Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dear Santa: Thanks for the Artillery


Under my Christmas tree were not one but two 54mm Wm. Britains 12-pounder light-gun howitzers, commonly called the "Napoleon". Needless to say I am a happy boy.

The gun is up to Britain's usual meticulous standards and is a joy to look at.

In a side-by-side comparison with the real thing it's a dead-ringer.  (Isn't it cool that I have daily access to an actual gun and limber?)

Britain's sets a high standard for packaging though one can only imagine how this impacts the cost of the piece.

I am not one of those unusual types who keeps toys unopened as an investment.  Regular readers of this blog know that I am all about playing with toy soldiers.  High-end miniatures are no exception.  The only warfare that this piece will be exempted from will be rough outdoor play; for table top combat, however, it will be expected to do its duty. 

Join me for a quick walk-around

The scale is right on and the details are exquisite (first use of the word on this blog)

Note that even the front sight is in evidence.

 Like the real thing it has a hand screw below the breach for elevation and a hand-spike for deflection.

The only anomaly in the design of this piece is that the hand-spike would not be deployed while the implements are still in the stowed position. 

For that reason I may remove this hand-spike, drill out the trail rings, and use this as a towed piece behind a limber.  I realize that this idea is anethema to "real collectors" but Hey, get your own gun.  My gun, my rules.

The "prolonge" is well sculpted and proportional to the rest of the guns.  The vent is distinct as is the bracket (above the knob) for the pendulum-hausse ( the removable rear-sight).

 The water bucket and implement hooks are perfect, though the bucket, in an act of gravity defiance, is canted slightly forward, though this angle is appropriate in the towed position.

Both the sponge-rammer and worm are correctly positioned and stowed. Goodness!  That is one factory-fresh sponge, n'est-ce pas?

Trunnions and spare hand-spike are  also beautifully sculpted.

Land o' Goshen! even the underside is fully detailed.  Britains just can't be beat.

Here's a quick look at the real thing in action:

Let's get a half-detachment in place to put this bronze beauty through it's paces.

While number 1 stands by with sponge-rammer, and number 3 dutifully "thumbs" the vent, number 2 fills in on the hand-spike, setting the deflection.

That this detachment is only half-staffed will be rectified as soon as the paint cures on their 54mm comrades-in-arms.

To prevent premature firing, and the resultant maiming of number 1 it is  essential that number - keep his thumb-stall snugly over the vent throughout the loading process.

See my Park Service video here for a full explanation of the loading and firing process for a twelve-pounder.

Time to get this piece in battery for some actual combat.

With that incredible Britains accuracy its difficult to tell which twin has the Tony

This gun's going to look great with its five sisters.  I'll keep you posted.   Until then...

Soldier on!



Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Action Front! A Redemption Story


Battery B, 4th US Artillery

Here's an artillery story, start to finish.

Recently, on ebay,  I bought this Hong Kong knock-off of the Swoppet limber, gun, and crew.  Upon arrival buyer's remorse immediately set in.

Although the castings were mirror images of the Britains originals, they were finished in a bizarre fake pewter finish.  What, exactly, might have our Hong Kong friends been thinking?

Oddly, the limber was the only piece not pewterfied (or perhaps, putrefied). Two outriders and the lid to the ammunition chest were missing in this counterfeit cannon convocation.

That omission of the lid was quickly remedied with a visit to my table and band saws. 

The result was a perfect fit.

Now came time to deal with that wacky metallic finish.

The bugler sounded "assembly" and all hands mustered into an oatmeal can.

All concerned were about to understand the phrase "Better living through chemistry."

Always keep those old toothbrushes around.

Stripped of their finish, a remarkable array of colors was revealed.

Keep an eye on Manny, Moe, and Jack here as you'll be seeing more of them.

Everybody got a nice coat of Floquil white primer. 

Our gleesome threesome is ready for painting.

These are the outriders which were missing along with the limber lid.  Fortunately I had acquired this pair earlier in their original and  not-very-impressive Swoppet colors.

Using the hot water treatment. I reshaped them with different arm positions and narrowed their stance for a better seat on the saddle.  Left is before and right is after.

Out came the Testors paint and the sergeant and corporal are transformed.

 I finished everyone in the traditional bright toy soldier finish. 

And here we go, the reclaimed detachment, fully redone and rushing into action:

It's a mighty fast and bumpy ride...

but our steadfast trio hangs on tight as the limber and gun charge forward...

over hill and dale...

The noncoms whip the horses into a lather in hopes of beating the Rebels to the high ground.

It's nip and tuck.

Arriving in the nick of time the detachment commander oversees the unlimbering

The gun is man-handled into place...

carefully sighted,  and loaded with double canister awaiting the order to...


The rebel charge is broken.

All in a day's work for Battery B, 4th US Artillery.

Buyer's remorse is gone.

Soldier on!