Wednesday, 17 March 2021

An Old School Tale

Veteran wargamer John Briggs has kindly sent me the following wonderfully evocative story accompanied by some really nice images from his recently completed Russo-Japanese War collection. 


'I blame my mother. It's 1962 and we have to go to the local library to change her books. There it was, on the shelf, War Games by Donald Featherstone. I took it out so many times and, for lack of funds, copied most of the rules by hand into and exercise book. Later that year my grandmother bought me my own copy for Christmas. This coincided with the arrival of boxes of figures from Airfix at 2/- each, allowing, along with some home-made buildings and Merit trees, the beginning of a lifelong hobby.

Then I noticed that DF lived in Southampton, about an hour's bus ride away. A quick search through the phone book and I have very kindly been invited to visit and see his wonderful collection of wargaming figures. I came away with my pockets full of home cast figures and visions of colonial troops and far away campaigns.

And so, it went on, with the occasional purchase of Hinton Hunt or Stadden figures when pocket money allowed. Education and other activities pushed the soldiers out of my life and it wasn't until many years later that I came across the Harrow Model Shop.

I had visited with my brother, looking for some aeromodelling supplies but, there in the corner of the shop was a glass cabinet with the loveliest models of figures and equipment from the Boer War. I was hooked.

Little did I realise that the man who served me was Jack Alexander, the creator of this wonderful range of figurers. I am grateful that I have had a chance to meet him again in more recent years.

I think most wargamers are partial to a second-hand bookshop. In one, on the Isle of Wight, I found a copy of Cassell's 3 volume history of the Russo-Japanese War. Then I remembered that I had seen some figures for this fascinating conflict. Sadly, however, the range was never completed, so I put those thoughts aside, ending up with a collection of figures for the Boer War.

The range passed from Jack to the preserving hands of Peter Johnstone and has now re-emerged in glory from Mark Lodge at jacklexminiatures.com. I had to have a look. Could he? Would he?

Yes, he did! The missing items from the Russo-Japanese and other ranges were either in production already or on their way. So my fate was sealed. Nearly 50 years on from my first purchase of Jacklex figures, I could at last buy all I needed to complete a pair of armies for the conflict.'


Russian and Japanese troops face off across John's lovely terrain.

Massed Japanese formations ready to storm the Russian positions.

A supporting massed battery of Japanese guns with waiting limbers.


Opposing Russian guns engaging in counter-battery fire.

Russian troops with machine gun in support. 
Massed Russian cavalry (line and cossacks) in reserve.
Japanese forces storm Russian positions.



'The order was made, infantry in units of 20, cavalry in 12s with the possibility of using the 'Sword and Flame' as my set of rules, at least at first. Very soon, the little boxes arrived with the figures beautifully packed in sawdust. Not one damaged figure! An excellent Lucky Dip.

Following consultation of Osprey, internet and a variety of books I did my usual practice of writing a painting chart for each type of figure. This saves a lot of trouble when returning to the painting table after a break.

Well they're all done now. I think they look wonderful and when lockdown is eased, I look forward to many games with them. I only had to wait 40 odd years. I think it was worth it.'

John Briggs


   


Monday, 26 October 2020

A LITTLE BEAUTY

Australian modeller and wargamer, Phill Sporton has kindly sent this contribution for the blog. Thank you Phill.

"This model is a little beauty! All the elements are nicely cast with lots of detail to bring out. The Oxen are particularly well done, and I chose a range of dark colours with just one or two in lighter hue. The eyes are large enough to be easily picked out and the long horns make a very interesting animal. I found it difficult to fit both seated figures on the limber (although it could be done) so I chose to place one on the gun cross member. The 4.7" Naval gun is a very attractive model and the addition of the bucket adds to the ambiance. I use a colour called 'Wolf Grey' (Vallejo 72.047) for the British gun blue. I feel this is a reasonable representation based on comparisons with guns resident in reputable museums. All the figures are nicely done, and I particularly like the Ox handler figure (and I do plan on getting a few more of these). That said, the crew figure with the separate rifle is also a very handsome figure. The yokes and associated hardware are a work of art, with a bit of careful painting with basic wood shade, along with a woodgrain wash and a tan dry brush bring these up a treat. I also detailed the ropes and pins to bring the detail to life.



There will be many ways to mount these figures, I noted on the Jacklex site that the oxen are based in pairs with the connecting rod linking the pairs. Whilst I experimented with this configuration, I felt it was a little too fragile, so I chose to mount the whole model on a single base 29cm long x 45mm wide. I mounted the model on 1459 gsm card. Whilst this is adequate, it is a very heavy model and in hindsight I would have probably been better to mount it on a similar thickness plastic card.



On my bases I like to blend in the model bases with gap filing plaster (Polly filler in Oz). I colour this with some Humbrol acrylic 83 to give a sand colour using a piece of sponge to provide texture. Once dry, I then top this with Tamiya Diorama Texture (Grit Effect) Light Sand and then add various rocks and logs (from the garden) as well as a few model railway tufts. Finally I use my Finescale Model Railways Static Grass applicator (50% white glue, 50% water) to apply static grass to taste (have you ever been zapped by one of these things? Dang they hurt!).


When building artillery models, I like to do two. One drawn by a limber and one in firing position, allowing these to be swapped out on the wargames table depending on the circumstances at hand. So, having completed the 4.7" Naval Gun and Ox train, it was time to do a version in firing position.



For the gun I used the Vallejo 'Grey Wolf' and outlined the various barrel and carriage detail in black wash (a common practice these days) combine with the judicious use of a dark blue wash in various crevasses, with washes I have found 'less is more' however I seldom follow my own advice here and usually end up doing it. I do always struggle with white over dark colours but edging the white straps and the like in a black wash helps hide errors and highlight the shadows. I used my usual base techniques but this time added a couple of boxes and a wheat bag just to add some interest. I raid various 1/72 kits for these sort of items, WWII sandbags make a great substitute for grain sacks which I use a lot. 

A very enjoyable build and a great model, highly recommended. Phill"  

Phill's article prompted me to add the following..... 

CAPTAIN PERCY SCOTT RN AND IMPROVISED TECHNOLOGY IN THE SECOND BOER WAR

  • Improvised Carriage. Captain Percy Scott RN, commanding HMS Terrible, was one of the most inventive gunnery specialists then serving in the Royal Navy. He had already designed and tested a field mounting for 12pdr guns, dismounted from ships. This mounting consisted of a baulk of timber as a trail secured to the wheels and axle of a Cape cart onto which the gun was seated. It was fitted with a telescopic sight. Elevation was by a simple screw mechanism and laying by shifting the trail. Spotting was by an officer with a large magnification telescope taken from the flag deck and mounted on a tripod adjacent to the gun position.'
  • Armoured Train. Scott constructed an armoured train with Maxim guns and a 7pdr manned with sailors and capable of carrying a company of infantry. The train was used to conduct reconnaissance tasks.
  • Searchlights. The Royal Navy provided two mobile searchlights, fitted with signal shutters, mounted on railway carriages which were used for long range communication.
  • Long Range Guns. Made aware of the Army's request for long range guns, Scott asked for all the resources of the dockyard to be made available to him and within 24 hours had produced two 'transportable' mountings (later wheels) for 4.7inch guns consisting of four baulks of timber, fourteen-feet long and one foot square to be dug into the ground in the form of a cross to which the base plate was bolted. Onto this mounting the gun was secured. Each gun required six wagons to transport it. Within 36 hours two of these 4.7inch guns were on the way to Durban in HMS Powerful. Scott also mounted a 6inch on wheels for use by General Buller.
Source. 'The Victorian Naval Brigades, Lt Cdr Arthur Bleby, Whittles Publishing, 2006. 

I have to say that I rather admire the ingenuity and speed of action of the Victorian Royal Navy. I also think that there are some great ideas for the wargames table. A Jacklex armoured train sound like just the thing!!


 

Sunday, 13 September 2020

The Manchurian Experiment

Following on from Greg Potter's very interesting post in May about his Tex-Mex figures he has been at his creative best again and has kindly sent me the following words and images from his wargame collection for the blog.

'I have long admired the Jacklex Japanese 1904 range, and always had an idea to bring them forward a bit to the 1920's/1930's, and put them somewhere in China or Manchuria. The uniform did not really change at all n the intervening years, and in China the cap was still the most common headgear well in to the early 1930's, when finally helmets started to be worn. Now Mark has rounded out the range and there are gun crews as well as machine guns I felt this was the time!

The Osprey title on The Chinese 'Warlord' armies showed that many wore a very similar uniform to the Japanese but in grey's and blues, so I could use the same figures for both sides. I also made some basic tank and armoured car models, very much in the style of the late, great John Sandars of Airfix Magazine fame who in the 1970's showed us how to make trucks and tanks from balsa wood and bits from your wife's sewing box. I hope you will enjoy the pictures.'

Japanese Infantry advancing with Greg's amazing scratch built tank.
Jacklex Japanese Infantry painted up in Chinese Army uniforms supported by a scratch built armoured car. 
Another view of Japanese Infantry advancing. The archway and house are also scratch built by Greg.

Japanese MG and crew supporting the attack.

Another view of the Chinese and scratch built armoured car.
Finally, two views of a Jacklex 75mm Field Gun from the US Punitive Expedition in Mexico range with Japanese gunners provide fire support for their infantry.

Thank you very much to Greg for this great contribution. 

Saturday, 5 September 2020

An Introduction, A Farewell and a New Range of Jacklex

AN INTRODUCTION, A FAREWELL AND A NEW RANGE OF JACKLEX

I hope you will forgive me for introducing myself along with a bit of a plug for Jacklex Miniatures. My name is Mark Lodge and I am the owner of Jacklex which I took on from Peter Johnstone of Spencer Smith Miniatures in October last year. I have been wargaming, painting, modelling, battlefield touring and military history 'buffing' since the Middle Ages. Very fortunately I have a group of long-time friends, including the talented Andy Callan and Ash Toms who have helped to make the experience hugely fun. 

Taking on a business has been a bit of an eye opener for a retired infanteer, but I am delighted to say that I have come newly into contact with a large group of fantastically supportive and loyal customers which has made the experience of my first year with Jacklex a real pleasure.

What has also been a pleasure and privilege is to have met Jack Alexander at his home, surrounded by all his ships, buildings, figures and moulds. Jack, Bob Black and the late Alan Cook, of 'ABC Wargamers' have been tremendously kind to me in getting many of the old figures back into production. In particular I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about Alan Cook.

I did not know Alan for very long but he made a huge impact on me in a short time and acted as a mentor to me in setting up the business. I found him to be a generous, positive, selfless gentleman with a very strong sense of humour and a great passion for all things Jacklex. I will miss him greatly and I wish Rosemary, his family and friends well at this very difficult time. I would like to share the photo below of my first ever meeting with Alan at Jack Alexander's house where Alan, Bob and Jack inducted me into the amazing world of Jacklex.    

The 'ABC Wargamers', Alan Cook, Jack Alexander and Bob Black

I now get to the point of this post. Alan had run the 'All Things Jacklex' blog since 2015. Back in May this year he asked me to take it on and I promised him that I would. So, this is my first ever post and I hope to add to it over the coming weeks. I trust my efforts will live up to Alan's meticulous eye and very high standards, I am sure he would approve.   


FRENCH INTERVENTION IN MEXICO 1861-1867: A NEW JACKLEX RANGE

Jacklex Miniatures is about to launch a new set of 20mm metal figures based on the French Intervention in Mexico, or as more often called the 'Mexican Adventure' The new range will be available from www.jacklexminiatures.com from 16 September.

The range is the first new range to go on sale since Jack Alexander's US Punitive Expedition to Mexico figures were made some years ago. The new figures were skilfully sculpted by Aidan Campbell and painted rather badly by me as you will see from the images. 

There are approximately 35 new foot and mounted figures as well as a gun crew, field gun, limber and team. I will let the figures speak for themselves. I hope you like the look of them. Whilst they are not exact reproductions of the existing Jacklex figures I have tried to keep the essence of Jack's lovely old school style.   

   The French and Allied Army range


FA 11 Cavalry trooper mounted
FA3 Infantry advancing with separate backpack
FA7 Zouave advancing
The Mexican Republican and Imperial Armies range
FM1 Regular officer firing
FM9 Militia advancing
FM6 Light Infantry running with separate rifle
FM13 Cavalry trooper mounted
FM2 Regular Infantry standing firing
Artillery and equipment, gun team and crew




The latter two illustrations are from the brush of Michel Provost, Belgian historian, author, painter and illustrator. His French-language novel ‘Tacámbaro’ chronicles the adventures of grenadier drummer Remi Tambour as part of the Belgian Legion in Mexico. Mr Provost has kindly given permission for the use of some of his illustrations here. 

His very characterful illustrations provided some of the inspiration for the new range of Jacklex figures. Visit Michel’s interesting and informative blog at http://provostmichel.blogspot.com.

Finally, before I started planning for the French Intervention range I knew very little of the military campaigning in Mexico in the 1860s. I now know a little more than I did and what has interested me most is that the war was going on concurrently with the American Civil War. Indeed, at the end of the this war the US was instrumental in the outcome. One of the small engagements that caught my eye was the Battle of Tacámbaro, partly because Michel Provost writes in so much detail about the Belgian Legion in his blog. On 3 April 1865, 250-300 men of the Legion occupied Tacámbaro. On 11 April, General Regules attacked the Belgians with between 3,000 and 3,500 Republican soldiers. Surrounded from all sides, the Belgians held out in a desperate fight for five hours, hoping for reinforcements which arrived four days too late. They were finally forced to surrender. This is one of a number of small scale battles that could be used as the basis for a wargame or campaign. To assist the wargamer, I have placed free to download painting guides and organisation sheet on the www.Jacklexminiatures.com  site. I hope to add a new set of rules by Andy Callan soon.     

Belgian Legion soldier and cantiniere 

Men of the Belgian Legion by Michel Provost


Please do contact me at info@jacklexminiatures.com if you have any comments or questions, I would be delighted to hear from you. 

Mark