joining the forces to make sure we got a trade certificate for civilian life so we had something to help us bridge life into civilian work. This was probably from his experience of his working generation of former WW2 and National Service conscripts.

As my Dad was called up in the last few years of National Service in Britain and he said that they didn’t really know what to do with them all. He spent as a result a lot of time (once technically proficient at his trade) cycle racing for the British Army and doing the Isle of Man cycle TT, training and racing to the point of boredom for his former much-loved sport. Moral of this lesson, he said: “Never make you hobby your job!

The endless 1970s sitcoms reliving the war from Dad’s Army to It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, along with National Service RAF comedy Get Some In!,  all of these brought back his National Service memories. The early Carry On Sergeant film  (1958) and Private’s Progress (1956) also brought back similar memories to be shared.

The youngest photo I have of my Dad is his REME platoon passing out photo, signed by all on the back, along with his discharge papers releasing him as a National Service / Territorial Army  Reservist a year or two after his National Service ended.

There are many other  interesting books about National Service including:

Brasso, Blanco and Bull by Tony Thorne

730 Days Until Demob! National Service and the Post-1945 British Army by Keith Miller,  2003 (which accompanied the National Army Museum exhibition?)

Shire Books short histories: National Service by Peter Doyle and Paul Evans.

Bring Back National Service?

I have met many older work colleagues about whom you could sometimes tell that they had done their National Service in the 1950s and 1960s. Others you would never have guessed that they once passed muster and the scrutiny of a drill sergeant.

Some told you about it; some indeed thought me a bit scruffy and that I could be much improved by a spell of National Service or time at Sandhurst to smarten both me and my ideas up.

Some had had National Service colleagues injured or killed during overseas National Service. 395 National Servicemen were killed between 1945 and 1963 on active service.

Stranger still,  some of my overseas student colleagues during my college days many years later were only a year or two older than me but had done national service and active service in their home countries ranging from the Middle East to southern Africa. They didn’t talk much about it. They were generally happy it was over.

“Demob happy” is still a National Service phrase that gets used 50 / 60 years later by many at work  about holiday leave or moving on to a new job. Likewise “Demob Suit” for something a little garish or very old fashioned or “Civvies” as well for your non-work clothes.

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Grenade!  (Left) What my Dad used to look like during National Service training? (Right) – What his officers looked like. Disco dancing Herald British infantry officer.

 

In a future part of this National Service Remembered blog post, I’ll show some of the  Herald figures that Dad and I used in our under the table floor wars or gardens wars (based on other postwar National Service era 1950s troops).

Many of these Herald figures look posed just like the  photos from a 1955 British Army infantry training manual that I have, which no doubt formed the content  of my Dad’s rifle training.

Then there’s the story of  the sadness or joy of a closing suburban toy shop in the Eighties to boost my childhood Herald plastic soldier armed forces …

Happy Father’s Day!

Postscript 1982

When the Falklands were invaded, my Dad jumped out of bed convinced like much of the Nation that these Islands were somewhere off the coast of Scotland and probably wondering not only why Argentina was invading Northern Scotland but also if 20 years on he would be recalled as a Reservist for Home Defence. Now where’s that National Service / Territorial Army Discharge Certificate …

Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, on Father’s Day,  June 18th 2017.

More Pound Store Plastic Warriors – Combat Mission 80 Soldiers

IMG_1952More lovely Plastic pound store inspiration or more seaside plastic tat?

A useful collection of  Combat Mission 80 Soldiers plastic Airfix copies per bag, some now so long copied,  cloned, shrunken  and ‘degraded’ that they have acquired a slender toy soldier charm of their own.

Crossposted from my sister blog Pound Store Plastic Warriors – Little Wars on a Budget. 

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/06/10/combat-mission-80-plastic-pound-store-soldiers-part-1-charge/

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/more-combat-mission-80-pound-store-plastic-soldiers-part-2/

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Pound store plastic given the glossy toy soldier treatment …

Pound Store Plastic Away Team on a Surreal Space Planet

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Pound store plastic silver space marines Away Team on the Surreal Space Planet Artemist, my Away Game, a  portable game board. 

Pound store plastic silver space marine Away Team on the Surreal Space Planet Artemist, aboard my Away Game or portable game board.

Cross-posted from my sister Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog site:

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/pound-store-surreal-space-planet-away-team/

Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, 1 June 2017.

More seaside Pound Store plastic warriors

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More joy of seaside plastic tat at 50p a box for 30 54mm-ish figures at my sister blog Pound Store Plastic Warriors:

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/more-seaside-pound-store-plastic-warriors/

I see for my backyard  Imagi-Nation games some figures who could be Space Marines, US style paratroopers etc.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, 30 May 2017.

May 25th 2017 my 1st Blogaversary!

 

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Marche ou Creve! Peter Laing 15mm French Foreign Legion advancing (F651) around old dead tree hexes, relics from former gardens. Initially the sand was too damp and did not take well to PVA first time around so will need to be redone. Heroscape hexes.

Happy Blogavesary to Me! Happy Blogaversary to You! 

May 25th 2016 was my the date of my first Man of TIN blogpost, all about Pound Store Warriors.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/pound-store-wars/

A few months later Pound Store Plastic Warriors was created in 6th September 2016 as a separate sister blogsite https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com 

It seems much more than a year.

It has been a brilliant first year. Having the blog, especially for a solo gamer, encourages you to finish stuff off, get it photographed and written up to share with others.

It’s an online diary, bullet journal, declaration of intent or New Gaming Year’s resolutions in public. It’s my reading journal, book  and figure review column.

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Lone Warrior in the pine woods – 15mm Peter Laing Boer advancing rifle at trail (F622) moving through my freshly flocked and fixed “impassable” forest hexagons.

For example, having posted and photographed about  my Bronte inspired skirmish in Angria this weekend, I noticed that these faded old plastic fir trees worked well enough centred on a hex (albeit attached with white tack). I have had these bashed old trees since childhood. So this week I “F and B’d” them – Flocked and Based –  them.

They should continue to work well for my Close Little Wars forest skirmish rules based on Donald Featherstone’s two page appendix to his 1962 book War Games.

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Before …  fir trees hastily tacked on to a hex. Ashantee archer warriors attack Angrian infantry and dragoons.

What have I enjoyed about Blogging?

Blogging is  like an online wargaming club or convention  and a free gaming magazine, available more than monthly. I check some ‘portal’ and my blogroll sites quite often daily. In fact, my irregular consumption of gaming magazines has dropped even further. I find now when I flick through the magazines in W.H. Smith’s, that I can find much of this inspiration and advice online.

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Mountaineering and fighting in the pine forests, feather in cap, 15mm Peter Laing Italian Alpini Infantry advancing warily (F722?) from his First World War range.

I wonder if blogging this year has taken up valuable time for gaming?

Possibly not, as I think becoming part of the blogging community as a reader or a blogger encourages you to try new things, learn new tips or rediscover old figures. It also encourages you to go completely off at a bizarre tangent like a war games butterfly in search of the new,  colourful or shiny. Whoops!

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Repair and repaint back to box fresh and shiny for these Homecast and Hollowcast figures.

Thanks to all who have stopped by and read my blog in its first year, taken time to “like”  a post or have written a positive comment.  I’ve really enjoyed replying, whether it has been chatting to fellow Peter Laing figure collectors, Donald Featherstone rules enthusiasts, getting tips on repairing old bashed Britain’s 54mm toy soldiers or being in contact with people who wrote inspiring articles in the games magazines of my childhood. An enduring hobby indeed!

Thanks to all those who have signed up as followers or posted a link to my blog on their sites. It is really appreciated – I can see this works in the “referrer” blog stats. Cheers!

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Pound Store Plastic Warriors given the glossy toy soldier treatment, May 2016.

I don’t put much store by checking blog stats regularly  but for my 125 blog posts in 365 days (blimey! that’s almost one post every three days on average), over four thousand readers have stopped by once or more, leading to almost eleven thousand views from 75  different countries. Most of my blog readers are from the UK and the USA but there are also regular readers from  Ireland, Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, (Flanders) France and Spain. (“Over the hills and far away …”)

My occasional “little sister” blog to this one, Pound Store Plastic Warriors since September 2016 has itself  attracted over 400 readers, and 1000 views.

So to James, John, Ian, Bob, Alan, Ross, Tony, Jon and many other readers  … thanks!

Here’s another year of homecast or homemade figures, solo gaming, toy soldier repair, pound store plastics, portable game boards, flocking and basing, bizarre tangents, Donald Featherstone, vintage Airfix, Peter Laing figures and making the most of the stock in hand.

Here’s to some fine weather for back garden games and skirmishes in the sandpit.

Here’s to another year puzzling out the fictional Imagi-Nations of the Brontes!

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Maybe I should have had a First Blogaversary cake made? Topped of course with homemade Fimo Polymer Clay “cakes of death” cake decoration mould soldiers. Huzzah!

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Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 25 May 2017 my first Blogaversary! Huzzah!

 

A Skirmish in Angria: Close Little Wars rules

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It has been a few weeks since I ran a solo game bigger than sword fighting and Bartitsu duelling. I feel that I have neglected my Peter Laing figures of late.  To be fair  I’ve been busy making the fortified Signal Tower as well.

I wanted to get a quick evening game in, based on the Bronte family’s  Imagi-Nation of Angria, having read more of Charlotte Bronte’s Tales of Angria and the Oxford Companion to the Brontes. Both these books are slowly helping me work out maps and scenarios based on more of Bronte’s fictional realms or paracosms.

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Turn 2 – Angrian 5th Infantry supported by Dragoons cross the river to rescue the waggon from MacTerrorGlen’s Scottish troops. Ashantee bowmen line the rock opposite.

Small Angrian Skirmish Scenario:

By March 1836 – half of Angria is “in possession of our foes”.  

During 1835-37 The Second Angrian War, Civil War  between Angria and the Verdopolitan Union is happening at the same time as the Ashantee threat.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/charlotte-bronte-as-gamer-1/

Early 1836, Angria, Western Central Africa: A group of invading Ashantee bowmen, part of Quashia Qamina’s forces, have discovered an  abandoned Angrian supply waggon and remain in ambush on the rocks overlooking the crossing.

They are backed by a small sword and musket group of Sir Jehu MacTerrorGlen’s rampaging Scotsmen and Highland Warriors, led by one Captain Scotte,  who are aiming to capture the river crossing and loot the abandoned  Angrian supply waggon.

Location: The river crossing eventually feeds into one of the many tributaries of the River Olympia or Calabar, running down to the sea.

This waggon was part of a supply column along one of the many roads to the regional or provincial capital of  Adrianoplous, all aid and supplies to The Duke of Zamorna. Zamorna is fighting to protect the Angrian province (that he is named after) against this invasion of Ashantees and MacTerrorGlen’s unruly Scots.

A rebellious and unruly kilted Highland Regiment in Africa? Many of the original settlers of the Bronte’s fictional realm of GlassTown and Angrian area of West Africa were of Scots, Irish  and Yorkshire origin.

Coming to recover the waggon of supplies are Angrian forces under the Blood Red banner of the Rising Sun. These include a dismounted group of smart red-coated Angrian “Dragons” or Dragoons, along with some men of the “Fighting Fifth” (or “Filthy Fifth”),  the  5th Angrian  Infantry Regiment in homespun and motley campaign dress, led  by a young Lieutenant called Prunty.

The scruffy nature of the Angrian Regiments on campaign in the ‘East’ in the Angrian Civil War is reminiscent of Confederate Butternut Infantry towards the end of the American Civil War. Their scruffy dress is commented on by one of Charlotte Bronte’s cynical narrators in the smart Regency Colonial society of the  cities.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/charlotte-bronte-as-gamer-1/

The Angrian dragoons had dismounted, leaving their horses up the valley and with the 5th Angrians in two groups were scouting the river, half their number in reinforcements a mile or two behind.

D6 dice rolls saw these troops delayed arriving, until the 5th and 6th turn in area 5 and 6 on the Angrian baseline.

The turns were short and brutal, mostly involving fast melee, using the Kaptain Kobold modification or  d6 dice version of Gerard De Gre’s Lunge Cut and Stop Thrust melee or duelling rules.

1-2   Attacker Hit

3    Both Hit

4   Neither Hit

5-6   Defender Hit

Melees occurred from group stage in adjacent hexes or who have charged into their opponents.  The Pell-Mell, Hell for Leather pace of the game meant that there were few casualties from rifle or musket fire, many more from Highland claymore, bayonet, short sword and rifle butt (and no doubt boot and fist).

Turn 1 and 2 saw rapid movement through the cluttered terrain towards the first shots and melees of Turn  3.

Turn 3 saw 9 Angrian troops and 12 of MacTerror Glen’s Scots killed, mostly when the Highland  claymore warriors  charged the Angrian troops.

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At the start of turn 4 (as shown in photo by a d6 Turn Dice)  the few Angrian infantry over the bridge are outnumbered by Scots.

By Turn 4, some of the outnumbered Angrian forces on the board retreated to await their reinforcements (D6 dice roll 1-3 Retreat, 4 Stay, 5-6 Advance).

This didn’t stop one party of three Angrian 5th Infantry being surrounded and outnumbered on two sides by Scots around the bridge. Luckily supporting fire from the Angrian command party and standard bearer picked off two further Scots musketeers.

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Engaged on both sides by Scots, this small cohort of Angrian 5th Infantry are wiped out.

In Turn 5 the advancing Scots moved into Melee with the Angrian Command and Colours party, leading to a doubly fatal duel between Highland claymore against Angrian officer’s broadsword.

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Angrian Officer Lieutenant Prunty charges down the hill to engage with his  Highlander enemy in a fatal duel.

Thankfully the rest of the Angrian Dragoons and Fifth Regiment arrived in Turn 5 and 6. Just in the nick of the time …

These Angrian reinforcements pushed back and  pursued the last of MacTerrorGlen’s troops and the Scots command party and colours back over the bridge. They made their last stand outside the crossing hut.  The  Scots colours were lost when the command and colours party decided to fight to the finish  (dice roll d6 roll 1-3 surrender, 4 – 6 fight on).

Throughout the early part of the battle, the Ashantee Bowmen on the high ground rocks were out of range and sight of many of the Angrian troops. Overall they played very  little part in the whole battle, not even firing many volleys of arrows before they were engulfed in melee. Their officer or chief Khla managed to escape to carry on the invasion  with the other invading Ashantees under Quashia  Qamina.

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Ashantee bowmen move into range of Angrian troops.

At the end, the Angrian Armed Transport Corps hitched the abandoned supply waggon to their horses and slowly dragged this back up the valley to where the dismounted dragoon horses and horse holders would provide further armed escort back to Adrianopolis, Zamorna or Edwardston as needed.

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Detail of map of Angria by Christine Alexander (Oxford Campanion to the Brontes)

Discarded weapons and the captured colours of MacTerrorGlen’s Scots are sent back onboard the supply waggon as victory trophies to inspire the flagging Angrian forces.

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The remaining two Angrian  Dragoons, Angrian standard bearer and drummer remain behind in the bridge crossing hut. Suitably armed with discarded carbines, muskets and ammunition, they make themselves  busy fortifying this outpost and guarding the crossing  until further Angrian reinforcements arrive. Burying the dead will have to briefly wait, but not too long in these African “Yorkshire Tropic” climes.

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The Rising Sun banner of Angria flies victorious over the captured river crossing hut as the surviving Ashantee officer flees on the opposite bank.

Arise Angria! Raise the Blood-Red Banner of the Rising Sun! Huzzah!

Figures and Terrain 

All the figures are from  the sadly now discontinued Peter Laing range of 15mm figures.

The Ashantee bowmen are from the Ancient Egyptian range  (Nubian Archers F452 and their officer F453 Nubian Spearman).

MacTerrorGlen’s rogue Scots troops are from the Peter Laing ECW and ’15-’45 ranges. I especially like his kilted Highlander charging with Claymore (F1006) and small shield but his Highland musketeers ( F1008) are fine figures too.  https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/04/more-peter-laing-scots/

 

The “Angrian Dragons” are ECW dismounted dragoons firing, F515, one of my favourite Peter Laing figures.

The homespun 5th Angrian Regiment in campaign dress are the ACW butternut infantry advancing F3012, along with the Boer Rifleman advancing at trail F622.

I quickly made and  coloured an Angrian flag and added this to one of the Boer figures to make a standard bearer.

The Heroscape hex terrain terrain on my two portable gaming boards tries to create  that curious mix of European and African or Yorkshire Tropical that exists  in the Bronte’s limited but imaginative view of the world outside their native Haworth and Yorkshire. This was backed by PECO Scene Backgrounds Medium SK 44 Country with River with its great view of mountains and stone bridges over streams and slightly incongruous European stone farm houses, obviously in the Yorkshire / European influenced Angrian settler style.

Pine trees, impassable rocks, a raging stream or river form all part of a rugged and Romantic, almost Gothic landscape of hills, fields and  craggy mountainous peaks of how the Bronte children  saw Angria (West Africa). This fits well the restricted routes and impassable labyrinths of trees, logs and rocks that suit Donald Featherstone’s original Close Wars rules for forest skirmish that I have tweaked for hex board or garden games. https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/close-little-wars-featherstones-simplest-rules/

The waggon was an underscale diorama piece from the 54mm Safari figures Wild West Settlers Toob. Its  eventual escorts were Peter Laing Boer War cavalry M603 or M605 Imperial Yeomanry figure.

Post-mortem:

This was a great fun game for an evening. Using the Gerald De Gre duelling rules in Kaptain Kobold’s simplified dice version for the first time as the Melee section with the rest of the Little Close Wars rules led to quick fast and murderous melees.

The look of the board / game?

I like the portable hex game boards but I would like to flock or sand more of the Heroscape hex pieces, and glue and flock some of the pine tree bases permanently to hex bases.

Part of the early evening was spent tidying up the portable game boards, removing the temporary masking tape letters and grid numbers and sanding the edges before rewriting them in a neater fashion. Eventually I think I will wood stain the outer edges and possibly acrylic paint (sap green) the inner sections  of game board that show up as bare wood in the middle and edge. Hopefully they will look less intrusive but still allow each board to be used separately.

Outcome:

A swift outcome of a minor skirmish in the Angrian Civil War, a minor victory in a disastrous campaign.

This campaign led to Angria’s defeat at the Battle of Edwardston 26 June 1836, which saw Zamorna exiled and Angria savagely occupied by Ashantee and MacTerrorGlen’s forces throughout the rest of 1836. Angrian troops fight on in the hills.

Victory does not come until Zamorna returns and leads his forces to victory at the Battles of Leyden,  Westwood and Evesham throughout 1837.

Hopefully Charlotte and Branwell Bronte would approve, their imaginary worlds having been sparked by a gift from their father of a box of toy soldiers.

Read more at the other Bronte 200 inspired blogposts at: https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/charlotte-bronte-as-gamer-1

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 20th May 2017

Of Semaphore and Signal Towers

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From Clementine box to fortified signal tower ….

I have posted two new posts on my sister blog Pound Store Plastic Warriors,  all about the fun of making this semaphore signal tower for coast, mountain or desert from available scrap, a suitable toy soldier type fortified building for 30 mm to 54mm figure games.

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/scratchbuilt-desert-or-coastal-signal-tower/

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Some of my Peter Laing 15mm British colonial troops and heliograph. 

Some of the design ideas came from researching the fascinating history of flag and flash, semaphore and heliograph, which forms the subject of  my second post here:

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/by-heliograph-and-semaphore/

Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN, May 2017.