Thursday 24 September 2009

AquaNefiness Part 2: Ottoman sub 'Osman Pasha'

An update now, on the 'quick and dirty' scratch build of an Ottoman AquaNef from the contents of the bits box. Inspired by one of the historical VSF oddities that are so well researched by Tas over at 'Yours in a White Wine Sauce', (Where does he find them all?) this was to be a version of the Turkish early submarines built by Nordenfeldt.

My modelling skills aren't up to all that much, and apart from a few further photos I found on the net, I couldn't find out any more about these enigmatic craft, so I decided on an "in the spirit of..." type of build.
This started with a selection of likely-looking bits and bobs, which gave a workable submarine style shape, and these were then super-glued down onto some 1.6mm thick artist's card backed with magnetic sheeting.

The Aquanef should be ostensibly 1/1200th in scale to match the sizes of comparable Aeronef types available from Brigade Models, however the pieces I chose came in at a whopping 78mm overall in length, so the stand had to be quite large, namely 90mm x 40mm to give a balanced base.
(This compares well with the 60x30mm bases I have used elsewhere on this blog for 1/3000th vessels, I suppose, although how it will eventually fit with Aero/AquaNef gaming is anyone's guess!)

To add some definition, I went for some artistic (well, hapahazard...) smears of putty/filler, in this case Mangers Fine Surface Filler, available in the UK. This would hopefully give the impression of some wave action as the 'Terror of the Black Sea' scythed through the water.

Next, my weapon of choice in the great undercoat debate; why go with white or black when you can sit firmly on the fence with grey? - the ever reliable Panzer Grau, in this case Revell Acrylic AquaColour 36178:

Imagining the murky waters of the Bosphorus might be somewhat less than blue, I went with an undercoat of another firm favourite, Vallejo 70823, Luftwaffe Cam. Green:

This was followed up with a wash of Prussian Blue, and then a dry-brush with Swedish Blue, topped off with a few highlights of white for the whitecaps; given that this was a quick project, I was none too delicate with these applications, more impressionistic than draughtsman-like methinks!

Overall, then, not looking too bad, given that the original scrabble in the bits box had only taken a few minutes, and that this process, including drying time, was standing at the three hour mark, from fevered imaginings to wargaming piece in a few easy steps; this kind of thing would make a nice afternoon or evening project...

To top it off then, some light grey detailing, a black funnel top, and a hand painted Turkish flag to complete the ensemble:

She's probably not the most elegant looking vessel, and some further investment in time and effort might have reaped a cleaner looking product, but I'm pretty pleased with how this bit of fun turned out; I hope she captures the spirit of the originals, if not being exactly a scale model of them...

Be warned, the encouragement of the various Gentlemen readers and contributors to 'Yours in a White Wine Sauce', has got me looking at some small plastic Soy Sauce containers with an eye to cooking up some dirigible companionship for this monster, so look out for some more scruffy scratch-building to come......Tootle-oo....!

Friday 18 September 2009

AquaNefiness: Quick Scratch Build

Thoroughly inspired by the recent fascinating post over on the always excellent 'Yours in a White Wine Sauce', concerning early Turkish submarines, I felt compelled to have a go at creating some VSF/AquaNef-type craft that might resemble those described.
As far as I am aware, as such, there are no actual submarine craft commercially available from Brigade Models or elsewhere that would fit the bill, (although there are some interesting ACW monitors/torpedo craft in the 1/1200th range from Navwar) so I found myself reaching for the bits box.

Now as a contact lense wearer, I make frequent use of the eye drops pipettes pictured above, and as regular readers of this Blog will know, they often find their way into various projects in one form or another:

Something about the bomb-like shape lends itself to the construction of weird and wonderful weapons of war, and they are fitted with various protrusions and ridges which can have the appearance of industrial-revolutionary mechanisation; so I knew these would be my starting point.

A length of rubber electrical connector, a paint brush-tip cover and a scrap of plastic fell into place, with some judicial cutting around the eye drop 'bomb', and something was already taking shape:

The neck and top of a another pipette added as a stern and rudder assembly and we were really getting somewhere:

A further neck section gave it a more 19th Century profile; not bad for a couple of minutes with some scrap plastic!

Then it occurred to me, if I was to proceed with the model as-is, and for the sake of argument, mount it on a classic 1" plastic flight stand, then in appearance, it would by default resemble more an AeroNef vehicle than a submarine craft; so why not have it based as if the hull was actually floating at the water's surface?

After all, in reality, most submarines fought on the surface until well into the First World War, merely using underwater travel when necessary for stealth or efficiency.

The helpful mould lines in the plastic pipette would make it relatively easy to cut in half, thereby providing an instant waterline model, as well as giving you two for the price of one!

Some inexpert hacking with a blunt craft knife, and this was looking the part alright, although somewhat as if it had been hit by an 16" shell....

A slightly tidier view from above should give a good idea of what the finished product should look like; mounted on a thin artist's card base with a watered surface, the Turkish AquaNef 'Osman Pasha' might just become the terror of the Black Sea after all....

At around 80mm long, she should scale in in terms of visual proportions at least, as a 1/1200th
vessel, so barring a Russian incursion from the port of Sevastapol, stay tuned for the finished article in a forthcoming post!

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Quebec 1759 in 2mm: Some Web Resources

Following the recent week of posts to mark the 250th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, there have been a number of enquiries made of me about the campaign and the historical context, so just thought I'd post a few useful links to online resources for this theatre of the Seven Years War.

A useful overview of the campaign may be found here:
(Please note, the text was written by William Wood in 1914, so more recent revisionist histories may differ from the author's view, but it is nonetheless a very accessible account)

Information on uniforms, and a resulting list of all the major regular units involved, may be found here for the French:

Similarly here for the English:

Further uniform ideas may be found here amongst some excellent illustrations:
(This Canadian governement site contains a wealth of information about the time, and is well worth a long exploration, chapters 5 and Appendix A are especially useful.)

So good luck with your own projects, just remember to keep them 'Small Scale' :-).

Sunday 13 September 2009

Quebec 1759 in 2mm: Part 5

The thirteenth of September 1759. 08:30 hours. Montcalm rode a black horse onto the field, his hastily deployed army spreading out as it moved across the Plains of Abraham toward the thin line of redcoats visible in the middle distance. Already, to both flanks, scattered gunfire could be heard, and from amidst the trees, white-grey powder smoke bloomed upward as skirmishers on both sides exchanged shots.

It seemed incredible that so many English troops had made the crossing of the St. Lawrence already, and it was imperative to engage as quickly as possible, to drive them back before they began to entrench themselves or bring up heavier artillery. The old cavalryman's maxim of meeting the enemy head on at your best speed rose in the Marquis' breast, and he encouraged his men forward.

As the distance to the enemy began to decrease however, it became clear that both the terrain and the hasty march up onto the heights had caused some disruption.
A copse in the centre of the approach forced the marching battalions to divide, and whilst the centre remained in column, the flanking units were shaking out into line in order to cover the width of the field. Perhaps too, the natural inclination of the Canadian Militia to seek cover was already drawing them toward the flanking treeline; the advance was beginning to look ragged and unco-ordinated, and the artillery was falling behind, unable to deploy with a clear line of sight.

The centre columns were moving too swiftly for the Regiment of Royal-Roussilon to their left, and the whole left wing began to fall behind, a yawning gap opening in the centre of the field. Before much could be done to despatch orders to re-organise, however, a series of volleys rang out from the French.

"Too early!" thought Montcalm, spurring his horse forward to remonstrate with the nearest Lieutenant-Colonel, but by then the various battalions had fallen into further disorder as they began to reload.

One blessing was as yet from the English side there was no reply, apart from the regular pop-boom of a pair of small artillery pieces firing from either end of their line.

Indeed, the English seemed to be waiting with an almost un-natural calm, well disciplined as they were, a single conforming line, like a wall across the Plains. Their flanks were refused however, and this kept the Irregulars and Natives from making much headway in attempting to outflank it.

To their rear, further detachments of troops were visible, forming a strong reserve.

Finally, as the French battalions came within charging distance, the redcoats opened up an ordered round of firing by platoons, and at this close distance, casualties could be seen falling on both sides.

As the space between the two armies came down to less than thirty yards, the English paused, marched a few paces forward to clear the smoke of their own firing, and then a single volley erupted across the face of the line, crashing out, a rolling wave of sound, that seemed momentarily to shock the entire French front.

At this decisive moment, the individual dramas and tragedys of men in battle were played out, as left and right men fell wounded or dead; Montcalm fell from his horse, shot through in both stomach and thigh, Wolfe, already wounded, was struck to the floor by bullets in both his chest and just below his navel. The French commanders, Senezergue, de Fontbrune, and their English counterparts Monckton and Carleton all became casualties.

For a moment, the French line was silenced and stunned, a few cruel yards short of their enemy, and then began to dissolve and disperse, routing back toward the walls of Quebec. Away from the centre of the open plain, small groups and individual units rallied and stood against the oncoming English, inflicting casualties in particular amongst the 78th Highlanders, but the tide of defeat was too strong, the battle lost...

General Wolfe lay, after refusing to see a surgeon, in the wake of the advancing Louisbourg Grenadiers, when one of their number cried out "They run, see how they run!" "Who runs?" demanded Wolfe, earnestly trying to prop himself up for a better view; "The Enemy sir, they give way everywhere...." came the reply. Satisfied, he gave orders to bring up the reserve, then turning on his side, spoke for the last time: "Now God be praised, I will die in peace."

Montcalm was brought back into the City of Quebec, and suffered an agonising night, under the ministrations of the surgeon, Arnoux, who told him that he would not live beyond the next morning. "Good," the Marquis replied, "I will not see the English in Quebec..."

For both of these men, and for so many others on this day, 'the Paths of Glory.......led only to the Grave..'

Saturday 12 September 2009

Quebec 1759 in 2mm: Part 4

It could be said that compared with the disparate and weakened forces of Montcalm, General James Wolfe was faced with an embarrassment of riches at the opening to the campaign to take Quebec in 1759.
However, after two months of besieging the city, with reverses such as the battle at Montmorency where an ambitious amphibious landing by a force of converged grenadiers failed on the shoreline, and with the commanders riven by growing frustration over the course of the overall operation, It might appear that all was not well in the English camp.
The failure to bring the French to a decisive battle exposed the differences in character and vision between Wolfe and his three brigadier-generals, and has led some commentators to view the battle of the Plains as a fatalistic 'last roll of the dice'; yet in terms of the cohesion, character and size of the English force, Wolfe had a distinct advantage over his adversary. This may have been mitigated by a weakening in morale, yet actual losses in terms of manpower so far had been relatively light, and despite a high expenditure of shot, powder and shell, they remained well supplied and supported by a large naval force.

Disgruntled subordinates aside, the task force assembled for the pre-dawn amphibious assault on the 13th of September was well drilled, briefed, and superbly organised, from the provision of artillery and naval support, to a diversionary demonstration upriver of the city.

Some best of British luck saw the landing point relatively lightly defended, and once the Samos Battery and guard post had been surprised and taken by coup de main (as we see in the photo above!), Wolfe's force quickly formed into a line stretching across the Plains of Abraham from the cliff edge as far as the road to Sainte Foy, facing the walls of Quebec over the rising ground in the distance, awaiting the French response.
At the extreme right of the line, the Louisbourg Grenadiers, seen in a previous post, held the flank, and to their left was Bragg's 28th Regiment of Foot, consisting of 591 all ranks, eight fusilier companies and one each of Grenadiers and 'Light' troops:

Next in the line were Kennedy's 43rd Regiment of Foot, 715 all ranks, and the home to Captain James Knox, whose eye witness account of the campaign and battle gives an excellent perspective on the way of warfare as practised at the time; read a version online here (scroll down the page):

Next, in the centre, were the 679 men of Lascelle's 47th Regiment of Foot, whose devastating double-shotted volley did so much damage to the dense columns formed by the French regiments of Bearn and Guyenne, as one eye-witness is said to have put it, "comme un coup de cannon...":

To their left stood the 78th Regiment of Foot, Fraser's Highlanders, who mustered some 1,269 all ranks at the battle, and followed up the fleeing French with broadswords drawn and belted plaid a-flying in the wind, in that manner so beloved of wargamers!

On the Left wing stood Anstruther's 58th regiment of Foot, 616 all ranks, to whose rear Brigadier General Townshend was stood, whose account of the battle can be found here:

Formed 'en potence' to the main line, (drawn back at a right angle to the left) and parallel with the Ste. Foy road and woodlands beyond in order to guard against the depredations of French skirmishers there, was initially a large part of Amherst's 15th Regiment of Foot, which also had a number of widely spaced companies in the rear of the main line as a reserve; formed of 594 all ranks:

This formation was supported by two battalions of the 60th Royal American Regiment of Foot, (2nd and 3rd Battns) which flew the flag for the Colonies during the campaign, as the only other Americans present were the men of the New England Ranger companies, and a volunteer corps of pioneers.

Finally, to the rear of the Louisbourg Grenadiers, and similarly drawn up at right angles to the main line to prevent an outflanking move by Canadian Irregulars along the cliff top to the landing area, were the 899 men of Otway's 35th Regiment of Foot:

Guarding the rear, and keeping communications open with the landing zone, light troops (principally the battalion of 300 or so chosen men of Howe and Dalling), and some provincial rangers kept watch:

Tomorrow, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham re-created with 2mm miniatures......

Thursday 10 September 2009

Quebec 1759 in 2mm: Part 3

A look now at the French Order of battle for the Plains of Abraham. Montcalm had been assigned only eight regular line battalions to defend the whole of New France, and these stood alongside the garrisons of 'colonial' infantry, namely the Compagnie Franches de la Marine, the citizen militias of city, town and district, as well as whatever First Nations allies that might be on hand.
By the time Wolfe's taskforce approached Quebec, however, this command was much reduced through constant campaigning, and indeed, no re-enforcements had been sent from France since 1757!
The loss of the fortress and garrison of Louisbourg at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, as well as the need to defend the southern frontiers of Canada at variously Forts Carillion (Ticonderoga), Frontenac, Duquesne, Oswego and Niagara, meant that the last bulwark of France had precious little left to defend it, compared to the approximately 12,000 troops in total that accompanied Wolfe, including nine regular battalions and various brigades of light infantry and grenadiers.
Having lost the initiative to the English Navy on the St. Lawrence itself, the situation was further complicated by the need to defend large areas either side of the city of Quebec in order to deny landing grounds to the enemy. Montcalm's command was spread from the Beauport Lines in the north, through the city itself, all the way some miles to the south in the direction of Montreal.

After two months of siege, when Wolfe struck with his surprise landing at the Anse-au-Foulon on the morning of the 13th September 1759, the French had to rush reserves from the redoubts on the Beauport shoreline, through Quebec itself, before mustering beyond the walls overlooking the Plains of Abraham.

A no doubt somewhat breathless line of battle was formed of the following units:

2nd Battalion Regiment La Sarre, 12 fusilier companies, 1 grenadier company, in May 1759 their strength was given as 489 all ranks. Commander M. de Senerzergue.

2nd Battalion, Regiment de Languedoc, 12 fusilier companies, 1 grenadier company, 473 all ranks in May 1759, commanded by Lt. Col. de Privat.

2nd Battalion, Regiment de Bearn, 12 fusilier companies, 1 grenadier company, 454 all ranks reported in May 1759, Lt. Col. d'Alquier.

2nd Battalion Regiment de Guyenne, 12 fusilier companies and 1 grenadier company, forming 436 ranks in May of 1759, Lt Col. de Fontbonne.

2nd Battalion Regiment Royal-Roussillon, 12 fusilier companies and 1 grenadier company, 485 all ranks, commanded by Lt. Col. Chevalier de Bernetz.

In addition to these line units, all of which were no doubt under strength due to the rigors of defending the city in the preceding eight weeks, Montcalm could also call upon approximately forty companies of colonial troops, each of 65 men each. These 'Troupes de la Colonie' were nominally regulated by the Ministry of the Navy in France, hence their title Compagnie Franches de la Marine. The Officers of this corps were in the main born in Canada, whereas the enlisted men were recruited in France and sent across. Their exact numbers are unknown on the day of the battle, in that it is likely some had been drafted into the regular battalions as replacements, and others would have been spread throughout the long lines of defence around Quebec. Chartrand puts their number at between 800 and 1,000 on the Plains of Abraham.

All told, the Militias of the districts of Quebec, Montreal, Trois Rivieres and Acadia might have comprised some 11,000 men, although again the exact numbers are open to debate, and must be adjusted for the depredations of the campaign. It is certain that the majority were involved in manning the redoubts and posts along the Beauport shoreline and in the hinterland above the falls at Montmorency, as well as being stationed further upriver, south of Quebec. Some sources put approximately 600 of their number as being drafted into the regular battalions, and often they are blamed for the tentative and disorganised way in which the French line advanced against Wolfe, with their lack of training impacting on the regular volleys and reloading that was attempted as the French closed with the English 'thin red line'. Others were present on the flanks of the advance, ostensibly formed as battalions according to their origin, and Chartrand gives approximately 1,800 as their total number.

Numbers of the Native Allies are open to question, as they were not renowned for closing within a line of battle, and the many reverses France had suffered no doubt tested their commitment to the cause. Chartrand puts their strength at around 1,700 in and around Quebec, and no doubt some were present on the flanks of the advancing French. Certainly, their fierce reputation did much to threaten the rear of Wolfe's bridgehead, irrespective of their actual number.

There were a number of other small units that might be considered for the French order of battle, although it is unknown as to their actual contribution at the Plains. These include the Royal Syntaxe Militia, in effect a company in strength, formed from students of the Quebec Seminary, who wore distinctive blue hooded coats; the Corps du Cavalrie, 200 ranks divided into two companies, that was raised from mounted Canadian volunteers and officered from gentlemen detached from the metropolitan battalions. These were mainly used as scouts or in a skirmish role once dismounted, more 'dragoon'-like than actual cavalry. They wore blue coats lined with red, and distinctive bearskin caps.
In addition, there were large numbers of sailors from the French fleet, and a smaller number of Infanterie de la Marine, although these were likely only employed in the redoubts and artillery posts, alongside the small group of engineers and Cannoniers-Bombardiers artillerymen that had come over from France.

Talking of artillery, the only scenery to speak of on the actual battlefield was the Samos gun battery near Wolfe's landing point, which was quickly captured alongside the guard post of Captain Vergor atop the heights on the morning of the attack. Although perhaps not strictly a part of the battle, I couldn't resist representing these posts with a base combining Irregular Miniature's BG134 tents and BG130 army command post alongside the excellent ostensibly 1/1200th scale MX7 shore battery available from the Napoleonic ranges of Rod Langton:

Finally a bird's eye view of the other major investment I made for this special project, namely a terrain mat from who else but, well, Terrain Mat here in the UK:

They were kind enough to provide a special order for a cloth to use with 2mm miniatures, quite a number of which they have apparently made, and did a good job of translating my request for a rough Canadian-looking type of lightly wooded terrain into a reality:

The flocking and shading are applied to a thick base cloth rather like a weed supression mat that you can buy for gardening, and the effect is very good overall, with so far no shedding or damage inspite of some very varied use! Can't recommend them highly enough, just the job for modelling the rolling terrain above the city of Quebec:

Next up, a look at the English order of battle....