Ave, Senatus Romanus!

Whilst I’ve been painting up my latest War of the Spanish Succession regiment, through the post here at Suburban Militarism has recently arrived a bag of small wooden cubes.

I posted recently that I’d received a box of Strelets Roman Senators for Christmas. My friend and fellow blogger Pat also admired the set but posed the same very good question that was on my mind – what the heck can be done with them?

I quite liked the daft notion of Suburban Militarism having a senate, squabbling and scheming over my latest painting plans or raucously debating the acquisition of the next model kit. But I needed some means of basing or presenting them and then I had an eccentric idea…

Get on with it, Marvin!!!!!!!!

I thought I could maybe base each senator on a kind of marble plinth, like Roman statues somehow brought to life. Hence, I found some perfectly sized wooden blocks for mere pennies…

Plinthy the Elder…

…and – sparing me the task of attempting to paint a marble effect – I found some perfectly marbled masking tape online.

I aim to paint a few characters every now and then, adding to my senate slowly over time. These are the first three senators:

Thanks to Roman Name Generator, I’ve put some names to each senator too:


Hostus Volusenus Iulianus

Gaius Gellius Severus

Flavius Velius Lentullus

So, watch out for a series of cod-Latin post titles related to these figures which sound like spells from Harry Potter. In the meantime, I’m pushing on with my Lace Wars figures. The next regiment is approaching completion…

Liebig's Extract of Meat Company

Justus Freiherr von Liebig was a German chemistry professor who, amongst other achievements, developed a means of manufacturing beef extract. This beef extract was commercially manufactured as Liebig’s Extract of Meat Company leading eventually to their Oxo cube. The company went on to manufacture Fray Bentos pies with factories in the Uruguayan city and also in Colón (presumably “Colon Pies” being a marketing non-starter in the UK). His extract process is even considered to have made possible the invention of Marmite (hurrah!).

So what does this have to do with Suburban Militarism?

The answer is that Leibig’s Extract of Meat Co. also produced a wide range of collectable trade cards whose subjects included historica and military topics.

Admittedly, ‘extract of meat’ might not sound too pleasing, but some of the illustrations here are! Here are a brief sample of some of the 100 (mostly Belgian) that have found their way to Suburban Militarism’s store of military artwork:


From “Belgian generals from the 16th to the 18th century”:

General Clerfayt, a Walloon Belgian, leads the Austrian forces to victory over the revolutionary French at the battle of Neerwinden in 1793.
Jean-André van der Mersch commands the Belgian Patriot army against the Austrians at the Battle of Turnhout during the Brabant Revolution in 1789.
The 1732 Spanish conquest of Algerian Oran included regiments of Walloon Guards and was led by a General Bosseau. He was of humble orins and a veteran of Marlburian wars including playing a key role in the battle of Ramilles.

From “Combat Formations”:

5. “The French infantry square against the Cossacks”
6. “Modern infantry attacking the trenches”. Interesting to see that the Belgian idea of modern infantry includes the wearing of felt hat with a black feather in it! These look like WWI Italian Alpini moutain troops.

From: “Belgian Expeditionary Corps”

The concept of a Belgian Legion within the French army had a long precedent and this set of cards details the Belgian Expeditionary Corps, a force sent to Mexico during Napoleon III’s ill-fated invasion in 1860s.

“The volunteers of Maximillian in Mexico”; The Belgian Legion (as it was known) looking like the more famous French Foreign Legion.
2. “The Papal Zouaves” – These troops consisted of mostly catholic volunteers from very many different nations, Belgium itself being very well represented.

My Christmas Cornucopia

I always enjoy seeing some of the gifts and presents that other bloggers get for Christmas, so I’m sharing some of mine too.

First off, this box of Marlburian British Infantry in Advance from Strelets wonderful new foray into the War of the Spanish Succession. I’m delighted that Strelets have begun this series which has been woefully neglected by in 1/72 scale plastics. What’s more, the figures are beautifully sculpted, too.

At my suggestion, I’ve also received from kindly relatives a box of these unusual figures, also by Strelets:

Strelets’ Roman Senate 1 box is about five years old now and as the name suggests had a sister box (number 2) also issued, which features many of the same figures. Two sprues contain senators all standing in their togas and alternatively listening or debating. A final sprue contains senators armed with knives, a statue, and Julius Caesar, all of which are designed to help you recreate the infamous assassination in the senate. A step out of the usual horse and musket era and into ancients; I’ve already been developing my plan for these which I’ll share in due course!

In another step away from 18th-19th century warfare, I’ve received a set of my favoured 1/72 scale plastics by the increasingly impressive Red Box. Last year, I developed my Ottomania project using their well-sculpted Ottoman Turks. As a kind of adjunct, I can now dip a toe into their late middle ages Duchy of Muscovy figures with these “Pishalniki” (arquebusiers).

What’s this? Wargaming?!

Earlier this year, Man of Tin blog, The Grand Duchy of Stollen and others paid tribute and mourned the passing of a deeply respected figure in the wargaming world; Stuart Asquith. Never having wargamed before, I was interested to read about the man and his achievements which included a book I’d had buried in my loft since my childhood; his Military Modelling Guide to Wargaming. His guide to solo wargaming was unwrapped on my birthday and together, who knows, I may investigate putting some of those figures of mine to use…

Of course, I need somewhere to keep all my crap, I mean precious hobby items and these boxes will do the job nicely; one with the grenadier from the sadly closing local discount hobby shop and the other from stationers Paperchase and featuring the Nutcracker which has been curiously popular this Christmas.

And finally, an amusingly appropriate stocking-filler…

I’ve already been busy working on some of my new figures and I’ll share progress shortly.

Until then, I wish a happy, productive and peaceful New Year to all Suburban Militarism visitors and friends!

Strelets French Army Sledge Train (Set 2)

These are dark nights and short cold, wet days here in the UK. Winter can seem a little like something to be endured at times but my latest painting venture puts it all into perspective. Strelets 2nd French Army Sledge Train set includes yet more scene of tragic suffering from the Grande Armee’s retreat from Moscow in 1812.

Once again, as with Set 1, the sledge is being driven by a man wearing a polish czapka, possibly a Polish lancer missing his mount. Cracking a whip, he is seated in an impresive half-lotus posture! The previous driver didn’t fit on the sledge well, so this yogic flexibility at least helps me fit him to the sledge more easily.

Also seated in the sledge are a hussar and a lady holding a baby. This lady is sitting on top of a barrel and wrapped in a shawl. A nice little figure and a poignant one too.

The hussar meanwhile cradles a horse’s leg and hoof, possibly the last remnant of his beloved mount, now a source of food in these desperate circumstances.

Bringing up the rear of this vignette are two comrades in arms. I think that Strelets has again produced impressive and moving figures here. Badly wounded, relying on one’s comrades would be the only slim hope of making it home alive.

Likewise with another pair of Napoleon’s soldiers. Although sculpted separately, these two seemed to go together nicely to me. The blind grenadier’s outside outstretched hand found a natural home on the backpack of the other soldier carrying a heavy sack. Together, they stumble through the Russian snow back to Vilnius.

Whilst others hobble homeward, one character is sprinting to catch up with the sledge. A senior officer, I like to think there’s a backstory to his running; catching up after answering the call of nature; or recovering from a rude awakening when falling face first off the sledge into the snow having dozed off; or maybe he’s seen Cossacks approaching…

Laden with desperately needed provisions, the final figure from the scene is trudging alongside the poor imaciated horse.

Here are the two French sledge train sets, 2018 and 2019 versions of the winter retreat together.

As a reminder, here are last year’s retreat figures. Below: a soldier carrying a small drummer boy and his drum, with a barefoot dragoon looking appallingly cold.

Above: the figures in the sledge; another officer in a bicorne and a mysterious bespectacled gentleman who wears a luxorious fur coat and cradles a locked casket which possibly holds the source of his securing a fur coat and a ride in the sledge – money!

There are two other sledge train sets produced by Strelets for the Russian army. These make for a nice contrast to the French ones, being far better dressed for the cold and well fed too. I’ve kept these back to continue the tradition next winter.

Well, I’m feeling very cold now. Reckon it’s time for drop or two of something to keep out the cold…

Suburban Militarism’s 5th Anniversary!

Come on in, the party’s in full swing! Pour yourself a drink and mingle…

Five years ago, my first post on WordPress was published. I’ve since maintained regular blogging for five years. I wasn’t at all sure what I was doing when I started – or why, but I seem to keep on painting figures and blogging away.

Ooh, that Cossack balalaika version of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” is going down a storm…

There’s Capitaine Dubois and General Fournier indulging their Gallic love for fine wine by quaffing sauvignon blanc…Looks like both Major Donaldson and Ferik Ibrahim Pasha prefer a nice cup of tea, though…

Oh dear, Private Atkins, has disgraced himself by drinking far too much and practising his dance moves…

Well, here’s to the next five years! Salut!

Desk Job

Earlier this year, Mark at Man of Tin blog posted a photo of his painting area, a flap-down desk which was based in his lounge. With this set up, he could be immersed in his miniaturised world (headphones on) yet could tidy everything away in a blink of an eye by closing the desk up and be back with his family again in moments.

The dining room table…

That got me thinking about my own painting space. Since moving into my current home over 7 years ago I’ve been an itinerant occupying a temporary space on the dining room table, all items to be packed away when finished (mostly). Even my paint rack has been incongruously occupying a place on the kitchen worktop! Maybe the discrete desk idea of Mark offered a solution?

Note my cat’s newly preferred sleeping area on the grey box . She keeps me company while I paint.

So here it is; my new painting place and a permanent home for my hobbyist activities. The desk top folds down and provides a place to paint. Behind the cupboard doors underneath lie all my materials; glues, flock and scatter, plastic card, modelling clay, spare paints and other sundry items which previously were packed into a drawer in the lounge.

Having only just moved in, I am still arranging the space and currently I’ve left the paint rack on top as I rather like it there, but we’ll see. You will also notice that I’ve also managed to hang one of my Henry Martens yeomanry artworks above the desk without (much) protest from the misses.

Also on display is a photograph of my handmade Grainadier Guard – a gift from my mother-in-law only yesterday. It is a photograph ordered from the local newspaper’s archive, taken by their press photographer for a report on the scarecrow festival I took part in last month.

Apropos to this, also arriving completely unexpectedly today was a letter from HM the Queen! Unknown to me, it appears my eccentric mother wrote to our monarch to inform her of our (or rather more especially my daughter’s) recent efforts at recreating her forebear in the form of Queen Vicstrawia and her guardsman. From the reply, it appears to have met with Her Majesty’s approval. The chest of my guardsman visibly puffed out with pride at this news.

Anyway, in recognition of the new painting area, I also treated myself to a new cutting mat, new brushes and a clean paint palette to boot. Let the good times roll!

Scattered around the new painting desk you might spy a number of different figures, ten of which are approaching completion, but more on this in a future post.

The March of Time: Old Soldiers to New Recruits

Back in 2013, I was new to painting figures. I had dabbled before in 25mm metal castings before but only began to really dedicate regular time, patience and, ah, money in 2012. At the time, on the 1st floor of a huge model and toy shop in my home town, boxes of 1:72 scale plastic soldiers of every description occupied an entire room. Then, one day, I walked in to the shop to find it all gone. The floor to ceiling high wall coverage by countless boxes of plastic troops of every description and from every manufacturer had all but disappeared.

The venerable old store was closing down and clearly, in the weeks since I’d last visited, I’d missed the ensuing super-sale bonanza. Modelling vultures had already picked the carcass clean. There would be time to have a little cry about the old shop’s fate later back home but at that point I could see a handful of boxes still remained on a shelf – the last remnant half-companies from an army on sprues once numbering many 1000s of figures.

The Marmite sculpting style of the early Strelets figures ensured they featured heavily amongst these final unwanted boxes. I decided to pick up two of their marching French Napoleonic infantry sets; French Infantry on the March (1) and French Infantry in Advance. The unloved kits hadn’t remained unpurchased due to over-pricing – priced only £2.50 each with the added inducement of a ‘buy 1 get 1 free’!

Hmm, whatever happened to French Infantry on the March (2)?

As I took them home to mourn the passing of that enormous model soldier department (not to say it’s ever helpful, knowledgeable, but sadly soon-to-be-redundant staff) I suspected that these figures would probably go forever unpainted, stowed somewhere in the loft. In truth, it was a purchase motivated by sympathy rather than by desire.

And then, a few years later, in March 2015. I decided to paint some with a view to maybe submitting them to an international group painting project. In the event, they weren’t sent abroad but I had at least now made some effort on 18 of them. To my surprise, I enjoyed painting them a lot, with no less than 24 individual poses across the two boxes, there was real personality from a crowd otherwise depicted doing more or less the same thing. Both boxes featured the troops wearing greatcoats so mixed perfectly well together.

These painted figures remained un-based for a long while until, during a heavy blizzard on a December day in 2017, I realised that their greatcoats suggested they’d do well marching through snow (an obvious idea given one box’s art even depicts snow) and somehow, I ended up adding a further 26 to make 44 marchers. And last year, continuing what was becoming a yearly tradition, I dutifully painted another dozen to follow the Strelets French sledge train I’d painted. This latest dozen painted only this week takes the painted group it up to 68.

Since 2008, both of these marching sets are now virtually unavailable but Strelets have recently made a new replacement; their French Infantry on the March (1), with apparently more on the way! I’ve tackled a sprue of these new figures to compare with the old figures. These will be the future of my French winter marching tradition once the old sets are finally exhausted.

New recruits on the march!

They are very different to the original sets indeed.

Firstly, the new set has its marchers appearing sideways on the sprue, rather than face on. This has the effect of the figures being quite slender, almost appearing as a semi-flat.

Two of the figures wear some unusual headgear. PSR identify it as a pokalem, also known as a bonnet de police. Blue and piped with red, this early kind of informal headdress was warm and comfortable with ear flaps which could be worn up or down (as in these chilly examples), it could even be worn under shako.

Details, as with all newer Strelets figures, are much more subtle than before but overall the proportions and poses of these figures are impressive, even allowing for their semi-flat thinness.

To more clearly differentiate between the older regiment and the newly raised troops, I’ve adopted a grey greatcoat for the new recruits with a green ball plume.

The old style figures are now down to their last couple of remaining sprues. Do I have a preference between the sets? Plastic Soldier Review prefer the new set of figures. But for all that, when it comes to painting, I can’t help but have a fondness, perhaps even a bias, for the ‘Old Guard’, those original, ugly and unloved refugees from a dying High Street model shop.

They march and sing:
“Napoléon avait cinq cent soldats.
Napoléon avait cinq cent soldats.
Napoléon avait cinq cent soldats.
Marchant du même pas !”

Légionnaires et Dromadaires

Sulky, stupid as a sheep, vicious as a mule, with the roar of a mad lion, the camel is not an animal from which to expect perfection in military evolutions...

The Demon Caravan by George Surdez

The second instalment of Strelets French Foreign Legion Desert Patrol set (see my Strelets marching legionnaires here). I shared the camels in a previous post. The six riders are dressed in the usual legionary uniform but without their packs.

There are stirrups which are unnecessary when riding camels, so I’ve simply painted over them. One of the mounted legionnaires you will notice holds a pair of binoculars, an essential item for any patrol.

Now, I’ve said it before. I really don’t like pegs on figures. Even when expertly made, I don’t like the concept – tiny plastic pegs in tiny holes do not a secure connection make.

Being camels intended for a number of other Strelets sets, needless to say these Foreign Legion pegs did not connect with the camel’s holes at all well and when they did it unseated the rider in an awkward way. What’s more, the legs of the riders were far too narrow for the camel also so I was left wrestling, bending and gluing for an unconvincing sit. The end result is just about convincing, I think.

The concept of camel-mounted legionnaires is fanciful, owing more to the romance of cinema than to reality. However, as my miniature camel train lopes off across the rolling Saharan dunes into the sunset, I’m still not quite done with the Foreign Legion. I’ve opened another box of French Foreign Legion also recently issued by Strelets, but this time I’ll be applying my own twist to it…


And now the men of the mounted company were very pleased with themselves. They had not to march, the morning was reasonably cool and… added to this, they were getting away from the detested garrison duty, and after a little time voices began to rise in the marching song of the Legion, Le Boudin, the whole column taking up the chorus:
Tiens, voila du boudin
voila du boudin
voila du boudin…

Lost Sheep by Vere Dawson Shortt