Making a Martello Tower from Scrap – Fort Crumble

To match a bunch of 15mm pirate and Redcoat preventive men from another random job lot of figures, I have added a coastal defence fort.

This is not the familiar Airfix WW2 one of my childhood but an original Napoleonic one – the Martello Tower.

I remember seeing these curious flowerpot coastal castles on childhood holidays to the south coast. I have a feeling I might have been inside one as well. We visited the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch area of Kent, the curious home of light railways, Dr. Syn, smuggling museums and marshes. All equally fascinating to a small child.

Martello Towers are the ultimate bucket and spade seaside sandcastle with a flag and a cannon on top.

If you are not familiar with them, there are several websites about them. Wikipedia has a wide range of information and a useful photo gallery from round the world on Martello Towers. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martello_tower

There is an entire dedicated website to Martello Towers, including ones that have been undermined by the sea revealing parts of their construction.

https://martellotowers.co.uk/armedforces covers the garrison of 24 men (cramped), Napoleonic era gun crews, Artillery Volunteers, Militia and “sea fencibles” (or ‘reformed’ smugglers).

There are in their 1990 English Heritage Martello Tower no. 24 booklet online here some wildly imaginative LacePunk / Steampunk original Napoleonic era prints of how the French might invade by raft, balloon and airship etc. – “typical shabby Nazi, sorry, Napoleonic tricks” as the 1805 version of Captain Mainwaring would say.

https://theromneymarsh.net/martello24guidebook

Cinque Ports Volunteers reenactors https://theromneymarsh.net/martello24#inside

Some smart Militia Volunteers, perfect for my scratch 15mm Napoleonic era garrisons of Forgotten Minor States.

Lots more at: https://theromneymarsh.net/martello24#inside

https://www.papershipwright.co.uk/product/south-coast-martello-tower/

Several manufacturers make resin or even Paper ones on the unusual Paper Shipwright website (which has free downloads of some things).

Some useful Martello Tower words for instant expertise: The roof gunnery platform floor is called a terreplein. The irony – a French word for a seaside castle cannon platform against Napoleon. Impressed?

Building your Crumble Pot Martello Towers

So where to start?

What first gave me the idea was a bit of scrap recycling from a recent sweet treat gift, some mini crumble puddings.

“First eat your puddings …”

Add in the plastic top to some lovely lunchtime Itsu noodles, the only unrecyclable bit but which also comes in handy for flocking trays.

So in Blue Peter style you need in suitable size or scale for your figures, in this case 15mm:

    Two plastic containers or flowerpot shapes, one cut down to sit inside the other to give the roof space.
    A base or lid upturned to give extra height if needed
    A spare cannon such as this one from the Risk boardgame,
    Some lolly sticks for the gun pivot
    A drawing pin for the pivot
    Acrylic model paint to coat the plastic
    Scalpel or sharp scissors to cut out the roof hole and cut down the inner pot.

Cut a neater hole in the base than I did (wrong sort of jaggy plastic, didn’t want to try the candle / knife method to smoothly melt the edges). This gives you your roof opening.

Place this cut open base over the other pot and work out how much you need to cut off to give you the gunnery space and shelter for the Gun Teams. Pop a figure and the gun inside to get an idea of size.

Cut in stages or strips away at the bottom part of the inner pot until your figures and gun sit right inside. Like Lockdown haircuts, you can’t add it back once you’ve cut it off.

The swivel: The gun is on a raised up platform to give that 360 degree swivel. Measure the lolly stick from middle of the pot top / base. Insert drawing pin as pivot. Put through plastic top. Secure pin bit underneath with a piece of thick card or balsa.

Paint the outside of the tower with an undercoat of white or light grey. Don’t forget to paint the inside (pot base) of the tower roof gunnery platform before you start sticking these together.

Stick your gun onto a short piece(s) of lollystick to step it up step by step on the swivel piece until it can freely move around the rim of the tower.

Dry Run – Once you have tried all the finished bits and bobs together, then glue the cutdown pot onto the noodle lid, and add the top pot.

The stepped cannon is the last fiddly bit to add, the barrel poking above the battlements and freely pivoting.

Avoiding cutting out recessed windows and doors into jaggy plastic, I used thin card to make the door and window frames.

These doors and windows were on the landward side to protect them from ship attack. The seaward walls were slightly thicker brick walls to cope with attack from the sea.

An external ladder from the Airfix Commando set was added but could be made from card. The doorway platform and ladder were designed to be easily taken inside or demolished by the tower gun crew.

Cleverly the towers had a rainwater collection from the roof to basement water tank or internal well to survive sieges. Tucked away are musket racks inside, gunnery stores, shot lockers, ration stores. Officers quarters were small but separate from the men’s. It is part castle, part stone naval ship.

Martello Towers were built all around the world so I can feature them in some ImagiNations and Colonial games like the Forgotten Minor States.

What next for gaming scenarios with the Martello tower?

Add some sandy coloured felt and blue felt,

  • a lighthouse, quay, warehouses and scattering of wooden houses,
  • my random job lot 15mm pirates and tricorne men
  • a cheap plastic boat / ship (what is the difference anyway?) from a seaside toy shop pirates set stocked away for rainy days,

All this is surely a scratch recipe for a coastal / pirate / naval game of Close Little Pirate Wars! Pistols, cutlasses, cannons, blunderbusses, muskets …

This lovely Murray King postcard of Cornish Wreckers vs the Excise or Preventative Men gave me some uniform colour ideas. I have some random tricorne figures to paint up as Customs redcoats.

I mocked up a quick harbour scene with the Martello Tower in place, using a Tamiya stone paving baseplate.

I blame Gridbased wargaming for his St. Nazaire raid game last year https://gridbasedwargaming.blogspot.com/2020/01/st-nazaire-raid-game-report.html

I think you can see the influence of this St Nazaire harbour game in my simple dockyard buildings and warehouses using some crafty Christmas decoration presents:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/to-the-lighthouse-more-christmas-gaming-crafty-surprises/

These ‘make your own Christmas decoration houses’ were easy to transform into flexible 15mm warehouses. Other blocks of wood were used to add storehouses.

Further Gaming Scenarios

After 1815, Martello Towers around the world were reoccupied as needed by troops, coastguard and preventive men throughout troubled times in the 19th and 20th century. Some were adapted as signal stations.

Others were reused in WW2 for coastwatch, observer Corps and effectively as pillboxes against German invasion.

So Captain Mainwaring lives on, he can again guard the coast of the Novelty Rock Emporium to the Pier at Warmington on Sea against seaborne and airborne German troops – disguised as nuns? – another “typical shabby Nazi trick”. Mainwaring really ought to have a Martello Tower to defend as well.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/to-the-lighthouse-more-christmas-gaming-crafty-surprises/

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN 29 April 2020

A few penny saving tips

Left over tiling spacer Xs turned into barricades, glued onto square bases. Long Matchsticks

32mm Pound store conversion figures man the barricades & stop two suspicious customers (Fantastic Beasts figures, The  Works £1 each )

Barricades with smaller cocktail sticks for 15mm scrap ACW figures painted up as generic rebels.
I haven’t yet tried or make D-Day beach obstructions with the tile spacer Xs. 

Sparkler wires reusable for spears, pikes, flagpoles etc

A few penny saving, time saving tips using scrap materials.

Do you have any favourite money or time saving tips to share?

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN 26 April 2020

At a Border Watchtower in one of the Forgotten Minor States

Keeping watch towards the disputed border, the Jagers of this watchtower scan the forest edges. These are the Jagers or border patrol for the Duchy of Reissenshein, that Forgotten Minor State of forest and mountains.

Forgotten Minor States – https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/19/scrap-napoleonics-ready-to-scrap-forgotten-minor-states/

Glued on, tucked away on the hex edge, some mountain rabbits
Roof made removable with a little card retaining frame inside. Notice boards made for inside.
15mm Peter Laing Jäger or Alpini figure, HO forest animals from Noch including fox with bird

Details of the two Noch sets including the Laser Cut Mini cardboard jagerstand

So much for getting a game in this morning, instead first I needed to build this old laser cut mini card kit from Noch.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN 20 April 2020

An Old 15mm Farmhouse by Gallia

Gallia Farmhouse with Peter Laing 15mm figures ECW / 1715-45 range

Lockdown Sort Out: One of the long surviving and bashed buildings I have is a resin farmhouse from the 15mm of range in the 1980s by Gallia.

This is not as you can tell the original chimney. This was lost sometime in storage over the years. However I found a suitable replacement chimney in a job lot bag which kind of fits, badly, in a characterful way.

If it got anymore wonky, Trumpton Fire Brigade would have to be called to fix it.

1983 Battle for Wargamers – Wargames Manual (Ed. By Stuart Asquith) advert for Gallia range

This Farmhouse was the only resin building that I bought then as I relied like everyone else on old bashed Airfix railway buildings, Airfix Forts, surviving parts of the Waterloo Farmhouse and homemade cardboard ones. Surprisingly large numbers of my games were fought then around strategic targets such as railway stations!

I also bought and still use 15mm cardboard buildings by John Mitchell from Peter Laing.

Gallia resin buildings were expensive enough c.1982/83 to have been chosen as a present. When it arrived, the resin still had a strong chemical smell which has thankfully faded over the years. I never tried their figure ranges.

One downside I found with this resin building is the fixed roof, so that you cannot place figures inside.

1982/83 magazine advert and prices. I assume ruined buildings were a bit cheaper than whole ones?

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN 15 April 2020

To the Lighthouse: More Christmas Gaming Crafty Surprises

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These were Christmas gifts, these “Made of Wood” craft products from a local craft store – in the varied shapes of a lighthouse, wooden pine trees and Christmas decoration houses.

The label suggests that they are made from a very fast growing timber called the Paulownia tree, widely farmed and forested in China / East Asia and now across America as the ‘new balsa’ because of its lightness and valued for its attractive grain.

A light green wash or woodstain should bring out best features of these toy like pine trees.

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Airfix OO HO and Peter Laing 15mm WW2 troops for scale comparison.
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Just one of the games scenarios that these wood block gifts suggest … Airfix commando raids

 There are some fantastic wooden buildings in this St Nazaire raid game that give an idea of how to make your own or use wooden buildings like these:

https://gridbasedwargaming.blogspot.com/2020/01/st-nazaire-raid-game-report.html

Some handy crafty pieces and ideas for future games.

Blog update from Lockdown April May 2020:

St. Nazaire raid inspiration went back a century or two – Lighthouse and houses now completed (April / May 2020) into part of a port for 15mm pirate raids.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/28/making-a-martello-tower-from-scrap-fort-crumble/

Forest trees undercoated for Close Wars Forest Skirmishes

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/05/10/classic-close-wars-and-comic-book-soldiers-back-to-the-forest/

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 1 February 2020 / 15 May 2020 update.

Native Stilt House

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I picked up this curious little Asian stilt house today from a vintage shop. It is presumably a tourist souvenir from someone’s travels.

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The roof removed and repaired

With the roof off, figures can be placed inside which extends its use with gaming figures.

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32mm Poundland plastic figures converted to colonials

The roof could be reversed but it does look rather odd.

 

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Generic Natives defend the stilt house
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Boy Scouts from the STS Little Britons 42mm Range

A lucky find – not sure where in the world or which part of Asia it is from.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN 24 January 2020

B.P.S. Blog Post Script

Further found jungle games buildings are these aquarium ornaments which I posted about back in 2017:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/23/waterproof-garden-games-terrain/i

I bought a Scottish Croft for only £1

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After a cool early morning stroll through my nearest local village I walked past a fundraising car boot sale. I was tempted to start a small Sylvanian Army by equipping small furry clothed creatures with shields, swords and spears (Redwall style) but kindly left them all to be discovered with delight by a  local child.

Instead I bought a Scottish Croft for a Pound.

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Thankfully I don’t now have to upsticks and move Northwards to embrace the Good Life of Self Sufficiency anytime soon, only to find both the off-grid smallholding novelty and the delusion wear out quickly. Then write a book about it.

Or maybe not – because it is a very very tiny Croft House and a very small piece of land. It also comes with a tiny flock of sheep built in!

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Instead I moved in some suitably tiny tenants into this little resin Lilliput Lane building – some of my vintage 15mm Peter Laing 1715 or 45 Rising figures. I’m not too sure if they are happy about the sheep or the related Highland Clearances that will follow in the next century.

These 15mm Peter Laing highlanders that I bought as a youngster are here:
https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/04/more-peter-laing-scots/
https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/all-about-the-base-about-the-base/

Those precious few Peter Laing sheep have a lot to answer for! Posted when I thought only had one surviving 15mm sheep: https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/29/peter-laing-sheep/

Crofting, Clearances, Sheep or People?
The Highland Clearances (or  the “eviction of the Gaels”) were the forced evictions of many tenants in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, mostly in the period 1750 to 1860.

“After the initial swift and bloodthirsty retribution for the Jacobite rebellions, laws were instigated to prevent any further groundswell of support for the previous monarchs. In 1747 ‘The Act of Proscription’ was passed. Clan tartan had become popular during the Jacobite years and this was outlawed under this new act, as were bagpipes and the teaching of Gaelic. The Act was a direct attack on the Highland culture and way of life, and attempted to eradicate it from a modern and Hanoverian-loyal Scotland.”

So says:
https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofScotland/The-Highland-Clearances/

The article continues:  “It was not only Highland culture that disappeared over this period but also the Highlanders themselves, for the most prosaic of reasons: money. It was deduced by those landowners on whose lands the clans lived and worked, that sheep were exponentially more financially productive than people. The wool trade had begun to boom and there was literally more value in sheep than people. So, what followed was an organized and intentional removal of the population from the area. In 1747, another Act was passed, the ‘Heritable Jurisdictions Act’, which stated that anyone who did not submit to English rule automatically forfeited their land: bend the knee or surrender your birthright …”

The hundred or so years between 1750 and 1860 saw the bulk of the Highland Clearances, forced eviction from farms or a move into alternative Crofting tenancies. For many, it led to eventual forced emigration to avoid famine and failed industries like kelp farming. It is still an emotive area of many people’s family histories scattered around the world. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highland_Clearances

So a Scottish Croft for only an English Pound has a lot of complex and partisan economic, social, colonial and military history lurking behind it.

With such big spending, I could have posted this blog post on Pound Store Plastic Warriors.

Two other wargames blogs on a 1:72 Jacobite theme

Rod’s interesting Airfix conversions https://rodwargaming.wordpress.com

Tony Kitchen at Tin Soldiering On http://tonystoysoldiers.blogspot.com/search/label/The%2045

For more of my Lilliput Lane buildings of this sadly vanished uk manufacturer: https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/lilliput-lane-buildings-for-15mm-figures/

Now back to researching those early Scouting handbooks and Wide Games scenarios. Scottish Scouts were allowed to wear kilts.

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Image source: Pinterest

Blog posted by Mark Man of
TiN on 28 July 2019