We'll cross the Vistula, we'll cross the Warta, We shall be Polish. Bonaparte has given us the example Of how we should prevail. "Mazurek Dąbrowskiego" (Poland is not lost); Polish National Anthem.
Happy New Year from Suburban Militarism!
The 1st of January is a time for reflection on past achievements and future intentions. 2017 saw yet more regiments added to the Napoleonic Cavalry Project; a 28mm Victorian rifle volunteers project; some 18th century British infantry painted for the Bennos’ Figures Forum group project; a number of museum visit reports were added; and I ended the year creating some Christmas cavalry and painting lots of marching Napoleonic French infantry.
As for 2018, in my previous post I alluded to receiving a generous number of new model soldier kits as Christmas (and birthday) presents. With these kits, there’s a definite East European theme taking shape for 2018 and – dare I say it – a distinct focus on the First World War too (in a departure from my more usual 18th/19th centuries). But it’s familiar Napoleonic territory to start the year as I launch straight into the first of these new kits; the newly released Strelets Polish Infantry on the March.
These Napoleonic figures represent men of the Polish Legions, a force formed by Polish patriots who saw in the rise of Revolutionary France and Napoleon an opportunity to re-establish their nation which was dissolved and partitioned amongst its powerful neighbours in 1795. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had been in existence since 1569. Once one of the largest nations in Europe by both size and population, by the time of its eventual demise Russia, Prussia and Austria had all taken a share of the territory.
In 1797, two years after partition, a passionate nationalist desire for re-establishing a Polish nation saw a sizeable volunteer “Polish legion” created within Napoleon’s French revolutionary army. At this time, a popular piece of music was written to inspire this new legion which would later become the Polish national anthem; “Poland is Not Lost”.
The Polish Legion fought in many theatres of war with the French including Italy, Haiti, Prussia, Russia and in the Peninsular. Whilst Napoleon was more than keen to use the 20-30,000 highly regarded Polish troops for his military campaigns, he showed less passion for their cause – establishing Poland as a nation. Eventually, a diminished Duchy of Warsaw (under the sway of France) was created, but it was dissolved once more following Napoleon’s eventual defeat.
Napoleonic Polish troops wore predominantly blue uniforms closely following that of their French sponsors, although a distinct addition was their iconic Czapka helmet. Indeed, the Czapka which was worn by Polish lancers would go on to become a standard feature of most European lancer regiments later in the 19th century.
My Strelets Polish regiment is the 12th Infantry Regiment. They wear the usual all blue coat and trousers (in summer, they wore white trousers), white lapels, red cuffs and (uniquely) yellow collars. I’m minded to create an alternative Polish regiment with the remainder of the box (which also includes command figures). Possible alternatives could include the 13th Regiment (below left) which wore captured Austrian army uniforms and were therefore predominantly white. Alternatively, I could also produce one of the three “Vistula Legions” (below right), which in addition to the usual blue uniforms featured distinctive yellow lapels, cuffs and collars.
These slender Strelets figures are a significant departure from much of their early creations, such as the marching French infantry that I’ve just recently finished off. The detail isn’t always as crisp and clear as with some manufacturers making it tricky to paint, but it is sufficient to produce most details adequately. The poses are really effective and there is a nice cohesion to this marching force that was absent in the old French infantry set I’ve just finished with. As with that French set, I’ve cut off their bayonets which would have been unlikely to be fixed when on the march.
I’ve made real progress already thanks to all the free holiday time, and here’s a couple of quick snaps taken in the home and garden of some of the 20 figures I’m working on so far. I’ll update once they’re completed, which hopefully could be by the end of the week.