Returning to the Spanish Penisular War

I saw on the Twitter a link to a Radio 4 show, The Reunion, which brings together people from a common event or background. The most recent episode was about the Sharpe TV series.

It’s a great insight into the background of the making of the series, some of the challenges that the cast and crew faced.

It was a Napoleonic war drama to be shot in the Crimean Peninsula. But little did the producers know that they would be sending the cast and crew to film in a rapidly disintegrating Soviet Union.

Once in Crimea, the whole production faced near-starvation and danger around every corner as they set about creating one of Britain’s most successful and critically acclaimed 90s television programmes, Sharpe.

It was to go down in television folklore for its unique tales of mishaps and hardship. Renowned actor Paul McGann was originally cast to play the lead character, Sharpe. But only six weeks into filming he picked up a serious injury and had to pull out.

It left the production in chaos and saw one of the highest-ever insurance pay-outs for a television series.

Everyone packed up back to the UK with the future of the series left in suspense. That was until a relatively unknown actor called Sean Bean took on the part and the show was back on the road. The cast and crew headed back to Simferopol in Crimea (later to be nicknamed “simplyawful”) and filming resumed.

Sharpe became a six series hit across nearly 15 years, with viewing figures topping 10 million.

Our panel includes Sharpe’s author Bernard Cornwell, then-assistant producer Stuart Sutherland, one of the “chosen men” Jason Salkey who played one of Sean Bean’s right hand men, Michael Cochrane who played Colonel Sir Henry Simmerson across the entire series, and Diana Perez who played Ramona.

What I didn’t know, and was quite a surprise was that Paul McGann was originally cast as Sharpe. I thought I knew a lot about the series (I even have a book about the making of the series). However, I didn’t know that.

I do wonder how different the series would have been with Paul McGann in the lead role.

I really enjoyed the series when it was broadcast and though around thirty years old, is still great television. I also love the books as well.

It certainly has rekindled my interest in the subject matter, I re-watched an episode of Sharpe, thinking about re-reading the books, and looking back into my Flintloque collection and digging out my 25mm Napoleonic Rifles figures.

Then and Now

I’ve always found the comparative photographs showing photographs from the 1940s and how those same locations look today. In the past you would have needed to physically go the locations to take those comparative photographs, however with tools such as Google Street View you can now find the same locations online.

The harbours of Weymouth and Portland were one of the biggest departure points for US troops with over 500,000 military personnel, including support staff, and 144,000 vehicles.

This is a circa late May or early June 1944 photograph of U.S. Rangers marching through Weymouth in Dorset, en route to board landing ships for the invasion of France.

Weymouth in 1944

Using Google Street View you can get a similar contemporary view of Weymouth.

contemporary view of Weymouth

You can actually see very little has changed since 1944, the hotel has changed its name and the buildings have been repainted, but the substance of the buildings have changed very little.

Down at the Tank Museum


I’ve never been to the wargaming show at the Tank Museum before and it has been many years since I last visited the actual museum, but this year I did manage to get down to Bovington.

There is something rather inspiring about visiting a gaming show amongst the many different kinds of tanks and armoured cars on show. It’s one thing to see a 15 mm Tortoise on the table in an 1947 game and then just on the other side of the museum is the real prototype.


I probably spent more time looking at the exhibits than looking at the games or shopping, but there are some great exhibits. Those first tanks from The Great War were those that impressed me the most.


These metal monsters designed in an era when they didn’t really know what they were doing and there was a lot of trial and error. The Mark IX reminds us that the APC is as old as the tank.


The exhibition is great because you can get right up and close to the tanks and you get a much better understanding of the strength but also the weaknesses of the armoured fighting vehicle. You can see how tall the Sherman was for example and why those flat sides were a real target for the panzerfaust armed Germans.

Having recently enjoyed the film Fury it was great to see the real star of that film, the M4A3E8 Sherman.


On the gaming front, there were some great games on display.


Lots of traders there too ready to take your money, though I went with some ideas of getting some Sarissa Precision models they weren’t in stock and no one had any Copplestone Castings, so in the end I got one of the new 4Ground The Chicago Way buildings and some 28mm Edwardian policemen.

Who do you think you are kidding…

Probably my favourite demonstration game at Bristol’s Reveille 2014 was the Dad’s Army 28mm using the Pulp Alley rules.

The players were in charge of Walmington on Sea’s finest as they hunt for a bailed out German aircrew, the problem is there’s also a German uboat crew searching for them as well…

The scenery looked great.

As well as the Home Guard there was also a lovely model of Jones’ Butcher’s Van.

20mm M3 Stuart Tanks

These 20mm M3 Stuart tanks were part of a 20mm Rapid Fire Desert War game that was displayed at Reveille II.

20mm M3 Stuart Tanks

20mm M3 Stuart Tanks

They look very good, and the scenery was nice. Not sure of the make or if they were plastic kits or resin models.

Update: From the comments, they are the old Matchbox plastic kits of the M3 Stuart tanks.

95th Rifles

The models I am using for the 95th Rifles are very detailed and one of the aspects of a white undercoat I do like is how it brings out and shows off the detail.

Though there aren’t many models in this unit I’m painting, there are a number of officers.

I am thinking that when I do finish painting them and have a game, the scenario would be that a group of officers are separated from the main force, or are on a hunting trip and are then attacked.

I still don’t know which opponents to get for them, probably French Voltigeurs.