Now with Added Trains …

A Russian Civil War armoured trains gaming scenario from the Wargaming for Grown Ups website:


Spurn Head Refortified – Railway Modeller September 1978

Sail power and steam power – Sailway tracks?

An interesting article from some random railway magazines I was given from the 1970s.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN 16 May 2020

German Colonial Railways Southwest Africa WW1

From Battles With Modeł Soldiers by Donald Featherstone (p.169). The final sentence reads used its crew and guns as a shore party to assist in the campaign.
From Battles with Model Soldiers by Donald Featherstone (p. 176)

Back in 1970 when Donald Featherstone wrote Battles with Model Soldiers, a chapter on World War 1  gaming was quite unusual. He admits in the opening sentence of his WW2  chapter that “If World War 1 lacks its wargaming devotees then World War 2 certainly makes up for the deficiency.”

In his WW1 chapter he notes that “This open warfare of 1914 is about the only period of World War 1 on the Western Front that lends itself to campaigning with Model Soldiers” (p.167) and ” … seems merely to be an extension of ‘horse and musket’ warfare plus the added involvement of machine-gun sale together with more numerous and longer-range artillery.” (P.170)

As a young gamer in the late Seventies the only WWI figures I had access to were a precious handful of lively posed Airfix OOHO WWI figures, which were frustratingly only occasionally available. These would suffice only for the Western Front, admittedly at different time periods of soft caps and steel helmets.

Fortunately in the mid 1980s and recently online, I have bought a small handful of 15mm Peter Laing figures that would suit a WW1 African or Colonial campaign.

I recently redound this Roy Link article  on SW Africa in WW1 in my scrapbook.

A lovely article from my scrapbook, originally in Continental Modeller.


An interesting scenario for colonial or WW1,  Zwillinge Twin locos and all.

These South African Railways photos give an idea of the dry terrain. More photographs of terrain, bridges, stations, Schutztruppe and South Africans  can be found in the German website

and in English

Interesting games scenario focus of a Plate girder bridge over a river for this Colonial German WW1 desert railway – easily demolished? Picture by South African Railways.

Lots of interesting games scenarios here, set in Southwest Africa, quite  similar to the Turkish Middle Eastern WW1 railway scenario that I played through recently in 2017.


My 15mm “Blowing up Desert Trains” scenario set somewhere in WW1 in the Middle East. 

This German South West African area is also briefly covered in Railways and War Before 1918 (Mechanised warfare in colour)  by W.J.K. Davies and Denis Bishop, 1972. A superbly illustrated book, full of information, out of print but well worth tracking down second hand. A German Feldbahn o-8-oT  type loco developed in SW Africa and widely used in their thousands elsewhere  is shown (top) on the cover. A separate armoured water tender with ride-on troop escort was carried.



Peter Laing 15mm figures produced a WW1 / Colonial range that would suit, sadly no longer available. I have some of these figures that would stand in for Schutztruppe, askaris and WWI British or South African troops.

Donald Featherstone mentions in his 1962 book War Games the possibility of an East African campaign scenario c. WW1  “Few collectors seem interested in World War 1, although there is much to be found in the Battles of 1914 and early 1915, before the war bogged down in a mass of trench warfare – a fascinating little campaign can be made of the German East African fighting in which native troops can be used.”

In reality and in any gaming scenario, the rail link to the SW African inland mines of copper and vanadium would be crucial to the allied of German war effort. 

What was the historic background to these Colonial German Railway in wartime?

The Namibian railway system dates from the time when Namibia was a colony of the German Empire known as German South West Africa.

This arid part of the African continent was not very productive for agriculture. Initially, overland transport was operated entirely by ox-cart. A small mining rail line opened at Cape Cross in 1895. Soon afterwards, the ox-cart transport system totally collapsed, in the wake of a rinderpest epidemic in 1897.

As it was necessary to react quickly to the now extremely precarious transport situation, decisions were made:

1. to build a railway line from the German port of Swakopmund to Windhoek

2. to use existing, 600 mm (1 ft 11 5⁄8 in) gauge military Feldbahn material

3. to entrust a railway brigade with the construction work, which began in September 1897.

Train services on the whole of the new line, which was called the Staatsbahn (State Railway), began on 19 June 1902.

The historical background (thanks Wikipedia) 

Construction of the railways connecting with the Staatsbahn was aimed partly at military strategic objectives (following the uprising of the Herero and Nama peoples) and partly at the economic requirements of serving the inland mines.

I had not heard of the Herero Wars and quickly realised that this was not a pleasant  period of history, certainly not something lightly suitable for gaming.

Herero Wars  history blogs do exist such as Tim Abbott’s extensive blog at

Askari Minis produce a range of 28mm figures including Hereros and Askaris but also other colonial types that could easily be adopted for a Colonial SW Africa scenario or Hollywood pulp B movie scenario. Straight out of Tintin or Indiana Jones!


Certainly reading more about the Herero Wars / Genocide convinced me that this was not to be confused with the Hollywood style Wild West / Lawrence of Arabia type train ambush scenario that caught my eye when  I first glimpsed Roy Link’s article in an old issue of Continental Modeller.

The Herero Wars (1904-08) were particularly nasty, with German use of concentration camps (invented by the British in the recent Boer War), a conflict recently classified as one of the first genocides of the 20th century.

World War 1 background

With the outbreak of World War I, the German Schutztruppe military units retreated from the coast, and withdrew into the inland.

In the process, as in the American Civil War, there was deliberate track and train wrecking to deny this route and transport to the enemy invaders.  The German  Schutztruppe destroyed the Otavibahn and the old Staatsbahn railways towards Karibib, as far as Rössing.

British troops immediately moved forward from the British enclave of Walvis Bay, and by the end of 1914 they had built a 37 km (23 mi) long 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) railway to Swakopmund.

The Otavibahn destroyed by the Schutztruppe was also reconstructed by British and South African engineers in 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge  as far as Usakos, and the section between Usakos and Karibib was realigned.

Neighbouring South Africa was also on the Allied side, effectively forming a local enemy of the German Empire. From South Africa, a new railway was constructed  as an extension of the De Aar-Prieska railway. This was designed and built  to achieve a secure supply route for the South African troops. By 1916, the line was connected to the old German network at Kalkfontein (now Karasburg).

By chance, Tony of the Tin Soldiering On blog mentioned the website which features material on the German military presence in Africa.

Tha is the web version of the Colonial Wars of Imperial Germany articles by Paul Beck, with very useful uniform plates by Nick Stern, webified by John Switzer.

Another interesting WW1 in SW Africa blog at

As mentioned on my main Man of TIN blog, there is an interesting WW1 website called Away from the Western Front  which mentions Africa in WW1, but so far only a focus on East Africa in WW1.

So I have some painting of WW1 Peter Laing 15mm figures to do to populate another scenario, inspired by these other desert railways. My trusty Train In a Tin has just acquired a German accent …

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 17 April 2018.




Blowing up More Desert Trains and Cutting Telegraph Wires

Interesting passage on Lawrence of Arabia, desert codes, telegraph wires and railways on page 249 in Codebreakers, the highly readable book on Room 40 and WW1 Codebreaking by James Willie and Michael McKinley (published by Ebury, 2015).

Pulling down telegraph poles? This of course makes sense as often the telegraph poles followed railways, so it was easy to cut these wires or pull these poles down (by camel!) under the guise of Lawrence attacking the railway again. All part of the annoyance and disruption value of guerrilla warfare but with a higher aim, reading the enemy’s codes.

A clever way to force the Turks to rely on wireless, much easier to intercept at a safe distance and then decrypt or decode than tapping telegraph wires.

Overall Codebreakers is a very interesting book on WW1, picked up in my local branch library (childhood habits die hard!) but certainly worth buying in paperback. It covers naval and submarine warfare, Zeppelin raids, the Western Front, Ireland, German espionage and sabotage in America and its legacy, the seeds of WW2 codebreaking and breaking the Enigma codes at Bletchley Park.

More on WW1 Wireless and Telegraph and SIG INT at my post

More on Lawrence and desert train gaming scenarios – next time I need to add some Telegraph poles alongside the railtrack!

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 3 February 2019.

Territorial Terror

“You are a Territorial Terror”

This lovely little Burlesque series coloured postcard from 1911 (how that Burlesque word has changed over the years) showing a stage or music hall version of a Territorial in his scarlet coat, swagger stick (and stuck from a nearby hedge it looks) and skew whiff Home Service helmet.

A cheeky chappie who looks like he enlisted in a Light Operetta Company of the Territorial Army.

Tucked away in his jacket is what could be a hidden bottle? Hence the skew whiff helmet?

It captures the British public’s ambivalent attitude to licentious soldiery, the allure of a Redcoat to the giddy local womenfolk from Jane Austen’s Regency period onwards, the perils of a standing army bored and billeted on the civilian population and its slightly derisive approach to “weekend soldiers” three years before WW1. All in one single comic postcard.

The Territorial Force was formed in 1908, so the 1911 postcard was quite topical.

Marvin over at the Suburban Militarism blog has been focussing his research and excellent painting skills on the Territorial Force predecessors, the British Volunteer Regiments of the 19th and 20th Century.

What is even more interesting is the back of the German printed postcard of Watkins and Kracke Ltd. (Don’t read too much into this as subtle German propaganda – many British postcards were printed in Germany).

A short witty note from a loving sister, postmarked Stoke on Trent, 24 JY (January? July?) 1911

Dear Willie,

Just a line to let you know I got as far as Stoke on Sunday and I must say you would look better in these clothes than with a fishing rod and basket.

From your loving sister Annie

Addressed to Master W. Harrop, 76 Westminster Street, Crewe, Cheshire.

I thought 1911 being a Census Year, that there may be a chance with the names and addresses on the postcard of finding out more about Annie and her Brother Willie.

I searched the 1911 census for this Crewe address and found the family of William Charles Harrop and his sister Annie. William was serving an interesting apprenticeship, when not out with his fishing rod.

Using Ancestry I quickly found William Harrop’s Military WW1 Service Record – and thankfully he survived WW1.

This was partly due to his special trade as a Locomotive Engine Fitter for The LNWR . The Harrops were a railway family in the railway town of Crewe, his Crewe born-and-bred father Thomas being a Locomotive Engine Painter, also for the LNWR. Eventually several more sons, Walter Baden Harrop (Baden Powell or BP being a Boer War name?) and Lewis Harrop became LNWR apprentices.

William Harrop’s address by 1916 seems to have moved next door to 74 Westminster Street and he Attested to Enlist and serve from 1916 with the Royal Engineers, ROD Railway Operating Division at Longmoor.

It is clear from his Attestation papers that William had not served as a Territorial, so the postcard choice was no in-joke from his sister that Willie was one such “Territorial Terror”.

Medical Certificate for William with his varicose veins (unusual in a man of 26?) and requires dental treatment,

Interesting unit to work on as a Sapper (equivalent to Private) in the Royal Engineers Railway and Canal Troops Department. It also identifies his employment as Loco Fitter, his previous employer as the LNWR (London & North Western Railway) in his lifelong railway town of Crewe. It seems there was a strong link between the LNWR and the Railway Operating Division.

Longmoor was the Royal Engineers training camp and base in Hampshire for these Railway units with a Railway Signalling School etc.

According to the excellent 1914-18 invasion zone website:

The first of the railway operating companies were raised in April of 1915 and deployed to France in June of that year. They performed three basic functions:

1. The management of traffic.

2. The provision of crews for locomotives.

3. The repair of rolling stock and other items needed to keep a railway in operation. This is where William Harrop as a Loco Fitter would have worked.

The railway operating companies were exclusively concerned with operation of full-size (‘standard gauge’) trains.

The operation of light railways was the responsibility of the light railway companies. This is the type of 26 LRW Company that William served with.

The construction of railway lines, as well as their repair, was the work of railway construction units.

A good description of the genesis of railway units in the BEF can be found in the History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, Volume V, The Home Front, France, Flanders and Italy in the First World War, (Chatham: The Institution of Royal Engineers, 1952), pp. 594-595.

William was demobilised in November 1919 as Sapper, W.R. 275073 Royal Engineers, formerly 290053.

Decoding William’s Service records

It has been suggested on the 1914-18 Invision Zone webpage on ROD units by some that W.R. on his regimental or service number is Waterways and Railways (rather than War Reserve?)

He enlisted 21.2.16 and was mobilised 10.7.17, then posted 11.7.17. He left England with 26 LWR Co RE on 14.9.17.

His service in the 26 LWR CO is the Light Railway Workshop Company, based at Longmoor. This unit embarked for France and Flanders 12 March 1917. The RE Museum website of War Diaries lists dates for this Company as March 1917 to August 1917, although William’s faded service records suggest that he transferred to the 18th ROC RE on 8 June 1918 .

William survived the war and received the standard two war service medals, the British War Medal and Victory Medal for his service with 118th Railway Company, Royal Engineers (formed 13 November 1915) and at first with the 26th LRW Co Royal Engineers.

After the war he returned to and remained in Crewe in railway service. He was listed as a locomotive stores issuer (from 1927) in the 1939 Register, living in 58 Meredith Street, Crewe with his wife Emily L. Harrop (nee Judson, b. 1899). They had married four years before.

Hopefully he still had a relaxing time with his fishing rod and basket up until his death aged 75 in 1966.

What became of his ‘loving sister Annie’ during and after WW1 is harder to trace but she may have married a John J. Prince in 1921.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, happily Sidetracked again in January 2018.