Archive for the ‘Public Events’ Category

Collectors Day 01

Readers of this blog will probably prefer Abington Park to Northampton’s main municipal museum … the latter is full of shoes, the former houses the Northamptonshire Regiment and Yeomanry collections (and more leather collections but not shoes) … so it has plenty of military exhibits and dioramas.

I was invited to put on a display of model soldiers and a battlefield model for Northampton Battlefields Society for the museum’s Collectors Day

Collectors Day 02

Collectors Day 03

So the display was necessarily medieval in theme, with an array of Bosworth figures as the centrepiece in addition to the 1460 battle.

But I also included all the common scales from 2mm to 90mm and historical figures from Ancient Egypt to World War Two … planes, boats and ships as well as figures … and of course plenty of flats.

Collectors Day 04(a sample of Yesthatphil’s collection displayed at Abington Park Museum’s Collectors Day)

… indeed the display included a good many pieces that have been featured on P.B.Eye-Candy …

Collectors Day 05

My partially scratchbuilt model of Antonov’s flying tank (featured here) was a source of fascination to many of the hundreds of visitors who came by during the day … (I’m very glad I took it along) …

The knowledge of many of the visitors was quite a surprise … (some recognised the big TB2 bomber … one even mentioned to me Christie’s light tank and his idea of adding wings to it … ) … Others, of course, were amazed the glider wasn’t something out of an H.G.Wells story.

Collectors Day 06(Antonov’s Flying tank)

Collectors Day 07(scene from the battle of Northampton)

The Collectors Day was a ‘one off’ (although the feedback was very positive so the museum are thinking of doing it all again next year).   The regimental displays are there all year and are well worth a visit in their own right – especially if you have relatives and/or ancestors who served with Northamptonshire’s local units …

Here’s a quick look at some of the permanent displays which include lots of WWII and 20th century material …

Collectors Day 08

Collectors Day 09

Collectors Day 10

… and a series of (mostly 1:72) pretty good dioramas …

Collectors Day 11

Collectors Day 12

Abington Park Museum is a traditional style museum which focusses on exhibits in glass cases more than on electronic gizmos and interactive interpretation …

Collectors Day 13

Collectors Day 14

… and it has plenty of interesting stuff on display.  Check the link above if you are in Northampton with a free afternoon.

Meanwhile, my thanks to the management and staff for being accommodating hosts and to the visitors who supported the event and stopped for a chat …

Collectors Day 16

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I benefited from the great democratisation of British society in the second half of the last century.  I was able to go to university where previous generations of my family were denied such luxuries.   I studied history and before concentrating on the History of Art after my first degree, I specialised in military history.

In their time, of course, my grandfathers fouArmy Form Z S O Steeleght in wars.   My paternal grandfather fought in the Great War.   An Oxfordshire farm boy, he joined the fledgling Tank Corps in 1916 and was trained as a gunner.   He was in E battalion at the battle of Cambrai.

He was reluctant to talk about the war other to reflect on the unpleasantness of it all … the heat, noise and nausea of going into action in a tank (indeed the only ‘war story’ he ever repeated was how surprised he was when taking a latrine break in the wood that he bumped into someone he knew from the next village, back home … mundane memories, of course ) ..

He later told his nephew he was more than happy when, in early 1918, they were converted to machinegun detachments (as they felt machinegunners had much more chance of survival than tank crew …) …  He did survive, of course (for which, as a descendant, I am grateful) ..

Perhaps as a response to his experiences on the Western Front, he flirted with druidism after the war (as in we have the certificate of admission to the order …) – again something he conveniently forgot.  And, no fan of war, he never collected his medals.   In fact, as we discovered, dealing with his estate, he did collect them and kept them in the strong box under his bed along with all his most treasured items.

battle of cambrai(British soldiers and tanks at the battle of Cambrai)

My Mother’s dad was also too young to go in 1914, though doubtless he would have been keen to take on the Kaiser …  He managed to sneak in before the end of the war but was rumbled as being underage for the front and was sent back to the depot where he was safely employed peeling potatoes.   He served in the army of occupation in Weimar, so was one of the reservists called up in 1939 for the BEF and was evacuated from Dunkirk.

Neither man relished warfare nor spoke much of their experiences … Neither ever questioned the need for those wars, or the importance of winning them, and both remained moved by the memory of those who did not come home.

As we remember the mistakes and sacrifices of a century ago, it is important that we don’t confuse our emotional response to the losses with our rational understanding of what took the world to war, and a fair assessment of the men of all nations who fought it.

GWC 01

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History Live! 14 22(History Live! 2014 … dogfights over Northamptonshire)

My little digital compact doesn’t really do long range aerial photographs but I wanted to share some of the sights (and sounds) of History Live!

I was in a tent with The Battlefields Trust doing a presentation on the Battle of Northampton (see AncOM/History Live) but there’s nothing like thunder of an approaching Merlin engine to draw people outside.  Even children too young to know are excited by the sound of fighter chasing fighter.

On display, there was an emphasis on WWI and a number of NAM displays as well as reenactment societies showing their kit.

History Live! 14 13(getting youngsters to try on a soldier’s basic load …)

History Live! 14 14(Soldiers of the Empire)

History Live! 14 17(a chance to get a good look at the Lewis gun)

A huge hit this year was this reproduction SE5

History Live! 14 15

Children were encouraged to clamber into the cockpit and get a brief introduction to their aircraft’s controls and the pitfalls of failing to manage the engine during the heat of aerial combat (apparently my goddaughter’s mission saw the oil all over the little windscreen, smoke billowing out and machineguns jammed … an average sortie and she got back safe 🙂 )

History Live! 14 16(History Live!: half pint pilot: all back safe and sound)

This was a very popular attraction all weekend and kids loved having their pictures taken in the old flying machine.

I had a quick look around the WWII encampments and I think I have not put these vehicles on P.B.Eye-Candy before …

History Live! 14 20(German blockhouse with recce patrol laagered up nearby)

History Live! 14 18(Sdkfz 222 and BMW motorcycle combos)

History Live! 14 19(Sdkfz 251 Hanomag armoured half-track)

And just to patch things up for the allies, the field hospital was present with plenty of American trucks …

History Live! 14 21(¾ ton truck seconded to field hospital use)

Of course if you are a military vehicle enthusiast there is loads more than this on show (I just try to add a few from the show every year as/when I get some time off from the stand to have a wander) … so do come along next July to Northamptonshire if this is your kind of thing.

If warfare in miniature is your passion, in addition to my Wars of the Roses battlefield model in the Heritage tent, Graham F and friends had everything from Romans to WWII in the wargames tentBolt Action and that sort of thing …

History Live! 14 08(wargames, Heritage-style: my Northampton 1460 display on the Battlefields Trust stand)

History Live! 14 23(Bolt Action with Graham in the wargames tent)

History Live! 14 24(some of those Vichy French chaps from North Africa)

History Live! 14 12(endpiece … English Heritage’s ‘History Live!’ at Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire) 

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Collectors Exhib 01a

Just closing at Kettering Museum, Kettering Collects is an exhibition looking at the history and potential of collecting –  from the philanthropic amateurs whose collections have passed into public ownership as today’s Museums and Galleries … to how museums work and what motivates today’s collectors.

One of the rooms showcases 4 sample exhibits from the collections of  local enthusiasts … pop-up books, Jack Daniels souvenirs and memorabilia, die-cast cars and, of course, toy soldiers.

I was delighted that my collection made the cut and so had to work out how to fill the cabinet I had been allocated.

Collectors Exhib 02a(Kettering Collects at the Manor House Museum)

The challenge, of course, was to distill what I have so it shows toy soldier collecting to best advantage, demonstrates the full breadth of military interests and, of course, reflects what I like (in the end, it is my story to tell).

Collectors Exhib 02

Fortunately, my collection is very diverse and covers many of the important periods of history in most of the popular collector/wargame scales.   So even if it was only to be a few figures, I wanted to get something of everything in.

But I think, all along, 3 components struck me as essential … some old Britains plastics (because my wargaming story starts with them); my Bosworth Wars of the Roses 54mm figures (as they are local and topical as well as quite eye-catching) … and some of  the former Deryck Guyler 30mm flats collection (as they are so collectible – and these are the figures that put the Society of Ancients in my mind when I saw them on Blue Peter as a youngster) …

Collectors Exhib 06(Britains/Herald Gordon Highlanders – my first wargame soldiers – and still looking good after nearly 50 years service)

Collectors Exhib 04a(in  front of the obelisk and Sphinx … Egyptian War Chariots – 30mm flats originally part of Deryck Guyler’s collection)

Collectors Exhib 05a(more flats in the background, Bosworth 54s to the left – Henry Tudor and William Stanley – 15mm Goths in front)

I managed to include, from the ancient world Egyptians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans and Goths;  HYW  and WotR medievals; the New Model at Naseby; some sample Marlburian, Napoleonic and Colonial figures … plus a Tiger, a T55 and a Humvee to bring us almost up to date.

The figures I chose included 2mm, 6mm, 10mm, 15mm, 20mm, 28mm, 30mm flats, 54mm and 90mm.   Inevitably, me being the exhibitor, the majority were 10s, 15s, flats and 54s.

Collectors Exhib 04b(6mm Colonial and Marlburians figures between – Left – 2mm Romans – and – Right – 10mm Sarmatians)

Collectors Exhib 05(10mm Carthaginians between 15mm ECW and 30mm Ancient Egyptian flats)

Collectors Exhib 05b(15mm 20th Cent vehicles in front of ancients and a stand of 20mm Napoleonics)

Collectors Exhib 03(Centre picture, some of the 90mm plastic figures I used in the show version of my Anno Domino game ‘Greyhounds in the Slips’)

This is the last weekend before I get my toys back after 3 months on show.   Although I had had plenty of positive feedback, I dropped by the Museum, yesterday, just  to reassure myself  that everything was still looking good – and arrange for the reboxing.


Yes, I was pleased.

We went for the ‘more is more’ approach because of the space available and the style of the exhibition, and I really do hope that some of the constant flow of youngsters they take through the Museum will find in it the sort of bug that I got from seeing Deryck’s figures and discovering Charge! all those years ago.

For those who like to worry over the supposed greying of their hobby, all I can say is you cannot make people play wargames or collect toy soldiers (and nobody made us do it all those years ago) … what you can do is get your collections out there at shows, fairs, Museum exhibitions and the like, so today’s youngsters can see them and be inspired by them.

Remember, the purveyors of cheap thrills, mind addling video games and junk hobbies will always ensure that their wares are shown to the market and with as much razzmatazz and gloss as the advertising buck can deliver – so if wargaming and toy soldier collecting are to have a chance, we have to get them on show too.

Many thanks to Ellie and the team at the Manor House Museum for giving me the chance  to put mine on show.

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TCHL 2013 01

This is an addendum to my general report on the event (Ancients on the Move/History Live!)

If you are like me, you will like pictures of military vehicles and Kit!   And I wouldn’t want to disappoint!

TCHL 2013 02

TCHL 2013 03(this old Citroen truck was being pressed into service towing a Nebelwerfer rocket mortar)

TCHL 2013 04(Gulaschkanone: I’m building a 15mm one as an admin/log stand for some German infantry, so a chance to get a look was welcome)

TCHL 2013 04a(some useful details, perhaps)

TCHL 2013 05(happily, this young lad does not seem bothered by issues of political correctness)

TCHL 2013 06(OK … I like pictures of nurses …) …

TCHL 2013 07(… and motorcycles …)

TCHL 2013 08(… and jeeps with guns …)

There was, of course, a full range of displays and enthusiasts to explain them …

TCHL 2013 09

… and there was a Bolt Action game in the wargames tent … OK, 28mm, skirmish-type, warlord-type but that’s what they do … and the Russians seemed to like it almost as much as icecream …

TCHL 2013 10

TCHL 2013 10a

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I was very pleased to spend last weekend helping man the Battlefields Trust stand at Festival of History (English Heritage’s annual event at Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire).

In amongst my main duties explaining the Trust’s work of preserving and protecting historic battlefields – encouraging the public to support our campaign to protect the battlefield of Edgcote from the HS2 rail link, explaining the great events of nearby Naseby on my battlefield model etc. – I got break periods when I could go off (get rained on!) and visit the various period displays …

As ever, there were a great number of 20th Century groups and a lot of equipment on display.   The reenactors seemed universally helpful and willing to explain and demonstrate their gear (and always willing to pose for photos!) ..

Here’s a quick tour round …

Part of the ‘Trench Warfare’ exhibit

I’m not sure that I have seen this Spanish Civil War group before …

Getting help from Soviet Military Advisors, it seems 🙂

I was very impressed with the overall look of this Desert Airforce zone

Northamptonshire by the Med!

… with a typically robust looking mid 20th century British truck

US armoured Recce troops:

M20 Armoured Reconnaissance Car

US M3 Stuart Light Tank

Ready and willing to demonstrate the various small arms in their armoury

explaining the workings of a 30 cal.

Some of the other weapons they were demonstrating …

‘grease gun’, ‘bazooka’, carbine, Garand, Thompson etc.

Light Mortar in the back of one of their Jeeps

I showed quite a bit of the Red Army kit last year, but here’s a PTRD to add to the gallery:

And here’s some more German kit:

basic platoon weapons

8 Cm mortar

transport for armoured infantry: the Sdkfz251

the iconic if complex motorcycle combination

Of course, not everyone got something as cool as a Kubelwagen ….

Now, of course, I accept that not everyone approves … but there’s nothing quite like a big machinegun to get youngsters interested in military history:

Trying out the Vickers

As well as all this good stuff outdoors, and me with my Naseby display (see ECW Battles …), the Phoenix Wargames Club in association with Warlord Games ran their usual wargames pavillion (this year with a big official sign outside: kudos, lads) …

wargames at the Festival of History

An excellent weekend.

Let’s hope we get a bit more sunshine next year …

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