“Expired Suddenly in this Town…”

Wandering the streets of my native Leicester, I thought I’d pay a trip to the city’s cathedral, St. Martins. Recently interred within the cathedral before the eye of the world’s media are the remains of King Richard III. Killed at the battle of Bosworth, the last Plantagenet’s remains were discovered under a car park just across the street from the cathedral.


Paying a visit to the old soldier-king’s final resting place is a must, but I was also interested in a small memorial at the opposite end of the cathedral, in an area given over to the Leicestershire Regiment. The regiment’s flags are laid up in this area alongside other plaques and memorials to Leicestershire’s fallen in conflicts such as the Crimean War, the Anglo-Boer War and the World Wars. The particular plaque I was interested in commemorated Major General Charles Guinand Blackader, CB DSO.

Blackader Outside HQ in France July 1915.
Major General Blackader, Leicestershire Regiment

Major General Blackader was commissioned into The Leicestershire Regiment in 1888, serving in India, Jamaica, Nigeria and in the Anglo-Boer War where he survived the Siege of Ladysmith. Known in his regiment as ‘Old Black’, he rose to command the 2nd Battalion in 1912. In October 1914, he went to France as part of the Garlhwal Brigade (Indian Corps), was promoted again as brigade commander, and lead it through the battles of Neuve Chapelle and Loos.

Men of the 2nd Leicestershire Regiment, Garhwal Brigade, resting in early September, 1915, during preparation for the Battle of Loos.

I was surprised to learn that more men from Leicestershire were killed at Loos than in any other battle before or since, as I always believed that the Somme would have accounted for more. At Loos, in the three days from September 25 to 28 from the 2nd Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment 72 men were killed, 217 wounded, 42 were gassed, and 96 were recorded as missing. My ancestor, great uncle John Neale was one of those men recorded initially as “missing”, but identified by a dog tag when re-interred in 1921.

The reinterment sheet with (in red pen) Great Uncle Neal, a Lance Corporal – not private – of the 2nd Leicestershire Rgt killed at Loos and belatedly identified by his ID disc.

Outside the cathedral was a fascinating headstone, which I’d glimpsed on previous visits. Before ‘the last Plantagenet’ was buried to such great fanfare, the graveyard of the cathedral was somewhat run-down, home to scattered ancient gravestones and the occasional drunk. It has since been made fit for a king (and a television audience) with the gravestones seemingly all tidied up and placed in areas all facing east, much as King Richard’s rather grander tomb does within the cathedral.

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The headstone that captures my attention belongs (unsurprisingly – this is Suburban Militarism after all) to an old soldier and includes a remarkably wordy and detailed epitaph which I reproduce below:

Beneath are deposited the remains of Richard Braginton, Quarter Master Serjeant (sic) of the South Devon Militia who expired suddenly in this town on his march to Nottingham in the night of the 15th of February 1812 after retiring to rest in perfect health AGED 60 YEARS.

He served 40 in the said regiment with unabated zeal, diligence and loyalty to the king and firm attachment to his country. While his private conduct was especially commendable for Rectitude, Probity and Sobriety.

He was esteem’d by his Officers and beloved by his fellow Soldiers. To perpetuate the remembrance of his worth. This Stone was caus’d to be erected by his Colonel Lord ROLLE.

Reader! may this additional Example of the awful uncertainty of Life prove a warning to thee to prepare for a similar fate, by a faithful discharge of the duties of thy station; and by an humble reliance on the merits of thy Redeemer.

The sponsor of this impressively complementary and detailed eulogy, was the old soldier’s regimental colonel; John, 1st Baron Rolle.

Lawrence, Thomas, 1769-1830; John Rolle (1750-1842), Lord Rolle
John Rolle, 1st Baron Rolle (1750–1842) in his peerage robes. Portrait by Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830).

Lord Rolle was, in addition to being an MP, the colonel of the South Devon Militia. He was apparently also involved for the formation of Devon’s two yeomanry regiments; the Royal 1st Devon Yeomanry and the North Devon Yeomanry. Rolle had enlisted in the South Devon Militia as an ensign and worked (or paid) his way up to command the regiment. His service included taking the militia over to Ireland in 1796 to suppress a rebellion there. QM Sergeant Richard Braginton would have no doubt been a part of this expedition.

The Keep (80)
Ensign’s coatee of the South Devon Militia, c.1790. My photo taken during my visit to The Keep Museum, Dorchester in 2017.

The death of Richard Braginton was recorded in a local paper thus:

The Leicester Journal, and Midland Counties General Advertiser, 21 February 1812 
On Sunday last, the Sergeant Major of the South Devon Militia, passing through this town, with the regiment, was found dead by the side of his comrade in bed, without envincing any previous indisposition; he was buried the next day with military honours. 

The headstone contained something of a mystery. Why were the South Devon Militia marching all the way to Nottingham via Leicester? Research tells me that they were on their way to suppress a violent uprising, Lord Rolle leading his militia as ‘part of a larger force to suppress a Luddite rebellion’. The Luddite movement had its roots in Nottingham.

Rolle’s obvious high regard for his old Quarter Master Sergeant apparently didn’t end with a detailed and warmly eulogistic gravestone in the grounds of St Martin’s cathedral in Leicester. His involvement continued with Richard Braginton’s heirs;

He appointed his son Richard II Braginton (1784–1869) as steward of Stevenstone, and the latter’s son George Braginton (1808–1886), a merchant and banker, mayor of Great Torrington, was in 1830 Lord Rolle’s agent for the Rolle Canal of which he purchased a lease in 1852, ten years after Lord Rolle’s death.

It’s curious that the car park under which Richard III’s remains were discovered is just across the street from Richard Braginton’s headstone – a stone’s throw away. The old soldier can scarcely have guessed that his remains would have been buried so near to that of a king of England, and furthermore that his own spectacularly effusive epitaph would be in such stark contrast to the monarch’s poor, forgotten and unmarked grave.

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A little more on the Derbyshire Yeomanry Mounted Band

Last year, I posted on my discovery of a painting hung on the wall of the ‘unstately home’ Calke Abbey. I realised that the scene depicted the band of the Derbyshire Yeomanry whose existence my guide to mounted bands suggested was unproven. At the time, I wondered what the parade could possibly have been for. Thankfully, some enquiries I made with the Melbourne Historical Research Group bore fruit thanks to the informative reply by a Mr Philip Heath.

Entrance of the Procession into Melbourne on the 10th May 1876 by John Gelder (1816 – 1885) ©National Trust Images

Mr Heath informed me that;

“The location of this scene is Derby Road, Melbourne. The house on the right is Conery House , formerly known as the Poplars (as seen in the painting), built in the 1830s. The people in the windows may well be the Robinson family who lived there at the time. The house is still there, on the corner of Queensway opposite Sainsbury’s.”

The scene of the parade today, the house then known as “The Poplars” just visible through the trees to the right.

Mr Heath continues:

“I first saw this painting when it was reproduced in Howard Colvin’s “Calke Abbey; A Hidden House Revealed” (1985), page 97. The caption in the book suggests that it shows the recent wedding of Sir Vauncey and Isabel Adderley being feted at Melbourne. As they were married on 20/4/1876, I’ve never doubted that interpretation. Although the Calke estate had few tenants in the parish of Melbourne, there was a connection with Calke and Melbourne through all the Melbourne tradesmen that found work at Calke, and there are framed “loyal addresses” from the people at Melbourne, given to the family on landmark occasions.”

So there you have it. The Derbyshire Yeomanry’s mounted band was leading a procession which was celebrating the marriage of Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe of Calke Abbey and Isabel Adderley. A natural consequence given the regiment’s close association with the Harpur family and the Derbyshire Yeomanry.

A 1794 musical score that I found in Calke of “Two marches composed by Joseph Haydn for Henry Harpur Bart. and presented by him to the Volunteer Cavalry of Derbyshire”.

However, it seems any excessive pride I may have had in my sleuthing is somewhat misplaced. I now realise that other conclusive evidence of the mounted band must have since come to light since R.G. Harris’ wrote his words on the Derbyshire Yeomanry band. The DYC’s own website actually includes photographic evidence (although no reference is made to the
painting of the procession). Furthermore, the image also shows kettledrums and drum banners included, which I’ve circled below. All this information must have been unavailable to Ronald G. Harris at the time.

Blurred and indistinct; a ghostly image of the Mounted Derbyshire Yeomanry at Aston Camp in 1890. Photo: The Derbyshire Yeomanry Association.

The DYC Drum banners were crimson with a rose in gold under a crown and is shown in the Players cigarette card series with a wreath and a scroll.

I want to thank Mr Heath and the Melbourne Historical Research Group and also end with a few words about the now sadly deceased Ronald G. Harris, who authored that yeomanry mounted band book in the 1980s. Currently up for sale on eBay are some of his extensive research material and archive (most being well out of my modest budget unfortunately). Much of his archive material is completely unique and remarkable, a throwback to an era when research had to be carried out without easy reference to the internet by committed military history enthusiasts like Mr Harris.

Calke Abbey © National Trust / Ian Buxton, David Midgelow, Brian Birch

French Personalities of the Crimean War

Having been very much enjoying painting Strelets characters from their Crimean War Big Box range, I thought it was time to turn my attention the French officer corps. These figures came from their “Last Assault on Sevastopol” box which, in addition to the two dozen officers, also supplied other sprues of French Zouaves, light and line infantry.

Unlike their “Heavy Brigade” set, “Last Assault…” did not come with a detailed list of named individuals. I believe most of the figures are intended to be generic officers therefore although, as Plastic Soldier Review suggests, a handful are undoubtedly intended to be specific personalities. Pioneering photographer Roger Fenton took a good number of photographs of members of the French army including anything from senior commanders to common soldiers, and even a female vivandière (a version of which Strelets also modelled for the Heavy Brigade set).

To begin, the two identifiable French personalities:-

General Aimable Pélissier

Of course, no set claiming to be about the French assault on Sevastopol could be without its commander in chief and one character provided by Strelets seems to fit the bill. The sash and physique suggests that my figure (above) is intended to be General Pélissier (below):

Marshal Pelissier by Roger Fenton, 1855.

Below, my painted figure certainly bares comparison with Pelissier as depicted in Fenton’s image.

Now I look at him, the black and white photograph suggests a brighter colour than the light blue I have painted around his waist, perhaps yellow. Furthermore, le pantalon rouge looks more distinctly le pantalon bleu! Never mind, the white hair and dark moustache have been reproduced well enough.

Pélissier was sent by Napoleon III to the Crimea to replace the existing commander Marshal Canrobert, who was judged too cautious. A more vigorous approach to the siege of Sevastopol eventually reaped its reward with the French storming and taking the Malakoff Tower in September 1855, leading to the evacuation of south Sevastopol by the Russians.

After the Crimean War, Pélissier was showered with awards from home and abroad including the title ‘1st Duc de Malakoff’ in recognition of the Sevastopol assault. The figure wears a number of awards and medals on his chest, the large silver cross being I believe a Légion d’honneur star (or plaque). Strelets have shown Pelissier holding what I believe is a piece of paper or map.

Another Fenton portrait of General Pelissier.

General Pierre François Bosquet

According to Plastic Soldier Review;

“We can’t identify any particular individuals (although doubtless some will have chosen some for themselves), but the first figure in the fourth row looks to be taken from a famous photograph of General Bosquet, and indeed several figures seem inspired by such photographs, which is a very reasonable source to us.”

They are referring to this figure pointing a finger with his hand tucked behind his back.

Fenton actually took a number of photographs of Bosquet, including the one below. General Bosquet seems to have been quite a theatrical character, keen to be photographed in his trademark authoritative pointing pose!

Pierre François Bosquet was an artillery officer who spent 20 years as a soldier in Algeria, during which time he variously commanded Algerian tirailleurs and later some line infantry, rising to the rank of General of Division. Serving in the Crimean War from the very early stages, his division led the French attack at the opening encounter at the Alma.

It was Bosquet who uttered the now famous line when observing the Charge of the Light Brigade;

C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre: c’est de la folie!

(It is magnificent, but it is not war: it is madness!)

Bosquet’s arrival with troops during the battle of Inkerman secured the Allied victory. Seemingly ever present in the forefront of all the action, at Sevastopol Bosquet personally led his troops both on the June attack to capture the Mamelon fort and also the great attack on the Malakov in September, during which he received a severe wound. He survived the war but ill-health led to his untimely death just five years later.

The rest of Strelets’ figures though full of character do not appear to be based directly on any of Fenton’s photographic subjects, so I’m simply presenting them below, in no particular order:

Bugler and Drummer

Two satisfying musicians with lots of colour to them, a bugler and drummer of the French army, 1855.

French Officers and Staff

This figure I liked a lot for his casual stance with hands tucked into his waistband and a face of utter nonchalance:

This next roguish officer seems to be enjoying a glass of something refreshing. I realised when painting this that I have never painted glass before. So, I’ve simply added to silver a little blueish hue, assuming that this old soak has just drained it of a fine ’48 Bordeaux. I like their idea of having his overcoat draped over his shoulders.

If it’s not alcohol that helps my French officers through the rigours of the Crimean campaign, it’s tobacco. Here, a nicely campaign-weary officer contemplates another tough day in the trenches over a long pipe. Hand tucked into his waistband, I fancy he might be enjoying a smoke, post-evening meal.

What I thought was one of the least promising figures has turned out nicely, I am particularly pleased with his greying beard and surprisingly interesting face, glancing askew.

Next, another nice pose with a shoulder cape and hands clasped behind his back. This chap was a victim of an accidental assault by my wife after I carelessly left him on the dining room table. He has come through okay after corrective painting and hasty re-gluing, although he appears to be keeping a wary eye out for any further outrages.

This is another figure which looked less promising thanks to the face being along the line of the flash from the mould. A little paint has improved my assessment of a convincing pose for a man leading an assault.

Finally, below is an officer of the Chasseurs d’Afrique, a regiment which I painted some years ago from Strelets range of Crimean War figures. It’s not one of their best sculpted figures, another victim of the join on the seam, and it’s curious that his sword is drawn whilst on foot, but I like the ‘Chass d’Aff’ and felt it demanded inclusion!

Fenton took some photographs of officers from this regiment, including this one below of a mounted officer in camp.

Captain Thomas of the Chasseurs d’Afrique

And to conclude, some more images from Roger Fenton of the French officer corps in the Crimea:

I’m toying with the idea of one more batch of these French officers, if you can stand it, before finally moving on to something new.

You know, I think General Bosquet could easily have been talking not of the Light Brigade but of my eccentric hobby – “c’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre: c’est de la folie!” Yes, madness, I tell you! Madness!…

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #7

7. The King’s Regiment (Liverpool)

When this Regiment was raised in 1685, it was designated “Princess Anne of Denmark’s Regiment”. The title was changed when George I came to the throne, this time to “The 8th Foot”. The drawing shows a Sergeant wearing the uniform of 1828.

Number 7 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).

British Personalities of the Crimean War II

Another instalment of my Personalities of the Crimean War series, featuring figures by Strelets:

Field Marshal FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan

The commander-in-chief of the British army in the Crimean War began his army career playing a full part in the Peninsular War. He later served in the Waterloo campaign as aide-de-camp and military secretary to Wellington. The carnage of the battle of Waterloo cost Somerset the amputation of his right arm.

Fenton’s photograph of Lord Raglan in the Crimea, 1855.

Somerset retained his close association with the Duke of Wellington and, having been promoted to Lieutenant-General during the years of peace after Waterloo, was appointed to command the British army in the Crimean campaign with a brevet rank of full General. In 1852, he was raised to the peerage and became known as the 1st Baron Raglan.

Success at the battles of Alma and Inkerman led to his promotion to Field Marshal, but as the privations of the Crimean winter took its toll on his men, Raglan began to receive criticism in the press, although whether it was entirely fair is debatable.

A poorly executed failed assault on the defences of Sevastopol piled the pressure on the commander and, being weakened by dysentery and a depressive illness, Raglan died whilst still on campaign in June 1855.

Raglan (left) in conference with Turkish Field Marshal Omar Pasha (centre) and French C-in-C, Marshal Pélissier.

Lieutenant General Sir Henry John William Bentinck

With both of Henry Bentinck’s brothers being generals, and his father a Major-General, senior command in the army was virtually a family business. Bentinck began his army service as an ensign in the Coldstream Guards and by 1841, he was an aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria and a brevet colonel.

Fenton’s haughty portrait of Bentinck, his cocked hat visible on the table.

By the time Bentinck landed in the Crimea with his regiment, he was a Major-General. He took part in the battles of Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman, being badly wounded in the arm in the latter. Despite the wound, he continued to serve in the siege of Sevastopol.

On his return from the Crimea, he was created a K.C.B. and promoted to the rank of General. Bentinck died in 1875.

Lieutenant General Sir Charles Ash Windham

The fourth son of an admiral, as with most of the generals featured in my British personalities series, Windham began his career in a prestigious guards regiment; the Coldstreams. From the rank of Ensign, he went on to purchase a series of promotions throughout the 1830s and 1840s.

Roger Fenton’s sensitive portrait of Charles Windham. He is depicted wearing a long scarlet coat. His light, patterned trousers appear distinctly non-regulation and I’ve painted them a generic light grey on my figure.

After service in Canada, Windham returned to England in 1842 where he remained until the outbreak of the Crimean War. Achieving his colonelcy in June 1854, he was then appointed Assistant Quartermaster General of the 4th Division for the campaign. He soon became renowned for making clear his stern criticism of the poor military leadership of the British army at this time.

At Sevastopol, he was given command of the main British attack on the Great Redan. The result was a failure in which he personally rode back to beg for more reinforcements to continue the assault which had achieved its objective but was ill-equipped to hold it. Windham received criticism from soldiers in his command but was made a popular hero by William Russell, the Times War Correspondent, who declared that Windham’s gallant conduct had saved “the honour of the army”.

Windham’s career continued to be dogged by controversy and mixed opinions as he served in the Indian Mutiny and in Canada until he eventually died while convalescing in Florida in 1870.

*Windham published a detailed diary of his experiences in the Crimean war, which the journalist Russell wrote an introduction to. An online copy is accessible from the Internet Archive here.

Major General James Bucknall Estcourt

The son of an M.P., James Estcourt’s first appointment in the army was as an Ensign in the 44th Regiment. Transferring to the 43rd Regiment, Estcourt served in Gibraltar and later on the Euphrates Valley Expedition. His services on this journey of science and exploration led to his promotion to Lt-Colonel.

Estcourt was photographed by Fenton a short time prior to his untimely death in the Crimea.

Successful service on a boundary commission in Canada and a friendship with Lord Raglan helped Estcourt, now a Brigadier-General, to be appointed Adjutant General for the campaign. However, together with General Airey, he was criticised by a press who considered them both responsible for the winter privations and terrible suffering of the troops.

Stoutly defended by Raglan, Estcourt was appointed Major-General in December 1854, despite the ongoing criticism. Ironically, he fell victim to the same insanitary conditions for which he was being held by some to be responsible and succumbed to cholera in June 1855.

According to the Dictionary of National Biography, his friend and mentor Lord Raglan was “afraid to attend the funeral, for fear of showing his grief; but the last visit he paid before his own death, was to Estcourt’s tomb.

Major General Sir Henry William Barnard

Sir Henry William Barnard obtained a commission in the 1st Foot Guards in 1814. A newly made Major-General, Barnard landed in the Crimea in 1854, in command of a brigade in the 3rd division of the army, with which he was present during the winter of 1854–5.

Fenton’s compelling photograph of Barnard with his foot on a shell, a stance imitated by Strelets.

Through their figure, Strelets have nicely referenced Roger Fenton’s above photograph of General Barnard posing with a foot on a shell. Whether or not the pose was deliberately made at Fenton’s request, by delicately resting his boot on the shell, the stance nicely suggests something of the violence and danger at the same time as the fragility of the combatants. It’s just one of the postures that Strelets have employed in their Crimean range that is really pleasing to me, painting becomes the act of bringing to life a brief moment from over 150 years ago.

When former chief-of-staff General Simpson succeeded to Commander-in-Chief, Barnard in turn became his chief-of-staff, a position he held at the fall of Sevastopol in September 1855. He later succeeded to the command of the 2nd Division.

In 1857, Barnard took an active command in the Indian Mutiny and won the crucial battle of Badli-ki-Serai but died of cholera on 5 July 1857, eleven weeks before the fall of Delhi to the British.

Another Fenton photograph of Barnard. He is shown ‘in a conference with his servants’.

Ronald Leads the Light Brigade

In the process of painting some more Crimean War personalities, I’ve been particularly concentrating on a specific character who, though unnamed on the box artwork, bears an unmistakable resemblance to the 7th Earl of Cardigan.

Oil on millboard by Alfred Frank de Prades, 1854. (c) NAM. 1967-02-19-1.

Strelets’ “Into the Valley of Death” set dedicated to the Charge of the Light Brigade was purchased about 5 years ago and the figure in question is wearing the uniform of a hussar. Given the set’s topic, this means that it must belong either to the 8th (King’s Royal Irish) Hussars or 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars.

Plastic Soldier Review feel they can identify him – “The [figure] could well pass for Lord Cardigan, the man who actually led the charge.” There’s certainly a strong resemblance. The Light Cavalry Brigade’s commander was Major General James Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan of the 11th Hussars.

Arriving some months after the Battle of Balaclava, photographer Roger Fenton took some images of officers of the 11th Hussars, survivors of the charge, but not of the Earl of Cardigan himself. Below are his images of Cornet Wilkin and Lt. Yates of the 11th. Also below is Fenton’s famous image he titled “The valley of the Shadow of Death” itself, a gulley strewn with spent cannonballs.

So anyway, who’s Ronald?

Detail of a painting by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr. Public Domain.

That’s Ronald above, Cardigan’s charger shown as a small detail in Caton Woodville’s painting of The Charge. He was a thoroughbred chestnut gelding coincidentally sharing the same russet-colour as his owner’s ginger whiskers. Ronald was the horse that led the Charge of the Light Brigade, over 670 men (and their horses), into – and out of – the ‘valley of death’.

As with his aristocratic rider, Ronald was indeed incredibly fortunate to survive having ridden at the very head of the brigade right into the teeth of the Russian artillery position, escaped from being surrounded by Cossacks, and then returned all the way back again unscathed. Of the famous charge, a shocking 475 other horses failed to do the same. Furthermore, he should be considered very robust for even surviving the trip over to Crimea by troop ship (many horses did not), and then making the same arduous journey back home again.

Ronald continued to prove particularly durable, managing to enjoy life until 28th June 1872, nearly 18 years after Balaclava and a full four years after the passing of his master. There are, it seems, a number of tributes to Ronald on the web. Including:

Of his many depictions, I’ve based my painting of Ronald on the Alfred Frank de Prades portrait. This shows Ronald to have markings consisting of two white ‘stockings’ and one white ‘sock’, although other portraits I’ve seen occasionally differ. I do know (thanks to the perfect preservation of his head!) that he had a star on his forehead and a snip near his right nostril, all of which I’ve been careful to try and reproduce on my own little tribute in 20mm figure form. Strelets horses certainly aren’t their strongest feature (the leg positioning on this figure isn’t quite right, I feel), but otherwise it’s not too bad a sculpt.

The Earl of Cardigan himself is a pleasing figure, I think, and Strelets have captured something of his features and ornate uniform. I’ve used a darker red than I commonly use to achieve the cherry colour of his busby bag and overalls, a feature unique to the 11th Hussars which gave rise to their nicknames “The Cherry Pickers” and “The Cherry Bums” or, for when ladies were present, “The Cherubims”!

The doughty Ronald was the subject of a surprising number of paintings and prints, it seems, including many images of him and his master during The Charge while some prints of the period depict Ronald alone, suggesting something of his popularity.

On Cardigan and Ronald’s return to the Brudenell home in Deene Park, it became apparent that their adventures had found them considerable fame and both were greeted as heroes by the thronging crowds. Such was the fervour that many tried to pull out poor Ronald’s hair for a keepsake as he passed! A well-deserved long retirement for Ronald ensued until the Earl of Cardigan passed away in 1868, at which point his famous steed was required to follow as part of the cortege. However, it seems that the old war horse very nearly didn’t make the funeral procession thanks to a very comical series of mishaps:-

“However, the old horse, having endured ghastly sea journeys, life on the foreign front, the atrocity of battle, near starvation and probably deep terror, found the whole prospect of a funeral procession far too exhilarating and became boisterous. To avoid the solemn pageantry of the day being ruined by the over-excited horse, they administered laudanum. But, in the heat of the moment the dose must have been inadvertently overdone, for then no one could move the dozing charger. Eventually an inspired individual called for the sounding of the cavalry charge. Stirred to duty, Ronald jumped into wakefulness and set off as required.”

From an article by Cheryl R Lutring.

Such was the affection felt for Ronald by the Brudenell family and the British public that, when he did eventually die, the Brudenells preserved his head and tail which continues to be displayed at his home in Deene Park, Northamptonshire. His hoof was turned into an inkwell (a popular tribute for beloved horses of the time) with a sculpture of him and his master atop.

To me, it has sometimes seemed that some of Tennyson’s famous lines on the men of the Light Brigade could have equally applied to the brave horses like Ronald who suffered so much in the charge, dutifully carrying their riders through hell:

Theirs not to make reply,
   Theirs not to reason why,
   Theirs but to do and die.

I’ve handful more ‘personalities’ I’m working on, which I’ll doubtless share in due course.

Russian Personalities of the Crimean War II

“Toward the north the activity of the day begins gradually to replace the nocturnal quiet; here the relief guard has passed clanking their arms, there the doctor is already hastening to the hospital, further on the soldier has crept out of his earth hut and is washing his sunburnt face in ice-encrusted water, and, turning towards the crimsoning east, crosses himself quickly as he prays to God; here a tall and heavy camel-wagon has dragged creaking to the cemetery, to bury the bloody dead, with whom it is laden nearly to the top…”

By Vikcos75 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43751038

Extract from SEVASTOPOL IN DECEMBER, 1854. By Leo Tolstoy.

Continuing my Personalities of the Crimean War series, it seemed appropriate to begin this post with an extract from Leo Tolstoy’s wonderfully vivid description of the experience of the dawning of a day spent in Sevastopol during the siege. Strelets’ Crimean War big box set “Russian General Staff and Hospital” have referenced this work by including a figure of young Count Tolstoy in his junior artillery officer’s uniform.

As you can see below, in addition to painting Tolstoy, I’ve tackled some of his fellow Sevastopol defenders and denizens too:-

2nd-Lieutenant Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy

World-famous novelist Count Lev (in English, Leo) Tolstoy was born of a respected aristocratic family. He joined the army with his brother in order to escape some large gambling debts. As a young artillery officer, Tolstoy found himself commanding a battery during the 11-month siege of Sevastopol.

The young aristocrat would go on to write about his experiences during the siege in a well-received book titled “Tales of Sevastopol“. It’s well worth a read, particularly for the English reader to understand the experiences and feelings of the besieged Russians.

His wartime experiences would also inform Tolstoy’s great work on Russia during the Napoleonic conflict; “War and Peace”. The horrors that Tolstoy experienced in Sevastopol led him to later formulate strong ideas on non-violent resistance, ideas which in turn inspired future activists such as Ghandi.

Young Leo Tolstoy in military uniform.

Strelets Tolstoy figure looks great. Most probably it’s down to my paint job, but somehow he doesn’t quite look like the youthful lieutenant he was at this time!

General-Adjutant Alexander Sergeyevich Menshikov:

Menshikov was the commander-in-chief of all Russian land and sea forces during the Crimean War. The ageing general was a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, like his equivalent in the British army. He was born of aristocratic parents being the grandson of Alexander Danilovich Menshikov who was a favourite of, and military advisor to, Peter the Great.

By Franz Krüger – Музей Гвардии; Санкт-Петербург, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4787033

Entering the Russian diplomatic service, he became close to Tsar Alexander I and accompanied him throughout his campaigns against Napoleon. During the Russo-Turkish War of 1828, Menshikov distinguished himself at the Siege of Varna until an exploding Turkish shell badly wounded him in the groin.

Rising within the government, Menshikov was perceived to have been an impediment to the modernisation of the Russian navy, a failing with effects which would become apparent during the Crimean War. Appointed to command the Russian forces in that campaign, he was eventually viewed as militarily incompetent and was replaced by Prince Gorchakov in February 1855. Prior to his removal, Menshikov had presided over the Russian defeats at the battles of Alma and Inkerman.

I think Strelets’ Menshikov appears suitably advanced in years with his white hair and walking cane. I’m not sure what’s over his shoulder but I’ve taken it to be some sort of blanket.

Lieutenant-Colonel Eduard Ivanovich Totleben:

Born of German-Baltic nobility, Lieutenant-Colonel Totleben was a highly competent engineer and became the inspirational force behind the defences of Sevastopol. On his advice, the fleet was sunk to block the harbour mouth and the land defences were hurriedly secured before the allies could take advantage of it after the Russian defeat at the Alma. 

Shortly before the fall of Sevastopol, Totleben was badly wounded in the foot and evacuated. After the war, his great contribution was fully recognised and he was honoured even by his former enemies, paying a reconciliatory visit to England. In a classic engineer pose, Totleben’s Strelets figure holds dividers and a map or plan.

Cossacks and a balalaika!

Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka maya…”

I felt I had to have a go at these two figures. These are, I understand, Terek Cossacks. The Terek Cossack Host had those distinctive fur hats with red coloured tops. I read that Terek Cossacks wore a dark grey / black uniform but Strelets has shows them as a ragtag collection of differing colours, so I’ve stuck with that for these two.

The two figures feature one man sitting on an upturned crate playing what is clearly a balalaika. His companion dances enthusiastically despite being encumbered by some serious weaponry. Once again, I think the expressions on their faces are really pleasing. Plastic Soldier Review states; “this is neither staff nor hospital, but adds a welcome touch of colour and humanity to the Russian figures.” Agreed.

All together now – “Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka maya!”

Acolyte carrying a religious icon on a banner:

A companion to the other icon carrier I painted recently, this chap is clearly of the church rather than in the army. My religious icon isn’t quite aligned properly, but it’ll do!

A layman carrying an icon:

And finally, a Russian soldier acts as a lay member of the church by carrying an icon before his comrades manning the defences, offering divine blessing and inspiration to them. He has removed his cap, presumably as an act of respect. The icon I’ve taken to be an image cast in gold with a blue drape around it. I like the figures face, intoning a hymn or prayer, and he goes well with the other religious figures I’ve painted.

So, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that I’ve got my sights set on another batch of Crimean personalities which I’ll post whenever I get some time to tackle them.

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #6

6. The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment

The 16th Regiment of Foot, of which we show a private in 1828, was raised in 1688. In 1782, the regiment received the county title of “The Buckinghamshire Regt”. The Hertford Militia became a battalion in 1881 when the regiment became known by its present title.

Number 6 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).

British Personalities of the Crimean War

Following on from my Russian Personalities, I’ve been painting a group of British figures from the Crimean War from Strelets “Heavy Brigade” big box set. The box includes British heavy dragoons, Scots Greys and a number of ‘command’ figures both mounted and standing. The ones I’ve tackled include:

  • Roger Fenton (Photographer)
  • Gen. Simpson
  • Lt-Gen. Brown
  • Maj-Gen. Buller
  • Maj-Gen. Campbell
  • Lt-Col. Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar
  • Capt. Halford

Below are presented my figures with a brief biography of each character:

Mr Roger Fenton (Photographer)

I’ve always been transfixed by the Crimean War images created by the photographer Roger Fenton. The soldiers he depicted were, in many ways, identical to the kind of soldier seen on Napoleonic battlefields 40 years before. This was the twilight era for the kind of brightly-coloured uniforms seen on campaign since the beginning of the 18th century and it was being captured for posterity by the new science of photography.

Fenton landed at Balaklava on 8 March 1855 and remained there until 22 June, taking a servant and Mr Marcus Sparling along as his photographic assistant, as well a large horse-drawn van of equipment.

Fenton’s van in the Crimea with assistant Marcus Sparling in the driver’s seat.

Given the limitations of early photography, images were inevitably limited to posed subjects and keenly avoided depicting the brutal reality of war and its effects.

Men of the 68th Regiment photographed by Fenton.

Fenton managed to make over 350 images and an exhibition of 312 of them was soon on show in the months that followed. Fenton also showed them to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and also to Emperor Napoleon III in Paris.

Roger Fenton, photographer.

Strelets have pleasingly taken Fenton’s photographs as their inspiration for a number of figures in their Crimean War Big Box set; “Heavy Brigade”. Many of the figures are clearly homages to Fenton’s images and they even include a figure of the photographer himself! You can see how my Roger Fenton turned out. Note his fetching striped trousers seen in the image above have been reproduced in my figure.

General Sir James Simpson

Sir James Simpson was born in 1792 and was commissioned as ensign and lieutenant in the 1st Foot Guards in 1811. In the following year he was sent to the Peninusular campaign where he was part of Wellington’s army. He served in the 100 Days Waterloo campaign and was severely wounded at Quatre Bras.

In February 1855 he was sent out to the Crimea, as chief of the staff with the local rank of lieutenant-general. On the death of Lord Raglan in June, he succeeded to the command of the British army with the brevet rank of general from that date. The Dictionary of National Biography indicated that;

“the general feeling in the army was that he was ‘a good man, a long-headed Scotchman,’ but hardly equal to so great a responsibility”.

Gen. Simpson by Roger Fenton.

On 8 Sept 1855. the final assault was delivered by the French and British on the Russian defences at Sevastopol. But Simpson’s chosen divisions unwisely consisted largely of raw recruits, was poorly executed and supported, and the attack failed. However, the French capture of the Malakhoff redoubt secured success for the allies.

In November, Simpson resigned the command which he had initially accepted with some reluctance and retired from the army.

Lieutenant-General Sir George Brown

Another Peninsular War veteran, the Scottish George Brown had a brilliant war record until settling into a 25-years long appointment to Staff work at Horse Guards.

In the Crimea, he commanded the Light Division and was criticised by some for his strict enforcement of camp discipline. At the Alma, Brown’s horse was shot from underneath him and later he was severely wounded at the battle of Inkerman, curiously while leading French Zouaves. Following his injury, he was invalided home in June 1855, was promoted to general, and became commander in chief in Ireland, dying in 1865.

You will note that I’ve painted Brown as he was depicted in Fenton’s excellent photograph – as a 65 year old veteran with a shock of white hair.

Major-General Colin Campbell

Another scot, Colin Campbell was born Colin Macliver, but for obscure reasons had changed his surname to Campbell by the time he was gazetted as an ensign into the 9th Foot. Like many of his fellow senior officers in the Crimea, Campbell saw action in the Peninsular War where he saw action with Wellington’s army in a number of key battles.

Campbell by Roger Fenton.

As a major-general, Campbell commanded the Highland Brigade at the battle of the Alma. Plastic Soldier Review state that after this early battle, Campbell adopted the Highland bonnet, ditching the bicorn hat shown on my figure. At Balaklava, Campbell’s famous “thin red line” of Highlanders repulsed the Russian cavalry. He was overlooked as Commander in Chief after Simpson resigned, however, and left the Crimea apparently ‘in a huff’.

He was appointed to full commander at the outset of the Indian Mutiny, becoming a general and adopting the title Lord Clyde. After the successful conclusion of operations in India, he became Field Marshal in 1862. After his death, he was buried in Westminster.

Colin Campbell is depicted awkwardly perched on a crate due to the length of his sword.
Another Fenton image of the celebrated commander.

Brigadier-General Sir George Buller

The son of a general, George Buller began his army career as 2nd Lieutenant with the Rifle Brigade in 1820. During the subsequent 25 years of peacetime service, his connections aided his rapid rise to Colonel in 1841. He then gained valuable command experience during wars on the South African cape.

Fenton’s image of George Buller on horseback.

As a Brigadier-General, Buller took command of the 2nd brigade of the Light Division in the Crimea where his conduct at the Alma initially attracted some criticism, but was apparently later viewed with approval by military authorities.

At the battle of Inkerman he was severely wounded in the left arm and promoted to Major-General before being invalided home in March 1855. He made full general in 1871 and died at home in 1884 at the age of 82.

Lieutenant-Colonel Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar

The son of aristocratic German parents, Prince Edward started his military career in the British army as an Ensign in the 67th Regiment in 1841. By 1854, he held a brevet-majority in the more prestigious Grenadier Guards.

He was present at all the major battles for the British army in the Crimea and was appointed aide-de-camp to the Queen as well as full colonel of the Grenadier Guards by 1855. After the war, he rose to Field Marshal, ‘despite no great military achievements’.

Not sure of the photographer, but a great image of the Prince in a sitting position like my figure.

Strelets have depicted this German-born, English aristocrat enjoying the most quintessential of English occupations – drinking a cup of tea. The tea cup looks perhaps large enough to be a mug but at least he has a saucer! Sitting on a wooden box, I’ve decided that he takes his tea with just a dash of milk, (a little of Vallejo’s Off-White added to the Brown Sand).

Captain Charles Halford

Plastic Soldier Review have this to say about the Captain Halford figure;

“We could find no information on any significant captain Halfords in the Crimean War, so have to wonder what this individual has done to deserve inclusion. The answer seems to be that, like all the others in this set, he was photographed by Roger Fenton during the war. He belonged to the 5th Dragoon Guards, but whatever the reason he was photographed (more than once in fact) there seems no particular reason to include him here.”

A Fenton image of Captain Halford.

I say being immortalised by Fenton during the Crimean War is a perfect excuse to include the figure! I still need to paint the band across his cap gold and I now also wonder if some light grey trousers might reference his portrait better, but at least I’ve faithfully reproduced his greying beard?

As PSR indicated, Fenton took a number of images of Halford, including some in military attire – dressed as an officer of the 5th Dragoon Guards. Below he is in a full dress uniform standing with a dappled grey.

Another image shows Halford with a different horse and wearing his undress uniform.

There’s a whole bunch of other Crimean character figures to tackle, so who knows, I may even paint some more?

Great Aunt’s Glider: Women’s Day 2019

Thought I’d post on International Women’s Day by featuring an image that I came across a few years ago of my late Great Aunt. Hilda passed away suddenly in hospital a few years ago at the age of 99. Found in her pocket at the time was a ticket for another solo trip away on holiday, which perhaps gives an idea of just how astonishingly active, vigorously alert and fiercely independent she was right up to the very end of her long life.

After the early death of her husband, she lived alone for many years until her death in late 2014 and when we took steps to clear her house, the photo shown below was discovered.

A small cross has been etched on the photo right in front of a lady sitting far left.

I now believe it shows Hilda with other employees at Boulton-Paul Aircraft Ltd in front of a large glider, possibly an Airspeed AS.51 Horsa, of the kind employed in Operations Overlord and Market Garden. From the diagram below, the similarity to the aircraft seen in Hilda’s photo is clear.

My mother informed me at the time that she knew Great Aunt Hilda was an inspector at a war time glider factory, and was sending the original photo to the Royal Air Force museum in London who had no photos of Melton Mowbray’s aircraft war work and were very pleased to add this to the collection.

Hilda’s side of my family are from Melton Mowbray. I found the following account from Melton resident Ray Lucas, a schoolboy during the war;

When I started work, I went to the Boulton and Paul works in the town [Melton Mowbray] as an apprentice carpenter. We were making the front end of Horsa gliders like the ones used in the D-Day landings. (From “A Boy in Melton Mowbray” by actexplorer).

Paratroops leaving a Horsa glider. By Official British Government Photographer – This is photograph TR 1046 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6881959

It’s easy to overlook the huge and varied contribution of women to the war effort in WWII, from military roles (see my FEMbruary WRNS), to Land Girls (see Man of Tin’s FEMbruary figures) and munition or aircraft factory workers or inspectors like Hilda.

From this old photo, Hilda appears to be the only one looking away from the birdie, adjusting her shoe! Fiercely independent, at her funeral, Hilda was rightly described by my mother as a ‘proper lady’. On International Women’s Day this blog pays tribute to her, and others like her, who contributed so much to the war effort in the Second World War.

‘WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar