Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Great War

I have been pretty much obsessed with this conflict since I was in shorts (hang on, I'm wearing shorts now - but it is summer and high humidity). I found a collection of magazines that Dad had stashed away in the wardrobe - no, not those kind of magazines! They were copies of Purnell's History of the Twentieth Century, which was published in the late 1960s, well before the century was even close to being over. Maybe the editors thought that there wasn't much more that could happen, or more likely they were getting in  before the Cold War turned hot and the rest of the century wouldn't exist anyway. Whatever the reason for this slightly premature appraisal of the modern era, it inspired the mind of a seven year old and became the definitive image for me of what a war looked like. The covers were evocative, with paintings including Henri Leroux's L'Enfer, which depicts the Poilus at Verdun:
L'Enfer by Henri Leroux

And this wonderful propaganda postcard referring to Nurse Edith Cavell:
Postcard of Death hanging over a rather romanticised version of Edith Cavell
Some of it was quite eerie to my young mind, but captivating nonetheless. When I played with my Esci, Airfix and Matchbox toy soldiers I would routinely dig elaborate trenchlines in the backyard. Yes they were World War Two soldiers (the Airfix WWI range being out of production at that stage), but the helmets were pretty similar. As I got older I wanted to know more about the conflict and read everything that I could come into contact with, including Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun's fantastic comic 'Charley's War'. 
A scene from Charley's War
I watched the original All Quiet on the Western Front and the Australian series ANZACs over and over, often while eating a can of beans because some of the characters were doing the same. I tried tinned Corned Beef too. It is truly awful. By the time I was at University studying for my Masters degree I felt I had a pretty comprehensive knowledge of the war, but then came across a book by Paddy Griffith which completely changed my understanding. British Battle Tactics of the Western Front was a paradigm changing tome. I can quite clearly divide my conception of history into pre-Griffith and post-Griffith eras. Yes, I am a revisionist - and proud!

My first chance to really get into gaming World War One was with the release of the Emhar World War I range in plastic. I had already bought some Revell WWI French and Germans, but now I had the British too. I bought a set of WWI rules that I had seen in Wargames Illustrated called Contemptible Little Armies by Chris Peers, slapped on the paint and started gaming. Those little plastic figures gave me some great games, and I converted a number of people to World War One gaming as a result. but now I was starting to think bigger. it was around 2005 that I first really started using the internet to buy metal figures, and my mate Dan and I put together 28mm armies for the Late War Western Front.
Moving around my ex-figures in a game recently
We planned to use the Warhammer rules, which turned out to be a bit quirky, ahistorical and Germanophile for our liking. So we moved back to Contemptible Little Armies. I did buy Through the Mud and the Blood by Too Fat Lardies, and liked the look of them, but oddly enough grafted the card mechanics onto the CLA rules instead. These 28mm armies were sold to another gaming mate, John, and I still occasionally play with them around at his place. Why did I sell them? Basically I was sick of them getting chipped everytime I played with them, despite the varnishing that I had done. I also had not built a trench system like I wanted to. And Dan and I had a plan of moving to 15mm.
Well, Dan moved to Australia and rather than doing WWI in 15mm the funds went into the 15mm Yom Kippur War project and 15mm FoG Ancients. But this year I decided that I had to get back to having armies for WWI as a physical manifestation of my historical obsession. Therefore I bought German and British Late War armies in 18mm from Old Glory 25s/Blue Moon Manufacturing. The plan is to use Through the Mud and Blood in its 'pure' form, and to build the trench boards that I have always wanted.
18mm Blue Moon Manufacturing Tommy (yes the only one I've painted)
But that isn't enough by a long shot. I have Early War Pendraken 10mm armies for the French Germans and Russians, and I'd like to add British and Austro-Hungarians to that. The plan is to use them for the Peter Pig Square Bashing rules.
10mm Pendraken Fren hand German figures for early war. I will have to rebase them..
I also plan to wargame the naval conflict, having just purchased two starter fleets from NavWar for the Germans and the British. For these I am thinking of using the Victory at Sea rules form Mongoose Publishing.
Royal Sovereign - my first completed dreadnought.

I've never played or read the Square Bashing or Victory at Sea rules, but have read plenty of reviews and battle reports for them and think that they suit my needs - simple and adaptable for solo and opposed gaming. With the centennial of the start of WWI coming up I am hoping to have all of these projects ready to go by the beginning of 2014.


No comments:

Post a Comment