Monday, June 16, 2014

28mm Spanish Civil War: Spanish Foreign Legion HMG Team

Ever since we got back from our vacation I've been suffering from an infuriating case of hobby ADHD - working on a zillion things at once and seemingly getting nothing done at all. Well, I guess that's not entirely true as I managed to stay the course and finish this HMG stand for my much-neglected SCW collection. 

This trio is a team of Spanish Foreign Legionnaires crewing a French-designed Hotchkiss heavy machine-gun. 

Franco was one the Spanish Foreign Legion's senior commanders and it, along with the ferocious Moroccan Regulares (both of whom made up the Army of Africa), proved to be a vital component in his bid for power early in the civil war. Their professionalism and ruthlessness provided a much-needed bulwark for the Nationalist cause, buying them precious time as the quality and quantity of their manpower gradually increased.

This 28mm set, sculpted by the talented (and prolific) Paul Hicks, is from Empress Miniatures. I took a fairly stock approach to the group. The only thing I added was a wooden crate as otherwise the team seemed bit too exposed.  This stand will be a welcome addition to my collection as, oddly, I have many squad weapons for the Republicans but almost nothing for the Nationalists (which runs fairly opposite to how things were historically).

I have a bunch of SCW stuff sitting in the wings, all in various levels of completion, so we'll see if I can stop being a useless butterfly and get some of them done-and-dusted over the next few weeks. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Our 2014 Vacation Concludes: Curt and Sarah take Paris

The two of us with the little place we rented overlooking the Seine...
The final leg of our vacation saw us infiltrating Paris. Even though its packed to the patisseries full of Parisians Sarah and I still love the town. It's such a great city with so much to offer. Food, museums, shopping, pastries, and then there are the women. There is something about Parisian women that I always find fascinating - those amazing, haughty creatures, who float on clouds of perfume, cigarette smoke and long scarves always seem to have that, well, there is no better phrase for it: je ne sais quois.

We're big fans of cycling and so we were both delighted and yet gutted to see that we had arrived right in the midst of the Paris 'Tweed Ride', which is a yearly bike outing where cyclists are asked to dress in 30s/40s era clothes and take to the streets for a mass turn about the city. (The French, being typically French, call it 'Le Ride Beret Baguette'.)

The Paris 'Tweed Ride'

These Tweed Rides usually conclude with a big picnic and we saw hundreds of 'tweedsters' toting yard-long baguettes and bottles of wine. It looked to be an incredible amount of fun and we wished we could have been better organized so we could have participated. Next time I'll definitely have to pack my jodhpurs and soft peaked cap.

My new vision quest: A Victoire porter bicycle, custom crafted for Berluti. Yes, those are wood rims - mental.
We visited the Musee de Cluny, Sarah's favourite museum, which has a fantastic collection of medieval artifacts including the mysterious six tapestries of the Lady and the Unicorn. These have been recently restored and I very much recommend a visit.

Sarah at the Musee de Cluny.
Me taking a mid-march break at the Jardin des Tuileries.
We also made the pilgrimage to Les Invalides to see what was the featured exhibition. I was delighted to discover that it was on Alexandre Dumas and the French Musketeers (both  historic and fictional), so Sarah and I were delighted to take it in.

At the entrance to the exhibit they had several costumes you could try on for size. As you can see Sarah looks quite fetching in this feathered chapeau...

...whereas I finally found the perfect outfit to go with my dodgy beard and moustache. 

The sword of the real Athos - Now, how cool is that!
So what did I acquire during our travels? Mostly books, which are the absolute devil to pack and drag around, but I can't help myself. 
- In the UK I bought the exhibition catalogue for 'Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK' which was showing at the British Library (f*cking love that place). 
- At a bookstore in St Pancras Station I nabbed a copy of 'The Wipers Times'. (At my work we're in the midst of a huge Great War newspaper digitization project and I thought it fit in nicely with that.) 
- In Madrid I got a wonderful hardback volume depicting the arms and uniforms of the Spanish Civil War (with many excellent colour plates). 
- In France I picked up the museum catalogue of the Musketeer exhibit, a book on French paratroopers in Indochina (in full colour) and a wonderful book of photographs taken during the liberation of Paris.

For gaming I picked up:
- a 28mm scale Hispano Souza armoured car from Minairons Miniatures;
- some 15mm fuel dumps for SAS/LRDG raiding;
- 28mm 'Milady & Household Staff' from Brigade Games for future Musketeer nonsense; 
- a copy of 'Jugula' with the intent on some future gladiatorial gaming; 
- and Alf very kindly gifted me with a wonderful prototype of a Spanish church and some excellent palm tree breastworks for Indochina.

Last but not least, some of the most prized items which I toted home were the wonderful painted figures I received from many friends well-met. Thank you all! It was a tremendous honour to meet you and I look forward to when our paths cross again.

Much-valued additions to the painting cabinet.
I'll end the post with a pic taken of us by our friend Gary while we were wondering down Rue Poulletier on Ile St Louis during our last evening in Paris. A suitable ending to a wonderful trip. 

...and, yes, we're already planning for the next one...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My 10th and Last Entry to the Lead Painters' League - Belgian Refugees, August 1914

The final round of the 8th Lead Painters' League asked the participants for submissions focused on the Great War. With this in mind, I decided to once again draw upon a previous entry to the Challenge, this time a group of greyscale Belgian refugees. The only real change I made from the original composition (but an important one, I think) is my respectful nod to the haunting 'Little Girl in the Red Coat' from Spielberg's Schindler's List. These civilians are welcome additions to my WWI greyscale project.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the plight of the refugee has existed as long as war itself. The terror of impeding violence, the disruption of livelihood, the dissolution of security and the mortal risk to loved ones - these are all things that are clearly seen on the face of every refugee no matter their religion, colour, nationality or time in history.

The German destruction of the Belgian city of Louvain in August of 1914 is noted for contributing to the world's condemnation of the Central Powers' cause and pursuit of war. For five consecutive days the city was indiscriminately burnt and looted. Its famous library, housing one of the largest and most impressive collection of ancient manuscripts, was burnt and destroyed, as was Louvain's university. The church of St. Pierre was also badly damaged by fire. The citizenry of Louvain were subject to rape, robbery and beatings, but the most tragic was the mass shootings of hundreds of innocents regardless of age or gender. As Sir Edward Grey solemnly remarked upon the outbreak of  hostilities that summer, 'The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.'

So in these images I have tried to compose a plausible scene that would occur during those first few weeks of 1914. Seen here is a column of Belgian refugees fleeing the German advance while their hastily raised countrymen march to the front to attempt to stem the tide. 

The civilian figures are mostly new castings from Brigade Models' excellent range of Great War Belgians. The old couple with the wheelbarrow and dog are from Kawe's Westfalia Miniatures (meant for the Napoleonic period, but I find that they work quite well 100 years later). The cobblestones are hand painted, both on the figures' bases and the nylon roadway (being too cheap and lazy to get proper cobbled bases/roads). The others are older models from my collection, mostly Great War Miniatures, Brigade Models and the Minerva armoured car is (I believe) from 1st Corps. The buildings are from Kobblestone Miniatures.

Gripes about its format/rules aside, the LPL has become a much anticipated event in my hobby calendar. With it falling just after the hustle and bustle of the Challenge, I find it's a great way to get some of my own stuff done while enjoying what other participants come up with during each week's match-up.

Next up: Paris (really, I promise)!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

On Vacation: The Campaign Drives on to Madrid

Bronze of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza at the Plaza de Espana in Madrid.
After our great stay in Holland we travelled to Madrid to meet up with some friends from Canada, take in the sights, imbibe to excess and enjoy the warm, sunny weather.

One afternoon I met up with Alf Comps, owner/designer of Barrage Miniatures who is making waves with his excellent terrain mats and very fine resin scenery (see MiniMike's review of his mat here). 

A mat in process of creation.
28mm Vietnamese raised hut - wonderful...

Alf is a real renaissance man, vastly talented, embarrassingly generous and incredibly enthusiastic about the hobby. We went out for a wonderful lunch and then he took me to his workshop space to let me see what he was working on. It was incredible. I won't go into detail on all the projects he has in development, but all of them are fantastic and real labours of love. Keep an eye out for Barrage miniatures as I think there will be many interesting products emerging from Alf's fevered mind.

A few days later I had a fabulous visit over tapas and beer with Benito, the creator of Gaming with TooFatLardies

Benito gets the Sophia Loren vaseline-on-the-lens treatment. 
Whereas Benito proves to be the far better photographer (I blame it on the beer...).

We had a great time chatting about many aspects of the hobby, our passions and peccadilloes and how blogging has really brought the community together. A wonderful evening - thank you Benito!

Finally, I made the pilgrimage to an excellent hobby shop in central Madrid called 'Atlantica Juegos' (thank you for the tip Mike!). I was pretty gobsmacked when I walked through the doors as the store seemed to have almost everything a historical wargamer could possibly want (Perry, Empress, Artizan, Warlord, Dixon, Minarions, Capitan, 4Ground and the list goes on). It also had an impressive Fantasy and Sci-Fi section, but I didn't examine the stock as closely as the historical offerings. Of course I didn't get away unscathed, picking up a variety of treats that I couldn't easily source back in Canada (more on that later).

Outside of 'Atlantica' with my loot.
Next up: We conclude our European campaign with an assault on Paris.