Seasonal Soldiery on Parade

This year’s Christmas decorations are already up and, therefore, so are my two new Christmassy regiments; The Mistletoe Guards and the Midwinter Fusiliers! Handmade flags (by my daughter) flying, I first assembled them proudly parading on their specially made plaques:

And here they are either side of the mantelpiece where they will stand guard for the duration of the season:

The Mistletoe Guards

Having showcased my Midwinter Fusiliers last week, I’m now in a position to share the other regiment which is also due to take its place as part of this year’s household Christmas decorations. Introducing the newly raised Mistletoe Guards!

The figures are 1.72 scale from Zvezda’s Prussian Grenadiers of Frenderick II set. There are only three of these figures in each set but I got lucky in finding a seller on eBay who had clearly bought a number of boxes but had no use for the standing or marching poses. For soldiers intended to simply stand to attention over the fireplace during December, they were perfect.

The Mistletoe Guards’ uniform is closley based on another regiment I’ve long-since admired. The Grand Duchy of Stollen blog has a beautifully painted regiment known as the Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja’s Own) Grenadiers. I’ve long been an admirer of this fabulous and venerable blog and this particular regiment’s brightly coloured uniform always impressed greatly.

So, in humble tribute to that wonderful Stollenian regiment, my festive Mistletoe Guards have been carefully painted to mimic their B Company (with yellow pompoms).

As usual for the Christmas Corps, the Guards are deep in snow (courtesy Woodlands Scenics) and the pennies upon which they are based have bright blue glitter around the edges for added seasonal decoration. I was planning on adding a little mistletoe to their grenadier caps but thought that would only cause untold havoc in the ranks should any ladies visit during the festive period.

As with all the regiments in my Christmas project, my daughter Eleanor has designed a fabulous regimental standard. It features mistletoe on a pale green base, the name of the regiment underneath, and is all edged with light blue and red. The figure of the ensign is from HaT’s Prussian Seven Years War Infantry Command range.

The mounted officer is also from HaT’s Prussian Command set, the Midwinter Fusiliers’ mounted colonel being from their Austrian box. The officer, a gentleman altogether more reliable than the rest of his command, has a spring of misteltoe in his tricorne hat. Colonel Hoarfrost of the Midwinter Fusiliers was mounted on a horse I named ‘Blitzen’. I think the Mistletoe Guards’ officer (Major Frank Incense), rides a fine, forward-going, dun stallion of Italian pedigree and known as “Panettone”…

Finally, there is an NCO of the guard keeping the ranks in order with a large spontoon.

So my newly raised regiments are intensively drilling for their decorative role on the fireplace. As soon as the Christmas decs are up, I’ll post them in situ on their specially made and labelled plinths.

Christmas Decks

My basing arrangements for the two new Christmas infantry regiments progressed well. I ordered online what I thought was two mdf plinths when in fact it was two half-dozen! Never mind, it’s worked out very nicely. The bases were cheap and I intend to customise them over time for each regiment in the Christmas Corps anyway.

A game of Jenga, anyone?

Here’s the two finished bases for this year’s new regiments; The Midwinter Fusiliers and the – as yet unpresented – Mistletoe Guards. I’ve gloss-varnished the top decks with a few coats and painted the surround in black with a just a dash of brightly coloured coloured glitter (blue for the Mistletoe Guards and white for the Midwinter Fuzileers). Engraved plaques indicate the name of the regiment on parade.

But that’s not all. Although, they are not due to take a tour of duty on the mantelpiece this year, I noticed that my artillery, Cracker Battery, where already in a diorama that was too big for any single plinth.

So, I bonded two plinths together to accomodate it.

To help me expand the original snowy scene further and fully fill out the new base, I ordered some more wintry scenery items over the internet. Snow covered fir trees (or perhaps that’s spruce?) have been added to the scene and I’ve drilled some holes into the base before gluing their wire trunks in place.

I’ve also added a weathered, old country fence in the background to which I’ll later add a dusting of my own snow. Yes, I know that would ordinarily cause ammunition supply problems but for Cracker Battery, ammunition is all around them – snow!

Next, I add some white modelling clay to build up around the base…

Once the clay dries, there’s fake snow to add to the base and the fence. The black edges need work and plaque too. I feel it still needs just a little something else in the scene’s composition but I’ll share finished results in due course!

Feztive Fuzileers

“We are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.”

Laura Ingalls Wilder
Captain de Winter of the 1st Noel Regiment of Foot rides his trusty mare “Tinsel” through the snowy town of Advent…

As December looms; here in the UK the days get shorter, the nights get darker and, what’s more, I turn to my hobby with its little rituals and traditions. Once such tradition is my preparation for December’s Christmas decorations. This primarily takes the form of yearly expanding my ‘Christmas Corps’ of festive figures.

Every year since 2013 I have paraded 1/72 scale soldiers, specially-painted with a seasonal twist, on the mantelpiece in the living room. Forming part of our Christmas decorations, these colourful 18th Century-style regiments have Christmas-themed names and commonly feature holly in their helmets, tinsel in their tricornes, and snow on their shoes. And in the case of last year’s artillery group, known as Cracker Battery, even a snowman and snow cannonalls can feature too.

So far, the Christmas Corps is made up figures representing the following:

Figures suitable have been limited to Revell’s classic 7YW range which thankfully have been recently reissued albeit with the disappointing exception of their very wonderful Austrian artillery set.

Cracker Battery with snowman

HaT meanwhile have reissued their own hitherto out-of-stock Prussian 7YW infantry range and also released a new Austrian infantry range to boot. Great news for fans of the 7YW in 20mm and I naturally wondered if I could make use of these impressive HaT figures in my Christmas Corps alongside the existing Revell versions.

Finally, Zvezda some years ago also produced a box of “Prussian Grenadiers of Frederick the Great” which featured their usual very high standards of sculpting and production. That box is increasingly hard to come by nowadays but I had a box in storage and was also fortunate to discover a seller on eBay who was getting rid of some second-hand figures – most of which were those posed either marching or standing to attention. These poses are perfect for any regiment whose martial intentions are limited to merely standing on the mantelpiece during Christmas – so I secured them at a very reasonable discount.

A Carolling Hussar with red tinsel in his mirleton.
Gold tinsel in the tricorne for this Christingle Dragoon.

So it comes as no surprise to say that I’ve been hard at it lately with these figures with the intention of raising two more infantry regiments for the Christmas Corps. With the 1st Noel Regiment and the Yule Grenadiers as the 1st infantry brigade, I intend these two new ones to form the 2nd infantry brigade. First off, I’ve been using HaT’s Prussian infantry Marching set to raise some fusiliers. The HaT Prussian infantry box comes with a choice of headdress; grenadier mitres, fusilier caps or musketeer tricornes and I’ve opted for the fusilier caps to create the first regiment in the new II Infantry Brigade.

Presenting

The Midwinter Fuzileers!

The Midwinter Fuzileers (note pretentious antique spelling) wear grey coats with flat-blue waistcoats and breeches. Their gaiters and facings are white. Fusilier caps have silver plates with a red fabric backing.

With the 1st Noel wearing dark red, and the Yule Grenadiers wearing white, I wanted a very contrasting uniform. Designing a new uniform is one of the great pleasures of the Christmas Corps project and after a few false starts, the neutral grey / mid-blue/ white combination seemed to work nicely – very smart!

Their officer, Colonel Hoarfrost is from the HaT Prussian Command set and is mounted on a faithful steed whom we shall call “Blitzen”. Since these photos were taken, Blitzen’s saddle cloth has been decorated with a yellow star to mimic the motif on the regimental flag. In his tricorne, this Christmas dandy wears some evergreen foliage decorated with pink tinsel:

He is ably supported by an NCO carrying a spontoon.

Their flag, carried by an ensign, has been designed by my daughter. This is a service which she has faithfully provided me with since designing the flag of the 1st Noel Regiment back in 2014!

Flag of the 1st Noel Regiment designed by my (then) 6 or 7 years old daughter.

Hitherto, any festive figures have simply been placed loosely above the fireplace in a group. This year, I’ve decided to provide a more formal presentational platform which I’m currently gluing, painting and varnishing like some deranged Geppetto. More on this soon.

I’m also now working on the other regiment – something which I confess to being quite excited about! This regiment will be presented when they’re ready to take their place on the mantelpiece on their own platform hopefully within a week.

#37 Regiment: 2nd Hussars + Uhlan Squadron [Duchy of Brunswick]

Okay, so the 37th Regiment in the Napoleonic Cavalry Project is actually two regiments as it incorporates a troop of uhlans for good measure…

My approach to painting black uniforms is no doubt excessively complex – after all, when all’s said and done, they all just look… well, black!

The box comes with 9 hussars and 3 uhlans. Firstly – the 2nd Brunswick Hussar Regiment:

Nine hussars in total all wearing their finery, pelisses, shakos and plumes. One arm ‘option’ included a bugle which I’ve used and assigned to the grey horse.

I’ve never been a fan of separate arms glued onto pegs – they never seem too secure to me, but I recognise it provides some interesting extra choices. One of the figures with fixed arms had a broken sabre which I cut off completely to hopefully give the impression of simply riding.

On the shako is a white skull and crossed bones (the Totenkopf in German), which appeared on both cavalry and infantry regiments in the army of Brunswick.

For the uhlans, with only three figures in the box I wanted to make sure that all my lancers were carrying lances, although the other arm options were available.

The czapkas worn by these uhlans have an attractive colour scheme – light blue cloth with yellow piping. These colours mimic the colours of the Duchy’s flag, which was similar to the Ukrainian flag of today.

To be honest, I didn’t have much faith on these uhlans looking all that impressive but I think they’ve turned out quite nicely.


Biography: 2nd Hussars and Uhlan squadron [Brunswick]

In 1809 Prince Frederick William, Duke of Brunswick, raised a corps of soldiers to fight the French, who had occupied his country since it’s defeat in the Jena Campaign of 1806-07. The whole army were called ‘Black Brunswickers’ because they wore black uniforms in mourning for their lost independence. Brunswick had been absorbed into the newly formed Kingdom of Westphalia which had Napoleon’s brother on the throne.

Brunswick Oels Corps (including left – a hussar) 1812, by Charles Hamilton Smith. National Army Museum.

After an initially successful uprising, Duke Frederick William eventually was forced to England where his army of over 2000 troops (including cavalry) formally entered British army. Now known as the Brunswick Oels Hussar Regiments, the Peninsular War (1808-1814) saw them fight at the battle of Fuentes de Onoro, Salamanca, Vitoria, the Pyrenees, Nivelle, the Nive, and Orthez.

In 1815, the Duke of Brunswick re-raised his army and took two cavalry regiments into the 100 days capaign; the 2nd Brunswick Hussars (684 sabres in 4 squadrons under Major Cramm) and a single squadron of lancers (just 235 men under Major Pott) .

Brunswickers at the Battle of Quatre Bras by Richard Knötel (1857-1914) [Public domain]. Infantrymen in their black uniforms are shown supported by Brunswick ‘avant garde’ light troops in grey.

The entire Brunswick contingent was heavily engaged in the Battle of Quatre Bras with the cavalry incurring 46 casualties which included the fatalities of not only the Duke himself but also the Brunswick Hussars’ own commander, Major Cramm.

The Death of the Duke of Brunswick in a contemporary print. The Duke is being aided by some of his hussars.

In Wellington’s despatch of the 19th June, he praised the contribution of the Brunswick troops and their commander;

The troops of the 5th division, and those of the Brunswick corps (The Black Brunswickers), were long and severely engaged, and conducted themselves with the utmost gallantry. Our loss was great, as your Lordship will perceive by the enclosed return; and I have particularly to regret His Serene Highness the Duke of Brunswick, who fell fighting gallantly at the head of his troops.” 

During the Battle of Waterloo, Wellington thought it prudent to keep the battle-scarred Brunswick cavalry far from the front line, in reserve near the centre. Consequently, they were only called into action during the latter stages of the battle, counter-attacking the French cavalry attacks costing them a further 92 casualties.


Notable Battles: Fuentes de Onoro, Salamanca, Vitoria, Quatre Bras, Waterloo.

Back in Black

Well, I’m back in black. Yes, I’m back in black.

AC DC

Plenty of free time yesterday allowed me to spend some time preparing the evening meal and – best of all – painting my soldiers. More correctly in this instance, I was painting their horses. Yes – I’m back at the Napoleonic Cavalry Project with the 37th Regiment in the collection. You can make up your own mind whether having painted 37 Napoleonic cavalry regiments is something to be proud of…

Still in progress: Brunswickian equines

When they were available, I prevaricated over purchasing Napoleonic HaT’s Brunswick Cavalry box. HaT figures are always nice, but they don’t often excite me a great deal. As the Nappy Cavalry Project progressed and options for new sets declined, I found myself belatedly wishing I’d secured a box before it had sold out. So it was with some pleasure that I discovered that HaT were releasing the set recently as part of a raft of re-releases.

Another Nap cavalry box presented by my assistant.

During the 1806 invasion of Prussia by Napoleon, one of the Prussian Field Marshalls, the Duke of Brunswick, had been mortally wounded during the Battle of Auerstedt. The Duchy of Brunswick itself spent the next five years as part of the Napoleonic kingdom of Westphalia, occupied by French troops.

The Duke’s son, himself a major general in the Prussian army, loathed the French as much as his father and dedicated himself to fighting for liberation for his Duchy. He raised a corps which became known in England as the Black Brunswickers for their all-black uniforms (apparently adopted ‘in mourning’ for their homeland). After some initial success, he and his troops fled to Britain to become part of the British army where they faught in the Peninsular War. A re-raised Brunswick corps faught at Quatre Bras (where – like his father – the Duke was killed fighting the French) and also at Waterloo where they saw the French finally defeated.

Death of the Black Duke By Friedrich Matthäi (1777–1845), Public Domain.

The Duke’s Black Brunswicker corps have been reproduced in various ways by HaT and recently by Strelets. The Brunswick Corps cavalry consisted of a regiment of hussars and a squadron of uhlans, both wearing the ubiquitous black uniform. HaT’s Brunswick cavalry box reflecting the relative sizes of the regiments includes 3 uhlan figures and 9 figures of the hussars.

Even his dog is black – “The Black Brunswicker” by John Everett Millais – John Everett Millais, Public Domain.

The pre-Raphaelite painter Millais, painted the above in 1860 following a conversation with William Howard Russell of the Times:

My subject appears to me, too, most fortunate, and Russell thinks it first-rate. It is connected with the Brunswick Cavalry at Waterloo…They were nearly annihilated but performed prodigies of valour… The costume and incident are so powerful that I am astonished it has never been touched upon before.

In terms of my own painting, I’ve been here before – painting black-uniformed Germanic hussars in 2015 in the early days of the project. These were Waterloo 1815’s Prussian Leib Hussars who also wore the death’s head symbol on their shakos. The key difference between those Prussian uniforms and the Brunswick Hussars is that the Brunswickers go even further with all that Gothic blackness, having black lacing and black breeches too.

Prussian Leib Hussars by Waterloo 1815

Better get back to those horses. Speaking of which, I’ve come to the conclusion that my horse painting technique has stood still for too long and have pledged to slowly develop my ‘repartoire’. Firstly, I’ve turned my attention to my dun horses. We own a dun pony called Woody, so I feel it’s important I always paint at least one in any given regiment. Trouble is, I’ve never been quite happy with them, so I’ve changed the colour mix and I’m already a little happier with the shade for the coat.

Next, inspired by Bill’s magnificent dapple grey from his glorious Spanish hussars (Tiny Wars Played Indoors blog), I might turn my hand at some variations too. Palominos, Piebalds or Strawberry Roans anyone?

Ottomania: The Harbaci Palace Gate Guard (Jannisaries)

Continuing with my steadily expanding Ottoman Turkish army, I’m turning my attention back to the elite Janissaries. The Janissaries were organised into three separate sections.

  • the cemaat (frontier troops); consisting of 101 ortas (battalions)
  • the bölük (the Sultan’s own bodyguard); 61 ortas
  • the sekban; 34 ortas

My previous orta represented a battalion from the largest corps, the cemaat; the 73rd orta were known as the Crane Keepers (Tenercis), a reference to their origins as part of the Sultan’s vast hunting retinue.

Man of the 73rd orta (the Crane Keepers)

The Yeniçeri Ocaği, or Janissary Corps, aside from being an elite military force also acted as the Sultan’s personal bodyguard, protecting their ruler and his senior officials and property. Specifically, the security of the Sultan was the responsibility of the Bostanci Bashi, the head of the what were known as Bostanci guards. The Bostanci corps of ‘gardeners’ palace guards were a separate, specialised part of the Janissary corps. Their role involved the policing and maintenance of the many palaces and estates in Istanbul.

Painting of Sultan Selim III holding audience at Topkapi Palace
by Konstantin Kapıdağlı – Badisches Landesmuseum, Public Domain.

And it’s with the Bostanci in mind that I’ve painted the next Janissary battalion in the Ottomania project. It is from the Sultan’s bodyguard or bölük division – specifically, the 56th orta – and this battalion supplied troops for the 60-strong Harbaci Palace Gate Guard. They were also known as the Çardak orta after the district on the Golden Horn in Istanbul where they were pemanently stationed.

The Harbaci Palace Guard were detailed for the protection of both the Grand Vizier and the Janissary Agha (senior commander of the Janissaries, taking orders only from the Sultan himself). The 56th’s unit insignia curiously appears to have been a sea-going galley.

Bostanci guard by an anonymous Greek artist, ca. 1809 – Public Domain

Having no evidence of what my selected orta looked like, I took a little inspiration from the above depiction of an 1809 guard of the Bostanci, wearing predominantly red clothing.

There are still some figures remaining in the box, which I intend to use at some point for the final corps; the Sekban. I’m not sure when that will be, as a number of other figures are now calling for my attention!

Ottomania – Topçu Ocağı Corps Completed!

Campaigns consisted of invasions by great armies of the Ottomans, with heavy parks of artillery… The generals opposed to them, not being able to meet the Turks in the field, spread their forces in numerous fortresses, more or less strong, and the campaigns consisted in besieging these fortresses. With rare exceptions, these sieges were successful. The Turks brought overwhelming forces to bear on them. Their siege guns completely overmatched the guns of the defence. It was a question of a few days or a few weeks how long these fortresses could resist. From “The Turkish Empire, its Growth and Decay” by Baron G. Shaw-Lefevre Eversley (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/46481)


I’ve been beavering away these past few weeks finishing off my collection of RedBox Ottoman Artillery (known as the Topçu Ocağı).

The pace of industrial development being slow during this period, the 16th Century Artillery box is broadly similar to their 17th Century set (but with different poses) so depicted wearing the same uniform colour, the sets will match well together.

As mentioned previously, I also had one stray broken cannon left over from the 16th Century Siege Artillery set. I’ve now put that right to make it a total of four of these siege gun teams, each with a mighty wall-smashing artillery piece. I confess to a macabre liking for these monsters of cannonry.

The 16th century artillery box includes some very pleasing poses, including these struggling ammunition carriers which, from their headdress, apppear to be janissaries which have been dragooned into the laborious task:

I also particularly like the ear-protecting character in a fez, seen here standing next to the officer in a large turban:

The plastic cannon pieces themselves are a trifle bendy but it is an effect that is not too noticeable. The carriages, however, I think look convincingly solid.

So, over the past year I’ve somehow managed to make myself a besieging Ottoman artillery corps (in Turkish; Topçu Ocağı) all being neatly entrenched behind earth-filled gabions,and consisting of 12 big guns, namely:

It all makes for a reasonably imposing sight when stretched out as a siege line across the lounge carpet. Even more imposing to a nervous population cowering behind it’s city walls, I should think! Not a bad start to my Ottomania project, all in all.

I’ve enjoyed branching out into a different era to the 18th / 19th centuries and you could say it’s expanded my horizons. I’ve already painted some Janissaries and there is plenty more in the RedBox range to expand my Ottomania project even further.

What’s more, I couldn’t resist purchasing some other 16th/17th Century troops from a rival nation state that I saw going very cheap on eBay recently, so there’s definitely some life in this project for some considerable time to come.

Ottoman Artillerymen

By way of a quick progress update while the cannon, gabions and basing are underway, I thought I’d share my Ottoman artillery figures of the Topçu Ocağı artillery corps.

Three gun crews have been painted; x2 teams of eight figures each and x1 siege artillery gun team of four figures. The 16th century crews come with two men carrying what appears to be large leather bag of cannon balls. I’m still painting the bag but when it’s finished should make for a nice scene.

More heavy lifting of ammunition:

Light my fire – Turkish portfire carriers:

Turbans indicate the officers in charge. The siege gun commander holds a brass quadrant, an instrument for calculating the required elevation of the gun.

Ramrod holders:

So, all these fellows are just patiently awaiting the development of their dioramas, which I’ll share when complete!

Ottomania – Last of the Topçu Ocağı

I began the year painting figures from what was both an unusual topic and an unusual era for me; 16th/17th century troops of the Ottoman Empire. Specifically, I focused on their artillery corps (the Topçu Ocağı). These are impressive sculpts from RedBox which was a key reason why I was drawn to them in the first place. Using resin-cast gabion gun emplacements, I created mini dioramas from their following sets:

That left just one more box untouched from RedBox’s Turkish artillery releases; the 16th Century field artillery set.

When I made my 16th Century Siege Artillery earlier this year, I only attempted 3 of the 4 guns in the box as I had a) inexplicably lost one of the gun crew and b) carelessly cut through the axle on the gun carriage! Happily, the missing Ottoman artilleryman finally turned up after a month hiding behind the sofa (thereby not demonstrating the kind of martial qualities required as a member of the Topçu Ocağı of the Kapikulu Corps). Turning my attention to the broken cannon, I had to get creative.

One of my finished siege gun crews from earlier in the year.

So I’ve embarked on a bit of scratch-building by cutting away the broken axle and drilling a hole through the carriage. Next, I used a scalpel to whittle away a cocktail stick to act as a replacement axle. I still had trouble getting it through the hole which I resolved by cutting deep into the carriage so that it sat convincingly on top the axle instead.

You’d have to know how hopeless I am at such practical construction to understand how ridiculously pleased I am with my handywork. I feel like an engineer! My engineer father will be impressed, I’m sure.

I’ve been painting 20 artillerymen figures and they’re approaching completion. So, I’m now working on the big guns…

…and also tackling the resin-cast gabions which have been a feature of these artillery teams.

My remaining gabions from Anyscale Models

I’ve said before that there is significant doubt that there was any real standardised uniform for the Turkish Topçu Ocağı, but I readily confess that I like the uniformity of miniature figures in my painting. Furthermore, I think it suggests something of the relatively advanced professionalism of the Ottoman artillery at a time when their corps were peerless in Europe.

My 16th Century artillery will deliberately look similar to these 17th Century Ottoman field artillery figures I painted.

Finally, I’m also thinking that these figures could also stand nicely as being the artillery of a wargaming imagi-nation; perhaps a fictitious Islamic nation, constantly at war with other neighbouring 17th century Balkan lands, Tsarist Russia or North African states. The Sultanate of Al-Suburbia, perhaps, or the Caliphate of Militaristan?

The Sultan of Al-Suburbia? A Red Box commander from my Jannisaries set.