Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Review - Napoleon's Cursed War

The latest book to come off the Rosbif bedside table is Napoleon's Cursed War: Popular Resistance in the Spanish Peninsular War, 1808-1814 by Ronald Fraser.

It's a sweeping social and political history of the conflict with particular attention to the early years of the conflict in the vein of Charles Esdaile's works on the subject. What the author brings that is different to previous authors' coverage of the same topic is some detailed demographic statistics. He has constructed his own demographic database from information gleaned from pre and post war censuses, birth, death and marriage registries and other contemporary official statistics. All this goes to illustrating in stark clarity the devastating effect the war and its associated byproducts had on the country. It is clear from this book that the turbulent history of Spain from 1808 to 1975 can be traced back to Napoleon's decision to meddle in Spanish internal affairs. True, the initial political chaos caused by the Aranjuez affair was a purely Spanish coup, but it was brought to a head by Napoleon's ruthlessly sending French troops to take over Spanish cities and the fear and panic this caused in the court, which exacerbated the existing tensions between the anti-Godoy forces, with Fernando as their figure-head, and the King and Queen and their favourite, the Prince of Peace, Godoy.
The author doesn't examine the guerrilla phenomenon in as much detail as others and relies overly on the example of Espoz y Mina and El Empicinado, both of whom were the exceptions to the rule in that they were the most successful and eventually commanded large forces that were organised into 'divisions'. He doesn't delve into the military side of things beyond illustrating the failings of the juntas or the organisation of the population in the vacuum left by the implosion of the central state. The main military episodes covered are the Battle of the Bruch Pass and the sieges of Zaragossa and Gerona.

He describes the initial uprisings very well and how, once released, the population's will was impossible to ignore. The fact that those who rode to power on this popular expression of political will  eventually betrayed that political will is just one of many tragic outcomes of the war. The liberal Cortes which ruled from 1811 to 1814 governed as if in a vacuum, replacing absolutist feudalism with abstract market forces, leaving the majority of the population no better off. Their feudal dues and tithes were replaced by rents, while the people they paid stayed the same. The fact that the liberals were so easily toppled by Fernando and the absolutists is an indictment on the liberals, as they failed to get popular support on their side against the re-imposition of absolutism.

The author breaks up the narrative with anecdotes taken form personal recollections to illustrate the story. This is an effective way of placing a context to the narrative and offers a more personal view of how historical forces affected the individual.

It's a very dense read and took me a while to finish as my reading time is limited, but was very rewarding and well worth the time investment. Highly recommended! 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Anyone for (table) tennis?

I've just got an early birthday present from Mum; a table-tennis table. Besides providing the family with another sporting option, I now have a dedicated table and space in the shed for non-club wargaming. Huzzah! Other times when I've hosted a game at home the only option was adding the leaves to the table and taking over the dining room.It wasn't optimal as the table is relatively narrow. Now I can use all the tiles and terrain and have plenty of room for maneuver.

Below are some of the figures I'm working on at the moment; Royal Marines and Jack Tars for the sea landing scenario and more of Jim's Soviets. The last photo is of the progress of the fortified camp I'm making as the objective of the sea landing scenario. The earthwork positions are laid on top of  a polystyrene foam layer with a trench cut into it and the edges roughly cut to produce a glacis. I'll build the glacis up a bit more and add a flechette to cover the gates. The defenses will have a damage point system which, depending on the calibre of artillery firing at it, will determine when a practicable breach is made.

HaT Royal Marine

HaT sailor

Plastic Soldier Soviet. Love the facial expression!

Soviet command figure

Soviet rifleman. Lovely animated sculpt

Fortification WIP

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Swapsies #2

I've received the parcel of goodies from Dan of Gunner's Wargaming in record time! Dan sent it on Friday and it arrived the following Monday: Australia Post never sleeps!

In exchange for some Khurusan sci-fi figures, he sent me a whole bunch of Italeri cavalry and infantry plus some more of the wonderful Zvezda French artillery. The infantry will be used to make some uints of the Vistula Legion to accompany the Zvezda lancers I still have to paint; the dragoons will be used for Spanish cavalry and possibly French gendarmes, with the odd head conversion; and the artillery will go towards the siege/sea landing scenario I'm planning

Dan's been showing more stuff on his blog that he's willing to trade, so if you feel like making an offer get in touch with him and organise a swap. I can't recommend him highly enough; absolutely no hassles, and if Australia Post can turn on the service again like they did for me, it's all good!

Thanks, again Dan!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Blowing my own trumpet #2

I've passed the 25,000 visitor mark and just cracked 70 followers!

Thanks again, everyone, for coming back time and again and offering your support for my little blog. Knowing there's people out there who enjoy my work is a great spur to keep improving and posting my efforts.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

2nd Hussars (at last!)

The process of painting this unit has been long and drawn-out, but I think the wait has been worth it, even though I do say so myself! The leopard-skin shabraque turned out satisfactorily, even though the detail is a little hard to see in the pictures, especially after a layer of Army-Painter Dark.

Now they're ready to smash the British at Albuera, or chase guerrillas in Andalucia.

The whole unit

The command stand; Officer and bugler.

Detail of the shabraque conversion. Click to expand for best view.

Elite company head conversion


Trooper detail

Trooper detail

Trooper detail

I'll be getting some more of these figures from Dan of Gunner's Wargaming with whom I'm doing another swap, so I'll probably paint the 10th Hussars, who were also at Albuera. I'm sending him some space-men from Khurusan, and he's sending me a selection of his stash of 1/72 Napoleonics that he's not going to use.

It never ceases to amaze me that people who previously wouldn't have had the opportunity to communicate, now have the chance to talk and even swap stuff from anywhere in the world!

Cheers, Dan!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Horrible Histories 2

Not exactly relevant to anything in this blog, but these 2 clips are my favourite HH songs; MC Charles II and the Restoration Posse singing about the King of Bling, and the long, long list of British rulers from William the Conqueror to our own beloved queen, Lizzie no.2 sung in music hall style.

Again, enjoy!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Horrible Histories

One of the funniest shows on telly at the moment is the BBC kids' show "Horrible Histories" (showing in Australia on ABC3 at 6:30pm weekdays), based on the popular series of kids' books. The anachronistic use of historical figures acting in modern ways not only engages the kids, but is extremely funny! From the "...but wait! There's more!" adds for slaves and servants, to mock interviews and newscasts, the format of the show jumps around all over the place historically (and hysterically!). The funniest segments IMHO are the songs that adhere to the standard pop-music video format with singing and dancing routines.

Below are 2 clips that fall (roughly) into the period that this blog covers; The Georgian period of British history. The premise is that the 4 Georges are a boy-band in the vein of Westlife, or Take-that, here singing a soppy ballad, while giving a quick run-down of the history of the House of Hanover.

The second clip is George IV starting his solo career!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

River crossing AAR & WIP

Quote of the night:
Robin, on entering late and passing a critical eye over our game:
"Garry, you're f**cked!"

As a change for our usual set-'em-up, knock-'em-down Friday night match, Tim and John R organised a scenario night with 2 tables laid out to play 2 games of the same scenario; a river crossing with one side attacking and the other defending. The object of the game was for the attackers to capture 3 defensive positions, while the defender attempted to prevent the attackers form gaining them. All players would have the same amount of troops with all rated as regulars: 72 figures in whatever size battalions fit, one foot battery and one general.

Tim and Andrew S. played one game with the French attacking and the Swedes defending, while on our table, Pete E. was blooding his new Victrix British army with me seconding him, and Garry defended, outnumbered 2-to-1. Garry was spread thin trying to defend 3 points against the attacking British. Pete went for the left and centre, while I went for the right, concentrating all my forces on the BUA to my front. My artillery was concentrating against Garry's battalion of Legere infantry which was protecting the right of his BUA. A line regiment protected the front and another the left flank of the BUA. I came across the river and gathered my forces for a charge while the rest peeled of to the right flank to take care of the line French line battalion on that flank. 

Garry and Pete, meanwhile, were having a ding-dong battle in the centre and the left. Pete had spread his forces thinly with his major concentration on the left. Consequently the struggle in the centre was fairly even, and with Garry's lucky dice rolling, his artillery managed to break a British battalion within a couple of turns. Pete attacked the BUA on the left and captured 1, but didn't have the resources to capture the 2nd on that flank. Pete's later attempt at capturing the central BUA was easily parried with some accurate artillery fire and a timely shot into Pete's highlanders' flank.

I slowly brought up my forces and attached the general before sending in the required 3 to 1 ratio that should have guaranteed success, but all 3 of us misinterpreted the rules, resulting in what should have been a sure-fire success into a stand-off. My later attempts to outflank Garry resulted in these flanking units being broken, which spelled failure for my last attempt at capturing the BUAs. GRRRRR!

Garry played a very dogged defense, aided by some inept rule interpretation and some incredible dice rolling, to come out on top even though being outnumbered and with a hard task ahead of him. Maybe it was Robin's assessment of the game that spurred him on....? 

My concentrated horde of British and Portuguese goodness!

What Garry was up against

Garry gave the Highlanders curry with these troops and a little artillery help

Garry's far right wing and the BUA

A gunner's eye view

Garry's French ready to sell their lives dearly against Pete's virgin troops.

First contact at the hedge

Firefight and Pete seemed to get the better of it, but not for long!

My 92nd Highlanders and Portuguese deploy into line to shield the advance of the rest of the division behind them.

Pete crosses the river and deploys too close to the guns and pays the price: the battalion in line didn't last long in that position.

My guns knocked off a coouple of figures from Garry's Legere battalion. Good shooting, boys!

The 92nd approach the river.

Garry's thin blue line awaits.

Portuguese on parade

Protect the village, mes enfants!

Mais ouis, mon Colonel!

Garry occupies the central BUA

Garry's legere; victims of my artillery!

A brief exchange of fire...

...and Garry pulls the middle battalion back into the BUA...

...while his left tries to stem the tide!

Garry eludes my attempt to outflank him by steadily falling back.

The British approach  the BUA from all sides

The perfect attack that should have worked!

The charge fails! &%@#!

Finally, he stops running and offers a flank (only just, though!)

Plan B: Portuguese rush the other BUA, but narrowly miss occupying it this turn...

...only for the French leger to pip them at the post! D'oh!

The flank fire finally takes care of the slippery French line.

The Portuguese are sent packing from the 2nd BUA. What to do now?

I sent the leftmost battalion on a diversionary attack to teh rear of the BUA, but neglected to keep them far enough away from the legere-occupied building...

...and a dose of flank fire sent them on their way!

Meanwhile on the other flank, another flank shot on the right hand attack column also sped them on their way to the rear...
...resulting in a surprising (and lucky!) victory to the French!

Now for the WIP.

I'm putting the finishing touches on the 2nd Hussars and have started on a commission project for Comrade Jimski; WW2 Soviet infantry. So easy after fiddly Napoleonic uniforms! Maybe I should take up dub-dub-2 gaming instead!

Also on the table is a fortification for the Napoleonic landing scenario I'm planning. So far it consists of one resin gun emplacement and a second created form resin gabions and wood putty. The other sides will have musket embrasures using the smaller gabions and a gateway.

The first of many Soviets for Jim

The fort so far

2nd Hussar officer with leopardskin shabraque (thanks for the tip Peter)

2nd Hussar trumpeter

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