A glance through some old school work turned up a project I thought appropriate to this blog. I think the choice of topic for me and my fellow pupils was entirely our own choice and so I went for the obvious.
The work was a surprisingly lengthy compendium of narrative, illustrations, maps, bibliography and index all on the Battle of Waterloo.
“An excellent project, very well researched and written. A+, Commendation” – it appears that all my hard work was rewarded!
My list of sources for my project included (amongst a number of other books) Aubrey Feist’s “The Field of Waterloo” and “Military Uniforms of the World in Colour” by Preben Kannik and W.Y. Carman. I also included some “Information sent by the Wellington Museum” at Apsley House in London. Aside from the general information sent by the museum, a glance at their list of books, postcards and transparencies (and jigsaws) available makes for interesting reading. There was a great range of photographic reproductions of famous paintings or other features within Apsley House.
It’s clear that I put a lot of energy, time and passion poured into my pet topic as an 11 year old.
That enthusiasm understandably wasn’t always matched by total historical accuracy but did include some rather splendid illustrations, apparently carefully copied from other sources.
Older, more knowledgeable, perhaps a little wiser, I still carry that same enthusiasm for the subject today and the project is a nice connection with the schoolboy who poured so much effort into that school work.
Further to my last post – a quick update. The egg rolling took place between the various painted competitors.
I am happy to report that my ‘Scotch egg’ of the Highland Light Lunch Infantry performed in the very best traditions of the regiment and won the competition! In fact, it took a large number of downhill charges before finally breaking apart.
I confess that ‘Easter Bunnies’ is not the kind of title that I thought I’d be using at Suburban Militarism blog, but I realised that Easter was a perfect opportunity to paint a couple of critters which I recently received as a freebie with some other figures from Bad Squiddo Games.
These two tiny rabbits at 28mm scale are part of a range of animals provided by Bad Squiddo including such things as slugs, snails, guinea pigs, pigeons, rats, horses, pigs, tortoises and kittens. Also, the more exotic are catered for such as lions, giant chameleons, moose and even tardigrades!
I’m fairly sure they are the first bunnies I’ve painted at any scale and I really enjoyed doing them! They’ve joined a modest Easter display in the household.
I’ve based the little guys on a 2 pence piece and scattered some spring grass and flowers around.
This year, I thought I’d daringly attempt a Scottish regiment based on an example of the Highland Light Infantry.
Hard boiled egg at the ready, I set to work with some acrylic paints to recreate the Highland Light Lunch Infantry uniform of 1908; scarlet doublet with buff facings.
The tartan trews were created by mixing the base colour and then adding red and white lines. This is the Mackenzie tartan. This is a regimental tartan and has also been known as “MacLeod and Seaforth” from MacLeod’s Highlanders (a predecessor to the Highland Light Infantry) and the Seaforth Highlanders.
The ultimate fate of this ‘Scotch egg’ is to charge downhill to his doom but at least he’ll look smart whilst on his way.
With my recent series of posts on marching bandsmen as depicted by Fred Stansell, I’ve been wondering about turning my attention to painting a band myself. I thought of a group of bandsmen that I’ve had for some time buried in a trunk of unpainted figures – (yes, I have a whole trunk of them).
I’m thinking of Airfix’s classic Guards Band. As plastic soldiers go, these are pretty ancient, a miniature Australopithecus from Airfix to our modern Homo Sapiens from the likes of Strelets or RedBox. First released in 1961, this set has long been out of production and will spark off a wave of nostalgia for those old enough to remember it when freely available (which does not include me actually).
In an original box, the band consisted of:
x7 Side Drummers
x1 Bass Drummer
My bandsmen were bought in an auction and so came in a ragtag, broken and half-painted fashion. I had plenty of some types but few of another. Of those in working order, I was a bit short on side drummers and trombonists (I have only two of each) but over-subscribed with saxophonists and tuba players.
I’ve evened things up a bit for the underrepresented trombonists at least with a bit surgery, making for three extra. The drummers will have to remain a trifle undermanned.
Having removed some paint and glued some limbs, I’m nearly ready to put some paint on them. Given the topic, and being such a very old set with details which are very slight indeed, I’m not sure they are suited to my usual painting style. I think they cry out more for a toy-solder style simple paint job, which I think is sort-of what I’m going to go for.
I fancied having some oboists in my band and thought some of the damaged saxophonists might pass with the end of their instrument missing?
One of the saxophonists seems to have come out of the mould a little awry, leaning back and letting rip!
Being an individualist has made him keen to express himself more freely than his other bandmates – a Guardsmen Charlie Parker or Guardsmen John Coltrane, perhaps?
I envisage embarking on a slow burn project with these, steadily adding some paint as and when I can.
Meanwhile, up for auction on eBay is another marching band of the Grenadier Guards, this lovely lithographed cardboard soldier set. Titled “Drum and Fife Band of the Grenadier Guards”, it is made out of cardboard and was manufactured by postcard company Tuck.
Delightfully illustrated, perhaps it can be considered a forerunner to the “Paperboys” paper soldiers range by Peter Dennis? Famous British army artist Harry Payne painted many military subjects around 1900 for Tuck postcards – so could this be his work? I couldn’t find any evidence of the artist’s name on the example shown.
A little bit out of my price range for this set but a very pleasing set, nonetheless.
I recently received a copy of a photograph apparently of a soldier of the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. The photo shows the husband of my Great Aunt Clara.
My mother had written on the back of the photo:
Great Uncle Jim Baddley, Great Aunt Clara’s husband. Taken when he was in the Boer War cavalry.
At first glance, Great Uncle Jim does indeed wear clothing associated with a cavalryman. I can see a bandolier across the chest, riding breeches, what is possibly a riding crop, and spurs are visible on his boots. However, a look at the photograph lead me to suspect that he was not a cavalryman at all and furthermore that it post-dated the Boer War.
Firstly, the peaked cap was introduced to the British Army in 1905, three years after the end of the Boer War. The Service Dress 1905 pattern cap can be seen worn by the men in the photograph below which shows British Territorial Force gunners and a breech loading 5-inch howitzer, apparently taken around 1908-1914.
The cap badge, although not clear and set at an angle, seems to closely match the badge of the Royal Artillery. Great Uncle Jim’s cap badge can be compared to an example of a volunteer Royal Artillery badge below. The regulars had a very similar badge to the one shown but instead of the scroll displaying the word “volunteers” under the crown, it had the RA motto “Ubique” (“everywhere”). It’s impossible to see from the old photograph exactly which it is.
The photo doesn’t appear to show a Boer War-era uniform in some other respects too. If Jim is of the Royal Artillery, then images of artillerymen from that war that I’ve seen seems to show them mostly wearing Slade-Wallace style equipment, although I have seen a photograph of a Horse Artillery troop wearing bandoliers too. Incidentally, I made a version of a bandolier last year for my local ‘scarecrow festival’ entry -the Michael Morpurgo inspired “Straw Horse”. With only room for four oversized pouches on the belt, it was a little less than historically accurate – an inaccuracy that I’m sure few noticed!
“The British personal equipment used in the Second Boer War had been found to be deficient for a number of reasons, and the Bandolier Equipment was introduced as a stop-gap replacement. The equipment was made of brown leather and consisted of five 10-round ammunition pouches worn over one shoulder on a bandolier… It soon proved to be unsuitable for infantry use, but was used throughout the First World War by cavalry and other mounted troops.”
The bandolier was “used by cavalry and other mounted troops” – the equestrian aspect of artillery uniforms at this time can be explained as a consequence of the horse still being the main method of transporting the guns.
The uniform in the above example of an RA gunner clearly does match Great Uncle Jim’s down to the white lanyard cord hanging down on his left shoulder. While white plaited lanyards were also worn by cavalrymen, the lanyard was also an essential piece of equipment for an artilleryman:
Members of the British Royal Artillery would wear a lanyard with a key attached to allow them to adjust the fuses of explosive shells. Keeping this key close to hand in a tense situation could only be achieved with the help of a lanyard attached to their uniform.
There is no certainty about this, but the change from the left shoulder to the right probable took place at about the time of the Great War, when the bandolier was introduced, because it was worn over the left shoulder. But there are some who insist that 1924 was the date of change, when the sloping of rifles over the left shoulder would soil the white lanyard.
In this photo at least, that change had yet to happen.
So, it’s a photograph clearly taken after the Boer War of a man in a uniform which appears to be of the Royal Artillery. I’d like to find out more about my artilleryman relative. I have previously written about some of my other relatives at the time of the Great War including my Great Grandfather and also Great Uncle Jack who was sadly killed at the Battle of Loos, 1915.
This year has seen Suburban Militarism become distinctly less suburban with a move out from the suburbs and into the county. My armies (mostly) survived the move and after a hiatus in order to settle in, painting has continued more or less as normal. Another year in the time of plague at least provides an excellent excuse to immerse oneself in hobbies and here’s some of things I turned my sable brush to in 2021:
For this year’s FEMbruary I produced 5 of Bad Squiddo’s female WWII SOE agents, providing a brief biography of each.
The “Neglected But Not Forgotten” Painting Challenge…
…and finally produced two more regiments for my Christmas-themed Army of Advent. One, an entirely new regiment – The Poinsettian Rifles:
…And the other, the oldest regiment in the army, received their brand, spanking new uniforms – The 1st Noel Regiment of Foot:
Next year? I’m too wise to make specific predictions but I’ve no doubt that the old, familiar projects (see above) will make an appearance at some point. Often, though, it’s the unexpected diversions which keep the motivation high and I’ll look forward to more of those in 2022.
Hoping for a healthier and saner 2022, I send my best wishes and a Happy New Year to all Suburban Militarism’s visitors.
Thought I’d share on this day an image I found of a Victorian Christmas card depicting the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own) gathering mistletoe.
The so-called ‘Cherry Pickers’ are seen here gathering a different crop to cherries. The regiment acquired the nickname following an incident during the Peninsular War, in which the 11th Hussars were attacked while raiding an orchard at San Martin de Trebejo, in Spain. The colour of the trousers, unique to British cavalry, were adopted from the Saxe-Coburg livery and were described as ‘cherry’. Lord Cardigan referred to his men as the Cherry-Bums (or when ladies were present – the more genteel cherubims).
It must be a memorable painting as I recall that I once received a Christmas card of Harry Payne’s Christmas Cherry Pickers when I was around 12 years old and have never forgotten it. It was originally published by postcard manufacturer Tuck and Sons, one of their 6-part #8085 “Christmas” series and it comes as no surprise that their celebrated military uniform artist Harry Payne had a hand in this.
After the first Christmas card was sent in 1843, it appears that cards featuring sentimental scenes of brightly uniformed soldiers were a popular theme in the Victorian era helping connect families and friends scattered across the extensive British empire.
I was surprised to learn that in 2004 famous toy soldier manufacturer Britains produced a “Winter Limited Edition” for their Collector’s Club featuring a representation of Payne’s iconic Cherry Pickers postcard scene in model soldier form! Only 250 sets were made. I’m always pleased to see an artist’s vision of soldiers brought to life in model form. It seems to me to be the perfect Christmas decoration, being something along the lines of my decorative Army of Advent.
And the tradition of modelling military Christmas scenes continues today with Replica Model Soldiers issuing a seasonal scene every year with charming themes include snowballing soldiers, “The Garrison Christmas Dinner” and “US Army Winter Manoeuvres”!
“If my husband can be a merchant navy officer, I’m going to be a soldier.” Adelaide Hall.
Seems most appropriate during Black History Month to post two figures I’ve painted of Adelaide Hall, successful singer and businesswoman. As one of the world’s first jazz singers, through her improvised wordless rhythm vocalising she pioneered scat singing and enjoyed a career that spanned eight decades.
Adelaide Hall was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1901. Her family tree included a lineage to the Shinnecock Indians of Long Island. From 1921, Hall quickly developed a very successful stage career in the US, making a strong reputation appearing in all-black performer shows of the time. As a sought-after and successful singer, Hall made enough money to move to affluent Westchester County in New York where she received some racial threats and hostility from some white residents but also had support from her many fans.
In 1935, Hall moved with her husband to the more racially integrated Paris where they set up a jazz club and toured extensively. In 1938, she moved again to London where she would remain until her death in 1993. Her move continued her success and in 1941 she replaced Gracie Fields as Britain’s highest paid entertainer.
In London, she also opened clubs. A club that she owned in Britain was bombed by the Luftwaffe and she later reopened another on Regent Street. The arrangement worked well for, if work ever went quiet, she could always perform a show in own club. Her move to London just preceded the Second World War in which she would play her part in the war by entertaining troops as a member of ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association). It is this point in her career that Bad Squiddo’s figures represent.
“The first big wartime variety concert organised by ENSA was broadcast by the BBC to the Empire and local networks from RAF Hendon in north London on 17 October 1939. Among the entertainers appearing on the bill were Adelaide Hall, The Western Brothers and Mantovani. A Newsreel of this concert showing Adelaide Hall singing We’re Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line accompanied by Mantovani and His Orchestra exists.”Wikipedia
Unfortunately, ‘hanging washing out to dry’ was about the only thing the Siegfried Line was useful for as the Wehrmacht moved swiftly into France and Belgium in the Battle of France. The ENSA members operated as part of the armed forces.
As such Adelaide Hall was enlisted as an officer and entitled to a uniform, as she related in an interview to presenter Sue Lawley on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in 1991;
SL: And you wore a uniform?
Adelaide Hall: Yes, and they made me a Lieutenant.
SL: Did that mean the boys had to salute you?
Adelaide Hall: Oh, yes! And I had my own jeep (laughs) and driver. My pianist was with me… [It was] a beautiful uniform, I loved it and I couldn’t stand the collar – very stiff for me, but you get used to anything, I suppose.
While painting, I got a feel for my subject and her music by listening to BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs broadcasts. She was recorded twice, once in December 1972 and again nearly 20 years later in January 1991. By the time of the last recording, Adelaide was in her 80s. A 6-minute extract only of her December 1972 broadcast remains:
Adelaide Hall was very well-respected in the industry and played with many top musicians and artists including Fats Waller, Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. Since her death, Adelaide Hall and her accomplishments have not been forgotten such as being acknowledged in Vogue’s list of ‘7 Remarkable Black Women Who Shaped British History’ and the award of a Black Plaque at Abbey Road Studios where she once recorded with Duke Ellington.
“I had a lovely uniform made by Madame Adele of Grosvenor Street and it was smart. Oh, you should have seen me in it! With the Sam Browne (belt) and a lovely cap, and the greeny-beige shirt and tie.”
“I went through Germany twice – and I must say that I enjoyed it. I was a bit on edge, but I persevered. I said, if my husband can be a merchant navy officer, I’m going to be a soldier.”
It’s that time again. In 2019 we entered a local scarecrow festival by submitting an entry we named Queen Vicstrawia and her Grainadier Guard.
The following year was scuttled by the Covid-19 pandemic but this year it has returned with the added change that our recent house move to the village have made us bona-fide locals. This year’s theme was broad – books! Our idea and its pun title was courtesy of my daughter who suggested we do a version of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse – Straw Horse!
After much prevaricating over what to do this year, we didn’t leave ourselves much time and so were up against it, timewise. Dividing roles, my equestrian wife and daughter attended to the ‘horse’ while I attended to the ‘war’ and set to work making an early WWI cavalryman of the Royal Devon Yeomanry.
A child’s second hand WWI costume was secured on an auction site which gave me the basis for the soldier and a cheap roll of fake leather purchased. For the cap, I took the ridiculously oversized peak in a trifle (don’t these children’s party costume people care about historical accuracy?). I then stapled a little faux-leather strip around the band and purchased a badly worn 1st Royal Dragoons cap badge from eBay for just a pound. Cutting a hole in the front of the fancy dress cap, the thing began to look a tiny bit more realistic.
The printed bandolier on the costume just wouldn’t do for me, of course. So, with limited time I set about making my own. Using some more of that faux-leather, I wrapped some Kellogg’s Variety Pack mini-cereal boxes (other brands are available) in more of this material and glued them to a leather belt of mine which I widened using more faux-fabric. Some spare buttons were found and something (very, very) vaguely bandolier-like was created.
Next, it was time for the straw. We secured a spare bale courtesy of our friend whose stable block is home to our (real) horse. Festival rules stipulated that straw must be used in the construction but I fear I got carried away and somewhat over-stuffed my well-fed yeomanry trooper…
My old trusted combination from 2019 – Paper Mache and balloon – came in handy to make the head which would go on to have details added by my daughter:
Some spare costume hair in storage came in useful, though I doubt he would pass parade without being given a dressing down by his NCO to ‘get your bloody hair cut!” Some sturdy wooden posts made him stand to attention. From the stables, some old and well-worn leather gloves, half-chaps and riding boots were kindly donated to complete his cavalryman’s uniform.
As stated, the horse was mostly the creation of my two ladies and I think it looked magnificent for such a large and ambitious ‘scarecrow’ put together in such a short time. Some old leather tack was added to his muzzle and the last of the ubiquitous faux-leather made for the saddle. Much of “Joey the War Horse” consisted of brown fleece, some chicken wire and the remains of the straw bale on top of our ironing board. Finally, as a finishing touch, some WWI propaganda posters and fake barbed wire were put up and Scarecrow Number 53 was ready!
The three-day festival was astonishingly well-attended and at one point ‘Straw Horse’ met ‘more horse’ as Mrs Marvin (on Woody) and other friends paid us a visit from their stables just down the road.
Needless to say, we didn’t win (given the number and astonishing quality of the entrants, hardly a surprise!) but much fun was had once again, nonetheless. In the meantime, I certainly haven’t neglected smaller scale military modelling and will be sharing my more miniature efforts soon.
Looking through a few more of my old photographs recently I found some birthday snaps from my childhood, in the background of which featured (not unsurprisingly) some model soldiers.
I see on the photo above a box featuring an Asterix the Gaul figurine and “Crossbows and Catapults” – a delightfully destructive game literally played with said weapons in order destroy the opposition’s wall. What particularly interested me though was the large box in the background which I can see is an Historic Battle Game by Italian 1/72 figure manufacturer Esci.
This “Isandhlwana” box was one of the first in series of these historic battle boxes they produced.
First produced in 1984, the set included the equivalent of 2 boxes each of their Zulu War British infantry and Zulu Warriors. Also included within was this plastic moulded battlefield with part of Isandlwana mountain included (it came with the mountain top sliced off so as to fit in the box). My own box, I note, was actually one of the rarer first editions featuring C.E. Fripp’s famous painting of the battle filling the entirety of the box lid, so I guess this birthday may well date from 1984, the year of its release.
I don’t think I ever turned the plastic battlefield into a full diorama and the vacu-formed base was just too flimsy to use without gluing the figures directly into place. I did, nevertheless, have immense fun with their terrific figures, setting up diorama re-fights on anything from tables to carpets. I wonder if anyone did attempt a full diorama using the figures and the base provided?
But that wasn’t all. I found another photograph, presumably from Christmas Day given the party hat, with another of these Esci boxes secreted in the background.
This other Esci box, I can just make out showing “Waterloo 1815”. There were two of these Waterloo sets, one for the Infantry and the other, as appears here, for the cavalry and artillery.
PSR tells me that this set was released in 1985, so this is possibly be a year later at least than the previous pic. This box included Scots Greys, Imperial Guard, battlefield accessories (abatis, barrels, etc) and another vacu-formed base.
A wry PSR reports that “The leaflet is particularly hilarious, however. Not only does it somewhat mangle the English language, as they all do, but the author repeatedly fails to understand the difference between English and British. At one stage he even states the Scots Greys were part of the English cavalry, an ignorance likely to infuriate any Scotsman of the time or since!“
Furthermore, the Scots Greys and Imperial Guard did not, in reality, encounter each other on the battlefield that day, making the dramatic box artwork superfluous. It didn’t matter, boyhood imagination made for far more preposterous encounters than that between the Old Guard and the Scots Greys.
Plastic Soldier Review has a fascinating review of this series of battlefield boxes which eventually expanded to include;
501 – Isandhlwana 1879
502 – Waterloo 1815 – The Infantry
503 – Balaclava 1854
504 – Gettysburg 1863
505 – Waterloo 1815 – The Cavalry and the Artillery
506 – Rorke’s Drift 1879
507 – Hadrian’s Wall CLXV AC
508 – Austerlitz 1805
509 – Jena 1806
510 – Salamanca 1812
511 – Hamburger Hill 1968
512 – Quatre Bras 1815
513 – Borodino 1812
514 – Khyber Pass 1879
515 – Sidi Bel Abbes 1912
Historical accuracy of the battlefields was often low (Salamanca 1812 uses the exact same base as for Rorke’s Drift 1879 for example!) and the idea was mainly to push a group of figures which were already available separately. Regardless, the figures were always very nicely sculpted and the range for plastic 1/72 figures expanded massively under Esci, making them accessible for young lads such as myself for whom owning masses of metal figures then available was not really possible.
One final photo which I may have shown before on this blog. A birthday cake featuring a chocolate cake Fort Zinderneuf complete with Cadbury Fingers for gates and topped with two Britains French Foreign Legionnaires (the officer is partially hidden behind the French flag).