Day in the Sun

I’ve had a pre-emptive day off today. Pre-emptive because I (like a lot of other people) am working right through now until after Easter Monday. And Easter will be BUSY.

So, the order of the day was ‘relax’. And I think it’s been a success.

IMG_2661We started with a lazy morning, took the dogs for a walk (which means we have sleepy dogs tonight), popped into Ashford to visit the Games Workshop and have lunch, I went out for a bike ride and played on the PS4 for a bit and I’m now watching The Amazing Spiderman.  Good day.

I’ve pledged to paint 500 points of Imperial Guard, sorry, Astra Militarum, every month for the next three months as part of Games Workshop Ashford’s “A Tale of X Painters” challenge.  I picked up the new Codex today and I’ve got a lot to paint…  They’re possibly not the best army for this sort of thing because their points value is so low that you have to paint an awful lot to get 500 points worth.  Anyway, it doesn’t have to be a game legal 500 points, as long as the 1500 point army at the end of it is game legal.  So here’s what I have (mostly) assembled and part painted so far…

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There’s a lot there… Commissar Yarrick, 2 Infantry Squads, 4 Heavy Weapon Teams, a Special Weapons Team, 10 Ratlings, 3 Ogryns, Company Command Squad, Platoon Command Squad, Rough Riders, 2 Armoured Sentinels and a Chimera…  I’ll only pledge the most unpainted of the miniatures to the challenge. That way I’m keeping in the spirit of things and I get the army done!

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Some have just some tidying to do, others haven’t even been assembled (there’s an old metal Ogryn at the back of the top picture in bits), and the rare few, like that infantry squad above, are finished.  So before the end of May I pledge to get the Ogryns and Ratlings done (that’s 200 points) the Company Command Squad is another 150, so that just leaves 150 points to figure out when I can.  Like I said right at the start, there’s a very busy Easter in the way first.

While I was in the Ashford store, I caught up with the boys… The Dark Vengeance boxset I painted for the in-store demo games.  I haven’t really posted a picture of the cultists, they were a VERY rushed job, but came out looking ok.  They’re in the background of these photos unfortunately.

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And then there’s the bike ride – Obviously I took a few photos while I was out, so here’s the good ones.

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HMS Cavalier

On 5th April there was a birthday party held at The Historic Dockyard Chatham.  HMS Cavalier, the last remaining Second World War Destroyer of the Royal Navy (and National Destroyer Memorial) turned 70 years old.  The CA Class Destroyer, one of 96 Emergency War Destroyers, was built at J S White’s yard on the Isle of Wight and was commissioned in 1944.  She served with the Royal Navy (not withstanding time for refits and recommissions) until 1972 – even then she was the last of her kind.  142 Destroyers and 11,000 men who crewed them were lost during the war – so she’s a very special ship.

The party had several invited guests… The Band of the Royal Marines (Collingwood), some of the serving crew of HMS Lancaster, around 30 standard bearers and 350 or so members of the Cavalier Association – many of whom served onboard HMS Cavalier during her 1944 – 1972 lifespan in the Royal Navy.  There was a church service, parade and salute at the ship herself including the firing of all three of her 4.5 inch guns (there was some rum spilt at this point!).

In conjunction with the anniversary there is a new book regarding the history of the ship and more importantly her crews and a Google Maps Business Photo tour of the vessel is now live for all to see.

The book, “The Fastest Ship In The Fleet. The Story of HMS Cavalier & Her Men” by Barry Knell is, to my knowledge, the first book that Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust have ever directly published themselves. Luckily I managed to get my copy signed by Barry on the day.  So anyway. it’s a pretty big deal as far as we’re concerned.

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And the virtual tour is a pretty big deal as well – You can read a bit more about the work that was involved in this post from January 2014.  It’s taken a long time… The shoot was a few days, the process of stitching the photos, uploading, linking and then the final quality control has taken three and a half months.  BUT, you can see parts of the ship that you wouldn’t normally be able to see any other way – from the top of the bridge, right down into the bowels of the engine and gear rooms.  You can have a wander around the recently converted and opened accommodation for youth groups in the aft end of the ship.  And, of course, you can take a full virtual tour of the parts of the Destroyer that are routinely open to the public.

You can see the tour here and find out more about the work of C Inside Media (the guys behind the tour) here.

Now, as I was working on the 5th April, I didn’t get to take many photos, but fortunately other people (Kevin) did so here’s some shots of the day.

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Day Off!

I’ve only got one day off this week, so I’ve had to make the most of it.  That, and the fact that the heating engineer was coming to check on the boiler at 9am meant I couldn’t just waste the day in bed.

I got up, had breakfast, watched a bit of TV (Top Gear, Musketeers and the news), did a bit of painting on my Eldar Nightspinner – which has doggedly remained black despite other things getting painted around it for probably the best part of two years.  And then I got ready to have a game of Warhammer 40,000.

It’s been a while.  A looooooooooong while.

SO I prepared 1000 points of my Ulthwe Eldar army.  Ulthwe are, according to the army fluff, a force made up of many more warlocks and guardians than other Craftworlds, so I tried to make an army list that reflected that.  An Avatar and an Autarch would lead a large squad of 20 Guardians (with a Warlock and Missile Launcher), a smaller squad of 10 Storm Guardians (something I’ve only just converted and never played), 6 Dire Avengers and a Wraithlord.  They’d be up against 1000 points of Space Marines.  Very well painted Space Marines actually. Slightly jealous… Anyway, I digress.

The game was interupted by many cups of coffee and two episodes of Bluestone 42 but went broadly like this…

The big unit of Guardians faced up to a Predator and a combat squad of Space Marines with a Missile Launcher on the right flank.  Everyone fired. Everyone missed.

On the centre, all was relatively quiet.  The unit of Storm Guardians pushed their way forwards (around a cunningly parked Rhino APC) and eventually engaged in combat with Space Marine Scouts.  A battle they won – although their position 1 or 2 turns later on might have looked much worse.

And on the left flank, the Avatar made it into combat with a combat squad and Space Marine Captain, only to be attacked from behind by a Venerable Dreadnought, which was in turn attacked by a Wraithlord and a Warlock…  Only the Avatar and the Warlock walked out of the combat alive and the explosion triggered by the Wraithlord’s Ghostglaive piercing the Dreadnought’s powerplant took out a nearby Dire Avenger and their Exarch.

Officially, if we worked out the victory points, I think I would have won the game. But I think if it had gone on another two turns it would have switched around very quickly.  The Eldar just don’t have the longevity of the Space Marines, even if their Captain and Dreadnought were gone, there were still 15 Tactical Marines, 5 Devastators and a Predator tank to worry about.

Here’s some pictures…

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And tonight I’ve argued with the kids and driven a car for the first time in fourteen years – so it’s been a pretty busy day all told.

Back to work tomorrow though.  Night folks.

 

The Peculiar History of the Belchers

This might be part one of more to follow, it might be the only “peculiar history” there is on this one…  I’m not quite sure how peculiar we are yet!  Either way, my surname is Belcher.  When people find that out it normally elicits one of the following responses.

1 – How do you spell that?

This happens because some people simply can’t believe that anyone would be called Belcher and try and respell it as (and I’ve had letters with all of these on them at some point!) Beltcher, Bredgar, Belsher, Beltscher…

2 – Oh, do you know John Belcher?

Some people have heard the surname before. Which obviously means you’re related to whoever it is that they know.  I have (to the best of my knowledge) never known the other Belcher in question.

3 – Sniggering.

Not particularly common now, not since I left junior school really.  But if you can make it through the British school system with a name like mine, you’re set for life.

We’re not as uncommon as people think though.  And we have an interesting history.

The name is thought to have come over with the Normans and their famous beach holiday in Hastings in 1066.  Apparently, the first recorded use of the name as it is spelt today was when Ralph de Belcher acted as witness to a deed in 1176 in Staffordshire.  The name was originally composed of the words Bel and Cher meaning simply “good cheer”, relating to a persons disposition and visible countenance.  The modern French translation however would be “beautiful dear” or “beautiful beloved”. Variations of the spelling reflect the older meaning (‘cher’ as in ‘chere’ and not ‘cheri’ and ‘bel’ or ‘bele’ rather than ‘belle’), so we’ll stick with good cheer and not beautiful beloved… Sorry Belcher women.

So that’s the root of the name, and it would appear that by the 1500s there were Belchers all over the place in the UK.  It wasn’t long before we spread out.

The most notable of the travelling Belchers seems to be Governer Jonathan Belcher of the United States. Governor of New Hampshire then Massachusetts and finally New Jersey from 1729 to 1757.  He’s even got a town named after him – Belchertown in Massachusetts.  It is also possible that Governor Belcher’s coat of arms may have influenced the design of the Great Seal of the United States of America.  He was acquainted with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. US historian H. Whitmore has stated that the principals of the Belcher coat of arms and the Great Seal are identical (that is the general layout rather than the specific details).  The shield at the centre of the traditional coat of arms is certainly similar and I guess it’s this sort of thing that keeps the conspiracy theorists going, but anyway, you can see for yourself…

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So I don’t think it’s a huge stretch… The Governor of east coast colonies (at the time) was known to the people who shaped Independence and they would have at least been aware of his coat of arms as it was used officially by Jonathan Belcher while in office.

But we’ll leave Governor Belcher there and instead look at another Belcher connection (although incredibly flimsy this time I admit) to the US Government.

It’s all about to go a bit “National Treasure” – and if you’ve seen the second film, “Book of Secrets”, you’ll have a bit of a head start over those that haven’t.  It all revolves around a desk.  The desk in question currently resides in the Oval Office of the Whitehouse and has a twin which sits in the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth.  The Whitehouse presidential desk was gifted to President Rutherford B Hayes in 1880 as a gesture of thanks for the recovery and returning of HMS Resolute, hence it is known as the Resolute Desk.  You’ll have seen it before. It’s this desk…

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It didn’t always look like that though. The centre panel (featuring the Presidential Seal, itself a stylised version of that Great Seal) was added at the request of President Franklin D Roosevelt in order to conceal his leg braces. It’s interesting to note that the Presidential Seal normally features an eagle looking towards the olive branches clasped in its right talon (left as you look at it) and not towards the arrows clasped in its left talon.  Peace was obviously not on the agenda.

On the desk through remains a plaque which reads:

H.M.S. RESOLUTE forming part of the expedition sent in search of SIR JOHN FRANKLIN IN 1852, was abandoned in latitude 74 degrees 41 minutes N longitude 101 degrees 22 minutes W on 15th May 1854. She was discovered and extricated in September 1855 in latitude 67 degrees N by Captain Buddington of the United States Whaler “GEORGE HENRY.”

The ship was purchased, fitted out and sent to England as a gift to HER MAJESTY QUEEN VICTORIA by the PRESIDENT AND PEOPLE of the UNITED STATES as a token of goodwill & friendship. This table was made from her timbers when she was broken up, and is presented by the QUEEN OF GREAT BRITAIN & IRELAND to the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES as a memorial of the courtesy and loving kindness which dictated the offer of the gift of the “RESOLUTE.”

You might be wondering what the Belcher connection is here.  Well, like I said, it’s a lot flimsier than the first.  The Commanding Officer of HMS Resolute when she became locked in the ice and was subsequently abandoned whilst on the search for Sir John Franklin was Sir Edward Belcher.  And the connection with me?  The Resolute Desk, and the others that came from her timbers, were made where I have worked for the last seven years in Chatham.  HMS Resolute, once paid off was broken up for scrap at Chatham Royal Dockyard and the desks were made in the Joiner’s Shop that still exists on the site today.  Sitting on top of that desk today is a pen holder. This pen holder in fact.

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The plaque reads:

A gift for, the Honorable Barack H Obama, President of the United States, made from the timbers of HMS GANNET in The Historic Dockyard Chatham where William Evenden made the Resolute Desk in 1879.

Presented by the Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 3rd March 2009.

My pen is a biro and currently resides in a cup on my desk…

The Peculiar (Hi)story of the Jackdaw

For anyone who has played Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, the name of the ship in the title, the Jackdaw, will already be fairly well known. It’s the vessel belonging to the main protagonist, Edward Kenway. The game itself is set in the West Indies in the first half of the eighteenth century during the Golden Age of Piracy and features a cast of well known piratical names… Edward (Blackbeard) Thatch, (Calico) Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny & Mary Read to mention a few.

A cast of well known pirates and that ship.

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The fictional Jackdaw of the game is a 60m long, two masted Brig captured from a Spanish treasure fleet (above). But wandering around at work the other day I spotted that there was a real Jackdaw as well.

The Jackdaw of The Royal Dockyard Chatham by comparison was a Survey Cutter launched in 1830. 18.5 metres in length, lightly armed and commanded by Lt. Edward (same Christian name as our game’s protagonanist) Barnett this Jackdaw was based at Port Royal in the West Indies… The same stomping ground as Edward Kenway 100 years earlier (and setting for much of the action in the Pirates of the Caribbean films). The ship and her crew also ran into some trouble with the Royal Navy…

Lt Barnett, his officers and ratings were all court martialled onboard HMS Victory (also built at Chatham and moored in Portsmouth since 1812) though not for piracy.

They were instead court martialled for the loss of their ship, the Jackdaw, which ran aground on a reef at the north end of Old Providence island in 1835. The crew were saved by a nearby sloop, dropped off on the island and a day later were picked up and conveyed to Port Royal by the 1814 ‘Brig’ Sloop, HMS Gannet (who shares her name with the later 1878 ‘Ship’ Sloop built in Sheerness and preserved in, you’ve guessed it, the former Royal Dockyard in Chatham). The only difference between a Brig Sloop and a Ship Sloop being the sail and rigging arrangement.

The crew had saved what they could, and tried to save the vessel by all accounts – they unshipped provisions and instruments, cut loose the weather anchor, threw the guns overboard, lowered the ship’s boats and even cut the masts down in an effort to float her free of the reef, but she was broken up and sank shortly thereafter. The naval charts available to Lt Barnett did not show the full extent of the reef, so you could say he was blameless. Not in the opinion of the Royal Navy who admonished him for “carrying too much sail at night, and in hazy weather, and being close to his destination”. The rest of the crew and officers were acquitted.

It obviously wasn’t a huge set back to Lt Barnett’s career as he was appointed commander of the Jackdaw’s sister ship, the survey cutter Lark (also built at Chatham) the same year that Jackdaw was lost. She did not suffer the same ignominious fate and after a thirty year career that saw the end of the age of sail powered, wooden hulled ships, she was paid off and broken up for scrap in 1860. Our ship, along with Lark, is all the way over at the right hand side of the list below, a list which in total contains 140 vessels. Unfortunately I couldn’t find an image for the Survey Cutters of her class.

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So there you go. Two Jackdaws, both operating in the West Indies, both commanded by an Edward and several connections to The Historic Dockyard Chatham.

Of course it’s just coincidence, but it’s nice when coincidences like this come to the surface. Well, it is until a conspiracy theorist gets hold of them…

Dark Vengeance Done

Dark Vengeance, Done. Well, sort of.  I managed to finish the 6 Chaos Chosen Space Marines and the Chaos Lord in 2 nights.  I really wasn’t happy with them while they were sitting on the table in the mancave, but nevertheless they were picked up on Thursday night by the store manager and on Saturday they were in their natural habitat on the tables in the newly opened Games Workshop Ashford.  And do you know what?  They looked at home.  Although I would have loved to have spent more time on them, they did look ok on the demonstration table. And the Dark Angels looked really good.

In fact, there may have been some touch ups, because (I think) they looked a lot better than when I handed them over, but that might have just been the new environment and store lighting – not sure.  And it doesn’t matter much either way – there was always going to be work added to them, repairs and repaints. They are demonstration models after all.

Anyway, I took some photos while I was in there…  And here they are.

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I was quite chuffed to see them, and one customer came over and said the Hellbrute looked “eeeeeeeevil” – Which I think was a complement.  I never did finish the 20 Cultists though.  Bit gutted about that.  They were notable by their absence.

It’s a really nice store, plenty of room, light, nicely stocked and knowing the manager he’ll be helpful, friendly and interested if you pop in to see him.  It’s in the Park Mall in Ashford town centre, just down the road from this little 26 ton beastie.

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It’s a British Mark IV Tank that was donated to the town of Ashford as a thank you for their support during The Great War (so although it’s nice to see it, it’s also a shame to see the graffiti and damage it’s suffered in the subsequent 100 years – almost).  Still, it’s bloody impressive.

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I couldn’t help but notice a thing or two.  Whichever GW designer worked on the Leman Russ, Chimera and so on obviously did their research.  Little bits like this…

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I’ve never figured out what that bit on the front of a Chimera is before… I thought it was just some sort of piston.  Looking at that Mark IV, I think it’s actually a jockey wheel (under the side armour) on a threaded bolt that would add or remove tension to the tracks if they were running too tight or too loose (you can see that the tracks are actually pushed out at that point as well).  It also shows that the tank markings used by the Imperial Guard have their basis in World War 1 tank markings.  I think I need to paint something up to match this monster now.  Well, not now, when I’ve got my painting mojo back.

Here is the full set of Dark Vengeance posts if your interested – All FOURTEEN of them!!!  It was a longer road than I thought it would be, and I didn’t quite make it to the end.  I did learn a lot in a really short space of time though.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 And… 14.

Dark Vengeance Day, umm, Oh Whatever the Hell…

I could work it out, but I really can’t be bothered… Probably day 15 or something (with a couple of days off thrown in there as well).

I got into the mancave at about 08:45 this morning and apart from a quick break to go and get the new White Dwarf (weekly and monthly) and a spot of lunch I’ve been at it all day (it’s now 18:45!).  I started off by finishing off the Librarian and Captain for the Dark Angels.  Then, once they were complete… I had this lot left to do.

IMG_2144I was ably assisted by the GW Store Manager I’m painting them for and between the two of us we managed to base and prime the whole Chaos contingent and then on top of that we’ve basecoated, highlighted and block painted the Chaos Space Marines.  The marines will have a Nurgle look to go with the Hellbrute (if you haven’t seen it – it looked like this).

IMG_2063So it’s muted greens and browns, rusty metal, gold armour trim and pallid flesh… All very ‘pretty’ stuff.  Here’s how they looked just before I gave up for the day. They are messy at the moment. I just want to block the colours in, then go back and tidy up afterwards.

IMG_2154Realistically I don’t think I’ll get them done (not all of them – I reckon I’ll get the Chaos Marines done) in time for Saturday, but I’ll do what I can.  And I’m immensley proud of getting the Dark Angels finished.  Deadlines aren’t usually my speciality.  They look pretty good together (although I reckon the Captain and the Ravenwing could have done with a bit more time on them – probably half a day between them for a tidy up).  It’ll be a bit of a buzz seeing kids learn to play Warhammer 40,000 using them – as long as they don’t slam the painting too much!  Anyway, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you…

The Dark Angels.

IMG_2149And just to finish off. The Games Workshop gets a lot of abuse, even from the fans, but this is one hell of a boxset.  The Dark Vengeance miniatures have been a joy to paint. They’re well produced, easy to assemble, full of incredibly clear detail and each of them is a character in their own right.  The Deathwing and the Chaos Chosen in particular are amazing miniatures.

Time for chilling out now. Back to the real world tomorrow.