Leib-Kurassiere Garde (Nappy Cavalry Project Regiment #26)

I can now just about sign off my box of Zvezda’s Saxon Cuirassiers. I say ‘just about’ because there are some holes requiring filling in. These holes appear on the horse furniture and are to attach the carbines. Sadly, I found the carbines to be a pain in the ass to fix to the figure and so abandoned all but five of them. Even then I didn’t get the pegs into the holes!

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Fiddly firearms aside, the rest of the kit is very impressive and is yet another set that Zvezda can be very proud of. My only quibble might be that some of the detail is just too subtle, all of which makes bringing the detail to life so much harder! Hopefully, I’ve not done them a disservice.

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You may notice all of the figures are looking to the side, something which aided the production of the figures within the mould, no doubt. I could have perhaps given the heads a twist for variety but actually I like the poses well enough.

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Painting figures which are almost entirely white and black, like the Leib Cuirassiers, means limited opportunities for shading and highlighting nice, bright colours. Monochrome figures can also look pretty plain on photos as shading detail largely disappears under my budget camera lens.

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Nonetheless, it’s hard not to like this regiment’s uniform which stands out nicely in contrast to other cavalry regiments in my project. The black cuirass, which was looking far too shiny in my last post, has been dulled nicely with a lick of matt varnish.

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You may notice that I’ve added some purple/blue flowers (Lavender? Forget-me-nots?) to the ground across which they’re charging. There’s a nice touch of springtime about them – which is precisely what seems to be sadly absent from the UK so far this year (as I look out of the window it continues to be cold, grey and wet).

The command figures in the set are as follows:

The Officer:

He wears a more ornate cuirass (I shared a picture of a real example in my previous post) with lots of yellow braid and a black crossbelt. He also has a white plume which came separate on the sprue and required attaching on – amazingly I did this without any trouble! I realise now that I still need to paint his pistols which are attached to the horse furniture.

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The Flag Bearer:

The regimental standard features a white background with white and red fringes. In the centre is a wreath of leaves surrounding a yellow and green striped shield with a green diagonal stripe underneath a crown. On the reverse is the King’s cypher.

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The Trumpeter:

The Leib trumpeter is mounted on a grey, as is usual for cavalry regiments, and unlike the rest of his regiment does not wear a cuirass. The helmet crest is red, as is his jacket with a white collar – in reverse colours to the regiment. The trumpet is brass and has a white/blue/yellow cord attached.

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To end with, some more images and the usual regimental biography!


Biography: Leib-Kurassiere Garde [Saxony]

The regiment had its origins in 1680 as the Count von Promnitz Regiment. As such, it was one of the oldest cavalry regiments to be raised across Germany.

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After combining with the Crown Prince regiment 20 years later, it was to change it’s name a number of times. In 1735, it was known as the Kürassier-Leib-Regiment with the Elector of Saxony Friedrich August II as its colonel. Respective Saxon sovereigns continued this tradition until the final dissolution of the regiment in the 20th century. In 1764, it became the Kurfürst-Kürassier-Regiment and then was known by a number of minor variations upon that name thereafter. On 23 July 1734, the Saxon cuirassiers lost their previous red coats and received a white field coat instead, a change in colour which reflected the political alignment of Saxony with Austria. This new colour was to remain with them for some time.

The regiment rode principally black, dark bays and greys. As a rule, the darker-coloured horses were placed in the front rank, while the lighter-coloured horses were posted in the second rank. The cuirassiers had armour but it was often left it in the depots during wartime.

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Saxon Leib Cuirassier (7 Years War)

In the course of its history, the regiment participated in many battles and campaigns. It’s first real combat came as part of a force relieving the siege of Vienna, in 1683, which was being besieged by the Turks. In 1688, it took part in the Palatinate War of Succession and then in the 1701 Spanish War of Succession. It also fought in the Silesian wars of the 1740s, notably taking part in the battles of Hohenfriedberg and Kesselsdorf. In the following Seven Years War, it was briefly forced into Prussian service resulting in large-scale desertion by its troops who refused to serve the Prussians.

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Saxon Leib Curassiers c.1791

By the time of the 1806 Jena Campaign , the regiment was still known as the “Kurfürst” (or prince-elector’s) regiment and fought in the great defeat at Jena. After that disastrous campaign, the “Kurfürst” became known as the Regiment König-Kürassiere, (König = king) as a consequence of Saxony being elevated to the status of a Kingdom within Napoleon’s creation of the Confederation of the Rhine.

On 24th June 1807, the Regiment König-Kürassiere changed its name once again, achieving prestigious ‘Guard’ status to be known as the Leib-Kurassiere Garde. This was a reward for its most distinguished performance for Napoleon at the battles of Heilsberg and Friedland in 1807.

Napoleon and French Cuirassiers at Friedland, 1807.

Despite the losing many of its finest horses to the French army following the Jena defeat, Saxon heavy cavalry was considered excellently trained, exhibiting a professionalism long admired by other nations.

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pre-1810 Saxon Leib Cuirassier

On 22 Feb 1809, the Saxon army was mobilized again and the missing horses were replaced in time for war with Austria. The regiment subsequently impressed Napoleon at Wagram where the Leib Cuirassiers drove its Austrian Cuirassier counterparts from the field, inspiring Marshal Bernadotte to say “I have always counted on you but today you have surpassed my expectations!“.

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The Battle of Wagram

After 1810, the uniforms of the Saxon heavy cavalry changed significantly. The former Bicorne hat became a brass helmet featuring a brass comb with black woollen crest and white plume. A black fur turban wrapped around the helmet with officers wearing an additional gold oak leaf pattern overlaid. The regiment wore a black half-cuirass (only the front plates) lined red to match their facings.

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The Leib-Kurassiere Garde remained at home in Dresden during the 1812 invasion of Russia, acting as a royal escort to their king. Only the Von Zastrow and Garde du Corps guard heavy cavalry went into Russia. After this terrible campaign, it was the only Saxon heavy cavalry regiment which remained intact.

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The losses experienced during the war of 1812 forced the Saxon army to consolidate its heavy cavalry. In February 1813, a provisional cuirassier regiment was formed of men from the Von Zastrow and Leib-Kurassiere Garde regiments. As the 1813 Leipzig campaign developed, this regiment fought alongside the French at the battles of Bel Hautzen, Reichenbach, Dresden, Bautzen, Ostrand and Leipzig against the Prussians, Austrians and Russians.

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Saxon Cuirassiers and Russian Guard Cossacks

During the Battle of the Nations (Leipzig), 4 squadrons of the provisional regiment took part in an attack where they captured a Russian battery of 12 cannons and engaged the Russian dragoons that came to its aid. French service ended with Napoleon’s defeat at Leipzig. In 1814/15, now liberated from French control, the Leib-Kürassier-Guard took part in Field Marshal Blücher’s campaign against France leading to Napoleon’s eventual abdication.

The provisional regiment, which had absorbed the Leib-Kurassiere Garde, was to eventually become known as the 1st Royal Saxon Guards Heavy Cavalry (Garde-Reiter-Regiment) until finally disbanded on 31st March 1919, after the First World War.

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Saxon Garde-Reiter Regiment c.1907

Notable battles: Hohenfriedberg, Jena, Heilsberg, Friedland, Wagram, Dresden, Leipzig.

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Leib and Kicking

Thanks to the woeful bank holiday weather here in the UK, I’ve had plenty of indoor time in which to progress my Saxon Leib Cuirassiers. These are now, I’m happy to say, very well advanced. The riders are about finished, less the stirrups and spurs.

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The excellent, not-to-say generous, old-style Zvezda kit comes with a flag bearer, an officer and trumpeter. The officer has a white plume and a wonderfully ornate cuirass to distinguish him from the hoi-poloi of the rest of the regiment.

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I’ve given him a black crossbelt as 1) I believe that it was worn by Saxon cuirassier officers, and 2) quite frankly I preferred it to other possibilities. The officer also has gold wreath of leaves around the front of his helmet, not really visible on this photo. His cuirass has a brass royal cypher and studs around the edge. I found an example of one on the internet:

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As with the rest of the regiment, he has only a half-cuirass, the back being left unprotected to reveal his white coat.

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The Trumpeter wears reverse facings (i.e. a red coat and white collar instead of the exact opposite for the rest of the regiment). He does not wear a cuirass and has a distinctive red crest on his helmet. He has brass trumpet with ornately woven cord attached.

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The flag bearer has a flag which is, I believe, supposed to represent the Von Zostrow Cuirassiers. However, I understand from my research that the Leib regiment’s flag was very similar, all but identical but for colour differences and so must have looked much like my ‘attempt’ below. On one side of the flag in the centre, surrounded by a garland of leaves, is the Saxon coat of arms – a yellow and green striped shield with a green diagonal stripe under a crown:

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A closer view of the arms of Saxony

On the other side is the royal cypher surrounded by leaves under a crown. I admit that I wasn’t sure about the crossbelt for the flag bearer and so elected for black with gold trim.

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The rest of the men wear a plainer uniform with black crests, white crossbelts and the black half-cuirass. They lack the brass shoulder straps seen on the officer which I believe is simply a rare oversight by Zvezda.

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The collars and turnbacks are red with yellow trim and the cuirass is lined with red.

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I have to say that when I spend far, far too long than is sensible shading and highlighting all that white clothing and black crests to my satisfaction – it’s disappointing to find that virtually none of it shows up under the camera! You’ll just have to believe me when I say they look a little better to the eye…

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One other thing that I’ve noticed is that under the camera my cuirasses look more of steel gunmetal colouring than black. My approach is to mix black with gunmetal paint to get the required shade. This worked well but is at the cost of losing some of the metallic shiny surface. I’ve tried to restore the metallic sheen with a little gloss varnish but I now find that it reflects the light under the lens and now looks too metallic! I may add a little thin matt black paint to reduce the reflection a tad.

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Next on the painting table will be their horses. These are sturdy and well-sought-after Holstein horses – perfect for carrying their heavy cuirassier riders. Although Napoleon plundered the regiment for these Holsteins for his own cavalry in 1806-07 campaign, we can assume that they have since arranged remounts. I believe that the regiment would have had dark bay and black horses. I’ll make an exception for the trumpeter who will ride the usual grey.

Well, I’m loving being ‘back in the saddle’ painting Napoleonic cavalry, I have to admit!

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Steel-plated Saxons

Taking a break from the First World War, I thought it about time to dip back into the old Nappy Cavalry Project (the last regiment in the series – the Mamelukes – being painted in July of last year). The set I’ve chosen to paint is a box I’ve had lying around for a couple of years or so but never got around to painting them. Finally, the time is right to tackle Zvezda’s Saxon Cuirassiers.

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Thank you, young assistant. Presenting the latest in the Nappy Cavalry Project!

The figures are of Zvezda’s usual exceptional standard. These cuirassiers bear an uncanny resemblance to my Russian Cuirassiers of the same era which I painted over a year ago (see below example).

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Both Russian and Saxon cuirassiers wore white coats with headgear of brass helmets and a black comb. Both also were protected by a black cuirass. By chance, both nation’s cuirassiers found themselves on opposite sides in the Russian campaign of 1812, including the great battle of Borodino. The Saxons, as a part of the Napoleon-sponsored “Confederation of the Rhine”, accompanied the 1812 campaign and fought alongside the French until their defeat at Leipzig in 1813.

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Saxon heavy cavalry after 1800 numbered three Guard regiments, two of which – the Leib and the Von Zastrow regiments – were issued with front cuirass plates coloured black (there was no back plate worn).

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Saxon Cuirassiers – Leib Regt (left) and Von Zostrow (right)

So my choice is between these two; the Leib Regiment with red facings and the Von Zastrow with yellow (as illustrated above). As my previous Russian Cuirassier figures of the Astrakhan Regiment also wore yellow facings, to better differentiate I’ve chosen the Leib Curassiers as the 26th regiment in the project.

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In the Nappy Cavalry Project, I like to see as much variety as possible. This latest kit is certainly the first regiment from Saxony – which is good – but visually they will look similar to Zvezda’s Russians, even with facings coloured red. One area that I can differentiate them further, however, is in the riding overalls. My Russians wear campaign grey overalls on their legs whilst the Saxons are shown in buff on the cover of the box. This was their original colour prior to 1810, but the trouble is that most contemporary illustrations I’ve found show them wearing either grey overalls again or parade-ground white breeches.

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So, in keeping with the central figure shown in the wonderful old Richard Knotel illustration of the Leib Cuirassiers above, I’m opting for white breeches. I’ll simply paint over the row of buttons on the side of the legs. Not being a war-gamer, I’m happy that they look more ready for the parade ground than the battlefield. The red-jacketed trumpeter and shabraques should add a further dash of colour too.

Painting has begun already, so expect an update when they’re more progressed.

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Voilà les Poilus: French WWI Infantry (1914)

You’ll be pleased to note that this will be the last of my ‘franglais’ titles for a while because the French infantry are all finished. After posting on the machine gun teams from this set, I hereby present the remainder of my box of Caesar French WWI Infantry from 1914 (apologies for the slightly dingy photos lacking in daylight – I hate this time of year):

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Yep, these Caesar figures are very impressive. The proportions are good and the sculpting and mould are too.

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The only downside is that the soft plastic has allowed the rifles to occasionally bend and I have been unable to put them back into the correct position without them just bending right back again! I wouldn’t expect that the poilu on the left below will hit a great deal at any range…

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Aside from the machine gunners, the box also came with a small group of infantrymen lying prone on the ground. I’ve placed these together on the same base in a kind of firing line. Half of them are loading and the other half firing from behind a small rise in the ground. Despite the cover, the German army will have an easier time identifying where they are thanks to the bright red kepi on their heads. Furthermore, the kepi will not offer much protection when the bullets fly. The dull, all-metal Adrian helmet is yet to be adopted…

The officer I’ve painted with a blue cover over his red kepi, which is I believe named the ‘Saumur’ version,  which was usual by the time of the Great War. He has binoculars in  a case; a sword, which was pretty useless in modern combat; and a revolver, which was more useful in close combat. He has been sculpted blowing a whistle, a nice touch by Caesar as it was a vital communication tool on World War One battlefields. He also has spurs on his ankles which horse riding company commanders such as captains or lieutenants would have had. My rank cuff stripes of gold lace have been too widely spaced, I reckon.

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French officer blowing a whistle. Would have been handy for refereeing duties during the 1914 Christmas Truce…

This nicely thought out set also came with an interesting ‘walking wounded’ figure. He has presumably received a bullet or shrapnel wound to the left arm and been subsequently treated at a dressing station behind the lines. On reflection, I might get a bit bloodthirsty and add a little seeping through red paint to one or two of them white bandages. Convincingly, they have had their backpacks and weapons removed prior to receiving their treatment at the front. Presumably, they will be transported off somewhere to convalesce – lucky buggers!

So that’s the Caesar French poilu ticked off; the third group of figures from the First World War. Going through my embarrassingly excessive collection of soldiers, I’m in the process of considering what to do next and will no doubt reveal all soon.

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La Mitrailleuse

Mon Dieu! I’ve now completed the French WWI Infantry by Caesar Miniatures! Before I present the rest of the box, I thought I’d first showcase my machine gunners. The box includes three sets of these machine gun crews and I attempted two of them:

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In my limited knowledge of WWI armaments, I initially assumed the machine gun was a Hotchkiss, which took ammunition in the form of the long metal feed strip that one of the men can be seen holding, kneeling down and ready to insert into the side.

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The French did adopt the Hotchkiss guns but only, it seems, as late as 1917. At the beginning of the Great War, the French were using another model of machine gun; the Mitrailleuse Mle 1907 T, otherwise known as the St. Etienne.

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Beautifully painted contemporary postcard entitled “La Mitrailleuse”. Men can be seen holding the ammunition feed strip ready.

So, being 1914 figures, I must assume that they are using the St. Etienne Mle 1907 mitrailleuse (machine gun). This gun was a development from the disappointing Puteaux APX. Although superficially similar to the Hotchkiss, the St. Etienne was intentionally radically different in its design in a deliberate attempt by the French government to circumvent the patent held by the private firm Hotchkiss et Cie.

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French troops operating the much maligned Puteaux APX machine gun, forerunner to the St. Etienne.

The St. Etienne fired it’s 25-round metal strips of ammunition at a rate of fire which was adjustable between 80 and 650 rounds per minute. At a high rate of fire, I imagine the men feeding the 25-round magazines would have had their work cut out! The bullets were the standard 8mm Lebel and, as with the Chauchat light machine gun seen in use by my recent Serbian infantry figures, the St. Etienne suffered gravely from stoppages and maintenance issues in the dirty and difficult conditions on the front line.

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The St. Etienne Mle 1907 mitrailleuse. Note the seat low down on the rear leg. The small wheel and handle are presumably for elevation and direction changes.

The Hotchkiss was to considered to be much more reliable than the St. Etienne and was eventually adopted in mid-1917. Many obsolete St. Etienne’s were then sent to reserve units and allied armies such as the Italian or Romanian. forces

While I’ve been painting these machine guns, a little thought was nagging me about a Great War painting I vaguely recalled being titled “La Mitrailleuse”. Sure enough, I discovered it was the title of a 1915 painting featuring French soldiers at a machine gun position by Welsh artist and Great War soldier, Christopher Nevinson.

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“La Mitrailleuse” 1915 painting by C.R.W. Nevinson

A BBC article from a few years ago had this to say about Nevinson’s “La Mitrailleuse”:

“It is a portrait of this first experience of truly modern war – rooted, as it now was, in mass production and the mobilisation of organised industrial process. In the painting the men are drawn with the same hard, angular, rigid lines as the gleaming silver-grey gun they are operating – the men are robotised to become, with the fiercely powerful weapon they are wielding, complementary parts of a coordinated destructive enterprise, humanity absorbed into the killing machine.” The Faceless Men – by Allan Little

The men in the Nevinson painting are wearing metal Adrian helmets, having abandoned the red kepi. However, they all still have the blue overcoat and the soldier operating the weapon is clearly still wearing the famous red trouser. In this image, the echoes of romantic military uniforms from the past are fading fast, but not yet quite disappeared completely. Le Pantalon Rouge is the only vivid and bright colour appearing in the painting.

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Looking at my figures, it does seem that some respects an incongruous image – a soldier wearing a 19th century-style colourful uniform sitting at an icon of industrialised killing. With the eventual change away from Le Pantalon Rouge into less colourful, camouflaged uniforms, these men would indeed merge ever more closely with La Mitrailleuse and become simply part of the industry of killing.

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Praise is due to Caesar Miniatures for producing these machine gun teams which, even with my typically ham-fisted attempt at model construction, look rather impressive.

I’ll be presenting the remainder of the box of figures shortly…

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En Avant!

I’ve had a challenging week requiring visits both to the doctors and the dentists which, given my hopeless ‘white coat syndrome’ is the stuff of nightmares, so far as I’m concerned. What was worse, due to home improvements and other commitments, I was unable to so much as lay a single brush on my latest figures until today!

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A little application of Daler-Rowney matt vanish will take some of the shine off their coats.

So, it is now well and truly “en avant” with my French early WWI poilus! These early WWI French infantry by Caesar stand already well advanced. There’s lots to paint, plenty to do to improve upon from what’s already painted and significant little details still to add, but they’re definitely getting there.

My aim is to create separate bases for all the standing or kneeling figures.

 

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I’m also developing two separate machine gun (mitrailleuse) teams with each group on a separate base.

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Infantrymen in position for the as yet invisible mitrailleuse…
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Beautifully painted Tuck Oilette postcard showing French infantrymen with a mitrailleuse. An officer stands to the right.

And finally there are also six figures all lying down, either loading or firing their rifles. These will be based all together, lying low on the ground whilst taking pot shots at the advancing Bosch in the distance.

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Hopefully, I might get time to push them towards final completion by the very end of the week. Well, possibly

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En avant!

 

 

Le Pantalon Rouge

“Eliminate the red trousers? Never! Le pantalon rouge c’est la France!” (Former French Minister for war, M. Etienne)

As a small boy, one of the key aspects of military history that first attracted me to the subject were the illustrations of brightly-coloured 18th and 19th century uniforms. Of course, the reality of the brutality and horror of war was obscured by those radiant fabrics. Nevertheless, in this era, warfare had evolved in a manner that allowed fashion to blossom alongside function. As the 20th century loomed, these ‘lace wars’ were passing by, irrevocably changed by industrial progress and its deadly armaments. Concealment and camouflage was the only logical response to the modern battlefield and its increasingly deadly weaponry.

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A 1910 postcard showing red-trousered French line infantry marching past a monument to Napoleon. His past glories cast a long shadow over the French army even a whole century after his final campaign.

But there were some refuseniks to the harsh reality of modern industrial warfare. Romantic attachment to these old-style, colourful armies burned as brightly in the French imagination then as it did within me as a schoolboy. When the world went to its Great War in 1914, the French marched off looking much as they would have done fifty years or more before, with red trousers, red kepis, and blue coats.

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The attractive red trousers and kepi would make it even less likely their menfolk would ever ‘come back’

Why had they done this? Great Britain had long since learned of the necessity of concealment from modern weaponry.  In 1902, the French army had actually experimented with a grey-green uniform and helmet, parading with it through Paris, but it had not been adopted. At the inception of the war, some in the French military felt that a rushed change away from their traditional uniform in the name of concealment could be construed by the enemy as ‘cowardice’. Furthermore, the interests of French business which had a stake in the production of the old uniforms also played a part (red clothing dyers, chiefly!), but romance was surely key in ensuring that the French soldiers still retained their bright colour.

“[To banish] all that is colourful, all that gives the soldier his vivid aspect is to go contrary both to French taste and military function.” Echo de Paris.

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In truth, it was probably far more about taste than function. But I can well imagine that I might be one of those seeking ways to justify my instinctive reluctance to abandon the iconic glory of their colourful uniform.

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Early WWI German propaganda postcard making use of colour to more vividly show French prisoners being transported still in their red kepi’s and glowing ‘pantalon rouge’.

By 1915, with losses mounting, the French army bowed to the inevitable. The urgent need for less visible uniforms was being heeded and their initial emergency measures included coyly hiding those sacred red trousers under drab blue overalls. Soon, a new pale uniform colour was adopted (horizon blue) and, after first unsuccessfully trialling a metal skull cap worn underneath the red kepi, the all-metal Adrian helmet was adopted too.

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French infantry uniform sans pantalon rouge…

A cherished romantic tradition died on the day that the red trouser was abandoned, but far too many soldiers had died to bring about that demise. It was a sacrifice which had demonstrated that it was not ‘le pantalon rouge’ that was France, rather it was the men that had worn it.

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It will come as no surprise, then, that I will be painting some French WWI infantry in their 1914 guise. Caesar Miniatures is a manufacturer that I haven’t used before. At first glance their figures look excellent, in my opinion. The only downside being the curious omission of any crossbelt straps and the softness of the plastic. I’ll be reaching for the red paint to make a start very soon…

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My young assistant steps up once more to present my latest box of figures…

 

#FEMbruary Challenge Complete: Catherine the Great!

My contribution to the FEMbruary challenge, a 28mm metal figure of Catherine the II of Russia is now finished! Here is the great lady herself astride her grey; Brilliant.

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In a previous post, I observed how this Bad Squiddo figure was cleverly based upon an original portrait of the empress painted by a Swede named Vigilius Eriksen. You can observe below just how my figure compares with it’s original inspiration:

I’ve based her on a kind of rough track, complete with grasses and flowers, on her way to suggest to her husband Peter III that he should maybe consider abdicating in favour of her. Something about the sharpness of her glittering sword lends further weight to her suggestion…

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I used a shade of blue for her sash appropriately called “Royal Blue”, which I think looks the business.

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Getting her face ‘satisfactory’ was an interesting challenge what with me not being used to painting female faces. It’s always easier to create an acceptable looking face when it’s covered over with a luxuriant moustache or bushy beard! That’s one terrific thing about FEMbruary – guiding me into neglected territory. I’m pleased to say that – no doubt thanks more to the sculptor than the painter – I think the face looks suitably feminine.

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Catherine’s long hair can be seen to cascade down her back, tied with a black bow.

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And after that admittedly modest submission, and with the end of February fast approaching, I bow out of #FEMbruary. If FEMbruary in some way encourages more women into the hobby; encourages more appropriate female miniatures to be manufactured; or just enables us bloke modellers to reconsider female figures and their portrayal more carefully, then all to the good.

I urge visitors to check out the realistic female miniatures on Annie Norman’s splendid Bad Squiddo Games site and also check out some of the other participants terrific work:

Diamond Geezer

Just a quick update on my progress with my FEMbruary challenge – Bad Squiddo’s Catherine the Great and her horse “Brilliant”. The latter’s name refers to the Russian word for diamond. Well, the sculpting is a real gem, for sure (groan…).

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Brilliant – Catherine II’s grey

I’m not used to painting greys at 28mm, or in metal for that matter, so I’ve had to go back and re-adjust my paint job a couple of times. There is supposed to be a very slight dapple effect on the coat, but it’s got lost a little with those readjustments. Hopefully, the end result is satisfactory.

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Still a couple of things I’d like to do get Brilliant’s face looking slightly better. Unlike in Eriksen’s painting of Catherine the Great on Brilliant, I painted them in a light colour instead of black. This is correct for a grey – and what’s more, I am rather sad and very fussy about these things!

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I must confess that reproducing freehand all that rich, ornate embroidery seen on the saddle cloth isn’t something I’m a natural at. And it probably shows too, but it’ll do!

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Catherine herself is, I’d say, half to 2/3rd’s done. Her face and hair are up next, with plenty of other details still to do. All will be revealed when she’s finally finished and glued on to the back of Brilliant!

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The #FEMbruary Challenge!

I’m pleased to say that it appears that my previous post on the heroic female soldiers of Serbia has been particularly well-timed. Not only does it coincide with the 100th anniversary of the first piece of legislation extending voting rights to women in the UK, but it also coincides with #FEMbruary.

It was my friend from the Imperial Rebel Orc blog who drew my attention to FEMbruary – a painting challenge for this month intended to “celebrate females and highlight the dismal fact that our hobby is so male dominated“. The idea for the FEMbruary painting challenge has apparently originated with Lead Balloony.com. Well done, sir! A fine suggestion.
https://leadballoony.com/2018/01/29/more-eru-kin-and-the-fembruary-challenge

Suburban Militarism occasionally posts on topics related to women’s often overlooked role in conflict, military art and military history. Furthermore, this blog loves a communal challenge, and so I’ve ‘signed up’ to FEMbruary – a time for painting some female miniatures that celebrate, not demean, women. There was just a small matter of finding an appropriate female figure to paint, though. Not only are there not enough females in the hobby, there’s not enough female figures which are realistically proportioned and non-sexualised. Step forward, Bad Squiddo and the Dice Bag Lady!

Guided by the ever-knowledgeable Mark from Man of Tin blog, I checked out Bad Squiddo – a site dedicated to believable female miniatures! Quickly through the post came a perfectly sculpted figure together with a rather lovely Darjeeling tea bag to boot. My chosen FEMbruary figure from Bad Squiddo is one of the most powerful rulers of the 18th century; Catherine the Great of Russia!

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Born as Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, this German lady came to power after her ineffectual husband, Peter III, was assassinated. She proved to be an astonishingly successful ruler for Russia, reigning from 1762 to 1796. Catherine combined intelligence, shrewdness, an appreciation for the arts, knowledge of Enlightenment principles, and an autocratic ruthlessness whenever required. Like many other powerful autocrats, Catherine fed both her ego and her libido; she didn’t stint on palatial opulence and also enjoyed a long list of lovers.

She was also keenly aware of the need to dress to impress, or should that be Empress? Her magnificent dresses brought western fashions to the Russian court. In a subtle demonstration of her power, and to cement her relationship with army, some of these were military uniform inspired dresses and explicitly mimicked military fashions and colours of the day.

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Catherine the Great’s Uniform dress modeled after the uniform of the Life Guards Cavalry Regiment, St. Petersburg, Russia. 1789..
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Officer’s dress of Catherine the Great

For the Bad Squiddo figure, Catherine the Great eschews the fine dresses of court and appears in full military uniform, on a white charger with sword drawn.

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28mm Catherine the Great figure by Bad Squiddo Games

Catherine is wearing the full uniform of the Russian Life Guards. The Bad Squiddo figure (above) cleverly takes the Vigilius Eriksen portrait (below) as its inspiration.

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Equestrian portrait of Catherine II of Russia (1729-1796) – Catherine II of Russia in Life Guard Uniform on the Horse Brillante, by Vigilius Eriksen

The Eriksen portrait of her formed part of an enormous collection of paintings which Catherine acquired with the stupendous wealth that she enjoyed;

Among many portraits of the empress is Vigilius Eriksen’s Equestrian Portrait of Catherine II. She is on her horse Brilliant (Russian for “Diamond”) on the summer’s day in 1762 when she set out from St Petersburg to demand the abdication of her weak, stupid and unpopular husband, Peter III. Her backers included her lover, Count Grigory Orlov, and one of his successors, Prince Grigory Potemkin. Her sword is drawn, and she would clearly be happy to use it on her husband. Peter caved in, but within days had been murdered by his wife’s supporters. She claimed he had died of one of “his habitual haemorrhoidal attacks, together with a violent colic”. The Guardian

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Detail of Eriksen’s portrait of Catherine II of Russia.

The lady who wore that uniform, sword drawn and “happy to use it on her husband”, intended it to indicate to all of Russia that a more dynamic and stronger sort of ruler was about to take power. Catherine the Great was a supremely successful leader, subject to the same trappings of power as male leaders (opulence, sex, etc.). Autocrats and despots are hardly loveable. But this ruthless lady was very charismatic, with personal qualities and achievements that were extremely impressive. What’s more, she looks splendid in a Guards uniform to boot!

And with that grey horse, Brilliante, it’s time for me to get painting horses again.



For more info on #FEMbruary, visit:

Also, for some good female gamers and hobby blogs check out: