Wednesday 13 May 2009

Covered bridge

I had wanted to build one of these iconic structures for some time and finally got round to it around the end of 2008. It is believed that covered bridges were built in such a way, partially to preserve the wooden road way from the elements and also to give travellers a similar helping hand. The bridge I came up with is an amalgamation of various designs I found on the net. First thing was to make two frame constructions, the first of which was used as the road way and covered in planking and the second frame was used as the base of the roof. After this, the side planking went on.
Next step was to start constructing the roof. All the beams are identical so once I'd worked out the shape on a piece of paper, it was easy to cut all the pieces out and glue them together. As the roof needs to be removable for game play to move figures through the bridge, a method to hold the roof in place but without using glue. Balsa blocks were glued in each corner of the roof, then the roof construction was held in situ on the main bridge construction then drilled out right into the main construction beneath. Cocktail stick were then inserted into the balsa block with the tip sticking out so that it will stick into the main construction beneath when finished. Whilst still held in place, planks were fitted onto the gable ends, fitting snugly against the main construction for a secure fit. At this point, I was able to start gluing on ribs which would give the shingles something to stick to and also to guide the course of the shingles as I worked. Before beginning work on the shingles, I made the ramps to lead up to the bridge which were fixed to a piece of artist card as a base and then the planking was glued in place. I then started cutting out and gluing into place a billion shingles. Its not as bad as it seems actually, once you get into a rhythm. Thats pretty much it for the build and I was able to start painting. First step was to spray the inside of the roof black. The rest of the bridge was painted a watery chestnut colour and then given a black wash whilst still damp which helps the wash to soak in to all the gaps between planking. I let this dry for a good 12 hours then was able to dry brush all over with a mustard colour using cheap poster paints and a fairly large, stiff brush. I then gave it a very light white dry brush just to pick out the edges. Finishing touch was to texture, paint and flock the bases for the ramps. This isn't a model which gets used a lot but I enjoyed building it and thats all that counts really.

Monday 11 May 2009

HMS Shannon vs USS Chesapeake

'No expressions can do justice to my brave officers and crew; the calm courage they displayed during the cannonade, and the tremendous precision of their fire, could only be equalled by their ardour with which they rushed to the assault.' Captain Philip Broke of HMS Shannon, 6 June 1813
HMS Shannon was a 38-gun frigate that won immortal fame for her capture of the USS Chesapeake off Boston in June 1813. Since the 1750s, the term frigate had described the smaller, faster types of warship used for commerce protection or raiding, or scouting for the main fleet. They had two decks with the main armament carried on the upper deck. Completed in 1806, Shannon was a Fifth Rate 'Leda' class frigate mounting twenty-eight 18-pounder guns, the Royal Navy's largest type of frigate during the Napoleonic era.
To meet all its commitments the Admiralty gave priority to the construction of the greatest number of frigates, rather than those with the heaviest armament. Nevertheless, British admirals frequently complained that they did not have enough; while searching for the French fleet before the Battle of the Nile in 1798, Horation Nelson wrote to Sir William Hamilton: 'All my ill-fortune, hitherto, has proceeded from want of frigates.'
In the 1790s the Americans built some very large 44-gun frigates and when war broke out between Great Britain and the United States in 1812 these ships won a series of single-ship actions; USS Constitution captured HMS Guerriere and HMS Java whilst USS United States overwhelmed HMS Macedonian. The British public, accustomed to naval victories regardless of the odds, was incensed. However, since many of the best British ships and crews were in European waters, the defeats were not so surprising.
In response the British instituted a closer blockade of American ports. HMS Shannon commanded by Captain Philip Broke was one of the ships patrolling off the coast of the United States. During his seven years in charge, Broke had worked up his ship to a peak of fighting efficiency with the best gunnery drill of any vessel in the Royal Navy. His gun crews were trained to fire into the hull of the enemy ship to kill the crew instead of shooting down the masts. Throughout his career Broke had prepared for a single-ship action. He even refused to capture American merchant ships, as this would require him to put crews on board and reduce the Shannon's efficiency.
After a long patrol off Boston, Broke was rewarded on 1 June 1813 when the 38-gun frigate USS Chesapeake came out to challenge him. The ensuing battle was the finest single-ship action in the age of sail. Captain James Lawrence, the new commander of the Chesapeake, was confident in the ability of his veteran crew, but had reckoned without Broke and the Shannon.
As the Chesapeake approached, the Shannon fired her first devastating broadside at a range of about 35 metres. Lawrence was wounded, but ordered the Chesapeake to slow down to enable her to return fire. However, the American gunners did not have time to adjust their aim as the carronades of the British ship swept the Chesapeake's quarterdeck and on her upper deck two-thirds of the gun crews were already casualties.
At a crucial moment the Chesapeake's wheel was destroyed by a 9-pounder gun that Broke had installed on Shannon's quarterdeck for that purpose. Out of control, the vulnerable stern of the American ship was exposed to raking British fire and in desperation Lawrence ordered his men to board as the Chesapeake drifted stern first towards the Shannon.
Instead it was Broke who seized the moment and led the boarding party in person onto the Chesapeake. Despite a final appeal from Captain Lawrence 'Don't give up the ship!', the battle was effectively over. In a final act three American sailors, probably from the rigging, attacked Broke; he killed the first, but the second hit him with a musket and the third sliced open his skull before being overwhelmed.
The entire action lasted only 11 minutes, but its unequalled ferocity left 148 American and 83 English sailors killed or wounded. All the Chesapeake's officers were casualties and Lawrence died of his wounds three days later.
Broke made a miraculous recovery and returned to England where he received a hero's welcome for restoring the pride of the Royal Navy. Later in his career he made a decisive contribution to the establishment of professional standards of gunnery at HMS Excellent and laid the foundations for victories such as the attack on Acre in 1840. .
HMS Shannon was placed in the reserve in 1831. She was renamed the St Lawrence in 1844 and became a receiving ship at Sheerness, before finally being broken up in November 1859. But her name and that of Philip Broke will forever be associated for her swift and devastating victory over the Chesapeake.
Here are a couple models I built and painted of the two famous ships. models are 1:700 scale from the Skytrex 'Meridian - Trafalgar' range (

Queen's Rangers figures (Infantry)

As far as I am aware, there are three manufacturers who make Queen's Rangers infantry in 15mm. The first one which I looked at was Freikorp and they didn't really float my boat as I wasn't really keen on the sculpts and lack of poses. The second manufacturer was Minifigs but sadly, there are no pics of them on their web site but they very kindly offered to send me a sample which I declined as I had already decided my plan of attack by then. Third and final manufacturer is Old Glory 15's. Several problems surfaced with this manufacturer- No pics on the web site so I emailed them to ask if they could send me a pic of the figures I was interested in. Their answer? 'Sorry, but we do not have the means at this time to take pics.' If this answer shocks you, I can assure you that you were no more shocked than I. Problem two is that it isn't easy laying your hands on Old Glory 15's and more in the UK and the postage is a real killer. Problem three is that Old Glory 15's tend to be quite large and wouldn't really mix in with figures which we already have.

In the end, after thinking long and hard on the subject, I eventually decided to convert. As a basis for the conversion, I started with a light infantryman from Essex Miniatures (

The comb on the hat was removed and the peak also. Next thing was to get rid of the turn backs to create a short coat.

I then cut out mitre shapes from paper and stuck them onto the front of the newly cut down caps. It may seem a little flimsy for gaming purposes but once you complete the next step and get some paint on them, they're not too bad at all.

The feathers were made out of bits of Milliput which were moulded around the top of the hat and pushed up to the paper mitre to give it strength. The feathery indentations were made with a dampened scalpel which stops the blade sticking to the Milliput.

Here are a couple pics of the finished product. The flags are from 'Flags for the Lads' (

Unit update (7/8/2010)
I converted and painted this unit of Queen's Rangers Riflemen a while ago but compromised slightly by not including the hackle as I couldn't think of a way of making it and thought that it might be a bit brittle. Well I have not been entirely happy with the compromise so have re thought the decision and this is what I came up with. I used a length of plastic box shaped rod and cut into the corners with a blade to form the feathers then cut into appropriate lengths and glued to the side of the existing hats.
I'm much happier with this. Here are a couple elements to show the addition.

Friday 8 May 2009

John Graves Simcoe

Military life was in the blood of John Graves Simcoe. His father was a naval officer who served with Wolfe in the Quebec Campaign of 1759 and died when John was still a child. John had the sort of education that was typical of boys of his class, attending Eton College and Oxford University, although John left Oxford after only one year. At the age of 18, John was given a commission in the army as an ensign, and five years later he went to war, shipping over to America to fight the revolutionaries. His regiment arrived in Boston in 1775 only two days after the Battle of Bunker Hill. While taking part in the siege of Boston, Simcoe purchased a captaincy (purchasing a commission was common in those days—it was how wealthy people made sure they rose through the ranks). During 1776-1777 Simcoe received three wounds as he fought in the Long Island campaign, the capture of New York and the New Jersey campaign. Earning a reputation during the war both as a commander and as a military theorist, Simcoe was eventually promoted to lieutenant, then to lieutenant-colonel.
On October 15, 1777 Simcoe was promoted to major and made regimental commander of the Queen's Rangers. After nearly six years of fighting, Simcoe was invalided home to Britain in 1781.
The Province of Upper Canada was created under the Constitutional Act of 1791 Simcoe was appointed lieutenant governor and made plans to move to Upper Canada with his wife Elizabeth and daughter Sophia, leaving three other daughters behind with their aunt. They left England in September and arrived on November 11. After working hard to establish Upper Canada beginning in 1792, he requested leave in 1796 to return to England for health reasons. He never returned.

Robert Rogers

Robert Rogers was born in Dunbarton, New Hampshire, in 1727; died in England about 1800. He entered the military service during the old French war, for which he raised and commanded "Rogers's rangers," a company that, acquired reputation for activity, particularly in the region of Lake George. His name is perpetuated there by the precipice that is known as "Rogers's slide," near which he escaped from the Indians, who, believing" that he had slid down the steep defile of the mountain under the protection of the Great Spirit, made no attempt at further pursuit. On 13 March, 1758, with 170 men, he fought 100 French and 600 Indians, and, after losing 100 men and killing 150, he retreated. In 1759 he was sent by Sir Jeffrey Amherst from Crown Point to destroy the Indian village of St. Francis near St. Lawrence river, which service he performed, killing 200 Indians, and in 1760 he was ordered by Amherst to take possession of Detroit and other western posts that were ceded by the French after the fall of Quebec. Ascending the St. Lawrence with 200 rangers, he visited Fort Pitt, had an interview with Pontiac, and received the submission of Detroit. He visited England, and suffered from want until he borrowed money to print his journal, which he presented to the king, who in 1765 appointed him governor of Mackinaw, Michigan ; but while holding this office he was accused of plotting to plunder his own fort and to deliver it to the French, and was consequently sent to Montreal in irons and tried by court-martial. In 1769 he revisited England, but was soon imprisoned for debt. Afterward he returned to this country. Dr. John Wheelock, of Dartmouth college, wrote at this period: "The famous Major Rogers came to my house from a tavern in the neighborhood, where he called for refreshment. I had never before seen him. He was in but an ordinary habit for one of his character. He treated me with great respect" said he came from London in July, and had spent twenty days with the congress in Philadelphia, and I forget how many at New York: had been offered and urged to take a commission in favor of the colonies, but, as he was on half-pay from the crown, he thought it proper not to accept it "; and also "that he had got a pass, or license to travel, from the Continental congress." Major Rogers's accounts of himself were probably not accurate, but he had been a prisoner of congress, and was released on parole, promising that he would bear no arms against the American colonies. Soon after leaving Dr. Wheelock he wrote to General Washington: "I love America; it is my native country, and that of my family, and I intend to spend the evening of my days in it." It is believed that at this very moment he was a spy. Being suspected by Washington, he was secured in 1776, and during his examination, pretending that he had business with congress, was sent to Philadelphia under the care of an officer. That body decided that he should be disposed of by the Provincial congress of New Hampshire. Notwithstanding his parole, he accepted the commission of colonel in the British army, for which he raised the Queen's rangers, a corps that was celebrated throughout, the contest. To encourage enlistments he issued a printed circular promising to the recruits "their proportion of all rebel lands." On 21 October, 1776, he escaped being taken prisoner by Lord Stifling at Mamaroneck. Soon afterward he went to England, and in 1778 he was proscribed and banished. His subsequent history is lost. Rogers was the author of "A Concise Account of North America" (London, 1765); "Journals," giving an account of his early adventures as a ranger (1765 ; Dublin, 1770) ; and " Ponteach, or the Savages of America," a tragedy in verse (1766). This was printed anonymously, and is now very rare. His "Diary of the Siege of Detroit in the War with Pontiac" was published, with other narratives and with notes, by Franklin B. Hough (Albany, 1860; new ed., 1883). The names of the officers of Rogers's rangers are given in the "Report of the Adjutant-General of New Hampshire," and his exploits are chronicled in General John Wins-low's unpublished "Journal," and in manuscript letters in the Massachusetts archives. The "Journals" mentioned above are condensed in "Reminiscences of the French War," edited by Caleb Stark (Concord, 1831), and also appear in an abridged form in a "Memoir of John Stark" by the same author (1860). The best edition is that edited by Franklin B. Hough (Albany, 1883).

Queen's Rangers brief history

Many Loyalist regiments were raised at the beginning of the AWI. The regiment in question here was the Queen's Rangers which was named after Queen Charlotte, wife to George III.
Anyone unfamiliar with the Queen's Rangers would certainly not be unfamiliar with the gentleman who raised it, a certain Robert Rogers, still basking in the glory from the French and Indian War. The good times weren't to last, however and Rogers parted company with the regiment in 1777. After the war, he went to London where he died a pauper.
The regiment was mostly raised from loyalists in Westchester, Long Island and western Connecticut.
In the North, the regiment saw action at Mamaroneck, Brandywine and Germantown where they suffered sunstantial losses.
Their most succesful commander, John Graves Simcoe was very popular and saw them through the rest of the war finally seeing them surrender with the rest of the troops at Yorktown. In happier days with the regiment he lead them through the Philadelphia campaign saw action in New York State and New Jersey.
The period which most interests me is after this when they ventured further south with Benedict Arnold, raiding Richmond and Charlestown. Fighting as reconnaisance and outpost troops, they were never defeated in battle.
When the surrendered at Yorktown with the rest of the army their Colours were smuggled away and not handed over as they were supposed to be.
The modern day descendents of the Queen's Rangers reside in Toronto and the Yorktown Colours can still be seen there in the officers mess. The Rangers participated in the building of York (modern day Toronto) and Shaw, McGill and Jarvis Streets are all named after Queen's officers.

Wargaming the American War on Independence

Now, I'm no stranger to the American War of Independence but I would class myself as a novice to this particular conflict. As a group, we have been gaming the AWI for a substantial number of years and I have finally arrived at a place where I want to build some troops for it.
The first consideration was what to do as we already have the core of what is needed so I decided to go for what would be considered, by many, to be more fringe elements. After flicking through books and web pages and seeking advice from people more in the know, I decided to launch into some Loyalists. I pretty much wrote off the British Legion straight away as it was a bit too predictable for my liking. The Legion which did spark my interest, however, is the Queens Rangers as it incorporates quite a few unique elements. In addition to the standard infantry units, you also get to build Light Infantry, Grenadiers, highlanders, Huzzars and Dragoons and the icing on the cake is that they had unique milinery which looks pretty cool.
The next consideration was which period to choose. This was quickly sorted out as there was a uniform change after 1780 resulting in the snazzy hats and they also wandered off into the South which is more of an interesting theatre for me. In addition to the Queen's Rangers, I will also be building a unit of the Volunteers of Ireland (more snazzy hats) and also a unit of deLancey's in their nice white roundabouts (more snazzy hats). I shall be posting pics as I finish these units and maybe some day pics of them in battle.

Thursday 7 May 2009

Horse Island Lighthouse

This light stood on Horse Island just off shore from Sackett's Harbour, New York. It was a project which I enjoyed working on as it was more than just a simple build, what with incorperating the light with thought given to the ability to replace both worn out bulbs and also batteries without this tarnishing the look of the finished product.

Here are a couple pics of the model under construction and some more of the finished product with light on and off.