Snow Business

Ice and snow have come early this year. It’s a phenomenon which is more usually seen over here in January or February, rather than a whole fortnight before winter solstice. With my Christmas cavalry now taking their place with the other seasonal decorations, I’d been wondering what to turn my brush to next when a glance through the window at the winter scene outside gave me an idea…

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The snowy scene near my home this week.

Back in early 2015, I found myself painting 18 marching French infantrymen with a view to submitting one of them to the Benno’s Figures Forum Waterloo group project. The figures were from two (seemingly now largely unavailable) Napoleonic sets by Strelets; “French Infantry on the March” and “French Infantry in Advance“. Both sets feature Napoleon’s finest on the march in greatcoats and these two sets combined supplied a whopping 24 unique poses simply depicting men walking with muskets!

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Strelets French marching infantry in greatcoats. Just £2.50 plus a BOGOF offer?! Ah, Dominoes model shop – you are so very sadly missed…

The style is typical Strelets and figure painters tend to either like them or hate them. Me? I appreciated the campaign-worn, ragtag look to the men. I also rather liked their more characterful style which livens up the process of producing lots of figures ultimately doing exactly the same thing – simply marching.

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You will notice from the photos above that I never got around to basing them. The snow-covered landscape outside has given me the inspiration to mimic the Strelets box art depicting them on the march in the snow (presumably in the Russian winter).

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On the march in the snow: Strelets box art.

Having located the required boxes and prepared 14 more figures for paint, I subsequently found another dozen already primed in readiness from back in 2015…

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14 figures ready to go!
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Err, make that 26 more figures…
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Not forgetting another 18 just requiring a snowy base!

That makes for 26 Strelets figures to paint; all wearing the same beige greatcoats and all just marching! Will I get bored and quit? Possibly, but I fancy giving it a go as it makes for a nice change from painting just a handful of figures only. Consider it an end-of-year palate cleanser before my next project (or palette cleanser if you will ‘scuse the painting pun). Incidentally, Strelets also have no less than four separate Napoleonic kits available just featuring Russian and French winter sledge trains! They like their winter troops.

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But wait – one more thing: in my collection, I also have soldiers based in snow from three other Strelets sets featuring troops in ‘winter dress’ (it must be something to do with the manufacturer being Russian…). I have British guardsmen in Crimean War ‘winter dress’ and also two kits from their 1877 Russo-Turkish War range featuring Russian and Turkish troops in hooded greatcoats. All of these are currently just standing in modelling clay painted white but they could all really use some of my very wonderful “Woodland Scenics’ Soft Snow” treatment. So: yet more winter work to do!

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Festive Flags!

Having recently completed my Christmas cavalry figures for the household’s festive display, I still had two last figures to do. My young daughter, upon seeing these new figures on the mantelpiece, asked if I needed some flags designing for them. She had previously designed the flags for my two Christmas infantry regiments, the 1st Noel and the Yule Grenadiers. I readily agreed and set to work on two flag bearing figures for each regiment whilst she worked on their guidons.

They are now complete and her designs are below:

The Carolling Hussars have a flag with a pleasing design featuring a green background with musical notes top and bottom (Christmas carols!). Some holly and a snowflake motif complete the flag. The Christingle Dragoons’ blue guidon meanwhile bears an image of a Christingle; – i.e. an orange with a central red ribbon, some sweets on cocktail sticks and a lighted candle. Perfect!

And here are the flags now being carried by their flag bearers over the fireplace:

The Christingle Dragoons:

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The Carolling Hussars

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And with that, I’m all set for the Christmas holiday. News of my military modelling intentions over the Christmas period to follow!

The Christingle Dragoons

Having completed the Carolling Hussars recently, I’ve been working on the other regiment for my Christmas decorations; the Christingle Dragoons.

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The dragoons are Revell’s Austrian Dragoons of the 7 Years War. I’ve painted some a few years ago as the Prinz Savoyen Dragoons, so I know they’re an impressive set. My only quibble is that the beautifully sculpted horses for these dragoons seem to be a significant few ‘hands’ higher than the hussar horses in comparison (see below)!

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Like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza… OK, so the Christingle dragoon’s horse (right) is rearing up but it appears quite a bit taller than the squat Carolling Hussar’s mount?

As with the Carolling Hussars, I’ve based the uniform design on a real 7 Years War regiment; the Prinz Karl Chevaulegers of the Saxon army. This regiment was named after Prince Karl of Saxony (Duke of Courland) and took part in a number of key battles in the war (Breslau, Leuthen, Torgau, etc.).

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Prinz Karl Chevauleger uniform

My Christingle Dragoons are named after a curious symbolic object used in Christian Advent services. The Christingle apparently originated with a German Bishop called Johannes de Watteville in 1747, but it took until the 1960s for it to become a British custom which has since grown in popularity. My first encounter with it was a few years ago when daughter first attended a local Christingle service on Christmas Eve.

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A Christingle

The Christingle is usually constructed with an orange, a candle, a red ribbon, some cocktail sticks and sweets. I suppose, on reflection, an orange uniform with red facings might have been more appropriate!? Never mind, I think green, red and white are good Christmas colours.

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Just as I did with the Carolling Hussars, I’ve also added a little tinsel to their tricornes; red tinsel for the hussars and gold for the dragoons. Also, you may notice that I’ve painted a small orange and candle Christingle motif.

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I fancy that some more festive decorations could improve my Christmas cavalry still further. Perhaps some extra tinsel, a mini bauble or some glitter around the base?

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Taking aim at a plump turkey for the regimental Christmas dinner…

But my “contribution” to the household Christmas decorations won’t be complete until I finish off the two flag bearers for the two regiments. My girl has designed the flags for my two Christmas infantry regiments in previous years. I’m awaiting her designs for the cavalry flags while I am finishing off the two figures themselves. I asked her to make the designs in the swallow-tailed shape of British light cavalry regiment guidons. I’ll share the finished figures in due course!

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Christingle Dragoons and Carolling Hussars

I need to talk about Christmas. I know – it’s far too early to do that, but I need to make some preparations, you see? A feature of the season, for Suburban Militarism at least, is the tradition of painting some suitably seasonal soldiers to parade on the mantelpiece among all the tinsel, Christmas cards and decorations.

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Yule Grenadiers in a snowy scene
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Men of the 1st Noel Regiment of Infantry

In previous years, I’ve exclusively painted soldiers from Revell’s Austrian Infantry of the 7 Years War. These troops have been painted purely for decoration in bright colours and the seasonal army so far consists of two infantry regiments. The 1st Noel Regiment of Foot were the first figures I produced some years ago. The Yule Grenadiers followed a couple of years ago. I’ve been quietly adding a handful of men to each of them each Christmas time.

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The Carolling Hussars

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This year, I thought I’d expand the seasonal army with the addition of another arm; the cavalry. Using Revell’s 7 Years War Austrian Dragoons and Prussian Hussars, I am creating the beginnings of two Christmas cavalry regiments;

  • The Christingle Dragoons
  • The Carolling Hussars

For the past week, I’ve been working on four figures from the Carolling Hussars using Revell’s Prussian Hussars. The uniform I’ve chosen is based upon a real regiment, the Puttkamer Hussars of the Prussian army. Originally named the White Hussars, they took on the name of their colonel Georg Ludwig von Puttkamer (who was subsequently killed at the brutal battle of Kunersdorf).

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A Puttkamer Hussar

I thought the Puttkamer Hussar’s all-white pelisse looked suitably wintry for my seasonal hussar regiment. For the ‘light blue’ dolman and overalls, I selected the colour turquoise. To add a little festive cheer to that all-black Mirleton headgear, I’ve glued on a little piece of tinsel!

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A Carolling Hussar in full charge, tinsel plume catching the sunlight…

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I haven’t painted Revell’s Prussian Hussars of the 7 Years War before now. They are as finely sculpted as other Revell cavalry I’ve painted such as the Napoleonic Life Guards.

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Finally, as with all my other Christmas figures, I’ve depicted them riding in snow (…deep and crisp and even)! My 11-year-old daughter has previously designed flags for both the Yule Grenadiers and the 1st Noel Regiment. On seeing my Carolling Hussars, she immediately requested that she design their colours too. To do this, I might need to attempt a conversion of one of the figures (not a skill of mine!), as Prussian hussars didn’t carry colours into battle during the 7 Years War and therefore don’t appear in Revell’s kit.

With Advent looming, I’ve already begun four more figures for the other Christmas cavalry regiment; the Christingle Dragoons. More on those figures soon. Hopefully, they should be ready in time to take their place on the mantelpiece here at Suburban Militarism, alongside hand-picked representatives of the Carolling Hussars, the Yule Grenadiers, and the 1st Noel infantry.

Who once said “Christmas isn’t Christmas without model soldiers”? Well, it might have been me…

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The Post Office Rifles in Egypt

The fourth and final group of Victorian Rifle Volunteers is now completed. The group are depicted in the hot sands of Kassassin, Egypt in 1882. It was here that the Post Office Rifles (known officially as the Army Post Office Corps or APOC) came under fire from Colonel Urabi’s Egyptian army (see my previous post on this). I know that they took no casualties and am assuming for the purposes of this project that they actually returned fire.

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In my little diorama, the men of the Post Office Rifles have formed a firing line, variously loading, firing or assessing their shots under the instruction of an officer.

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I’ve added a few arid looking plants to the sand and rocks. Given the hot and dusty conditions, I’ve dry-brushed some of the desert onto their puttees and trousers to make them look suitably campaign-weary.

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Ah, those puttees… As mentioned in a previous post, I rashly began painting them with Indian army style puttees rather than selecting figures with leather gaiters, which is what they would have worn. Never mind, putting puttees aside, I still think it gives a nice impression of these men taking part in the 1882 Egyptian campaign.

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I took some time playing around with the white foreign service pattern helmets. Too much shading and the white helmet looks unnatural; too little shading and it looks too bright. After some last-minute tinkering, I think they look satisfactory.

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Artist’s impression of the PO Rifles in Egypt.

That’s all from my Victorian Rifle Volunteers project; for the foreseeable future at least. Next up on the Suburban Militarism “To Do” list are a number of possible figures. The ongoing Napoleonic Cavalry Project has been in hiatus since July and I’m about ready to tackle another regiment.

But creeping quickly up on us all, of course, is Christmas and with that in mind I’ve some more figures under way for what has been something of a seasonal tradition at Suburban Militarism – Christmas Soldiers! More about this soon.

Remembrance, Great War and Little Wars

Wise words from H.G. Wells for us to consider on this Armistice day, courtesy of the excellent Man of Tin blog.

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IMG_2329 An edited quote from H.G. Wells’ Little Wars (1913) in Donald Featherstone’s War Games (1962)

Armistice and Remembrance Weekend – a suitable time to reflect, in this case on the WW1 Centenary, Poppy or Armistice Day 99 years on and a 104 year old book by H.G. Wells.

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Written by H G Wells in 1913, being the final page of Little Wars.

Something to think about as we mark another 11th November 99 years on and another Remembrance Sunday.

The extended original quote also available at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3691/3691-h/3691-h.htm

Posted by Mark, Man of TIN blog,  November 11th  and 12th, 2017

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The Postman Always Shoots Twice

My fourth, and for now last, group in my series of Victorian Rifle Volunteers I can now reveal will be the 24th Middlesex Rifle Volunteers, more famously known as “The Post Office Rifles“.

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1930s cigarette card by Players depicting the PO Rifles in Egypt.

In 1860, the Civil Service Rifles (aka 21st Middlesex Rifle Volunteer Corps) contained a number of companies consisting exclusively of General Post Office workers. Seven years later, over 1000 of these GPO men volunteered for service as Special Constables in response to terrorist acts by the so-called Fenians (Irish Nationalists). Once the threat had subsided, these men went on to form a new separate corps, the 49th Middlesex Rifle Volunteers (Post Office Rifles), later being renumbered as the 24th. They wore dark grey uniforms with scarlet facings.

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The so-called ‘Midnight Charge’ by the Life Guards at Kassassin, 28th August 1882.

In 1882, a group of over 100 men of the GPO serving with the 24th Middlesex Rifle Volunteers volunteered for active service in Egypt with General Wolseley’s army. The intention was that the army could make use of their postal and telegraph expertise in the course of communication duties. They were duly formed as the Army Post Office Corps (APOC) by Queen Victoria’s Royal Warrant on the 22nd July 1882.

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The Battle of Tel-el-Kebir, 1882.

During their service in Egypt, they became notable for being the first men of the rifle volunteer movement to see action and win a battle honour (Egypt 1882). They came under fire during the action at Kassassin, taking no casualties. This battle was a skirmish prior to the main action at Tel-el-Kebir where the Egyptian army under Col. Urabi was defeated by Wolseley. I found a contemporary poem on the skirmish at Kassassin, from which this extract below gives a sense of the hardships experienced by these volunteers.

RAINED on all day by the sun,
Beating through helmet and head,
Through to the brain.
Inactive, no water, no bread,
We had stood on the desolate plain
Till evening shades drew on amain;
And we thought that our day’s work was done,
When, lo! it had only begun.

Extract from the poem “At Kassassin” by Arthur Clark Kennedy, 1891.

After the war, their service was considered a great success, General Wolseley stating that

“The formation of a purely military postal department has been a tried for the first time in this war. It has been very successful… I have much pleasure in bringing to the notice of the Secretary of State the admirable manner in which the Post Office Corps discharged its duties in Egypt …Their services have been so valuable that I hope a similar corps may be employed on any future occasion…”

The Gordon Relief Expedition in 1885 saw the next active service of the corps and the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 being the subsequent venture. But it is the Kassassin incident during the Egyptian campaign which I intend my figures to depict.

Now I come to admit to what can only be described as something of a figure modelling gaffe! Let me explain…

So far as I can tell, the PO Rifles should be depicting wearing leather gaiters on their lower legs. I have figures a plenty I could have used for these but, inexplicably, the Perry Miniatures figures that (for some reason) I chose to begin painting wear puttees instead. Below left shows the figures with gaiters and right with puttees.

 

Puttees were in use at this time by some British forces but almost certainly not by the PO Rifles. After some consideration however, I’m ploughing on with them regardless rather than abandoning them for figures with gaiters. Ultimately, I just really like these figures and poses, so Post Office Rifles with puttees it is. Who knows, maybe they did actually wear them?

And anyway; as I always say, ‘my figures – my rules‘!!!

The figures are already approaching completion so expect an update on progress soon.