Unfashionable City Breaks Two – Rotterdam

Waterfront Skyscrapers

“You went for a holiday in a container port?” My team leader at work was bemused even after I explained it to her. Nevertheless, 21st century Rotterdam¹ has much to commend it as a city break and concrete sniffer’s destination.

Central Rotterdam

Central Rotterdam

Not as crowded as Amsterdam, and with  an impressive modern skyline, the Dutch have embraced the future with an enthusiasm that puzzles the British psyche.

Make It Happen

Suzanne Making it Happen en route to our Hotel

Rotterdam is easily accessible via Eurostar, with an efficient security check in that is not as onerous as most airlines. Legroom is generous. You are deposited into the centre of the city, which is stuffed with street art in unexpected places.

Wibbly-wobbly Skyscrapers with added Pigeon just outside the Station

Saluting Balcony with Golden Lions

Saluting Balcony with Golden Lions

Our hotel, tucked away in a mixed commercial district had a saluting balcony and excellent breakfasts, which consisted of pancakes with bacon, scrambled eggs and Stroop. If your sweet tooth is not sated , then pastries, cakes and toast with hundreds and thousands follow (or precede), all washed down with cups of strong coffee.

Golden Lions

Golden Lions

Windmills at Kinderdijk

Windmills at Kinderdijke

Of course, there are windmills, at Kinderdijke; well-preserved ones too. I personally think that the Dutch leave them standing as a bit of a laugh for the tourists. Why? Because to get to them, you have to walk past a really impressive set of three Archimedes screws that keep the polder dry. Maybe, it’s just me.

Archimedes Screw doing the Heavy Lifting Work

Archimedes Screw doing the Heavy Lifting Work

The Dutch are the unrivaled masters of Whimsy and Kitsch. Walk into a park that could be somewhere in Lord Nobby Nobb’s English country mansion, were it not for the huge rubber ducky in the middle of the Lake, or an enameled tin palm tree in a pocket park. Note the protective fence to stop cows nibbling the trunk!

Rubber Ducky near the Zoo

Rubber Ducky near the Zoo

 

Enameled Palm

Enameled Palm

Then of course, there is Butt-plug gnome.

Cool Kid in Dordrecht

Cool Kid in Dordrecht

It only took Suzanne 48 hours to be Skyscrapered out, so we took the waterbus to Dordrecht and spent the day inside it’s medieval trace, watching a robot transcribing the first Dutch translation of The Bible, at the pace a monk would have done if he did it in one solid stretch without eating or sleeping. It was slow, relentless entertainment.

Robot Monk

Robot Monk

The lovely Mrs K’s instincts for a good cake shop, and mine for a quiet ramshackle corner bar did not desert us.

Lowlander Poorter

Lowlander Poorter tastes of liquorice and Vanilla

Dordrecht also has not one, but two Specialist Pirate Memory Game shops. This will only make sense to fans of Little Britain.

Specialist Pirate Memory Game Shop

Specialist Pirate Memory Game Shop

To be continued …

  1. YesthatPhil thinks that this post should have been called Rotterdammerung.

 

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Verstärkungstruppen vs усиливающие войска (usilivayushchiye voyska) – Reinforcement Troops

Soviet Motor Rifle TroopsThe ground is firming from the south on the Eastern Front, and troops that have been sat in marshalling yards are approaching  the front; some faster than others. In no particular order are a pair of Skytrex 10.5cm LkW Feldhaubitzer , previously posted German motorcycles, fifty Soviet truck-mounted troops  and a few Butler’s Printed Models dovunque trucks. A lollipop stick’s worth of PSC artillery officers have been lounging about in Cairo hotels, wondering when the next big push is coming. They have taken second place to canoeing over the summer, and biological and chemical warfare on a new allotment, but their time is drawing near.

The rest of the world knows that dry-brushing colours over black is the quickest way to paint large numbers of troops. I have always resisted it in the past, but gave in when faced with fifteen or so blocks of seated troops. Likewise, the motorcycles have a lot of undercut shadows, so got the same treatment. As usual, they look fine to me at a distance.

Soviet Motor Rifle BattalionsThe seated Soviets are gradually replacing the more active truck-mounted troops that used to leap about on the flatbeds in heroic poses.

 

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Modelling, Motorcycles, Trucks, WWII

Book Review – StuG III and IV

StuG III and IV 44-45 Book Review

StuG II and IV, German Army, Waffen – SS and Luftwaffe, Western Front, 1944-1945.

This Pen & Sword Title, 19th in the Tank Craft series, by Dennis Oliver is both focussed and detailed, being aimed squarely at modellers. It succeeds in its aims with a wealth of detail and some pretty stunning eye-candy to illustrate the book. Production values are high, and the subject is well researched. There is a wealth of pictorial information in the book, some surprising, such as a picture of a Panzer III converted to an assault gun, with liberal use of concrete on the upper hull.

The book splits evenly between brief unit histories, orders of battle, camouflage schemes and details of production variants in the first half, followed by examples of available kits and assembled examples.

Practically any modeller or wargamer planning to build a StuG covered by the title will benefit from having this book on their bookshelf.

Review copy provided by Pen & Sword

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2nd Alamein Pocket Orbat

8th Army HQ and Army Troops

8th Army HQ and Army Troops

I haven’t had a good parade for some time now. It is easily the best way of managing large orbats. There is no substitute for hauling the toys out of their boxes and putting them into their fighting formations prior to a game, so whilst I heartily disliked true scale parades, 15mm ones are great fun. The troops on parade usually benefit from an extra lick of paint too.  Sorting out the Pocket Orbat for 2nd ALAMEIN took longer than I thought, and it will probably be tweaked after a game or two.

8th Army vs Panzer Armee Afrika

All the toys now fit onto two of my steel Parade Trays¹, whereas before it took six. This looks like a much more manageable way of fighting Alamein in a day with six or so players, and as a bonus, four trays worth of toys are freed up for CRETE, TUNISIA, SARDINIA and ITALY.

The detailed pictures are being added to the Pocket Orbat, and should be published in a week or so.

 

  1. A very grand name for a Tegometal display shelf backing panel.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, DAK, Italian Army, Orbats, Western Desert, WWII

Pocket Orbats

This picture shows the troops layed out for the first Alamein Game at Shedquarters. Not all of the stuff here made it onto the table

Alamein First Layout

It is a good 5 years since I started faffing about with scaling orbats, and in fine WWII fashion, these are still evolving as they succeed or fail in combat. Having played  (and built) ALAMEIN at Corps Scale, it is obvious that it needs at least 12 players to run it in a day, and a good 18-20 feet of table space. I managed half of it quite happily on Trebian’s eleven footer, but the logistics of carting that amount of kit to a venue are already quite daunting. Doubling it will make it a chore rather than an enjoyable game.

Alamein 50 Division Attack Engaging the MDL on D+1-2

Alamein 50 Division Attack Engaging the MDL on D+1-2

The front scale works, but is starting to feel a bit “samey” and for ALAMEIN loses detail at divisional level, where the British divisions were better manned than the German and Italian. My latest evolution is the Pocket Orbat for Panzerarmee Afrika, which is essentially Front scale, with anti-tank assets dropped back to divisional level. The surplus troops freed up will be needed as the Mediterranean Front moves on to Tunisia and Italy.

NQM FSO Soviet Front with supporting Air Army

NQM FSO Soviet Front with supporting Air Army

The challenge is to show all of the significant signature equipment, without overpowering the infantry, and without overburdening the table with markers. The good news is that everybody’s favourite models will still be in there (think French) but fewer troops are needed.  Expect still more faffing about in future!

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The River Calls

A Perilous Adventure begins

A Perilous Adventure begins

From cold wet rain to an unseasonably hot weekend – the river calls, and the recently arrived boxes of toys from PSC and Skytrex will have to wait. What else can a chap do, other than go with the flow? Braving Signs in WADENHOE warning us of DANGER, (sunburn perhaps?) and fierce DRAGONflies we meandered along the River Nene at its best.

Are you Sure that it's a Swan and not a Shark?

Are you Sure that’s a Swan and not a Shark?

We faced down swans and grumpy villagers guarding nests and car parks from invaders by the simple expedient of paddling quietly past them. Some of the backwaters get pretty overgrown at this time of year, which only adds to their charm¹. A couple of optimistic red kites circled us for a while in the hope that we might die, or leave the remains of a sandwich on the bank. We disappointed them on both counts.

Some Stretches are Quite Jungly

Some Stretches are Quite Jungle-y

As is often the way, we met a couple of old friends canoeing the same way close to our landing point, so we stopped for a chat, then wandered off to do some damage to tea and sticky cake at the local teashop (too posh to be called a caff). Bob and Dace² (Dat-Sa) are stalwarts of the local canoe club and folk music circuit, and Dace worked for us at Tradewinds for a while in the early 00’s. Mischief-making accomplished!

Canoeists are Style Icons

Canoeists are Style Icons

On a more military note, Marine William Henry Mills, one of the  Cockleshell Heroes from the Boom Patrol Detachment (RMBPD) Marine Commando raid on BORDEAUX in 1942, was a local Northamptonshire man from Kettering.

Wildflowers on the Banks of the Nene

Wildflowers on the Banks of the Nene

1. If you hear banjos, paddle faster!

2. That isn’t Bob in the picture, and Dace is on the left, in the baseball cap, but this illustrates the axiom that to have any river cred at all, it is best to look like a Train Spotter or a ’60s Hippie Chick.

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Ostfront Rasputitsa Reorganisation Spring 1943

As England enjoys its own mini-rasputitsa in a late start to summer, the Wehrmacht made good use of the breathing space afforded to it on the Ostfront.

Having laid out the formalised Front Scale Orbat (FSO) here and here, I thought that it would be a relatively simple matter to look up a couple of orbats to refresh my magnetic Ostfront map. Nierhorster formed the basis, as always, but the actual relaying of the map took three months, with units being duplicated, lost, re-found and massaged to allow the discrepancies between the NQM campaign and the historic campaign to be ironed out.

The orbats were typed into Apache Open Office to take advantage of its find facility. In this way, I was able to chase errant units around the map to decide if they should stay in their game positions, or reorganise back to their historical formations. I ended up doing a bit of both, of course. The map looks much more crowded now, and the Soviets are still bringing troops on from the East!

A deliberately vague picture follows below. In the Army group North sector around LENINGRAD, the old Corps Scale Orbat (CSO) markers  show a much thinner spread in contrast to the centre and south, where the FSO markers are mustering.

Ostfront Spring 1943

Ostfront Spring 1943

Reinforcements have been arriving on the painting desk too. More of those later.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Eastern Front, Land Battles, Wargames, WWII

German 15mm Zundapp and BMW Motorcycles by Skytrex

My obsession with 15mm two (and three) wheeled German heavy metal bikers continues with the purchase of some Skytrex BMW and Zundapp motorcycle troops¹. Having previously commented that the QRF combo was lively but a bit blobby around the cylinder heads, I can report that Skytrex offer both a BMW and a Zundapp, and that you can easily tell the difference between the two.

Skytrex 15mm German Motorcycles (L) Zundapp, (R) BMW

Skytrex 15mm (L) Zundapp, (R) BMW

The castings are clean and flash-free. It is only when you look at the casting head-on that the model’s main flaw stands out: the handlebars and rider’s arms are comically close together. Peter Pig and QRF overcome this respectively by  casting the bars and arms separately, which is a better way of dealing with the problem.

From L to R – Skytrex Zundapp, BMW; QRF BMW?, Peter Pig BMW

You could overcome this by a bit of sawing and sticking (YesthatPhil probably will) or by ignoring it – my preferred option. Either way, on balance, it makes Peter Pig the best of the bunch  for ease of assembly and accuracy. Having said that, my personal favourite is the QRF, for sheer exuberance.

The Skytrex sidecar combo comes with an extra spare wheel and tarpaulin for that overloaded Eastern Front look, but has no MG42 for the combo passenger. Points lost for missing out on Hollywood clichés there! All the Skytrex models come with two separate panniers. I only stuck one onto the bikes as the exhaust casting on the Zundapp gets in the way – a not insoluble problem.

  1. I say purchased … YesthatPhil  did all the hard work. I just gave him some money afterwards.

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Rasputitsa- In Slovenia.

Happiness

The 1943 Rasputitsa has finally closed in on the NQM Eastern Front, and for real across Europe in 2019.  This is not as bad as might have been imagined, as I have just spent the last fortnight kayaking the River Soča, and was happy that the water levels were high. The Julian Alps were the scene of heavy fighting between Italy and Slovenia, particularly around this valley, and fortifications can still be seen dating from the late 1800s to WW2. our campsite at Napoleon Most (bridge) had the remains of pillboxes and trenches on both sides of the river.

Needless to say, I spent most of the time floating down the River², not always in an upright manner. I might have visited one of the museums in the area, had the European Wild Water Championships not been on over our last two days. Wild Water racers will cover the distances that we did in less than half the time. Watching them is pretty dull if you are not a kayaker, because they make it look ridiculously easy.

Three days in to our holiday, severe Katabatic winds barrelled down the valley. We were assured that these things normally lasted two hours. Two days later, half of our tents (not mine, he said smugly) and some camp site trees had blown down, including one over the only camp exit. The staff were unfazed, opening the summer bar for sleeping in. As we were, by now the only folk on the site still camping, it was not crowded, although the stuffed bear inside looked a little put-out.

The rest of the Chaps seem to have deserted the Mess, Mr Holland.

  1. (pronounced Soch-ah).

2. For anyone who is interested, I’m the third boat down (Yellow boat, red helmet).  The scrapes on my helmet were newly minted on this trip 🙂

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Marmon Herrington FAT

Marmon Herrington FAT (2)

Marmon Herrington Field Artillery Tractor (FAT)

The QRF Chevrolet truck with clear windows is a much better model than their solid cab offering, despite some of the flash being thicker than the supporting pillars that it clings to. However, at £4.50 compared to £6.50 the solid cab wins the day for 3 crude models that are going to be chopped about for wargaming, even though the window alignment between the front and sides is cheerfully approximate. I simply added the ammunition storage lockers and seats for the Alamein game, then afterwards cut the rear cargo body to size, and added the canopy struts and soft cab top at leisure. QRF are remodelling their WWII range to bring it up to the standards of their modern stuff. I wait in hope.

This YouTube clip was invaluable for more detail: YouTube  Marmon Herrington FAT with 25 Pdr

Marmon Herrington FAT and Chevrolet Truck towing 25pdrs

Marmon Herrington FAT (L) and Chevrolet Truck (R) towing 25pdrs

It is worth looking at YesthatPhil’s conversion of the open cab kit into a Tanake for the ALAMEIN game at Shedquarters in October 2018.

For Corps Scale Orbat (CSO) and above (Front – FSO) I have been modelling the tractors and guns together on the same base. It is less flexible, but gives players one less opportunity to muddle units up in a large game, and as umpire, I don’t have to keep reminding folk that the tractor goes with the gun, that it doesn’t matter if they show it limbered up or not, and that yes, in a move lasting from four hours to a day, they can move and fire.

Marmon Herrington FAT Work in Progress

Marmon Herrington FAT Work in Progress

Brass rods are a pig to line up for canopies. I used a card jig for the first one, but may use a solid jig for the next ones, or just leave the canopy off! I left off the spare tyre frame, wing mirrors and front bumper as being too fiddly and too fragile respectively.  Card and a thick coat of paint rectify the poor window castings, with some cloth covering the roof of the cab to give an approximation of the canvas cab tilt. Altogether, I think that I need about ten FATs for the whole of ALAMEIN if I am to do it all at once.

Marmon Herrington FAT with 25 pdr

Marmon Herrington FAT with 25 pdr

 

Marmon Herrington FAT and 25 pdr

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, Artillery, Modelling, Trucks, Western Desert, WWII