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.
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.
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!
The trumpeter had some variation in details requiring a red crest on his bicorne, a red tip to his plume and some shoulder detailing.
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…
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.
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.
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).
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.
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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]
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Tackling painting Zvezda’s Russian Dragoons has certainly been a challenge. In some ways it’s been a simpler task; the uniforms are far less complex than the Hussars I’ve just finished and there’s less of them to paint too (12 rather than 18).
However, painting them has been more difficult in other respects. The figures are beautifully sculpted but the detail is so very subtle (occasionally almost non-existent on the chest) that applying paint effectively to the right places to pick out the features proves tricky.
But we like a challenge here at Suburban Militarism, and after some work I think these figures are rather impressive.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve chosen to paint the prestigious Lifeguard Dragoons, rather than one of the many other regiments of the line.
There were as many as 36 different Russian dragoon regiments of the line, some having such exotic (to this Englishman at any rate) names as the Starodub, the Taganrog, the Arzamass, the Kazan and the Zhitomir Dragoons. They looked very similar to each other with their plain dark-green jackets but were distinguished by a wide array of different colour facings.
So far as I can tell, the Lifeguard Dragoons, being a part of the Tsar’s elite Guards cavalry, were the only Dragoon regiment to display a red plastron across the front of their jacket. I decided to paint this regiment so that I could make use of this little extra colour.
The riders are nearly completed (being a much quicker task than those Soum Hussars!). Now for the horses which I have to report come with their own difficulties unique to this particular set; but more of that in my next update!
Zvezda is a Russian manufacturer of model kits and figures, their brand name meaning ‘star’ in the Russian language, and it certainly is a star of the Napoleonic cavalry figure world in my opinion. Having already contributed the Lifeguard Cossacks, Red Lancers and French Cuirassiers; and now I’ve just finished their Russian Hussars.
All of these have been consistently amongst the very finest of figures in the entire project. I’ve already a couple more kits by Zvezda stored and ready to paint for the project but yesterday I received another one. This is a set over which I’d prevaricated somewhat; Zvezda’s Russian Dragoons 1812-1814.
It seems that Zvezda have in recent years abandoned the traditional 1/72 box of figures and moved into the production of smaller sets of figures for the purpose of their ‘Art of Tactic’ board game rules. The consequence is that an individual Napoleonic cavalry box now features a mere 3 riders and horses!
There must be a market for this new approach, I suppose, but I confess to being a little mystified as to why anyone would prefer to buy 3 Russian Dragoon figures for the eBay price of commonly around £6.00 (@ £2.00 per mounted figure) as opposed to spending – let’s say – £8.99 for a whopping 18 Russian Cuirassiers (@ £0.50 per figure)! The overall price is admittedly lower than for the traditional kit (sometimes selling for as little as £4.00) but generally it makes the price-per-figure far more expensive. Consequently, building a contingent of a dozen or more figures becomes almost prohibitively costly, that is to say nothing of the cost of painting an entire army.
What’s not in doubt, is that Zvezda make decent figures. If I was to be hyper-critical then I’d say that these dragoons and horses appear a little more stiff and less fluidly animated that in other sets. I’m also a little concerned that they mostly snap together as parts rather than being moulded in one piece, which may cause some issues with painting. Yet they still look good enough to be included in the project. Zvezda’s Napoleonic Russian Dragoons are only available in this new mini-set format and so I’ve purchased four boxes in total (x3 standard Dragoons boxes and x1 Command box) to have enough for one regiment of 12 figures.
It is no surprise therefore that I announce that the 23rd regiment in the Napoleonic Cavalry Project will be another Russian regiment; the Lifeguard Dragoons (in Russian Leib-gvardii Dragunskii Polk). Following on from the extremely detailed and ornate Hussars, Dragoon regiments are conversely much more simple uniforms. No complex braiding or fur-lined pelisse with these troops, just a plain green jacket with grey overalls. I reflected that perhaps it was a little too plain and so opted for the Lifeguard Dragoon regiment rather than one from the line, as the guards at least had the addition of a red plastron on their chest.
Watch this space for developments, until then Suburban Militarism sends best wishes for the Easter break.
I’ve praised Zvezda figures so many times on Suburban Militarism that there’s no call to do it again. Hopefully, their very well sculpted figures do all the talking. Preparation is key with Zvezda figures, coating them in PVA glue really helps the paint to stay where it should.
The Soum (or Sumy) Hussars regiment took over a month to complete and I must confess that the length of time required to finish them was not due to any lack of painting hours on my part. Having 18 figures to paint with so much detail (and no military arm does detail quite like Hussars), meant that there was a big investment in time required to get everything painted. Raising a Hussar regiment was supposed to be more costly than with most other cavalry – and I can vouch for that, in time required to paint them at any rate!
All of which sounds like a grumble, which it certainly isn’t. When figures are this good, it is never a chore. Furthermore, I can hardly complain at having a very generous 18 figures to paint; nobody is forcing me to paint them all! I’ll go as far to say that these Russian Hussars are amongst the very best figures to grace the Napoleonic Cavalry Project and, hopefully, I’ve done them enough justice.
Photos aplenty and some kind of a regimental biography below:
Biography: Soum Hussars [Russia]
Hussars had existed in some form in the Russian army since the mid-17th century. However, by the time of Catherine the Great they had been disbanded. The Soum Hussars (or “Sumy” Hussars)came into existence in 1765 when the Ukrainian Slobodian Cossacks were disbanded and then re-formed into a number of new Hussar regiments.
At this time, a Russian Hussar regiment consisted of 2 battalions with 5 squadrons in each. A squadron had 150 hussars, a commanding officer (captain or rotmistr), and 2 subaltern officers (a senior lieutenant or poruchyk and a lieutenant — cornet). A regiment’s total strength could reach 1,500 sabres.
On June 13, 1806, by a decree of the Military Collegium, the Grodno Hussar Regiment was formed using as its basis the Soum Hussar Regiment’s own 4th Squadron. Later that year, the Soum Hussars joined the Russian army’s intervention in the Prussians war against the French. They featured in the Battle of Czarnowo on the night of 23–24 December 1806 and in the Battle of Pułtusk two days later under Major General Koschin’s cavalry brigade. The Soum Hussars were also present at the battle of Friedland in Generalmajor Lourkovski’s brigade alongside the Elizabethgrad Hussars and some Lithuanian Uhlans.
At the time of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, the Soum Hussars were in the 1st Hussar Division, together with the Grodno, Elizabethgrad and Izoum regiments. They were subsequently in action in the main theatre of operations during the war of 1812. At the great battle of Borodino, the Soum Hussars were attached to the III Cavalry Corps under Barclay de Tolly, positioned in the centre.
In 1813, the Soum Hussars saw action in battles throughout the 1813 campaign and in the great ‘Battle of the Nations’ at Leipzig. This extract from Osprey’s account of Leipzig suggests something of the desperate ebb and flow to the fighting as experienced by the Soum (or Sumy) Hussars during this campaign.
“The French grand battery forced the Sumy Hussars to fall back and the first French cavalry attack started… the Sumy Hussars charged the leading French regiment and forced it back. The second French regiment then threw back the Russian Hussars but its advance was halted by the Prussian Neumark Dragoons who in turn were thrown back by the next French Regiment. In the meantime, the Sumy Hussars had rallied…”
As Napoleon retreated after Leipzig, the hussars followed and entered France in 1814. After encounters fought throughout that campaign they marched triumphantly into Paris with the rest of the Allied forces.
After Napoleon’s defeat, many hussar units were awarded collective decorations in honour of their exploits in the War of 1812: St. George’s trumpets (musical instruments awarded for valour) were awarded to the Soum Hussars regiment. The trumpets bore the inscription: “For Distinguished Service in Defeating and Ousting the Foe from Russia in 1812.”
Notable Battles: Friedland, Borodino, Leipzig.
Note: There appears to be a small single-room museum located in the city Sumy which is dedicated to the Soum Regiment, information can be found here. Now there’s a location for a Suburban Militarism Day Trip!
As work continues steadily on the horses and men of theSoum Hussars, my 22nd regiment in the Nappy Cavalry Project, I’ve been thinking about possible future regiments to tackle also. There are plenty of other 1/72 scale plastic Napoleonic cavalry kits still out there, but they are of varying quality and style.
HaT are wonderfully prolific in their coverage of Napoleonic subjects, and their excellent range of figures are of a consistent standard. Whilst decent sculpting, I confess that they seldom excite me enough to include them in the project. I certainly can’t disparage them – they’re fine – but neither can I say they demand inclusion. They are somewhat lacking for me in some manner and are more suited to creating an overall wargaming spectacle, rather than my emphasis on detail painting.
Strelets are another manufacturer who are prolific in their Napoleonic range. Now, I do love Strelets figures, indeed I have ‘far too many’ of their sets in their Crimean War and Russo-Turkish 1877 War ranges. Yet, I’ve not included any of their Napoleonic cavalry in my project and neither am I likely to.
The reason is that first of all, Strelets’ style is perhaps just a little too unique to fit easily into the project. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, while their riding figures can be good, their horses are relatively disappointing. I’m not sure I could comfortably ‘stable’ their stocky equines with some of the more finely sculpted horses as provided by the likes of Zvezda, Revell, Italeri or Waterloo 1815.
Yet despite a number of other cavalry sets in my possession awaiting attention, one new set came through the post only yesterday:
Mars is a manufacturer that I’ve never painted before, so this should be interesting. Furthermore, Austria is a nation not yet included in the project either. It’s a little eccentric this set; there are three figures standing and holding a rearing horse which has not been specifically provided (presumably the other horses might suffice if one were to ditch some mounted riders instead).
Despite being lancers, there’s only one figure shown holding a lance while the lances themselves are swamped in flash and lack any pennants. Indeed, flash is something of a problem with this set. It seems that the quality of Mars output is a little varied, but this one slipped under my radar a little and on close analysis I still like the sculpting and think they are worthy of inclusion.
Like their riders, the horses are certainly in dramatic poses. They are also afflicted by some flash which I will have to carefully remove, but anatomically I think they look pretty good.
Despite some reservations then, I think there are still enough good sets out there to provide me with possibly another 6 or 7 regiments. There are also a number of figures that I’ve previously tackled which I’d love to revisit and paint up as an alternative regiment (more Prussian Hussars or some Polish Lancers, anyone?). All of which means that there could be up to a dozen more regiments in the project to come in the future.
This is just a quick progress report on my Zvezda Russian Soum Hussars, the latest regiment in my Nappy Cavalry Project. I’m rapidly getting all the details added but there is so much of it on these figures that it will take some time to get it all painted, that’s not even to mention all the pelisses, lances and horses still to do!
Sculpting is excellent by Zvezda (as usual) but it isn’t always revealed post-mould in as crisp a detail as it deserves, I feel. This makes for a tricky paint, but perseverance is rewarded by some great looking figures.
Adding to the time it takes to paint this regiment is the fact that Zvezda provide an astonishingly generous 18 figures per box! Contrast that with HaT’s more usual 12.
I have to admit, time isn’t an issue as I’ve been enjoying painting these hussars so much I’ve been idly wondering if I could buy some more boxes and maybe paint another regiment, or a whole division, or even all 12 regiments!
But then a check of the internet reveals that this kit is now very difficult to source indeed, no doubt a victim of its success. So perhaps it will just have to be the one regiment unless Zvezda reissue the set!
Plenty still to do, (pelisses, straps, facial hair, stirrups, etc. etc.) before I tackle the regiment’s mighty herd of 18 horses!
In the article it reveals how they arrived in the city;
“On January 23, 1858, almost two years after the Crimean War, a train pulled up in Leicester bearing two trophies in the form of Russian guns. They had been captured at the Battle of Sebastopol by the 17th Regiment of Foot – which later became the Leicestershire Regiment.
On the request of the mayor, shops, banks and major businesses had closed their doors. A great crowd gathered, lining Leicester’s main streets to see the captured booty. And the cannons, mounted on richly-decorated drays, with an escort of Yeomanry, were paraded through the streets to the museum.
And there they stood, a symbol of the military might of the Empire.
At one stage, there used to be a wooden plaque next to the cannons explaining their capture and the fact that they were presented to the city to commemorate the marriage of Princess Victoria – the eldest child of Queen Victoria – and Prince Frederick William of Prussia, the parents of Kaiser Bill.”
The reference to the 17th Regiment of Foot is a nice coincidence given my very recent figures of the regiment (albeit depicted in a guise 100 years prior to the Crimean War). Interesting too to read of the Leicestershire Yeomanry’s involvement. Having painted the Warwickshire Yeomanry, I’d like to depict the Leicestershire version sometime. It would be particularly nice perhaps to produce a diorama of the two Sebastopol cannon’s parade back in 1857, but that will have to remain just a pipe dream for now…
Meanwhile, continuing on a Russian theme, work continues slowly on the Napoleonic Soum Hussars regiment. I’ve already posted about the lengthy preparation required for these figures. Well, further retarding progress, I’ve decided to repaint all the hussars breeches as the original red colour that I’d painted, shaded and highlighted just looked far too light. Nevertheless, the process of painting these is very pleasurable. The figures are beautifully sculpted, it’s just a shame that the mould doesn’t reveal them in quite as crisp detail as I’d like. But I’m quibbling, painting these has reminded me of how much I enjoy painting hussars.
Here they are so far with their dolmans, plumes, breeches and a little of the braid already painted.
What to tackle next? Why, more Napoleonic cavalry, of course! So, I’ve picked up my box of Zvezda Napoleonic Russian Hussars which are my 22nd Nappy Cavalry Project regiment. I originally intended to have a go at these before Christmas, but there was something of a problem with these figures, so let me explain:
Now – I find Zvezda figures need special preparation before painting, which I forgot to do. I charged on carelessly! Without some pva glue as an undercoat, I find my careful paintwork can just fall off the figures at the slightest touch. Having neglected to do this before spraying my primer, I now found I had the problem of removing all the flaky paint again. Although the paint flakes off easily, it does so unevenly, such that I struggle to completely remove it. I’ve tried scrubbing the figures with toothbrushes and also leaving them to soak for days in both Dettol antiseptic and bleach; none of these techniques were entirely successful. I’ve now tried blotting the figure with sticky Blu-tac which does indeed lift the paint off – but it’s hard and slow work.Finally, I’ve managed to clean up the last few figures ready to ‘begin again’.
All fairly dull stuff, I’m sure anyone will agree who’s reading this! So, a far more fun thing to do, I find, is to decide upon which of the many colourful Russian hussar regiments I want to depict. I was pointed in the right direction very kindly by “matgc“, a talented Brazilian painter on Bennos Figures Forum (and I urge anyone to visit his excellent blog ‘My Ever-Growing Armies’ and view his own wonderfully vibrant Zvezda Hussar figures).
There were 12 Russian Hussar regiments in 1809, each wearing their own unique array of colours which is just what I love about Napoleonic cavalry. Out of these choices, I whittled them down to these preferred options (with their brief uniform descriptions):
The Pavlograd Hussars – Dark Green dolman / Turqoise pelisse / Yellow braid / Dark Green trousers
The Elizabethgrad Hussars – Grey dolman / Grey pelisse / Yellow braid / Dark Green trousers
The Soum Hussars – Grey dolman / Grey pelisse / White braid / Red trousers
The Izoum Hussars – Red dolman / Dark Blue pelisse / White braid / Dark Blue trousers
The Olviopol Hussars – Dark Green dolman / Dark Green pelisse / Yellow braid / Red trousers
Hmm, choices..choices… Of the other regiments, some wore black or brown dolmans which look terrific, including the said matgc’s chosen regiment,the Akhtyrsk Hussars. However, having previously painted Prussian Hussars wearing both black and brown dolmans, I fancied a different colour for my cavalry collection. So, my choice is…
The Soum Hussars! These hussars are in grey with red trousers (see contemporary prints below). Perfect – I’ve not got a cavalry regiment in grey and red! I’d better shake up my bottles of grey paint in readiness…
Russian Hussar regiment info courtesy of the very splendid “Blunders on the Danube” blog – visit it here.