Saturday, May 30, 2015

Another 1815 anniversary...

Magna Carta, Agincourt, Waterloo.  There are lots of anniversaries this year.  Today I took the non-Scottish resident parts of the family to Eights Week at Oxford; an event I hadn't attended since 1982.  This was to celebrate another anniversary: The very first rowing race between two boat clubs.  Jesus and Brasenose (the Legatus' college) are the two oldest rowing clubs in the world and their clash two hundred years ago is the first documented race between two clubs.

Brasenose had organised an anniversary garden party in the BNC sports ground (which used to employ a pushy groundsman called Jeffrey Archer, back in the sixties) adjoining the river.  Guy was excited to go, given he is a keen rower.

As Guy is very fit he was allowed to demolish large amounts of cake.  The Legatus is not fit but still managed to polish off quite a lot of Coronation Chicken sandwiches and tea.  Most of my recollections of Eights Week revolve around Pimm's but my dietician won't allow me to drink it these days.  Probably just as well as it inevitably led to unsuitable behaviour with lady rowers in the past.

The young lady in the foreground next to Guy is wearing a BNC boat club blazer but is not built like any of the ladies I remember from the ladies first eight, who were very much on the strapping side.

Guy wasn't too impressed with some of the rowing technique on display but Pembroke ladies displayed some impressive competitive aggression, even if they were hampered by girly pink shirts (as were their men).

They're behind you!

Between the women's and men's division one races the 200th anniversary race was run with crews in period boats and uniforms.  We all had BNC boat club flags to wave and there seemed to be a lot more of us than Jesus supporters.  In the end, as in the race two hundred years ago, Jesus were beaten, this time by a rather embarrassing distance. 

We stayed to watch the Division 1 races and Guy recognised that Trinity were fielding two of Oxford's Boat Race winning crew, including stroke Constantine Louloudis (in the turquoise sunglasses) a 2014 World Championship gold medallist.  Bit tough on some of the other crews!

The Legatus needs to get his hair cut!

The Legatus's rowing exploits at college were all really rather more to do with a string of lady coxes and rowers from a number of colleges (including his own).  Fortunately, given the presence of the Old Bat, none of them were in evidence today!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Facebook: I'm so ashamed...

A very long time ago I was going out with a girl at college and she always used to say to me about her best friend "Do you like K? Would you like to go out with her? She's very attractive - lovely figure" etc. Of course, I replied, "No, no! She isn't my type. I'd never have anything to do with her! She is really annoying!" etc. Of course a couple of months later I went out to dinner with K (and possibly a bit more) much to original girl's fury.

Anyway, I felt like that today because (and I can blame my daughter) I now have a Facebook page. Oh, the shame! Actually, I didn't feel shame about the girls; not for very long anyway, but I do about Facebook. Regular readers know my issues with technology and my hatred for social media of any type (other than blogs, naturally). Just this weekend I was struggling to set up my new Windows 8 laptop. Argh! It is as horrible as I suspected it would be, as the system completely lacks any logic whatsoever. I nearly gave up on it and put it back in its box but fortunately my friend Bill came around and sorted it for me so it all works, it's just I can't work it

These two things are linked. I need the new laptop to have stuff installed on it by a firm I am working for at present. They also use Facebook and Twitter and expect their staff to be on both. So, having no idea about either, I was talking to Charlotte in Edinburgh today and she took me through setting it up, which was immensely useful. Now I have to set up a work one. I'm still not quite sure what Facebook is for or whether I will use mine but I may play with it for a few weeks so that I can set up the work one properly. I absolutely will not be getting Twitter, however! So if you receive a friend request from me (I am cringing as I type this) feel free to ignore it as I am not aware of Facebook etiquette but am just practising! 

Stop Press: Just back from having some Spaghetti Puttanesca and watching Eggheads having sent a few experimental friend requests and I have been bombarded with friend requests back! "You'll only have me as a friend," said my daughter.  Anyway, thanks to Big Red Bat my first friend other than Charlotte and Craig Cartmell of IHMN fame for calming words and advice!

One discovery through all this is that I have found all the fascinating news and updates from various figure manufacturers which I didn't know existed.  This is probably not a good thing!  I suppose it is easier to post stuff on Facebook than update your website.   This news aspect is something I had not thought of!  

I can now see, however, why my daughter never gets anything done and why my son stops his A level revision because of his iPad pinging constantly!

On the wargaming front I had another visit to the Shed last night but forgot my camera so I will have to wait until Eric's account, if he does one.  Like me he is very busy at work at present.  My search for the Crooked Dice Seventh Voyage rules has so far been futile but there are a couple of places I can still search.  I did dig out my Golden Fleece, tree and Hydra, though, so need to do some work on them soon.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Quest for the Lost Rules

Painted so far

As regular readers will know, I have slowly been working on some Jason and the Argonauts figures.   I have loved the story of Jason from even before the time I first saw the Ray Harryhausen film at my uncle's house in the late sixties/early seventies, when he had a colour TV and we did not.  This is a film I watch regularly and I have also the soundtrack CD for.  I also like the Hallmark TV mini series version from 2000 and even have the soundtrack to that.  

I have many books on the Argonauts and a lot of unpainted figures, monsters and, indeed the splendid Grand Manner Argo, pictured here with one of my Jason and the Argonauts mugs and my long neglected Greek Myths blog

Now, another wargamer has suggested a Jason project and so I can bring some focus to this heretofore rather desultorily pursued project.  A key part of this will be a good set of rules and what better than Crooked Dice's Seventh Voyage Harryhausenesque ones.  Said wargamer asked to have a look at them, when I said I had them.  "They are a bit buried," I replied but I set to looking for them today.  Now nearly all my wargames rules are on a bookshelf in my study.  Unfortunately, they are currently buried behind approximately 300 copies of Penthouse magazine which need sorting and a lot of boxes which need to go into the shed.  Anyway, I started to move them today to get at the shelves behind without getting distracted by naked ladies with big hair from the eighties.  I looked and I looked.  I couldn't find the rules anywhere.  I started to doubt if I had, indeed bought them at all.  I looked on the shelves with my Jason books.  Nothing there either.  Puzzled.  I searched this blog and discovered that I had, indeed, bought them at Salute 2013.  So where are they?  I need another search tomorrow.

Monday, May 04, 2015

An unexpected Gallipoli family link

My sister came around today to show off her new metal wrist (you can feel the metal under the skin which is deeply creepy in a sort of Westworld/Terminator/Bionic Woman way) and to deliver me a new laptop which I haven't had the nerve to try to get going yet.  I was telling her about my visit to Turkey and my experiences with all the Australians doing the battlefield tours. 

"Did you tell any of them your great uncle died at Gallipoli?" she asked.

"What?  Which uncle?  I'd not heard that!"  I replied, as I hadn't.

I knew about my grandfather's service in the Great War but he was on my father's side of the family.  The great uncle my sister was talking about was my mother's mother's brother and she has been doing research on that side of the family.

Edgar Emil Loynds was born in 1883 in Malmö in Sweden.  He came to England and volunteered for the South Staffordshire regiment as one of Lord Kitchener's New Army regiments formed from August 1914.  As part of the 7th Battalion (33rd Brigade, 11th (Northern Division)) he sailed from Liverpool in early July 1915.  On 6th August 1915 the battalion landed at Suvla Bay as part of a 20,000 man force facing 1,500 German-led Turks. They were the first New Army troops to see combat.  No sooner had they landed than they were told to dig in, losing any element of surprise and momentum and giving the Turks time to call for reinforcements.  The commander of the British forces, Lt Gen Sir Frederick Stopford, was so incompetent and indecisive he was relieved of command on 15th August.  Their opponents were more decisive.  When the Turkish reinforcements arrived on 8th August their commander, Feizi Bey, refused an order by their commander, the German General Otto Liman von Sanders, to attack, saying his men needed a rest. Sanders dismissed Feizi Bey on the spot and instead appointed one Mustafa Kemal in his place.  Kemal had his troops dig in and the fighting escalated on the 9th when Scimitar Hill, where the South Staffordshires were, was set alight by flames from the gunfire. The South Staffordshires were decimated so badly they had to be amalgamated with the remnants of the 9th Battalion the Sherwood Foresters in order to remain a viable unit.  In December, crippled by losses and illness they were pulled out and went to Egypt to defend the Suez Canal.

Not my great uncle, however, as he was killed on 9th August and his name is listed on the Helles Memorial in Turkey.  So, having wondered what all the fuss about Gallipoli was only last week, now I am thinking that if I go to Istanbul again I will have to take the day trip there.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

The Military Museum, Istanbul

Following on from my non-military post about my trip to Istanbul last week I now have a military one!  The last time I went to Istanbul I was participating in a conference at a concert hall right next to the Military Museum (Askerî Müze) but it was closed on the only day I had some free time.  I knew it was close to the Hilton as I had gone to the Veranda bar with my friend B during that trip, so was looking forward to getting in to see it this time.

16th Century Turkish and 19th Century German

It was a nice warm day when B and I wandered along the cat infested street to the very secure entrance (it is located in an operational military base).  The first thing that you see are a number of cannons (there are a lot of old cannons dotted around Istanbul) including a typically ornate Ottoman one from the 16th century.

Dominating the garden in front of the entrance, however, is an 1889 Krupp L35 355m fortress gun from the Mecidiye Fort which defended the Mediterranean end of the Dardanelles.  Weighing around 170 tons, this is the last big fortress gun from the Dardanelles left as the rest were melted down in the sixties.

Standing next to the gun is a bronze statue of a soldier carrying an impossibly large looking shell.  In this 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign it is worth noting the deeds of a hero from the Turkish side, for once.  On 18th March 1915 the allies bombarded the Turkish forts guarding the narrows.  Although the gun (this actual gun) wasn't damaged the crane which loaded its shells was put out of action.

As the allied fleet tried to force the narrows, an artilleryman called Seyit picked up and carried three 275kg shells to the gun, one after another, enabling it to fire at the fleet and hitting the pre-dreadnought HMS Ocean.  The effort caused blood to stream from his nose but he was  promoted to corporal for his efforts.  He was asked to pose for a photograph carrying a shell, shortly afterwards, but try as he might he couldn't lift one and in the picture (above) he is carrying a wooden replica.  He said at the time:"If war breaks out again, I'll carry again!"  A testament to the power of adrenaline!

The museum is in the building previously occupied by the Ottoman military Academy, their equivalent of Sandhurst.  The museum was moved there in 1950 and renovated in 1993.  It feels rather old fashioned today and reminded me of the military museum in Brussels although it is far larger and much larger than the Imperial War Museum.  The ticket to get in cost around £1.75 but I paid an additional £3.75 for a photographic pass which lets you take pictures.

The Last Patrol

The place is vast, as you can see from the aerial view on the ticket, but there is only so much time you can impose a military museum on a young lady so we whizzed around in about two hours.  There are many paintings in the museum and I found myself drawn to all the paintings of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878.  I must resist the Outpost Wargames figures!  B saying it would be good to have an army of men in fezzes didn't help my resolve.

Sultan Mehmed enters Istanbul in 1453

Although I am hopelessly influenced by places I have visited or films I have seen as regards wargames purchases, fortunately I have never had that much of an interest in the Ottomans.  A few years ago, when I was travelling to Malta a lot, I bought quite a few Old Glory Ottomans (one of their better ranges) for the siege of Valetta but painting them looked to be such a  chore that I sold them on eBay.

If you are interested in this period, though, this has to be the best place to visit for inspiration.  They have a number of life-sized reconstructions of troops on display.

Battle of Mohacs (1526) against the Hungarians

The other thing the museum goes in for is really impressive dioramas of battles with full sized figures and equipment in the foreground and excellent painted backgrounds which curve around to give  a real feeling of depth.

The diorama featuring the siege of Constantinople in 1453 was particularly impressive with full-sized cannons and siegeworks in the foreground and  a huge painted background of the walls of the city taking a battering.

I remember reading (probably in Look & Learn when I was younger) about the defensive chain which the Byzantines placed across the mouth of the Golden Horn, in order to prevent a repeat of the situation in the fourth Crusade in 1204 when the Crusaders breached the Golden Horn wall of the City.  In the museum, they actually have part of it on display; probably the most impressive exhibit from my point of view.

Sultan Mehmed dealt with this by laying a roadway of wooden planks and dragging his ships behind the city and into the Golden Horn the other side of the barrier.  A model of the city at the time, in the museum, illustrates this.

There are many rooms of arms and armour, although the museum only displays about 1,000 of its 40,000 item collection.  These are not just Ottoman equipment but also includes a lot of captured equipment too, such as the European helmets shown above.

We spent rather longer in the firearms hall as B has a rather unhealthy interest in rifles.  She told me to take a picture of this Sharps for S, in Vancouver, who owns a modern reproduction of one.

Personally, I was more interested in the weird and wonderful like this Belgian pinfire revolving carbine.  What an ugly gun!

Or how about this petrol driven magnetic mechanism rifle?

And what on earth has happened to this Winchester?   B is a blur of excitement in the background as she seeks out all the German made weapons (of which there are a lot).

Here is a Nordenfelt gun.  The Turks used these at Gallipoli.

Although much of the museum is quite old-fashioned (you forget that Britain is a world leader in museum design and display) but there was a theatre area that looked more modern which had displays of Turkish soldiers through history.  I hadn't appreciated that Turkey fought in the Korean War.

Upstairs were the World War one galleries where they had this diorama of the Gallipoli landings done with 54mm figures (not as many as Sir Peter Jackson's one, however!)  In fact, the figures were quite hard to spot against the terrain.

There was also another large painting with a real foreground diorama too.  The Turkish uniforms in this are very pale, interestingly.

Obviously the Turks had winter and summer uniforms as both were on display in different parts of the museum. No doubt some motley combination of both was worn in the field.

There was a small but well done exhibit remembering the centenary of the Gallipoli landings, which was very even handed and included quotes from Kemal Atatürk about the gallantry of the ANZAC troops, which must have gone down well with the Australians looking at the displays when we were there.

There were cases of relics from the conflict and these helmets were genuine period ones, unlike the reproduction uniforms in the display.

On one side of the room was a section looking at naval operations, with models of some of the vessels involved, including HMS Majestic which was torpedoed by the U-boat U 21 in May 1915 off Cape Helles at the southern tip of the Gallipoli peninsula.

HMS Majestic sinks in the early morning of May 27th 1915

She sank in nine minutes, turning turtle as she did so, but because of the other allied vessels in the vicinity 623 of her 672 crew were saved.

We eventually found a rather ropey cafe in the grounds (the one inside was closed) and also looked at some of the other outside exhibits like this Russian T26 tank and a Turkish Air Force Starfighter.  I recognised the Starfighter straight away as it was the very first Airfix kit I built.

All in all, although parts of it are dark inside and it is a little old fashioned, this is a very good military museum indeed.  All the labels on the exhibits are in both English and Turkish.  It has a (not brilliant) shop and the cafe inside was closed with the one outside just being a room with an urn of hot water and instant coffee and teabags which you had to make yourself.  When we went round it was virtually deserted, except for the Gallipoli exhibit which had about a dozen people in it.   Still, I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in military history.  We did miss the performance by the Mehter Takimi Janissary band as that was at 3.00pm and I was on the way to the airport by then but they play their music in parts of the museum and, like bagpipe music, a little goes a long way!