Lace Wars with Les

Just wanted to share some progress on my Les Higgins War of the Spanish Succession cavalry, sample figures courtesy of John Cunningham. There’s still a little corrective paint required on one or two of these figures, nonetheless I’ve been creating (from left to right):

  • a trooper of the Bavarian Arco Cuirassier Regiment
  • a French dragoon of the Royal Regiment
  • a dragoon of the Danish 5th Jydske Dragoon Regiment
  • a trooper of the Regiment du Roi, a French Horse Regiment

Still work to be done, but they’ve given me the template for creating an entire regiment of each. Yesterday, I received more of these wonderful old Les Higgins miniatures so I can set to work when I’m ready. These, along with the other mountain of figures should at least keep me well occupied in these troubling times of global pandemic.

Scrubbed and drying, ready for paint: my Les Higgins 20mm cavalry haul.

For anyone interested in purchasing Les Higgins recast figures, please visit this page on Vintage Wargaming Figures for more information.

It’s Snow Time!

It was around this time last year that, taking some inspiration from the onset of winter, I tackled the first of Strelets French Sledge Train sets. The results were really pleasing, unusual and inventive, albeit in a somewhat macabre way.

So it’s a perfect time of year again to attempt Set number 2 of the Strelets French Army Sledge Train sets. This one contains the exact same sledge and horse but with different occupants and walkers.

The figures are nearing the end of the painting process, with just a few things still to attend to or improve. I’ve yet to start on the sledge itself and the base, so I thought I’d share the characters before they get included in a little diorama, similar to that produced last year:

1. The Hussar:

This chap is wearing an hussar uniform with a less-than-regulation, broad-brimmed hat that he’s taken from somewhere. I painted him in what I believe to be the colours of the French 7th Hussar Regiment.

Depicted as as lucky occupant of the sledge, what perplexed me at first was what he was craddling in his arms. Predictably, Plastic Soldier Review got it quite right by suggesting that it was a horse leg! With a little paint, it indeed became clear, hoof and all. All in all a typically odd and delightfully imaginative figure from Strelets.

2. The Blinded Grenadier:

A grenadier of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard is a pleasing inclusion. He is blinded, presumably from a combat wound. Strelets have signified this by a bandage around his eyes, a walking stick and a hand extended out to feel the way. He appears to be wearing a scarf but he needs to urgently button that coat up against the winter snows!

3. The Comrades:

I’ve not quite finished them but I like these figures in particular. In a moving scene, Strelets have created two comrades struggling through the snows together. One is clearly wounded, his arm in a sling. His other arm is around his comrade who helps him walk. His comrade is wearing what appear to be very similar to the Opanci peasant shoes I last painted on the Serbian WWI infantry last year. Perhaps a sympathetic local took pity and helped him out?

4. The Plunderer:

This fortunate chap wears a warm regimental forage cap, that looks like a night cap. He’s well-equipped, smartly dressed, and in a piece of great fortune has managed to get his hands on a sack of something. Whatever it is, it’s clearly valuable enough to carry with him.

5. The Mother and Child:

In a reminder of the women and children which accompanied armies of the period, Strelets have included a lady sitting on a barrel in the sledge. She appears to be holding a tiny baby wrapped up on her lap. Appallingly, the outlook for both on the retreat would not be good whatsoever.

6. The Littlest Hobo:

Another well-equipped soldier who stands a better chance than many of survival. He has full packs on his back and has even tied a bundle of privisions to his musket. He’s ditched or stowed away his shako and wraped his head in a warm covering.

7. The Running Man:

A senior officer, perhaps even a Général de brigade, runs through the snows. Perhaps his horse has bolted or the Cossacks are hot on his heels? I think it is more likely that he’s another occupant of the sledge who’s now chasing after it after answering the call of nature! Run, Monsieur Général, run!

8. The Yogic Sledge Driver

The driver of the sledge wears a Polish lancer’s cap but otherwise could pass for an infantryman. Cracking a whip, he is sitting in an extreme crossed-legged position which can only be described as a half-lotus! Very flexible!

9. The Pitiful Pony

The same half-starved labouring pony from Sledge set 1 makes a reappearance. Definitely one of Strelets best horse sculpts, in my opinion. A sad reminder of the very considerable animal suffering experenced in the retreat from Moscow.

So, just final touches to the figures, and the sledge to paint and assemble, before I start to put the whole sledging expedition together and then this suitably snowy scene will probably be the last completed project before Christmas!

Flintlocks and Figurines: a Return to Holkham Hall

Earlier this year, I embarked on a project to recreate a vision of the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry, a volunteer formation sponsored and led by Thomas Coke of Holkham Hall in Norfolk. After some research as to the uniform worn by the HYC, I used Strelets 1:72 scale plastic figures to paint as the yeomanry troop:

The project concluded with my eccentric recreation of an historical event in 1798 whereby the cavalrymen, with great ceremony, received their standard from the hands of Mrs Coke on the south lawn of the estate.

Finding myself in the area for a short break last week, I paid a short visit to Holkham Hall once again. I was fortunate in that the hall was open during the brief time I could visit (it would usually have been closed) but, unluckily, a special event meant that the manuscript library, which holds the yeomanry standard, was closed off to public access.

Nonetheless, it was a very enjoyable tour and I had a good talk with one of the fabulous room guides there about the Holkham Yeomanry. As we talked, visible through the windows was the south lawn looking glorious in the sun – the scene of the presentation of the yeomanry standard over 200 years ago.

My newly purchased postcard of Thomas Coke by Gainsborough.

Although a celebrated agriculturalist first and foremost, his passion for hunting on his estate meant that he would have been well familiar with guns. Here, he is pictured reloading, with three gundogs and a dead woodcock in view.

However, despite missing out on seeing the HYC standard again, there was still a pleasant surprise to be found in a downstairs room which I don’t recall being visible to the public on my last visit.

Access into the room was restricted but I could see it contained a snooker table with the walls festooned with examples of antique taxidermy and also what appeared to be 30 identical flintlock muskets.

There was no guide in attendance anywhere near this area, so I was left to speculate that these could be left over from the time of the Holkham Yeomanry’s service. In fact, I’d previously seen other examples of the Holkham Yeomanry’s muskets in a case at the nearby Victoria Arms on the Estate. It seems very likely that these are also part of the original HYC arms cache, as I find it difficult to imagine why the household would otherwise have retained at least 30 muskets of a seemingly identical pattern.

On display at the Victoria Arms – guns of the Holkham Yeomanry.

I took some low-quality photos of the room on my mobile phone but when back at home, on closer examination at home I was surprised to discover something else very intriguing.

Close up on the low resolution photograph, on a mantelpiece, a grainy image appears of a mounted figurine. It’s difficult to tell, but might I suggest that the rider has a sword drawn and is – just possibly – wearing the same Tarleton crested helmet seen worn by my own modelled versions of the troop…

For over a decade now, I yearly visit that part of the country, so perhaps another trip in 2020 will reveal yet more information?

Faithful Hussars

When it comes to a hobby, pleasure should be the guiding principle. My head has been telling me to do something a little different from Napoleonic-era cavalry figures. My heart, however, simply loves to paint them! And there are seldom more pleasing uniforms to paint than hussars.

So far in my Napoleonic Cavalry Project I’ve painted;

So, at the risk of boring everybody, I’m painting some more!

My box of Italeri’s British Light Dragoons.

The set I’m using is an old classic; Italeri’s British Light Dragoons (Hussars). It’s a set of lovely figures, the old Esci sculptor beautifully detailing the flowing pelisses and intricate braiding. It was originally released by Esci in 1985 very specifically labelled as being Lord Cardigan’s 11th Hussars of the Crimean War. It was then reissued with a couple of extra poses the following year as being British Light Dragoons of the Napoleonic Wars/Waterloo! These two sets were both reissued by Italeri when they took over the rights to the moulds on Esci’s sad demise around 1990.

My other box of Italeri’s British Hussars – virtually the same set as their Light Dragoons!

It is appropriate that the first British hussars in my project have come along quite late as the British army was itself slow to adopt hussars into their cavalry arm. Some continental armies had a hussar tradition going back to the late 17th century, but Great Britain only began to convert light dragoons to hussars in the early 19th century. That reluctance can be seen in the official name of the British hussar regiments. At the time of Waterloo, all were formally still known as Light Dragoons with the word “hussars” being almost a grudging adjunct in parentheses.

Officers of the 10th and 18th Hussars, 1819
Coloured lithograph, engraved and after Edward Hull, published by Ackermann’s Lithographic Press, 1819. National Army Museum.

At Waterloo, there were four British hussar regiments (not including the King’s German Legion’s three hussar regiments also present) and these were;

  • The 7th (The Queen’s Own) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars)
  • The 10th (Prince of Wales’s Own) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars)
  • The 15th (The King’s) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars)
  • The 18th (King’s Irish) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars)

Excepting the 10th Hussars which wore bright red shakos, these Italeri figures could stand for any of the other three (although the 15th I think may have had shakos too). I’ve opted for the 18th Hussars.

A Private of the 18th Light Dragoons (Hussars), 1812
Aquatint by J C Stadler after Charles Hamilton Smith, 1812. National Army Museum.

The 18th Hussars wore blue dolmans with white braiding, faced with white. Their Pelisses were also blue and white braid with white fur trim. Their brown fur busbies had a bright blue bag. It is on the horses that Italeri widely deviate from historical fact. Hussars during this period had fur saddle covers with hounds teeth edging but my regiment must have sent all theirs to be cleaned.

I’m well advanced with this set already so will be sure to share my handiwork shortly.

Ever since picking up this box of figures, I’ve had the name of a song, “The Faithful Hussar”, going around my head but had no idea of the melody or even where I’d heard it. Google put me out of my confusion; it was used as the moving end scene in the classic anti-war film “Paths of Glory”. I’d seen it recently and the final scene is always moving. A captive German lady (herself a German actress who married the film’s director Stanley Kubrick) silences the baying French Poilu and reduces them to tears with her timid and tender song “The Faithful Hussar“.

Relics of the Norfolk Light Horse

“The mounted Volunteers, who mustered very strongly on this occasion were conspicuous in their scarlet coats and showy helmets…” The Norfolk Chronicle, 14th March, 1863.
Caption reads: “Review of the Norfolk Volunteers on Mousehold Heath…”. The Norfolk Light Horse are mounted wearing white plumes left and right of the engraving.

During my visit to the Suffolk and Norfolk Yeomanry Collection at Muckleburgh in 2017, I discovered something that would have been very easy to overlook. In a case very high up on a wall, almost touching the ceiling was this:

The nearby ceiling light reflects off the glass case and from the floor the sign inside was barely visible to the (shorter than average height) visitor, but thanks to holding my camera high up to take the photo, I could confirm that it reads “Norfolk Light Horse Volunteers“. It contains a Full Dress sabretache and a pouch.

Nothing particularly remarkable here, perhaps. The reason I’m posting about this obscure object is because I’ve been lately furthering my knowledge of Victorian military volunteers by reading W.Y. Carman’s Light Horse and Mounted Rifle Volunteers 1860-1901“. This is an interesting guide to the short-lived phenomenon of Victorian mounted volunteers; not part of the yeomanry as such, but an adjunct to the wider Rifle Volunteer Movement which began in 1859. In 1862, it is thought that approximately 1218 mounted volunteers comprised up to 28 troops of both Light Horse and Mounted Rifles. By 1881, the demands, costs and complexities of maintaining these forces had seen them dwindle away, leaving only 5 units remaining totalling 530 men.

The Norfolk Light Horse, whose sabretache was up on the wall in the Muckleburgh Collection, lasted only 5 years, forming in September 1862 but disappearing well before the end of the decade (August 1867). They had their genesis in the newly formed Norfolk Mounted Rifles and, after evolving into a Light Horse formation, went on to number up to 60 men in total.

”The uniform consists of a scarlet tunic with blue facings, white cross belt, white breeches, and Napoleon boots, the head dress is a busby with blue bag ; the forage cap is blue trimmed with white. A number of the troop have daily appeared in the city during the week, on their way to drill ; they are exceedingly well mounted and certainly present a very imposing appearance… The Norfolk Chronicle, 6th April, 1861.

Initially wearing the busby described above, this troop soon adopted a dark blue / black dragoon helmet with a white plume and an unusual triangular leopardskin patch on the front. By 1863, although still wearing the red tunic, the white breeches had gone and the men are depicted wearing blue overalls with side stripes.

Contemporary prints of the Norfolk Light Horse from W.Y. Carman’s “Light Horse and Mounted Rifle Volunteers”.

The painting below dates from 1862 and depicts the local 1st City of Norwich Rifle Volunteers in their grey uniforms but also shows some men of the “Norwich Light Horse Volunteers” (as they were known locally for a while), easily noticeable in their scarlet-coloured undress uniforms. Officers Captain Gurney and Cornet Grimmer are said to be amongst them. It’s a nice scene and great impression of volunteer soldiering in the Victorian era.

Particularly interesting to me is the view in the background of a rifle range, a topic I posted on back in 2017. The backstop, the targets and the flag can all be made out and also a very high second embankment on the hillside above, no doubt to stop badly aimed rounds from ricocheting up high off the rising ground. I think it’s also just possible to see the rest of the red-coated Light Horse troop mounted on the hill in the far distant skyline.

The rifle range on Mousehold Health, Norwich. © Norfolk Museums Service.

Mousehold Heath seemed to be a popular location for activities relating to Norfolk volunteer activity, so it’s perhaps no surprise to discover pictorial evidence of a rifle range. Part of this heath still exists today, albeit surrounded by new development on the outskirts of Norwich. The area is the opposite side of the city centre to where I used to live, so I am not particularly familiar with it. I wonder if there’s evidence of the range still to be found there?

© Norfolk Museums Service.

In it’s brief existence, the Norfolk Light Horse played a colourful part in a number of local events and occasions. The Records of the Norfolk Yeomanry Cavalry describes something of the unit’s brief existence, including the review on Mousehold Heath seen in the newspaper illustration at the top of this post and reported enthusiastically by the local paper. Examples of their appearances at local events include;

  • 1861 – (As the ‘Norwich Mounted Rifle Volunteers’), a volunteer review at Holkham Park.
  • 1862 – A volunteer fete at Crown Point.
  • 1863 – A ‘grand military parade’ in Norwich in celebration of the marriage of the Prince of Wales.
  • 1863 – Annual volunteer review at Mousehold Heath.
  • 1864 – A volunteer review at Gunton Park, notably with the “band of the 1st Norwich Light Horse” in attendance.
  • 1866 – Escort duty for the Prince of Princess of Wales visiting Norwich – particularly prestigious for the NLHV as the King’s Dragoon Guards were reduced to merely lining the streets!

The Chronicle’s reports on such occasions could be warmly evocative:

‘The 1st Norwich Light Horse, commanded by Capt Hay Gurney, marched with the Lancers from the Cavalry Barracks… As soon as the cavalry had reached Tombland, the other troops fell in and the entire body moved off amid the cheers of the spectators, who by this time were numerous… Every window was filled with lookers on, for the most part ladies, whose bright smiles and cheerful faces, betokened the delight they took in the spectacle.” The Norfolk Chronicle, 14th March, 1863.

Returning to the sabretache and pouch I’d seen in the Muckleburgh collection, I wonder whether W.Y. Carman had access to these original objects when he published the book in 1991. In the passage on the Norfolk Light Horse, he writes;

“A Full Dress sabretache is known. It measured 10 and a half inches high and 9 and a quarter inches at the base. The ground was bright blue or ultramarine with silver lace around the sides and base showing a red outer edge. The regulation crown was set over a ‘VR’ cypher and a three-part scroll. The latter was of red cloth and had silver letters and edging, reading ‘Norfolk / Light / Horse’. W.Y. Carman

A drawing of the sabretache reproduced in W.Y. Carman’s book, presumably the author’s own work. There are notable differences (the shape, the dimensions reported, the crown appears larger and filled with a cream colour in reality, etc.) but is otherwise broadly similar. From W.Y. Carman,”Light Horse and Mounted Rifle Volunteers”.

Smith and Harris’ “The Yeomanry Cavalry of Norfolk”, gives the dimensions as below, distinctly different to Carman’s measurements, and are surprised by the sabretache being the “smallest on record” with a pouch for holding papers, maps, etc as broad as the sabretache. This is perhaps explained by the sabretache being of such small dimensions whilst the need for a pouch large enough to provide utility still remained.

“The sabretache is of particular interest as it is the smallest specimen on record, the width of no more than 7 inches at the top and 8 inches at the bottom, overall depth 9 inches…strangely the pouch is almost as broad as the sabretache.” Smith and Harris.

The clear differences in dimensions, not to say other minor differences in the size and shape of the crown, cypher and other details, make me wonder if they really aren’t two completely different sabretaches. I feel the shape of Carman’s ‘tache further confirms this suspicion.

Carman also describes the pouch:

At the same time a Full Dress pouch was seen, the flap being black velvet edged with silver lace and the embroidered crown with a crimson lining was over N L H V in silver letters. The precise date of these items is not known. Another pouch had an ultramarine flap.” W.Y. Carman

“NLHV”; another drawing, this time of the Full Dress pouch and clearly the same as that held in the Muckleburgh case. The crown is noticeably larger on the Muckleburgh example than in the watercolour. From W.Y. Carman,”Light Horse and Mounted Rifle Volunteers”.

Military artist Bob Marrion probably got a first-hand look at the Muckleburgh sabretache (even though his illustration was published around the same time as Carman’s work) as his sabretache on the cover of Vol.12 of the Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force book seems to match the one in the collection very closely.

Detail of the cover of Vol.12: The Yeomanry Cavalry of Norfolk. Illustration by R.J. Marrion.

So, the items I saw in the Muckleburgh Collection in 2017 are either;

  • different to the ones written about by W.Y. Carman
  • or the pouch and sabretache which he reports as ‘last seen in 1958’ are one and the same with the Muckleburgh Collection’s and must have somehow resurfaced to find their way there.

Either way, it’s a shame that these relics, some of the few remaining items relating to the existence of this short-lived local mounted force, should be positioned so discreetly in the collection. Over 150 years ago, that humble sabretache would have once been a small part of the grand reviews and colourful parades which brought pleasure to many across the county.

The Royal carriages, escorted by a detachment of the Norwich Light Horse, appeared in sight. The autumnal tints of the trees, the bright uniforms of the Volunteers, the genial sunshine, and the hill and dale of the road, these with the long train of carriages contributed to form a delightful picture…” The Norfolk Chronicle, 3rd November, 1866.

Postscript! – Also high up on the same wall as the Norfolk Light Horse sabretache was another but from a different yeomanry regiment which has also thrown up something of interest. More on that in another post…

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #9

9. Royal Warwickshire Regiment

“Private 6th Foot Royal Warwickshire Regiment. This regiment was raised in 1673 for Dutch service and came on the English establishment in 1688. In 1782, it became 6th Foot or 1st Warwickshire Regiment. The title “Royal” was granted in 1832.”

Number 9 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).

“Expired Suddenly in this Town…”

Wandering the streets of my native Leicester, I thought I’d pay a trip to the city’s cathedral, St. Martins. Recently interred within the cathedral before the eye of the world’s media are the remains of King Richard III. Killed at the battle of Bosworth, the last Plantagenet’s remains were discovered under a car park just across the street from the cathedral.


Paying a visit to the old soldier-king’s final resting place is a must, but I was also interested in a small memorial at the opposite end of the cathedral, in an area given over to the Leicestershire Regiment. The regiment’s flags are laid up in this area alongside other plaques and memorials to Leicestershire’s fallen in conflicts such as the Crimean War, the Anglo-Boer War and the World Wars. The particular plaque I was interested in commemorated Major General Charles Guinand Blackader, CB DSO.

Blackader Outside HQ in France July 1915.
Major General Blackader, Leicestershire Regiment

Major General Blackader was commissioned into The Leicestershire Regiment in 1888, serving in India, Jamaica, Nigeria and in the Anglo-Boer War where he survived the Siege of Ladysmith. Known in his regiment as ‘Old Black’, he rose to command the 2nd Battalion in 1912. In October 1914, he went to France as part of the Garlhwal Brigade (Indian Corps), was promoted again as brigade commander, and lead it through the battles of Neuve Chapelle and Loos.

Men of the 2nd Leicestershire Regiment, Garhwal Brigade, resting in early September, 1915, during preparation for the Battle of Loos.

I was surprised to learn that more men from Leicestershire were killed at Loos than in any other battle before or since, as I always believed that the Somme would have accounted for more. At Loos, in the three days from September 25 to 28 from the 2nd Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment 72 men were killed, 217 wounded, 42 were gassed, and 96 were recorded as missing. My ancestor, great uncle John Neale was one of those men recorded initially as “missing”, but identified by a dog tag when re-interred in 1921.

The reinterment sheet with (in red pen) Great Uncle Neal, a Lance Corporal – not private – of the 2nd Leicestershire Rgt killed at Loos and belatedly identified by his ID disc.

Outside the cathedral was a fascinating headstone, which I’d glimpsed on previous visits. Before ‘the last Plantagenet’ was buried to such great fanfare, the graveyard of the cathedral was somewhat run-down, home to scattered ancient gravestones and the occasional drunk. It has since been made fit for a king (and a television audience) with the gravestones seemingly all tidied up and placed in areas all facing east, much as King Richard’s rather grander tomb does within the cathedral.

IMG_20180306_142646 (3)

The headstone that captures my attention belongs (unsurprisingly – this is Suburban Militarism after all) to an old soldier and includes a remarkably wordy and detailed epitaph which I reproduce below:

Beneath are deposited the remains of Richard Braginton, Quarter Master Serjeant (sic) of the South Devon Militia who expired suddenly in this town on his march to Nottingham in the night of the 15th of February 1812 after retiring to rest in perfect health AGED 60 YEARS.

He served 40 in the said regiment with unabated zeal, diligence and loyalty to the king and firm attachment to his country. While his private conduct was especially commendable for Rectitude, Probity and Sobriety.

He was esteem’d by his Officers and beloved by his fellow Soldiers. To perpetuate the remembrance of his worth. This Stone was caus’d to be erected by his Colonel Lord ROLLE.

Reader! may this additional Example of the awful uncertainty of Life prove a warning to thee to prepare for a similar fate, by a faithful discharge of the duties of thy station; and by an humble reliance on the merits of thy Redeemer.

The sponsor of this impressively complementary and detailed eulogy, was the old soldier’s regimental colonel; John, 1st Baron Rolle.

Lawrence, Thomas, 1769-1830; John Rolle (1750-1842), Lord Rolle
John Rolle, 1st Baron Rolle (1750–1842) in his peerage robes. Portrait by Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830).

Lord Rolle was, in addition to being an MP, the colonel of the South Devon Militia. He was apparently also involved for the formation of Devon’s two yeomanry regiments; the Royal 1st Devon Yeomanry and the North Devon Yeomanry. Rolle had enlisted in the South Devon Militia as an ensign and worked (or paid) his way up to command the regiment. His service included taking the militia over to Ireland in 1796 to suppress a rebellion there. QM Sergeant Richard Braginton would have no doubt been a part of this expedition.

The Keep (80)
Ensign’s coatee of the South Devon Militia, c.1790. My photo taken during my visit to The Keep Museum, Dorchester in 2017.

The death of Richard Braginton was recorded in a local paper thus:

The Leicester Journal, and Midland Counties General Advertiser, 21 February 1812 
On Sunday last, the Sergeant Major of the South Devon Militia, passing through this town, with the regiment, was found dead by the side of his comrade in bed, without envincing any previous indisposition; he was buried the next day with military honours. 

The headstone contained something of a mystery. Why were the South Devon Militia marching all the way to Nottingham via Leicester? Research tells me that they were on their way to suppress a violent uprising, Lord Rolle leading his militia as ‘part of a larger force to suppress a Luddite rebellion’. The Luddite movement had its roots in Nottingham.

Rolle’s obvious high regard for his old Quarter Master Sergeant apparently didn’t end with a detailed and warmly eulogistic gravestone in the grounds of St Martin’s cathedral in Leicester. His involvement continued with Richard Braginton’s heirs;

He appointed his son Richard II Braginton (1784–1869) as steward of Stevenstone, and the latter’s son George Braginton (1808–1886), a merchant and banker, mayor of Great Torrington, was in 1830 Lord Rolle’s agent for the Rolle Canal of which he purchased a lease in 1852, ten years after Lord Rolle’s death.

It’s curious that the car park under which Richard III’s remains were discovered is just across the street from Richard Braginton’s headstone – a stone’s throw away. The old soldier can scarcely have guessed that his remains would have been buried so near to that of a king of England, and furthermore that his own spectacularly effusive epitaph would be in such stark contrast to the monarch’s poor, forgotten and unmarked grave.

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A little more on the Derbyshire Yeomanry Mounted Band

Last year, I posted on my discovery of a painting hung on the wall of the ‘unstately home’ Calke Abbey. I realised that the scene depicted the band of the Derbyshire Yeomanry whose existence my guide to mounted bands suggested was unproven. At the time, I wondered what the parade could possibly have been for. Thankfully, some enquiries I made with the Melbourne Historical Research Group bore fruit thanks to the informative reply by a Mr Philip Heath.

Entrance of the Procession into Melbourne on the 10th May 1876 by John Gelder (1816 – 1885) ©National Trust Images

Mr Heath informed me that;

“The location of this scene is Derby Road, Melbourne. The house on the right is Conery House , formerly known as the Poplars (as seen in the painting), built in the 1830s. The people in the windows may well be the Robinson family who lived there at the time. The house is still there, on the corner of Queensway opposite Sainsbury’s.”

The scene of the parade today, the house then known as “The Poplars” just visible through the trees to the right.

Mr Heath continues:

“I first saw this painting when it was reproduced in Howard Colvin’s “Calke Abbey; A Hidden House Revealed” (1985), page 97. The caption in the book suggests that it shows the recent wedding of Sir Vauncey and Isabel Adderley being feted at Melbourne. As they were married on 20/4/1876, I’ve never doubted that interpretation. Although the Calke estate had few tenants in the parish of Melbourne, there was a connection with Calke and Melbourne through all the Melbourne tradesmen that found work at Calke, and there are framed “loyal addresses” from the people at Melbourne, given to the family on landmark occasions.”

So there you have it. The Derbyshire Yeomanry’s mounted band was leading a procession which was celebrating the marriage of Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe of Calke Abbey and Isabel Adderley. A natural consequence given the regiment’s close association with the Harpur family and the Derbyshire Yeomanry.

A 1794 musical score that I found in Calke of “Two marches composed by Joseph Haydn for Henry Harpur Bart. and presented by him to the Volunteer Cavalry of Derbyshire”.

However, it seems any excessive pride I may have had in my sleuthing is somewhat misplaced. I now realise that other conclusive evidence of the mounted band must have since come to light since R.G. Harris’ wrote his words on the Derbyshire Yeomanry band. The DYC’s own website actually includes photographic evidence (although no reference is made to the
painting of the procession). Furthermore, the image also shows kettledrums and drum banners included, which I’ve circled below. All this information must have been unavailable to Ronald G. Harris at the time.

Blurred and indistinct; a ghostly image of the Mounted Derbyshire Yeomanry at Aston Camp in 1890. Photo: The Derbyshire Yeomanry Association.

The DYC Drum banners were crimson with a rose in gold under a crown and is shown in the Players cigarette card series with a wreath and a scroll.

I want to thank Mr Heath and the Melbourne Historical Research Group and also end with a few words about the now sadly deceased Ronald G. Harris, who authored that yeomanry mounted band book in the 1980s. Currently up for sale on eBay are some of his extensive research material and archive (most being well out of my modest budget unfortunately). Much of his archive material is completely unique and remarkable, a throwback to an era when research had to be carried out without easy reference to the internet by committed military history enthusiasts like Mr Harris.

Calke Abbey © National Trust / Ian Buxton, David Midgelow, Brian Birch

British Personalities of the Crimean War

Following on from my Russian Personalities, I’ve been painting a group of British figures from the Crimean War from Strelets “Heavy Brigade” big box set. The box includes British heavy dragoons, Scots Greys and a number of ‘command’ figures both mounted and standing. The ones I’ve tackled include:

  • Roger Fenton (Photographer)
  • Gen. Simpson
  • Lt-Gen. Brown
  • Maj-Gen. Buller
  • Maj-Gen. Campbell
  • Lt-Col. Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar
  • Capt. Halford

Below are presented my figures with a brief biography of each character:

Mr Roger Fenton (Photographer)

I’ve always been transfixed by the Crimean War images created by the photographer Roger Fenton. The soldiers he depicted were, in many ways, identical to the kind of soldier seen on Napoleonic battlefields 40 years before. This was the twilight era for the kind of brightly-coloured uniforms seen on campaign since the beginning of the 18th century and it was being captured for posterity by the new science of photography.

Fenton landed at Balaklava on 8 March 1855 and remained there until 22 June, taking a servant and Mr Marcus Sparling along as his photographic assistant, as well a large horse-drawn van of equipment.

Fenton’s van in the Crimea with assistant Marcus Sparling in the driver’s seat.

Given the limitations of early photography, images were inevitably limited to posed subjects and keenly avoided depicting the brutal reality of war and its effects.

Men of the 68th Regiment photographed by Fenton.

Fenton managed to make over 350 images and an exhibition of 312 of them was soon on show in the months that followed. Fenton also showed them to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and also to Emperor Napoleon III in Paris.

Roger Fenton, photographer.

Strelets have pleasingly taken Fenton’s photographs as their inspiration for a number of figures in their Crimean War Big Box set; “Heavy Brigade”. Many of the figures are clearly homages to Fenton’s images and they even include a figure of the photographer himself! You can see how my Roger Fenton turned out. Note his fetching striped trousers seen in the image above have been reproduced in my figure.

General Sir James Simpson

Sir James Simpson was born in 1792 and was commissioned as ensign and lieutenant in the 1st Foot Guards in 1811. In the following year he was sent to the Peninusular campaign where he was part of Wellington’s army. He served in the 100 Days Waterloo campaign and was severely wounded at Quatre Bras.

In February 1855 he was sent out to the Crimea, as chief of the staff with the local rank of lieutenant-general. On the death of Lord Raglan in June, he succeeded to the command of the British army with the brevet rank of general from that date. The Dictionary of National Biography indicated that;

“the general feeling in the army was that he was ‘a good man, a long-headed Scotchman,’ but hardly equal to so great a responsibility”.

Gen. Simpson by Roger Fenton.

On 8 Sept 1855. the final assault was delivered by the French and British on the Russian defences at Sevastopol. But Simpson’s chosen divisions unwisely consisted largely of raw recruits, was poorly executed and supported, and the attack failed. However, the French capture of the Malakhoff redoubt secured success for the allies.

In November, Simpson resigned the command which he had initially accepted with some reluctance and retired from the army.

Lieutenant-General Sir George Brown

Another Peninsular War veteran, the Scottish George Brown had a brilliant war record until settling into a 25-years long appointment to Staff work at Horse Guards.

In the Crimea, he commanded the Light Division and was criticised by some for his strict enforcement of camp discipline. At the Alma, Brown’s horse was shot from underneath him and later he was severely wounded at the battle of Inkerman, curiously while leading French Zouaves. Following his injury, he was invalided home in June 1855, was promoted to general, and became commander in chief in Ireland, dying in 1865.

You will note that I’ve painted Brown as he was depicted in Fenton’s excellent photograph – as a 65 year old veteran with a shock of white hair.

Major-General Colin Campbell

Another scot, Colin Campbell was born Colin Macliver, but for obscure reasons had changed his surname to Campbell by the time he was gazetted as an ensign into the 9th Foot. Like many of his fellow senior officers in the Crimea, Campbell saw action in the Peninsular War where he saw action with Wellington’s army in a number of key battles.

Campbell by Roger Fenton.

As a major-general, Campbell commanded the Highland Brigade at the battle of the Alma. Plastic Soldier Review state that after this early battle, Campbell adopted the Highland bonnet, ditching the bicorn hat shown on my figure. At Balaklava, Campbell’s famous “thin red line” of Highlanders repulsed the Russian cavalry. He was overlooked as Commander in Chief after Simpson resigned, however, and left the Crimea apparently ‘in a huff’.

He was appointed to full commander at the outset of the Indian Mutiny, becoming a general and adopting the title Lord Clyde. After the successful conclusion of operations in India, he became Field Marshal in 1862. After his death, he was buried in Westminster.

Colin Campbell is depicted awkwardly perched on a crate due to the length of his sword.
Another Fenton image of the celebrated commander.

Brigadier-General Sir George Buller

The son of a general, George Buller began his army career as 2nd Lieutenant with the Rifle Brigade in 1820. During the subsequent 25 years of peacetime service, his connections aided his rapid rise to Colonel in 1841. He then gained valuable command experience during wars on the South African cape.

Fenton’s image of George Buller on horseback.

As a Brigadier-General, Buller took command of the 2nd brigade of the Light Division in the Crimea where his conduct at the Alma initially attracted some criticism, but was apparently later viewed with approval by military authorities.

At the battle of Inkerman he was severely wounded in the left arm and promoted to Major-General before being invalided home in March 1855. He made full general in 1871 and died at home in 1884 at the age of 82.

Lieutenant-Colonel Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar

The son of aristocratic German parents, Prince Edward started his military career in the British army as an Ensign in the 67th Regiment in 1841. By 1854, he held a brevet-majority in the more prestigious Grenadier Guards.

He was present at all the major battles for the British army in the Crimea and was appointed aide-de-camp to the Queen as well as full colonel of the Grenadier Guards by 1855. After the war, he rose to Field Marshal, ‘despite no great military achievements’.

Not sure of the photographer, but a great image of the Prince in a sitting position like my figure.

Strelets have depicted this German-born, English aristocrat enjoying the most quintessential of English occupations – drinking a cup of tea. The tea cup looks perhaps large enough to be a mug but at least he has a saucer! Sitting on a wooden box, I’ve decided that he takes his tea with just a dash of milk, (a little of Vallejo’s Off-White added to the Brown Sand).

Captain Charles Halford

Plastic Soldier Review have this to say about the Captain Halford figure;

“We could find no information on any significant captain Halfords in the Crimean War, so have to wonder what this individual has done to deserve inclusion. The answer seems to be that, like all the others in this set, he was photographed by Roger Fenton during the war. He belonged to the 5th Dragoon Guards, but whatever the reason he was photographed (more than once in fact) there seems no particular reason to include him here.”

A Fenton image of Captain Halford.

I say being immortalised by Fenton during the Crimean War is a perfect excuse to include the figure! I still need to paint the band across his cap gold and I now also wonder if some light grey trousers might reference his portrait better, but at least I’ve faithfully reproduced his greying beard?

As PSR indicated, Fenton took a number of images of Halford, including some in military attire – dressed as an officer of the 5th Dragoon Guards. Below he is in a full dress uniform standing with a dappled grey.

Another image shows Halford with a different horse and wearing his undress uniform.

There’s a whole bunch of other Crimean character figures to tackle, so who knows, I may even paint some more?