Monday 26 January 2015

Franco-Prussian Terrain: Alsacian house

The Lindenau House from Grandmanner's 28mm Napoleonic collection. 

In 2014 I had the privilege of visiting the now docile battlefield at Woerth in a rural part of beautiful Alsace. Earlier the same year I was bordering on fiscal collapse by melting my Visa at the ever-bustling Salute, spending a sunny April weekend in London. Both these visits are combined in this week’s project.

The unpainted resin model with a 28mm miniature for size comparison.

Building a collection of miniatures for a certain period often has us focus on the soldiers and their colourful uniforms, dashing cavalry squadrons or hard hitting artillery batteries with the occasional diversion into character units. But terrain has for my part so far taken the backseat. However, things are about to change.

Front view of the finished model.

Personally, painting military miniatures always takes me into a dreamy state, where I project myself to the era of the soldiers I’m painting. Whether they be the snappy marching columns of Napoleon or the well-drilled grenadiers of Frederick the Great, I find myself mentally marching alongside them.

The village of Woerth as it looked in August 2014.
My fiancé on the left, Johanna, was kind enough to join my battlefield walk.

This imaginational access to a period in history gets further nourishment when the painted soldiers march onto the wargaming table – if the scene is properly set that is. Setting the scene with the right quality of terrain can really enhance the experience of one’s miniature collection, and help make that imaginative leap back in time to a certain faithful day in history.

Picture of the back side, with worn down stairs
and stacked firewood adding details to the model.

Partaking in the very active wargaming scene in Stockholm, I’ve had two big inspirations when it comes to terrain. Fellow club member Michael, who meticulously addresses all the small details on the table and have a sharp eye for what will work and how to arrange it. My second big inspiration, and a very accomplished painter, is wargaming friend Rickard, who is among the most talented terrain constructors I’ve come across.

Further inspiration for the color scheme.
Painting by Edouard Detaille "La charge du 9e régiment de Cuirassiers à Morsbronn"

With these two gentlemen in my hobby-sphere I have decidedly made a plunge into the wonderful world of terrain. First stop on this journey is my Grandmanner “Lindenau House” from their 28mm Napolenonic range. The model was purchased in London at Salute from Grandmanner’s vending stall, with a clear aim to apply it as a Alsacian house for my Franco-Prussian collection. 

Prussian troops crossing through Alsace 
after the initial victories of Woerth and Spichern.

Visiting the battlefield at Woerth last summer fuelled further inspiration to this painting project, and with my holiday pictures from this sleepy corner of Alsace in hand, I set out to finished this lovely detailed model.

The result is the product of about 4-5 full afternoons of painting. The target was to go for a classic color scheme resembling what can be found on the paintings from the battles of Wissembourg, Spichern and Woerth. I imagine it would work very well for a timeframe of 1740-1918 – enabling me to cover the SYW, Napoleonics, Franco-Prussian and Early WW1 “Battle of the Frontiers” with this model.

The Lindenau House could easily be adopted for other periods,
here shown in a SYW scene, as Frederick scouts for an Inn with 
good potato soup.

Also purchased from Granmanner at Salute was a XL redoubt position with three canon positions incorporated in the superb resin cast sculpting. This was carried home as an unplanned impulse purchase, but fitting nicely into my 1812 Borodino project.

I look forward to getting more brush time with Grandmanner’s excellent models in the months to come.

Thank you very much for reading!

Wednesday 21 January 2015

The Baby Killers are here! 1/2400 Zeppelins for WW1 naval gaming

L9 and L17 crossing the North Sea 
to hit the enemy at his home front.

My High Seas Fleet is undergoing expansion for the moment, and in order to add further visual appeal and period flavor to Scheer’s naval force, I decided it was time to find some suitable Zeppelins for the collection. 

The High Seas Fleet enjoying some aerial support!

I consulted a few links on TMP to get some inspiration, needing to find a model, which would fit with the 1/2400 scale of my GHQ ships. Deciding that what had previously been posted as suggestions on TMP would be too large, I googled the matter and found something interesting. Shapeways, a Dutch company specialized in 3D laser printing and dealing with models of all kinds; ships, tanks, trains, planes and to my happy surprise Zeppelins in 1/2400.

Shapeways offer a large selection of Zeppelin models.

The quality looked crisp on the Shapeways site reference pictures and the price of about €20 per piece seemed ok, so I decided to go for two of these baby killers, to create more of a flotilla feeling. They arrived carefully packaged and were produced in a clear see-through plastic resin, which painted up nicely after a black undercoating was applied. 

S.M.S Von der Tann is joined by a Zeppelin flotilla.
The Shapeways Zeppelin models seem perfect for the 1/2400 GHQ ships.

I’m not sure whether Count von Zeppelin was able to grasp the prospect of his invention, when he in 1895 filed his first patent for what would later be one of the most feared weapons of the Great War. Build on a steal frame and filled with hydrogen, the sheer size and potential risk of explosion of one of these aerial monsters would no doubt be enough to spread terror into any group of unsuspecting civilians in their path.

"Guten Tag" - London, Liverpool, Nottingham and a long list of other cities 
became targets as the Zeppelins tried to zap British morale.

Sorting under the Navy the Zeppelins were often used to perform reconnaissance missions over the North Sea, mapping out British mine-laying operations. With a speed of about 85 mph and with a potential capacity for 2 tons of bombs, the Zeppelins also performed a long list of small and large flotilla strikes at UK civilian targets. 

Even though bombs were primitively dropped by hand, the result was often devastating
to the civilian populace. Women and children frequently figured on the casualties lists, sparking British press to dub the Zeppelins the "Baby Killers"

Aiming to puncture British morale by striking at the so far untouched homeland, the raids targeted London, Liverpool, Newcastle and a long list of smaller costal towns, which got some collateral bombing as the “Baby Killers” (the British press worked out this name to underline the unsavoriness of bombing civilian targets) passed overhead.

Zeppelin L9 landing at the Tønder base. This was a risky maneuver,
in some cases resulting in crashes, fire or explosions.

I’d have thought these early Zeppelins too vulnerable or technologically primitive for such long reach raids, but a determined breed of adventurous air captains and devoted crews would time and again volunteer to head out over the North Sea, even though sister Zeppelins often exploded on landing, takeoff, due to malfunction or were simply shot down by anti-aircraft fire.

Far from all made it home. 
The Zeppelin crews were a special breed of death defying daredevils.

This decidedly German weapon have always fascinated me, and I recently discovered that the Imperial German Navy had one of their main Zeppelin bases only 1 hrs drive from where I grew up, in modern day Tønder, Denmark. Today there is a museum at this site, focusing on the Zeppelins history and the role they played during WW1 – a definite must-see on my travel itinerary when I go down to visit family in Denmark this summer.

Thank you very much for reading!

Tuesday 13 January 2015

SMS Von der Tann – The first and the fastest

SMS Von der Tann steaming into the North Sea.
Model by GHQ Models.

Launched on the 20 March 1909, the SMS Von der Tann was the first battle cruiser constructed for the German Kaiserliche Marine. She bore evidence to the ongoing arms race between Britain and Germany leading up to WW1, and was thus intended as a counterpart to the British Invincible class ships. What set the two ship classes apart was speed. The German navy opted for thicker armor but lighter and cheaper guns, thus reaching a lighter equivalent on the total weight to speed ratio than the British ships, which were generally lighter armored but fitted with the heavier 12 inch guns.

SMS Von der Tann during construction at 
the Blohm & Voss wharf in Hamburg.

Completed at the historic Blohm & Voss wharf in Hamburg, the Von der Tann was the fastest dreadnought in the World when she was launched in 1909, capable of speeds just above 27 knots (50 km/h or 31 mph). Like all the battle cruiser of the High Seas Fleet, she were named after a famous German general, who had served the Prussian Crown. The name ”Von der Tann” was taken after a Bavarian general who fought with distinction in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, leading to the unification of Germany under the Prussian Crown.

"Schnellstes Schiff der Welt"
She was the fastest ship on the sea when launched in 1909.

Before the outbreak of the Great War, the German government cleverly used the PR-value of the World’s fastest ship by sending SMS Von der Tann on a series of long distance voyages to Rio de Janeiro, Puerto Militar and Bahía Blanca, aimed at wooing the South American governments into entering arms contracts with the Germany weapons industry. In 1911 she even attended the coronation of King George V, offering the British king and his staff a view of what they would be up against five years later at Jutland.

I added a few etched copper bits to the masts,
trying to simulate the rigging in detail.

In 1914 and 15 the SMS Von der Tann was attached to the I Scouting Group, participating in a series of bombing raids on British costal towns Yarmouth, Scarborough, Hartlepool, Whitby, Yarmouth and Lowestoft, all aimed at drawing out portions of the Royal Navy, and destroying them piece meal. She was however undergoing refitting during the Battle of Dogger Bank, but a detachment of her sailors were sent over to the SMS Blücher, and thus went down with her as this ship was sunk during that battle.

The crest of SMS Von der Tann.

At the Battle of Jutland 31st May 1916, the SMS Von der Tann was part of Hipper’s I Scouting Group, as the battle cruisers spearheaded the High Seas Fleet into the North Sea. Von der Tann was the rearmost ship in the line of five, with the Moltke, Seydlitz, Derfflinger and finally Lützow in front of her. When Hipper’s battle cruisers made contact with the British vanguard under Beatty, the SMS Von der Tann entered into a gunnery duel with the HMS Indefatigable. 

A chart I constructed showing how fire was directed 
during the battle cruiser engagement at the Battle of Jutland.

The lighter armored British ship had 52 shells fired at her, of which 5 were direct hits. The last hit would become famous, as it penetrated a forward turret, causing a chain of cordite flash fires eventually reaching down into the now heavily listing Indefatigable’s magazines, blowing up the ship and all but two of her 1.019 strong crew. 

The HMS Indefatigable explodes as her main magazines catch fire.
The massive explosion threw debris 200 meters into the air,
stunning the crews of nearby ships.

After the sinking of the Indefatigable, SMS Von der Tann came into contact with the 5th British Battle Squadron, and starting receiving fire from the heavy 15in guns onboard the Barham, Valiant and the Malaya. Von der Tann took a direct hit from the HMS Barham, which struck her just below the waterline, causing her to take in 600tons of water. Shortly after this, Beatty’s flagship HMS Tiger also started targeting SMS Von der Tann, hitting her with 13.5in shells. The first of two direct hits crippled the C turret while the second took out the A turret. B and D turrets later failed due to overheating caused by the rapid sequence of fire, leaving Von der Tann for some hours during the battle without any main guns to direct at the enemy. She stayed in formation to try and draw enemy fire however, zig-zagging along to represent a hard target.

Picture from above - note the white circles on the fore and aft turret,
added for easy aerial recognition. 

Additional hits dislodged her torpedo nets, penetrated the deck causing engine room damage and a final hit struck the rear conning tower, killing or wounding all at that post. With 4 direct hits suffered, 11 dead and 35 wounded, the SMS Von der Tann limped back to the safety of the Jade, crossing through the British cruiser screen during the night between the 31st May and 1st June 1916.

The SMS Von der Tann in her prime.

The SMS Von der Tann had performed with excellence at Jutland, sinking an enemy battle cruiser and later withstanding immense punishment from the more modern and heavier armed British battle ships of the 5th Battle Squadron. The damaged suffered also bore witness to the relative vulnerability of the expensive dreadnoughts, leaving SMS Von der Tann in docks for 2 months undergoing repairs following the Battle of Jutland. 

Another shot from the side.
The crisp sculpting offers an abundance of details on the model.

SMS Von der Tann was part of the naval contingent surrendered to the Allies and interned at Scapa Flow, where it was to be kept until Germany had signed the peace treaty. However, Rear Admiral von Reuter and others in the now interned German navy were convinced that the British would simply seize their ships once the peace treaty in Paris was signed. He therefore defyingly arranged for the whole of the interned fleet to be scuttled by it’s own crew. The operation began on the 21st June 1918, as the British ships headed out to sea for a training exercise, leaving the Germans largely unattended. The remainder of the now reduced crew onboard SMS Von der Tann swiftly carried out the orders. As the big ship slowly sank, her crew paid her one last gesture of respect, as they proudly rowed away in the lifeboats, by having their band play the national anthem in her honor.

The SMS Von der Tann steaming out to sea.

The brass bell of the SMS Von der Tann now hangs at the Laboe Naval Memorial outside Kiel Germany, in commemoration of all sailors lost during the two World Wars.

Technical drawing of the SMS Von der Tann.


Laid down: March 1908

Launched: March 1909

Completed: Sept 1910

Constructed at: Blohm & Voss, Hamburg

Displacement: 21.000 tons (Full load)

Dimension: 562ft 9in x 87ft x 27ft 6 in

Main guns: 8 x 11 inch 45cal (4 turrets)

Armor: 9.5in belt, 2.5in deck and 9in turrets armor.

Machinery: 4 shaft Parsons Turbines creating 42.000 shp

Speed: Max speed reached 28 knots

Endurance: 6500 miles (10 knots)

Cost: 1.833.000 Pounds in 1909 (ca. 440 million Dollars in todays currency)

Thank you very much for reading

Wednesday 7 January 2015

An ACW ambiance – Ambulance and Campsite

The Perry ACW ambulance, based as a roadside pick-up of wounded confederates.

In preparation for our recent behemoth replay of Chancellorsville in 28mm, resulting in an unhistorical Union victory and neither Stonewall nor Hooker harmed, I painted some useful ACW “fluff” units, which helped set the right atmosphere on the gaming table.

The Union campsite - perfect for portraying the 11th Corps under Howard.

Both sets are from the excellent Perry Miniatures ACW collection, and especially the campsite setup came in handy as they would act as the slumbering and unprepared 11th US Corps under Howard, getting their coffee stuck in their throats as 20.000 Rebs under Stonewall came out of the woods next to their quiet camp.

Some great pictures from the game can be found through Mark’s blog and also Michael’s.

Close up - some tobacco in the pipe and bacon in the frying pan,
not bad for camp life.

The ambulance was a larger project with many parts, and I decided to piece the whole thing together on a mini diorama, depicting a roadside pick-up of wounded confederates by the master surgeon and his assistants.

The Confederate Medical Service

Staged photo showing the principle service of the Ambulance Corps.

During battle, when casualties started to mount, it was custom for men to fall out of rank to help carry the wounded away to safety and medical attention. However, this “good deed” had many volunteers once the firing started, as it presented soldiers scared of the on-going battle with a pretext to leave the front line, depleting the ranks. To counter this development a regulated ambulance Corps was formed, containing men who was no longer fit for active combat.

The driver and old Jolly Jumper wait while loading is completed.

Build as a copy of the Federal system, each regiment had its own surgeon and assistant surgeon, who both held officer's ranks. The senior ranking surgeon could, based on either merits or simple inadequate manpower, be promoted to divisional surgeon with added tasks and adhering directly under the surgeon general.

Wounded await transport to the field hospital.

This system might look effective on paper, but in reality most of these surgeon, while sporting the best of intentions, were not up to par professionally to the great regret of their “clients”. The only treatment for complex bone-shattering musket ball wounds was amputation, or crude surgery, with non-sterilized tools and bandages.

An unlucky fellow gets loaded onboard - next stop the surgeon!

This meant, that the real fight for survival was not on the battlefield, but in the army hospitals, were infected wounds and unsuccessful amputation along with different camp diseases, would be the big killer.

William Blackford of the 1st Virginia Cavalry, on amputations in the field hospital: "Tables about breast high had been erected upon which screaming victims were having legs and arms cut off…the surgeons and their assistants, stripped to the waist and bespattered with blood, stood around, some holding the poor fellows while others, armed with long, bloody knives and saws, cut and sawed away with frightful rapidity, throwing the mangled limbs on a pile nearby as soon as removed…"

A Civil War surgeon kit - perhaps more fitting for home improvements
than precision surgery...

About 174.00 Union soldiers suffered extremity wounds during the Civil War. Of these, 30.000 resulted in amputation. If the amputation was preformed within the first 24 hrs, you had a 75% chance of survival. After 24 hrs complications like blood poisoning or bone infection could set in and your survival rate dropped to about 50%. (Source: Museum of the Confederacy)

ACW ambulance - in a somewhat impractical white color.

The uniform of the surgeon was similar to that of Confederate officer, while the index color on cuffs was black for this branch. The ambulance crew and helpers in the Ambulance Corps would wear a red hat-band to distinguish them from the men of the ranks.

Wounded soldiers wait in the cool shade of the tree.

A British observer following the war as part of the Army of Northern Virginia later reported that: “In the rear of each regiment were from twenty to thirty negro slaves, and a certain number of unarmed men carrying stretchers and wearing in their hats the red badges of the ambulance corps – this is an excellent institution, for it prevents unwounded men from falling out on the pretense of taking wounded to the rear”.

Thank you very much for reading!