Wednesday, 5 October 2022



Now I don`t do naval wargaming, but have included a naval aspect to my games with landing scenarios. This type of model can often be found in Spanish tourist souvenir type shops, I have been tempted, but was not prepared to pay tourist prices for one! So I always keep my eyes open at markets and fairs, eventually my patience paid off and I came upon a guy with a stall full of them (ex-stock maybe?), brand new still in their boxes, he only wanted 3 Euro so I snapped one up.

A quick butcher job with my trusty tenon saw and a simple re-paint and she now looks like this:

A couple of shots with figures and other boats just to show scale

Saturday, 1 October 2022



Again part of the care package sent by Bill Krieg, three Goumiers from Ian Clunie`s Shellhole Scenics range.

Now i don`t actually have a dedicated Goumier force, I have Moroccan Rif warriors (no sub-machine guns or helmets, etc) and I have Moroccan 7th Division cerca 1943 - mostly French 1940 kit, some of whom wear Djellaba. I was therefore forced to do simple conversions on two of these, I removed the 2" mortar off one and replacing it with a rifle and then I pruned away the Sten gun off the grenade thrower and grafted a rifle in its place - not too bad I think. All three can now happily join either group.


Yet another Sherman

 Sherman Conversion

Bill Krieg was kind enough to send me yet another care package back in August, but the weather was so damned hot I couldn`t think of venturing into the cellar and we have various visitors plus two weddings to attend back in the UK and that trip to Belgium..... But now the weather has cooled somewhat and I now have a little time, so back to the grind.

This model started off looking like this, except a bit more knocked about and missing one set of wheels - I forgot to take a before shot of the original - D`oh!!.

Now i have no NWE Poles and in fact only own three British tanks for NWE also and one of them is a Firefly, so I decided to roughly convert it into yet another M4(75) for my Yanks/Free French.

I was lucky and found a complete bogie wheel set in the spares box, I cut down the 17pdr barrel, removed the box/counter weight, then added various stowage. A quick paint job and she now looks like this:


US Battalion Commander`s Ride

 GMC CCKW 6x6 Radio Truck

My US regular infantry battalion needed a command vehicle (just for fun really) so I bought this which will do the job.

Raventhorpe from their Ready to Roll range (just too easy), a few pin holes to fill, add a couple of aerials, then a spray with cheap undercoat and then a coat of GW Castellan Green and a wash and she`s ready for the tabletop. Ta da.......

Sherman Dozer

 Sherman Dozer 

I`m not your regular WW2 gamer (as you may have guessed). So I don`t do Normandy or Arnhem, those campaigns just don`t grab my attention, but the bloody fighting along the West Wall in the Autumn and Winter of 1944 and into 1945 have always struck me as fruitful ground for tabletop battles, the lack of Allied air support due to the poor weather and the shear variety of German forces pitted against the advancing US forces has given me hours of tabletop action.

I`m planning a biggish West Wall bash with a mainly infantry US force supported by the usual armour, artillery and maybe airpower (weather permitting) trying to break through a bunker line.

One vehicle I needed was a Sherman Dozer, so I bought this one from Raventhorpe`s Ready to Roll line, the tank body and dozer blade come as a one-piece resin casting and you only have to glue the gun mantlet and turret hatch in place to complete your model - just so simple.

A little cleaning, some pin holes to fill and then undercoat and paint - done dusted, ready to play.

40L56 anti-aircraft gun

 40L56 Anti Aircraft Gun

Basically your bog standard 40mm Bofors AA gun in US service. 

These guns were used to equip the US Anti Aircraft Auto Weapon (mobile) battalions. such battalions unlike their armoured counter parts were used in semi static roles, deployed to protect vital bridges and instalations, HQs and field artillery batteries, etc.

The gun is another gift from Bill Krieg, a 3D print, it did require a little tinkering and the extended crucifix arms actually came from a Zvezda Russian 37mm AA carriage out of the spares box.

The two seated gunners are an SHQ Jeep passenger and an Esci hard plastic driver. The rest of the crew are two modified Esci soft plastic US infantrymen and a Hat Industrie tank rider, the 40mm shells are resin from Milicast

All together

More WW2 Yanks

 Clearing the Decks

Among the various bits Bill Krieg sent me were a few odd WW2 Yanks, as I was doing the vehicles I sorted those out, cleaned and based them and now painted and washed to match the rest.

Six infantry which look to me like Dave Allsop`s old Hotspur range

A single officer in leather jacket, I`m pretty sure he is Force20

Soldier helping a wounded mate
I have no idea who made these and I`m pretty sure the kit is Vietnam era, but at 4ft across a table whos ever going to notice.

All together

During the couple of WW2 games I ran earlier this year I noticed I didn`t have any deployed .50cal HMGs so whilst I was doing these I made up a team. The gunner is from Raventhorpe, he is a one-piece casting firing a water-cooled .30cal, I removed the gun and replaced it with a Britannia .50, the No2 is i think from Sojors Miniatures?  



Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Dragon Rapide (movie review)

 Dragon Rapide

Is a 1986 Spanish movie directed by Jaime camino.

Basically it is a docu-drama about the events leading up to the July 1936 coup d`etat focusing of General Franco.

Franco is in the Canary Islands, but with the imminent military coup he needs to get to Spanish North Africa to take command of troops there who`s officers are almost entirely behind the coup. In order to achieve this a Spaniard supporter of the proposed coup living in London hires a plane (a DH89 Dragon Rapide) in England with the plan to secretly fly it out  to the waiting General so he can then be transported to Africa for the start of the uprising! The film focuses on just the last two weeks leading up to Franco`s flight. 

The film flits back and fore between Brigadier Emilio Mola trying to organise the uprising from his HQ, we see his attempts to gain agreement from the various anti-Republican factions - Carlists, Monarchists and his own people in the armed forces. 

In London Juan de la Cierva (inventor of the autogyro - see my earlier piece on the Dedalo) is asked to obtain a suitable aircraft to ferry an important passenger from the Canaries to North Africa. 

In Madrid a young newspaper man overhears men talking about the upcoming revolt, tells his editor, but without proof the editor refuses to publish anything! The Government is more worried about strikes and the Anarchists than they are about the possibility of a military coup, "the Army are loyal to Spain" says the editor! 

In Morocco  Lt. Colonel Juan Yague observes  military manoeuvres, a fanatical mmeber of the rightwing Flange party, Yague later meets with officers committed to the revolt. 

In the Canary Islands Franco, his wife and daughter swelter in the July heat, the disorganised nature of the plotters is getting on his nerves! Plans are made, then changed, even codes are being changed and messages sent to him cannot be deciphered, he is NOT a happy General!

Juan Diego as Franco

While all this is going on de la Cierva has hired the plane and flown it via France and Portugal to Casablanca in French Morocco under the guise of a hunting trip for a rich Englishman.

Back in Madrid key supporter of the revolt Jose Calvo Sotelo leader of the far right CEDA party is assassinated! This actually gives the rebellion a boost as they now have a martyr to rally the various factions under one banner! 

Finally with just days to spare the plane touches down in Las Palmas, messages are sent and the Army of Africa revolts followed quickly by the garrisons on the various Canary Islands under Franco`s command. 

Franco wearing civilian clothes carrying a fake diplomatic passport flys to Casablanca and the next day onto Tetouan.

At this point the film ends at the very begining of the Civil War.   

On the whole an interesting historic docu-drama, well acted and nicely filmed. Whilst not a war movie there were plenty of soldiers and sailors with some excellent period uniforms, for those of us who like that sort of thing.   

The DVD goes for silly money on Ebay (£9.99 + postage) I was lucky enough to pick up a copy here in Spain for a Euro (bargain)

The actual DH 89 Dragon Rapide used by Franco on that flight now in the Madrid Air Museum

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Jaime I

 Jaime I

Pride of the Republican Navy

Jaime I was the last of three Espana Class Dreadnought Battleships build by Spain between 1909 and 1923. The ships were part of an informal mutual defence treaty between France, Britain and Spain, the building of the ships was supported by Britain and the construction of Jaime I was much delayed due to Britains involvement in WW1 which caused supply difficulties, and even though she was virtually complete and ready for sea by May 1915, her main guns could not be delivered until 1919. The Espana class of Dreadnought were the only ones ever built by Spain and they were smallest Dreadnoughts built by any nation.

The class's limited displacement necessitated by the constraints imposed by the weak Spanish economy and existing naval infrastructure, requiring compromises on armour and speed to incorporate a main battery of eight 12-inch (305 mm) guns.

Jaime I as she appeared in 1932, note the AA guns on the fore and rear turrets

Layout of the Espana Class gun turrets

Displacement: Normal 15,700 tons, full load 16,450 tons

Length: 140m

Beam: 24m

Draft: 7.8m

Propulsion: 12 x Yarrow coal-fired boilers, 4 x Parsons steam turbines with 4 shafts

Speed: 19.5 knots

Range: 5,000 nautical miles @ 10 knots

Crew compliment: 854

Armament: 8 x 12 inch, 20 x 4 inch, 4 x 3-pounders, 2 machine guns

Armour: belt – 203mm, deck – 38mm, turrets 203mm, conning tower 254mm

Jaime I finally completed her sea trails and entered service with the Spanish Navy on December 20th 1921. Along with her sister ships she took part in the Rif War in Morocco, shelling enemy positions in support of ground troops. She was hit by Riffi shore batteries in 1924, but took part in and supported the amphibious landings at Alhucemas Bay on 8th September 1925 which eventually led to the end of the conflict. Some minor modifications were carried out in 1926, both Jaime I and her sister Alfonso XII gained a pair of Vickers 76.2mm (3 inch) AA guns, one each on top of turret numbers 1 and 2. In the 1930s, the foremast was reduced slightly on the two surviving ships

In 1931 with the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic, Jaime I and her surviving sister Alfonso XIII (now renamed Espana) were reduced to reserve duty to save on costs. But in 1933 Jaime returned to the fleet as flagship with major plans to modernise her, but these were interrupted by the outbreak of the Civil War!

At the outbreak of the Nationalist revolt, wireless operators in the navy headquarters Madrid intercepted radio messages from General Francisco Franco to rebels in Morocco. Madrid immediately sent the follow telegram to all major vessels, this one to Jaime I (my English translation).

“Comrades Jaime I: all the true Spanish people are currently aware of the attitude of our fleet. The time has come to show that traitors have no place on our ships. I have never doubted your heroism and your loyalty. Follow the example of the Cruiser Libertad by doing your duty. Long live freedom, long live the revolution. Traitors die”

The crew mutinied against their rebellious officers and two officers and an ensign killed along with three “loyal” crewmen, plus there were at least a dozen more injured on both sides. But due to their shift action, they ensured the ship would remain under Republican control. Sadly due to loss and or imprisonment of most of the officer corps the vessel would be crippled by poor discipline for some time. (the same thing applied to most of the Republican fleet).

Photographs of sailors after the take-over

Once under Republican control Jaime I sailed to Tangier to take on coal and supplies and take any wounded and injured to the Spanish hospital there. Just off the coast she was attacked by a rebel Spanish aircraft, who it is claimed made loyal (raised fist) salutes to deceive the crew into thinking he was loyal to the Republic before dropping several incendiary bombs which caused some injuries among the crew.

During the first months of the war, some modifications were made and her armament enhanced with two Vickers 47 mm (1.9 in) 50-caliber anti-aircraft guns and a twin 25 mm (0.98 in) Hotchkiss mounting.

She shelled a number of rebel strongholds, among them Ceuta, Melilla and Algeciras.

On August 7th accompanied by the Cruiser Libertad, Jaime I entered the bay of Algeciras and bombarded the city and harbour. She hit Rebel gunboat Eduardo Dato, which was burned down to the waterline (although she was later repaired and returned to service). She also heavily damaged two transport vessels in the harbour which had been requisitioned by the Rebels. The Customs House and warehouses along the port were destroyed, the railway station, military headquarters, artillery barracks and the power plant all took hits! Fires and explosions engulfed the town. The naval bombardment was supported and enhanced by Republican aircraft that carried out bombing raids. Unfortunately did not take advantage of this successful raid and the Rebels continued using the port once the ships left.

Jaime I also tried (with little success) to act as an anti-aircraft barrier to those planes flying rebel troops from Morocco to the mainland.

On 13 August 1936 she was damaged by a rebel air attack by two German JU-52 aircraft from the Condor Legion at Malaga; a single, small bomb struck the ship in the bow and caused minimal damage, though did result in one crewman killed, two more missing presumed dead and five wounded! Rebel controlled Seville Radio claimed this air attack to have been a total success and actually sunk her!

In September 1936 in an attempt to disrupt the blockade imposed by her sister ship Espana on the northern ports Gijon, Santander and Bilbao, Jaime I sortied forth along with a pair of cruisers and four destroyers. Neither side seemed too inclined to engage each other so eventually the Republicans withdrew in October that year, having achieved nothing!

Then on 21 May 1937, she was attacked again while in dry-dock at Cartagena for repairs after a recent grounding. Five Savoia-Marchetti SM79 bombers of the Italian Aviazione Legionaria carried out the attack, reports of the damage inflicted are mixed; according to Albert Nofi the ship sustained minor damage but Marco Mattioli wrote the damage was more serious.

But on 17 June, still while at Cartagena, she was wrecked by an accidental internal explosion and fire which killed over 300 men and injured many others! (Sabotage is/was strongly suspected, but has never been proved). She was re-floated, but determined to be beyond repair.

Photos of the ship followingthe explosion and fire
She was officially discarded on 3 July 1939 and eventually broken up in 1941.

In 1940 all the ships guns were recovered, the front and rear twin turrets were used in the Gibralter Strait coastal defence batteries D9 and D10 - El Vigia and Casquebel respectively near the town of Tarifa in th eprovince of Cadiz. Abandoned in 1985, the twin turrets and guns are still in place, but have not been well cared for and look worse for wear. All the ships other main guns and secondary armaments were placed in single mounts in several locations along the coast.   

Wargaming with Jaime I

Now i am not  a naval wargamer, but it appears to me there are a couple of potential what if scenarios which present themselves.

1. The Republican attack on Algeciras - what if some Rebel cruisers try to intervene? Or the republic tried to land troops to seize Algeciras?

2. The September 1936 sortee - saw a face off between Jaime I and the Espana plus various cruisers, destroyers and other smaller surface vessels. As it happened no sea battle took place, but it may make and interesting tabletop action. I would penalize the Republicans for the lack of trained officers.