Thursday 25 September 2014

Royal Yugoslav Air Force Hawker Fury II

Here's my latest effort: a Hawker Fury II in the markings of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force. 

The Fury was, of course, an iconic fighter of the 1930's RAF, but it also enjoyed some limited export success. The RYAF bought a batch of Mk I's (similar to the RAF's version), then a second batch of Mk II's. The first few of these were built by Hawkers, but the lion's share were licence-built in Yugoslavia, shared between two companies.


The Fury II was distinguishable from the Mk I by the improved, streamlined radiator (similar to the Hurricane, with the supercharger inlet too), and the cantilever undercarriage very reminiscent of the Gladiator. The other big difference was the installation of a different model of the Rolls Royce Kestrel engine: this gave much more power and racked the Fury's maximum speed up a respectable 242 mph. The Yugoslavs also experimented with improving the firepower: a pair of extra machine guns could be fitted under the wings in fairings that were again reminiscent of those on the Gladiator.


Despite all these improvements, by 1940 it was clear to all concerned that the Fury was woefully obsolete in the era of Hurricanes, Spitfires and Bf109's. Lacking enough more modern fighters, the RYAF had little choice but to deploy their remaining Furies when the invasion arrived in 1941. The extra machine guns were never used: presumably the effect on the already inadequate performance was too great.


Many of the Furies were shot down in totally unequal fights with Bf 109's and 110's, although the Germans lost five fighters destroyed by brave Yugoslav pilots, all by ramming. The Furies fought on, strafing infantry columns, slowly retreating. Many damaged aircraft were destroyed by ground crews, but when the fighting ceased several were captured intact by the Germans and Italians. The Italians continued to fly at least one for a while, but interestingly none were passed onto the Croatian Air Force.


The build was based on an old Matchbox Hawker Fury, now sold via Revell. I had to totally scratchbuild the interior, drill out guns and exhausts and mould the radiator using a wooden former. The undercarriage was scrounged from a new Airfix Gladiator and was a reasonably easy fix. The decals are spares from various Kora sets, supplemented with home-printed codes and stencils.  I replaced the plastic skid with a bit of brass strip (the other would last about two seconds!) and rigged her with Bayer perlon fishing line courtesy of a colleague. I 'm not totally happy with how the rigging points look on the wings, but I ran out of will power, and a set of brake pipes wouldn't have gone amiss, but I'm happy enough.  Lots of work, but great fun. Finally, here's the token sepia shot.


Enjoy! Merry meet, merry part, merry meet again.

Friday 8 August 2014

Airfix 1/72 Scale Mersserschmitt BF109-E3a - Royal Yugoslav Air Force

Here's the latest build completed. It's another Airfix 109-E, but this time in the markings of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force.

The RYAF had bought about 70 Bf109's paid for with an exchange of minerals/metals. The Bf109E3a was the export version of the same E-3 the Germans flew. Apparently the Germans were less than forthcoming with spares etc, and provided an after-sales package that would have no chance of winning any sort of customer service awards anywhere.

The RYAF flew a selection of modern fighters and bombers at the start of the war, and was much stronger than (for example) the Belgian or Dutch Air Forces. However, they were outnumbered about eight to one on paper by the Axis forces, and in practice due to serviceability issues, the RYAF couldn't put their entire force into the air when the Germans attacked. Despite being short of spares, fuel and even machinegun ammunition, and lacking thecombat experience of their enemies, the Yugoslav pilots' morale was unaffected, and there were occassions when there were more aircrew wanting to fight than aircraft for them to fly.

Obviously this is not an out of the box build. The Airfix kit depicts an E-4 or E-7, which had a differently shaped canopy with a lighter frame, and (according to photos) no head armour for the pilot.

Here's obligatory shot of the cockpit before it got closed up. The detail provided by Airfix is pretty good, and once the canopy is closed, almost invisible, so there's little need to add much else. I went with straps on the rudder pedals (the seat has harness moulded on), trim wheels, throttle/mix levers and a seat adjustor from stretched sprue. The undercarriage legs/doors were hotted up with brake pipes added from fine wire.

The alternative canopy was a vacform from Pavla. I bought it on Ebay, as a pack with a second canopy from a 109-K - goodness knows when I'll use it! It was a very long time back when I last did anything involving vacforms, so I was a bit nervous starting this.

I followed the usual practice of carefully cutting out the part. Pavla mould the canopy including some pieces of rear fuselage and canopy, so it's easy to cut out the proper part, and probably it allows the canopy to fit on different manufacturers' kits. Sanding, checking, more sanding and more checking eventually gets the fit OK.

A little bit of filler around the canopy blends the join, but a little bit of sanding on the fuselage behind the canopy is necessary to deal with a slight width mismatch.

Once sanded, the canopy is a treat. It's very much thinner and clearer than the kit offering, and allows more of the cockpit to be seen. I drilled out the machinegun  and cannon barrels, and the exhausts which improves their look no end, and added a vertical reinforcement bar in the underwing radiators.

The paintwork was simple: RLM70 over RLM65, both out of the pot Tamiya acrylics which airbrush beautifully, followed by about three coats of gloss ahead of the decals.

The decals are from a company called Kora (set  7234). They are thin, flexible and in perfect register, but the white is a little bit thin over RLM70. They're absolutely fine over the RLM65, but if I had a do-over, I would underpaint the upper wing markings and the tail stripes in white. After this, it was another coat of gloss to seal and then detail painting. Guns, trim tabs, landing lights and the like were done with a brush, as was the panel line wash, using acrylic ink.

The wheels are resin extras that come in with the decals, and the detail is superb.

Here she is after the final addition of things like pitot tube, aileron balances and the radio aerial from stretched sprue, and a coat of matt to flat things down.

L-10 was part of the 142. Lovacka Eskadrila, from 32. Grupa at Krusedol airfield. Second Lieutenant Miodrag Aleksic flew the plane to score an aerial victory over a German Bf109-E (and at least one other kill) during the invasion in 1941.

Merry meet again!

Monday 4 August 2014

Airfix 1/72 Scale Messerschmitt Bf109-E7/Trop

Here's a departure (or a return, if you like). My route to wargaming was via model aircraft. I can remember how it happened: my dad and I built an Airfix Junkers Ju88 - he built the fuselage with me watching to show me how, then I bodged up the wings! I carried on until my early twenties, picking up AFVs, figures and wargaming on the way. I dropped it around then, but got bitten by the bug again early this year. I suppose, like wargaming or some bacteria, it never really leaves you: it just lies dormant, and you can relapse at any time...

Well, here's my first completed build, Airfix's Messerschmitt Bf109-E7/Trop.

Cockpit detail as provided by Airfix is pretty good - vastly better that I remembered from the earlydays of a misshapen pilot sat on peg! I added straps on the rudder pedals from tape and trim wheels from stretched sprue. Here's a quick shot of the cockpit before closing up the fuselage.

Assembly is quick and easy, and the aircraft goes together without difficulty, and minimal filler! The kit includes the additional tropical dust filter for the supercharger.

Detail in the wheel wells is nice, and shows up nicely with a bit of washing and dry-brushing. The underfuselage drop tank fitment is one of the things that visibly makes this an E-7 rather than an E-4. I added the vertical strengtheners in the underwing radiators from stretched sprue.

I fitted the canopy at this stage, and it needed a touch of filler to makeit fit perfectly. After masking up, a quick coat of RLM02 will give the sense of the internal colour of the cockpit framing. 

Next thing was a coat of white primer from a spray can. My experience with miniatures makes me gravely suspicious of how well acrylics straight onto plastics will last!

I masked the wheel wells with cotton wool, then blew on a coat of RLM78, mixed from Tamiya acrylics. I had a try out with Humbrol's aircraft acrylics and had a total disaster. I couldn't get on with them at all, and 
 came close to abandoning the airbrush. Luckily, Tamiya paints thin perfectly and spray effortlessly.

The RLM79, againmixed from Tamiya, went on next. The high demarkation line was normal.

The RLM80 mottle was sprayed by finding a "skin" from a videogame, and after printing it off to scale, using it to cut a set of masks or friskets. I put on a couple of coats of Kleer to give smooth surface for the decals, and also to give an easy-clean surface to go with detail painting.

I sprayed in the white fuselage band, then added the decals. These are Airfix's out of the box offering, an aircraft of the legendary JG27. There is an alternative in the form of a Bulgarian Air Force 109-E4, in dark green over light blue, with extensive yellow trims, which also looks pretty nice. The decals are easy to apply. They didn't silver, except in a couple of barely noticeable stencils. Propellor, spinner, guns etc were hand-painted and added as late as possible, to avoid breakage.

The very last pieces were added at the very end: the radio mast and aerial, aileron balances and pitot. Here's an effort at an "in action" shot.

The last shot is an effort at a sepia-toned versionThis aircraft, Schwartze 8, is sometimes described as the mount of Leutnant Werner Schroer, the famous Luftwaffe Expert who was Hans-Joachim Marseille's commanding officer. Although Schroer did fly Schwatze 8, it was literally only a couple of times, and the regular pilot was a chap called Franz Elles.

Franz Elles began operations in 1940 with 1 Staffel, I./JG-27 and saw action during the battle of Britain under the command of Edu Neumann. Transferred in early 1941 with I./JG-27 to North Africa, he flew as wingman to the famous Knights Cross holder Karl-Wolfgang Redlich. Elles amassed five "kills", four Hurricanes and a Douglas Boston. Elles was shot down, defending his leader's tail in a close air combat with P-40s on 11 December 1941, 40 km SE of Ain-el-Gazala. He was flying Bf 109F-4/Trop WNr.8537, "Rote 9" of 2./JG 27. He spent the remainder of the war as a POW in Canada. After the war, he joined the German diplomatic service and rose to become German Ambassador to the Central African Republic.

Merry meet again!

Saturday 21 June 2014

Summer Solstice

Greetings to all on the Solstice,
May the blessings of the Lord and Lady be with you,
And good cheer accompany you.

To the Oak King, farewell and thanks for the bounty of summer.

To the Holly King, greeting and blessings for this half of the year.

Merry meet, 
Merry part,
Merry meet again.

Blessed be!

Friday 20 June 2014

Viking Levy for Saga

In keeping with the view in the Rulebook that these troops are drawn from the lowly, insignificant peasants, the poor old levy don't even get a Led Zeppelin quote!

The levy are extremely simple. A pack of Gripping Beast Dark Age warriors will provide everything you need. The rules recommend building levy armed with slings or bows, and the kit provides more than enough sling-equipped hands to do this. For the purposes of Saga, it doesn't make a blind bit of difference whether these men have slings or bows, as the weapons have the same characteristics. Converting the GB warriors to bowmen would take a great deal more effort, but would be possible if you really wanted some variety.

Since levy are dirt-poor, the chances of them having weapons other than their slings (apart perhaps from a knife) are very low, and the chances of them having a helmet is about nil. Therefore, the kit bare heads are all you need, and a bit of greenstuff or spares from the Viking Hirdmen box adds knives easily enough. I didn't give all of them knives - those with them are the ones with aspirations to rise to the dizzy heights of warrior status!

Clothing would all have been dull, natural (ok, grubby) colours, as you would expect for people without two coins to rub together who spent most of their time doing vile, dirty jobs. This is of course nice and easy, and since you can get away with a fairly limited palette, it's also relatively quick.

 Here's a dirty looking bunch...

You could almost feel sorry for this lot. Almost. They're probably aching for a chance to get into a WAB game, where their impact could be greater and their status is less miserably low.

...And they don't look smarter from this side!

The beauty of these is of course that whilst they've been painted up for use as Vikings, they are almost totally ubiquitous. They will slot seamlessly into almost any Northern European army from late Rome to roughly the First Crusade. Which is about as much praise as this lot are going to get!

Merry meet again!

Wednesday 21 May 2014

"We also come from the land of the ice and snow" - Viking Warriors for Saga

We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.
How soft your fields so green, can whisper tales of gore,
Of how we calmed the tides of war. We are your overlords.

On we sweep with threshing oar, Our only goal will be the western shore.

So now you'd better stop and rebuild all your ruins,
For peace and trust can win the day despite of all your losing.
Led Zeppelin, "Immigrant Song"

The warrior elements are slightly trickier, not in modelling terms, but based on what you actually want. Basically, you can't get what you want out of one box. The majority of Viking warriors are going to be equipped with a spear and other weapons like a saex or handaxe, a shield and most likely a helmet. On the other hand, most of them probably would not have a sword or mail, as these were high-cost, and hence high-status, items. Saying that, the odd one might: the sort of men who were aspiring to join the ranks of leaders or hearthguard.

 One set, one point

So, I made them up with unarmoured Dark Age warrior bodies, but used the spare helmeted heads from the Viking Hirdmen kit. A unit of warriors in Saga is eight men, and I decided one or two per group with a sword might be reasonable, and possibly one with armour, but in his case, no sword. All these chaps got slightly colourful clothes - if they were even a bit successful they ought to be able to afford an odd bit dyed with a brighter colour or something with some embroidery or decoration. I went to town with the shields. Maybe a bit over the top, but they certainly standout.

Second point's worth

Here's the whole two points' worth of warriors. All told, I think these look the part. Lock up your valuables - these lads will half-inch anything that isn't nailed down and red-hot, and clobber anyone that tries to stop them. Alternatively, if you attack them in their homes, anything you come away with will have been pried from their cold, dead hands - assuming you survived trying.

All together - altogether trouble!

Merry meet again!

Saturday 17 May 2014

Wagons Roll!

For the latest Dux Brit raid, Jeff and I played the convoy game.

I took  the Romano-British, under a new commander, following the crushing defeat I received last time. I had my hearthguard and warriors, plus one unit of levy defending the wagons, while the rest of the levy and archers, under the command of Cei, one of my nobles, was sat in the fort.

Cei and his men are out of beans, bacon and beer and are desperately hoping Tristram and Bedwyr can get to them before they die of thirst.

The game started slowly. Painfully slowly. The wagons didn't so much roll as crawl like arthritic snails, as my two units positioned themselves to keep themselves between the wagons and Jeff's marauding Saxons. Fortunately for me, the only thing moving slower were the Saxons! Jeff struggled over the hill, making terribly heavy weather of the terrain, until he finally managed to reach my warriors. Jeff had a unit of skirmishers thistime, the result of his massive win last time. This was the first time the skirmishers had been out, and we were interested to see their effect.

Finally one of his nobles, Cenric, managed to contact with Bedwyr, who was protected the back of the wagons with warriors and levy. Meanwhile, both Tristram and Aelle had several goes at rushing into combat with each other, but neither could achieve enough movement! Losing one pip of a D6 doesn't seem too bad, until you keep rolling ones and twos all the time! The satisfied themselves with insults, and ineffectual  javelins and arrows from Jeff's archers and skirmishers.

Cenric mashes Bedwyr!

A sudden turnup for the books occurred here: Jeff sent Cenric to attack Bedwyr again. With Bedwyr himself wounded, and down to a unit of levy with a couple of surviving warriors, this ought to have been a massacre. But the shieldwall held, and Cenric fell back wounded, his men reeling with shock. Bedwyr managed to  not follow up, which was just as well, and the wagons managed to crawl a bit further on.

Aelle still couldn't force a charge against Tristram, and suddenly noticed that Cei had sortied with the rest of the levy, threatening his flank!

Where the hell did that lot come from?!

At this point, Jeff decided that the beans, bacon and beer simply weren't worth it, and Aelle retreated in good order - very slowly, again. Even the skirmishers couldn't help him! Tristram decided not to follow up, and the beer arrived safely, to slake the thirst of the weary Brits.

Make mine a pint!

Jeff was stymied by the terrain, and had he entered the table somewhere he could have moved a bit faster, things might have ended very differently. As it was, there were few casualties on either side, but my hand of pursuit cards left me with a thief's horde. Better than last time!

Merry meet again!

Thursday 1 May 2014

Beltane Blessing

Blessed be this day of Beltane,

Wedding day of the Goddess and the God.
Holy day of Sacred Marriage,
Holy night of Sacred Union.

My blessings I give to all of thee,

and thy blessings I call from thee upon me.
So as I will, So Mote It Be!

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Tristan - A Present For Me

A little while back I reviewed Musketeer Miniatures' fantastic Bors figure, that I painted as a present for a colleague.

This figure, Tristan, comes as the partner to Bors. In the Arthurian canon, Tristan (Anglicised from Drustan) was apparently a Cornish nobleman, a nephew of King Mark, who largely became famous for falling in love with Mark's mail order bride, Iseult.

There's a pretty strong thread running through the stories that Tristan could have had some Pictish heritage (Drustan derived from Drust, an attested name of several Pictish kings). Of course it's quite possible he was a Cornish noble with Pictish blood - then as now the nobility of different states/countries probably intermarried.

Modelled in a fantastically aggressive running pose, Tristan is a pretty commanding figure. This is ncely in keeping with the Arthurian view of him is a handy fellow in any sort of fight. The sculpting and casting is first-rate, with no flash and minimal joint lines. Interestingly he comes without a weapon in his right hand. I added a sword (swiped from the spares in the GB Dark Age warriors pack), but drilling through to add a spear would be facile. Here he is, bearing down on a group of Pictish raiders. Maybe there's an old family feud between him and the Pictish noble?

Stand and fight!

As Tristan is a well-equipped elite fighter, he has a mail shirt and a Saxon-style helmet, complete with boar crest. I'm perfectly happy with this - there's no evidence that the Saxons had a monopoly on viewing the tough, aggressive boar as a symbolic of a fighting man. In my view Tristan has looked at the state of the art in weapons, armour and tactics and decided that the Saxon style, complete with the small, viciously-pointed buckler, suits him best.

No backing down!

And as for where he's going, well, he might get an outing in a Dux Brit game, but mainly, this one's for my desk!

Decision time!

Merry Meet Again!

Monday 21 April 2014


I first read Beowulf when I was about nine or ten years old. I don't recall who's translation it was - if I had to hazard a guess, I would say it was Rosemary Sutcliff's. It wouldn't be fair to say it was the one book that set me onto the path that has led me here: that honour belongs to The Hobbit, which I read around the same time. But that version of Beowulf was certainly one of the things that led me to other versions of the same work, and then to read The Sagas, the Fight at Finnsburg, Y Gododdin, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the works of Mallory and so many others.

I own what might perhaps be called a Beowulf bore's collection of different versions. I should say at this stage that I am far from being a scholar of Old English. I can pick out words and phrases, and understand how the language was structured, but I cannot claim to be highly qualified to comment on the accuracy of any translation!

William Morris's version has a feel I like, but there are parts where he seems to translate things differently to all the other versions I've read, so it sits uneasily. It has the advantage of being available for free.

Michael Alexander's version is my personal favourite. My copy is dog-eared, heavily overwritten with my own notes and much repaired. I love the feel and tone of it. The alliterative structure Alexander has produced, to me, really drives home the idea that Beowulf was written to be read aloud, recited in front of enthusiastic listeners, rather than pondered over in a quiet corner.

Marc Hudson makes no attempt to create alliteration, but his version is light, accessible and accompanied by a thorough, thought-provoking commentary.

John McNamara's verse translation is unfortunate in that it came out in 2005. By then I was firmly wedded to Alexander's version, but I would recommend McNamara's version without hesitation to any new buyer/reader. The poem text is excellent and benefits from a fantastic set of supporting notes and commentary.

So here's my Beowulf. This is Musketeer Miniatures version of Aelle. Their figures are fantastic sculpts and casts, and the character figures have so much life that I almost regret having built parts of my Anglo-Saxon and Sub-Roman armies with the figures I have, even though at the time I bought them I loved them. I already have an Aelle, so there was an opening for this figure to do something else.

Never have I seen
a greater earl on the earth than one of you,
a man in his war-gear. He is no hall-retainer,
ennobled with weapons, unless his looks belie him,
given his peerless form.

That description was the one given by Hrothgar's coastguard when he first sees Beowulf and his companions arrive. This mini is almost "straight out of the packet". The only difference is that I replaced the shield, with a version made from 10 thou plastic card, engraved and embossed to represent rivetted construction in three bits. When he hears about the dragon, Beowulf orders his armourers to make him a shield of solid iron, as he believes (quite rightly) that a wooden shield will fail against the dragon's fire.

The champion of warriors, the chief of the nobles,
ordered a wondrous war-shield to be made for him,
entirely of iron, since he knew for certain
that a wooden shield could provide no protection,
when fire attacked wood.

The other figure here was sold with the Aelle/Beowulf as a banner-bearer. He gets elevated to the status of a real character: Wiglaf.

This was Wiglaf, Weoxstan's son,
well-loved shieldman, a Scylfing prince
of the stock of Alfhere; 

Wiglaf is the only man among the Geats with the courage to stand with Beowulf when he fights the dragon. All the other members of Beowulf's hearthguard, the toughest of the tough, turn tail and run, and only Wiglaf remains, striking the blow that gives Beowulf the chance to make a killing stroke against the worm.

Here are the two, together, ready to take on anything that threatens the land of the Geats. I put these two on 1p coins as bases, rather than the 2p's I normally use for characters, with the plan that they could be sabot'ed onto a single base as a unit in a game (sort of "kill one, you still have a king" idea).

They killed the enemy, extinguished its life; 
by their courage, the kinsmen, acting as one, 
worked its doom. So should men do when there is need.

Of course, it wouldn't be complete without a couple of shots of the heroes confronting the dragon, so here goes:

Merry Meet Again!

Sunday 20 April 2014

Morgan Le Fay

The perfect spell, you could not resist,
I cast it well, beguiled and bewitched,
The evening fell and knocked like before,
But this time Hell had come to your door!
"Shapeshifter" - Gary Hughes

Here's the latest in the line of occasional non-historic Sub-Roman characters, Morgan Le Fay.

Morgan was Arthur's half-sister, a daughter of Igraine (Arthur's mother) and Gorlois of Cornwall. She was unhappily married to Urien of Rheged and was a student of Merlin. A powerful sorceress, but also a skilled healer, she plotted against Arthur, undermining him, his knights and even his wife, remaining a powerful adversary for many years. At the end, she was reconciled with her half-brother, and was one for the four enchantresses who went with Arthur to Avalon after his wounding at the Battle of Camlann.

The figure is a Julie Guthrie sculpt, sold via Grenadier Miniatures as a female assassin. The date on the bottom of the figure (1987) is slightly earlier than when I got it. I'd bought it and painted it, and had had good service from it in the rolegame days but had mislaid it. I'd been looking for it among the few figures I'd kept from back then, as I thought it was perfect for this purpose. It took me an age to find, and eventually it turned up behind a workbench in my garage during a massive clearout!

A quick clean-up and prime got her ready to paint, and to my mind there's only one example to follow:
Frederick Sandys' painting of Morgan. The original is in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, but this gives you the idea.

It's interesting to note the Pictish symbols on her overskirt. I don't this interpretation can be beaten, and here's my version derived from Sandys' masterpiece. Not a patch on his obviously, but I'm happy enough. The details on the mini are quite soft and subtle compared with today's castings, but at the time, these were pretty "state of the art".

Does the goblet contain some subtle poison, refreshing wine, a healing draught or some hidden spell the long-term effect of which can only be guessed at?

A powerful ally...

But if the contents of the wine-cup fail, then the dagger in her other hand will serve. I think Aelle is right to be wary of this strange lady.

...But a bad enemy

Marry Meet Again!