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The Great Trek to the Emerald Isle

The message (not in morse) had been received.  General O`Neill (formerly of this parish) had established an outpost in a foreign (to us) land.  “Come and make merry, roll the dice and carry away my lead veterans to reinforce the ranks of your armies.”


For Rob the figures, the figures, like Danny boy they were calling – his anticipation was evident – big plans were afoot – hours of wonderful re-organising of the war room were about to be realised.


Meticulous planning was required for the expedition – a simple task for someone as experienced and resourceful as Rob.  For 14 hours we three (Rob, Brian and myself) were on the march across land and sea.


We travelled through the boring sameness of the English motorways - the exposed mudflats of the Severn estuary - the depressing claustrophobia of the Welsh valleys relieved by our arrival in Little England (Pembroke) - and finally, after crossing the Irish Sea (in an Irish battleship) - the sweeping vistas of lush green fields in Ireland.  Comfort breaks were many as befits gentlemen of a certain age.

As we approached our embarkation port for Ireland, at the drop of a hat (or his smartphone) Brian was extolling the virtues of the battleship (ferry) in which we would cross the Irish Sea.  It was supposedly as tall as a 10 storey building with 17,000 square foot of retail space and packed with endless amusement possibilities.


On arrival at the Pembroke dock this behemoth of the seas was nowhere to be seen.  Instead there appeared to be an old clapped out boat bearing the colours of P&O on the funnel.  Much debate followed - this surely was not our transport – how could it be – and the crew - were they the cheap matelots and laskars recruited to replace the fine sailors brutally sacked in recent memory.  More smartphone manipulation revealed the truth – in an underhand (or unpublicised) deal the two boats has been switched - the Oscar Wilde was either being refurbished or serving more deserving passengers on another route.


With the innocence of lambs we passed through the perfunctory checks and were aboard.  My colleagues were shocked (almost traumatised) at the accommodation and facilities they were expected to survive.  For myself it brought back memories of the cross channel jaunts of my student days - however the food was as poor as it had been back then.  As dedicated as ever Rob set about his laptop with work on the campaign – a total of perhaps 6 hours over both sea legs of the journey.

On arrival in Limerick (a trifle early thanks to the navigational skills of Brian), General Noel and his good lady Dianne were on hand to do the honours.  The regimental mascot Ragnar the Dog was also in attendance.  He took after his Viking namesake and was incessant in his (friendly) rampaging all throughout our stay – including a morning surprise “whoopsie” in the barracks.


On to the meat of the visit.  An inspection of the field of battle (the wargame shed) revealed an impressive structure with a large solid table (16 foot by 6).  Also there was a rank of filing cabinets containing a lot of figures (thousands I am sure) and racks of terrain features.  A shed that is as good as any wargamer could wish for (perhaps excluding “Red Terror” Philip)

Over two days we played 3 enjoyable games with the usual level of hooing and haaring and cries of bad dice.  These were Napoleonic Peninsular, Roman civil war and North African WW2 tanks.  I thought the figures were wonderful - with the great long lines of Caesarian Romans, great sculpts beautifully painted, particularly impressive.  All three were played using rules devised or amended by Noel who was his usual ebullient self.  He invited our feedback (perhaps he wished he hadn`t) on the rules which I understand he does not get enough of from his local players.

In the evening we went for a meal in the town centre.  From an initial list of several places it was reduced down to one (a curry house) as being a bank holiday they were not open – an unusual concept to big city dwellers like us.  After this we ended up in a pub as was to be expected.


Throughout our stay Noel was jokingly trying to interest Rob in his 28mm AWI figures – Rob resisted but it was close.  Said figures are still available – interested parties should contact General Noel.


As the time for our departure loomed, Rob set about his new figures with relish (not Yorkshire Relish, which I understand is popular in Ireland but unheard of in Yorkshire).  In a swirl of hand movements and oblivious concentration he marshalled his new recruits into a great stack of really useful boxes.  Whilst Brian departed for Dublin, we loaded these into the car with Rob determined to ensure nothing of the precious cargo was visible to passers by in advance of our overnight stay in Rosslare.   He was more concerned about the figures than the car.


As Rob had arranged an overnight stay in Rosslare, our return journey was not as tiring but had its moments.  On our arrival at our overnight hotel, the proprietor looked us over and decided we were a couple of old gits and would be no trouble.  He had a touch of the Basil Fawlty about him and had had run-ins with previous guests.  The hotel was full of little notices saying do this or don`t do that.  As a result we had to forego the company of any gaggle of young ladies we came across on our visit to another hotel for a meal.  I wonder what he would have thought, if he knew that Rob got up in the middle of the night to check on his figures in the car.


Arriving at the port at Rosslare we were met with the sight of three boats, one in particular was a big boat much like the Oscar Wilde.  For a moment we thought were in for a comfortable journey on a modern plush boat, but unfortunately hiding behind it was the same old crate from the first crossing.


Landing back in blighty we were sure of an efficient landing and customs procedure and it proved to be so because it did not exist – we just drove through as if Brexit had never happened - I think Rob was perhaps relieved at this.  To be fair our entry to Ireland was hardly more involved.


The travelling was very tiring, the Satnav threw a few wobblies during the trip, the boat was not the best, but all in all, despite the long journeys it was an enjoyable trip – but next time I`m flying.

Thanks to Noel and Dianne for their hospitality and to Rob for organising the trip and undertaking the marathon of driving.  I expect to see his new figures in action very soon.



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