Thursday 30 October 2014

Off to Crisis 2014

Sorry not to have posted for a while but "real life" has intervened! Just getting ready now for our annual trip to Antwerp for the Crisis show, which is one of the best shows around. If you've never made the trip, I can assure you it's well worth it! If you are at the show do stop by and say hello - you should know what our set looks like by now!

One of the chaps coming with us has never been to Ypres before (not sure how he managed that!) so on Sunday I'm doing an impromptu tour of the Salient for him. We won't have that long so it'll be bit of a whistle-stop tour of Tyne Cot, Passchendaele Museum in Zonnebeke, Hooge Crater and Museum (looking forward to that, not been there for a while) and Hill 62/Sanctuary Wood. Then down the Menin Road to the Gate and into Ypres. If I can I'd also like to get into Geluveld as tomorrow will be the centenary of that battle.

Should be a good day, if the weather holds! Photos as ever on return.

Thursday 28 August 2014

Mons town square

Many of you may have seen the famous photo of British soldiers in the town square at Mons before the battle. When we were in the square there was a parade to commemorate the battle, with some excellent German infantry re-enactors, together with soldiers from the (modern) Royal Horse Artillery. Here's the square today with some of the German re-enactors.


Obourg railway station

At about the same time as the action at Nimy was hotting up, the German 17th division was also putting pressure onto Obourg railway station, to the east of Nimy. This area was defended by the 4th bttn Middlesex Regt, who again managed to hold on until after lunchtime when their position became untenable and they had to withdraw, having lost about 450 officers and other ranks. Obourg station itself was demolished in the 1980s but one part remains as a memorial to those who fell that day.
The cottages by the side of the road are from the 1914 period, although they have since been renovated a bit! Many of the Middlesex dead are also buried in St Symphorien in a circular shape.

Nimy Railway Bridge

The first action of 23 August 1914 took place around Nimy railway and road bridges, defended by the Royal Fusiliers. The canal here formed a bend, which created a salient on the right flank of the British II Corps, and the railway bridge was defended by infantry and the Fusiliers two Maxim machine guns, commanded by Lt Maurice Dease. One of these guns was kept in action by Lt Dease and Private Godley, and after Dease had been seriously wounded 5 times (he would die later in the day) Godley manned the gun until he too was badly wounded (he survived to be taken prisoner). Both were awarded the VC, the first of the war to be awarded.

The canal has been concreted over elsewhere to become a motorway, but is still there where the railway bridge is, although the canal has been widened since 1914 and the bridge is not the original. If you saw the first episode of BBC's Our World War this covered this action, but they showed the bridge as a road not a railway bridge (oops!). Here are some photos of the bridge today, and of Lt Dease's grave in St Symphorien cemetery. Also in St Symphorien are the first British casualty of the war Pte Parr, and the last casualties from 1918.

First (and last) shots of the Great War

As I mentioned, we spent the weekend in Mons to commemorate the centenary of the battle. We had a great weekend and were able to see many of the places where action took place, including Nimy Bridge and Obourg railway station, and I'll post... photos following this post.

I'll try to do this in (1914) chronological order, so to begin with here's a photo of the spot commemorating the first (British) shot of the Great War on the road going into Mons, which was on 21st August, the first and (allegedly) last shots of the war, which are on opposite sides of the same road a few yards apart, and a view going down the road leading into Mons - the car is about where the German cavalry were when fired upon.


Thursday 21 August 2014

Mons 2014

As the centenary of the Battle of Mons approaches, I'm off to Mons for the event. We'll be travelling with Leger holidays, so no driving for me for once!

There will be commemorations in the town and at St Symphorien CWGC cemetery - which will be really interesting to visit as it contains almost equal numbers of Allied and German dead, and the graves of the first and last British casualties of the War. I will of course be posting photos!

Monday 4 August 2014

Lest we forget

Today is the centenary of Britain's declaration of war in 1914 (not the centenary of the start of the war as Germany was at war with both Russia and France before today!).

I am going to support the "Lights Out" movement by only having one light or candle alight in the house between 10pm and 11pm today. This commemorates Sir Edward Grey's famous "the lamps are going out all over Europe - we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime". Hope you can support this too.

Lest we forget.

Monday 14 July 2014

War and Peace Revival show

Hot on the heels of Battlegroup South comes the War and Peace Revival show at Folkestone Racecourse. The show runs from Wednesday to Sunday this week and proudly claims to be the biggest gathering of re-enactors and military vehicles on the planet. I can't say whether or not that's accurate of course but there are an awful lot of them!
We will be doing our "bit" in the Model Halls underneath the main grandstand, so if you do come to the show - and if you can it is very well worth a visit - do stop by and say hello! There are always lots of WW1 re-enactors there and sometimes some WW1 vehicles too so I will post up any pictures I take when I get back.
This is my annual dose of camping, which is fun (sometimes) and uncomfortable (sometimes) too! Hopefully the sun will shine....But it is well worth it to be on the "inside" after the public have gone, as that's when the fun begins!

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Photos from Bovington Tank Museum

We had a great time at Bovington this weekend, and it was good to see and chat to so many people! As with last year we had a great position right in front of the Tiger II, which if you haven't seen one "for real" is unbelievably huge!

Unlike last year the A7V German WW1 tank replica was in the WW1 hall, so I took lots of pictures! It is a copy of one of only 20 or so A7Vs that were made, and even when you are standing next to it looks very realistic. In fact it is entirely made of wood on a tractor chassis - the driver sits at the back (as he would on a tractor) and has to steer by TV camera looking out of the front! I took some photos of one or two other WW1 items in the museum such as the Rolls Royce Armoured car and the Graincourt German 77mm Gun (captured by the British in 1917). These are attached, together with some more photos of our game.



Thursday 3 July 2014

Tank Museum Bovington

Tomorrow we are off to the Battlegroup South show at the Tank Museum, Bovington. It's a great show, and you may remember that last year our game was sited right next to the Tiger II - and it may well be in the same place again this year!

I took lots of photos of WW1 tanks in the museum last year which are posted below, so this year I'll try to limit myself to anything "new" that I didn't shoot last year. They may for example have the replica A7V in the museum, as last year that was being cleaned following Tankfest. So, watch this space (or rather this blog!) for updates next week.

Thursday 12 June 2014

Photos from Broadside

On Sunday we went to the Broadside wargames show in Sittingbourne. As usual we took the Tannenberg game, or at least we took three-quarters of it as Broadside had a space issue and all table areas were limited to 6 feet by 5 feet. I managed... to get there early and with a little moving apart of the tables (for which I got told off of course!) got a 6 x 6 table set up. This meant that we could not have the three end boards with the forest and lake on them set up, so they had to stay in the car for the day!

It was a good show, although it was very hot in the leisure centre! Thankfully the centre management saw sense and allowed the fire doors to be kept open so there was a slight breeze, but not really enough! I took a few photos of the game which are posted with this message.
We have also spotted that there are some great photos of the game in the June issue of Wargames Illustrated, which has a double page photospread of the game at Salute.

Friday 2 May 2014

Monchy le Preaux

A few days before Salute I went with the Western Front Association on a trip to Monchy le Preaux, which is to the east of Arras. Most of the battles we looked at were the Canadians in 1918, but our first stop was outside the town to look at a (very game-able) action in 1917 involving the Newfoundland regt. This was an unfortunate attack which again caused high casualties to the Newfoundlanders.

Here's a view looking back to Monchy from the point where the action took place:

There are a couple of memorials in the town itself, including another Caribou (like the one on the Somme):

We then moved on to the Canal du Nord, which the Canadians took in 1918. On the way, we stopped at the location of the curiously named Drocourt-Queant Switch Line - which I found out was a trench system that came out at right angles from the Hindenberg Line to protect it. Here's the Switch Line now, looking up to the Canal du Nord:
On the day the Canadians took it, the Canal du Nord was unfinished and unfilled. Conveniently, on the day we were there it had been drained for maintenance so we had an idea of what it might have looked like!
We ended our day in a town the Allies could not reach in 1917 - Cambrai. Here's the town square:

Photos from Salute

Sorry for not posting these sooner but it's been a bit hectic since we came back from Salute! We had a really good day there, and it was great to see and chat to so many people.

I only took a few photos at Salute as most of my time was spent talking! Here's a few to start with - I will have some more soon once they've been downloaded.

First, a view of the table overall:

The town:
and the lake:

Friday 11 April 2014

Off to Salute 2014

Just getting ready now to pack the set up for the journey tomorrow morning (at a ridiculously early time of day!) to ExCel in London Docklands for Salute 2014.

We are taking our new game "August, 1914" which is based on part of the Battle of Tannenberg from 26th-30th August 1914. The set is finished (last work on it completed last night) so we are finally ready to go! We are table GM15, on the right hand side of Salute near the seating area, so if you are in the show tomorrow do stop by and say hi!

As ever I will post a report and photos (will try to remember my camera this year and have the batteries charged!) next week.

Tuesday 25 March 2014

A day in the Salient Part Three - Zonnebeke

We've been to the museum at Zonnebeke before (see photos earlier on this blog) but sine then it has been extended and a replica trench system has been created. As we've posted photos of the museum already I'll concentrate on the new bits!

After going through the museum and the British underground command bunker you emerge into a new area focussing on the battle of Passchendale. There are several rooms of exhibits and weapons, and it is very well done.

These are in the new rooms - firstly a Minenwerfer with shells:

A German 150mm with limber:
A very impressive display of shells:
German trenches with firestep:
German sniper position:
German trenches with reversed A-frames:
British trenches with firestep:
And the German trenches from ground level:

A day in the Salient, Part Two - Bayernwald

After visiting Locre we drove on the short distance into Kemmel, as you have to buy your ticket for the Bayernwald trenches in the tourist office in Kemmel. The trenches are half-way between Kemmel and Wijtschate (known as Whitesheet to the Tommies) and are based on original trenches excavated in the 1990s. They were restored about ten years ago and now give a really good idea of a German trench system complete with four bunkers. These were not MG bunkers but were used as shelters for the troops in a heavy bombardment (the only time they were allowed to use them, to maintain a martial spirit!).

The trenches are excellent and well worth visiting if you are in the area. One additional point is that it is known that Hitler served in this area at one time during the war so he may well have been in these trenches at some point. Here's what they look like from the ground:

One of the bunkers:
And the view from the trenches towards the British lines, which were between the house (not there at the time obviously!) and the wood:
They also found a couple of shaft entrances to underground bunkers - now filled with water as they are no longer pumped out: