Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Meanwhile, In Central Europe...

I know I've been a little quite on the blogging front, but here are some pictures to show I'm still about.

I'm not sure which I prefer...

Saturday, 27 September 2014


The results are out for Turn 9 of Clint's PBB game, and sadly, the pictures say it all...

I think it's fair to say things are hotting up for HMS Inconsistent.

Paint Table Saturday and WIP Week

I'm doing something a little different with Paint Table Saturday this week.  As well as sticking to the concept by having a snapshot, I'm doing a 'My Week in WIP' - I feel I need to encourage myself to make progress on my alleged blitz on Egypt terrain. 

With everything, there's the Zulus in the background, which I've tried to do a little each day. I'm also working on a Secret Project that needs to be finished in early November and I've acquired figures for the Santa Clause (I'm a little concerned about this as it's out of my comfort zone - but I suppose that's one of the points of doing it).


I've already posted my ruined statue,   I also worked on a couple more expedition vehicles.


A red letter day - The Wife let me use the round-ended scissors and sticky glue!  The result, some colonnades...

I've got several of these buildings in various stages of completion and as they're really very quick to make (to my standard!), there's no reason I shouldn't be able to finish them off this week.

But there my efforts for the week petered out...

Friday, 26 September 2014

Book Review: Constantine Pleshakov, The Tsar's Last Armada

Constantine Pleshakov, The Tsar's Last Armada: The Epic Voyage to the Battle of Tsushima, The Perseus Press (2002), hb, 396pp, plates.
For once, a descriptive sub-title doesn't over-egg the pudding - there really is no other word to describe the 18,000 mile voyage of the Russian Fleet than 'epic' ('epic folly' is a phrase that comes to mind).  The Russo-Japanese War is one that catches the imagination of many interested in military history: it is the last major war before the Great War; it marks the eclipse of one great power and the rise of another; and it is the first real test of the rapidly-developed technology of a world-wide naval arms race.  The dust-jacket of this book tells us in all seriousness that the Battle of Tsushima Straits "is among the top five naval battles in history".

The War started badly for the Russians in February 1904, when the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the Russian Pacific Fleet based in Port Arthur, Russia's main hope for expansion in Manchuria and the Pacific.  After suffering major losses, the Russians became bottled up in Port Arthur, whose fall was inevitable.  St Petersberg could not suffer such a blow to its imperial aspirations, after a sortie from Vladivostok proved ineffective, the decision was made to create a new Pacific fleet from elements of the Baltic fleet and reserves, which would sail around the world, defeat the Japanese fleet, relieve Port Arthur and delay military advances until reinforcements could be send via the Tran-Siberian railway (and then home for tea and medals!).  This ambitious task was given to Admiral Zinovy Petrovich Rozhestvensky, who the world's press would soon revel in referring to as 'Mad Dog'.

Of course, the whole enterprise was doomed.  The ships released from the Baltic Fleets were not the best, there were practical and diplomatic problems in sailing around the world (not least once the Russians had misidentified the Hull fishing fleet as Japanese torpedo boats, leading to the 'Dogger Bank Incident').

Hull fishermen taste Russian paranoia
Lengthy stop-overs in the Indian Ocean (where both coaling depots and repair facilities were hard to find) did little to increase the fighting efficiency of the 'Second Pacific Squadron' and when it did engage the enemy, there was no surprise at the result - only the overwhelming nature of the Japanese victory.  The Russians lost eleven battleships, four cruisers and six destroyers - 4,380 men were killed and 5.917 captured.  In contrast, the Japanese lost three torpedo boats and 117 men.

A survivor - the Aurora in St Petersberg, Sep 2014

So how does Pleshakov do in telling this story?

He appears to have access a number of Russian archival sources and gives a good account of the personalities involved (naturally he focuses on the domineering figure of Rozhestvensky).  He is good at giving a feel for the Court and bureaucratic maneuvers that forced the whole enterprise forward.  What he lacks is a naval touch.  There is little said about the relative strengths of the clashing fleets; no attempt to explain the tactics used and (other than a very brief mention of advances in gunnery) no reason given for the scale of the Japanese success.

Adm 'Mad Dog' Rozhestvensky
He has no difficulty in keeping the readers' attention though, even when discussing the problems the fleet has finding coal supplies in the Indian Ocean.   He excels at catching the paranoia demonstrated by the Russian: the distrust the senior naval officers had of each other, for the Admiralty, for the Court, for any passer-by who could possibly be spying for the Japanese, and - above all - for the English.  There are fascinating hints at the division between the officer class and lower decks, that could have been developed further.  One gets a real feeling of the tedium officers must have felt during the long voyage, and how alien their life was to the ratings.

There are a few moments when one wonders whether Pleshakov has understood naval terms and, more damningly, errors in English - 'censured' for 'censored' and 'semen' for 'seaman' (even if written in Russian, the editors should have picked these up!).  The book itself is well-produced, but the four maps provided are laughably inadequate in a book that exists to describe a naval voyage.

Included for comic effect?
But still worth the read.  Three stars out of five.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Look Upon My Works Ye Mighty and Despair!

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Well, guess what I've finally got around to painting.  My Ozzy statute from Fenris.

A quick and dirty job, that would have been quicker if I'd taken a look at photos of what colour ruined Egyptian statues are.  I. like Shelley, had in mind the 'Colossal Statue of Ramesses II' in the BM.  Which was carved from two-tone granite.  

Unlike Belzoni though, my old chum the Director of Antiquities a) has a van and b) is going to leave the damn thing where it is!

Now, how does that last hieroglyph read?

Well Better Late Than Never...

After two weeks of having to report no progress on Paint Table Saturday, it's pleasing to report some movement, if only slight and a day late.

Those who like detail, will see Zulus, Egyptian terrain and some vehicles.

Monday, 15 September 2014


Remember the Herr Doktor suggesting to Prof Morrison the they needed to hire Minions to help with the reverse-engineering project?

A Round-Up and PBB

Santa is Coming!

And he means business!
I'm been remiss in not promoting the Secret Santa (send a £15.00 gift) and the Santa Clause (paint a £5.00 figure), both of which I've signed up for.  Final shouts are now out for people to sign up.

WWI Centenary

I had intended to write centenary posts for the First World War, but only six weeks in have fallen behind!  And it's not as if it'll be over by Christmas.

Those of you who follow my geekery on Facebook, won't be surprised to find I'm going to concentrate on naval actions.  Which brings me to...

Prettiest-Killing-Ship-Spotted-on-Facebook Of the Week

Iltis, a gunboat of the Kaiserliche Marine, launched in 1898 and saw service in Chinese waters.  She saw service during the Boxer Rebellion (taking part in the bombardment of the Taku Forts).  She was awarded the Pour le Mérite (the Blue Max), which is the decoration on the prow - the only ship to be so distinguished.

Play By Blog - Clint's Game

This week's turn (Turn Seven) of the 'Blood, Bilges and Iron Balls' finally saw some gun-smoke!  Clint's report can be found here.

I'll do my own report on my BBIB page.

Play By Blog - Michael's Game

This week was also a 'turn week' for Michael's Game of Diplomacy (Fall 1901).

The Movement results are here.  Coming soon will be the Retreat Phase (Austria has been forced out of Trieste) and the end-of-year allocation of troops.

There's a lot to digest (and I don't want to give anything away about my gameplay), so I won't write anything here.  Fortunately, Michael has devised an in-game newspaper, The Daily Dissembler - "We make sense of a complicated, far-off world so you, dear reader, can enjoy the Gilded Age".

Sunday, 14 September 2014

This Weeks' Obits of Interest

This week, a giant of a man who became one of the most recognisable villains of the 1970s and '80s.  And Richard Kiel too!

Richard Kiel (d. 10 Sep 2014)
Daily Telegraph obit, 11 Sep 2014
Guardian obit, 11 Sep 2014
Independent obit, 12 Sep 2014
Scotsman obit, 12 Sep 2014

The Revd Ian Paisley (d 12 Sep 2014)
Daily Telegraph obit, 12 Sep 2014
Guardian obit, 12 Sep 2014
Independent obit, 12 Sep 2014
Scotsman obit, 13 Sep 2014

Saturday, 13 September 2014

(Not) Paint Table Sunday

I had, of course, hoped to share some photos today of work done on the paint table.  Sadly, there hasn't been any...

But fortunately (The Wife doesn't quite see this point of view), we had a Smoke and Flame Incident in the kitchen.

Now, as we know, the makers of modern appliances aren't too keen on you getting into their machines in order to canabalise (of heaven forefend, repair!) them.  

So a delicate surgical procedure was necessary...

Overseen by Prof Morrison and Herr Doktor

"You know, Professor, we should employ some Minions..."

I had hoped that there would be lots of cogs for me to use in my Secret Project, but instead I got more of a crashed spaceship vibe...

So Junior packed up the pieces for reverse-engineering.
In other news, I was fortunate enough to be given some boxes.

"A box for your crates, Sir?"

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Welcome, Prizes, Blog-Con...

New Followers Welcome

A Warm welcome to

  • Darcy Perry - Darcy has several blogs to his name: The Darcy Perry Band, Harmonica Masters of NZ and Hits to Kill.
  • Pendragon Without - disappointingly (with a name like that and a profile description that starts "I dabble in Indian Mutiny, WW2, RPG's, Dark Ages, Medieval, etc, etc. I enjoy modelling scenery, writing rules, painting figures (when my mojo is present), and reading.") Pendragon doesn't seem to have a blog...
I hope you enjoy your visits here guys!

Pendragon does have a blog.  It has ridiculously few followers - go across and join!

The Prizes

Could Robert, Roger and Anne please e-mail me at diplomatist2 'at' gmail 'dot' com in order to finalist the details of their prizes and let me have postal addresses.  Thank you.


Heretofore a Yorkshire phenomenon Blog-Con is heading South this Autumn!  I've offered to do some of the organising.

Will anyone who is interested in going (or considers themselves 'a friend of Blog-Con') please go over and look at the post I've just put there: there are some important decisions that need to be made!

And Finally...

Today was to see the first post in a new regular feature for the blog.  Rather tellingly, it hasn't appeared...

Monday, 8 September 2014

Prize Winners!

I surmise from my blog stats that some of you are eagerly awaiting the announcement of the winners' names in the Blogiversary Competition.

"Tell-me-why-you deserve-an-award" winner

I'm doing this first as it required some effort from the entries, and therefore the winner deserves his first choice of prize:-

There were surprisingly few entries for this one.  Robert Audin was a  close runner, but the prize goes to:-

Dave Docherty  - because his entry made laugh (and because I think he'd do it!).  We excellent foresight, Dave's choice was a £10.00 voucher from Diplomatist Books.

Anne O'Leary gets an extra-special prize as she was going to donate it to someone else.  Anne, once you've decided, we'll sort out what prize it will be.

And on to the draw...

First Prize

Robert Audin - this isn't a fix!  I drew the name after ruling Robert out of the prize above!  Robert's first choice was The Ladies of Grace Adieu.

Second Prize

Ray - The rascal!  He lies low until the last moment and then sneaks in!  Ray gets the Cliff Ansell figure.

Third Prize

Roger - Continuing his winning-streak, Roger will be in receipt of a veritable fleet of motors.

Wasn't That Fun!

And, nicely, all the winners got their first choice (though if any want to change their minds, it's not too late).

It's now my bedtime.  I'll sort out the admin with the winners tomorrow afternoon...

Sunday, 7 September 2014

This Week's Obits of Interest

Werner Franz (d Aug 2014)
Probably the last surviving crew member from the Hindenburg disaster
Independent obit, 3 Sep 2014

Andrew V McLaglan (d. 30 Aug 2014)
Hollywood film director
Guardian obit, 4 Sep 2014
Independent obit, 6 Sep 2014

W/Cdr Ken Rees (d. 30 Aug 2014)
'Great Escaper'
Independent obit, 7 Sep 2014

Joan Rivers (d. 4 Sep 2014)
Guardian obit, 4 Sep 2014
Independent obit, 5 Sep 2014

Shamus Wade (d. 13 Aug 2014)
Toy Soldier Dealer

John Walker (d. 28 Aug 2014)
USN Warrant Officer and Russian Spy
Independent obit, 2 Sep 2014

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