Home on the Range

Presenting the finished group of Cheshire Rifle Volunteers! My little cohort consists of men of the 1st Cheshire Rifle Volunteer Corps under instruction from an officer. Out on the rifle range, they are firing their Martini-Henry rifles at targets some 300 yards away. The year is 1884 and a county-wide shooting competition is but a week away. Some further rifle practice is needed if the Cheshire Grey’s best shots are to be in with a chance of winning that silver cup…

A little research revealed to me that the remains of long-forgotten Victorian volunteer rifle ranges do still exist around the UK, some being more readily visible than others. It seems that many of these rifle ranges fell out of use sometime before the Rifle Volunteers final absorption into the new Territorial Force in 1908. Perhaps a dwindling interest in the movement was to blame, but after 1908 I suspect that the Territorial Force’s closer ties to the county regiments of the regular army meant the volunteer battalions might have made use of the regular’s facilities instead.

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“No hits, boys? You men can actually see the target, I presume?!”

Finding appropriate drill space and rifle ranges in the early years of the movement occasionally proved problematic and caused friction with the local population. However, during the heydey of the Rifle Volunteers, the activities of the local corps could become important social events. In 1861, for example, a county-wide rifle competition was watched by a crowd estimated to be up to 30,000!

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“300 yards!? Wish I’d brought my spectacles…”

The Rifle Volunteer movement always emphasised high standards of marksmanship. So, target practice at the rifle range – described at the time as ‘that interesting, healthful and manly exercise which the Rifle movement is supposed to supply’ – was seen as the main way of maintaining the enthusiasm and skill of the volunteers. An 1864 account of a Buckinghamshire Volunteers rifle competition suggests that the chief source of motivation wasn’t always the silverware however:

“The Volunteers were cheered in no small way by the presence of a good sprinkling of the Ladies, who with a bravery not common to the sex, boldly faced the wind and appeared to take great interest in the proceedings…”

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Men of the 1st Cheshire RVC (Cheshire Greys) around the time of their formation in 1860. Most are wearing shakos of a type similar (though seemingly not the same) as the museum example below.
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Shako of the 1st Cheshire RVC, c.1860.

A 2015 story in a provincial newspaper reported on the discovery of an old rifle range which had been apparently completely forgotten by the local community. Using a metal detector, a former soldier turned amateur archaeologist was first alerted to its existence when he discovered many Victorian-era bullets in the area, saying “...the oldest is the .577/450 Martini-Henry, which came into service in 1871 and is famous for being used during the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879.”

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Bullets recovered from a Victorian Rifle Volunteer’s range in Dudley. Martini-Henry bullets centre and post-1889 Lee-Enfield’s either side.

He located an 1880 edition of a map of the area and discovered the rifle range was clearly marked upon it. The locator of the range, Mr Beddard, goes on to describe how the range is depicted on this old map:

It was marked ‘volunteers’, with the firing positions running from the Dudley direction for 850 yards, spaced out every 50 yards up to the target area. Some have marked firing trenches, some have raised firing positions.”

For my own models, I’ve simply included a distance marking post with my group, demonstrating that they are firing at a range of 300 yards from the targets. Not sure what form these posts would have taken, so I’ve simply used my imagination here!

A 2012 archaeological survey report by Herefordshire Council of a Rifle Volunteers’ firing range on Bromyard Downs provides a further insight into the nature of a Victorian Rifle Volunteer’s rifle range:

“The Bromyard range was, like most Volunteer ranges, extremely simple, though some were even more basic in the facilities they offered. Simplest of all was the range on Coppet Hill, Goodrich, with a single lane ending at a target in a small excavation marked as an old quarry, with no intermediate firing points indicated and no flagstaffs. At Aston Ingham near Newent, too, a single target was accommodated in a small delve cut into the rising ground”

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View up a disused Victorian rifle range near Etchinghill, Staffordshire

Others, it seems, could be more elaborate. Some would feature shelters for the riflemen acting as markers and observers. These took the form of emplacements behind the butts or as brick huts placed to the side of the range. Shooting platforms or trenches were sometimes provided, although I imagine that for many ranges firing positions would consist simply of open grassland with distance marker posts – as in my little diorama. In the Bromyard Downs report, it goes on to describe the target end of the range:

At the butts end, the map shows the targets (plural) as a solid square structure projecting forward from a short straight line. Immediately behind the targets was a backstop shown as an earthwork mound 11 yards long with its west end curving forwards. As well as a backstop, this may have acted as a mantlet, protecting the Volunteers on marking duty. Behind that… was a second embankment on the hillside above, no doubt to stop high rounds from ricocheting off the rising ground; the map bears the legend ‘Butts’ between the two embankments. There was also a flagstaff a few yards to the east, which would have given formal warning that firing was taking place and would have aided the shooters by indicating wind strength and direction at the target.

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A view of the Etchinghill backstop embankment.

Stop giggling at the back! There is nothing amusing about being ‘at the butt’s end’. In the example of the Bromyard range, it seems possible that the targets consisted of a marked iron plate, a notion supported by a number of severely flattened spent bullets.

Next, I might put a label on the wooden plinth indicating what the figures represent…

Well, as the painting of these Perry Miniatures figures have been far from anything like a pain in the ‘butt’, be warned that I’ll be continuing this little Volunteer Rifle Corps project with my next small batch of riflemen representing another corps, some of which have already been glued together. More details to follow!

 

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Men in Grey Suits

The volunteer defenders
Of Britain’s isle are we
To heaven sworn to hold it
From all invaders free
Poem by Lt.-Col Buck, 16th Kent Rifle Volunteer Corps, c.1876

My painting of the 1st Cheshire Rifle Volunteer Corps figures is now all but complete! A couple of last minute touches and varnish needed only. They’ve been a real pleasure to paint and these Perry Miniatures figures are sculpted to their usual very high standard.

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Man of the 1st Cheshire R.V.C, c.1880s

Painting these riflemen, as so often in conversions, was an exercise in making decisions wherever the information was sketchy, or where the figures were missing some necessary detail. According to the Cheshire Military Museum’s own guide, the Cheshire Volunteers “after the 1870s… adopted a grey uniform rather than red.” Yet by 1881, scarlet was the only change in uniform colour permitted for volunteers in the Childers reforms of that year, so I presume the changeover to grey uniforms for all Cheshire rifle volunteers must have occurred only just in time.

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Reaching for another bullet…

I’ve gone for a Vallejo Neutral Grey base colour for the uniform which seemed a reasonable match for the rifle volunteer uniform I saw on display in the Cheshire Military Museum.

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Officer offering instruction at the rifle butts

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The scrolling on the sleeves are a little different, but I’ve just gone with the sculpting. I’ve also gone with the assumption that they would have been issued with accoutrements similar to the regulars, wearing black expense pouches and belts as befitted riflemen but retaining a white haversack in the manner of this illustration of a similarly uniformed member of the 14th Middlesex (Inns of Court) R.V.C.

Inns of Court

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I wasn’t at all certain whether my Cheshire Grey’s trousers would have had a stripe down the sides, in the usual military fashion of the day, and if so – what colour. Ultimately, I went for a red stripe in order to add a little extra colour to all that greyness.

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The weapon of these Perry Zulu War British Infantry figures is a Martini-Henry rifle, a breech-loading single shot firing .450 inch bullets with an effective range of up to 400 yards. It seems that in 1879, coincidentally the year of the Anglo-Zulu War in which the weapon acquired some fame, the Rifle Volunteers did indeed begin to be issued with the Martini-Henry rifle as a replacement to the Enfield they’d previously been using. The issuing of this firearm to all the Rifle Volunteers would take up to six years to complete, but it appears that my own Cheshire Greys have got their hands on them, at any rate!

 

My intention now is to place them in some kind of diorama. As I’ve said before, I’ve little experience at creating any kind of ‘dio’, but I can just about manage a bit of grass, so that’s what it might be. The idea is to show them in a group practising their shooting, possibly at the local rifle butts, or perhaps engaged in some organised national marksmanship competition against other volunteer corps.

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A rifle competition might be particularly appropriate as on display in the museum was a shooting prize (a tankard) from one such competition. All the competitors used Enfield rifles and teams of 20 men from each Rifle Volunteer battalion throughout Great Britain took part. So it seems that these Cheshire Greys might have some genuine marksmen in their ranks!

 

More to follow once I’ve got to work on the basing…

Riflemen, Form!

Form, Form, Riflemen Form
Ready, be ready to meet the storm!
Riflemen, Riflemen, Riflemen form!

“Riflemen, Form!” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson


The next figures that I’ll be tackling here at Suburban Militarism are some more from the very wonderful 28mm manufacturer, Perry Miniatures. It’s a return to plastics at this scale, which is something I haven’t attempted since my Warwickshire Yeomanry figures. I’m also hoping to paint yet more volunteer troops, this time using Perry’s Zulu War British Infantry.

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Often in visits to military museums I’ll come across examples of Rifle Volunteer tunics or helmets and I thought it about time I explored a little more about this Victorian phenomenon. Hence, my current reading material, the highly informative Riflemen Form: A Study of the Rifle Volunteer Movement 1859-1908  by I. F. W. Beckett. Rifle Volunteer Corps were first established in 1859, partially as a response to the occasional public ‘invasion panics’ such as the concern over the threat posed by Napoleon III’s France. Such paranoia was stoked by ‘future war’ invasion novels such as “The Battle of Dorking”, which was even subtitled “Reminiscences of a Volunteer”.

Additionally, the growth in support for a rifle volunteer movement was a recognition of the small size of the British regular army relative to its European rivals. Furthermore, most of the British army was often overseas garrisoning the empire and not in a position to immediately counter any invasion. There was a so-called ‘Blue Water’ school of thought which placed faith in the peerless Royal Navy to prevent any invasion. However, the movement eventually managed to elicit parliamentary support for its establishment in 1859, though the government was careful to avoid any significant cost to the exchequer, the emphasis firmly being on the ‘voluntary’ aspect of the corps!

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The Zulu War British infantry set produced by Perry Miniatures,  in addition to the “Foreign Service” pattern helmets used on campaign, also come supplied with ‘Home Service’ pattern helmets. The main difference between these helmets being the Home Service helmets having regimental plate appearing on the front and also the retention of the spike on top. I thought this useful addition could provide the means to create some reasonable examples of men found in some of the Victorian Rifle Volunteer Corps, many of which sported Home Service pattern helmets such as the Volunteer helmets below.

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Helmet of the 1st Cheshire rifle volunteers, c.1878. Uniform was grey with scarlet facings.
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Helmet of the 2nd (Earl of Chester’s) Cheshire RVC. Uniform was scarlet with buff facings.
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Helmet of the 3rd Cheshire Volunteer’s Battalion. Uniform was scarlet with white facings. A ‘Cheshire Greys’ field service cap is right.

Being a mass movement of volunteers, there were a plethora of local Rifle Volunteer Corps (R.V.C.s) established all around Britain. The county of Lanarkshire alone, for example, raised up to 107 separate corps; Lancashire raised 91; Middlesex raised 50 and Cheshire 36. The latter is significant because a recent visit to the Cheshire Military Museum has inspired my decision to paint rifle volunteers. My first batch of figures will depict a rifle volunteer uniform I saw there; namely the 1st Cheshire R.V.C. also known as the ‘Cheshire Greys’.

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Tunic of the 1st Cheshire R.V.C.

British Rifle Volunteer Corps wore a range of uniforms which reflected the somewhat disparate and localised nature of their formation. The majority wore scarlet tunics, similar to the regular infantry at the time. Also very popular, however, were grey or dark green uniforms, a reflection of their broadly intended role as light infantry marksmen and also a practical recognition of the challenges facing the British army as it approached the 20th century. My chosen 1st Cheshire R.V.C. adopted a uniform of grey with red facings. Interestingly, Beckett’s “Riflemen, Form” informs me that;

“…in March 1883, a War Office Colour Committee recommended the grey uniform of the 3rd Devon Rifle Volunteers… as the pattern for the new service dress, but in the event, Indian Khaki was preferred.”

So it seems that the late-Victorian British army came surprisingly close to looking much like the grey-uniformed rifle volunteers that I’m endeavouring to create!

A couple of examples of the 1st Cheshire R.V.C. grey Home Service pattern helmets were on display in the Cheshire Military Museum, as was the officer’s tunic (left pic below). Perry Miniatures’ officer figures from the Zulu War set should allow me to mimic the braiding on this to some degree.

I’ve chosen six figures and an officer for my first group of volunteer rifles and have a vague idea of grouping them into some kind of basic diorama. I’m no diorama creator, so I use the phrase advisedly! The figures come with separate arms and heads which require gluing onto the bodies, offering opportunities for varied poses. I’m not the best at model assembly either, I admit, so we’ll see how that goes. I’ll post updates on my progress…

 

Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #25)

Italeri have produced a number of very impressive Napoleonic cavalry kits and I’m pleased to have finally tackled their Mamelukes set; possibly one of their best.

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It has involved painting a lot of detail in a large range of colours, which in turn has meant a much larger investment in time to produce them. Was it worth it? I like to think so, they are unique in my collection and looks pleasingly colourful.

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Whilst it’s taken quite a while to get them painted, but the sheer exotic value of their turbans, scimitars, etc, etc, has kept me going.

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The Mamelukes made up a very small force in Napoleon’s cavalry, but the impact of their fame gave them an importance far beyond their limited numbers, and it’s no surprise that Italeri and HaT (amongst other manufacturers) have featured them in their range.

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Well, I can now place these figures into the cabinet with the other Nappy Cavalry Project regiments. And that means I can finally get on with packing for my much-needed summer holiday! Until I return, I send my very best wishes to all readers of this humble blog and leave you with the usual regimental biography and photos!

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Now, I wonder if there are any regimental museums where I’m going…


Biography: Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard [France]

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The word “Mameluke” is an Arabic term meaning ‘property’, indicating the status of Mamelukes as being slaves. Since the 9th Century, the Mamelukes were an influential military caste of slaves which rose to become a power in Egypt eventually ruling as the independent Mameluke Sultanate until 1517, and thereafter ruling as vassals of the Ottoman Empire.

In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte led his French ‘Army of the Orient’ to invade Egypt to both protect French trade and threaten Britain’s own. The most formidable force in the Egyptian army was undoubtedly the Mameluke cavalry. Equipped in an almost medieval fashion, sometimes including chain mail and iron helmets, they were expert horsemen and swordsmen. Armed with curved sabres of very high quality, they could out-fence most conventional cavalry and were observed to have actually sliced through French muskets.

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Napoleon soundly defeated the Mameluke army at the Battle of the Pyramids where he repelled their massed cavalry attacks. The formidable Mameluke cavalry had impressed him, however, as the only effective arm of the Egyptian army. Consequently, on the 14th September 1799, French General Kléber established a mounted company of Mameluke auxiliaries which were soon reorganised into 3 companies of 100 men each known as the “Mamluks de la République”. In 1803, they were again organised into a single company attached to the Chasseurs-à-Cheval of the Imperial Guard.

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Whilst the officers were occasionally French, the rest of the force were at various times made up of Greeks, Egyptians, Circassians, Albanians, Maltese, Hungarians, Georgians and Turks (amongst others. All were armed with a brace of pistols; a long dagger tucked into their waist sash; a mace; and later even a battle-axe.

The Mamelukes served in Poland, Spain and in Russia, fighting at the Battle of Wagram and most notably at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 where the regiment was granted an eagle and its roster increased to accommodate a standard-bearer and a trumpeter. Service in Spain led to a famous painting by Francisco Goya depicting their charge against the uprising of the citizens of Madrid on 2 May 1808, a massacre which in part led up to the Peninsular War.

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El dos de mayo de 1808 en Madrid By Francisco de Goya

In 1813, losses accrued over many campaigns meant that the Mamelukes were inevitably reinforced with Frenchmen who were designated as ‘2nd Mamelukes’. Of the 2 companies of Mamelukes, the 1st was ranked as Old Guard and the 2nd as Young Guard.

CHARGE MAMELUKS AUSTERLITZ

On his return to power in 1815, Napoleon issued a decree stating that the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard would include a squadron of Mamelukes. It is not known whether they formed a complete squadron at Waterloo, or simply attached themselves as individuals to various units; Mamelukes were almost undoubtedly present, however.

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Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1815, there were widespread reprisals against individuals or groups identified with the defeated Napoleonic regime. These included the small number of Mamelukes who were still in the army. Eighteen of them were massacred in Marseilles by vengeful Royalists while awaiting transportation back to Egypt.

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Monsieur Ducel Mameluke de la Garde 1813-1815.

The brightly coloured Oriental dress and exotic weaponry of the Mamelukes gave them an influence far beyond the small size of their regiment; an influence felt beyond the battlefield into fashionable society! The Mamelukes loyalty to Napoleon was never questioned and they, fatally for some, became synonymous with him and his empire.

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Notable Battles: Austerlitz, Wagram, Waterloo.

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More Mamelukes…

I’ve made some real progress on the Italeri Mameluke figures this past week, the 25th regiment in the Nappy Cavalry Project. These are beautifully sculpted figures, as fine as any other plastic 1/72 set out there.

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Though they are a pleasure to paint, it’s been a slower and more complicated process than painting regular forces due to the great variety of colours required and which differ from one figure to the next.

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Mameluke standard bearer

With the exception of the red trousers (saroual) and headgear (cahouk), each figure requires a different colour scheme. Starting each single figure required some wardrobe decisions to be made, I felt like an insecure lady deciding what to wear on a first date!

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Hopefully, I’ve made some reasonable choices.

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It’s been interesting to paint the unusual accoutrements: the turbans; the daggers; the beautifully curved scimitars; and the pistol holders wedged into the waistbands.

Next for those horses, a task which one might think I’d tire of. I still enjoy painting them, thankfully, and these Italeri horses seem as well sculpted as their riders. Updates to follow in due course. I’m looking forward to painting those arabic saddles. With luck, I might even get the whole regiment finished before my forthcoming summer holiday in July!

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A not-quite-finished bugler. He’s the only one with a white plume and green headgear.

Mamelouks de la Garde impériale!

After some dithering over the choice of the next regiment in my Napoleonic cavalry project, I can announce that it will be Napoleon’s Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard by Italeri.

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My ever-helpful assistant presents the latest box of cavalry to paint.

Part of my wariness with this set was down to tackling a regiment somewhat out of my comfort zone. Firstly, they are from Egypt and a far cry from the European cavalry of which I’m familiar.

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Mamelouks de la Garde impériale à la charge by Auguste Raffet

Secondly, they are irregulars and as such don’t wear a uniform dress, never mind the traditional Napoleonic European style uniform. But I paint military uniforms – that’s what I do! Before I hyperventilate any further, here’s a useful guide to their dress which suggests some general uniform guidelines:

During their service in Napoleon’s army, the Mamluk squadron wore the following uniform: Before 1804: The only “uniform” part was the green cahouk (hat), white turban, and red saroual (trousers), all to be worn with a loose shirt and a vest. Boots were of yellow, red, or tan soft leather. Weapons consisted of an “Oriental” scimitar, a brace of pistols in a holder decorated with a brass crescent and star, and a dagger.

After 1804: The cahouk became red with a brass crescent and star, and the shirt was closed and had a collar. The main change was the addition of a “regulation” chasseur-style saddle cloth and roll, imperial green in color, piped red, with a red and white fringe. The saddle and harness remained Arabic in style. The undress uniform was as for the Chasseurs-à-Cheval of the Guard, but of a dark blue cloth.

So that gives me something to go on. They are certainly going to take longer to paint given their disparate colour schemes. One thing is for sure, the figures are beautifully sculpted by Italeri, possibly amongst their finest. The figures are very large for the scale, but this will be of more concern to a wargamer than a mere figure painter like myself.

Painting oriental irregulars certainly provides a different challenge, and it’s one I’m looking forward to. I’ll post updates once I’ve got something to show, until then here are some images of Mamelukes as it seems these exotic horsemen were a favourite of artists over the years.

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François-Antoine Kirmann, chef d’escadron des mamelouks de la Garde impériale (1808-1811).
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Mamelouks de la Garde impériale au défilé by Felician Myrbach (1853-1940)
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Capitaine français des mamelouks de la Garde impériale by Ernest Fort (1868-1938)
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Porte-étendard des mamelouks de la Garde impériale.

 

Von Beeren Cuirassiers [Nr. 2] (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #24)

Prussian Cuirassiers are a set that I’ve had in my possession for a few years now, a purchase from a closing down sale. Having painted them I can declare that they’re a fine set – although perhaps they’re bodies, and heads in particular, are a little bit on the large side. Plenty of nice crisp detail by Italeri makes for a pleasurable painting experience.

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Italeri Prussian Cuirassier

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It’s been good to return to Italeri figures once again, and Prussians ones at that. I’ve particularly enjoyed painting something a little different from the other regiments; those bicorne hats and yellow jackets add real variety to my collection.

My ‘head-swap’ officer seems to look okay, although I originally intended to give his arm a twist downwards so that he’s not strangely holding out a piece of paper to his right. I like to think I can get away with it as his arm makes it look like he’s gesturing instead.

The trumpeter meanwhile wears a bicorne with a red crest and a white plume with a red tip, in addition to red shoulder markings:

So after that rather enjoyable kit, I’m wondering which cavalry regiment to tackle next in the project and I confess to being somewhat undecided. Furthermore, I fancy taking a brief break from Napoleonic cavalry; a change being as good as a rest, as they say. There’s plenty of figures of all types lying around and waiting for attention here at Suburban Militarism, so watch this space for developments on that.

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So, as is traditional for the Nappy Cavalry Project, here’s a few more photos and a regimental biography of my finished Von Beeren Cuirassiers below!

 


Biography: Von Beeren Cuirassiers (nr.2) [Prussia]

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The 2nd Cuirassier regiment in the Prussian army had its origins in 1666 at a time when early Prussian cavalry was simply designated as being Regiments of Horse (Regiment zu Pferde). Raised variously in accounts by either Colonel Count von Russow or Major-General von Pfuel, it immediately went on to serve in a variety of European theatres: against the French in Alsace; the Swedes in Pomerania; and against the Turks in Hungary.

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Trooper from the Cuirassier Regiment No. 2, circa 1757.

Garrisoned in Brandenburg, it consisted of 10 companies in 5 squadrons. During the War of the Spanish Succession, it fought in the great battles of Oudenarde in 1708 and Malplaquet in 1709. In the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), it fought at the battle of Chotusitz, breaking through and routing two lines of Hungarian infantry regiments. In 1745, it took part in the battle of Hohenfriedberg where it destroyed a Saxon regiment. Later that year, it also broke through enemy lines at the battle of Soor with other cuirassiers and captured the Graner Koppe heights and 22 guns.

By the time of the Seven Years War, the regiment was wearing a tunic of ‘lemon yellow’ underneath its black cuirass, in contrast to the off-white of other cuirassier regiments. It took heavy casualties in the battle of Lobositz but recovered to also take part in the Battle of Kolin where it led the charge of a brigade, scattering several enemy infantry regiments. Later, it was involved in the disastrous Battle of Kunersdorf, losing over 200 men and being routed from the field.

In 1790 came the order that all cuirassier regiments were to abandon the cuirass. However, Von Beeren’s regiment were granted the distinction of retaining their yellow tunics which they had been wearing since at least the time of Frederick the Great. That yellow tunic had earned them the nickname “The Yellow Riders” (‘gelbe Reiter’).

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No.2 Regiment’s uniform at the time of the 7 Years War, prior to the abandonment of the cuirass.

Up until 1806, cuirassier units bore the name of their colonels, also called the Proprietor (Inhaber). In October 1805, Karl Friedrich Hermann von Beeren (1749-1817) became the regimental Colonel in Chief, succeeding his predecessor Generalmajor Schleinitz. As was the custom therefore, the regiment took the new commander’s name and became Cuirassier Regiment Von Beeren (Nr 2).

Armed with the pallash (a straight-bladed sword), Prussian cuirassiers enjoyed greater prestige than other cavalry such as the dragoons, uhlans and hussars. Being heavy cavalry, the men and horses were larger, stronger and were expected to charge en-masse to crush the enemy with their sheer momentum and force.

In 1806, as political tensions with Napoleon’s France were at their height, Prussian Cuirassier officers from the elite Garde du Corps famously inflamed the situation further by ostentatiously sharpening their swords on the steps of the French embassy in Berlin.

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Cuirassier officers sharpening their swords on the French embassy steps, Berlin, 1806.

However, the woeful state of both staff and tactical organisation in the Prussian army was to be brutally exposed by Napoleon’s army during its subsequent invasion of Prussia. The Prussian cuirassier regiments were distributed throughout the entire Prussian field army – making it very difficult to co-ordinate large-scale, en-masse cavalry charges on the battlefield and greatly nullifying their effectiveness.

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During the War of the Fourth Coalition in 1806, Von Beeren’s Cuirassier regiment fought at the disastrous battle of Auerstadt as part of its colonel-in-chief’s brigade (Kuhnheim’s division). After the battle, the regiment withdrew with Blücher’s Corps whereby the majority of the regiment surrendered at Erfurt and Ratekau on November 7. As the regiment was not subsequently re-raised, it effectively marked the end of the regiment. However, seventy men and horses escaped to East Prussia where they went into forming the nucleus of the new 4th Cuirassier regiment.

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Defeated Prussian forces retreating after the disastrous battles of Jena-Auerstadt, 1806.

After the enforced Prussian military reorganization in 1806, cuirassier units were given numbers instead of colonel’s names. In 1808, Regiment Von Beeren had been incorporated into the Brandenburg Cuirassiers. Apparently, their famous yellow tunics were it seems retained and worn for some time thereafter.

No cuirassier regiments were present to see Napoleon’s demise at Waterloo. However, in 1815, Johann Carl Hackenberg watched Prussian cavalry ride through his home town of Elberfeld. This man had particular interest in seeing them as he was an artist who painted in colour all troops from 1813 – 1816. On the 2 February 1815, he observed the Von Beeren successors, the Brandenburg Cuirassiers, ride through the town wearing distinct ‘yellow cuirasses’. So it seems that even 10 years after the regiment’s destruction at Auerstadt, there continued, at least in some way, to be ‘yellow riders’ in the Prussian cuirassiers.

Notable Battles: Oudenarde, Malplaquet, Chotusitz, Hohenfriedberg, Soor, Lobositz, Kunersdorf, Kolin, Auerstadt.

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Yellow Fellows

Prussian Cuirassiers 1b (3)

I’m about 80-90% finished on the 16 riders for Italeri’s Prussian Cuirassiers kit. They are certainly nice figures and look splendid in yellow. On the debit side however, the heads are a trifle oversized and the hats always seem to face the front of the body regardless as to whichever way the head is facing – which is a bit weird! To bypass this, I’ve chosen exclusively those figures whose hats are worn on the head at roughly the same angle.

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However, I resorted to a drastic head-swap operation for the officer figure. I cut off a trooper’s head and used a tiny section of pin to hold it all in place. I got a bit carried away with a hot pin resulting in – ahem – some slight melting! But I think he looks okay, nonetheless.

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Painting my chosen regiment, Von Beeren’s 2nd Cuirassiers, has been an unexpected challenge so far. Firstly, getting the yellow to look bright yet still vaguely akin to a natural fabric colour has been a learning curve. Secondly, some depictions of the regiment show a white crossbelt with red edges; my reproduction of this feature tested my painting skills considerably!

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The trumpeter had some variation in details requiring a red crest on his bicorne, a red tip to his plume and some shoulder detailing.

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I’ll be turning my attention to the horses soon. Curiously, I’ve painted these Prussian Cuirassier horses before in this project, having used them as modified replacements for the lamentable horses which came with Italeri’s Prussian Dragoons set (5th Prussian (Brandenburg) Dragoons (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #6)).

In addition to working on these figures, I confess I’ve been musing on other diversions and topics to explore. Heaven knows, I’ve got enough kits to turn my attention to, should I want to take a short breather from Napoleonic cavalry. More on this perhaps in a future post as my ideas start to take shape…

Bye for now,

Marvin

Yellow Fever

When I started the Napoleonic Cavalry Project back in the spring of 2015, eight of that year’s fifteen regiments were figures made by Italeri. Since then, some nine regiments and over 16 months later, Italeri have been entirely absent. Until now…

I’ve decided to return to Italeri after being tempted by their Prussian Cuirassier set. These cuirassiers depict the cavalry as they might appeared at the time of the destruction of the Prussian army at Jena-Auerstedt in 1806. This set is also the first Prussian regiment I’ve painted I’ve tackled in a while, since regiment #9 in fact, back in 2015.

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My ever-helpful assistant presents the latest box of figures. A cheap purchase courtesy of a model shop closure…

They are unique in the project so far in being the only regiment wearing a bicorne hat. British heavy cavalry would have also worn something similar around this time.

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Almost all the eleven Prussian Cuirassier regiments wore white uniforms in 1806, with the exception of only one – the 2nd regiment, known in 1806 as Von Beeren’s – and this is precisely the one I wish to paint simply because it wore very striking yellow coats (known as Kollets).

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I’ve never painted a yellow-coated soldier before, and have little idea how to go about shading a yellow. I’ve had a few dry runs with some spare figures and finally decided to paint over my usual black primer with some beige paint to make it easier to cover with the yellow. Then, after the application of some Vallejo Sun Yellow, I’ve shaded with a little Vallejo Desert Yellow (a light brown-yellow colour). The result is subtle, but I like it and think this has achieved about the best result I’ve managed so far, so I’m going to stick with it and press on.

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The main reason I had steered clear of this set until now was that I was unhappy with the way the sculptor had left the bicorne facing the same way regardless of whichever way the rider was looking, leaving the hat acting like some kind of compass needle! The understandable explanation was to accommodate the hat into the narrow mold, however it all looks quite absurd to have everybody’s hat always facing the same way and so I’ve simply used the figures whose heads (and hats) more or less face in the same direction.

One last thing; you may notice that these cavalrymen are missing something which might be considered an essential item for cuirassiers : namely a cuirass! This is because Prussian Cuirassiers abandoned the armour in 1790. The adoption or abandonment of the cuirass by cavalry was often subject to conflicting opinions. Some felt that cuirasses;

  • were too cumbersome in a melee;
  • or were so heavy for the horse and rider to wear that it slowed them down and made unhorsed men very vulnerable (Wellington described the sight of fallen French cuirassiers as looking like helpless turtles flipped on to their backs);
  • or placed a premium on finding enough large, strong horses to carry the extra weight;
  • or were not worth the extra expense;
  • or ultimately were useless as they didn’t stop musket balls. They most certainly didn’t stop cannonballs, either…
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A cuirass of the 2nd Carabiniers worn by the desperately unfortunate 23-year-old François-Antoine Fauveau.

Others felt however that;

  • the cuirass provided an enormous advantage against enemy cavalry sabres;
  • they made for an intimidating sight, creating the heaviest of heavy cavalry;
  • they reduced casualties and made the wearer feel safer, thereby boosting morale.

There were, perhaps inevitably, those who preferred to adopt a compromise solution of wearing only half of the full cuirass. In such cases, only the front half was worn as it was often felt that having protection on the back might encourage the practice of cowardly retreats!

Now to get back to my ‘yellow jackets’. I’ll be posting updates in due course.

Marvin

Lifeguard Dragoons (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #23)

The Russian Lifeguard Dragoons are now finished and they can join their sister regiment the Lifeguard Cossacks which I completed back in 2015. These Zvezda figures are very elegantly sculpted and beautifully proportioned. The sculpting is so subtle, however, that painting them effectively has been a real challenge. I will admit to liking a little bit more crispness in my sculpting than I’ve found in this set. But with some effort, the end result is satisfying and the Lifeguard Dragoons can proudly take its place as the 23rd regiment in the project.

Let me state – I am not a fan of pegs and holes when it comes to assembling plastic 1/72 scale figures. Maybe I’m just ham-fisted when it comes to putting these things together, but I’m not feeling confident that they would survive any careless handling. To get the riders on the horses, I found it far simpler to cut off the pegs and just rely on glue instead. After coping with some traumas, I used glue and a little modelling clay on the base of the horses to better secure them to the stands which comes with the set.

Some horses (possibly down to my assembly mistakes) look like they are in the process stumbling head first into the ground!

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Woah! Do we have a faller, here?

Another horse pose I managed to get to stay in place solely thanks to glue alone, the two pegs proving insufficient to keep it upright.

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Glue defies gravity!

Aside from three boxes of standard troopers, I also bought a “Command” set of figures which supplied an officer, a flag bearer and a trumpeter.

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Officer, Lifeguard Dragoons.
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Trumpeter, Lifeguard Dragoons

I foolishly misplaced the sword, sabretache and scabbard for the flag bearer. Instead there’s a hole ready on his thigh to attach the scabbard should I a) locate it, or b) replace it with another substitute. Additionally, I should confess that I wasn’t able to source the correct flag for this regiment and so simply resorted to choosing my own design!

Much as I admire this set I’m pleased I’ve finally got this one under my belt.

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With this set now completed, I’ve painted three Russian regiments in a row; the Astrakhan Cuirassiers, Sumy Hussars and now the Lifeguard Dragoons, all of which were manufactured by Zvezda. As wonderful as Zvezda’s figures are, it is perhaps time for a change of country and manufacturer?

I’m hoping to attempt a set next with some really crisp details but I’m still prevaricating over the next regiment, so expect an announcement soon. Until then; it’s time for the usual pictures and regimental biography…

 


Biography: Lifeguard Dragoons [Russia]

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The Lifeguard Dragoons were established in 1809 from squadrons previously belonging to the Grand Duke Constantine’s Uhlans. Taking their inspiration from Napoleon’s Dragoons of the Imperial Guard, it took its place in the Tsar’s Lifeguard Cavalry Corps alongside regiments of hussars, cossacks, cuirassiers or ‘Lifeguard Horse’.

Whilst they might have lacked some of the prestige or dramatic uniforms of the Hussars or Cuirassiers, they were were undoubtedly well trained, disciplined and considered superior to other Dragoon regiments of the line.

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Present at the battle of Borodino, the Lifeguard Dragoons were under Uvarov’s 1st cavalry corps, together with other Lifeguard regiments (the Lifeguard Cossacks, Lifeguard Uhlans and Lifeguard Hussars). During this 1812 campaign, they would get the chance to meet their inspiration, Napoleon’s Dragoons of the Guard. In one incident, the Lifeguard Dragoons ambushed and destroyed two squadrons of French Guard Dragoons. A force under General Ivan Dorohov, which included Cossacks and two squadrons of Lifeguard Dragoons, attacked French convoys and transports capturing 1,500 prisoners. The French countered with a small force which included 150-250 French Old Guard Dragoons which were then subsequently ambushed and destroyed at Bezovka by two squadrons of the Lifeguard Dragoons. To French General Caulaincourt, this annihilation of 150 dragoons was greeted in Napoleon’s headquarters with more dismay than “the loss of 50 generals.”

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After Napoleon’s ejection from Russia, the long campaign began which would ultimately push the Napoleon all the way back to Paris. In Kulm in 1813 the Lifeguard Dragoons spearheaded the massive cavalry charge against Vandamne’s infantry. The dragoons attacked the front and ran down one regiment whilst other regiments concentrated on the enemy’s flanks. In April 1813 the dragoons were awarded with St. George standards.

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In the great battle of Leipzig in 1813, the French cuirassiers routed them in the cavalry battle fought near Gulden-Gossa’s ponds. The following year, the Lifeguard Dragoons fought in the massed cavalry battle of Fère Champenoise for which they achieved the Russian military awards of 22 St. George trumpets.

Notable Battles: Borodino, Bezovka, Kulm, Leipzig, Fere Champenoise.

 

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