Thursday 1 May 2014

Risorgimento or Garibaldi in Sicily 1860

I studied the Italian Unification at school and it was fascinating; This lead to following Garibaldi's career and especially his amazing campaign in Sicily with the "Mille" (Thousand), or Redshirts , taking the island in the face of 20-30,000 Neapolitan troops.

In 1860, Garibaldi lead a small force to overthrow the Bourbons who ruled The Kingdom of The Two Sicilies (Naples and Sicily), one of the few parts of Italy not subject to the new Italy, created by Piedmont. How he succeeded with enthusiastic but poorly armed volunteers against an army totaling perhaps 150,000 is an amazing story.

Last year I saw some of Gringo 40s Mexican Republican troops with simple uniforms and havelocks (cloth neck covers) on their kepis and immediately thought, Dunne's English battalion, part of Garibaldi's  forces, being a 50 odd hard core of English soldiers, mostly ex-officers, and the rest being mostly young volunteers from Palermo's slums.

I'm collecting more figures but in the meantime here are two of Dunne's men.

More Ironclads: Russo-Turkish War 1877

In 1877 Russia invaded the Ottoman Empire to "liberate" what would become Bulgaria. This war ended in a Russian victory after famous incidents such as the siege of Plevna and the battle of the Shipka Pass. Incidentally I am trying to finish off a couple of hundred 54mm figures for the last battle!

The war at sea was largely unknown, mostly because there wasn't one. At the end of the Crimean War the Russians were not permitted a Black Sea fleet. In 1877, the Turks under Hobart Pasha, a British Admiral, had a large fleet of river gunboats, monitors and ironclads which covered the River Danube and could interfere with the Russian river crossings. To counter them the Russians turned to torpedo boats , many built on the Tyne and the Thames, and a furious conflict was fought.

The torpedo boats used towed torpedoes, spar torpedoes ( a bomb on the end of a long pole familiar to ACW gamers) and Whitehead self propelled torpedoes, predecessor of the modern weapon.The Turks employed nets hung from ships, cables (but not nets for some reason) slung between boats and guard boats and launches.

My ship models are 1/600th scale made from balsa wood and wire with a few ships boats and ventilator shafts in metal, as are the Turkish defence boats and launches. I've also written my own "Za Torpedirovat" rules.

Well, here some photos of my vessels.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Ironclads: Lissa 1866

Naval gaming has always held an interest for me and that especially covers the Ironclad period of about 1860 up to the Dreadnaughts. Steam first played a part in the Crimean War and the French invented an armoured floating battery that heralded an era with fully armoured ships starting with the "Gloire" and the Royal Navy's answer, "HMS Warrior", now preserved at Portsmouth docks and well worth a visit.

The 1860s saw much experimentation, especially under riverine battle conditions in the American Civil War, but the only major fleet action was in the 1866 Austro-Italian War at Lissa. The Italians wanted to force action upon the Austrian navy (except for the Italian Admiral Persano who was court marshalled for his lack of vigour and initiative) and assaulted the Austrian island of Lissa; Unfortunately the defenses proved stronger and gave the Austrians time to steam up and fall upon the Italians before they were ready.

The Italians had more and better armed ironclads ( the Austrians had their new Krupp guns embargoed by their other enemy, Prussia) but despite having to put wooden vessels into the line including a ninety gun ship of the line, the Austrians stormed into the enemy, split them apart and sank two Italian ironclads with their flagship, a brand new turret ship that arrived a couple of days before the action, later sinking in harbour. Incidentally, much of the Austrian fleet was manned by Italians from Venice who had no trouble fighting other Italians.

I mostly game with 1/1200 and 1/2400 scale ships and here are a few of the Lissa participants.

Abyssinia 1935-1936

I now have some Italian troops to face down the Emperor's hordes; In this case a unit of Eritrean Askaris.

The Italian colony of Eritrea was the main base in East Africa and from where Mussolini's main offensive came. Whilst the majority of the Italian forces came from Italy itself, a large portion and indeed the best, in my opinion, were the native colonial infantry known as Askaris. They wore a practical khaki uniform with a jacket and shortened trousers, boots or sandals and a red fez. Each battalion wore a distinctive waistsash/cummerbund: the first few units from the 1890s were plain red, blue, white, etc with later ones becoming more elaborate, including one that resembled a tartan........ Each unit carried a small guidon (actually about 40cm square) in the same pattern with a large Roman number thereon, thus this unit is the 10th Battaglione and so has a large "X".

Platoons were commanded by Italians, dressed as their men including the cummerband but sans the fez, assisted by NCOs marked by a number of stars on their fezzes and large red brassards on their arms.

Although not as well equipped as the Italian troops, the Askaris were professionals with good morale and battlefield skills. However, this did mean they were used in hazardous roles to spare the Italians and some became so disillusioned they defected to the Abyssinian side.

For wargaming I use my own variant of VBCW's "Went The Day Well" , called "Went The Askaris Well", that brings out the more varied nature of the troops, weapons and terrain compared to rural England! Anyway, instead of a three section platoon each with a Light Machine Gun, the Askaris have only two sections of riflemen and the one LMG is with the Command Group.

Anyway, here is the eye-candy of the X Btg:

My Annual Blog entry!!!!!

Yet again I've had no time or home computer access to put anything up for a good while but I have been busy, honest! I have managed to get a bunch of painting finished and have played a host of games, mostly helping with people's Very British Civil War campaigns and I'll put up some of my units in a minute.

Friday 19 October 2012

Abyssinia 1935-1936

Time, I think, for a few more photos.

The Italian invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) is a fascinating campaign. The Abyssinians were essentially a Nineteenth Century tribal army that Emperor Haile Selassie was trying to modernise with machine guns, Regulars, a few aircraft and even Hitler was intending to send 37mm Pak ATGs. About half the Italian forces were Fascist militia, the Blackshirts, accompanied by a few newly raised conscript divisions and a core of native forces from Eritrea, Libya and Somaliland, called Askaris.

Whilst well armed compared to the Abyssinians, with CV33 tankettes and lots of aircraft, the Italians were operating in very hostile, roadless terrain against a stubborn and proud warrior army that had recent memories from 1896 of wiping out the last Italian invasion. The Italians were cautious and their leaders inept and it took the liberal use of  air-dropped mustard gas to break the Abyssinian resistence.

The Abyssinian army consisted of a recently created Imperial Guard, a provincially raised regular army called the Mahel Safari, and the Chitet or levée en masse of all able bodied men. The Mahel troops were all rifle armed, but with just about anything that fired a bullet. Machine guns were very limited and one army of about 5-6000 had none. Likewise artillery was short and included pieces taken from the Italians forty years earlier. The Chitet were usually armed with swords, spears and shields with some firearms (probably never more than half), most of which were museum pieces.

 My first figures represent the Mahel Safari and are mostly Empress, with the odd Askari Miniatures from USA, and Irregular and Bicorne.

My army in all it's glory!
A Browning MG, indicating that this unit probably belongs to one of the more powerful Rases, or Kings.

 This chap sports the Abyssinian cockade on his sun helmet, red, yellow and green- no Bob Marley jokes please!
 The traditional warrior dress was all white(ish), including jodpur like leggings and cloaks. This man is a Bicorne Miniatures figure from their 1896 range.

 The flag of the Mahel Safari, featuring St George slaying the Dragon.

 The bearer is an aristocrat, richly dressed in highly decorated red and black; even his rifle is decorated, probably with inlaid semi precious gems.  An Empress command figure.
 The Emperor encouraged his army to adopt modern uniform which many did, in various khaki shades, either locally made or just traditional clothing dyed with tea, roots, etc.
 This shows the wide variety of uniform worn. The lead officer on the left has adopted western dress.

 These men represent the more modern elements of the army; the greybeard on the left was probably at Adowa in 1896. Figures by Empress.

More warriors in both traditional and modern dress.

There are several makers of Abyssinian figures. The nicest are Empress who do both Mahel and Chitet plus some lovely command types; Askari do those too plus Imperial Guard. Traditional types, meant for 1896, are available from Bicorne and Irregular. Bicorne are alright and do both rifle and traditionally armed warriors but crucially have the only MGs produced; I am planning to convert some Italian Askaris with LMGs into Abyssinians at a later date. The Irregular figures are frankly not great, although the spear and sword types help fill out the Chitet warbands; the riflemen are awful but again serve as fillers and at least have the virtue of cheapness.

There are Chitet and Italian Askaris in the painting queue which I may get done by Christmas?!

Sunday 30 September 2012

Dutch Grenadiers and Kurassiers 1831

Here are some photos of my first Dutch units for the Ten days campaign in 1831.

Dutch Grenadier Afdeeling

Raised in 1829, this two battalion "Afdeeling" guarded the royal palaces, and was present in Bruxelles at the start of the uprising and went on campaign in 1831.

 Here is one battalion. The pre-war four company organisation was dropped in favour of six, with two "Flankeur" or light infantry companies.
 The figures are modified plastic Victrix French Guard Grenadiers.
The cap plate has had the eagle removed with an attempt to add a Dutch sunburst; the bearskin had a visor added but I couldn't make one, so stuff it....... 
 The Flankeurs replaced the bearskin with a shako; these are Perry French Line heads.
The jacket/coat was red with lots of gold chest lace, but since the Dutch campaigned in greatcoats despite the summer heat you can't see it.
 Command group.
Officers are just showing the red and gold coat.

3 Kurassier Afdeeling

 The Dutch Carabinier regiments post 1815 adopted cuirasses, just like the British Lifeguards, but retained their French style carabinier helmets.
These are Perry plastic French cuirassiers, with the carabinier head sans any Napoleonic insignia and with putty/filler shoulder rolls added.  
 I did this unit first due to figure availability, however the Dutch cautiously kept their heavy cavalry in reserve during the campaign and they didn't see action; ho hum!
 Command group, but no standard as I hadn't discovered one at the time; to be rectified now. Incidentally, nevermore of the Grimsby Wargames Club made all my Dutch colours and they can be found as free down loads on their website.
 A trooper showing the additional shoulder rolls.