Tag Archives: history

Twenty Five Years of This Nonsense!

Sometime in November 1998 I sat down in one of Camosun College’s computer labs, signed up for a Geocities account, and created my first wargaming website.

Since then, in one form or another, I’ve had a continual wargaming web presence ever since!

I routinely game with folks younger than my website, which is… kind of weird to think about.

It’s been quiet around here lately, I’m gaming regularly but hardly doing any painting or building, busy with other stuff, but here’s to many more years of this nonsense!

The Free City Sourcebook

Not a roleplaying book, although it sounds like it, and an RPG set in Danzig could be pretty cool, actually, now that I think about it, but the Free City Sourcebook is just-launched site collecting primary source material on that very odd interwar phenomenon, the Free City of Danzig.

Created by the various post-war treaties and governed by League of Nations mandate, the basic theory behind the Free City of Danzig (which is now the Polish city of Gdansk, and the site where the first shots of World War Two were fired) was that because neither Germany nor Poland would let the other rule this important port city on the Baltic, neither of them would. Like most compromises this pleased neither side at all and was constantly undercut by both the German and Polish governments (and by the general weakness of the League of Nations), but the basic theory had some sense behind it.

I haven’t looked at the Free City Sourcebook in massive detail, but there’s a good basic timeline and it looks like an increasing number of links to primary sources, some through things like Google News, some on other third party sites and a number hosted right on the Sourcebook’s own site. It’s always nice to find more people who don’t treat the Interwar Period as some oddball interruption to the two World Wars but as a proper, strange and fascinating historical period in it’s own right. I’ll be following the Sourcebook’s progress with great interest!

(hat tip to the always-fascinating Metafilter, which had a short article on the Free City Sourcebook a few days ago.)

Post-Great War War Crimes Trials

The Guardian’s Pictures From The Past feature for Jan. 23 (yesterday) featured a photo of the former German Kaiser with his family in his well-known post-Great War Dutch exile — along with the note that “On 23 January 1920, the government of the Netherlands refused to extradite the former Kaiser of Germany, Wilhelm II. His aggressive foreign policy and support for Austro-Hungary in 1914 led to the first world war. After the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, he was charged with “a supreme offence against international morality and the sanctity of treaties” and the allies demanded his extradition. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands refused and granted him political asylum.”

I hadn’t realized until then that, just like the much more famous post-WW2 Nuremberg Trials in Germany and similar trails in the Far East against Japan, there was an attempt at similar trials post-Great War – the Leipzig War Crimes Trials (Wikipedia link). The Dutch refusal to violate their neutrality and allow the extradition of the ex-Kaiser was part and parcel with the generally dismal performance of these trials – see all the details at the Wikipedia article.

I love finding new details about the post-Great War/Interwar era like this. Too many people (and textbooks…) rush straight through Great War/Versailles Treaty/Hitler/boom WW2 and ignore all the oddities of this fascinating era.

Why yes, the bachelor’s degree I never finished was probably going to be in History. Does it show much?

Canada’s 1919 Siberian Expedition

Here’s a nice Christmas present for those of us interested in the Russian Civil War, the Great War and related events: siberianexpedition.ca is a huge digital archive of photographs and other material related to the little-known Western intervention in the Russian Civil War, specifically the 4200 Canadian troops sent to Vladivostok after the RCW kicked off.

There’s over 2000 photographs (although some are duplicates) and it’s all fully searchable in English, French and Russian. Some of the photos are actually modern photos from Siberia of some of the locations depicted in the original 1918/1919 images, which is kind of cool. There’s also a brief history of how exactly a bunch of Canadians who’d volunteered to fight in Europe wound up in Vladivostok and Siberia, and some learning materials for teachers at different levels.

This isn’t a completely new site (started in 2012, it looks like) so it’ll be interesting to see how it develops — it looks like they’re trying to do some map-based stuff and a few other developments. Further bonus for me, there’s a local angle here as most of the Canadian Siberian expedition left by ship from Victoria, and it’s our local University of Victoria who are behind this site.

I’ll be mining the photos and other materials on here for inspiration for RCW scenery and such for a long while!

In the meantime, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and such to all readers!

All Over By Christmas

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Squamous Cthulhumas, or whatever other mid-winter holiday you celebrate!

Here’s a bit of family Christmas history to share. I might well have shown this off here on the the Warbard in the past, but I’m half-full of eggnog and can’t be arsed to search my own blog again on this Christmas Eve.

A relative’s World War One Princess Mary’s gift tin from Christmas 1914.

A South African relative was on the Western Front in France from Autumn 1914 onward, arriving as part of the first South African infantry contingent sent to France. These tins were the brainchild of the then-teenage Princess Mary, and sent out by the thousands to troops in France. James Elliot van der Reit was killed in action in April 1918, having survived nearly the whole of the Great War.

The tin must been returned to his family in South Africa, and was passed on to me a few years ago as part of the cleanup of my late grandmother’s house. You can see more notes and a larger version of the photo if you click on the photo and go to my Flickr account.

I was reminded of my tin (which usually lives tucked under my computer monitor) by a BBC News story about the tin boxes of gifts still sent to British troops; these Princess Mary tins were the first of what has become a standing tradition for the British military.

13 Years of This Nonsense!

Sometime in November 1998 I sat down in the computer lab at the college I was going to at the time, signed up to Geocities (remember them?), and got busy creating what is now, 13 years later, this website.

The glory years of that first version of the website were roughly 1998-2003, with content for most of the Ground Zero Games science fiction rules as well as 15mm fantasy gaming. I still own all those figures and rules, although some of them haven’t had an outing in longer than I care to think about…

I did very, very little gaming from about 2003/2004 to 2008, although I did maintain the site, and moved it to the current warbard.ca URL in August 2004. I knew people were using the site, I’d get a couple of emails a month about it, so it wasn’t going anywhere, but I wasn’t adding to it.

In 2008 I got myself over to Trumpeter Salute 2008 in Vancouver, discovered 28mm pulp adventure gaming, and was back into gaming with a bang! The site had to wait a bit longer for a proper revival, though, being rebuilt in the fall of 2010 in it’s current WordPress-based form, and “officially” reopened in January 2011.

(More about the site can, if you really want to read it, be found over on our About page.)

So, here’s to many more years of this nonsense, in whatever form it takes!

Messrs. Clarke & von Clausewitz

“Everything is very simple in War, but the simplest thing is difficult.” — Carl von Clausewitz, On War

Richard Clarke of TooFatLardies has written a fascinating post over on his Lard Island blog about friction in games and in reality. Short version: real war is full of things going pear shaped; most gaming systems aren’t. Go read the full article, I’m doing it a terrible disservice with my one-line smartass summary!

Should you want to read old von Clausewitz yourself, Project Gutenburg has an English translation of On War, Vol. One free to download. The short chapter Richard refers to in his post is Chapter VII. Friction In War — even for those of us with short attention spans, well worth a read!

This counts as another prod to get more figures painted for Through the Mud and the Blood, too!

Great War Resources

Having recently picked up a copy of TooFatLardies’ Great War large skirmish rules Through The Mud and the Blood, I went looking for further reading. The Internet Archive (Archive.org) is, it turns out, a treasure-trove of period manuals, books and documents for the Great War/World War One era.

If you’ve never heard of the Internet Archive, it’s a huge and sprawling website full of all sorts of material. Probably the most famous section is the “Wayback Machine“, an attempt to collect, curate and archive huge swathes of the internet. Looking for an interesting old wargaming website, perhaps one hosted on Geocities or another vanished host? Fire the old URL into the Wayback Machine, you’ll probably find something!

What I’m focusing on for this article, though, is the Texts side of the Archive. It’s an attempt to preserve, digitize and distribute huge numbers of old and new books, and make them available in as many formats as possible. Google (through Google Books), Microsoft and dozens of university, public and national libraries are involved. The collection is already millions of books and still growing rapidly. It can be hard to find things, though, which is one of the reasons I started writing this article — it began simply as a list of interesting Archive.org URLs I wanted to save for future reference in case I couldn’t find the same books again!

The Great War On Archive.org

Title page, Training of Platoons for Offensive Action, 1917.

I make no claims to have here a comprehensive list of the era’s books and publications available on the Internet Archive, but what follows is a sometimes arbitrary list of items that caught my eye!

You can, first of all, find some interesting stuff just by doing a search for “trench” amongst the texts on Archive.org.

There’s a whole bunch of official publications of various sorts, mostly American but a few British as well. Of particular note for Great War gamers is Instructions for the Training of Platoons for Offensive Action, 1917 – this is an American re-publication of a famous British military manual. Straight from the source, as it were. A good chunk of the British background material in the back of Mud & Blood is straight from Training of Platoons, as are several of the scenarios presented in the Stout Hearts & Iron Troopers supplement.

Infantry in the Defense (1917) is short pamphlet from the US Army War College, a translation of a French publication. Not as comprehensive as the British booklet above, but an interesting counterpart. There’s also the longer Instructions for the defensive combat of small units : infantry: platoon to regiment (1918), another US Army publication, for more defensive reading material.

Notes on the Construction and Equipment of Trenches (1917) is a US Army publication; lots of notes, diagrams and plates if you’re thinking of trench scenery.

Many of the rest of these books are published by civilian publishers; the main market seems to have been American officers in the newly-raised American Expeditionary Forces and to a lesser extent new officers of other nations. There was a certain amount of repetition and even flat-out plagarism in this market; some of the authors also regurgitate chunks of Training of Platoons straight into their own books.

Trench Fighting (1917) is a British book, noteworthy mostly for lots of good diagrams.

Elements of trench warfare (1917) – more good diagrams, although of even more idealized trenches than normal in some of them!

Tactics and Duties for Trench Fighting (1918) – One French and one American author, both infantry officers, longer book but written to be easy to read, lots of interesting details that could inspire scenarios.

The Attack in Trench Warfare (1917) – another French book translated by an American officer.

Trench Warfare; A Manual for Officers and Men (1917) – another British author. Interesting period details in this one.

Notes on Camouflage (1917) – a very short US Army pamphlet. Could well inspire some interesting terrain-building for the wargaming table.

Vocabulary of German Military Terms and Abbreviations (1917) — don’t know your trichter from your zug? This American republication of an official British War Office publications might assist.

It’s not all late-war material available, either. Here, just for contrast, is a 1914 edition of The Training of an Infantry Company.

Finding the PDFs

Probably the most useful format to get these books in is PDF, especially as that preserves the original diagrams, illustrations and page layout better than any of the other formats the Internet Archive offers. Most books have a link straight to the PDFs on the left of the page; some (especially the ones via Google Books) don’t. The Google Books ones are especially frustrating, as going to the Google Books page does not actually give you an obvious link to the PDF file. Those PDFs are still in the Internet Archive, though – instead of going to Google Books, click the “All Files: HTTP” link at the bottom of the left-hand box, then look for the .pdf file on the resulting basic index page. Voila, the PDF, without messing around!

The US Army Obsolete Military Manuals Collection

The US Army’s Command and General Staff College has a Combined Arms Research Library (CARL) with an Obsolete Military Manuals collection. It’s at least as awkward a website to use as the Internet Archive, though…. lots of good material, some of which is also in the Internet Archive but much that isn’t yet.

The prize find there, at least for a Mud & Blood player, has to be Instructions for the Offensive Combat of Small Units (Direct PDF link), which is a mid-1918 American adaptation of a French tactical guide. Training of Platoons, way up at the top of this article, was a British publication simply reprinted by the Americans; this one is extensively rewritten to use American tactical formations (the AEF used much larger units than either the French or British did by 1917/1918). Nice illustrations and diagrams, too.

Infantry and Tank Co-operation And Training is a very short British pamphlet reprinted by the Americans, discussing tactical co-operations of tanks and infantry forces, with some very useful tactical diagrams.

There are almost certainly other interesting resources tucked away in the CARL files; I’ll keep looking and either update this articele or write a followup at some point in the future.

Other Links

There’s also Druid_ian on Scribd but all his content is straight from the Internet Archive or the US Army sources listed above, just uploaded into Scribd’s sometimes useful but mostly frustrating interface. He has discovered some interesting documents buried in these sources, although note that only people who sign up for Scribd accounts may download from Scribd. Search for the same titles at IA or CARL and you won’t have to sign up for yet another website…

A number of these books are available on paper from various sources – search Amazon for them. I have no idea of the quality of these reprints; I prefer to keep my money for figures and scenery where I can! There are a number of good collections of trench maps and of course Great War/WW1 photography out there, but that’s for another article, this one is already long enough!

Found something interesting on the Internet Archive, the Obsolete Military Manuals collection or elsewhere? Leave me a comment below and I’ll add it to the article!