Friday, 28 April 2017

HMS Tartar 4th Commission 1970 2

We sailed from Plymouth early on Tuesday 28th April and met up with HMS Alliance, an 'A' class submarine which had just completed a large refit and was 'working up' ready to join the fleet, we acted as hunter and no doubt target for her for several hours in some blustery weather. We managed some speed trials off Cornwall and then headed south for the Orient.

Me on the left with 'Jacko' Jackson.

A day later we traversed the Bay of Biscay, and despite all I had heard about this particular stretch of ocean every time I crossed it was calm and forgiving, however the first cases of sea sickness had already presented themselves to the sickbay, it was something I never suffered from. The Doc also took this opportunity to serve up mass inoculations to everyone, a JABEX as it was known. On the Thursday we were asked to pile on the speed and go look at some Russians who were in the area but to the south of us.

Only just three days out and sunburn was becoming noticeable amongst the sun seekers, during off duty periods those who could would find a spot on the upper deck and lay there with 'burn me' attitudes. Some even had their own secret concoctions to brown quicker, like vinegar and cooking fat etc. I stuck with Ambre Solaire, very posh.

Thursday night and we anchored off Cape Trafalgar exactly where the battle had taken place, I was excited as the next day we would be in Gibraltar, my first real foreign run ashore. Sure enough I spied the famous rock from several miles out at sea, on arrival we became Guard Ship, ready at a moments notice to repel any Spanish attempts at taking the Rock, I just wanted to get ashore. Having completed the Middle Watch (2359 - 0400) the night before my watch had the afternoon off, so all foofed up we headed ashore, past some seamen painting the hull, these hurled insults at as of course but as we Radio Ops on most occasions still stood watches in ports without communications centres while they went ashore we didn't take much notice.

As I said Gibraltar was my first foreign ‘run ashore’. The place was covered in pubs and bars, most with a history and pedigree going back decades, the main showplace in 1970 was Sugar’s, run by a gay man and which was the usual starting place for a night on the town, a whale’s penis was rumoured to hang above the bar, but the indeterminate piece of leather could have been anything. Sure enough Sugar was larger than life and twirled and sashayed around the bar the star of his own show. Then it was off up the main drag, favourites were the Tartan Bar, the Angry Friar, Pickwicks and the London Bar, the latter was one of my favourites, a real sense of Naval tradition here with many pictures and charts on the walls. I recall we had a fashion moment when ‘Lil’ New, ‘Lofty’ Gedling, ‘Plum’ Humphries and I all bought bandannas and wore them around our necks. Lil and Plum were Buntings, tactical radio operators who dealt with signals and fleet manoeuvres, Lofty and I were Sparkers, real radio operators, Lofty was one of the oldest in the mess, 6’ tall and a character, Lofty enjoyed his runs ashore. Our only sight seeing was a trip on the cable car to the top of the Rock and a walk through some of the tunnels built for defence facing Spain, we of course saw the famous Rock Apes. Many years later I would walk through the Rock from one side to the other.

While in Gib we received tropical measures for spirits, which basically meant a double for the same price as a single, but it was also cheaper than back in Blighty, everyone drank JC's in Gib, it was supposed to be a John Collins cocktail but I cannot vouch for how accurate they were but they were drank on an industrial scale, each bar had gallons of the sugary mix ready to pour into your gin or vodka, as I said I cannot swear as to which spirit was actually in there.

We were to sail at 1030 on the 5th May, our next stop was St. Helena, Napoleon's prison island, normally only one ship a year goes near the place but 'Bungy' Williams, one of our storemen in the next mess to us was a native of St. Helena and had not been home since he left, so we were going to call in and let him visit his family.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Shoot out in Carefree

 Dead Man's Hand at the club last night, I wasn't sure how many players we would have, I half expected four but in the end it was only Simon and I. I thought I would just take the stuff along and wing it once there, I had a vague idea for a shoot out and it's always good to bounce ideas off Simon.

We set up, I was the Pinkerton's looking after a gold shipment, the stage had somehow lost a wheel before it could get to the bank and was stranded in Main Street, so I had to ensure the gold got across town to the bank. A local bunch of ne'er do wells decided to take the opportunity to relieve my boys of the loot.
The stage sheds a wheel.

  The gold was heavy so in order to carry it as quickly as possible I set two of my strongest to carrying, they could shoot wildly with their pistols if they had to or drop the bullion and join in the coming mayhem. We set out well and traded shots with the bad guys as they progressed along the back of Main Street towards the bank while setting several riflemen on the nearby roofs. It took a bit of time to get the crate off the stage but things still looked fine as I saw an opportunity to catch the outlaws in an alley, at this point we had both lost one man.

Simon's gang leader drops his pistols.
Just before things went south at the alley.
 I had a good hand of cards and managed to force Simon to take cover, I had hoped to cut his numbers down but it didn't happen, then I lost another officer while Simon's leader fumbled his pistol and was scrabbling in the dust for bullets (out of ammo), we both had a laugh imagining this. But a few minutes later I stopped laughing as my commander and his 2 i/c bit the dust courtesy of the rooftop snipers. Meanwhile I had had to drop the gold and put my remaining men into the firefight, but numbers were against me and the low down snakes ran for the hills.

Almost over.

 Things had been pretty even up until the snipers took out two men almost at the same time with two excellent die rolls, but it was a nice little game, we decided though to give more thought to the games rather than make them up on the night, I am sure this is the best way to go. We had a talk about the scenario afterwards and decided that the Pinkertons would have to defend the stage while the driver and his mate repaired the wheel before continuing to the bank, a die roll would determine how long this took, this was better as it did not take two men out of the fight to carry the loot.

I popped down to the local model railway shop this morning hoping to get some inspiration for my next terrain tile only to find he had been moved due to repairs and was basically operating out of a cupboard with almost no stock. I did however see a nice little van for a couple of quid which will be Frenchified in due course.

Le Kelloggs.
 I have a few archers on the tray for now which I suspect will be done for the weekend.

I saw some beautiful work by Paul O'Gorman's Advanced Studio Miniatures this morning and was intrigued enough to look up his prices, which to be honest I thought reasonable for the quality, so much so that I did a quick calculation and thought, yeah, possible. I have never got anyone to paint one of my boys and have always remembered a daft quote that went like this "if you can't be bothered to paint them, why should they be bothered to fight for you" and you know how superstitious we wargamers are. But Paul's figures are just so beautiful, who knows, my only concern would be the mail, Paul lives in Oz you see, if nothing else I am inspired.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Not Again

Thought I was in for another terrible morning serving the great British public, three customers before 0910 hrs, but it has now tailed off and I am back to the trickle. Also as the missus is back I have the afternoon off, I would have had the whole day but she has an appointment this morning. But I shall be meeting my old crony in the pub tomorrow as per our normal Wednesday afternoon.

I have finished my second tile for Normandy 1944, as you know I was inspired by the terrain Phil and Jenny brought and looked online for a garage as they had a nice little vignette, I didn't see what I wanted but I did see something a guy had whipped up out of coffee stirrers. With this in the back of my mind as I trundled around Legoland a week or so ago I saw to my delight tons of coffee stirrers at each fast food stand, I deduced that with the amount of money Legoland was relieving me of the least they could do was supply me with modelling material. I swooped in at each stop and soon had enough to repair Hadrian's Wall in time for the referendum.

 I couldn't find the pumps and bits and pieces I wanted so I decided that Pierre would be more of a local 'go to' man than an actual proper mechanic hence his place would look a bit ramshackle and worse for wear. I decided to re use my dilapidated van objective and again scrounged through my bits and pieces box and came up with enough to populate the tile. I used a Charlie Foxtrot building because Pierre of course lived on the premises and set to building his rickety fence and outbuilding, I also used some of my Warlord stone walling. Next stop was online to get French signs suitable for the 40's or earlier, no problem there. I also still had plenty of the excellent 4Ground corrugated tin to use for roofing.

So within a day or two the whole thing was ready to go, I have two more tiles still to use and would like to place one of the damaged buildings on it, the last I think will simply be a ploughed field when I find something to use for the field. I have also looked at a lot of photographs of Normandy in 1944 and there are a lot of hedges, not just bocage, so I need a few more of them.

And would I take my car to Pierre, no, look at the state of the place!

On the tray at the moment are some archers for the Twelfth, these will be done by the weekend, not much to paint on these guys. Club night and it is Dead Man's Hand.

Monday, 24 April 2017

What's going on

Just turned 9.30 and I have had at least ten people in so far, so many in fact I have not even had a chance to look at my emails or check out more Salute photos from some of my favourite blogs, I do hope this does not continue, I have maps to draw.

I have now finished my extra unit for the Patrician Roman Army and that should be it, yes I mentioned mounted Roman archers but we will see about that, they are not actually required. While looking in the boxes this morning I suddenly thought I did not have many foot skirmishers and if I add four more I have the choice of three twelve man units rather than two and spares in the box or two large sixteen's, which is the upper limit in War and Conquest any more is bordering on gamesmanship, anyway something to think about.

Gripping Beast Roman armoured cavalry.
 Where do I go from here, a good question. Due to things outwith my control I think our bi-annual WAC meet up is coming to an end which is a great disappointment to me as I thoroughly enjoyed them. I have made some very good friends and will no doubt continue to meet up with them and play WAC at least twice or more a year so it is not all bad news but I did enjoy the whole social thing and meeting new people and fighting new armies, it gave my wargaming a shot in the arm just when it needed it.

The fall out of course is no more large armies for now, I have four big WAC armies and had been planning a fifth for next year, something with pikes, but I would be mad to continue and simply fill up Really Useful Boxes with model soldiers to sit in a cupboard. I could possibly be tempted to build a small, no, I never go small, force for Muskets and Tomahawks, but again we will see as that would mean more terrain along with the troops.

I do want to continue to tart up my terrain, do some work on my WWII stuff, whether I need it or not I will have to get a Tiger at some point and hopefully get some new Wild West figures to add to my small collection for Dead man's Hand once the new Black Scorpion stuff comes out. I also feel the need to get my teeth into a campaign, but campaigns need commitment and that's hard to find.

More bleedin' customers, at least Bob left me with this nugget "I got chocolate cake thrown all over me yesterday George, it's tough in the gateaux!"

(Note for John Perry, John my emails keep bouncing back?)