NormandyTrip: Back to England and Bovington Tank Museum.

The overnight ferry from La Harve to Portsmouth was uneventful, I spent it either reading or watch films on my tablet, also it was the longest I’ve ever spent on a ship. As we arrived early on Friday morning I went on deck as the boat docked to see what was moored up in Portsmouth Harbour. The two historic ships HMS Victory and HMS Warrior were visible along with a fair few contemporary RN vessels including the new HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.


HMS Warrior, undergoing some restortation.



HMS Victory.



HMS Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s biggest ever warship, I have to admit feeling a little underwhelmed by it.



A Type 45 Destroyer HMS Dragon.There were at least 4 Type 45s berthed when I was there.

After docking we drove a hour and a half westwards to visit Bovington Tank Museum, a place that has been on my must visit list for a long time. The number of vehicles on display is mind boggling. Divided up into different sections it takes you through the development of the tank then we went through the Trench Experience covering WW1 and from War Horse to Horse Power and much more including the Tiger exhibit bring together a Tiger and Elefant, two Tiger IIs and a Jagdtiger. I took so many photos I can’t upload them all but I’ll put up a representative sample. If anyone has anything in particular they want to see let me know and I’ll post it.


A view of the first hall we went in, Centurion front and centre.



WW1 Mk IV ‘female’ tank.



British Crusier tank from 1940.


A Panzer III painted up in Africa Korp colours.



A Sherman Firefly with Cromwell in the background.



Moving on to modern stuff we have a T72 with a Patton in the background.



A Saladin Armoured Car



British Challenger.



Another shot of the Firefly and Cromewll with the front ofa Chruchill peeking in.


In the WW1 section we have a MkII tank.



A Mk IV male with fascine.


Austin Armoured Car of the type used in Ireland during the Anglo-Irish war.



Tiger II with Porsche turret and Jagdtiger.


Tiger II with Henschel turret.



Elefant (all the way from the US) and Tiger 131.



Hetzer SPG in front of a Jagdpanther.



Protype of the Tortoise SPG- a British proposal to attack the Siegfried line.



A T34/76 in Finnish colours.



The ridiculous TOG II- a British failure from WW2, very cool all the same though.



British heavy metal.



The Sherman used in the recent Brad Pitt film ‘Fury’ still with its sfx weathering.



Not all of the vehicles that are in the Bovington Collection are on public display- this is a view of part of the storage shed.

Going round Bovington took all day; all that was left was a long drag on a journey North back to Yorkshire to end Dad and I’s holiday.





Normandy Trip- Bletchley Park.

As I posted earlier to break up the drive down from Yorkshire to the New Forest we called in at Bletchley Park.

It is a nicely presented modern museum, telling the story of the site as you move round the complex. To make the most of the visit we used the free audio guide and followed the suggested route.


The modest scale of the code-breaking work at Bletchley was such that at the start of the war the country house and its various outbuildings were all that was required. Very quickly this was insufficient and the sprawl of huts was built up.

As I’m pretty sure that you are all aware of the stories of Bletchley Park I won’t go into too much detail of what happened there. The thing that really surprised me however was the absolutely massive scale of the operation that was there. Round the clock large scale breaking of German and other Axis codes. It required thousands of mostly women working very hard with no recognition for decades afterwards to produce a quality of signal intelligence that shortened the war by several years.


The audio-guide led me to this memorial to the work that the Poles did before the war that enabled so much to be done during the conflict years. In general I feel that the Polish contribution and sacrifices to WW2 has been undervalued for many years and it was nice to see this tribute to that nation.


The majority of the museum is made up of the huts with little displays set up in themĀ  to given an idea of the spartan conditions people worked in there.

The audio-guide leads you through the huts and you can listen to the development of the site and the functions of each hut. It is a good use of the buildings and in someways reminiscent of Eden Camp. However they do get a little same-y with the 1940s style set dressing, but that is a small price to pay for the preservation of the site. The majority of the artifacts are held in a separate building. The centrepiece of this is a magnificent rebuilt bombe that was used to decode the engima intercepts.



This wonderful machine (not a computer) is demonstrated by the staff there- the gent who did our presentation did a great job and was very knowledgeable, especially passing this on to the younger people there.



These two example in different conditions were what it was all about: The Enigma Machine. Used by The Germans in their thousands, the encrypted messages were transmitted in Morse and picked up by listening stations, transcribed and then sent to Bletchley. So fast was the process , that by the end of the war, Allied commanders were getting decrypt translations at about the same time as the intended Nazi recipient had got it.


The bombe didn’t produce a definitive answer: machines such as this were needed, as well as plenty of brain power to test possibilities that the machine threw up.

Sadly our visit was cut short by the closing of the museum. Fortunately the entry tickets are valid for a year so I plan to go back down there to have a decentĀ  look at what I missed sooner, rather than later. I also might visit the National Musuem of Computing that shares a site with Bletchley Park.

Next- on to France….






A Trip to Bullecourt Museum – Huddersfield.

On Sunday I took a trip with my Brother in Law and oldest Nephew to the little local military museum across the other side of town to me.

I’d heard it was a little “quirky” so I went with fairly low expectations but happily it was far better than I was expecting and had indeed been lead to believe.

Housed in an old Drill hall it covers the period from Waterloo to the present in a series of glass cabinets. There is quite a bit of local interest too; from talking with the owner/ proprietor it seems that they get left quite a few things from when relatives clear houses that belonged that older generation, that is sadly passing with increasing rapidity.

A general view of the hall.

A general view of the hall.

We went round the museum clockwise starting with the oldest display case.


Apologies for the low level of photo quality – using a phone camera through glass isn’t the easiest of tasks.






Moving in to WW” which makes up the majority of the collection:

A rather nice Bren LMG on a tripod.

A rather nice Bren LMG on a tripod.





This unusual canoe was another gift, puportedly it is from WW2, a one man design with a sail and floatation chambers that can be attached to the outside. If anyone has any extra information that they can give on this it would be more than welcome.

This unusual canoe was another gift, puportedly it is from WW2, a one man design with a sail and floatation chambers that can be attached to the outside. If anyone has any extra information that they can give on this it would be more than welcome.

The item that I was most keen to see was a map that I knew that they possessed; it is of Huddersfield, printed and annotated by the Germans to be used in the administration of the town in a post successful Operation Sealion environment. Chilling stuff really….



A quirky little place that appeals to my sense of aesthetics, not as flash as the Royal Armouries or IWM North but better for it. Well worth a hour or two of your time if you are in the area.

Extra info here:



Invasion from Mars Megagame, Leeds 13th April.

Last weekend, Brian, Chris, Evan and I headed off early to Leeds’ Royal Armouries Museum for another of Jim Wallman’s excellent megagames.

This time the scenario came from ‘The Universe’ a setting that Jim and others have developed out of a continuous 18 years of game play. The colony of New Cydonia, home to 5 island group and corresponding factions, has been at war for some time with the militaristic ‘Democratic Republic of Cydonia (a militaristic dictatorship) had started a two front war against the ‘Diggers and Miners Collective’ and the ‘New Cydonia Colony’, to the north the ‘Independent Development Association’ and ‘North Continental Company’ watched with concern as the conflict threatened to escalate. The escalation was in the form of the Martians who were heading to the colony to sort the situation out for their colonist in the form of the ‘New Cydonia Colony’.

For more detail see the ‘history’ page here:

Brian, Evan (in his first megagame) and I all played military commanders from the DRC, rounding out are team was the President for life- played fantastically by Tim Campbell. Chris was orbiting the planet in the space station that functioned as the colonies trade link to the rest of the galaxy.

The central game map.

The central game map.

Evan and I started the game engaged on two different continents with somewhat depleted armies, whilst Brian stayed on the home island as our reserve. The game played very simply, plan write orders, then carry out all moves on the main map simultaneously supervised by the control team. Evan and I started fairly aggressively trying to expand our initial gains with a view to a better position for our President in the anticipated peace talks. Evan pulled of a clever outflanking move by using his Sea lift assets and did quite well though without making contact. I however ran straight into the NCC counter attack and in the ensuing encounter battle came out very badly (Whilst stronger on paper I was weaker in air assets especially Air Superiority fighters with shot down all my CAS assets.

Whilst I was licking my wounds the Martian fleet had been sighted in Orbit, knowing I was number one target I withdrew my forces, giving up some ground admittedly, to the cities to protect my logistical tail.

Organized chaos on the DRC table.

Organized chaos on the DRC table.

Whilst this was going on the President was running around doing some pretty crucial deals and agreements with the other player factions, none of us were privy to what was going on, we simply briefed him on the situation, planned, then tore up the plans when he came back after negotiating an advantage for us which meant our planned offensive had to be scrapped as it would upset his deal… all good fun.

However he couldn’t do enough to stop the Martians invading in force. Using Orbital bombardment they attacked all three of our forces and landing en masse to face mine, cutting me off from my escape route.

The massive Martian invasion force, you may be able to make out the discrepancy between our relative strengths on the counters.

The massive Martian invasion force, you may be able to make out the discrepancy between our relative strengths on the counters.

At this point with my forces cut off, out of supply and having suffered heavy losses I was offered terms of surrender by my opponent on the NCC. The defence Minister offered free passage for all of my men if I left all my heavy equipment behind. whilst I tried to nail down the specifics of the deal the offer was withdrawn (I was stalling as I didn’t want him to take all my AFVs which I knew he didn’t have). Still like I said at the time we are playing a war game not a surrender game. Therefore my alternative was to conduct my own little ‘Operation Dynamo’, as my three naval flotillas had escaped the initial Martian attacks.

I managed to get two tank divisions and one mechanized division off in my boats, the rest off the men who couldn’t make it off in the boats, stripped all the light weapons from their vehicles, blew up what they couldn’t carry and headed to the hills as Partisans to harry the NCC’s supply lines and allow the rest of the army time to escape.

My own Dunkirk

My own Dunkirk

In all I hadn’t done very well- the Martians were several orders of magnitude more powerful than I, I had gone in with a Corps and came out with little more than a brigade… As I sailed back to my home island, being attacked from orbit, I pondered my fate, with my army in tatters I was effectively out of the game. The invasion of my home Island was a distinct possibility but one that was out of my control, would the remnants of my force be used as a last ditch defence? It was some comfort that I had managed to dint the Martians, against all odds my Guerrillas had shot down some of their ultra high tech fighters.

Meanwhile, as I floated back feeling despondant, President for life had pulled of anamzing piece of bluff and diplomacy and managed to get us off the hook by compling a dodgy dossier that blamed the Diggers… sound familiar, which neatly deflected from the fact that we had launched an unprovoked war of aggression….

Hostilities were wound down and the Martian stopped trying to wipe us off the map from Orbit, we almost got away with it but we were rumbled on our faked evidence. Sent home with our tails between our legs we had to re build our country and economy. Both us and the NCC paid a heavy price in treasure in our exertions.

As far as the game Universe is concerned we played an infinitesimally small part, and a part of the game’s history that had been and done. Some 50 years after this scenario was set the planet becomes a full colony of the Martians.

Oh any my Guerrillas that I left behind? They were such a stubborn thorn in the side of the NCC that they were eventually paid off and bribed to leave their continent.

All in all another classic day’s gaming. All the players and control team made the day great fun, with an interesting scenario mixing high level military planning with political dealing. I’m looking forward to the next one later in the year… WW2 in the desert.



Royal Armouries Leeds.

Last Friday my parents and I took my 2 oldest nephews to the Royal Armouries in Leeds. As it was half term the museum had a Wild West Theme going on. My nephews enjoyed exploring the museum trying to catch the baddies (staff dressed up), when caught they gave you a card. The card could be then traded in at reception for a sheriff’s badge. a nice idea that got the kids involved. It was of course rather busy with children and as I had my ‘Uncle Pete’ hat on it only managed to get a few snaps. Also much of the exhibits are behind glass which makes photography difficult, how ever my favourites were not.

Part of the rather impressive tower of steel which a staircase winds round.

Part of the rather impressive tower of steel which a staircase winds round.

Another view of the same.

Another view of the same.

1 to 1 diorama at the entrance to the hunting gallery.

1 to 1 diorama at the entrance to the hunting gallery.

Large diorama of Pavia.

Large diorama of Pavia.

Now on to my favourites- the large collection of early machine guns, Gatlings, Nordfelts, Gardners and suchlike. Chunks of old fashioned steel and brass but still very lethal devices.







Some of you may the given at this point to draw steampunk references with these early machine guns… in a moment of synchronicity Brian/ count zero bought me a copy of the computer game ‘Guns of Icarus‘ a great fun game full of steampunk airships and early machine guns. Been spending a few hours playing on it all ready.