Lines of Communication

With a long-awaited house move having become suddenly immanent, this is just a short announcement that Suburban Militarism will probably be silent for the next few weeks. Not coincidentally, a few weeks is also the length of time it apparently takes to connect me to the internet. So, apologies in advance for any late replies / lack of interaction with fellow friends and bloggers in the interim.

After nearly a decade at the current HQ, it now just leaves the Commander-in-Chief General Sir Rudolf St. Nicholas to order the entire armed forces of Suburban Militarism forward…

General St. Nicholas, mounted aboard his steed Pandepascua, orders the general advance…

March Painting Challenge: Saxony Soldiers II

Another report on progress for the Neglected but not Forgotten challenge, I’ve produced two more examples of Saxon Great Northern War regiments to add to the Kurprinz and Martinière’s Grenadier Regiments. Figures are once more from Mars Saxon Infantry box.

Zeitz’ Regiment:

Zeitz’ Regiment was numbered 8 in the list of Saxon infantry regiments and is distinguished by green facings. Hat lace and stockings are white and the buttons are brass. This regiment later became known as Schulenburg’s Regiment and was apparently disbanded in 1705 just prior to the Saxon army’s heavy defeat by the Swedes at the Battle of Fraustadt the following year at which both the Kurprinz and Martinière’s regiments were (unfortunately for them) present.

Hayn’s Grenadier Battalion:

This is the other exclusively grenadier formation in the Saxon army. Hayn’s Grenadiers sport an all-red coat with white breeches and stockings.

Their grenadier caps are red with brass plates. The rear colours are my own invention being red with yellow piping. I certainly won’t worry too much about that as key source Daniel Schorr wrote that it was unknown whether the battalion even wore grenadier caps.

I’ve three more regiments that I’d like to do, in addition to the officers and musicians which also come with the Mars Saxon Infantry box, but the deadline for Ann’s challenge is approaching fast! Though I doubt I’ll be able to submit any more in time my intention is to press on regardless with this surprisingly enjoyable set of figures, so expect some more!

March Painting Challenge: Saxony Soldiers

I’ve properly got stuck into Ann’s “Neglected but not Forgotten” painting challenge with two examples of Saxon regiments from the manufacturer Mars now already painted. It only amounts to 10 soldiers, but it feels great to be back in my comfort zone of painting 20mm high plastic figures in colourful uniforms.

Five men in each regiment, sharing the same pose, representing two regiments of the Saxon army during the Great Northern War; these are the Kurprinz Regiment and Martinière’s Grenadier Regiment.

The Kurprinz Regiment:

The Kurprinz Regiment is numbered the 5th and has ‘Lemon Yellow’ facings. I’ve painted the collars on these figures in Lemon Yellow although according to the Tacitus website, “the collar was usually reserved for the coats of officers, NCOs and drummers, but possibly the guard regiments had it as well”. The hat lace is white, a colour typical for the Saxon infantry with red being reserved for very high status regiments.

The figure is sculpted quite effectively albeit the long coat looks a little unnaturally wide at the base. I quite like the somewhat shifty look of the faces. As with all my Great Northern War / War of the Spanish Succession figures, I’m keeping the bases deliberately very simple and uniform indeed.

Martinière’s Grenadier Regiment:

Using the numerous grenadier figures in Mars’ box to the full, I’ve replicated one of the two dedicated grenadier formations in the Saxon army – Martinière’s Grenadier Regiment. As with many early 18th century uniforms, details are scarce about this regiment but Tacitus relies on information in Lars-Eric Höglund’s book “Stora nordiska kriget 1700-1721, III” and an article from a defunkt website by Daniel Schorr; “Notes on the Saxon Army 1700-1716″.

Höglund’ had no information on this regiment but Schorr had “a speculative illustration of the uniform” which showed a blue grenadier cap with a gold plate, with blue breeches, stockings and cuffs. It all makes for a pleasingly exotic and colourful regiment!

There are more figures on the painting desk from this box and I’ll see how many more I can get done by the end of the challenge on the 2nd April. Currently, there are two more regiments going under the brush and they are well advanced already!

Campbell’s Cavalrymen: The Worcestershire Yeomanry Sergeant

Presenting my latest figure for the ongoing 54mm Yeomanry Cavalry project:

This figure is the last of my Mitrecap Miniatures yeomen, a sergeant of the Worcestershire Yeomanry c.1900. The other Mitrecap figures I’ve attempted have all been terrific and there are about five more (that I’m aware of) made by Mitrecap in this range but which have so far eluded my online searches.

The accompanying guidance by Mitrecap reads: ‘This figure is based on an illustration in “50 Years of Yeomanry Uniforms” by R.G. Harris, Plate No.29‘. Harris is the book’s author but the plate mentioned is by the military artist Edmund A. Campbell.

Campbell’s work inspired and informed a number of other yeomanry uniforms by Mitrecap including their Surrey Yeoman below:

This figure shows a sergeant in stable dress

In Campbell’s illustration below right, there’s a crown above the sergeant’s stripes which has not been included by the sculptor but which I may add freehand. My figure also holds a riding crop in his hand instead of the sword shown in the plate.

Oops, I’ve now noticed that I’ve forgotten to paint the metal spurs…

R.G. Harris’ text indicates that the plate is based on an original photograph taken in the military town of Aldershot in 1891/92 and was included in the book to ‘show the workaday dress of the yeoman of the late 1890s and presents a most serviceable uniform both comfortable and hard-wearing’.

He goes on: “The white gloves.. had a practical function for, when inspecting horses, the seasoned N.C.O. would rub the inside of his gloved hand along the horses flank and, should it come away soiled, some ‘idle man’ would find his name in the book.”

This was a straightforward and simple uniform to paint but has provided a really good contrast to some of the other more elaborate uniforms in my yeomanry collection. I’ve a number of other yeoman still to paint and the difficulty is selecting which one but I suspect it will be a figure from a manufacturer I’ve not painted before – Chota Sahib.

My impression of the original Aldershot photograph. It would be interesting to see the original.

In the meantime, it’s back for me to my numerous 1/72 scale Saxon Infantrymen being attempted as part of Ann’s Immaterium’s “Neglected but Not Forgotten” painting challenge.

Regiments of Saxony

Ploughing straight into the The “Neglected But Not Forgotten” Painting Challenge…, I’ve been having fun selecting the regiments I’m going to paint from my Mars’ Saxon Infantry set. In this, I was aided by my copy of Knotel, Knotel and Sieg’s classic work of uniform history – “Uniforms of the world” (Handbuch der Uniformkunde). The section on the infantry of Saxony has a useful list of regiments and their ‘distinctions’ (collars, cuffs and facings).

I was also helped by Tacitus, a terrific Swedish website which specialises on the Great Northern War. Lots of information on the Saxons including fully researched colour illustrations of each regiment.

A screenshot of Örjan Martinsson’s excellent Tacitus website, an essential resource for anyone with an interest in the Great Northern War.

The regiments I’ve selected to start with are:

  • Kurprinz Regiment (No.5) – Lemon yellow facings.
  • Zeitz’ Regiment (No.8) – Green facings
  • Martinière’s Grenadier Regiment – Blue facings, breeches and caps
  • Hayn’s Grenadier Battalion – Red facings, breeches and caps

You will notice that the last two above are exclusively grenadier formations, which I thought would at least enable me to make full use of the many grenadier figures included in the box.

I’m already well underway with examples of the Kurprinz Regiment and Martinière’s Grenadiers, so should be able to present them soon. Being realistic, I’m not sure how many I’ll get finished before the end of Ann’s challenge on the 2nd April, but I’m making good progress!

The “Neglected But Not Forgotten” Painting Challenge…

Now the FEMbruary Challenge is over, I felt in need of a new sense of direction in my hobby so when I saw Ann’s Immaterium recently post her own challenge, it was just what I needed. Ann’s “Neglected but not Forgotten” painting challenge has given me some impetus to pick up one of my many unused boxes. A quick rummage through the Suburban Militarism ‘war chest’ (actually a trunk containing some of my many unpainted boxes and kits) quickly revealed a candidate…

I’ve chosen a box of Mars’ Saxon Infantry from the Great Northern War containing 70 figures (more than the stated 56 thanks to an extra sprue I’d received some time ago). It’s a bit of a curio, being the only kit ever produced by Mars on the conflict, and being the only Saxon troops from the early 18th Century era by any manufacturer of 20mm plastics.

Mars may be the God of War, but the manufacturer hasn’t always been considered top of the pack when it comes to plastic 1.72 scale soldiers. The sculpting often gets a poor press on Plastic Soldier Review but this set deservedly got a decent 7/10. They’re not the most elegant figures ever created but what they do have is bags of character and lovely crisp details, something I always appreciate given my particular style of painting.

Manufactured in 2009, this set was out of stock for a number of years when I snapped up the box. Since then, it seems to have become more widely available again – albeit not so much in the UK for some reason. Anyway, having my 1 extra sprue allows me to group together some of the poses into battalions of five figures.

A five man group of Saxon grenadiers with an officer, musketeers behind.

The set is well stocked with officers and is made up of the following ‘big wigs’:

Having spent 2021 so far painting only metal figures at 28mm and 54mm scale, it feels great to be slumming it and finally getting my hands on some 1.72 scale plastic men once again – my first love!

If you’d like to join in (and why not?) I heartily recommend checking out the challenge rules on Ann’s post. The challenge ends on April the 2nd, so I’d better get a wiggle on with that bulging box of Saxons!

The Finale of FEMbruary IV

As promised by Alex at Leadballoony blog, the roundup of entries for 2021s FEMbruary Challenge IV was posted on International Women’s Day, yesterday – https://leadballoony.com/2021/03/08/2021-fembruary-iv-round-up/ Bravo Alex! It’s been another successful year’s challenge.

There’s increasingly a great range of entries encompassing all kinds of painting styles, interests, genres and figure manufacturers, so why not pop over and take a look at the kind of female characters being painted in the hobby nowadays?

Oh, and my humble offering of five female SOE agents brought home the “Most Thought-Provoking Entry” category – my first success in the FEMbruary challenge! Click below to read more about these phenomenally brave agents from WWII:

Border Miniatures and Rosedale Figurines

I’ve been researching another of my 54mm metal yeomanry figures which I’ve collected in recent years. It’s a figure which the family of a deceased model soldier collector was selling off and for a description they could only go on accompanying handwritten post-it note which stated; “Officer, 1898, W&C“.

The figure’s uniform had been very simply base-coated in readiness for more attention which, very sadly, it never received. But the colours and the W&C initials were enough to confirm to me the regiment’s name – the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry. The front of the sabretache does indeed have a tiny WCYC etched into it.

The identity of the manufacturer continued to elude me though, until the other day when I discovered a blog featuring a picture of it, together with a fabulous mounted version of the same figure, labelled as being West & Comb Yeo. officers c.1898 (I’ve since seen a version for sale listed specifically as a major). It seems my officer figure is missing his extravagant plume.

Photo taken from http://petesnewworkshop.blogspot.com – I hope the site owner won’t mind my reproducing an example of his beautiful work here.

It was very nicely painted indeed by the site’s blogger, Pete Armstrong. The site was for his business, Border Miniatures. Interestingly, Border Miniatures seemed to once combine the production of both railway figures and military figures. This curious dichotomy was resolved on 22nd April 2014 when Border Miniatures finally closed the military figure side of their business. I might suggest that was the wrong choice to make in the unbiased opinion of this blog! Well – okay – his engineering and paintwork on the engines is admittedly incredible. I have since discovered an old 1993 Border Miniatures catalogue online:

The trebuchet and mounted knight on the cover suggest something of the mostly medieval bias of this manufacturer.

I discovered that though the figures were mostly sculpted by Pete Armstrong, “guest sculptors may add items to the range”. This resulted in the occasional collaboration with Keith Durham, a sculptor of some pedigree who has been mentioned before in connection with producing some of Mitrecap Miniatures yeomanry output. The new, more railway-focused, Border Miniatures site does include examples of Border’s military figures, many of which were of larger scale (80mm). My Westmorland and Cumberland yeoman features under the ‘smaller scale’ 54mm and 64mm page – http://petesnewworkshop.blogspot.com/p/s.html

Border Miniatures were based in Keswick in Cumbria which explains the preference for Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry. I note from their catalogue that they also produced other Cumbrian / Cumberland inspired figures including a soldier from the 34th (Cumberland) Regiment in 1751 and also its precedent “Lord Lucas’ Regiment” from 1702.

The Cumbrian yeoman doesn’t even appear on this 1993 list but an officer of the Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry does.

One possible reason for the Westmorland and Cumberland figure being absent was explained by a chance piece of information I came across. Whilst browsing in a 1983 edition of Military Modelling magazine, I discovered an advertisement featuring a photo of my same W&C yeomanry figure. It was listed as being part of a ‘new range sculpted by Pete Armstrong’ but, curiously, the manufacturer was shown as being Rosedale Figurines of Lancaster! Although Pete Armstrong ran Border Miniatures and sculpted that figure, it appears that he actually produced it on behalf of another manufacturer. The advertisement listing showed that the previous owner’s original post-it note was correct with a code number of “05”.

An eBay seller wrote this interesting summary of Rosedale Figurines:

“Rosedale Figurines were specialists in highly detailed historical and collectible figures. Well known for producing exquisite Chivalry miniatures, these miniatures are the finest Medieval-related soldiers that have ever been produced. They also produced Amazons, Monsters, Ancients, Romans, Gauls, Thermopylae Graeco-Persian Wars line, American Civil War (Duette line), 19th Century (The Hill – Custer’s Last Stand), WWII (refugees).. Some of which were sculptured by the late, great Al Charles and larger ranges some of which were sculptured by Alan Ball.”

Image 2 - Rosedale-54mm-2x-WW2-Germans-Soldier-amp-NCO-painted-VGC-1-32-Refugees
Two WWII figures by Rosedale, possibly sculpted by Al Charles.

So it seems that what appeared at first to be Border Miniatures figure is really from Rosedale Figurines. Rosedale seemingly a venture that Pete Armstrong was originally involved in prior to his establishing Border Miniatures. Rosedale apparently shipped out to Australia a decade or more ago and are no longer operating.

Richard Simkin’s illustration of the regiment for the Army and Navy Gazette, October 1898.

Well, this is undeniably a very nicely sculpted figure and is one that I intend – eventually – to add to my other 54mm yeomanry figures collection on their plinths. Speaking of which, I’m working on another one of these right now! More anon.


UPDATE!

By chance this figure came up for auction recently, listed as being “Major, Westmorland & Cumb. Yeomanry 1898”, but in a packet marked “Border Miniatures”! So it seems that Pete Armstrong really did sell this figure as a Border Miniature in addition to it being sold under Rosedale banner too.

(#Fembruary2021) SOE Sisters V: Virginia Hall

I would give anything to get my hands on that limping Canadian (sic) bitch.

Reputedly Klaus Barbie, Lyon’s Gestapo chief.


Virginia Hall

  • Born: Baltimore, United States, 1906.
  • SOE Rank: Second Lieutenant.
  • AKA: ‘Artemis’, The Limping Lady’, ‘Marie of Lyon’, ‘Cuthbert’ (her leg’s pseudonym).
  • Died: Rockville, United States, 1982.

The most highly decorated female civilian during World War II, Virginia Hall was born in 1906 to a wealthy family in Baltimore. As so often with these female SOE agents, Hall was not in any way an average person. She wanted adventure, recognising herself as a “capricious and cantankerous” personality. She once went to school wearing a bracelet made of live snakes. She also enjoyed hunting, and it was while hunting birds that she accidentally shot herself in the foot. Her left leg was amputated below the knee after gangrene set in. Hall’s resilience and determination was forged in her painful recovery and in her learning to use a wooden leg.

Bad Squiddo have cleverly sculpted Virginia Hall adjusting her prosthetic limb.
Hall carries a STEN gun over her left shoulder.

Hall was living in Europe when war broke out and she drove ambulances for the French until the country was overrun. She then went on to become one of the first British SOE agents sent to France in 1941. It became apparent that she was a natural at the art of spying and subterfuge. Her caution was a great asset. She declined to attend a meeting of SOE agents in Marseille, sensing some danger. The French police raided the meeting and captured a dozen agents.

“Virginia Hall, to a certain extent, was invisible… she was able to play on the chauvinism of the Gestapo at the time. None of the Germans early in the war necessarily thought that a woman was capable of being a spy… “The Germans came to realize that they were after a limping lady,” said her biographer Sonia Purnell. Hall constantly changed her appearance. “She could be four different women in the space of an afternoon, with four different code names,” said Purnell. The man in hot pursuit was none other than the Gestapo’s infamous Klaus Barbie, known as “the Butcher of Lyon” for the thousands in France tortured and killed by his forces. Barbie ordered “wanted” posters of Hall that featured a drawing of her above the words “The Enemy’s Most Dangerous Spy — We Must Find And Destroy Her!” ‘A Woman Of No Importance’ Finally Gets Her Due by Greg Myre, NPR.

Image result for virginia hall

As the net closed in, Virginia Hall escaped to Spain by crossing the Pyrenees which was an incredibly arduous journey for anybody (over 50 mountainous miles in the heavy snows of winter), never mind someone dragging a wooden leg. The British SOE refused to sanction a return to France, fearing it would be fatal for her, such was her reputation with the Nazis. Hall was nonetheless determined to return and instead went to the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) for a role with them and was sent back to France. She went to extraordinary lengths to remain undetected, knowing the risks her return entailed.

“She got some makeup artist to teach her how to draw wrinkles on her face,” she said. “She also got a fierce, a rather sort of scary London dentist to grind down her lovely, white American teeth so that she looked like a French milkmaid.”

Her tour of duty in France in 1944 and 1945 was a great success in which she avoided detection and established a thriving network of up to 1,500 members of the Maquis in three battalions, one of whom, a French-American soldier, she went on to marry. After the war, she worked for the CIA but was apparently unhappy at what were effectively senior bureaucratic desk jobs. Furthermore, as a disabled woman, it is unlikely that she received the same treatment as male colleagues would have been at that time.

Virginia Hall of Special Operations Branch receiving the Distinguished Service Cross from General Donovan, September 1945. By CIA People – Making an Impact: Virginia Hall. The People of the CIA. CIA Official Website, Public Domain.

The US President Harry Truman was unable to get her to agree to a public ceremony to receive her US Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) honour. She was also awarded the British MBE and the French Croix de Guerre. Hall was implacably against any exposure or public recognition and slipped into obscurity after retirement. Belatedly, 40 years after her death in 1982 in Maryland, she is finally being recognised with a number of books and movies being made about her life. In 2016, a CIA field agent training facility was named the Virginia Hall Expeditionary Center.

That’s my final figure for the month of FEMbruary – an idea by Alex at Lead Balloony’s blog. You can check out other submissions for this challenge by going to the comments section of his original post and keeping an eye out for his final round up post due at the end of the challenge.

And a final reminder of my five female SOE agents…

(#Fembruary2021) SOE Sisters IV: Noor Inayat Khan

Noor Inayat Khan

  • Born: Moscow, Russia, 1914.
  • SOE Rank: Assistant Section Officer.
  • AKA: ‘Nora Baker’, ‘Madeleine’, ‘Nurse’, ‘Jeanne-Marie Renier’.
  • Died: Dachau Concentration Camp, Bavaria, 1944.

Continuing Leadballoony’s fabulous Fembruary challenge, Number 4 in my SOE spy series is Noor Inayat Khan. With this Bad Squiddo Games figure, we have a lady trying to get somewhere in a hurry with a suspiciously heavy-looking briefcase…

Noor Inayat Khan’s musician father was a teacher of Sufism and came from a family of Indian Muslims with hereditary nobility (his great-great-grandfather was Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore). Her mother, Ora Ray Baker, was an American. Noor studied music at the Paris Conservatory but went on to became a writer being a regular contributor to children’s magazines and to French radio. In 1939, her book, Twenty Jataka Tales was published, inspired by traditional Buddhist tales. At the outbreak of war, Noor escaped from Paris and on arriving in the UK joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) as a wireless operator. Seeking a greater challenge she secured a commission and was later recruited to the Special Operations Executive in 1943.

Some of those who trained her had doubts about her suitability for what was undoubtedly a very dangerous task ahead. Her finishing training report read:

“Not overburdened with brains but has worked hard and shown keenness, apart from some dislike of the security side of the course. She has an unstable and temperamental personality and it is very doubtful whether she is really suited to work in the field.” Next to this comment, Maurice Buckmaster, the head of F Section, had written in the margin “Nonsense” and that “We don’t want them overburdened with brains.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noor_Inayat_Khan

It’s a little difficult over 70 years on not to wonder whether a degree of scorn for her gender, if not her race (“physically unsuited… she would not easily disappear into a crowd”), may have influenced some of that opinion. That Noor was a trained harpist who studied at the Paris conservatory, was a published writer and won a commission as an officer seems to contradict the ‘no brains’ assessment. There was another aspect may have also compromised her assessor’s faith in her ability to do the job. Noor’s upbringing made her committed to non-violence and she was apparently distinctly uncomfortable with weapon training (“Pretty scared of weapons but tries hard to get over it.”).

Her brother Vilayat recalled attempting to stop his sister going on this hazardous mission:

“You see, Nora and I had been brought up with the policy of Gandhi’s nonviolence, and at the outbreak of war we discussed what we would do”, said Vilayat, who had followed his father and become a Sufi mystic. “She said, ‘Well, I must do something, but I don’t want to kill anyone.’ So I said, ‘Well, if we are going to join the war, we have to involve ourselves in the most dangerous positions, which would mean no killing.’ Then, when we eventually go to England, I volunteered for minesweeping and she volunteered for SOE, and so I have always had a feeling of guilt because of what I said that day.

Questioned closely by a sceptical SOE as to whether she had the confidence to go ahead with this incredibly dangerous assignment, Noor was apparently shocked that there was any doubt and insisted adamantly that she wanted to go, being fully competent for the work.

In June 1943, Noor (working under the codename of ‘Madeleine’) was flown to France to become the first female radio operator for a resistance network in Paris called ‘Prosper’. Members of the network were arrested shortly after she arrived but she insisted on staying on to remain in France and spent the summer moving from place to place, trying to send messages back to London while avoiding capture. In 1943, an operator’s life expectancy was six weeks. She had to move location very frequently to avoid detection and would have carried her bulky transmitter in a suitcase, as we can see with Bad Squiddo’s figure here.

Noor was betrayed to the Germans by the sister of another French agent and arrested by the Gestapo. Interrogated at their HQ in Paris, she attempted escape twice with other agents but was recaptured in the vicinity. After refusing to sign a declaration renouncing future escape attempts, she was taken to Germany. Hans Kieffer, the former head of the SS in Paris, testified after the war that she did not give the Gestapo a single piece of information, but lied consistently. She was held at the same location for ten months, classified as “highly dangerous” and kept in appalling circumstances (shackled in chains most of the time) until she was transferred to Dachau concentration camp with three other captured female agents. There they were all executed.

Noor Inayat Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross and by the French with a Croix de Guerre with silver star. Noor is the first woman of South Asian descent to have a blue plaque honouring her in London. The plaque was unveiled at a virtual ceremony on the 28th August 2020.

Noor Inayat Khan might not have had the bravado of Nancy Wake, or the recklessness of Krystyna Skarbek, but in my opinion she was nonetheless possessed of a rare implacable bravery that led her to ultimately sacrifice herself in the most lonely and terrifying circumstances for a cause she believed in.

One more SOE lady to go in this FEMbruary series which I’ll hopefully share soon.