75 years ago today WW2 came to an end on 15 August 1945 with the surrender of Japan after the two devastating bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
As a result of VJ Day, my Maternal Grandfather Len on his Royal Navy aircraft carrier out in the Far East had to fend off no more kamikaze attacks. He was then able to sail home to safety, demob and family. VJ Day was secured at a high price in suffering and lives, civilian and military. These two dreadful ‘atomic’ bombs might be argued to have saved the lives of Len and tens of thousands of Allied and Japanese servicemen.
As on VE Day75 in May, I will get out my family medals and photographs of my grandfather (whom I never met) and quietly ponder them before VJ Day is over.
A time to be thankful and thoughtful.
The pandemic has shut down many opportunities to mark this as a national event and publicly remember the efforts of the surviving members of the “Forgotten Army”.
It may seem trivial to some to now mention ‘Toy Soldiers’. Many toy soldier collectors have strong interest in military history. It’s where I learnt a lot of my world history at a young age. There is a short historical article about VJ Day and the Japanese war effort in this month’s issue of Toy Soldier Collector International, illustrated with King and Country toy soldiers.
I don’t buy many wargames or toy soldier collector magazines, even before the pandemic shut the High Street magazine racks for a while. This Toy Soldier Collector International magazine August / September 2020 issue however caught my eye. I was able to browse the contents page online, ordered it online and it swiftly arrived by post straight from Guideline, the publishers.
The attraction? I spotted interviews with Steve Weston Plastic Soldiers and Peter Johnstone of Spencer Smith Miniatures. As I have bought figures from both over the years (see Blog Post Script), I thought it would be an interesting read.
Sadly Steve Weston plans no more new releases of his own 54mm plastic figure releases for the foreseeable future due to the costs of production and the current state of the market. He still has his very useful plastic 54mm toy soldier shop online, selling his own figures and many other makers’ toy soldiers including the quirky Replicants range http://plasticsoldiers.co.uk
Other interesting news in the Peter Johnstone article, well illustrated with his Shiny Toy Soldiers in 42mm, is the forthcoming release of his new 42mm ACW range. This is another bonus for the slowly growing 40-42 mm end of the market with these and Irregular Miniatures etc. No longer will ‘Spencer Smith ACW’ automatically mean 30mm.
North Gondal forests, 1870s – a supply column, deep in the forest, approach a stream
Ahead of the supply column, few yards over the old bridge, a large dead tree had fallen over the road, neatly blocking it.
Suspicious? Old dead trees fall over, and they had had heavy rain storms recently. The old plank bridge wasn’t looking in too good shape either. Must have happened overnight. The Forest Fort foot patrols should have noticed this damage and made good a repair.
They would need to proceed cautiously. Steady there! The weekly supply waggon for the Forest Fort (Fort McGuffin) tipped precariously over and backwards as it crossed the old wooden bridge over the stream.
The Redcoat troops of the Yestershire Regiment heard the sound as one of the wheels skewed off at an odd angle. Barrels and boxes tipped out onto the rough forest road and stream. Some of the bridge had washed away … or maybe the rope and timbers had been hacked away?
Assessing the damage to the wheel, Captain Snortt of the Yestershires, the officer in charge of the supply column, quickly sent the wagon horse and rider ahead to summon reinforcements and a repair team from the Forest Fort (Fort McGuffin).
As the horse and rider disappeared up the forest road, Snort sent his small column of seven redcoats to fan out and protect the cart whilst one of the Army Service Corps men Private Fuller tried to fix the axle and wheel.
The scattered barrels and boxes were stacked to make temporary cover positions.
They wedged the damaged axle on a haybale that they had been carrying for the horse.
Snortt knew that the Forests this far North had eyes everywhere. The local Native Indians were increasingly hostile, they did not enjoy their sacred hunting grounds being carved up by roads and forts, loggers and the land claims of settlers.
To add to his problems, the column included a rare civilian passenger, Kate the youngest daughter of Major McGuffin, the Fort Commander, who was travelling to visit her father. A fine hostage and bargaining chip she would make, if the Indians captured her.
Luckily for Snortt, young Kate was used to frontier life and quickly unpacked a pistol from the baggage, loaded it and watched the surrounding forest. There were spare rifles in the wagon if needed.
The Indian Scouts who were scattered around hunting through the forest return to their chiefs. They bring news. “The wagon is broken on the bridge.”
“The horse has gone to the fort.”
“Several redcoats have stayed to protect the wagon.”
“There are supplies and a passenger for the Fort.”
Meanwhile back at the bridge, the Redcoats of the Yestershires heard drums. The low sound of a native signal drum in the distance. Snortt was not sure how far away. Drums talking across the forest trees. Someone may have seen their difficulty and was even now summoning the local hunting parties.
Damn that bridge! Damn that wheel.
It looked to Snortt now that the fallen tree and the storm damaged bridge may not have been such natural events after all.
Meanwhile amongst the trees, the Indian Braves gathered with their spears and hunting rifles. Their tribal chief Old Wooden Legs spoke to the dancing Medicine Man who was blessing their hunt and ordered the drums be silenced. The Summoning was over.
“Let us harry the Redcoats and their wagons to remind them this is Our Land. There may be much of value in the Wagons – firesticks, metal bees* (bullets) and other important supplies for the Forest Fort, a Fort made from the timbers of our sacred trees.”
“Let us use the shadow and cover of these trees to approach the wagon and take something back in return for what these Redcoat devils have done to our forests. Civilians may prove good hostages. If the Redcoats attack or resist, we will use force to defend our forest.”
* The native Gondal Forest Indian name for bullets, “metal bees that sting death”.
Thus the die is set for a confrontation. In part 2 (or chapter 2?) of this small skirmish solo game I shall set out the terrain map, troop dispositions, aims and victory conditions.
Figures, Terrain and used.
Close Wars rules requires a cluttered terrain. Rather than clutter up the kitchen table with a 54mm Close Wars game and have to move it for meals, I wanted to leave this set up to play over several days squeezed in next to my desk and painting table.
I put sheets of felt over my usual portable hex boards for a change, using some chunky bound old volumes for hills. I used strips of felt for added streams and paths, exploiting the dips added some slate chips and chunks from the garden, some twigs and railway modelling bushes.
The damaged bridge was quickly made from a raft of coffee stirrers, superglued and ‘painted’ with felt tips. The bridge provides a “pinch point” between hills and stream for the wagon.
Hopefully it all keeps some of that improvised terrain spirit of our childhood games, of H. G. Wells’ Little Wars and early Donald Featherstone War Games 1962 (the book from which the two page ‘Close Wars’ rules appendix came).
The only large sheet of felt in the house when I was a child, a beautiful thick dark green, was the heat protector under the table cloth for our family dining table, so borrowing this or the dining table itself (above or below) meant toy soldier games had to fit in and finish around family mealtimes.
For a few moments I considered this as a garden game, but with creaky knees and changeable weather, I decided against this. The trees I use for pop-up 54mm games would not like being left outside.
The forest trees are beautiful preformed preprinted thick card ones from Bold Frontiers Australia, a recent gift to aid my Close Little Wars forest games. The three tree sets bring a real pop-up 3D picture book feel to this forest landscape.
The scenario of ‘Wheel Meet Again’, the broken wagon to defend in hostile territory is loosely based on one by the late Stuart Asquith that I used as a memorial game last November. Add a dash of Last of The Mohicans.
Gondal is a borrowed ImagiNation, one of the four kingdoms on a North Pacific ‘Tropical Yorkshire’ island created in the 1830s and 1840s by the Bronte family as youngsters. Other Bronte versions of ‘Tropical Yorkshire’ include Glass Town and Angria (roughly West Africa), whilst Gaaldine is Tropical Yorkshire on two South Pacific islands. Gondal is similar to my ImagiNations continents of North, Central and South Generica, roughly equivalent to the historical Americas.
I don’t have any French Indian War / Revolutionary War bicorne figures or redcoats in 54mm at the moment. The BMC 54mm ones are in a box patiently awaiting painting, a year on from Christmas 2019. Instead my 42mm Pound Store Redcoats have stepped in and borrowed the scout trek cart. This overloaded wagon is pulled by a flat cavalryman who disappears to take news to the Forest Fort, Fort McGuffin.
A few smaller Britains hollow-cast figures were added in. The Fort Commander’s daughter is a plastic seaside pirate girl with concealed pistol behind her back, her faithful hound from the old Tradition of London Victorian street figures.
Barrels are buttons from the local craft shop, hay from Britain’s farm series, the baggage from the old Herald cowboy raft.
I do have a host of repaired, tuppenny based hollow-cast 50 to 54mm Indians that I have repainted over the last two years. I have generally chosen the non Britain’s Indian figures as they tend to be a little smaller in the mid 40s to 50mm size.