25 March 2014

Polish Intellectual speaks out on Russian intervention in Ukraine: History come full circle ?

Polish Intellectual speaks out on Russian intervention in Ukraine: History come full circle ? 

Russian troops preparing to assault the Belbek military compound

Russian officers walk past the Ukrainian marine battalion headquarters in Feodosia (23 March 2014)

                               Nearly all Ukranian military bases are now under Russian control

Opinion Repost:

Adam Michnik is a Polish historian, intellectual, and former dissident. Currently, he is the editor-in-chief of Poland's leading newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza".

By annexing Crimea, Vladimir Putin behaved like the Godfather. He told Russia and the world: either your brains or your signature will be on that contract. This policy has proved successful, though nobody knows for how long.

In his speech, Putin spoke his mind: his regime fears no punishment and will do whatever it pleases. Crimea is just a first step in his dream of greatness. Yet he didn't say everything.

Each paragraph of his address was filled with lies and manipulations, for lies and manipulations are inseparable from Putin's thinking about the world. A subtle analysis of the speech would be a waste of time. The simple fact is that the president of Russia, a country that's so powerful and yet so alone today, has embarked on a path of confrontation with the rest of the world. He will invite partners for talks, and right away accuse them of acting in a "brutal, irresponsible and unprofessional way." This smacks of Dostoyevsky's Demons, creating as it does a world that does not exist and has never existed.

What does Kosovo, where the Albanians suffered persecution, have in common with the situation of the people in Crimea, who have never been oppressed? What's the point in contempt for Ukraine's government and parliament? What's the point in labelling Ukrainian authorities as "fascist and anti-Semitic"? Crimean Tatars will give no heed to the fairy tales about fascists ruling Ukraine; they can still remember the mass deportations, brutal and murderous, of their country people that were ordered by Stalin and executed by the NKVD.

Putin evokes the story of a Russia that the whole world has discriminated against for the last three centuries. Indeed, it's hard to imagine a more severe discrimination than the one dating back to the times of bloody despots: Catherine II, Nicholas I or Joseph Stalin.

Putin also warns Russians and Ukrainians that "we and you, the Russians and the Ukrainians, may soon lose Crimea altogether." Yet he fails to specify who – perhaps Poles and Lithuanians again – is whetting their appetite for Sevastopol.

We couldn't leave the people of Crimea "alone in their predicament," says Putin. These words make you smile a sad smile; it's a quotation from Leonid Brezhnev who made this statement in August 1968 when justifying the intervention in Czechoslovakia.

"We want Ukraine to be a strong, sovereign and independent country," says Putin. This in turn is a remark Stalin made about Poland in 1945. I will not mention here the words said by Hitler during the Anschluss and the conquest of Czechoslovakia – my friends, Russian democrats, have already done so.

History has come full circle. This is the real end of history – the history of dreams about a world governed by democratic values and the market economy. If the democratic world fails to grasp that now is no time for the traditional faith in diplomatic compromise, and that we must find a strong enough response to stop Putin's imperial and thuggish policy, then a logic of events will set in motion that one is even afraid to think of today. It takes force to stop a thug.

I commend and take pride in Poland's policy and the attitude of Polish society. Poland's prudent and determined policy does us great credit. But we must realize that the best quarter century in the last four centuries of Polish history is about to end before our very eyes. A time of tectonic shifts has begun. Let's appreciate what we've managed to achieve, and let's learn to protect it.

We all remember that the Godfather met an unhappy fate, and I don't think his Russian plagiarist will fare much better.

- See more at: http://www.novinite.com/articles/159094/Adam+Michnik%3A+Putin%E2%80%99s+Impunity#sthash.al1QMKM2.pdf

20 March 2014

Beguile: Lets baffle them with beauty while we steal Ukraine's Warships

Clever politics: The Honey Pot reinvented by Russia

How to distract the male population of the west from what we are really doing:
Let's put an attractive girl in a uniform, and make her the spokesperson for the new Republic of Crimea.

Natalia Poklonskaya, Crimea's new Attorney General

Distract the media with our honeypot, block the escape of any Ukranian warships, and while no-one's looking we'll quickly send some militia to take over these ships.

Takeover: A man in an unmarked uniform and wearing a mask holds a gun as he climbs aboard the Ukrainian corvette Khmelnitsky in Sevastopol, Crimea

Masked gunmen take over Ukrainian ships in port

Trapped: The Ukrainian ship Ternopil  is seen in the harbour in Sevastopol as a Russian ship blocks its exit

Trapped: The Ukrainian ship Ternopil is seen in the harbour in Sevastopol as a Russian ship blocks its exit

Call me cynical, but someone once wrote that Warfare is Man's second most favourite pastime. 

Clearly the thinking here is that the favourite pastime will divert attention from the second favourite. Clearly it has. Spawning Manga images by the dozens, her looks have diverted attention from the gravity of the situation. Devious.


Stuff NZ has showcased her looks, (Clicky) but all but ignored the first death by shooting and annexation of the Ukranian fleet in Sebastopol:

Surrounded: Russian naval vessels block the Ukrainian ship Slavutich (pictured left) at her mooring in Sevastopol, Crimea, on Thursday

Ukranian ship blocked in: photo Reuters (Daily mail)



19 March 2014

D-Day 's a'coming: Kapiti Wargames Club open day

70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings

We are planning for this year's Kapiti Wargames Club open day in May. I thought it appropriate that we consider doing a D-Day Landing theme this year, being the 70th Anniversary of the event that turned the tide against the Germans in Europe (well, ok, on the Western Front)

 By this time the Battle of Kursk (clicky for last years battle report) had already happened, and the Germans were retreating on the Eastern Front, but still far from beaten.

I'm hoping the Kapiti FoW group will come to the party again, and put on another of their dazzling displays.

My own intent is to re-fight Sword Beach landings, mostly Queen sector, and poss Ouistreham. On looking at the maps of this area I discovered that there was 2 towns embroiled in the battle that carry my name and that of my son; Hermanville-sur-Mer and Luc-sur-Mer. I would appreciate it if anyone had more detailed maps of the German emplacements in this area, specifically the widerstandsnester (strong points).

5 March 2014

Russia and the Crimea 12 Worrying facts

Russia in the Crimea: A keg of gunpowder waiting for a spark?

Is Russia Is Ready To Fight A War Over Crimea: 12 Signs That may suggest so
 Original article Michael Snyder

Russia will not give up the Crimea without a fight. The Russian Black Sea fleet's main base at Sevastopol is too strategically important.  In addition, ethnic Russians make up approximately 60  % of the population of Crimea, and most of the population is rabidly pro-Russian.  In fact, many prominent Crimean politicians are already calling for reunification with Russia.

If you have been thinking that Russia is just going to pack up shop and go home now that pro-European protesters have violently seized power in Kiev, you can quit holding your breath.  The truth is that Russia is more than willing to fight a war over Crimea.  And considering the fact that vitally important pipelines that pump natural gas from Russia to the rest of Europe go right through Ukraine, it is not likely that Russia will just willingly hand the rest of Ukraine over to the U.S. and the EU either.  If the U.S. and the EU push too hard in Ukraine, a major regional war may erupt which could ultimately lead to something much larger.

Russia and Ukraine have very deep historical ties.  Most Americans may not think that Ukraine is very important, but the Russians consider Ukraine to be of the utmost strategic importance.

As an American, how would you feel if another nation funded and organized the violent overthrow of the democratically-elected Canadian government and replaced it with a government that was virulently anti-American?

By doing this to Ukraine, the United States and the EU are essentially sticking a pin in Russia's eye.
Needless to say, Russia is extremely angry at this point and they are gearing up for war.

The following are 12 signs that Russia is ready to fight a war over Crimea...

#1 More Russian military vehicles continue to pour into Crimea.

#2 Russian military vehicles have been photographed in the main square of Sevastopol.

#3 Russian military jets near the border with Ukraine have been put on combat alert.

#4 Russia has ordered "surprise military exercises" along the Ukrainian border.

#5 In connection with those "exercises", it is being reported that Russia has deployed 150,000 troops along the border with Ukraine.

#6 Russia already has approximately 26,000 troops stationed at their naval base in Sevastopol.

#7 Russian ships carrying additional soldiers have been spotted off the coast of Crimea.

A large landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov has arrived near the Russia Black Sea Fleet’s base at Sevastopol, which Russia has leased from Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

This ship is reported to be carrying as many as 200 soldiers and has joined four additional ships carrying an unknown amount of Special Forces troops. Flot.com also reported that personnel from the 45th Airborne Special Forces unit and additional divisions had been airlifted into Anapa, a city on Russia’s Black Sea coastline. According to the website of the Russian Black Sea fleet, the Filchenkov can carry 300 troops + 1,700 tons including about 20 tanks and various trucks or 40 AFV's.

#8 Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made the following statement to reporters on Wednesday...

"Measures are taken to guarantee the security of our facilities."

Russian military vessels are anchored at a navy base in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Crimea, February 27, 2014 (Reuters)

#9 An unidentified Russian official has told the Financial Times that Russia is willing to use military force to protect Crimea...

Moscow earlier revealed that it would be ready to go for war over the Crimea region in order to protect the large Russian population and army installations.

“If Ukraine breaks apart, it will trigger a war. They will lose Crimea first [because] we will go in and protect [it], just as we did in Georgia,” an unidentified Russian official told the Financial Times.

#10 Officials in Sevastopol have "installed" a Russian citizen as mayor of the city.

#11 Approximately 120 pro-Russian gunmen have seized the Crimean parliament building and have raised the Russian flag.

#12 There are rumors that Russian authorities have offered protection to ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych...

Viktor F.Yanukovych, the ousted president of Ukraine, declared on Thursday that he remained the lawful president of the country and appealed to Russia to “secure my personal safety from the actions of extremists.” Russian news agencies reported that he had already arrived in Russia, but officials did not immediately confirm that.

No matter what the "new government" in Kiev says, and no matter how hard the U.S. and the EU push, Russia will not give up the Crimea.  The following is what a recent Debka article had to say about the matter...

" There is no way that President Vladimir Putin will relinquish Russian control of the Crimean peninsula and its military bases there - or more particularly the big Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol. This military stronghold is the key to Russia’s Middle East policy. If it is imperiled, so too are Russia’s military posture in Syria and its strategic understandings with Iran."

And you know what?
The people of the Crimea do not want Russia to leave either.  In fact, they overwhelmingly want Russia to help defend them against the "new government" in Kiev.

As you read this, militia groups are being formed in Crimea to fight back against the "nationalist invasion" that they are anticipating.  Just check out the following excerpt from a recent Time Magazine article...

Many of the people at the rally in Sevastopol were not just ready to believe. They were convinced of the imminent nationalist invasion. What scared them most were the right-wing political parties and militant groups that have played a role in Ukraine’s revolution. “What do you think they’re going to do with all those weapons they seized from police in Kiev? They’re going to come here and make war,” said Sergei Bochenko, who identified himself as the commander of a local militia group in Sevastopol called the Southern Russian Cossack Battalion.

In preparation, he said, his group of several hundred men had armed themselves with assault rifles and begun to train for battle. “There’s not a chance in hell we’re going to accept the rule of that fascist scum running around in Kiev with swastikas,” he said. That may be overstating the case. Nowhere in Ukraine has the uprising involved neo-Nazi groups, and no swastikas have appeared on the revolution’s insignia. But every one of the dozen or so people TIME spoke to in Sevastopol was certain that the revolt was run by fascists, most likely on the payroll of the U.S. State Department."

And just remember what happened back in 2008 in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  The Russians have already shown that they are not afraid to militarily intervene in order to protect Russian citizens.

So what would the U.S. and the EU do if a war erupts between Russia and Ukraine ?
Do you think they would risk a direct military confrontation with Russia in order to help Ukraine?

US State Department's take on Russian Claims:

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC March 5, 2014

"As Russia spins a false narrative to justify its illegal actions in Ukraine, the world has not seen such startling Russian fiction since Dostoyevsky wrote, “The formula ‘two plus two equals five’ is not without its attractions.”

Below are 10 of President Vladimir Putin’s recent claims justifying Russian aggression in the Ukraine, followed by the facts that his assertions ignore or distort.

1. Mr. Putin says:  Russian forces in Crimea are only acting to protect Russian military assets. It is “citizens’ defense groups,” not Russian forces, who have seized infrastructure and military facilities in Crimea.

The Facts:  Strong evidence suggests that members of Russian security services are at the heart of the highly organized anti-Ukraine forces in Crimea. While these units wear uniforms without insignia, they drive vehicles with Russian military license plates and freely identify themselves as Russian security forces when asked by the international media and the Ukrainian military. Moreover, these individuals are armed with weapons not generally available to civilians.

2. Mr. Putin says:  Russia’s actions fall within the scope of the 1997 Friendship Treaty between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

The Facts:  The 1997 agreement requires Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Russia’s military actions in Ukraine, which have given them operational control of Crimea, are in clear violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

3. Mr. Putin says:  The opposition failed to implement the February 21 agreement with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

The Facts:  The February 21 agreement laid out a plan in which the Rada, or Parliament, would pass a bill to return Ukraine to its 2004 Constitution, thus returning the country to a constitutional system centered around its parliament. Under the terms of the agreement, Yanukovych was to sign the enacting legislation within 24 hours and bring the crisis to a peaceful conclusion. Yanukovych refused to keep his end of the bargain. Instead, he packed up his home and fled, leaving behind evidence of wide-scale corruption.

4. Mr. Putin says:  Ukraine’s government is illegitimate. Yanukovych is still the legitimate leader of Ukraine.

The Facts:  On March 4, President Putin himself acknowledged the reality that Yanukovych “has no political future.” After Yanukovych fled Ukraine, even his own Party of Regions turned against him, voting to confirm his withdrawal from office and to support the new government. Ukraine’s new government was approved by the democratically elected Ukrainian Parliament, with 371 votes – more than an 82% majority. The interim government of Ukraine is a government of the people, which will shepherd the country toward democratic elections on May 25th – elections that will allow all Ukrainians to have a voice in the future of their country.

5. Mr. Putin says:  There is a humanitarian crisis and hundreds of thousands are fleeing Ukraine to Russia and seeking asylum.

The Facts:  To date, there is absolutely no evidence of a humanitarian crisis. Nor is there evidence of a flood of asylum-seekers fleeing Ukraine for Russia. International organizations on the ground have investigated by talking with Ukrainian border guards, who also refuted these claims. Independent journalists observing the border have also reported no such flood of refugees.

6. Mr. Putin says:  Ethnic Russians are under threat.

The Facts:  Outside of Russian press and Russian state television, there are no credible reports of any ethnic Russians being under threat. The new Ukrainian government placed a priority on peace and reconciliation from the outset. President Oleksandr Turchynov refused to sign legislation limiting the use of the Russian language at regional level. Ethnic Russians and Russian speakers have filed petitions attesting that their communities have not experienced threats. Furthermore, since the new government was established, calm has returned to Kyiv. There has been no surge in crime, no looting, and no retribution against political opponents.

7. Mr. Putin says:  Russian bases are under threat.

The Facts:  Russian military facilities were and remain secure, and the new Ukrainian government has pledged to abide by all existing international agreements, including those covering Russian bases. It is Ukrainian bases in Crimea that are under threat from Russian military action.

8. Mr. Putin says:  There have been mass attacks on churches and synagogues in southern and eastern Ukraine.

The Facts:  Religious leaders in the country and international religious freedom advocates active in Ukraine have said there have been no incidents of attacks on churches. All of Ukraine’s church leaders, including representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, have expressed support for the new political leadership, calling for national unity and a period of healing. Jewish groups in southern and eastern Ukraine report that they have not seen an increase in anti-Semitic incidents.

9. Mr. Putin says:  Kyiv is trying to destabilize Crimea.

The Facts:  Ukraine’s interim government has acted with restraint and sought dialogue. Russian troops, on the other hand, have moved beyond their bases to seize political objectives and infrastructure in Crimea. The government in Kyiv immediately sent the former Chief of Defense to defuse the situation. Petro Poroshenko, the latest government emissary to pursue dialogue in Crimea, was prevented from entering the Crimean Rada.

10. Mr. Putin says:  The Rada is under the influence of extremists or terrorists.

The Facts:  The Rada is the most representative institution in Ukraine. Recent legislation has passed with large majorities, including from representatives of eastern Ukraine. Far-right wing ultranationalist groups, some of which were involved in open clashes with security forces during the EuroMaidan protests, are not represented in the Rada. There is no indication that the Ukrainian government would pursue discriminatory policies; on the contrary, they have publicly stated exactly the opposite.

3 March 2014

Sabres in the Crimea (again?)

So the Sabres are rattling in the Crimea again:

Vladimir Putin has decided that it would be good idea to take back Sebastopol and the Crimea from The Ukraine. The Crimea has been a hotbed of contention for centuries, holding a key position on the Black Sea.
The retoric smacks of Adolf Hitler though: " Lets reunite all the German (read Russian in this context) speaking people of this area." -  Sounds a little like Rhineland, Austria or Sudetenland, doesn't it? 

So I've had a little look at the history of the area:

Crimea is an eastern Ukrainian peninsula (click to map) located on the Black Sea. It’s connected to the rest of the country by a small strip of land. Out of its 2 million residents, about 60 percent identify as Russian. That’s the highest concentration of Russian speakers in Ukraine. Although the territory belongs to Ukraine, Russia stationed part of its Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol as part of a pre-existing agreement between the two countries.

 Crimea hasn’t always been part of Ukraine. Here’s a summary of what’s happened in the region since the Ottoman Empire used the peninsula as a hub for slave trade.

1783: Russia annexed Crimea.

1853: The Crimean War began, lasting three years. Russia lost to an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, Britain and Sardinia. Crimea remained part of Russia. Charge of the Light Brigade, ouch:
( Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854 in the Crimean War. Lord Raglan, overall commander of the British forces, had intended to send the Light Brigade to pursue and harry a retreating Russian artillery battery, a task well suited to light cavalry. Due to mis-communication in the chain of command, the Light Brigade was instead sent on a frontal assault against a different artillery battery, one well-prepared with excellent fields of defensive fire.Although the Light Brigade reached the battery under withering direct fire and scattered some of the gunners, the badly-mauled brigade was forced to retreat immediately. Thus, the assault ended with very high British casualties and no decisive gains.)

1917: Crimea briefly became a sovereign state before becoming a base for the White Army of anti-Bolshevik forces in the Russian War.

1921: The peninsula, now called the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, became part of the Soviet Union.

1942: Nazi Germany took control of Crimea:
The Crimea Campaign was an eight-month long campaign by Axis forces to conquer the Crimea peninsula, and was the scene of some of the bloodiest battles on the Eastern Front during World War II. The German, Romanian, and defending Soviet troops suffered heavy casualties as the Axis forces tried to advance through the Isthmus of Perekop linking the Crimean peninsula to the mainland at Perekop, from summer of 1941 through to the first half of 1942.

From the 26 September 1941 the German 11th Army and troops from the Romanian Third Army and Fourth Army were involved in the fighting, opposed by the Red Army's 51st Army and elements of the Black Sea Fleet. After the campaign, the peninsula was occupied by Army Group A with the 17th Army as its major subordinate formation.

Once the Axis (German and Romanian troops) broke through, they occupied most of Crimea, with the exception of the city of Sevastopol, which was given the title of Hero City for its resistance, and Kerch, which was recaptured by the Soviets during an amphibious operation near the end of 1941 and then taken once again by the Germans during Operation Bustard Hunt on 8 May. The Siege of Sevastopol lasted 250 days from 30 October 1941 until 4 July 1942, when the Axis finally captured the city.
Sevastapol, the main object of the campaign, was surrounded by German forces and assaulted on 30 October 1941. German troops were repulsed by a Soviet counterattack. Later, many troops evacuated from Odessa contributed to the defense of Sevastopol. The Germans then began an encirclement of the city.

Other attacks on 11 November and 30 November, in the eastern and southern sections of the city, failed.German forces were then reinforced by several artillery regiments, one of which included the railway gun Schwerer Gustav. Another attack on 17 December was repulsed at the last moment with the help of reinforcements, and Soviet troops landed on the Kerch peninsula the day after Christmas, to relieve Sevastopol. The Soviet forces remained on the peninsula until a 9 April German counterattack. They held on for another month before being eliminated on 18 May. With the distraction removed, German forces renewed their assault on Sevastopol, penetrating the inner defensive lines on 29 June. Soviet commanders had been flown out or evacuated by submarine towards the end of the siege, and the city surrendered on 4 July 1942, although some Soviet troops held out in caves outside of the city until the 9th.

In 1944, the Crimea was recaptured by troops of the 4th Ukrainian Front during the Crimean Offensive (8 April 1944 – 12 May 1944) and its three sub-operations:
  • Kerch–Eltigen Operation (31 October 1943 – 11 December 1943)
  • Perekop–Sevastopol Offensive Operation (8 April 1944 – 12 May 1944)
  • Kerch–Sevastopol Offensive Operation (11 April 1944 – 12 May 1944)

1944: Joseph Stalin forcibly deported all Muslim Tatars, a group of 300,000 who had lived on the peninsula for centuries, due to members’ alleged cooperation with Germany during World War II. Many returned to Crimea in the 1980s and 1990s.

1945: After World War II, the autonomous Soviet republic was dissolved and Crimea became a province of the Soviet Union called the Crimean Oblast.

1954: Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev transferred the Crimean Oblast to Ukraine. It’s often reported that it was a gesture of goodwill from Khrushchev, who had Ukrainian roots.

1991: The Soviet Union collapsed. Many expected President Boris Yeltsin, the new president of the Russian Federation, to take Crimea for Russia. But he didn’t bring it up during negotiations with Ukraine.

1997: Ukraine and Russia signed a treaty that allowed Russia to keep its fleet in Sevastopol. The agreement’s since been extended, so the fleet is set to remain there until at least 2042.

Though Khrushchev’s gesture had unclear motives, it didn’t seem like a problem for Russia at the time, only garnering a one-sentence write-up in the official Soviet newspaper. It became a bigger issue in the region once the Soviet Union collapsed decades later.

So the story of the Crimean Peninsula is long and complicated, to say the least. 

And there could be more news to come as war threatens Eastern Europe. Today, Crimea’s residents are divided on the issue of Russia’s military intervention. Generally speaking, ethnic Russians support Russia’s involvement in the region, while Tatars and Ukrainians express pro-Ukrainian sentiments.

 About 60 percent of people living in Crimea identify themselves as Russian. 

16 February 2014

Circum-navigated the globe, now back in the saddle

Back in the Saddle !

I have just returned from traveling right around the globe with my family.

We had a great time: From the tropical beaches to the (almost) frozen north. Our travels took us from the beaches of Thailand to London, Paris, Dublin, to California, Tahiti and home. Tried to soak up as much history as we went, but not always easy if you have 3 female folk who are not particularly enarmoured with military museums and gaming shops.

Had to suffice with the Tower of London, Dark Sphere (see my Fantasy blog and previous post  for details on this), and Hamleys Toy Shop. Struck there again how disadvantaged we antipodeans are by living on a pimple on the backside of the world. Prices are astronomical here, even the humble Airfix kit is overpriced when compared to European and US prices. (Have already had my GW rant on my Fantasy blog)

Did find this ornate gem at the Tower of London:


A cannon right out of the Warhammer world. Apparently commissioned for the Knights of Malta in the defense of the Island of Malta.

Had to pass on the Imperial War Museum (Apparently they are renovating for the Centenary of WW 1 anyhow)  and Bovington (Aaaarrrgh!)

The whole of Europe is so steeped in history that you don't have to look far anyhow. You literally trip over history as you walk the Capitals of Europe ! The obligatory bus-top tour gave the kids a good idea of the lay of the city, and also a brief run-down on British History. Equally fascinating was a visit to Kilkenny Castle in Ireland, where the Butler Family held court for centuries, in all accounts a pretty Anglophile family them !

Night at the real Museum

The trade-off with the youngest of my female offspring was to go to the Natural History Museaum, which is a treat for any Paleontolophile anyhow. The animatronic T. Rex was the obvious favourite here.

Paris saw a lightning visit to the Catacombs for Luc and I. A macabre but very tangible connection to history. We were physically able to touch and see what remains of participants in the historical events of old Paris: Strange to see the actual bones of victims of the guillotine and the uprising that inspired Victor Hugo to pen Les Misrables:

The principal events of Les Misérables took place in 1832. The July Revolution two years earlier had put the Orléanist monarchy on the throne, under the popular “Citizen King” Louis-Philippe.  Popular for awhile, that was.  Despite his unpretentious manners and a character that Les Mis author Victor Hugo commended as “good” and “admirable,” the income gap widened and the conditions of the working class deteriorated.  By the spring of 1832, a deadly cholera epidemic had exacerbated a severe economic crisis in France.

In the early morning hours of June 5, crowds of workers, students, and others gathered in the streets of Paris.  The immediate trigger was the death of General Jean Maximilien Lamarque, who had been a friend to the poor and downtrodden.  The crowd had hoped to accompany Lamarque’s hearse before it took the general home to his native district in the southwest of France.  Those mourning and those with a political agenda merged into a mob that numbered in the tens of thousands – some witnesses claimed it eventually grew to 100,000.

The 30-year-old Victor Hugo was nearby, in the Tuileries Gardens, writing a play.  Then he heard gunfire from the direction of Les Halles.  Instead of going home to safety, he followed the sounds of gunfire through the deserted streets. He was unaware that the mob had taken half of Paris, and the barricades were everywhere in Les Halles.  Wikipedia reports that Hugo headed north up the Rue Montmartre, then turned right onto the Passage du Saumon, finally turning before the Rue du Bout du Monde (if this street still exists, it has a different name now): “Halfway down the alley, the grilles at either end were slammed shut. Hugo was surrounded by barricades and flung himself against a wall, as all the shops and stores had been closed for some time. He found shelter between some columns. For a quarter of an hour, bullets flew both ways.”  Three decades later, he would write about this unforgettable experience in Les Misérables.

The catacombs hold some of the bones of those unfortunate enough not to live to tell the tale. And many others...

15 February 2014

Dark Sphere and back: Circum-navigating the globe

Dark Sphere and back: In NZ again after 30 days' circum-navigating the globe

Back to blogging: I am back at the keyboard after 30 days of travelling the world, many great experiences and addition to the ever growing pile of un-built models.

 Luc and I are now working on our lists for the NZTC Warhammer  Tournament (Team Champs) coming up in March. He plans on fielding an Ogre list, and I am working on my Dark Elves (No surprise that, eh, with the great new rules and models)

Our trip took us around the world, from NZ to the land of cheap electronics (Malaysia), beach paradise no 1 (Koh Lipe, Thailand) The land of affordable Warhammer models and Anglophile history (UK), the land of Guiness beer, whiskey in a jar, and folk music (Eire), the land of great cheese, foi gras, garlic and red wine (and things Napoleonic) - France, to Tinseltown (US), and finally to beach paradise no 2 (Moorea, Tahiti) before winging our way back to Aotearoa (NZ)

One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to Dark Sphere, London's biggest gaming store, now in Lambeth, London. They recently moved, and are now situated a stone's throw from the Imperial War Museum. This shop just cannot be missed! We arrived at this gaming cornucopia after a visit to the Natural History Museum. (Trade-off with Lisa, as she didn't want to go to the IWM, and they are renovating for the 100th Anniversary of WW1 anyhow.

The bulging shelves of the right hand side of Dark Sphere's new home.

The purveyors of joy at Dark Sphere were still unpacking, having just moved into the new premises. Boxes of models were piled up to 3 metres high in places, and it took great discipline to stay within budget.

Needless to say being free of the mark-up we endure in NZ made the experience all the sweeter. We had to tear ourselves away, as it was getting late, and as usual when games meet we fell into taking about our hobby.

Looking forward to the next year of gaming the two of us had to discipline ourselves severely to stick to the agreed budget. We ended up buying a DE cauldron/medusa, warlocks/dark riders, scourge runner, Ogre fire belly and a unit of ogre bulls, an ironblaster (yes, Luc needed more ogres and another blaster!), Gor Rok, and a Carnosaur/Trogothingy, and board game that retails for $120 here, for the grand sum of 150 pounds ($300) Would have been even cheaper had we ordered it online beforehand.

I had to refrain from getting more Chaos Daemons and Empire stuff, as we still had 2 weeks of travel ahead of us, and resolutely looked past the racks and racks of Privateer Press, and almost any other model maker you could imagine. Yes, Battlefront was also there, but with price equity in NZ. Only Plastic Soldier Co was absent from the racks, and some of the more obscure brands, such as Wargods of Hyperborea (Crocodile games, which I had hoped to find there)

I have just calculated the cost of our GW haul if we had bought it here - $563NZ! (Not counting the $120+ board game, which would have brought the cost to $680+ had we bought these here)  We are talking almost a 100% mark-up. Surely this cannot be justified on transport costs alone.

Anyhow, we got the expected scolding from mommy dearest when we arrived back at our accommodation with 4 bags bulging with models and games. We swiftly de-boxed the models and posted them back to NZ for the princely cost of 15 Euros when we got to Dublin. (26-28 NZ$).