Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Whydah Gally - Pre-Bellamy

          Before becoming the flagship of Sam Bellamy's pirate fleet and ultimately wrecking off the coast of Cape Cod, the Whydah Gally was an English slave ship. I'm working on a second version of the Whydah, for Bellamy and his crew to hunt down.  The first model can be found here, for reference and comparison.


Commissioned in 1715 by MP/Sir Humphrey Morice, the Whydah was a fully-rigged-ship of 110 feet length, 300 tons, and capable of 13 knots. Whydah launched in 1716, bringing manufactured goods from the empire to West Africa, to purchase slaves.  Captain Lawrence Prince was in command.

In West Africa, the crew onboard 500 captive Africans which they transported to the West Indies to sell for raw materials like metals, sugar, and ginger.

The ship had a "slave barricade" across the top deck, which was used to separate the male and female captives when they were brought outside for fresh air. It would also have been used as a defensive structure for the slavers to put down slave revolts. 

Before the pirates captured and altered the ship, the Whyday had a few extra decks and a pilot's cabin, making it a taller and more top-heavy vessel.

After a year at sea, in February 1717 the Whydah became the target of Sam Bellamy's small but effective pirate fleet. After a 3-day chase, Prince gave up the ship without a fight.

When it fell victim to the pirates, the Whydah was carrying 18 cannon, though it had room for more. Theypirates ended up emplacing 10 more cannons, and storing many more in the lower decks.

The photos above are from my second layer of paint. I began with my usual brown spray-primer, and then made a lighter brown layer in oil paint.

Once fully painted, I used black thread and a needle to rig the ship.

For the rat lines, I find putting some gluey water on the thread lengths first and letting them dry hard makes them easier to work with.

Finally, I added the sails, cut from pillow cases, with thread tied off to the bottom corners.

Then I dipped the sails in gluey water, and held them in place on the arms to dry with clips.

As they dried, I tied off the threads to the arms below, and continued on with the next sails.

Here's some shots of the finished model:

Monday, November 20, 2023

A brief history of the Durruti Column

To mark the 87th anniversary of the death of José Buenaventura Durruti Dumange, below is a brief and rough history of the man's greatest accomplishment: the creation of the Durruti Column and that forces liberation and collectivization of much of Catalonia and Aragon.

 The Durruti Column originally numbered 2000 workers. It included military advisors such as Commander Pérez Farrás from the Catalan capital police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, and Guardia Civil lieutenant Pedro Garrido, and Artillery Sgt. José Manzana. The Column was made up of five Centurias, each led by CNT workers. 

    They brought along 12 artillery pieces organized into three batteries of four guns each. They brought 20 automobiles, 50 trucks (four for fuel, one for water, 15 for artillery, machine guns and ammo, and one with telegraph equipment), and three "tiznaos" (improvised armor constructed in collectivized factories.) They set off from Barcelona with a full parade and celebration on July 24, with the objective of liberating Zaragoza, the "second city of anarchism" and the capitol of the neighboring province, Aragon.

    In the first two days, the column rolled through Catalonia and advanced to Bujaraloz, a town in Aragon more than three-quarters of the distance between Barcelona and Zaragoza. Bujaraloz would serve as the column's headquarters for its entire existence. Along the way, the column liberated towns like Caspe, Cervera, Llieda, and Fraga, and added ten more centurias totaling 1000 volunteers from the area. They also captured 1000 rounds of ammo, 150 artillery shells, 10 have machine guns with 750 rounds of ammo, 15 trucks, 50 gallons of fuel, and 1000 pounds of food from the Nationalist forces.

    While their hearts were filled with hope by their early successes, already by then the column's official advisors were suggesting they slow down. These were not worker revolutionaries, they were military and police men who lacked the zeal and optimism required in the revolutionary moment, but possessed instead the education and experience of coordinated armed action. The column relented and waited for the other columns to catch up and secure the flanks and supply routes. The anarchists were busy while they waited, helping the peasants reorganize their towns and fields as collectives, establishing publishing efforts, and workeing to educate the rural people.

    After a week of waiting around, the other columns were still lagging behind. With each passing hour, the nationalists strengthened their defensive positions and reinforced the developing front-line. The Nationalists were already receiving help from the German Nazis and Italian Fascists, who provided planes for transporting the colonial Army of Africa from Morocco to southern Spain. These forces were much stronger and more experienced than the Peninsular army the workers defeated in Barcelona, Madrid, and other populous cities. It wouldn't be long before the Army of Africa arrived in Aragon, while Italian and German bombers took control of the skies.

    In the first weeks of August, the Durruti Column lent a hand to the columns in charge of the neighboring sectors, fighting north in Seitamo and liberating towns to the south along the Ebro, such as Gelsa, Pina de Ebro, Osera de Ebro, and Villafranca de Ebro. By August 13, they had also pushed west into the mountain town of Alfajarín, which would be their closest reach toward Zaragoza. From the hill by the old Alfajarín castle, they could see the street cars of Zaragoza. Their enemy made sure to keep the town's lights on all night to taunt the anarchists, who were once again advised strenuously by their advisors to hold up and wait for the front line to catch up to them.

    In the ensuing week, the Durruti Column took stock of their forces and supplies, and reorganized their column. They switched from 10-member groups to 25-member groups. The column now totaled 6000 militia members in 9 Agrupaciones and 45 Centurias. They had 7 or so groups of "Shock forces" totaling around 225 fighters. They organized their Agrupaciones to cover three sectors of the Aragon front. They organized a bakery, a mechanics' section, and a medical section of two doctors and a handful of nurses.

    The column suffered severe supply shortages. They only had 3000 rifles for the 6000 fighters. They only had 16 heavy machine guns and 9 mortars, and the same 12 cannons they left Barcelona with. They had 30 automobiles and 80 trucks, and 10 tiznaos. They turned one truck into a mobile printing press, from which they published their official bulletin, El Frente. Another truck they utilized as a mobile transmitter to blast revolutionary arguments across the front line to encourage soldiers to desert.

    For all of their efforts and optimism, this was the high-water-mark of the Durruti Column. They fought fierce battles throughout September and October, but could not advance further. Their supply issues only got worse. They struggled to maintain their positions against a better armed, organized, and trained professional enemy. 

    In November, Durruti was called to Madrid, which was under a massive siege from the Army of Africa. Durruti arrived in mid-November with the best of the column's centurias. They stood in the breech against the Nationalist thrust in the University City of Madrid, absorbing the blow of the fascist attack. Despite the conditions and a lack of relief or reinforcement from the Republican command, they stopped the Nationalist advance in University City, establishing the frontline there which would remain static for the remaining two and a half years the war. They lost a few buildings and most of the men they had arrived with, but saved Madrid.

    Durruti never returned from Madrid to continue on the push to Zaragoza. He was struck by a bullet on November 19 a few blocks from the front line, and died in the hospital on November 20th, another son of the people lost in the fight for freedom. 

 You may find photos of my Durruti Column miniature forces here:

Friday, November 17, 2023

Battle of Caspe AAR Part 3

 My friends and I continued on with our campaign, taking up the third day of the Battle of Caspe where we left off. First, we raised a toast for John's birthday, then set about trying to kill each other ('s minis).

We paused last time early in the 7th Round. I had fired off my artillery to deadly effect, apparently breaking my opponents will for the day. Now it was finally their turn to sound their cannons. 

They had four cannons set up and ready to go, finally bringing the full weight of their artillery to bare. They had the yellow house on the southern edge of town in their sights.

The house was full of fascists, with an HMG on the roof and a grenader on the second floor balcony, both of which had helped hold back the anarchists thrust through the farmlands. 

The first cannon failed to fire. The second overshot the house, slightly damaging the building behind it. The third fell short of the house, but killed a Civil Guardsman with a SMG. The fourth shell, however, landed square on the roof, killing the machine gun crew and two other nationalists instantly. The blast barely damaged the house or the machine-gun itself, however.

Next, the movement phase began. I made very minor tweaks to the positioning of my forces. On the other side of the table, the attackers advanced everywhere. Chris drove one of his trucks north past the graveyard wall to use as cover for some of his militia.

They faced off against Civil Guard and local Falangists holed up in an agricultural out building with most of the town's livestock.

Workers militia on the road into Cape rushed into the graveyard for cover from nationalist artillery. Nine others ran into the house next to the graveyard.

On the south flank, John had a group of anarchists crawling up the barn-yard's stone wall toward the farm house.

Behind them, workers streamed across the open field. My one remaining HMG fired on them from the high window of the gray building, but didn't land any shots. 

The skirmish phase began, and I rolled four straight 0s. I was unable to fire on Chris's workers standing around in the graveyard, nor Lee's militia on the road into town. Lee's forces fired back at my defenders behind the first barricade, killing all of them (an assault guard and two falangists).

A Falangist militiaman on the north end of the battle tried to throw a grenade at the workers in the graveyard, but it fell well short. 

Chris's anarchists tried to respond with a homemade explosive of their own, but the range was too long.

We debate about the rules regarding blindly lobbing a grenade from safe cover at the enemy lines. We figured a unit could blindly throw in a particular direction, but that they could only attempt to throw the maximum range of 16" (as opposed to opting for a shorter throw, but with the result still subject to the roll of the dice). In this instance, Chris wanted to throw a grenade from behind the burnt-out house next to the first barricades toward some of my Civil guardsmen defending a barricade on the hill by the church. He hoped to kill some of the soldiers who would have a clear shot on the dynamiter pinned directly in the open between the two front lines. We were about to have our own Saving Private Ryan moment.

Chris rolled a 1, meaning the grenade went off in the fighter's hand killing him and his nearest comrade and pinning three other workers. Even worse, the building behind him took so much damage it instantly collapsed. It was the very house which nine of his units had just rushed into. Four of them were killed instantly, and the five survivors raced for cover. All told, six anarchists died in an attempt to save one man.

I gunned down the stranded dynamiter in my next roll. Next, I tried to lob a grenade out of the one-story building over their barricade across the intersection. I rolled short, and it exploded harmlessly in no-mans-land.

The last skirmish sector I called for was on the south flank. Lee won, and fired at my Civil Gaurdsman in the window of the tall gray building, missing the long shot. The return fire was accurate, however. After the last skirmish, both sides performed minor regroupment moves.

Round Eight opened with a roll, which I lost again, for Round Initiative. Another of the buildings on the front collapsed under the weight of a fire. The anarchists aimed their four cannons at my lines, hoping to bring down more buildings. 

They aimed for the gray house next to the church. Two of the shots fell short, damaging the white building below, but two of their rounds landed on the gray building, combining for 6 damage points. 

For my ranged turn, I trained my cannons closer up the road toward the front lines. One of my rounds fell well short of where I had hoped, actually damaging one of the buildings under my control, and knocking out the barricade the CNT militia held on the opposite end of the intersection. This left the workers behind it exposed, but unharmed. The building I hit, the white building, was now on fire and would soon collapse.

My second shot was much better. It landed inside a shell crater, killing four anarchist fighters and pinning others.

Movement Phase began with Chris driving a truck up to replace the barricade at the main intersection. 

Workers rushed forward to find cover behind the vehicle. Workers crept through the graveyard, reaching the western wall. Across the farmlands they could see the high walls of Caspe.

Lee also pushed up the truck carrying an MG and crew past the farm house on the south flank. 

One of the anarchists tried to sprint from behind the farm house to to truck, but my nationalists on overwatch gunned the worker down.

John's crawling firebrands had reached the farm house, and with the machine gun truck driving by, it became clear to my small squad of Falangists that it was time to abandon the farm house. 

I pulled them back to safer positions in a nice gray concrete building up the hill. They had high morale and SMGs, which should come in handy when the waves of attackers reach the next line. John set the farmhouse on fire anyway.

I also pulled out of the heavily damaged gray building on the east edge of Caspe, lest it collapse and take more of my defenders out. They fell back to the next building, covering the doors and windows. Let the workers have the ash and rubble, let's see if they can build a new world out of it. 

During the skirmish phase, I tried to throw a grenade out the window of the white building at the workers hiding behind the truck. My projectile fell short, and the building burnt down killing one of my defenders. The grenader reached the safety of the tall gray building behind. 

After two game days of loosing not a single position, I was forced to abandoned three fortified buildings in just a few minutes. Next, the anarchists mowed down the falange and assault guards left guarding the intersection.

A worker attempted to throw a grenade, but it went off in his hand, killing him instantly. Luckily for my opponents, there was no one else alive nearby, and the buildings had already been destroyed.

During regroupment I solidified new positions behind the ones I had abandoned. 

My friends won the roll of open Round Nine. They knew if they could last one more round, they had three centurias of militia arriving by train. At the start of the round, yet another building within Caspe city limits burnt down.

During the ranged phase, the Durruti Column, trained its artillery at the yellow house again. One cannon failed to fire, but the other three succeeded and demolished the front of the house and set the back on fire. 

I had officially lost one of my objectives (holding the Yellow House position). 

My artillery returned fire. I continued shelling the road into town. The first round killed four more workers. 

The second hit the truck acting as a barricade in the intersection. 

The explosion barely damaged the truck, but it killed one worker and pinned 4 more. 

During the movement phase, the syndicalists continued pushing their lines forward. Chris carefully advanced rows of militia out of the graveyard and into the olive grove. 

Lee attempted to bring more workers to join the truck with the machine gun south of town, but two more died trying to cross in the open, including on carrying an SMG. 

I made minor changes to the positioning of my defenders, and we wrapped up movement. 

During overwatch, I tossed a grenade out of a big gray building and at the pickup truck carrying the HMG.  This was my throw of the day, and the grenade landed right in the bed of the truck. 

The blast killed the machine gun crew, and damaged the truck and the gun by 2 points.

During the skirmish phase, the battle continued on the southern front. They fired at the building from whence I had tossed the grenade, but my nationalists were all safe inside the concrete facade. 

I fired back down the hill, killing another worker. Across the rest of the battlefield, the workers opted to keep their heads down and wait for the arrival of reinforcements. 

Workers were now gathering in staging areas in multiple spots across the front line, weathering the fire from the nationalists lines and preparing for future pushes.

I have only lost 17 combatants. I think my friends have long since lost count of their dead. 

When we pick the game back up, the battle will begin anew. The Durruti Column expects three centurias (or 150 militia in our scale) to arrive by train, with machine guns and a supply of ammunition. 

The nationalists will receive a battery of three more cannons, and three platoons of Peninsular Army infantry (60 units). Will the fascists be able to hold on to their damaged front-line positions? Will the masses of workers be able to push deeper into Caspe? Will there be anything left of the town to liberate by the end of it?

Check back soon for Day 4!