Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Battle of Bunker Hill

Diorama in the Battle of Bunker Hill Museum

Well, I have been trying to resist the call of the American War of Independence for some time.  In fact I can remember the big new Miniature Figurines line being released in 1976 and all the attendant features in Military Modelling.  The Airfix and Revell sets actually got me painting some of my plastics, a very rare occurrence, but then I moved on to metal 28mm and forgot about them.  Then Foundry started to release their 28m metals and I immediately bought some but didn't pursue this as I had just joined Guildford Wargames Club where I found that Dark Ages, Ancients and ECW were the favoured 28mm periods.  I sold the figures I had on eBay with all the attendant Ospreys I owned.  I started looking at Giles Allison's superb blog which was so definitive that I decided that it was pointless to pursue the period any more (I think he may even have bought some of my surplus figures).  But...  But, I kept thinking about the period, with its interesting and colourful mix of forces, its very differing tactical approaches and the added appeal of woodland indians and New World forest engagements. 

Bunker Hill Diorama

More than this the combination of the Foundry and Perry figures offer an almost uniquely comprehensive range of figures.  More recently, when considering a new range of black powder period figures for skirmish wargames, it appeared on my shortlist once more. Scott, from Middle Earth, opined that he was never interested in the period because it was a (rare) conflict which the British lost.  This was something that I hadn't considered overtly but may well have been behind my unwillingness to dive in.  Or was it all those blessed straps!  

Today, however, I find myself in Boston with time on my hands.  Now, other than military history (and Victorian art, wine, food and women -which are all basically the same thing) I am also interested in historic ships.  I am staying in Cambridge, as I am giving a lecture at MIT tomorrow, so I am very close to Charlestown, home of two interesting ships.  The USS Constitution (more on which another time) is the oldest commissioned warship still afloat.  Built in 1797, they took it out for a sail last week!  Next door to it is the USS Cassin Young, a destroyer which saw active service in the Pacific and survived a number of kamikaze hits.  

USS Cassin Young.  Looks like it is doing 35 knots even in dry dock.  It actually weighs less than the USS Constitution, I was told

Now when I was visiting the Charlestown shipyards today they were just starting a parade to celebrate the 237th anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill (even though that's technically next Sunday).  Charlestown was very much en fete and there were lots of re-enactors about, from various periods, but mainly concentrated on the Revolutionary War, as they call it here.

There were some ACW people with a rather splendid cannon and some WW2 softskins with a nice half track which got me feeling all nostalgic for Airfix kits!

Manky looking colonials

Now that's better!  Glad to see that there are still some Loyalists in Boston!

Lots of lady reneactors and some very small reenactors too. Off they all troop in the heat (unlike Britain, heh, heh!) up to the Bunker Hill monument.    I climb up to the top (all 294 steps), admire the (excellent) view and gingerly make my way down to the bottom again where I discover that my quadriceps muscles have ceased to function to the extent that my companion, who has flown from Vancouver to be with me (or go clothes shopping, in reality - the clothes shops here being some of the best in the Americas I am told), has to stop me from falling down the steps.  She runs five miles a day so seemed to have no trouble, or maybe its being ten years younger than me!  Never mind a couple of pints of the local Harpoon IPA seem to restore my equilibrium somewhat, although this evening my legs are getting very stiff!

The Bunker Hill Monument: actually on Breed's hill, the site of the battle, strangely.  221 feet high it feels like it when you are climbing up or, worse, coming down.

Having managed to negotiate the steps down from the monument we cross the road to the Battle of Bunker Hill museum which has an excellent diorama of the battle with lots of 10mm (I would guess) figures.  Oh dear!  All those ranks of redcoats, all those manky looking colonials and the Perries promising plastic British infantry which will, presumably match the anatomical proportions of their recent figures, as compared with the rather dumpy Foundry ones.  Oh dear,  I'm starting to feel weak again...  

As Sophie said,  "model soldiers are to you like shoes are to me.  You can never have enough and you only regret the ones you didn't buy!"  


  1. Great post and pictures. From the camera perspective, that destroyer looks like its about to hit warp speed! ;-)

    Ah, those costumes and tricorne hats gets me going all 'Piratey' again...

  2. Sophie really has got it right!

  3. Did you walk the entire Freedom Trail? Presumably you didn't have time, but there's other stuff in Boston central that's worth seeing. Also, I could have sworn that the Bunker Hill Museum has, or at least had when I went there, a "no photos" policy - I (foolishly) complied with it and therefore spent ages drawing a very careful note of the fortifications on that model of the battle. And yes, I did buy some of your AWI figures - but you should definitely get into the period when Alan brings out his plastics.

    Best wishes


  4. No, sadly, I didn't have time to do the whole freedom trail. I also wanted to visit the Museum of Fine Arts but it was too far to get to given it shuts early on Sunday.

    Photography is now allowed in the Bunker Hill Museum; I specifically checked.

    Tonight I have a dinner in the Old State House and also access to its museum so that should be good.