Archive for March, 2012

Fort Nelson

(Portsmouth Dockyards and Spinaker Tower from Fort Nelson)

On the Monday following this year’s very enjoyable Armati-by-the-Sea weekend, a few die hards took up the offer of an extra day on the south coast and visited Fort Nelson.  Highly recommended if you like heritage sites, fortifications and big guns.  It’s a formula that works for me, anyway.

Royal Armouries Fort Nelson site (visitor information)

(Fort Nelson – aerial photo from the Royal Armouries gallery)

Fort Nelson is one of the Palmerston Follies that ring Portsmouth to save us from an invasion by the dreaded French.  Inevitably the invasion didn’t come (we fight the French in France, of course*).

It fell into ruin, but the Royal Armouries have restored it and housed some artillery assets there.  I thought you might like a look.    As well as the history of the fort, there’s a history of gunnery selection, and a fair few 20th Century examples.

(inside Fort Nelson)

A quick look at the history of artillery …

(superguns in the foyer)

(Renaissance Canon)

(Far Eastern dragon styled gun barrel …)

(ornate 18th Century field piece)

(beautifully finished Indian copy of a British Napoleonic classic)

(late 19th century British 9 pounder)

Fort Nelson is a 19th century star fort with a sloping grass glacis, murderous killing grounds and traps around the bastions, many of which have been restored …

(view of the interior rampart from one of the bastions)

Visiting on a winter’s day, the parapet was off-limits as it had just been regrassed in preparation for the busy summer.  A disappointment but an excuse to visit the fort again, on another day, now I know what’s there.    It meant plenty of time to explore underground and I have to admit, underground, you got a real sense of what these places were like.

(miles of spooky underground tunnels link the fortress, powder stores, batteries and bastions)

(inside the bastion)

(Fort Nelson: firing port from the bastion into the ditch)

Well worth a visit as a restored 19th century fortress.  Well worth a visit, too, as a collection of  historic artillery pieces.

Some of the World War II artillery exhibits

(Soviet 122mm Howitzer – a veritable ‘red god of war’)

(the clever bits)

(Soviet 45mm anti-tank gun … model 1942 – the one with the longer barrel)

(host Peter Barham poses beside the 76mm Soviet Infantry gun to demonstrate how small it is  – those big wheels come to hip height … with the top screen up, it still only makes mid chest)

(same weapon, showing the controls and simple pressed steel trail)

Yes – OK, I’m doing Soviet artillery at the moment, so I’m interested in where all the little wheels and sights are positioned …

I’m also looking at making a searchlight, and had a good look round this set:

(British 3.7″ AA gun)

(British WWII anti-aircraft searchlight)

(and the associated generator … of course, without one of these, the searchlight is useless!)

I should add that there were plenty of staff on hand and that I asked a number of quite technical questions.   As you might expect, they were more than happy to help, had all the answers and more – so get full marks for supporting the exhibits with well informed curators only too happy to talk to other enthusiasts with an interest in artillery pieces ….

Well … that’s what I looked at when I visited Fort Nelson.

I can highly recommend it.  Amongst many other local attractions, there is a naval gunnery museum in Portsmouth, and just  along the road from Fort Nelson, there is the Saxon Shore fort and Medieval castle at Portchester.

*or Canada, the Caribbean, North Africa, Spain, Portugal, Palestine, India, the Low Countries … anywhere but here, really …

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Cavalier Eye Candy

Oops!  I forgot to put the pics from Cavalier into my February summary!

Cavalier at the Angel Centre, Tonbridge (TWWS) was a great little show … I attended with the Society of Ancient but was able to have a browse.  There were quite a few aircraft overflying the modern games – and I thought you’d like a look …

From stringbags to bombers …

(over the Front)

(bombing battleships again?)


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In amongst all the other stuff, we managed to get a game of PBI in …

PBI: holding objectives

A Company Level unrecorded engagement in which a skeleton force of Gebirgsjaeger were tasked to hang on to some meaningless objectives long enough to be reinforced … in this case the eminently recoverable wreck of a Tiger I and a recce unit with Storch holed up in a nearby farmstead … (backstory on a postcard, please) …

It was a useful refresher for the players who built the game around the narrative meticulously enough for daylight to fail before the reinforcements arrived – with the Gebirgsjaeger all but wiped out, but the Red Army still short of the objectives.

seize the broken ground

(Gebirgsjaeger: adapted 15mm Peter Pig figures)

I also fiddled around with some toys …

New Peter Pig German Motorcycle Combo

Martin has remodelled the German motorcycles, so I got a pack and will post some nicely finished models shortly.  The big change is putting a proper (infantry style) base under the bike.  This is great – allowing it to free-stand easily and bumping it up visually to the same elevation as the similarly based foot figures.  If only all vehicles came with cast on bases under the wheels!

As a downside, the model still has the lump under the engine that was the only reason it stood up before.  Now, what does that lump do?  I have to hack it out and it is a bit awkward to get at.  And the space between the riders arms and fuel tank is filled in (as it always was) – again something that could have been improved in a rework, but remains challenging for the superdetailer instead :o) …

You have to like BMW combos, though.

Chris Kemp’s NQM

(a seemingly satisfied designer surveys his handiwork)

And we enjoyed a rare game of NQM.  Operational Games can be quite a challenge for a weekday evening as there is usually quite a lot of set up, rear echelon  kit  and player briefing to fit into an unforgiving window – so well done Chris for getting a good balance combining the big game flavour with enough action to make it feel like a worthwhile episode of the Eastern Front was played.

The Girovka pocket

(the front line is marked in red in this overview of the Southern end of February’s NQM Eastern front game)

Chris has blogged a lot more on this on his NQM blog ( Battle of the Girovka Bend ) … so I’ll just add a few pictures to give a flavour of the game.  NB yes – I have dropped in some rather synthetic blue to highlight the river …

I was commanding the Hungarians and Germans at the Southern end of the operation (which was destined to become a gruesome meatgrinder in which I sent forward division after division in a futile attempt to dislodge Trebian’s Soviets from the pocket around Girovka and Stalino)(I include this view of the Girovka pocket because once you appreciate that each map pin is a hit – exceed 2 or 3 pins and a stand is wiped out – it gives a scary impression of how intense the combat has been)

The whole game was orchestrated by Chris almost entirely with his collection, but he had asked me to blood the Gebirgsjaeger in this game (their first NQM) and if you’ve read his blog you will know my Sturmovik replaced his for the news cameras in true Soviet fashion – so … like the blog title implies … some eyecandy …

(that sturmovk lining up the vital bridge)

(1 GBJ about to walk into a Russian brick wall: welcome to NQM!)

Some interesting 20th Century at a time of year when there are a lot of ancients events all around.  Armati by the Sea beckons – which promises a visit to Fort Nelson … the Palmerston Folly that allegedly has some big guns in it …

There will be more.


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