A Little Laurel and Hardy!

After receiving bad news this week, I had a much-needed pleasant surprise this week when a parcel came through the post with a postmark of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I do have a Brazilian sister-in-law but she lives in the UK now, so I was unsure what this could be.

The parcel contained two tiny figures sent as a gift from the sculptor, a figures forum member from Brazil known as Jaques. Last September, he showcased his handmade 1:72 scale figures on the forum and with a few others, I expressed admiration.

Jaques’ picture of his handiwork on Benno’s Figures Forum.

The figures are recreations of the comedy duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in their 1931 Beau Geste film pastiche known as Beau Hunks.

Beautifully handmade, the figures come in parts with separate guns and packs, while Stan Laurel’s head is plastic rather than metal. I hope to get around to converting these ‘silver screen’ lilliputian legionnaires to full colour paint at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant-future.

Mounted (and Unmounted) Infantry

This is just a short update being as this is the very last day – indeed the very last hours – of the ‘paint what you already own’ challenge by Ann’s Immaterium blog. I’ve not completed them to deadline, but considering they were started after I’d first finished Napoleon’s Old Guard mid-month, I’ve made good progress.

Detail on these HaT figures is a little vague here and there, but I’ve done my best to pick out as much as I can. Never HaT’s strongest point, the horses sculpting are acceptable rather than great, but they’ll do.

The Imperial Mounted Infantry would have looked a little rough and ready. In a muted painting style, I’ve tried to hint at this dusty and threadbare chic and also aim to add a little dust on to their boots when basing.

A private of the 90th Foot in the uniform of the Imperial Mounted Infantry.

Retaining his regimental tunic, he wears corduroy riding breeches, a leather bandolier instead of a belt, riding boots with spurs and carries a Swinburne-Henry carbine.


In my squadron, I’ve included representatives from some of the different regiments which supplied 1st squadron, Imperial Mounted Infantry with troops: mostly the 24th Foot (green facings) and the 80th, (red with yellow collar tabs), but also a few from the 3rd Foot (buff), and the 13th Light Infantry (dark blue).

The mounted poses look perfect for vedettes and scouts, a key role of the MI. Virtually all of their fighting would have been done on foot as infantry, so it’s good there’s some nice dismounted poses too.

This rediscovered old box of figures seems to be missing five horses and until I find replacements, some will have to remain ‘unmounted mounted infantry’:

“Which way to the remount depot…?’

So, they’re not based yet and I may even stall that process until I find some extra horses for them but I’ve glued some on to spare off-cuts of plastic card ready for when I do! At least, after nearly a decade, these accidental equestrians have finally been painted!

Hopefully, an improvement from my first attempt?

Foot Soldiers on Horseback

Sorting through my piles of unpainted plastic men in the loft, I came across a box of figures which I’d forgotten about completely. These were amongst the very earliest figures I’d bought when I first decided to attempt painting 1:72 scale plastic figures back in 2011/12.

It was a box of HaT’s British Mounted Infantry of the Zulu Wars. I’d clearly had a little go at putting some paint on some of them but had abandoned progress at some point, possibly when I moved house. Some paint was more or less in the right place but there was none of the painting techniques which I’d gradually developed since then – no black lining, no shading and no highlighting either.

I’d also been a bit lazy with the colour of my facings, opting solely for the 24th Regiment’s green. In reality, the Mounted Infantry drew its men from across many different regiments and the troops retained the tunics and buttons of each meaning their individual regimental facings could be any colour.

Mindful of the April challenge by Ann’s Immaterium, I thought it might be about time to have a proper go at this neglected box. Whether I’ll get them painted by the end of the month is now very debatable but at least I’ll be making a start on them. I seem to be missing a horse from the set, but otherwise it’s all there.

Coincidentally, I had been re-reading some of my many books on the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879:

  • “Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift” by Ian Knight
  • “Blood on the Painted Mountain” by Ron Lock (about the battles of Intombi, Hlobane and Khambula)

From these books, I had been refreshing my knowledge of the Imperial Mounted Infantry before I’d even discovered these HaT figures. The formation had a tough time of it during the Anglo-Zulu War. With a chronic lack of regular cavalry available in South Africa, they were much in demand, being active in many encounters with the Zulu all over the country. 1st Squadron suffered particularly badly at the disaster of iSandlwana.

First off, I needed to prime them. For years I’ve painted with Vallejo Acrylics but with these figures I was still using the old Humbrol enamel tinlets. So, I attempted to remove any loose enamel paint (which by and large seemed very well attached to the figures). I then painted them in PVA white glue to a) act as a primer and, b) cover over the enamel. I’ve heard that acrylic paint can react badly to enamels. I’m not sure of this at all but I thought that the PVA would also at least form some sort of a barrier between them.

After that, it was on with the black primer paint and I’m ready to finally finish off what I’d started nearly a decade ago! I’ve made some real progress over the weekend so a report will follow…


For those who may be interested, here are some of my other favourite books on the Zulu War which I’ve collected over the years and which I’d recommend:

  • “The Washing of the Spears” by Donald R. Morris. The seminal work on the conflict which brought it to 20th Century popularity. Never intended to be an academic work, it has been eclipsed now by modern research but is still an astonishingly rip-roaring read throughout all its hefty 672 pages.
  • “Zulu Rising” by Ian Knight– Ian Knight’s most recent book on Isandlwana/Rorke’s Drift and packed with the detailed knowledge and passion of many years research. It is particularly strong in its understanding of both Zulu and Natal’s black history and culture.
  • “Fearful Hard Times” by Ian Knight. Focusing on the less well known actions of Number 1 Column including the battles of Nyezane and Gingindlovu, and the siege of Eshowe.
  • “The Zulu War: A Pictorial History” by Michael Barthorp. The first book I read on the conflict including many great contemporary photographs. I met Major Barthorp a few times – a wonderfully kind and very generous man to this teenage history geek.
  • “They Fell Like Stones” by John Young. Detailed lists and information on units and casualties for each battle. Great for data nerds like yours truly!
  • “Black Soldiers of the Queen” by P.S. Thompson. About the Natal Native Contingent in the conflict, providing a great understanding of these seriously undervalued and overlooked African soldiers who fought and died for the British cause.

Strelets Standing Soldiers: Napoleon!

Having showcased the Old Guard figures in my last post, as promised I’ve now painted the head honcho himself – L’empereur Napoleon Bonaparte!

It’s my submission for Ann’s Immaterium’s April Painting Challenge!

You’ll notice that I’ve thrown some sand down to act as an ersatz parade ground and pressed my 18th century country house into action once again (last seen acting as a St. Petersburg palace).

Forming a hollow square, my Old Guard are waiting to listen to him say a final farewell, prior to leaving for exile on the island of Elba.

Eventually, he appears before them, wearing his traditional bicorne hat and long grey coat. The emperor is visibly emotional. His voice, passionate and breaking, echoes across the parade ground as he begins…

You can now view the epic scene in this YouTube movie what I made:

Alternatively, the non-video version of my scene is below:


“Soldiers of my Old Guard, after 20 years I have come to say goodbye!”
(a dramatic pause ensues)
“France has fallen! So remember me!”
Très dramatique, non?
“Though I love you all, I cannot embrace you all...” (now, you wouldn’t catch Wellington saying that!)
“With this kiss, remember me!” (relief all round – it’s just the flag he’s snogging)
“Goodbye my soldiers!…”
“Goodbye my sons!…”
“Goodbye, my children!!!!”

The scene was brought to you with apologies to Orson Welles, Dino De Laurentiis and Rod Steiger. Any resemblance to actual films, past or present, is entirely intentional – The original, and in my view vastly inferior, scene is viewable on YouTube.

To help my painting of Strelets’ Boney, as a guide I settled on some portraits of him wearing a grey overcoat and the uniform of a colonel of the Chasseurs a Cheval. He seems to be consistently shown wearing a silver medal with a red ribbon, so I’ve reproduced that too.

Is it me, or does my Napoleon have more than a passing resemblance to Marlon Brando?

There was also the small matter of finishing my pioneer sergeant. Admittedly, it looks a little like he’s wearing a skirt with an apron but, given the size of his axe, I won’t be saying that to his face.

And with that, this submission for “Paint the Crap You Already Own” is complete. Needless to say, there’s plenty more I could get my teeth into and with some days left yet of April, I may yet even have a go at something else.

Until then, I say – goodbye my followers, goodbye my visitors, and goodbye my children!!!!

Strelets Standing Soldiers: The Old Guard

Following the issuing of April’s challange by Ann’s Immaterium to stop buying new shiny things and paint up some of our backlog of figures – I’ve made solid progress with my 2018 box of 1/72 scale Strelets Old Guard figures. Nearly complete, there’s 28 of them in total, including a pioneer sergeant, an officer and Napoleon Bonaparte himself.

I’ve so far just concentrated on the rank and file plus the officer, so I’ve still got the sergeant to finish off and Napoleon himself still to paint. I’ve based them very simply on a kind of parade ground type of surface.

One of the things I thought was great about painting these figures is the facial features which seem to give each pose character. Perhaps my favourite is this fella below who seems to be casting a quizzical glance askew.


Eyes right!


The officer:


Apparently, the Old Guard did not have buttons to turn their coats back. Whether that’s true or not, I like the look.






Boney (and his Pioneer Sergeant) will be reviewing his Old Guard in a future post…!

The Grumblers

Ann’s Immaterium has issued forth a challenge for the month of April – “Paint the Crap You Already Own!” The aim is to pitch into some of our collectively large pile of unpainted crap (aka our precious collections) and the restrictions of national lockdown are providing the perfect conditions to do just that.

Strelets Polish infantry on the march.

Rifling through my excessive mountain of unpainted kits, I randomly picked up one of a number of the Napoleonic ‘standing’ sets by Strelets that I own. There’s lots of these type of sets available from Strelets. They feature anything from Highlanders to Prussian Landwehr, all in poses which range between ‘order arms’, ‘shoulder arms’, ‘at ease’, ‘at attention’ or ‘on the march’.

I painted one of these sets last year, Strelets’ British Infantry Standing at Ease, painted as the 37th Regiment and, at my friend Pat’s suggestion, a platoon of the 95th Rifles;

Painting figures which are just standing around waiting seems a strangely appropriate choice in while in ‘lockdown’…

A little more space between these ranks I think to satisfy the criteria for social distancing.

So, I’ve picked up my “Old Guard at Attention” box which I bought in 2018/19.

So here they are, les Grognards – about 30 ‘grumblers’ – currently all standing to attention and stoically awaiting some paint.

Cleaned, primed and blue base coat applied…

I notice that Old ‘Boney’ himself is included in the box, so perhaps i will include him also? I think the aim was to provide the painter with the means of recreating the scene where Napoleon takes his leave of the Old Guard prior to going into exile for the first time on the island of Elba.

Soldiers of my Old Guard, I bid you farewell. For twenty years you have been my constant companions on the road to honour and glory!

NAPOLEON’S ADIEUX TO THE OLD GUARD AT FONTAINEBLEAU, 20 APRIL, 1814

So, here I go. I hope to post some progress reports if time allows.

“Au revoir, mes enfants!”

Les Higgins Miniatures

I was very pleased to receive through the post recently samples of 20mm scale metal figures. These were a large group of recast Les Higgins figures, very generously supplied by their manufacturer, John Cunningham.

Caricature Combat! Co-founder Brian Marlow duals with Les Higgins (taken from the 1971 Les Higgins Miniatures catalogue as displayed on the Prometheus in Aspic blog).

The interesting story behind Les Higgins Miniatures is nicely recorded on the Vintage 20mil website. Founded in 1967, Les Higgins himself tragically passed away aged 49 in 1972. The company continued for some years as Phoenix Model Developments. The figures all belong to my recently favoured Marlburian period and include lovely examples of:

Musketeers

Grenadiers

Command figures

Cavalry

The group of cavalry caught my attention, examples of what I believe are;

  • a trooper of horse
  • a hussar
  • a French dragoon
  • a dragoon wearing a tricorne
  • a trumpeter
  • a horse grenadier
  • and a cuirassier with a ‘lobster’ helmet.

A very nice group of horses were also included for them to ride:

In addition to the Les Higgins figures were some examples from other 20mm manufacturers of yore; Alberken and Douglas Miniatures.

Alberken Miniatures:

Begun in 1964, Nottinghamshire-based Alberken was formed by Albert Horsfield and Ken Watkins, (whose main business was making “pie machines”)! The manufacturer name was a portmanteau of their first names. The figures are described on Vintage 20mil as being “thin in build, a bit static in pose, sometimes lacking in detail and stand around 22mm high and noticeably flat“. Albert Horsfield tragically died in a car accident just a year after forming and Alberken subsequently ceased production. Full story again on Vintage 20Mil.

Douglas Miniatures:

Douglas Miniatures were the forerunner to the manufacturer of the 54mm MJ Mode figures which I painted last year. Vintage 20mil states that the early Douglas Miniatures were “quite literally a ‘cottage industry’, with Johnston sculpting the figures in his own kitchen in Glenfield.” In a bizarre coincidence, I happen to paint all figures in my kitchen in Glenfield…

It’s interesting to compare a Les Higgins grenadier (left below) with an Irregular Miniatures version which also came through as a sample.

Left: a Les Higgins grenadier and Right: an Irregular Miniatures grenadier

So, I’m keen to see how these lovely old veterans paint up with a long view of incorporating some into my Marlburian armies. I thought I’d begin by having a go at some of Les Higgins’ cavalry figures, so I’ll post more on these when I’ve made some progress.

“We could perhaps be super-optimistic and see (international wargaming) as a future way of solving our international differences without firing a single, full-size explosive shot!”. And so say all of us…

Court Appearances: FEMbruary 2020

FEMbruary has been declared! For the 3rd year, I’m formally throwing my hat into the ring for FEMbruary 2020. Begun in 2018, this cracking idea by Alex at Leadballoony blog invited modellers to share their work on female miniatures or otherwise join in as “part of an ongoing conversation about how women are presented within our hobby”. In previous years, Suburban Militarism has submitted:

Catherine the Great by Bad Squiddo Games

This year, I’m turning to my preferred 1/72 scale. The figures I’ve chosen are from Strelets’ “Court and Army of Peter the 1st” ‘big box’ set which I’ve had for a little while now in my far-too-large pile of unpainted items. It features soldiers and guards from Tsar Peter I’s newly formed professional Russian army, and also contains a number of unusual and entertaining court figures, including Peter the Great himself.

For FEMbruary, I’ve taken from this set three aristocratic ladies in fine dresses, one of whom is the Empress, Peter’s wife. I’ve already glued them on pennies and PSR’s description of each is below:


“Empress Catherine I (1684-1727) – Peter’s second wife, whom he married in 1707 and was named Empress but only really had power after his death. The marriage was a very happy one.”


“Court lady – In ‘German’ or western dress, with a large wig as required by Peter.”


“Court lady – As above, but this one pets a small dog at her skirts.”


Much of the court personalities from this set will of course fit the era for my new War of the Spanish Succession project. As such, they could as Plastic Soldier Review state; “work equally well at the court of Louis XIV or any other monarch, so the potential is quite considerable. However a top quality paint job is about the only hope for these otherwise rather unsatisfying figures.” Gulp! The pressure is on to meet that challenge, and I hardly need confess that I’ve not painted 18th Century ladies dresses before, never mind a dog…

The figures seem to show those early Strelets characteristics of imagination and fun, with a distinctive sculpting style which divides opinion. In the main, I haven’t found flash to be a particular issue with Strelets figures but these courtly ladies underwent some serious plastic surgery with my scalpel. In the case of the lady and dog, her face quite literally went ‘under the knife’!

Always up for a challenge, I’ll share my progress, good or bad, in due course. In the mean time, do pop over to Leadballoony’s blog for more on other FEMbruary figures and participants!

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…

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!