Marrion’s Men #2: Sergeant, Sussex Imperial Yeomanry

I previously posted on mounting my ‘Lost Sharpshooter’ figure, the first of my Marrion’s Men series. With the latest delivery of more alder wood bases, I’ve been able to start mounting my other Robert Marrion-inspired 54mm yeomanry figures. The first to get the treatment is my sergeant from the Sussex Imperial Yeomanry.

 

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As before, I’ve placed a brass plaque front and rear detailing the regiment and the rank / year of the figure.

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When I last posted on this figure, it was still awaiting the riding crop held in the left hand. In the event, the crop required chopping in two pieces and positioning delicately in place. Thankfully, the glue is just about holding this delicate item precariously in place!

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I previously wrongly identified what I thought were three bullets in the bandolier. This is incorrect. These items I now believe to be leather fixings which allow the top half of the bandolier to fold over and cover the bullets. I’ve added a dash of paint to cover them over.

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That’s the second of my Marrion’s Men done and dusted, and I’m rather pleased with him. The next one is awaiting the addition of accessory and will be featured in a future post.

Marrion Sharpshooter trumpeter (8)

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TYPES OF VOLUNTEER & YEOMANRY (1902) #19

TYPES OF VOLUNTEER & YEOMANRY (1902) #19

From the cigarette card set “Types of Volunteer and Yeomanry”, issued by W H & J Woods Ltd of Preston in 1902.

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Carbine Cavalrymen

I confidently announced in my last post on the Nappy Cavalry Project that my next regiment from the HaT Swedish Cavalry box would be the Smaland Light Dragoons. I then promptly picked up the Scanian Carabineers and began work on that regiment instead. I’m a bit like that. Capricious.

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A Carabineer, ( Carabinier or Carbineer) was originally a French word intended to indicate cavalry armed with carbines, a lighter firearm than the longer musket. Although originally a concept for light cavalry, it seems that Carabineers were frequently equipped as medium or heavy cavalry. Napoleon’s French Carabiniers were eventually armed with a brass-lacquered cuirass, and the British version, called the Carabiniers, were otherwise known as the 6th Dragoon Guards, technically a medium-heavy cavalry formation.

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Anyway, the Swedish Scanian Carabiniers were a heavy cavalry formation and were distinguished by their very broad-brimmed bicornes and tall white plumes. They had separate uniforms for undress (yellow uniform) and service dress (blue uniform). I’ve opted for the latter for my figures.

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Just the two poses, one with carbine in hand (appropriately):

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…and the other figure with sword drawn:

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At least I get to paint a different horse after the previous 24 Swedish cavalrymen required the very same duo of horse figures! Apparently, the standard Napoleonic Swedish cavalry horse would barely pass as a pony, today. However,

“…the Cuirassier Corps and the Scanian Carabineers – the two Swedish heavy cavalry regiments – were to have horses exceeding 1.45m in height. Any colour of the horse was generally accepted, but for the heavies – the Cuirassiers and Carabineers – they had to be of dark colour.”

So, some dark-coloured mounts are required. They will be next up to paint, although – truth be told – I’ve a few other things on the painting table at the moment competing for my attention…

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Swedish Carabineers (2)

 

 

Marrion’s Men’s Medals

I’d like to introduce the third figure in my series of R.J. Marrion-inspired 54mm yeomanry figures. It’s another figure that appears on the front cover of the “3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters)” book which was wonderfully illustrated by the late Robert Marrion.

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I should say that these are ‘figures’ plural as there are two of them, these identical twins coming as a pair in a single purchase from eBay. My figures appear in a much lighter shade of green under the camera lens, appearing a little more akin to the illustration to the naked eye.

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A group of Sharpshooter officers c.1904, a number of whom are wearing the same green uniform and forage caps with yellow piping and metal shoulder scales. Others are wearing a khaki serge coat.

Sharing the same cover with the Trumpeter that I painted previously, this new figure is an officer dressed in ‘Camp Church Parade Order’. The authors state that;

“For Camp Church Parade Order, the officers wore the green forage cap, the green serge frock, Full Dress overalls, brown leather wrist gloves and the Sam Browne belt (as seen on the front cover).

I don’t know about a ‘camp’ Church Parade Order – it looks pretty macho to me…

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The Robert Marrion illustration shows the officer resting his hands on the pommel of his sword, which is out of its scabbard. Initially, I thought that the sculptor no doubt faithfully recreated this sword but, unfortunately, as both my figures are missing this item, they must have got lost. One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that in the illustration the officer’s hands come up to the top of his belt. On the figure, however, the hands come to rest quite a bit lower meaning that the sword will have to be trimmed significantly short. So, I then mused that perhaps there was no sword, but then the empty scabbard suggests otherwise. An oversight on the part of the otherwise impressively talented sculptor, perhaps?

Despite resting their hands upon air, the figure still looks convincingly as though the officer is merely folding his hands, in my opinion. But I’m going to go with the sword to match the illustration and I have secured a 54mm scale alternative for their “Infantry Pattern” sword which, with a little trimming, I hope might act as a substitute.

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You will notice that this officer of the Sharpshooters is a decorated soldier. On his chest, Marrion has depicted two medals. From the book cover, I could see that one is clearly a Queen’s South Africa Medal with bars, suggesting that he served in the Anglo-Boer War as part of the regiment’s initial incarnation as the 18th, 21st and 23rd Battalions of the Imperial Yeomanry. On 23 July 1901, the 3rd County of London Imperial Yeomanry (Sharpshooters) was formed from the veterans of these Boer War Imperial Yeomanry battalions.

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Queens South Africa Medal with three bars for “Cape Colony”, “Orange Free State” and “Transvaal”

After a little research, the other medal on my figures’ chest I now believe to be the King Edward VII Coronation Medal, a slightly oval-shaped medal awarded in 1902 to celebrate said monarch’s coronation with Queen Alexandra. It was awarded to “...service officers who were present at the coronation ceremony, performed extra work in its preparation, or who were involved in the coronation parade.” Interestingly, the date of the coronation which was printed on all the medals – 28th June 1902 – is incorrect. The king had to postpone the coronation until October when he’d recovered from an emergency operation for appendicitis.

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King Edward VII Coronation Medal
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Sharpshooter officer wearing his QSA and King Edward VII Coronation Medals.
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My figure doing the same…

With the exception of my original Sharpshooting Trumpeter, the remaining figures have all come from a lady who is selling off her father’s impressive collection of figures. I politely enquired after the missing swords for these figures and through the post a week later, completely unexpectedly, was a wonderful handmade card from the gentleman’s widow.

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Wonderful padded fabric card of a Guardsman musician, handmade by a very kind lady who is the widow of a model soldier collector.

Within her charming card, she had included a couple of swords that she had discovered loose amongst her late husband’s large collection. One weapon was quite suitable for one of these two figures, although it also appears to be an absolutely perfect fit for my next Marrion Man, who was also missing his sword…

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It was a very generous act indeed by the lady. It’s a sad and sobering activity to observe; the selling off of a husband and father’s old model soldiers. As the army dissipates, it’s old commander having passed away, it is a vision of the (hopefully still very distant) future, when my own stock gets dispersed by my own spouse and daughter in a similar manner, hopefully to another grateful collector. Ah, but enough of such maudlin musings. Many a soldier I plan to add to Suburban Militarism’s army yet!

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My Sharpshooter officers are both currently still standing in a blob of Blu Tack, patiently awaiting smart basing of the type that their fellow sharpshooter received a week ago. The final based and labelled figures, hopefully even with swords to lean upon, will be presented in a future post!

For now, best wishes

Marvin

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Officers seated on the front rank wearing the green uniform of my figures.

Marrion’s Men #1: Trumpeter, 3rd County of London (Sharpshooters)

Blu Tack is a poor way to present one of R.J. Marrion’s finest yeomen. But until now, Blu Tack is all I’ve had to keep him standing upright. I’ve previously recounted as to the long history of this trumpeter figure. Having been lost for so many years – and then foolishly mislaid again for a couple more – once he did finally return, I had to admit to him that I’d in fact given up all hope and thrown away his original wooden base. He was naturally outraged at my lack of faith.

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And so, by way of apology, I’ve sourced something altogether more respectable for my straying Sharpshooter. I like to think that it presents my humble tribute to artist Robert Marrion in a far more suitable manner than a blob of Blu Tack.

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The nicely turned wooden base is made of unvarnished alder wood from a purveyor in eastern Europe (on collection, my local Post Office teller gave my poor wife quite a grilling, not many Ukrainian stamps pass through these parts and what’s more you can’t be too careful what with that poisoning in Salisbury…).

I did think about varnishing the base, or maybe adding some kind of colour to it but in the end I decided I liked the natural look best of all. No frills, just the figure.

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The engraving was very cheaply sourced online and labels the figure nicely, I think. I’ve abbreviated the lengthy regimental title to 3rd CLY (Sharpshooters). On the rear of the figure there is another plaque detailing rank and date.

So, here’s presenting the first of my series of ‘Marrion’s Men’; a trumpeter of the 3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters). In Drill Order, he dates from the early 20th century, just after the conclusion of the Anglo-Boer War, a conflict which inspired the formation of his regiment.

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Satisfied with my new base, I’ve ordered some more and (presuming it’s arrival doesn’t send the post office staff rushing for the phone to call MI5), I should soon be in a position to present my next in my series of Marrion’s Men – the already 99% finished sergeant from the Sussex Imperial Yeomanry!

The King’s Horse Guard (Nappy Cavalry Project Regiment #28)

My second regiment from HaT’s Napoleonic Swedish Cavalry is The King’s Horse Guard (Konungens Livgardet till häst). The box contains just the 1 pose of this regiment, reproduced in 3 figures which I’ve doubled up via the purchase of an extra box. So it’s not so much a regiment, as a squadron – but enough to guard a Crown Prince at any rate!

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Their horses are a chestnut-coloured selection of Swedish Warmbloods, a breed used by  today’s successor regiment to the Livgardet till häst in ceremonial duties. In Napoleonic times, any reasonable pony often would have had to suffice but I’ve been generous to this exclusive guard detachment and referenced their modern equivalents with this colour of mount.

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Having the same pose is not a problem with this group, I think. With swords drawn and advancing calmly at the walk, they look entirely like a guard regiment out on royal duty or parade. A more energetic action pose would have been less appropriate for these royal dandies.

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The unusual mid-light blue uniform (I’ve used Vallejo Andrea Blue) and distinctive headgear with white plume and facings make them a decorative addition to my project. It seems that selecting a shade of blue wasn’t just a problem for me. Regarding the modern regiment, Wikipedia says that;

The colour of the parade uniform worn by the cavalry was in the 1950s changed to match the officer’s “mid-blue” shade: (a slightly lighter colour) for all ranks. In the 1990s, the colour was again changed, apparently in error, to a royal blue colour. The shade for other ranks is now to revert to mid-blue, while officers will retain “middle blue, slightly lighter.”

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Before the regimental biography commences, I perhaps ought to ponder on which regiment to tackle next in the project. I’m determined to clear the box (at least at some point) and there are three regiments remaining: the Småland Light Dragoons, the Scanian Carabiniers, and the Skjöldebrand Cuirassiers. All look quite interesting… but I’ve randomly chosen the Småland Light Dragoons to be the 29th regiment in the project!

 

 


Biography: The King’s Horse Guard [Sweden]

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HaT’s own website contains a great overview of the Swedish cavalry during Napoleonic times including an extensive section by Björn Bergérus on the Horse Guards which I respectfully reproduce below.

Taken from an original text by Björn Bergérus, Stockholm, Sweden 2005-2006.

This unit originated in Finland (based in Borgå/Porvoo, very close to Helsinki). The unit was promoted to Guards’ status – Lätta dragonerna av Livgardet (The Light Dragoons of the Life Guards) – after the bloodless coup d’état of the Swedish king Gustavus III. In 1793 the unit was renamed Livhusarregementet (The Life Hussar Regiment), and in 1797 Livdragonkåren (The Life Dragoon Corps) and finally got the name Livgardet till häst (The Horse Guards) in 1806.

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Contemporary illustration of a 1798 uniform of the Konungens Livgardet till häst.

The unit was composed of three companies (later called squadrons) of 50 men each. When inspected in 1771 the commander found “that all dragoons were made up of Swedish or Finnish, all happy, well spirited and particularly beautiful people”.

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In the bloodless coup d’état by Gustavus III in 1772, the unit’s commander Jakob Magnus Sprengtporten took a force of some 1.000 men and sailed to Stockholm from Finland to support the king. Due to poor winds, however, he arrived only some two weeks after the successful coup d’état. The king was nevertheless very grateful and made 100 men of the unit into the King’s personal bodyguard to reside in the capital of Stockholm. Sprengtporten was also made the commander of both the Foot and Cavalry Guards. The new guard unit was given the name Lätta dragonerna av livgardet – the Light Dragoons of the Lifeguard. History tells that the old guard regiments – the Life Regiment and the Foot Guards – found it hard to regard the dragoons as their equals with resulting petty disputes between officers and even coming to blows between the troopers.

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Swedish king Gustavus III

In 1777 the two parts of the regiment – in Sweden and Finland respectively – were amalgamated to the Stockholm area, counting four squadrons of 200 men total. In 1793 the name was changed to Livhusarregementet – the Life Hussar Regiment. At the end of the 1790s the unit was reduced to two squadrons and the name changed to Lätta livdragonregementet – the Light Life Dragoon Regiment.

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1783 incarnation of the Lätta livdragonregementet uniform.

About 90 troopers from the regiment were present during the campaign in and around Swedish Pomerania (North Germany) against the French in 1805-07. The campaign was fruitless, as the troops eventually had to retire before a more numerous French foe. The commander Löwenhjelm and four troopers still got medals for bravery for a delaying action during a crossing of the river Elbe.

The regiment’s name was changed again in 1806 to Konungens lifgarde till häst – the King’s Horse Guard – or simply the Horse Guards.

The regiment also fought in the Russo-Swedish war of 1808-09. One squadron took part in a landing operation against Turko/Åbo that resulted in hard fighting that is said to have lasted for 14 hours. The commander von Vegesack writes of the Horse Guard that they “fought as a guard should fight; they have with the greatest manly courage endured the renewed attacks of the enemy and never fallen back a single step”. Many troopers were mentioned for their good conduct during this battle, like trooper no. 4 Lind, who had “shot nine Russians, and freed himself and five men of the militia from captivity”.

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Cornet Carl Fredrik Reinhold von Essen dressed in the uniform of the King’s Horse Guard, 1808. Painting by Carl Fredrik von Breda.

Later during the summer of 1808 a new landing attempt was made to cut off the Russian supply from their bases in the south of Finland. Three reduced infantry regiments, a battery of guns and two squadrons of Horse Guard took part. The landing force was soon engaged by the Russians, but could give support to another Swedish brigade at Lappfjärd under the Swedish General von Döbeln (immortalised by the Finnish poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg). After a successful engagement the Horse Guard could pursue the fleeing Russians. Von Vegesack then joined the main army and took part in the battle of Oravais close to Vaasa in Western Finland September 14th 1808. Here some 5-6.000 Swedes-Finns faced some 6-7.000 Russians – the only major battle of the Russo-Swedish war 1808-09. At first it looked good for the Swedish-Finnish, but the battle finally ended in a Russian victory.

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Contemporary print of the action at the captured the city of Umeå, Russo-Swedish War of 1808-09.

During the winter of 1808-09 four squadrons of the Horse Guard were stationed on the Åland Islands, between the Finnish and Swedish mainland. Here several small skirmishes took place with Russian Cossacks – often on the frozen ice between the small islands. During one of these events, a trooper named Kämpe of the Horse Guards (Kämpe meaning ‘fighter’ in Swedish – soldiers were often given these short “soldiers’ names” that were easy to remember) is recorded to have cut one Cossack in the throat and broke his lance. The Swedish defenders were eventually forced to retreat over the frozen waters from Åland to the Swedish mainland before the advance of more numerous Russians. The Horse Guards covered the retreat, and was engaged several times in small skirmishes with harassing Russian Cossacks.

In August 1809 a final Swedish push was made with a landing designed to take back the town of Umeå on the Swedish mainland. The Swedish force was composed of 7.000 men, more numerous than the defending Russians. Two squadrons of the Horse Guards were present, although fighting on foot. The Swedish command was as slow and hesitant, as the Russian commander Kamenski was eager and determined. The Swedish suffered from not having mounted cavalry as scouts and overestimated – as usual – the strength of the Russians. After some fighting the Swedish chose to retire and re-embark – the landing having been a failure. Five troopers of the horse guards nevertheless got medals for bravery.

With the peace in 1809 Finland was lost to Russia and made into a Grand Duchy under the Russian Tsar. A total of 24 medals of honour had been awarded to the men from the Horse Guard during the war.

The regiment was seriously decimated by the war – upon inspection the regiment had 95 horses present of which 34 were rejected for further service and about the rest they were said to be “very poor, due to serious fatigue, cold and – for the horse’s maintenance during the end of the campaign – a far too inadequate supply of food”.

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During the campaigns of 1813-14 the Horse Guard mainly served as escort and bodyguard to the newly elected Crown Prince of Sweden, the former French Marshal Bernadotte, now commander of the allied Army of the North. The Horse Guard also functioned as a recruiting base for dispatch riders. In Germany the regiment also got new beautiful light blue hussar uniforms made up by the fine tailors of Berlin.

After the short war with Norway in 1814 the Horse Guards were stationed in Fredrikshald, Norway, for some two months together with other Swedish troops to guarantee the peace treaty, in which Norway accepted Bernadotte as their king, joining a union with Sweden that lasted until 1905.

Notable campaigns: Swedish Pomerania (1805-07), Russo-Swedish war of 1808-09, War of the Sixth Coalition (1813-14).

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Horse Guards of the Swedish King

Having despatched the Morner Hussars, the 27th regiment in my project, I have been turning my attention to one of the other four regiments in HaT’s Napoleonic Swedish Cavalry set; the Royal Life Guard.

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Immediately noticeable are their peculiar headdress with it’s woollen crest and turned up side which ends in a white plume.

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The colour of the uniform is a light blue, the exact shade of which seems to vary from illustration to illustration. Consequently, I’ve opted for what I thought was an attractive shade of mid / light blue from Vallejo called Andrea Blue.

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Just a mere 6 troopers with a single pose this time, so it’s a quicker process (each box only containing a token 3 of these figures). I toyed with the idea of twisting a few heads for variety but left them as they are as I rather liked the uniformity.

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The regiment is described on Plastic Soldier Review as being the Royal Life Guard. The regiment was called a number of names over its history but by 1806 was known as the Konungens lifgarde till häst or King’s Horse Guards.

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The Life Guards of Sweden are a successor regiment to the Royal Life Guard of the Napoleonic era. Today, in Stockholm, these ceremonially dressed troops can be seen acting as ceremonial guard and protecting the Royal Palace.

Much like the ceremony in London, the guard take part in their own regular Changing of the Guard. The colour of their uniform bears some similarity to the Napoleonic forbears that I’ve been painting.

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I am using the exact same horses from the HaT Swedish Cavalry box that I used for the mounts of the hussars, so I’m well familiar with them by now. Today, the modern mounted Life Guard have up to 75 Swedish Warmblood (chestnut/sorrel) horses in their stable.

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Unlike the British Life Guards, the Swedish variety accept females within their ranks.

These horses are specially bred by The Swedish Horse Guard Association which acts to maintain the traditions of the Swedish guards. I’m not certain whether their forbears in the Napoleonic period also rode this specific type of horse, that’s assuming that appropriate mounts could ever be found in time of war, but I’ve referenced this tradition by mounting my figures on horses of a similar colour. The finishing touches to these horses are still being painted on but I’ll share them soon in a coming post (with riders) when the whole lot are finished.

Marrion’s Men: Sussex Imperial Yeomanry

Another figure related to the late artist Robert Marrion has been on my painting table. Following on from the 54mm Sharpshooter that I posted on recently, I’ve been painting another chap modelled on an illustration by R.J. Marrion. It can be found on the front of Book One of the “Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force 1794-1914” series. The illustration depicts a sergeant of the Sussex Imperial Yeomanry in Service Dress c.1905.

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As with the Sharpshooter, it is a figure wearing khaki, Stohwasser gaiters and a slouch hat. This form of Yeomanry dress was increasingly common at this time in the wake of the harsh lessons learnt out on the veldt during the Anglo-Boer War. He is a sergeant (with the stripes to prove it) and carries a riding crop casually in his left hand. Other distinctions include metal shoulder chains and a leather bandolier within which the sculptor has even faithfully reproduced the three bullets seen in the drawing!

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Barlow and Smith’s book describes the uniform in the following manner:

“…Service Dress consisted of the slouch hat… A khaki serge frock with blue collar wearing brass badges, blue shoulder straps and a trefoil in blue on the cuffs, four patch pockets with small brass buttons on the breast pockets, and five brass buttons down the front. A light shade Bedford cord breeches with blue piping, brown Stohwasser gaiters and ankle boots; a web bandolier.”

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The slouch hat had a leather band for a pagri and a “small, bright blue emu feather plume”. The blue shoulder straps described above were replaced by ‘shoulder chains with blue backing’ for Service Dress in 1905, which helps to confirm the date of this figure.

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The Sussex Yeomanry had their genesis back in 1793 when Revolutionary France declared war on Great Britain. The regiment then came in and out of existence in various guises over the 19th century until finally disbanded in 1875.

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The crisis of the Anglo-Boer War led to the British army recognising an urgent need for the kind of rapid mobility that mounted forces could provide. This resulted in the hurried creation of the Imperial Yeomanry in early 1900, capable of serving overseas. The Sussex Imperial Yeomanry was one of the yeomanry regiments formed as part of this emergency response.

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“Yeomanry Scouts on the Veldt” by Lady Butler. Imperial Yeomanry of the Boer War bearing close similarity to my Sussex Yeoman.

You will notice that my Yeoman is missing his riding crop, held in his left hand. Being a delicate item, I’ve decided to fix this on only when I’m able to place him on to a proper base. This may take a few weeks before I source an appropriate one.

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I’m reasonably satisfied with my painting for this figure although it took a few attempts until I was happy with the colour of his ‘light-coloured’ Bedford cord riding breeches. My sergeant is wearing leather wrist gloves which are a tad lighter in shade than I’d prefer but otherwise look okay. The Stohwasser leather gaiters are a blend of Vallejo’s Cavalry Brown and Red Leather paints with a black wash.

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I’m still feeling my way a little with what is still only my 54mm scale figure. I’m happy to retain my painting ‘style’ even for this scale. It may not be the most effective way of presenting them, but the figure retains that certain ‘Suburban Militarism’ identity as a result.

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There’s another Robert Marrion inspired figure still awaiting paint to make it a trio of ‘Marrion’s Men’. I’ll be still on the look out for any others, of which I’m convinced there must be a number more somewhere. In the meantime, I’ve got other 54mm scale Yeomanry figures awaiting attention for whenever I next get the urge.

KSLI in the Castle: Day Trip #13 (Part 3)

It seems that my visit to the Shropshire Regimental Museum was well-timed, the museum being afforded a full-page review in “Britain at War” magazine’s recent May issue! As a coda to my reports on the museum, I wanted to pay some attention to the regulars: the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. Furthermore, I conclude with some personal thoughts on the museum and the threats it has faced to its existence both past and – regrettably – present…

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Band of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 1895 print by Richard Simkin

The castle contains the collection of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) which had its origins in two regiments that amalgamated following the 1881 reforms. These were the 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment and the 85th King’s Light Infantry. The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry remained a distinct regiment until 1968.

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KLSI Officer’s Full Dress tunic, 1882-1902

There were many examples of this regiment’s past uniforms, including yet more realistic reproductions of 18th century versions on their impressive manikins. The collection included a nice example of an infantry officer’s blue patrol jacket below from the time of the 85th regiment’s service in the latter part of the 2nd Afghan War. Headgear included a blue 1860 forage cap and white and khaki Foreign Service helmets.

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Men of the 85th regiment would have been on the receiving end of the lengthy weapons below, ornate Afghan Jezails – long, intricately carved muskets belonging to tribesmen. To return fire, the British had the Martini-Henry (far left), a powerful breech-loading single shot rifle.

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The KSLI served in Egypt and the Sudan during the 1880s and I took a snap of this leather bandolier, once used by a sergeant at the Battle of Suakin, “one of the last occasions that the British soldier wore scarlet”. The group of medals below belonged to two brothers in the 1st battalion. They include the Egypt medal with “Suakin 1885” clasp and the Khedive’s Star, a campaign medal established by Egyptian Khedive Tewfik Pasha for British troops taking part in the 1882 campaign and the Mahdist Wars.

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The 53rd regiment guarded Napoleon during his final exile on the island of St.Helena. Napoleon referred to them as the red soldiers, a reference to the regiment’s combination of scarlet tunic and red facings. A nice little memento was on display, a lock of the great man’s hair, no doubt returned to England in the hands of an officer of the 53rd garrison!

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Napoleon’s hair!

I often seem to come across examples of troop shipwrecks in my visits to regimental museums, underlining just how dangerous travelling the world’s oceans was in centuries past for British soldiers. This museum had its own maritime disaster story, told in the form of a large chapel bell, the earliest ‘war trophy’ in the collection. It came from the Ville de Paris, a captured French ship-of-the-line, taken at the Battle of the Saints in 1782. The ship was carrying men of the 85th regiment when it foundered in a hurricane alongside many others in Admiral Rodney’s fleet. The bell was recovered and is on display in the museum.

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In common with other regular infantry regiments, the Shropshire regulars served in an astonishing number of theatres around the globe: in the Sikh Wars, in India and the North West Frontier, in South Africa, Egypt and the Sudan, Hong Kong, the Iberian Peninsular, Holland, Malta and Gibraltar, the West Indies and North America, etc. In the example of the latter, the 85th fought in the American War of Independence and in the War of 1812. It captured the Colour of the 1st Harford Light Dragoons (of Maryland) captured at the Battle of Blandensburg. This remarkable object was on display in surprisingly good condition, and a postcard duly purchased from the shop.

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Colour of Maryland’s 1st Harford Light Dragoons

With that brief exposition on the KSLI collection, I wanted to end with some comments about the museum itself. The two previous posts on the museum’s collection  can be found below:


From terrorist bombs to endless austerity: Some final thoughts on the Shropshire Regimental Museum:

This was a first-rate regimental museum. One of the aspects of it that I appreciated the most was its emphasis on letting the exhibits and artefacts assume the central importance they deserve. The large glass cases may seem a rather traditional approach to some contemporary museum curators yet with so much information so readily available on-line, it is in museum’s exhibits where we acquire something unique; an up-close personal assessment of actual, real artefacts where even the apparently less significant can spark off a new interest or ignite the imagination.

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Flags of the Loyal Morfe Volunteers, an infantry unit of the Napoleonic era which had disbanded by the time of the war’s conclusion

The Shropshire museum’s display cases were full – never cluttered – with artwork, uniforms and objects. Excellently made manikins gave the visitor an opportunity to take in the sight of full uniforms. Being the sole occupant of the castle allowed the museum to appropriately fill the entire space and allowed the visitor to fully immerse themselves in the museum and understand the subject. Too often today, regimental ‘collections’ are being forced to share building space, shunted off into a side-room and left to compete for the confused attention of the more casual visitor already exposed in the same visit to radically different topics in other collections.

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On 25th August 1992, three IRA bombs were planted in Shrewsbury, one of which was placed at Shrewsbury Castle, where the Regimental Museum had been based since 1985. Nobody was killed, thankfully, but the fire which ripped through the museum destroyed many military treasures and it was said many of the relics involved were irreplaceable.

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Damage to the museum in 1992 (Photo – Shropshire Star)

It took three years to repair the damage before re-opening in 1995. Though mercifully no lives were lost, it had a considerable impact on the collection. To my dismay, it appears that as much as 60% of the collections’ earliest material was destroyed. However, like the motto of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry themselves, Aucto Splendore Resurgo (‘I rise again in greater splendour’), the Museum was resurrected to present the wonderful displays we see today. In recent years, the relentless barbarism of public spending cuts has threatened to do what terrorist bombs could not – close the Shropshire Regimental Museum for good. Thank goodness that, for now, it remains open to the public for a very modest £4 entrance fee.

Suburban Militarism urges all those with an interest in history to visit the museum and support its continued existence in our cultural and social landscape. Shropshire Regimental Museum is independent, relying greatly on public support and therefore welcomes donations, however small. You can donate online to the museum here.

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