Copyright © 2017, Paul Scrivens-Smith

Copyright © 2017, Paul Scrivens-Smith

All rights reserved. This work may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without the prior written permission of the creator.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Battle of Keren - Salute 2014

A rambling report of our adventures at Salute 2014 yesterday putting on our Battle of Keren game.

The Team
John, Matt, Martin, myself, James M, Tom, James W, Steve
What a busy couple of days, before setting off to work on Friday I loaded up the car with all the figures I needed plus the Bren gun for the display table. After a morning in the office I popped to ASDA to pick up drinks, crisps, fruit and chocolate to help keep the team sustained throughout the day - and to offset some of the expense at being Excel. Then it was back to work for a couple more hours.

Just before 1600 I got a text from James W to say he was in our car park and were were soon loading his overnight bag into the Mini and we zipped across Derby to pick up John. It was a bit of a struggle getting out of Derby, but after that the roads were very clear and we were soon down the M1 and around the M25 and at the Premier Inn in Waltham Forest meeting up with James M, Steve, Tom, Martin and Matt.

We were all pretty hungry and ordered some dinner, soon we were tucking in. I had the Veggie Burger but the Pulled Pork (always makes me snigger) was very popular with the others. Soon we were chatting away and downing a few pints.

Myself, James W, Steve, Tom  and John stayed up until closing time playing first Munchkins and then Guillotine while I enjoyed a few pints of London Pride. Tom cleaned up in Munchkins while John and James W were the most successful at removing the heads of the nobility!

 After a cup of tea I was in bed by a most respectable midnight, but disaster, my middle-aged bladder woke me at 03:15 and I could not get back to sleep - maybe all the excitement. I read for a while and browsed the internet until room mate and fellow early riser James W woke up and we chatted for a bit.

The entire team met in the car park at 07:00 and we were off to the Excel stopping on the way for a dirty McDonalds breakfast we were soon at the venue and setting up the game. I have done a stop-motion video of us putting the mountain together.


James M and John made a fantastic job of the woodwork, the entire thing is very light and goes together in about 15 minutes.

The frame is made of pine while the slopes are made of 6mm ply. The large features are all vacuum formed for us by Paul at Kallistra while the texture is made from cork bark and cork chippings, it really is incredibly light and folds up small enough to fit in the back of my Mini with the seats down - although this time it travelled in James M's Avensis.

As you can see from the shots James M has also done a stunning job of the terrain, Fort Dologorodoc rises 30" from the table surface and hopefully gives some impression of the scale of the task facing the British and Indian troops. There will be an article in Wargames Illustrated soon where James M will be detailing the steps he took to make the mountain along with a history of the battle. Martin has made a representation of the "Broadcasting House" hut that was used for propaganda purposes during the actual battle while James M has made and painted a Vickers Wellesley bomber that also drew lots of admiring comments.

Long view up the slope
As to the figures, James M has painted the Italians and their Eritrean allies. The Italians are a mix of Empress Miniatures, Warlord Games and Perry Miniatures. I painted all the Indians and a few of the British, Martin painted the rest of the British. These are all Perry Miniatures.

We also made a viewing platform ( ok, some chairs) at the top of the slope so that photo opportunities from the defenders point of view would be available.

View from the top
Alongside the battlefield itself we also did a 'Show and Tell' table detailing both the history of the battle and the building of the mountain itself. Again, James M did a fantastic job on the materials and while manning the table I was given the compliments that it was 'Museum Quality', I am definitely inclined to agree.

Show and tell - the History

Show and tell - the Build
Tom had even made us a Keren cake decorated in yellow frosting and plastic soldiers, which you can see in the image above.

Before the show started I popped over to Empress Miniatures to pick up my pre-orders. This was a wise idea, when I took a look later they were three or four deep.

We got the game kicked off just before the hall opened at 10:00. Following a massive artillery and air bombardment Indian troops moved off from their start lines and started their long slog towards the hill. I'll try to get the scenario published later. We used the I Ain't Been Shot Mum rules from Too Fat Lardies.

After a bit of play I switched to doing meet and greets and spent many hours talking to members of the public who showed an interest in the game. I spoke to many people throughout the day and had the pleasure to meet both an Italian chap whose Great Uncle had fought their and a British chap whose Grandfather had fought there. I met up with many old friends and am practically hoarse with regaling folk of tales of derring do in the mountains of Eritrea.

I had a great chat with Richard Clarke of Too Fat Lardies who popped along to see us and later in the day with Sidney Roundwood of the same. Michael Perry spent quite a bit of time with us and I think James M made quite a case to him for some of the figures he would like to see. The Wargames Illustrated team have arranged for a photo-shoot of the game to support the article that James M is writing for them. Beasts of War shot quite a bit of video, although I did manage to duck the interview and pushed them in the direction of James M.

I took a short break from the game to go to the Bloggers meeting that had been set up and another short break to go to the Lead Adventure Forum meeting where I hooked up with the team from Tin Soldiers of Antwerp where I had a good chat about getting this game into their Crisis show in November. This will hopefully lead to a Wargames Soldiers and Strategy article about James and I fitting a mountain into my Mini Cooper and getting it to Antwerp.

The show closed at 1700 and we broke down the table and display area and loaded up the cars. We left Excel at 1800 and despite some sat-nav issues getting out of Docklands we were soon on our way home. Stopping for a coffee and a break at Toddington, after dropping John and James W off I was home just after 2200 and fast asleep shortly after.

Enough of my ramblings, lets get on to the photos!

View along the line from 'Loud Speaker Hill'

The table

Wellesley Bombers eye view

Another view from the top

Looks rather steep doesn't it?

Indian infantry moving out


Loud Speaker Hill again

The BBC hut

The BBC hut

View along the British Empire lines

Askaris man Fort Dologorodoc


Indians push on up the hill

Mortar rounds burst among the Indains

James W and Matt are judged.
If you like this I recommend that you also take a look at my fellow team members blogs because I am sure they will be doing their Salute updates too:

Tom - Tom's Toy Soldiers
Matt - A-Historical Wargaming
Steve - Steve's Paintingshed
Martin - Tabletop Mog

As Victoria is away I'm now off to play some Maurice with another blogger mate: Lace Wars in Tin