Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Finnish Declaration of Independence from the Russian republic. Incidentally it is also my Sisters birthday, but she is no 100 yet! So double joy. Finland had (since 1809) been part of the Russian Empire and ruled by the Russian Emperor as Grand Duke. Before this Finland had in essence been part of the Swedish Kingdom since the 13th century. The independence and resolve of the Finns have been tested on many occasions, most significantly during the civil war in 1918, Finnish Winter war in 1939-40 and during the Sovietic offensive in 1944. In addition the cold war era was also to become a balancing act in trying to move forward next to the Soviet State. On the whole, this young nation has done an amazing journey as a nation from a very unstable start in 1917, when the deck of random event cards was firmly shuffled, to the current position of strength and stability.
We have put two candles in our window this morning. This was traditionally done to show support to the young Finnish nationalists who travelled through the countryside on their way to Germany (during the Great War) to get military training to aid their fight for Finnish independence. The candles also meant that the house was ready to offer shelter and keep them hidden from the Russian Authorities.
Germany, who was at war with Russia, supported the Finnish independence movement as this would weaken Tsarist Russia. The support was in the establishment of the Royal Prussian 27th Jäger Battalion that consisted of Finnish volunteers. The Anti-Russian sentiment had grown strong following repressive Russification of Finland that up to this date had a certain level of autonomous rule. This had escalated since 1899 and as a consequence many Finns hoped the Russians would loose the war against the Germans.
There is a very interesting article here about the Jägers; covering (i) the time leading up to independence and the actions during World War 1, (ii) their role during the Finnish Civil war that broke out in 1918, and (iii) their influence on the build up of the Finnish army that fought so bravely during the Finnish Winter War in 1939-40 (more here and a further related article here and here). There is a lot of wargaming potential here – but then I have not yet done much with the Winter war Finns and Russians for Chain of Command I completed last year (see more here and here).
However, when Tsarist Russia fell to the Bolsheviks in 1917 the Finns seized the moment – more or less (read all about it here). The rest is history – 100 years ago today! Being one part Swedish and the other Finnish, this is an important day for the family. We will be eating some Karelian Pasty and some Stew and perhaps a shot of Vodka or two (but maybe not the Mango version!).
Also, but a day late, but with reference to the Chain of Command mentioned above, an official “well done” to the Too Fat Lardies on winning the best game category as voted by the readers of Wargames Illustrated. You can find out more about Too Fat Lardies and the Chain of Command rules here. Whilst you are there check out their Podcasts, oddly called, Oddcasts! – enjoy the lard!
Gaslands moving forward
I have been working on my Gaslands Track I showed last week but did not like it and decided to do a new one – I will pour Resin this weekend. This is how things look so far. We have had the Gaslands Track inspector over and he has given us the Green Glow on the progress so far.
As you may be aware, I am going to do Poltava at Joy of Six in 2019 as part of the Towards Moscow Project. This is the long term project I am doing with Nick Dorrell and the Wyre Forresters (we did Lesnaya 1708 this year, see here, and are currently working away on the what-if Horka 1708 battle for 2018, link here and here) and I occasionally reflect (or perhaps Stress) on how I want to present it. The Poltava Battle is after all one of the most decisive battles of Swedish history and, I am sorry to say, without doubt a total disaster from a Swedish perspective. I have to admit that I found some of the past Battles that resulted in glorious Swedish victories like Fraustadt, Klissow and Gadebusch easier to present and prepare for than the battles at Kalisz or Lesnaya where the Swedes were defeated. The disaster at Poltava is in a separate league of its own.
One way of doing it is to show the full story including some additional elements on the table than normally are presented. The tables I have seen to date are showing the main action outside the Russian Camp; sometimes the redoubts are included and this is frankly all you need for the Battle. One example of this is the recent Poltava Battle, laid out by Jon and Diane Sutherland, at Crisis (in 28mm). This battle looked absolutely fantastic and as far as I could tell covered the main action and the redoubts. To me it looked as grand as one of Simon Miller’s To the Strongest Offerings (see link here if you do not know what I mean) – a real battle of the era and I wish I had seen it on the day.
However when we do it, and because we are doing it in 6mm, I will not let practicalities be in the way of creating a different kind of spectacle and will extend the narrative to include further elements that are important to the background of the Battle. So, in short I found myself compulsed to do a little plan/sketch over the battlefield and the various elements I wanted to include in addition to the mandatory Russian camp and redoubts.
Here we go.
1. The Swedish Camp – I want to take all the Wagons that I did for Lesnaya (link here and here) for a spin. The camp will be made from things from the Baccus Equipment Range (link here, EQU04 – Tents and EQU05 – Camp Site). Here is a link to Tiny Troop’s gallery showing some great and very inspirational GNW stuff and what can be achieved with these models as a base.
2. The Fortified Town of Poltava – at the time of the Poltava Battle the fortress was surrounded by ravines, had wooden palisades and a number of bastions. It had five gates and each of these was protected by a special tower. I found mainly stock photos, but if you google Cossack Forts you will get the picture – I will do this using very thin spaghetti (see here for how I have used this excellent material in the past). As for some buildings I really like the Total Battle Miniatures range that contains a large number of town type buildings that will work well (link to the range here). Most other ranges contain farm/village type of eastern houses – but for the Poltava battle I want to have the rural look outside the walls and some more “town” character within the walls.
3. The Swedish siege lines, with trenches, engineers and artillerists, gabions, siege guns, etc. The Swedish King (Charles XII) had laid Siege to the fortress in an attempt to provoke the Russians to a battle. Again, I will be using stuff from the Baccus Equipment ranges (see link above, EQU13 – Sappers/Pioneers, EQU06 – Military Site) and some Siege Guns and mortars (link here, WSS16 – WSS Siege Guns and WSS17 – WSS Mortars).
4. The Cossacks – the surrounding area is full of Cossacks and Kalmuks and I have a 2 meter frontage worth of these to put up in various places of the Battle (I used these in a similar role for the Kalisz Battle, we last tabled at Salute in 2016, see more here and here).
5. The Holy Cross Exaltation Monastery that still exists and have been there since 1650. It sits on top of a wooden hill and it would be shame if this was not part of the table. On the eve of battle it was used as headquarter by the Swedes and the infantry was deployed around it.
I have seen pictures of the Monastery on the net and it typically looks like this.
So in doing this in 6mm with a ground scale with a battalion frontage of about 60mm, some simplification is required, my first thought was to do the centre church and the taller clock tower closer to each other, and that would be it.
I even found two good contenders for the role of the centre church, both beautiful models.
However doing some further research I learned that the Monastery had been burnt down in 1695 (having been a classical wooden construction) and was being re-built in stone and a the two buildings we can see on this classic picture did actually not exist at the time of the battle.
- The left hand clock tower was completed in 1776.
- The Cathedral in the middle was completed in 1756.
Leaving us with the following skyline.
So there goes the main features I have had in my mind all these years. As to how it may have looked I have no clue. You can read more about the Monastery (and a lot more on the battle) on this webpage dedicated to the Poltava battle.
So, instead I thought I will represent the monastery with a Eastern type of Church of some kind. There are a number of options in doing this, so what follows is a little bit of a showcase of some of the ones to consider (this is based on browsing pages in the beginning of December 2017).
Total Battle Miniatures
I have a few Total Battle miniatures from their Pike & Shotte and Black Powder Europe ranges and they have been used to represent Klissow, Kalisz and some other places in the past. With regards to Eastern Churches there are a few options – with two smaller wooden churches and the massive Orthodox church presented above (link here).
Leven have some options too. I have a fair few of their dark ages range that I use for Saga battles (see more here). They have some fantastic stuff and the range is constantly growing, check out their Vauban fort whilst you are there.
Irregular offers a Russian Village that includes a Church in their 6mm scenic and assessor range (link here). The full set will set you back £20.
Hovel does a Greek Orthodox Church with Onion dome (link here).
Battlescale Wargames Buildings
I also found this one that I think looks really good from a company I had not heard of before. Link here.
I felt I needed a nice Eastern type of Monastery so although it represents overkill for the time of the Poltava Battle, I went for the more flashy look, and got the following set from Total Battle Miniatures (it includes the monastery and the large grand building on a tile):
On further inspection I also “fell” for the Timecast large Orthodox Church – this will be my church in the fortress itself, so I got myself one.
I also got the Russian Village church from Leven and the Russian Church from Battlescale Wargame buildings, and maybe one or two other items (like some cottages, mills, Zulu huts!, etc.) as I always feel it is a shame only ordering one thing considering postage. Now, that will deal with my spiritual needs for Poltava (and all of it actually all useful for the Horka battle too) and a few more pieces of resin to toss on that famous pile.
/ Order restored