Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Victorian history of Blackadder characters... and others

The series 'Blackadder Goes Forth' contains various references to the military of the Victorian era that I thought would be fun to put into my games.

The first thing to be sorted is the early career of General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett, who seems, at the time of the First World War, to be in his 50s or maybe early 60s (indeed, consulting the discussions of his medals on his wiki page, it is suggested Melchett may first have served in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879). This would put his likely date of birth around 1857-60, plenty old enough to be an officer in 1890-95, the period between the Atlantis campaign (1890-1) and 'Rivets and Whimsey' (1895). So, 'Captain Melchett' perhaps? There's somewhere to start... I had imagined that perhaps he could serve in an infantry regiment (perhaps the Trumptonshires, or maybe the Great Western Rifles), but on reflection a Guards Regiment seems a better idea - maybe one of the fictional Guards Regiments from the lists...

Edmund himself, we're told, first saw action with the 19th/45th East African Rifles, at the Battle of M'boto Gorge, in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso, actually in West Africa; perhaps the 19th/45th EAR were stationed in Nigeria) in 1892. Thus, he's too young to have served in Atlantis. In the book of scripts 'Blackadder, the Whole Damn Dynasty' however, there are hints that other Blackadders besides our WWI hero have joined the British Army; so I've hypothesised an uncle for Edmund, 'Uncle Eddy', who would be born about 1864, enlisted 1884, and at the time of the Atlantis campaign would be a Lieutenant. It is perhaps to this inspiring uncle that we can attribute the later Edmund's desire to join up and see the world.

There must of course be a Private Baldrick, born around 1865, who I decided for no really good reason should be called Thomas, known as Herbert.

I also thought it would be nice if other British sitcom characters could appear; (Lance-)Corporal Jones from 'Dad's Army', approximately 70 in 1940, would have been born around 1870 (his wiki page claims it was 1870 and he joined up as a drummer-boy in 1884), and would have been old enough to go to Atlantis - as a private, of course, he didn't make Corporal until the South African Wars, I don't think. The photo shows him in a not-very accurate parade uniform, perhaps even that of a fictional regiment... As both General Melchett and Corporal Jones display medals from their previous service, it might be fun to work out if they served in the same theatres at all...

On the piece of paper that these notes are derived from, there is also the note "unexpected Japanese attack on Poole Harbour". This probably relates to the idea of having Melchett command a company of the 'Great Western Rifles'.

Underneath that it says:
*Defence of Walmington-on-Sea?
I suspect that might be from the threat of Prussian invasion.

Hmm. Curiouser and curiouser.

(all photos in this post copywright BBC, used without permission under fair use conventions)

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Adventures of UNIT...

Members of UNIT are called to investigate a strange object that has appeared overnight in a Sussex field...

Sergeant Benton, clutching his Galvanic Projector, approaches the alien device, while Old Jeb looks on warily...

Are you sure that's a good idea, Commadore Lethbridge-Stewart?

The Commadore suddenly remembers an important engagement he must attend in Godalming...

Re-establishing order, a stand-off ensues...

Saturday, 27 August 2011

WIP shots of my various forces

Apologies for the bad lighting, but in the end I figure that bad photos are probably better than no photos.

This was the state of my painting tray about 3 or 4 months ago, round about mid-May. Since then very little has happened (a few arms glued on, that sort of thing) but hopefully more will occur this weekend (and it'll be months before the pics surface, probably...)

First up are the members of UNIT - the Uniformed Naval Infantry Territorials - who will sport rifleman green uniforms and khaki Glengarry caps, as a nod to the 'classic' look of UNIT in 1970s episodes of Dr Who, as modelled by the second and third chaps in the first column. Part of the point of the photo was to demonstrate the relative lack of poses with the Wargames Factory figures. Two Body types, and two rifle positions, and two head designs, means 8 basic figures. There are a couple of 'loading' arms, and I've used one to make a chap actually loading his rifle (I can never remember if these are Lee-Mitfords or Martini-Henries) and another I've used to give the sergeant an alien or future-technology weapon.

Close up of the UNIT sergeant (Sergeant Benton, I did think of making him Petty Officer Benton but then decided that he could have a Royal Marine rank instead) with his 'Galvanic Projector' AKA lightning gun (AKA laser rifle, though the concept makes no sense in the late 19th century). It's bodged from two bits of sprue, and yeah, maybe it looks it. Never mind, these are toys for playing games with.

Some of my Victorian characters in various states of paintiness - the first two columns are all from Ironclad, third column is Westwind and fourth is Artizan. I tried to show how they all look next to each other but it doesn't work very well.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Martian Wars, 1881-1927

This is my overall scheme of warfare in the late 19th-early 20th century that underlies my VSFery. Of course, I reserve the right to change any and all details as I see fit...

The 'First Martian War', 1881; Martian Invasion of Earth (this is the War of the Worlds incident, lasting a couple of months)

'Second Martian War', 1886-1895; Earth nations, particularly British (as they have best access to Martian technology and eventually start to work out interplanetary travel) invade Mars - this is a colonial scramble leading to diferent competing zones of influence and control, but is fairly short-lived as war is hard to sustain at such a distance and colonies continue to slowly develop

'Third Martian War', 1909-16; this is more of a series of space-battles, between the Aether Fleets of Britain and Russia versus France and Austria (and allies of all of these) for control of the aether between Earth and Mars, and over territorial rights in outlying parts eg the Asteroid Belt

'Fourth Martian War', 1921-27; Re-invasion by Britain of Mars, to combat Franco-Austrian gains, but both Russian and Austrian ('The Astro-Hungarian Empire') zones (especially in the Asteroid Belt) are in revolt.

Now, what's happening on Venus in this time is...

The Ruritanian Succession, Part 1

Well, now, how will this work? According to the 'history' we have, Flavia is the last reigning monarch of Ruritania - at least, the last we know about, up to the end of 'Rupert of Hentzau'*. I'm not counting Haythorne's 'The Strelsau Dimension' (1981), Simon Hawke's 'The Zenda Vendetta (Time Wars 4)' (1985) or Spurling's 'After Zenda' (1995), partly because I've never read any of them, and partly (at least in Hawke's and Spurling's cases), because it's not 'our' Ruritania, being variously in the Balkans and Carpathians. Haythorne gets Ruritania in more or less the right place it seems. Maybe worth picking that one up from somewhere.

WIP shot of random Artizan Texas Ranger (painted as generic cowboy) with Westwind Tsarina, Tsar and Zendarian Vampire Hunter; aka, in this context, Queen Flavia, her potential cousin Albert (of Molvania? Of Graustark? Of Strackenz?) and Kolonel von Sanf-und-Schinkel

There's a non-canonical Holmes & Watson story called 'The Seven Percent Solution' by Nicholas Meyers (1974). This sets the action of 'Zenda' in 1891. An additional possibility is a book that I've only just discovered called 'Sherlock Holmes and the Hentzau Affair' by David Stuart Davies(2007). Curioser and curioser...

And there's always 'Royal Flash' by George MacDonald Fraser of course.

Anyway, at the moment there's little we know about the Ruritanian monarchy after the death of Rudolf V (who is, as we now know, Rudolf Rassendyll). Flavia continues to rule; some time later 'Rupert of Hentzau' is published. Finding the gap in time between 'Prisoner' and 1898 (publication of 'Rupert of Hentzau') is something of a matter of taste.

Fritz von Tarlenheim relates the story to his son, of whom there is no hint in the novel: we are left with the impression that the events of 'Prisoner of Zenda' take place some 14 years or more before the time of writing 'Rupert of Hentzau'. If, as we may suspect, publication of Fritz's memoir was swift, we may believe it was written around 1897; if Fritz's son had not been born at the time (as seems reasonable), the events of 'Hentzau' would be around 1886 at the latest (though of course, they could have been several years earlier). The latest date for 'Zenda' is thus c1883. The only times that they must post-date are the building of the railway line from Dresden to Strelsau (around 1840 - actually, having checked this, the first part of the line from Dresden to Prague was opened in 1848), 1848 (when riots burn down the White Palace in Strelsau) and 1852 (the Second Empire in France; Rassendyll has an 'Imperial' beard of a style fashionable in France after this period).

So at some point after 1852, and before 1883, the events of 'Zenda' take place. After that is where it gets tricky.

*However, both PG Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh refer to an 'ex-King of Ruritania' who works as a doorman at Barribault's Hotel. As Waugh is also a source for the Royal Corps of Halberdiers (of which more to come) and the Loamshire Regiment, as well as other fictional regiments; and Wodehouse is the source for things that definitely exist in the 1920s yet to come, their credentials check out. So we know that there must have been another ruler of Ruritania after 1898. Either a new husband for Flavia (seems unlikely, frankly) or some distant cousin, perhaps? What about some relative descended from Osra's brother (Henry? The one who left anyway), or perhaps from the House of Graustark even?