Picking up those brushes again.

Hi and welcome to the occasional mutterings of Dave Doc, a military modeller and some time gamer. Gaming and model making has given me a real education, History & Geography(obvious really), Artistry, Politics, Economics, Logistics, Project Management -you try building miniature armies without the last 3.

I will use the blog to record my creations & the odd occasion I actually do some gaming.

I have always been inspired by the aesthetic side of gaming. Playing on well constructed terrain using excellently painted units is always a joy.

Thursday 27 September 2012

A Norman Adventure part 3 - Gold Beach

Managed another day out exploring, This time taking in the area of Gold Beach . Led by the tanks of the 79th Armoured Division -(Hobarts Funnies) and the Royal Dragoon Guards, three brigades of the 50th British Infantry Division came ashore here. .

First up was the casemate WN37 at Asnelles which housed a 88mm A/T gun which was sited to fire along the beach toward Ver Sur Mer with the gun embrasure being protected from frontal fire and observation by a reinforced concrete screen.
We visited at around low tide as per D Day and the width of exposed beach to be covered from the landing craft is some distance. The Germans had however expected a landing at high tide to give the shortest distance and hence the guns had a limited traverse and angle of fire. The rising tide allows the sea to lift off any stranded landing craft and allowed the obstacles to be tackled and destroyed before further landing waves arrived - and was another element of surprise for the allies. WN37 was still able to destroy 6 tanks on the beach before being knocked out by a self propelled 25lb gun armed Sexton under command of Sergeant R.E. Palmer 147th Field Regt (Essex Yeomanry) from a distance of 300 yards. I had to do my own personal invasion from the sea across the beach. Certainly makes you think.

Immediately out to sea from WN37 can be seen the remains of the Pheonix caissons of the eastern end of "Port Winston"  the Mulberry Harbour. These are a site to behold with the huge structures still sitting in the sea in a massive curve around to Arromanches. The effort involved in planning and construction of the Mulberry Harbour was immense , and very ingenious.

The view from the next casemate along on the higher ground  towards Arromanches - from WN38 really starts to give a sense of the scale

At Arromanches there are more remains on the beach of the floating piers carried by the Beetle pontoons

We pushed on inland to Crepon driving through narrow lanes with high walls - it seems not much has changed I could see the old films in my minds eye. 

We were in search of the memorial to the Green Howards - my local regiment -well until it finally succumbed to amalgamation - now part of the Yorkshire Regiment. In the village of Crepon stands the life size statue of Company Sgt Major Stanley Hollis, VC, near the site of the second action he performed on D-Day for which he was later awarded his Victoria Cross.

Hollis has been called up in 1939, been evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940 - earning his sergeant stripes there.He fought on through North Africa, and was wounded in Sicily at Primasole Bridge. 

For his actions on D Day he was awarded the Victoria Cross. The only one that day - and one of 5 in the Normandy campaign.

His VC citation reads
in Normandy on 6 June 1944 Company Sergeant-Major Hollis went with his company commander to investigate two German pill-boxes which had been by-passed as the company moved inland from the beaches. "Hollis instantly rushed straight at the pillbox, firing his Sten gun into the first pill-box, He jumped on top of the pillbox, re-charged his magazine, threw a grenade in through the door and fired his Sten gun into it, killing two Germans and taking the remainder prisoners. 

Later the same day... C.S.M. Hollis pushed right forward to engage the field gun with a PIAT from a house at 50 yards range... He later found that two of his men had stayed behind in the house...In full view of, the enemy who were continually firing at him, he went forward alone...distract their attention from the other men. Under cover of his diversion, the two men were able to get back.

Wherever the fighting was heaviest he appeared, displaying the utmost gallantry... It was largely through his heroism and resource that  the Company's objectives were gained and casualties were not heavier. ....he saved the lives of many of his men.

the Imperial War Museum and the Green Howards Museum have a recording of CSM Hollis talking about war and D Day experiences - well worth a listen if you if get the chance.

Lastly we moved further inland to the higher ground at Ryes and visited the British Cemetery cemetery which was the site of the the first burials after D Day.

It was a grand day out - and we even managed to drive back home via Villers Bocage - but that's another story.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

A Norman adventure part 2

We have spent another day out exploring and following the "Route Voie de la Liberté".  This runs down the western side of Normandy through the Manche department from St Mere Eglise , through the route the US army took fighting it's way from the landings. It runs through St Lo , Countances and Villedieu le Poeles, Brecey, to Avranches and the bay of Mont St Michel. Through rolling and in some cases very hilly and wooded countryside. Driving down some of the small twisty roads really had me thinking about those poor guys on point duty, just waiting to find if there was a German rearguard lying in wait for them .

We called at the Brittany American Cemetery (which is in Normandy just!) This site is less of a draw for the coach and school parties than the larger one at St Laurent. We had it to ourselves for some quiet contemplation

The chapel has a carillion - sitting listening to it play Halls of Montezuma across the  empty cemetery was really something.
The cemetery has over 4400 grave plots and another 500 unknown grave memorials in the walls.

Wondering around looking at the variety of orgin of the names, Italian, Eastern European, Anglo Saxon, Germanic, Hispanic engraved on the headstones really brought to mind the lines from "The New Colossus"

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

 Although one did strike me - a Robert E Lee..

Private First Class, U.S. Army , Service # 32956306
110th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division
Entered the Service from: Delaware
Died: 10-Aug-44
Buried at: Plot C Row 3 Grave 1
Brittany American Cemetery
St. James, France
Awards: Purple Heart

Private FC Robert E Lee  - I Thank you.

From St James we headed across some higher ground at Montjoie St Martin and found a small French plot to the volunteer Moroccan soldiers serving with the Leclerc Divisionn who helped to liberate the small village.

We then headed west across toward Mont St Michel. Calling at the German Cemetery at Huisines Sur Mer.- well more accurately it is an Ossuary. A somewhat cold and stark place, but a final resting place for nearly 12,000 men for relatives to visit.Of course history is written (and built) by the victors.

 From the rear of the cemetery you can see across to Mont St Michel rising up from the Bay.

A true vision of a fantasy castle rising up from the seas if ever there was one. It is a fascinating sight.  I can imagine building this as a terrain piece! 

Saturday 22 September 2012

A Norman adventure

It's been time to explore foreign fields once more, and return to one of my favourite areas of France - Normandy. Fine cheeses , cider and calvados. The Fruits of the Sea and the land. All wrapped up with plenty of history as well.

I have done the WW2 areas several time over the years so went in search of some new offerings. So first up we have Dead Mans Corner Museum at the village de l'Amont on the high ground between St Come du Mont and Carentan at the intersection of the road from Utah beach. The building was initially the HQ for the 6th Fallschirmjagers commanded by Major Friedrich-August von der Heydte.  became an aid station and then subsequently the HQ for 506 PIR

 As the first American tank reached this intersection is was knocked out and the commander killed . For several days the dead commander lay there. The paratroopers referred to  "the corner with the dead guy in the tank"  , soon shortened to "Dead mans corner".
The museum had a number of interesting artifacts to view, from the various collections of weapons from both sides. To some more personal items. If you have seen "Band of Brothers", this one is Lt Dick Winters Easy Company 2/506 PIR uniform as worn by him in Normandy.

The ubiquitous 88mm in the garden - obviously useful for parking disputes.

Overall an excellent small museum and 6 euro well spent. It has a wonderful shop - a re-enactors heaven with replica items of uniform and weaponry from various nationalities. 

We also took a run down to  Omaha beach and visited the Amercan cemetery at St Laurent, calling in at the Point du Hoc to marvel at the feats accomplished by the the Rangers in scaling the cliffs

 The dagger rises from the top of the observation post at the cliff edge, commemorates the efforts of the Rangers in taking their objective and repulsing counterattacks for two days until relieved.

 The cemetery at St Laurent is a  place that really brings home the scale of sacrifice required to ensure the freedoms we have today.

There has been a new visitors centre added that uses personal stories of participants and a mix of narrative text, photos, films, interactive displays and artifacts, exhibits portray the competence, courage and sacrifice of the Allied forces. The whole site is beautifully maintained by the American Battlefield Memorial Commission.

An enjoyable if on occasion sobering day out. Overall my impression is that there is an increased interest of the history here with more visitors and facilities for them.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

74th Line

I have been working on clearing off the prep desks ready for new stuff post hols. So I have completed some old school classic shiny Elite miniatures Napoleonic . The 74th line , a highland unit from the Peninsula without kilts.

Also completed another piece for the Old West Railroad as I finally laid my hands on a Denver & Rio Grande passenger car - now you never know who may turn up in town on the train. This just needed a decent bit of dutsy weathering.

Still a few things left to clear off - but getting there.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Terrain - Part 4 - Finished.

The main 2 foot square sections are now completed. From the base dark brown they were given an all over dry brush of light stone colour to lighten the base a little before applying the next greens. I had a paint mixed at the DIY store as I could not find a green off the shelf to my liking - It was a Dulux Woodland Fern 1. This looks to my eye a very grass green colour. This was drybrushed fairly heavily across all the boards, but not too much to obliterate the browns showing beneath, this was left to dry overnight. The roads were given a heavy covering of the sandstone colour. Next up was adding a yellow highlight to green - this was a Dulux lemon pie colour , lightly applied a number of times to the main green area. The roads were given a lighter brush with a colour called natural calico.

The rocky areas were brushed with the natural calico, and the river was coloured with a middle blue, and again lightly brushed with the calico colour to pick out some of the plaster detail that had been brushed to give a water effect earlier.

The final bit was to to add a colour called buttercup yellow to the green areas in places.

So time to add some buildings & toys to it!

The main boards have been left probaby with more green than i had first planned , but then this will alow these to be used for other settings and collections. I will also be doing some more dusty terrain for the Sudan project next too , so I will be looking to make use of that for this collection as well.

The final layout of buildings  will differ as there is still the the middle 1 foot wide sections to complete which will have the towns main street and also carry the the rail line. As these boards are small enough to be completed in the normal work room rather than the garage I will complete these over the winter.

These have been a pretty simple project - with little extra work on the base boards , such as carving rivers, and hill sections - more of that with the Sudan project. 


Wednesday 5 September 2012

Terrain -part 3 -WIP

Having left things to dry out fully for a couple of days it was time to take advantage of the warm day again yesterday, and get outside in the warmth. I applied some rocks made from cat litter to the river section, and to some of the hill edges - just to break things up a bit. Then I did an all over surface wash of thin plaster mix to harden the surface up. This was left to dry in the sun for a few hours.  For the main areas -not the road/trails -  I applied PVA slightly thinned 50/50 with water and sprinkled on my sand/ballast mix, this has been left to dry fully now for at least 24 hours.

Next was to apply the plaster work to the roads/trails and add some wheel ruts - do this as the plaster has started to harden by drawing a pencil, skewer etc into - make sure they join at any board intersections though. - and leave to harden fully overnight. Next day I gave the road areas a thin PVA wash to give more strength to the plaster. and then allow to dry . Hard work done now it's time for paint

I painted the sides of the polystyrene and the bottom of the MDF which will fully seal it, let it dry. Then using a SANDTEX FINE (masonary paint), bitter chocolate colour to cover the main areas. This added extra texture as well - which will be needed when it comes to drybrushing the lighter colours.  I then used a lighter cocoa bean colour emulsion on the roads and trails - looks grey on the photos but that is the light tonight it dries different too.

So this is now being left to dry for 24 hrs , before applying greens and then further highlights.