‘Loos’ Ends

Following on from a post earlier this year, I came into a snippet of further information regarding John Neal, which I thought I’d share. He was a soldier in the 2nd Battalion Leicestershire Regiment during the Great War, being my great-uncle and brother to my paternal grandmother.

This extra information came in the form of a copy of his medal roll, demonstrating that he was entitled to the Victory Medal, the British War Medal and the 1914 Star. This trio of medals was commonly awarded to the early participants in the war and collectively were wryly known as “Pip, Squeak and Wilfred” (after a popular newspaper cartoon of the day).

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Pip, Squeek and Wilfred. The medal roll for John T. Neal, 2nd Leics Regt. Under remarks he is still listed as officially missing and “Pres Dead”.

The 1914 Star was a medal only awarded to men of the British and Indian Expeditionary Forces who had served in France or Belgium between Britain’s declaration of war on the 4th August 1914 and the end of the First Battle of Ypres, 23rd November 1914. This confirms that John Neal was not one of Kitchener’s new army of volunteers as I had speculated in the previous post. Instead, he was likely to have been one of the first troops in France, a member of the so-called ‘Old Contemptibles‘ (that is to say a man who was already a serving regular soldier with the BEF at the beginning of the war, or had joined up very early on). He was therefore likely to have been considered a well-trained veteran when he died in September 1915, not some green volunteer fresh out from basic training in England.

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Gallagher cigarette card featuring Pte Buckingham VC

As part of the Garhwal Brigade in the Indian Corps, the 2nd Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment had taken part in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915. The battle was a costly success for the British army and a private from the 2 / Leicestershire won a Victoria Cross that day. Private William Buckingham enlisted in 1901 aged 15, serving in India and Egypt with the battalion, and was therefore a very experienced soldier at the inception of the war. Private Buckingham’s citation reads:

For conspicuous acts of bravery and devotion to duty in rescuing and rendering aid to the wounded whilst exposed to heavy fire, especially at Neuve-Chapelle on 10th and 12th March 1915.

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Pte Buckingham VC on his return from the front alongside boys from his former children’s home in Countesthorpe, Leicester.

He was wounded in the chest and convalesced back in Britain. Though he could have spent the remainder of the war recruiting and training new troops, he chose to return to the front and died in the later stages of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Being in the same battalion, it is entirely possible that my relative and Private Buckingham will have known each other.

Returning to my great-uncle John Neal’s medal document, it wrongly lists his rank as ‘Private’, instead of Lance Corporal. Under the remarks section, he is “presumed dead”. Yet, from the information listed on the re-interment form of the same year (1920), it shows that he was at last belatedly identified by means of the discovery of an identity disc. The British Army introduced these identity discs, replacing previous identity cards, in 1907. They were made out of aluminium with the soldier’s basic details being pressed into the thin metal one letter at a time.

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British army aluminium identity disc of the kind which helped identify John Neal’s body.

The disc would have included his initial and surname, details of his regiment, and crucially his army number – 8666. John Neal was relatively fortunate in that regard; at least his body was identified via that identity disc. Of the 8500 soldiers killed on the first day of the Battle of Loos, incredibly barely 2000 have a known grave.

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‘Over the top’ at the battle of Loos, 1915.

The writer and poet Robert Graves was one of those also present at the Battle of Loos, his first experience of battle which he called “a bloody balls up”!

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A haunted look on Robert Graves face following the action at Loos.

In his book, Goodbye to All That, an appalled Graves tells the following anecdote of an officer advancing at Loos.

“When his platoon had run about twenty yards, he signalled them to lie down and open covering fire. The din was tremendous. He saw the platoon on the left flopping down too, so he whistled the advance again. Nobody seemed to hear. He jumped up from his shell-hole and waved and signalled ‘Forward.’ Nobody stirred.”

“He shouted, ‘you bloody cowards, are you leaving me to go alone?’ His platoon-sergeant, groaning with a broken shoulder, gasped out….

‘Not cowards, sir. Willing enough. But they’re all fucking dead!'”

Apart from John Neal, there was another notable death that day on the 25th September 1915 at Loos. The son of another famous writer, Rudyard Kipling. John Kipling was one of those who, like John Neal, was ‘presumed dead’ while missing in action. Unlike my great-uncle John, however, John Kipling was not found with his identity disc. However, many years later in 1992, the body of an unknown soldier was finally identified as being John following careful research, despite the continued absence of his metal disc. This caused his identity to be disputed by some historians until finally it was positively confirmed as bring John Kipling as late as 2016.

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John Kipling

Rudyard Kipling was devastated at the loss of his only son, having been instrumental in securing his commission through his high-level personal contacts in the army, when severe short-sightedness had already prevented John from joining up in either the navy or the army. Kipling Senior later elected to be closely involved in the Imperial War Graves Commission, the body which had ultimately re-interred soldiers such as John Neal into newly established cemeteries. Many, many years later, it would also do the same for his son.

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Rudyard Kipling

In his commission role, Kipling contributed to the liturgy of remembrance with his choice of biblical phrase “Their name liveth for evermore” on the stones of remembrance; the phrase “The Glorious Dead” which appears on the Cenotaph in London; and he even suggested the phrase “A Soldier of the Great War – Known unto God” which appears on the graves of unidentified servicemen – including, for many years and with great poignancy, that upon the headstone of his unidentified son.

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John Kipling – 3rd from left. His severe myopia is made evident in this photo from the reflection on his spectacles.

Kipling also worked with Winston Churchill to ensure that all of the gravestones of the soldiers were the same shape and size, regardless of rank. Thanks to this, Lance Corporal Neal and Lieutenant Kipling, both casualties of the 25th September 1915, both belatedly identified, have gravestones which differ only in inscription.

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18 year old John Kipling’s grave.
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Return of the Lost Sharpshooter

Using time off over the Bank Holiday period, I was emptying out some old magazines when I made a wonderful discovery. Let me explain…

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About two years ago, my parents handed me a small metal figure in a little plastic bag which they had discovered deep in their loft. Knowing that it was probably one of my old model figures from my childhood, and furthermore well aware that I’m always painting soldiers nowadays, they brought it over.

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£1.50? I certainly have had it a very long time…

It was a 54mm figure from Dorset (Metal Model) Soldiers Ltd, which I presume is the same company still going today but under the name The Dorset Model Soldier Company. I guess I must have purchased it from a Victorian Military Society fair in the mid 1980s. The bag also contained a square wooden plinth and a little green baize to mount it on. The figure was from a series called “Armies of the World” and represented a Trumpeter in Drill Order from the 3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters) during the period 1902-1907.

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Men of the 3rd County of London (Sharpshooters), c.1902. Note the Trumpeter in Drill Order, far right – that’s the very man who literally inspired my figure!

I was particularly pleased to rediscover this figure as Yeomanry is a great interest of mine. Having (naturally…) the entire fifteen books from the terrific Ogilby Trust series; “The Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force 1794-1914″, I pulled out my copy of the 5th book in the series on said regiment to do some research.

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There on the cover was the very figure I was researching – and, what’s more, in exactly the same pose! I guessed that the sculptor must have used the excellent Robert J. Marrion image on the far right of the cover as a guide, such is the similarity. Furthermore, the illustration in kind must have been based upon the trumpeter seen in the above photograph.

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Illustration and figure clearly resembling one another…

Finally, the figure came with a hand-written painting guide which, confirming the inspiration behind it, indeed recommended that for further details and colours I should see “No.5 in the series “The Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force 1794-1914”.

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“C Squadron riding out in Field Service Dress at Bisley Camp in 1904.” The mounted Trumpeter (centre) is sounding a call.

And then it was lost.

Gone. Disappeared. Vanished. The figure was last seen in a generic plastic bag. I threw the bag out but took care to remove the figure first. I’m sure I did. Didn’t I? All that remained was the little wooden plinth that the figure would have been mounted on. I searched everywhere for the figure, fruitlessly turning the house upside down for days. Appalled, I finally became convinced that I must have thrown it out by accident. Two years passed by…

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…Until I discovered it yesterday! It turned up secreted at the bottom of a magazine rack. Heaven knows how or why it got there, and how it evaded my searches for so long. Now it has returned, I’m tempted to finally have a go at painting it. Heaven knows, I’ve got enough on at the moment, so it may be a little while yet before I make a start.

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Trouble is, not only have I already clumsily broken the plume off (hastily re-glued), but I am now unable to locate the wooden plinth which ironically has possibly been thrown out after the figure was given up as lost. Never mind; I’ll fashion a replacement!

I now want to end by saying some words about R.J. Marrion, the artist who inspired the Trumpeter figure and illustrated for the entire British Yeomanry Force series. Bob Marrion was a former police officer, firstly a dog handler and then latterly, after injury, a police draftsman. He illustrated dozens of books and articles on the subject of military uniforms including the entire Ogilby Trust series on the British Yeomanry Force.

 

Sadly Bob Marrion passed away in 2015 to the great regret of many with an interest in and appreciation for military history, uniforms and artworks.

From Carryings on up the Dale blog:

From French Revolutionary Wargames blog;

From Planet Figure forum:

Tantalisingly, from this forum it is suggested that in the 1970s Bob Marrion even sculpted, or at least designed, his own Victorian-era figures under the name Olive Figures. Something to look out for, perhaps?

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So painting this figure becomes, perhaps, a kind of belated personal tribute to the late Bob Marrion and his essential contribution to the hobby. What more appropriate way for me to do this than bringing to life a sculpted manifestation of one of his illustrations? Having not painted anything greater than 28mm, 54mm scale is something very different and so should be an interesting challenge.

Currently, I’m still finishing off the Zvezda Saxon Cuirassiers, which should be definitely finished some time this week, I reckon. After that, following what has been over 3 decades of being lost and found, I’d say it’s about time this lost sharpshooter – one of Bob Marrion’s artistic visions – was finally brought to life!

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Winifred on Women’s Day

It’s International Women’s Day and it seems to be making a greater impact this year, following on as it does from the #MeToo phenomenon. I thought it might be an appropriate occasion for another post on artistic depictions of women in the military.

About a year ago, I posted on the topic of depictions of women in late 19th century military uniforms. In that post, I examined attitudes towards women at this time seen through the lens of their depiction in military uniforms. In particular, I showcased a cigarette card series and also a postcard series from the early 1900s by Ellanbee called “Girl Soldier”. These images were interesting because, despite being a ‘comic’ series, they (doubtless unintentionally) provided a vaguely realistic and empowering image of women in military uniforms at a time when they were not even allowed to vote.

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Still on the search for this card…  a ‘Girl Soldier’ by artist Henry Ellam

I’ve been looking at expanding my modest Girl Soldier postcard collection and in the course of my largely fruitless research I recently discovered another series of postcards on a very similar theme called “A Call to Arms!”

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At first sight, “A Call to Arms” closely follows the Girl Soldier theme; young women dressed in the smart full-dress uniforms of famous British army regiments of the day. However, we soon see there are significant differences.

Firstly, the series adorns its images with seductive phrases: “Won’t you take me?“, “Say when you’ll have me”, “I’m ready when you want me”, etc. They are very deliberately sexualised and seductive.

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Guard your heart? This skirted female Life Guard seems to be a lover, not a fighter!

Secondly, the uniforms are not accurately depicted as with Ellam’s Girl Soldier series. The “A Call to Arms” uniforms are a mere simulacra, mimicking the uniforms yet compromised by retaining the kind of impractical dress a lady in the era of King George V would be expected to have.That Life Guard doesn’t have genuine jackboots; she as a dress dyed black where the boots should be. It all feels a little like she’s modelling a new fashion collection inspired by military uniforms.

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Only the soldiers of the Scottish regiments retain a close affinity to the real articles, thanks to the kilt’s similarity to a knee-length skirt. Yet, there is more than enough detail in all her illustrations to suggest that Winifred Wimbush spent some considerable time researching the real uniforms.

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It is interesting to compare the Call to Arms lancer below (of the 17th Lancer Regiment) with the Ellanbee Girl Soldier lancer (of the 12th Lancers).

Immediately noticeable is that the Call to Arms lancer wears a long skirt with a split up the side, whereas the Ellanbee Lancer of the 12th wears genuine riding breeches. The lady of the 17th has high heels; the lady of the 12th has riding boots with spurs. There’s also a difference in stance; contrast the self-confident lancer of the 12th with her far more shy and demure fellow lancer.

What is perhaps surprising, given the slightly saucy presentation, is that the artist for “A Call to Arms” was a woman. Winifred Wimbush (1884-1958) was the daughter of Henry B Wimbush, a landscape painter, illustrator and a renowned postcard artist. A website dedicated to her father, Henry, admitted that “very little is known about Winifred or her painting” but nonetheless provided a decent short biography on her. It says:

Winifred, Henry’s eldest daughter was the only one of his children that followed him into a career as a professional artist.

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Henry B Wimbush’s Flower Girl – Winifred reportedly was the model.

This picture the ‘Flower Girl’ which appeared as the frontispiece in ‘The Channel Islands’ by Edith Carey published in 1902, was painted by Henry and it is reported that Winifred was the model. She would have been around 16 years of age when the picture was painted and this may have encouraged her interest in fashion along with her talent as an artist.

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1916 photo of Winifred Wimbush aged 32 during the period when she was actively painting postcards.

Winifred painted 9 different sets of postcards that were published by Raphael Tuck.
Several of the sets were loosely ‘propaganda’ cards for the 1st World War and would probably have been published between 1914 -1916.

And these propaganda postcards were entitled “A Call to Arms”.

Series 8772, 3, 4 were published as Oilette’s and generally showed regimental uniforms, often worn by girls and bearing the heading A call to arms. The border showed the red, white and blue of the union flag.

There’s no doubting that Winifred Wimbush was a talented artist. Her drawings are excellent. Her women are realistically proportioned and stylishly, elegantly painted. By contrast, Henry Ellam’s pleasing illustrations do seem a little more cartoonish compared to Wimbush’s artwork.

However, “A Call to Arms” does place women firmly in the submissive role that was expected of ladies in Britain at that time. They are, even in khaki greatcoats, not warriors but akin to passive models or sexually available seductresses. No doubt, as propaganda, they were painted to specifications provided to Wimbush by Tuck’s postcards and for a very specific purpose. Ellam’s confident female soldiers were supposed to be absurd and ridiculous; Wimbush’s coquettish soldiers were intended to provide succour for frightened men far from their loved ones on the front line. Neither series took the concept of women as resourceful and brave soldiers seriously despite, as my recent post on Serbian women soldiers proved, women most definitely being so at the time.

Perhaps, on International Women’s Day, I should end on a more positive, realistic female soldier image, a contemporary one that contradicts and challenges Ellam’s lampooned ‘girls’ and Wimbush’s submissive women from 100 years ago; presenting two 21st century women soldiers of the Life Guards mounted band!

 

A Sad Loss at Loos

I received some interesting information yesterday regarding the brother of my paternal grandmother. This man, John Neal, was part of a family tree recently researched by my mother and going as far back as his namesake, another John Neal(e) born in 1654. The John Neal that caught my attention had apparently died on 25th September 1915, as Lance Corporal J T Neal of the 2nd Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment.

I did a little on-line research and noticed that the date of his death coincided with the first day of the Battle of Loos. Further research confirmed that the 2nd Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment was indeed part of the attacking force (see below) and I assumed that he was one of the casualties of this battle.

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You will notice that he was part of the Indian Corps, Meerut Division, “The Garwal Brigade” serving alongside Gurkhas and the commander was a Brigadier General Blackader. Leicester has a long shared history with India, the city today being home to a large Indian population. The regiment’s nickname “The Tigers” is a reference to the considerable time it spent in India. It seems that this connection continued into the First World War. The Garwhal Rifles, the 8th and 9th Gurkhas all remain Indian army regiments to this day.

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British machine gunners in action at Loos, 1915.

The Battle of Loos (pronounced loss in French) was a terrible slaughter for the British army. The French pronunciation of “Loss” here seems somehow grotesquely appropriate to anglophones for this dreadfully wasteful encounter of human life. The battle was notable for being the first time that the British deployed poison gas. It was also a test of Kitchener’s new volunteer army (“Lord Kitchener Needs You”) and I suspect that my relative John Neal could have been one such volunteer.

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Ghostly figures of British infantry advance through a gas cloud at Loos, 1915. Photograph believed to have been taken by a soldier.

However, I then discovered that the 2nd Battalion Leicestershire Regiment was actually involved not in the main battle that day on the 25th September, but took part in a diversionary attack at Pietre in support of Loos, instead. The British Commander in Chief, Sir John French said of this action:

“The Indian Corps attacked the Moulin du Pietre… These attacks started at daybreak and were at first successful all along the line. Later in the day the enemy brought up strong reserves, and after hard fighting and variable fortunes the troops engaged in this part of the line reoccupied their original trenches at nightfall. They succeeded admirably, however, in fulfilling the role allotted to them, and in holding large numbers of the enemy away from the main attack.”

So, I therefore assume that my ancestor was killed at some point during the day’s fighting at Pietre, drawing German troops away from the main action at Loos. Ironically, even the slaughter at Loos itself was only really another supporting action to the large French attack in the 3rd Battle of Artois. Such was the scale of the mass killing on the Western Front.

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The Guards Cemetery, France, where my ancestor is buried, very near to the Great Cross visible in the background.

Lance Corporal Neal’s is buried in the Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy in northern France. This cemetery is on a site once used at the front as a dressing station and HQ by the army (near to a crossroads known to the British as Windy Corner).

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Written in red pen on the interment sheet, 2 / Leicestershire Regt, No.8666 Neal, Pte J. He lies next to a Lt of the Royal Irish Rifles who was apparently belatedly identified.
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Plot IX, Row G. No. 5. – right in front of the Great Cross.

Like many soldiers, his body was exhumed from elsewhere and moved to be consolidated with others in the Windy Corner cemetery early in 1920. When he was taken from the original location, the means of identity was listed as being a ‘disc’. It sounds like his identification was fortunate as most others appearing on the same reburial form, and therefore alongside him in the cemetery, were listed simply as being “unknown soldiers”.

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It seems quite a pleasant spot, John Neal’s grave, surrounded by fields and trees. It would be nice and very appropriate to visit one day, I think.

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War Games

Having time off with my 10 year old daughter over the holidays, I found that she was keen to play some board games with me. Once we exhausted the ones in the house, I happened to mention some of my favourite board games when I was a child, one of which included a game called Stratego. Days later, she returned home from her grandparents (my parents) one day with the said box of Stratego in hand. It had been hiding in their loft all these years.

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Stratego: “full of surprises”. It seems the gent on the box cover is surprised as me to find the sapper’s dragoon-style helmet has mysteriously lost its plume!

How little my interests have changed since childhood. Stratego is a battle game which has a distinct 19th century military flavour to it. The aim is to capture the enemy flag by beating the opponents pieces by outranking them in 1-to-1 encounters. One must avoid attacking the bombs which can only be safely defused by sappers. The difficulty lies in the ranks of the enemy’s pieces being unseen and only revealed when nominated to be ‘attacked’.

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The army ranks are delightfully depicted in cameos, each featuring a unique style of 19th century European military headdress. These consist of:

  • Scout: Hussar busby
  • Sapper: Dragoon helmet, (Albert pattern without plume?)
  • Sergeant: Field service cap
  • Lieutenant: Shako
  • Captain: Shako
  • Major: Shako
  • Colonel: Dragoon helmet with woollen crest and plume
  • General: Bicorne hat with plume
  • Marshal: Bicorne hat with feathers
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The army ranks are helpfully depicted on the edge of the ‘battlefield’.

Based upon the French game of L’Attaque, the game is a nice combination of chance and strategy, just like in a real battle. The game’s predecessor, L’Attaque initially came with cardboard illustrations on contemporary European soldiers. The V&A museum in London has this 1925 version, below:

Being created by a French lady, Mademoiselle Hermance Edan, the illustrations featured types of the French and British armies with ranks written in the appropriate language. I notice that the British army’s flag is not represented by the union flag but instead by the ‘red ensign’, the flag used by the merchant navy. Sacré bleu!

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Back to our game: to add some martial atmosphere to our own Stratego engagement, I had my copy of ‘Regimental Marches of the British Army – Volume 2″ playing over speakers in the background.

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The battle begins…

Full credit to Eleanor, my daughter, she soon grasped the different ranks and the rules of the game. Unfortunately for her, luck was against her and furthermore she was up against a ‘competitive dad’ who shamefully wasn’t about to lose a battle…

I noticed that there were some pleasing Napoleonic-era illustrations of cavalry on the side of the battlefield board, three hussars and another cavalryman wearing a cuirass engaged in combat.

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It was enjoyable to play Stratego again after all these years and it may even become a regular feature. But wait! There was one more military strategy board game that Eleanor had brought home; Campaign – “a compelling game of military and political strategy in the age of Napoleon”.

Game on!!!

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Painting the 19th Hussars: an update

It’s been a sad weekend for me. Receiving the news that my beloved 1-year-old cat Morris had been sadly hit and killed by a car, was a real blow. We shared a close bond, he and I, and I’ll sorely miss the little chap. I loved his comical ways, even when as a kitten he mounted a surprise sortie and captured and ran off with some of my plastic soldiers!

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Morris

At such times, I find my hobby can be a welcome distraction and a consolation. Indeed, through these sad circumstances, I’ve nonetheless managed to carry on and progress with my 19th Hussars. I also managed to find some more depictions of the regiment rooting about my cigarette card collection, including (left) this fine illustration of the regiment’s Kettle Drummer issued by Gallaher in 1898 and (right) a corporal of the 19th Hussars from a collection called “Soldiers of the King” issued by Ogden’s in 1909.

 

 

On the 1898 card it can be seen that the 19th were known as Princess of Wales’s Own, yet by the time of the Ogden’s cigarette card issues they had become the Queen Alexandra’s Own Royal Hussars, following her husband King Edward VII’s accession to the throne after the death of Queen Victoria.

Back to the figures – below are a few photos to show the results of my progress. It’s difficult to see clearly on my photographs but I’ve tried to recreate the key dress features particular to this regiment, such as the yellow lines on the white bag on each busby. There are no plumes on these fellows who appear sculpted more ready for battle than parade!

The horses are now primed and awaiting the first lick of paint. An update of their development to follow…

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One of my troopers representing the 19th Hussars

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Trooping the Colour and a Postcard

Some weeks ago, I posted about the depiction of women in historical military uniforms showcasing some of my modest collection of trade cards and postcards on the subject. Through my letter box has come another of my ‘Girl Soldier’ series of pre-WW1 postcards; a Life Guard!

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This is most appropriate given that this Saturday was the day when lines of brightly coloured soldiers aren’t just seen on my painting table here at Suburban Militarism; they’re also seen on television parading for the Queen’s birthday – The Trooping of the Colour. Essential viewing for this military uniforms enthusiast!

Beats watching Game of Thrones any day, in my (eccentric) opinion.

Anyway; any viewer of the Trooping of the Colour ceremony might note that it’s not just men appearing in the parade.

The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery which is made up of nearly equal numbers of males and females. Being a ceremonial artillery unit that is mounted on horses, women undertake tasks of a mounted regiment becoming farriers, saddlers or tailors, in addition to riding the horses and operating the six 13 pounder WWI-era guns.

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Certainly, the women of the King’s Troop RHA have proved themselves more than capable of performing their duties during The Trooping of the Colour. How long before we see women riding in the parade wearing the full cuirass of the Lifeguards or Blues & Royals, I wonder? Possibly in the not-too-distant future.

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I imagine that comic postcard illustrator Ellam would have scarcely believed it possible when he penned his “Girl Soldier” series for postcard manufacturer Ellanbee in the early years of the 20th century. It’s possible that the Girl Soldier series was intended to be absurd; ludicrous. Yet over 100 years later, women are an increasing presence in the British army latterly in combat roles and, therefore, in its ceremonial duties as well.

For now, then, the vision of a female Life Guard such as Ellam’s still remains an illustration. Or does it? Though there are no women in the Household Cavalry at present, for some time now there have been female musicians in both the Band of The Life Guards and the Band of The Blues and Royals, which come together from time to time, mounted or dismounted, as the Massed Band of The Household Cavalry and take part in the Trooping of the Colour. So the reality of the female Life Guard comes inexorably closer.

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WO1 E. Freeborn, Bandmaster of the Lifeguards.
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A musician in The Band of The Life Guards.

Following the appalling tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire last week, the Queen led a minute’s silence before the Trooping the Colour ceremony to remember the victims. Kensington and Chelsea council has asked the British Red Cross to help co-ordinate an appeal to support those affected and it has started an appeal to raise money. Various websites are also calling for donations, including the London Evening Standard Dispossessed fund, which has already raised over £1m. JustGiving also has a page specifically for firefighters.

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Harry’s Horses

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Life Guards at Horse Guards Parade, London by Harry Payne.

When painting 1/72 scale cavalry, I always enjoy adding white markings to my horses’ faces as this provides them with a little individuality and personality. Indeed, these markings are used in real life to identify individual horses in a herd. On the face, they are variously identified as blazes, snips, stars and stripes, depending on where on the face it appears and how extensive it is. Likewise markings on their lower legs are unique to each horses, these can be stockings, socks or boots, depending on their length up the leg.

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A Prussian cuirassier horse in progress…

Putting the finishing touches to the Prussian Cuirassier horses, I was looking around for a little inspiration and was drawn to my collection of Harry Payne postcards.

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The 21st Lancers by Harry Payne

Born in 1858, Harry Payne was a Londoner, a son of a clerk. He went on to produce an enormous number of paintings on military subjects, many being sold as postcards produced by firms such as Gale and Polden, or Raphael Tuck and Sons.

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The 17th Lancers: ‘Telling off for road duty’

After attending art school, he worked for a time for a firm of military contractors. By the 1880s, he had developed into a talented military artist and was enormously prolific. Furthermore, he even sold his work to members of the royal family including several commissions during Queen Victoria’s 1887 Jubilee.

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Band and drums of the 7th Queen’s Own Hussars

Much of his work was produced with assistance from his older brother Arthur, although in exactly what capacity, I am unsure. No doubt, his assistance was invaluable in being able to produce such a high number of artworks to order. The two brothers produced a book together for the Queen’s Jubilee year with the original illustrations being presented to Queen Victoria herself.

Aside from the postcards, Harry and Arthur worked on illustrated material for The Strand Magazine, The Navy and Army Illustrated, The Graphic, and various books for, amongst others, Cassell, Virtue and Routledge. In 1903, a set of 50 images were painted for a Players set of cigarette cards, entitled “Riders of the World”.

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The Hampshire Regiment

Harry Payne was noted for his attention to detail in reproducing the military dress of the British army in his paintings. He research could be extensive and his 23 years spent in the West Kent Yeomanry further assisted his knowledge. Working in oil on canvas or watercolours, he was to prove a popular artist for decades.

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The Irish Guards

Although he also painted a range of other topics (cowboys, rural scenes, etc), Payne’s speciality was in depicting the military uniforms of the British army during the late Victorian / Edwardian period. The army was in transition during this time, adopting khaki for its campaigns but still retaining their brightly coloured uniforms for other ceremonial duties. His artworks captured the full range of different orders of dress.

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Officer, Coldstream Guards

Aside from accurate and detailed uniforms, Harry Payne was a painter who prided himself in his depiction of horses. The cavalryman was still considered to be a highly effective force at the turn of the century. Whether armed with a rifle, sabre or lance, a cavalryman’s military equestrian skills were highly prized.

Flicking through his depictions of horses, I copied some of their markings to be reproduced on my Prussian cuirassier horses. I’m not an artist like Harry Payne; but aside from our shared enthusiasm for depicting military uniforms, I like to think we might also have in common an ability to derive a certain satisfaction from painting military horses too.

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Band of the 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabineers)

More on those Prussian Cuirassiers soon.

Marvin.