The VERY best photos of the Chunuk Bair diorama

Whilst I’ve previously posted quite a few photos on the official blog of the diorama of the WW1 battle of Chunuk Bair, we’ve saved the *very* best shots until last!

We had agreed to withhold these photos until after ‘Wargames Illustrated’ published a photo-article about this project. Now that this article is in their August issue, we can at last show you these amazing shots taken by Andy Palmer.

Here’s a few sample pics (click each picture for the full effect).  But do go to the Mustering The Troops blog to see more photos and to read the informative captions:

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The oldest item in my bookshelf – an 1854 map of Waterloo

map bookThe other day I pulled a book out of my bookshelf, and noticed a scruffy little green cover peering at me from the shadows at the back of the shelf. I reached in and pulled it out, and was overjoyed to see that I had at last re-found my long-lost antique map of Waterloo, the oldest print item I own.

Quite a few years ago, some British friends of my mother-in-law visited New Zealand. They knew of my interest in military history, so presented me with this lovely bound map of Waterloo. I placed it on my bookshelf, where it eventually fell behind some other books. For years I’d thought I had somehow lost the map.

So it was with great pleasure this Waterloo bicentenary year to find it again!

a_IMG_3696At the time I was presented with this map, I knew little about it, other than it was by a Sergeant-Major Edward Cotton, and published in 1854. But finding it again has spurred me into a doing some research on the internet.

According to family historian Gordon Childs:

Sergeant Major Edward COTTON was born on Isle of Wight around 1792 and served at Waterloo in the ranks of the 7th Hussars which was part of General Grant’s brigade – the 5th British Cavalry Brigade. Fortunately, Edward Cotton survived the carnage of the battle on that fateful day of 18 June 1815, in which there were over 50,000 casualties of the some 150,000 troops engaged, to become a local hero.

He particularly distinguished himself by saving fellow hussar Gilmoure as he lay trapped under his wounded horse in front of the main battle line. Cotton could see the French cuirassiers coming on again and, knowing that they rarely spared a foe outside of the protection of the infantry squares, he sprang from his horse and rushed to extricate Gilmoure and to bring him back to safety as the army of French horsemen came up to Wellington’s line.

After leaving the army, Cotton lived at Mont St Jean village (where the battle was centred) where he soon gained a reputation as a fine battlefield guide. In 1845, the Naval and Military Gazette described him as an intelligent, active and good looking man of fifty-three and the very cut as a Hussar. From the many fellow Waterloo veterans who visited the battlefield, Cotton built up a formidable knowledge of the battle and published a book called ‘A Voice from Waterloo’. His collection of memorabilia occupied a building at the base of the Lion Mound, but has now been dispersed.

“I sincerely hope,” wrote veteran, Lieutenant-General Sir Hussey Vivian, to Cotton in 1839, “that occupation which you have undertaken, you will derive the means of passing the remainder of your days in competence and comfort; and thus heap the rewards of your intelligence, on a field where you had proved your courage.”

Edward Cotton died on 24 June 1849. He had been ill for some time but had soldiered on and, only two days before his death, he had shown an English family around the battlefield. He was buried in the gardens of Hougoumont, and rested there until the 18 August 1890 when he was disinterred for reburial at Evere Cemetery in the north-east suburbs of Brussels.

Handy pocket-sized maps like this one would have been carried by his visitors to the battlefield. This particular edition was printed a few years after his death, and was drawn from his 1846 book  ‘A Voice from Waterloo’. I wonder if a 19th century visitor carried my actual map in his or her hands as they tramped over the battlefield.

a_IMG_3996Opening the green linen cover with its gold-embossed title, you first come to a small overview map of the Belgian countryside over which the Waterloo campaign took place.

It is a bit confusing, though, that this map places north at the bottom of the page instead of the more usual top.

a_IMG_3695The main page unfolds to display a beautiful hand-tinted map of the field of Waterloo as it was towards sunset. The Allies are shown in red, Prussians in yellow, and the French in blue.

Extensive information is provided in the keys on each side, which link to the exact location for each brigade and military group, including Napoleon’s positions and places where certain officers were killed. For the modern reader, following the Roman numerals is quite onerous, however!

An inset table gives the number of men and guns available to each side. A narrative also recreates the final hours of the battle.

Again, north is at the bottom.

a_IMG_3697Here’s a close-up of central area of the battlefield. Click on the picture to expand it to a size where you can see the amazing detail and the sheer beauty of this wonderful old map.

I’m really pleased to be re-united with this treasure. I’m thinking I might place it in a box-frame to preserve it, and to give it some more prominence than being stuffed down the back of my bookshelf!

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Squeezed in one last submission for a new New Zealand flag

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The submissions for a new New Zealand flag closed yesterday. In my previous posts, I’ve shown half a dozen flags I’ve submitted.  But I managed to squeeze in the above entry just before closing last night.

I like this design best of the ones I’ve submitted, and it has also garnered the most ‘likes’.

Oddly enough, I spent the least time in coming up with the concept of this flag.  In fact, it came about by chance when I noticed that zooming in on one quadrant of an earlier flag design was actually more effective than the rather cluttered whole.  I then added the southern cross and the curves of the Maori flag.

Anyway, that’s it for flags now, what with submissions being closed. I don’t expect to be chosen out of the thousands of entries, and am not even sure if the current flag needs changing at all. But it has been a fun artistic exercise to design a new flag.

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My final submission for a new New Zealand flag

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I couldn’t resist one more go at a New Zealand flag design. It is based on a traditional Maori woven motif. In the centre sits our iconic silver fern on a black background.

This one uses a different palette from my other three submissions. The red, white and blue diagonals hint at the union flag, and carry into the red, white and black colours of the tino rangatiratanga flag.

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Added 16 July – one more go, before submssions close tonight:

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A new national flag for New Zealand

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New Zealand is currently considering a new flag. Well, at least some people are – there is also a large ground-swell to keep the existing flag, either for patriotic, cost-saving or political reasons.

Nevertheless, the government is seeking submissions for a new design. These will be whittled down to four winning designs, which will then be subjected a national referendum to seek the chosen alternative design.  Then another referendum will decide between the final alternative design and the existing flag.

Submissions for a new flag design close this week, so I’ve decided to throw in a few entries to join the thousands that have already been submitted.

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Firstly, though, here is the existing New Zealand flag. It’s derived from the maritime British Blue Ensign. The stars of the Southern Cross were added and, similar to other Commonwealth countries, the Union Jack remains in the first quarter to recognise that New Zealand started as a British colony.

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Design 1: Here’s my first design.  I think the silver fern on black is the natural symbol of New Zealand.  We have played sport, fought and lie buried under this symbol. During WW1, New Zealand soldiers weren’t nick-named ‘Kiwis’, but ‘Fernleafs’.

However, a flag with a plain black background is too sombre. So I’ve combined a black triangular field with bars of blue (sea), teal-green (forests, hills) and white (sky, the ‘long white cloud’).

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Design 2: My second design is a variation on the first. It adds a New Zealand touch with the bars having symbolic unfurling fern fronds on the ends.

However, I think the overall effect is maybe a bit too cluttered.

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Design 3: For my final design, I’ve basically merged my first two designs into one – the coloured bars still represent sea, hills and sky, and the unfurling ends of the bars represent our iconic fern, albeit without the traditional black background.

I think I like this one best – it is simple, yet (if I may say so myself) the unfurling fronds make it elegantly distinctive from other flags of the world.

Which do you like best? And if you’re a NZer, why don’t you submit your ideas yourself before the deadline?

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More preview pics of Crann Tara’s forthcoming Gardes Françaises

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Crann Tara Miniatures have released some further preview shots of their forthcoming range of 1/56th scale Gardes Françaises figures modelled on the famous Philippoteaux painting, which I’m hoping will be my next project.

The sculptor is now apparently working on the command figures. I’m looking forward to seeing which of the poses from the painting he is going to recreate.

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Make your own hardcover ‘eye candy’ book of miniatures

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Jealous of the Perry Twins having a full colour hard-cover book featuring their own miniatures? Well, don’t be any longer, because you too can have your own version of Masters in Miniature! Above is a pic of a coffee-table book I created this week containing loads of pictures of my own figures.

Recently I discovered SnapFish, a web-based company that does all sorts of photographic printing. You just go to their site, upload the images you want printed, pay by credit card, and a few days later the prints arrive at your door. But they don’t only do prints.  They also have a range of other products on which your photos can be printed – including books.

So when SnapFish announced a sale on books (only $NZ15 for a twenty-page 20cmx28cm hardcover book), I came up with the idea of making a book of the best photos I’ve taken over the years of my miniatures.

You can choose all sorts of backgrounds for the pages on which your photos will be displayed, but I thought a plain black background would distract less from the figures.  There are also all sots of graphic embellishments you can add, but again, I thought simple is best, and so ignored these.  I also decided to leave the book text-free.

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When the finished book arrived in the mail today, I was absolutely delighted with the results. Just look how lavish the front cover turned out to be.

When I was ‘making’ the book, I had been a bit worried about the low resolution of some of my shots.  But in the end they all came out perfectly well. Slight focus issues didn’t stand out as much in hard-copy as they did viewing the photos online.

Overall, I’ve ended up with a coffee table book that shows off my collection – my very own Masters in Miniature. I just can’t stop picking it up and browsing through it!

What’s more, if anyone was so foolish as to want a copy of my book, they can easily purchase their own copy direct off SnapFish using this link!

If you’re interested in this idea for yourself, but you’re not from New Zealand, I’m sure other countries will have similar companies to SnapFish.

Here are pics of a few pages from the book. Remember, even when you’ve clicked on the pics below to enlarge them, they’ll still only be about half the size of the pics in the actual book!

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