Advent Day 13 – post number 300 or 301 – finishing a draft Bronte Gamer Blogpost at last.
The Art of The Brontes is a thick Thames and Hudson by Christine Alexander and Jane Sellars, an expensive illustrated book which I thankfully managed to borrow through my local lending library.
It covers every known sketch, painting and doodle by each of the four Bronte children from their youngest childhood drawings to their adult drawings and paintings.
I won’t infringe copyright of paintings or drawings from private or museum collections by featuring them here.
Steel engraving lowered the cost of prints making them more affordable for the likes of the young Bronte sisters.
Tropical Yorkshire in the Pacific?
I thought this might give me a clue to the possible backgrounds, terrain and landscapes for their fictional works of Gondal, Angria and Glasstown, upon which I have based some of my Imagi-Nations game scenarios recently.
Many of their fictional countries in the North and South Pacific or tropical West Africa are a bizarre blend of Yorkshire moors, the fashionable gothic or romantic art of their day with an element of the exotic gleaned from prints and journal illustrations of foreign countries.
I couldn’t quite get this blend of British or Yorkshire Tropical right in my head until I visited some of the sheltered and temperate gardens of Southwest England. Here you can see Victorian houses set in parkland with exotic planting brought back from many foreign countries giving that jungle or Himalayan valley and mountain pass impression. No doubt there must have been such bizarre juxtapositions in Yorkshire big houses that the Bronte family might have known about or visited, being on the edge of gentry as a vicar’s family. These would be big early Victorian houses with their greenhouses, botanic gardens, plant introductions and sheltered walled gardens.
I know this makes this Yorkshire Bronte Tropical fusion sound almost as authentic as filming Carry on Up The Khyber Pass in Britain, with North Wales standing in for the foothills of The Himalayas.
Some of the sketches of landscape appear to be copies of prints, illustrations and drawing exercises as they learnt how to draw in the style of their day.
Bronte Gaming Scenarios
Some of the PECO Landscapes seem very suited to Bronte country and fictional terrain – the mountain scenes or the seaside with ruined castle, for example.
Branwell Bronte, owner of the original twelve soldiers that gave rise to many of the children’s fictional countries and campaigns, wrote and illustrated some interesting early “Battle” books as well with ancient or Napoleonic ‘toy’ soldier drawings.
++++++ TSAF Toy Soldier Air Force official Air Ministry photograph, Gondal. ++++++
++++++ Passed By Censor for Publication. ++++++
New Flying Banshee FLB Mark I has undertaken successful air trials in the skies over Gondal.
This new Dive Bomber Biplane variant of our previous Biplane is undergoing Air Trials at one of the TSAF field air stations.
TSAF Air Ministry Spokesman: “Our new Flying Banshee aircraft Mark I is designed to terrify ground forces or shipping from the air and smash the enemies of Gondal through aerial bombardment.”
TSAF Test Pilot and Squadron Leader “Lucky” Haworth: “Its rugged construction is designed to withstand the rigours of dive bombing targets on land or sea. It has recently completed some successful bombing trails from an undisclosed island air station. It can also operate from small island airstrips or forest clearings.”
This stocky Banshee Biplane variant is a development of our previous dive Bomber monoplane, pictured alongside it.
“The Flying Banshee FLB Mark I is a bit of a powerful beast to fly and has quickly became known to trainee or inexperienced pilots as the FLaB (or Flies like a Brick).”
Details of its armament, experimental wing whistles and performance are not yet being made public.
+++ TSAF Air Ministry communication ENDS +++ +++++++
Back to the Man of TIN blog
My regular blog readers might recognise the Moshi airplanes adapted for use with 54mm Toy soldier figures. If H.G. Wells had incorporated the Aerial Menace into his 1913 Little Wars rules, they might have looked a little like these biplanes or monoplanes.
Upper wings were added from three layers of stiff card, curved edged card scrounged from our household recycling, originally trainer sock packaging.
Stout struts were added using balsa wood, much in the model of the Curtiss Hellcat Dive Bomber variant. This machine will be in use in garden game scenarios so needs the ruggedness. Not elegant but sturdy!
Two drawing pins hold the dip or angle on the main top wing / struts. This part was a bit of a pig!
Masking tape gives a doped canvas feel to the wing and also adds the fake top flaps. Plenty of super glue used throughout.
Currently Test Flight or Interbellum Silver.
Status: Not yet on Active Service. So far we have not applied Gondalese or Gondalian Air Force markings or decals at this test flight stage.
Gondal is one of the North Pacific island Imagi-Nations invented by the young Emily and Ann Bronte that we have fast forwarded a Century into the future from its Bronte Juvenilia origins (set in Napoleonic, late Georgian and Regency / early Victorian British Empire period) through to the interbellum 1920s and 1930s.
Amongst the growing ground crew you can see some recent conversions or repaints to become ground crew including LAC Leading Aircraftswoman “Penny” Farthing, a former Britain’s Land Girl or farm worker.
Old childhood plastic Starlux Engineers in Khaki ground crew overalls work on the Banshee biplane. Oiling up the plane, wearing the stylish new TSAF Gondal Air Ministry issue Blue helmet, is a Crescent Mine detector figure repaired and rebooted from a broken lead figure donated by Alan at the Duchy of Tradgardland.
Airfield Defence: Britain’s gun, pound store soldier sandbags and mix of old and converted Britain’s and homecast Air Force and Navy figures, Gondal being a proud island nation. Barbed wire is from spiral bound notebook wire after recycling a used small notebook.
Slowly building up suitable airfield accessories in 54 mm.
The planes now need a suitable adjustable altitude flight stand for garden gaming use.
The Banshee aircraft name was stimulated by the unlikely names of the Fantasy Name Generator aircraft names
These websites feature several others of these giant green toy soldier statues by Doug Coupland and a monumental Canadian firefighter in similar style.
Monument to the War of 1812 (2008) by Douglas Coupland in Toronto, Canada.
The standing soldier is painted gold and depicts a member of the 1813 Royal Newfoundland Regiment (Canada).
The other fallen toy soldier figure is painted silver and depicts an American soldier from the 16th U.S. Infantry Regiment.
The statue caption or information panel by Coupland mentions a highly local link – one block away is the War of 1812-14 site of Fort York, site of a crucial battle in April 1813 that secured Canada’s future as a separate nation from The USA
The victorious Canadian soldier looks rugged and heroic, not unusual on a war memorial. Certainly more conventionally heroic and rugged than the unfortunate Confederate war memorial in Dade, Georgia, known as “Dutchy”, pulled down and buried by his own townsfolk:
Safely two hundred years past, Coupland’s toy soldier approach to this war memorial is highly unusual, showing toy soldier versions of the protagonists complete with fake mould lines.
Is Coupland suggesting in game terms that this side won, or “you lost” as was recently scrawled on some Confederate war memorials in America?
Gold and silver statues, winner and runner up in sporting terms?
I wonder how we would react to a WWI or WWII statue in this rugged big toy soldier style, replete with figure bases and mould lines.
How would we react now as members of the public or the armed services to a statue in this style of a more recent conflict like the Gulf Wars or Afghanistan?
Is Coupland suggesting that soldiers are pawns in a game of war?
This toy soldier style of memorial or public artwork had done its job, in getting me thinking about its meaning.
I am reminded of H.G. Wells’ wise words in Little Wars book (about fighting battles with toy soldiers) compared with the real blundering thing of GreatWars. Wars, as Yoda wisely observed of great warriors in the Star Wars movies, “Wars do not make one great.”
A 2008 interview with Coupland about the statue features the unveiling, public response, toy soldiers and 1812 reenactors – see this short Vimeo video by Inkblot media https://vimeo.com/5020532
I would be curious to hear what other blog readers think of this interesting War of 1812 ‘toy soldier’ style memorial?
Events of 1812
So watching this video with its short and varied contributors, it seems that there is some controversy from different sides (Canada, America, Britain) on who exactly won and lost the war of 1812-14 in North America. This is partly what statue designer Douglas Coupland says he is challenging or questioning in his 1812 memorial.
All I remember from school about the War of 1812 is that “The British burnt the White House” with no real understanding of why. The events and background to the War of 1812 are outlined here:
In view of recent controversy over the future of some Confederate war memorial statues in a changing multi-racial America, it is interesting to read the response to this less well-remembered conflict or civil war in North America, amongst other controversial markers or memorials.
I am always struck by the highly familiar miniature statues that are our childhood Airfix figures.
Some of the spare Airfix OOHO British Waterloo infantry that I have recently found (in a couple of recent lucky Airfix box finds) could do well at a pinch for both British, Canadian and American troops in an 1812 Skirmish. Using Featherstone’s Close Wars appendix rules (from War Games 1962), this is another idea for the Man of TIN 2018 project list.
Such figures would also suit Army Red, Army Blue type of scenarios in Imagi-Nations and my fictional Bronte kingdoms of Angria and Gondal.
My trusty old library / childhood copy of Preben Kannik’s Military Uniforms of the World in Colour features British or Allied troops of the time, as well as these couple of 1812 American troops.
As a child I often thought the 1812 New York Rifle Corps uniform one of the more exotic, almost Santa Claus like in the trimmed hunting shirt, but had no figures similar or suitable.
The Portuguese Cacadores in their brown uniforms are interesting paint variations for Airfix or Napoleonic figures. The fact that the regular Portuguese units wore blue is another chance to reuse any Blue uniformed Airfix British looking troops with Shakos when they are not pretending to be American 1812 troops. The French infantry will provide any opposition needed. Flexible armies result if you don’t look too closely!
Interesting that the Butternut improvisation of dress (green, brown, grey, blue) of the American Civil War was alive in the 1812 US Army as supplies ran short. Good camouflage for guerilla and back woods fighting.
The US 16th Infantry Regiment pictured in Kannik’s book is the US regiment shown in Coupland’s Toy Soldier Statue or Memorial.
My local library service also turned up for me from its stores on loan The War of 1812, an old Osprey Men at Arms. Very useful – several more recent titles on the subject have been added.
As mentioned, another idea for the painting table and the Man of TIN 2018 project list!
Blog Post Script
Interesting comments in the comment section from Ross MacFarlane from a modern Canadian standpoint, worth reproducing here: “Hmm, as I recall the popular reaction to the statue was not exactly favourable, I suppose most of us aren’t enlightened enough. Odd to celebrate Ft York as a turning point since we lost that one but what’s history if you can’t rewrite it?
Its interesting to follow the shift in interpretation over the centuries to match various shifts in politics and culture from “brave Canadians stood up to the American elephant with a bit of help from the Old Country” to “the Brits did it all and the Canadians weren’t really involved” (hard to take in view of battles like Chateauguay where no Brits were involved and others where units raised in what is now Canada were raised as British regiments ) to a more balanced view based on facts.”
Ross’s other comment on Kannik’s uniform book got me thinking:
“I used to wonder just what kind of weird hat that the NY rifleman was wearing, would have been much better if he turned his head a bit to show the common top hat with turned brim. Looking back it was also surprising that the pictures on the dust jacket were not replicated inside, inc that handsome NY Dragoon”.
I had quite forgotten this figure:
I have some ideas in the comments section about making such a dandy Dragoon unit out of Airfix Waterloo British Royal Horse Artillery and Hussars conversions. More food for thought …
A second-hand find, this picture rich 2009 book by Bill Dunn is now out of print but was published by Lawrence King.com (a publisher of many fashion and textile books). It contains 294 pictures, 247 in colour.
Bill Dunn is a style editor, having worked on GQ, Esquire and LV magazines. As a result, he brings a different feel to this book than a military historian might. Full of uniform pictures, mostly in colour, Dunn uses familiar film stills as well as colour photos from all over the world to illustrate the very short essay at the start of each section. Overall , Dunn wants to know “why is it a good idea for people to look the same? Nothing sums up the power of the ‘We’ like a uniform.”
The book illustrates the role of uniforms for every job role from Hitler and The Pope and his Papal Swiss Guards to traffic wardens in Britain and Vietnam, from Boy Scouts to bunny girls, from fast food restaurants in the USA to policemen in Korea, from air hostesses to schoolchildren in Japan.
The book is interesting for the gamer or creator of Imagi-Nations uniforms.
One of my favourite ornate uniforms in the book is shown on the back cover – the mystery of who wears this smart get-up is revealed on page 78/79. They are Monaco police officers in their dress uniforms. Intriguingly, one of them has paratroop wings!
The captions are both informative and witty in places – the Carabinieri picture is captioned “Giant Italian Police (Carabinieri) in front of very small people in the Piazza del Duomo in Milan.” Pure Slinkachu or model village, this.
The Future section covers Astronauts to Science Fiction films and some bizarre past visions of the future.
Uniforms by Bill Dunn covers equally male and female uniforms, military, police and civilian. Ukrainian female paratroopers (women make up 10% of their armed forces) share the page with Indonesian women soldiers with sub machine guns trying to march on parade in absurdly tight skirts!
My other favourite elaborate Imagi-Nations uniform is the parade dress of male and female members of the Moroccan army, c. 2000.
This book sets up such smart military and police parade uniforms up against civialian uniforms of drum majorettes and cinema or hotel Commissionaires to show the similarities and differences. If you’re not in the military or public services, it’s not always called a uniform, it’s called “career apparel” (or workwear).
The chapter introductions are quite interesting. Uniform is something you (have to) wear to show belonging, sometimes to show Authority but paradoxically of also being under Authority – you have to wear what you’re told. It reminds me of many of my Dad’s stories about the importance of spotless kit, shiny boots, berets and shapeless uniforms to a National Serviceman, some of which I shared last month.
Uniforms by Bill Dunn is as interesting to flick through and dip into as Preben Kannik’s Military Uniforms of the World in Colour (Blandford, 1967/8). I am happily reminded of the section in Harry Pearson’s gaming memoir Achtung Schweinhund when he talks about endlessly poring through this library book trying to make lists of which is the coolest and most impressive, the worst or most curious uniform. I’m sure we all did this in our own ways. But that’s for another blogpost …
If you like uniform books or creating Imagi-Nations troops, Uniforms by Bill Dunn is well worth ordering online secondhand. It has some inserting points to make about the uniforms that many of us, military or civilian, choose or are forced to wear throughout life from childhood onwards.
I am still slowly piecing together the complex history of four sibling’s imaginary lands and islands.
Christine Alexander the Bronte scholar has imaginatively sketched in where the kingdom of Angria should be, seen here in close up:
There is no map by the Bronte family for the Gondal sagas, set partly on Gondal, a fictional island in the North Pacific which seems to be based largely on Yorkshire. So I drew a rough outline one.more detail will be required for when I set some skirmish gaming scenarios there.
So that is where the map is roughly based on the four North, East, South and West Ridings of Yorkshire.
The Bronte sagas are rather lush and overblown, a bit Gothic and tediously muddled in parts. After all it is their Juvenilia. Some of their adult novels have survived better (Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre etc) with their Byronic brooding charcters, mad wives from slave islands in the attic, gothic houses, etc. All quite difficult to take seriously though. At least Jane Austen took the mickey in Northanger Abbey out of the fashion for Gothic novels and the products of a fevered girlish or literary imagination.
I like the fact that it was a box of wooden soldiers that kick started the Bronte sagas.
Often seen as early science fiction or RPG material, a paracosm or alternate world, if the Bronte family had been born at the end of 19th Century and played with tin or lead soldiers then I’m sure it would have been more Floor Games and Little Wars … like another famous science fiction author, H.G. Wells.
There is a charm in the Mad Geography of inventing tropical pacific or African coastlines and islands but making them all moodily, ruggedly, mistily like the wild Yorkshire landscape that the girls knew.
In the next week or so I hope to post a potted history of each of the Bronte’s Imagi-nations.
I find the Bronte juvenile sagas and poems hard going because they were never published in their lifetimes, never edited and probably never meant to be read outside the family. Lots of events and character detail is implied, not stated or written down. The tiny books were split up and sold off by dealers. Usually scholars look at them for clues to the origin of their published novels and characters.
For the Gondal and Gaaldine sagas, the prose stories by Emily and Anne seem to have vanished and only really Emily’s poems to and from different characters remain. I think the longest surviving sister Charlotte may have destroyed the most Gothic / romantic sections with multiple partners, affairs and children out of wedlock parts of them.
Gondal is set on a North Pacific island of four kingdoms. The other island Created by Emily and Anne Bronte is Gaaldine. Gaaldine is a South Pacific island or islands of six kingdoms, settled and interfered with by the ruling families, royalists and revolutionaries of Gondal, and presumably the original natives. I have not yet drawn the Gaaldine map.
For the GlassTown and Angria saga more prose remains, based loosely on a map of West Africa but with European offshore islands and Regency / Naplenoic era heroes. I have been skim reading some of the prose surviving sections for geographical clues to places to enrich the map, jumble of characters etc.
Troubled brother Branwell Bronte had more violent revolutionary and military storylines, often ones that had to be altered or revised by his sister Charlotte when he killed off characters whilst the sisters were away at work or school. Emily and Anne got fed up and invented Gondal and Gaaldine as their own kingdoms.
I like the Prisoner of Zenda type Ruritanian or even Fredonian aspects of the sagas.
If it all gets too complex I will fast forward the nations through to the mid to late Nineteenth century when the established characters have largely died off or been deposed.
Lots of Royalists and revolutionaries abound, as befits the Bronte family growing up in the immediate aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and new European nations forming and being fractured by revolutionary times throughout their lifetime. These were the times the Bronte family were born into and wrote through and into the late 1840s.
I am always surprised by how rich in ideas Donald Featherstone’s original 1962 War Games book proves to be.
Reading through it as I often do, as its my ‘Desert Island Discs’ sort of book, I came across this interesting paragraph on page 46:
On the other hand, a completely mythical campaign is often conducted, using fancifully uniformed troops of imaginary countries and with highly coloured reasons for fighting the war.
It’s what we would now call Imagi-Nations gaming:
This can be fascinating, as ruling houses, petty dukedoms, jealous heirs and dashing princes provide excuses for one state declaring war on another adjacent dukedom, or fir those gaily coloured Hussars to be sent to the distant frontier where they will due gallantly fighting off the hordes of savage tribesmen threatening their country.
This seems almost Game of Thrones stuff!
Whatever the type of campaign, the first essential is a master map … (Page 46)
The only thing Donald Featherstone doesn’t quite describe in War Games is the 1970s rise in science fiction / space / fantasy style gaming. Or does he? Arguably his Ancients rules demonstration game the “Battle of Trimsos” based on Tony Bath’s Hyboria campaign is kind of fantasy wargaming there in embryo also.
Minus the orcs, of course …
This battle was fought in an undefined period of the chequered history of the mythical continent of Hyboria – a vast land mass dreamed up by Tony Bath of Southampton, which contains nations of almost every type of known warrior of our own world from its earliest times.
These countries fight each other on the slightest provocation, make pacts, break pacts, invade, repel and generally carry on much as did our own ancestors in the earliest recorded days of history… (Page 75)
And as Donald says in his opening chapter:
For the player who finds nothing of interest in this list [of wargames periods] there are imaginary campaigns that he may fight without limit. He can form his own imaginary world, with continents and countries each of which will make war on its neighbour on the slightest pretext.
The French find themselves involved in wars with America,the British take on the Russians in period 1900, and great wars take place between countries who, at the actual period in time when the campaign is deemed to be taking place, were the very best of friends in real life!
Therein lies one of the fascinations of war gaming – one can remake history to suit one’s ideas, can alter the complete trend of events by re fighting a major battle such as Waterloo and making the French win it …
Donald Featherstone’s books are always so enthusiastically written with assured knowledge that you will receive genuine pleasure and fulfilment in this solitary or shared hobby:
There is a great deal of satisfaction in making one’s own armies, either in entirety or by conversions …
It’s true what Don Featherstone says. Who could resist such conviction?
Who could resist that ‘Avuncular’ tone of a knowledgeable ‘Uncle’ Donald ?
My copy of War Games is the sold-off ex-library stock hardback copy that I used to borrow and read as a child. Thankfully War Games has been reprinted recently in paperback by John Curry.
I hope you have your own ‘desert island wargames book‘, the one you keep going back to and finding fresh ideas (despite the familiarity) for your own real world or imagi-nations gaming.
War Games is my ‘go (back) to’ book for ideas or just comfort reading. What’s yours?
Happy gaming! Leave comments, explore past blogposts or follow my blog.
More about Imagi-Nations on a previous ‘Tintin’ blogpost:
I’m preparing a series of solo skirmish games this winter once I’ve worked out the (confusing) imaginary kingdoms or Bronte 1820s/30s Imagi-nations of Gondal, Gaaldine, Angria and Glass Town, for which a Bronte sketch map exists!
This along with my ‘Generic-an forces’, from my fictional country of Generica, should prove to be an interesting winter’s gaming.
And the Title of the blog post? Imagi – Seven Nation Army?
Check out the fabulous and irresistible sultry ’30s New Orleans sleaze’ / Jazz rendition by singer Haley Reinhart and the U.S. band Postmodern Jukebox of this modern White Stripes number, available on I-Tunes but to view free on YouTube! Just type in Postmodern Jukebox on YouTube and enjoy the many musical styles they play with in their ‘musical time machine’ … Or visit http://postmodernjukebox.com
Happy Listening! Happy Gaming!
Blog posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, September 2016.