2018 has so far seen me add another five regiments to the now 30-strong Napoleonic Cavalry Project which was begun back in 2015. In what will probably be the final cavalry regiment produced this year, I’m finishing off the remainder of my 2 boxes of HaT’s Swedish Napoleonic Cavalry. From this kit, I’ve previously painted;
All of which just leaves my final Swedish regiment – the Småland Light Dragoons.
In the contemporary print above, the regiment is shown in 1807 wearing a long-tailed navy blue coat with yellow facings, buff-coloured riding breeches and black shakos. Around the waist is a yellow cord sash. The black shako is shown with a peak and this is also reproduced in the sculpted HaT figures yet in this is not visible in Preben Kannik’s illustration of the regiment of 1808 (found in “Military Uniforms of the World in Colour”).
This style of shako reproduced by Kannik, with a tiny – almost non-existent peak – is seen in another contemporary illustration of a Swedish cavalry regiment; the Nylands Light Dragoons of the same year. From these illustrations, the shako appears to have yellow cord around it, something which is reproduced on the HaT figures. The rest of the uniform appears very similar to HaT’s sculpted figures with its waist length coat, although HaT’s troopers are wearing campaign overalls rather than riding breeches.
The horses supplied by HaT are of course very familiar to me, being the same already used for the 18-strong Mörner Hussar regiment and also for the King’s Horse Guard.
Aside from the headdress, the uniform looks closest to the Scanian Carabineers which I painted earlier on in the year. For that reason, I toyed with painting them with yellow coats instead. This was an undress uniform colour adopted for Swedish cavalry regiments for field duty resulting from wearing the reverse colours of the full uniform.
In the final event, I decided to reproduce the same blue coats wonderfully depicted by Danish illustrator Preben Kannik. His “Military Uniforms of the World in Colour” book was a regular source of pleasure during my childhood and indeed continues do so right up to today. It contains many uniforms or regiments I’ve painted previously in the project and also, it must be said, regiments which I still intend to attempt.
The Småland Light Dragoon figures are already well under way, so I hope to have something to share on progress reasonably soon.
Having posted on the machine gun crews, I’ve now completed the rest of the Pegasus box of WWI French infantry, so here are some pics of the end result. The figures wear the Horizon Blue coat and Adrian helmet. The trousers are white which were worn by some French units when serving on the Salonika front in 1917-18, which these troops are supposed to represent.
A chap on Benno’s Figures Forum queried whether the white trousers would have been such a bright shade. My response was ‘probably not’, but my WWI encylcopedia states that the trousers worn overseas on the Salonika or Macedonian front were “Horizon Blue or white”, so I suppose that can be taken literally as I have here. Shades and colours during WWI could vary considerably for many nations suffering supply problems with clothing and dyes, so these trousers are probably as likely worn as anything else!
Below are two figures carrying the Chauchat light machine guns, a weapon featured and discussed in previous posts.
Another nicely sculpted figure is in the act of throwing a hand grenade. An illustration in my WWI encyclopedia depicted French hand grenades having been painted in the same horizon blue as the uniform, for some reason, and I’ve reproduced that here.
The officer wears leather gloves and leather gaiters instead of puttees. He’s armed with a revolver and beckoning his men to follow.
The separate arms allowed for a number of figures advancing with their rifles at different angles, like these poilus below:-
The firing figures came together very nicely, once again in very convincing poses:
There were also two kneeling poses which once again I thought were very effective.
They certainly took their time to paint up, despite the fact that I didn’t paint the whole box, just about 2/3rds of it. .I’m not sure why painting these figures seemed so demanding on this occasion. All I can say is that I think the end result is one that I’m pleased with and so it was all well worth the effort.
These are probably the last WWI figures I’ll paint for 2018 I think, although I’ve a number of kits ready for resuming the project again next year. Meanwhile, I’ve been making plans on what to paint in the run up to 2019, more on which will be announced in due course.
Until then – On ne passe pas! On les aura! En avant et vive la France!
My Pegasus WWI French Infantry figures have been inching forward this past month. Aside from their Horizon Blue uniforms, they have been painted wearing white trousers, a type more familiarly seen on the Salonica front during WWI. And much like the Salonica front itself during the First World War, progress with my figures has been slow, until my latest offensive with brush has created a sudden and rapid breakthrough.
I may have laboured the warfare analogies, but I admit at times this set has been something of a struggle. I’m not entirely certain why but I suspect it’s all the assembly required; those fiddly little arms, legs, heads and weaponry all requiring some glue, was partially to blame. The careful patience which I seem to be able to call upon when using the paintbrush simply evaporates once I have to start gluing little bits of plastic together!
I think another factor which made it all seem a trifle laborious was the sense that I wasn’t doing the figures much justice. Usually, there comes a point in my painting when I feel all the effort is being rewarded with some decent looking figures, but I didn’t really get that impression with these guys. The figures are superbly sculpted so maybe expectations as to what I could do with them were just too high?
All of which might suggest that I’m really unhappy with the end result, which ultimately I’m not. These figures still look alright, I think, and have been worth the effort. Having said that – they’re still not all done! Some work is still required on the standing figures and their basing. So, anyway, here are the first batch to present – four small vignettes featuring figures who are either operating the French army machine guns (the Hotchkiss mitrailleuse or Chauchat) or otherwise lying prone.
During the course of my research for the Caesar figures, I discovered that those 1914 figures must have been operating the St. Etienne machine gun or Mitrailleuse Mle 1907T. By late 1917 however, my figures have ditched the unreliable and unloved St. Etienne and are instead using the superior Hotchkiss Mle 1914. This weapon is identifiable by the five pronounced rings on the barrel which have been faithfully included by the sculptor. These rings were a feature intended to resist overheating. Produced by French company Hotchkiss et Cie, the Hotchkiss Mle 1914 proved to be far more reliable than the St. Etienne and indeed was retained by the French army right up to the beginning of WWII.
I might say that I am rather pleased with the way their Adrian helmets turned out. It doesn’t look much to the camera, looking identical to their uniform, but to the naked eye I like their slightly metallic aspect which is also a slightly darker colour to the uniform’s Horizon Blue shade.
Like the St.Etienne, the Hotchkiss machine gun was fed by hand-inserted individual strips holding 24 rounds of 8mm Lebel ammunition. It was an easy though laborious process which led to a 250 round belt-fed alternative being developed. The Hotchkiss also shared the same metal tripod stand as the St. Etienne, known as the ‘Omnibus’ tripod. This added to what were seen as the gun’s major shortcomings; it’s heavy weight and excessive height (making it more easily seen and subject to counter-fire.
One of the figures is operating a weapon already familiar to Suburban Militarism (see my Serbian WWI Infantry); the hand-held Chauchatlight machine gun.
The Chauchat figure lies on a small mound which was a piece of moulded plastic included on the sprue. A little modelling clay and it has hopefully been blended into the rest of the scene. The Chauchat was a weapon with a number of serious problems, even being called the ‘worst machine gun ever’, according to this film on YouTube.
I’ve included a figure behind the Chauchat wielding infantryman; a casualty who is lying lifeless on his rifle. I resisted the temptation to throw red paint all over it but on hindsight I may add a spot to the ground seeping out near his head.
Even ‘worst ever’ machine guns are pretty deadly in my opinion and I guess that my armed figure would still be a formidable opponent to anyone advancing over open ground. Speaking of which, the ground on my little displays I’ve tried to make look vaguely arid which I hope might be the sort of landscape found in the region of southern Greece.
One of my little scenes includes a small shell hole in which two men are taking cover. One of the duo bravely, or perhaps unwisely, is emerging from the hole to advance while his comrade covers him with his rifle.
So, that just leaves the standing figures still to come which, after some more painting and basing, I hope to finally present hopefully at the end of the week.
At which point I will happily be able to say – Finallement!
You’ll never guess what came through the post today. A couple of weeks ago, I complained about missing out on eBay on a Dorset Miniatures 54mm figure, another one for my “Marrion’s Men” series of yeomanry.
Having been outbid, I was surprised to see the same figure quickly re-listed. Presumably, the original winner found themselves unable to commit to the purchase for some reason. I’m delighted to confirm that I subsequently won the figure – all of which makes for a happy me!
So, I’ll be painting up this 1852 officer of the Yorkshire Hussars at some point. In the meantime, the lack of any finished figures appearing on this blog of late is not down to a total lack of endeavour on my part. Those Pegasus’ French WWI infantry are proving incredibly time-consuming. I’m creeping forward with them, so more on those whenever I finally get something worth sharing…
All of my Strelets Austrian WWI infantrymen are now finished and based. I’ll present my handful of figures wearing gasmasks first and then reveal the other more numerous troops in a second post soon.
I’ve said it before, these troops in gasmasks present a nightmarish sight. The ‘dehumanisation’ of 20th century mass industrial warfare somehow becomes almost literal when the face of a soldier is replaced with such a mask. The expressionless, glassy eyes are very disturbing. Strelets are to be praised for having the vision to be the only manufacturer of 1/72 scale to produce these figures. I previously painted a handful of their British and French infantry in gasmasks just prior to the inception of this blog on WordPress way back in 2014.
The Austro-Hungarian army of WWI was increasingly reliant on Germany as the war progressed and in the case of supplying its troops with suitable gasmasks it came to rely mainly on German imports rather than their own creations. This imported gasmask would have been variations of the Gummimaske.
So I’ve painted my mask in a similar style to the example above. Strelets, in an apparent oversight, have not included any gasmask storage canisters on the figures, so we must assume that it is either not used and the mask simply stuffed into the haversack or is obscured by other accoutrements.
A very 2-dimensional figure below, almost like an old-fashioned ‘flat’ model soldier really. With a bit of paint, I think the fellow looks quite effective though.
Strelets, somewhat eccentrically, often like their officer figures to be fitted out in the full regalia due to the rank, even it seems in the midst of a Great War gas attack! The officer below is wearing a yellow sash and has drawn his sword. He is also aiming his far more practical revolver ahead through the gas cloud.
More regular visitors to my blog may notice that I have spent a little extra attention on my bases this time for these figures. Rather than just throw some loose grass scatter over a base, in a completely new approach I’ve created a mix of sand and rock and glued that to the base. Once dry, I applied a soil wash for shading and then added dry brushed layers of paint to highlight the texture of the ground. I’ve included just a few tufts of grass to leave areas of bare earth and rock. This is no doubt pretty basic stuff for modellers but is a ‘giant leap forward’ for Suburban Militarism! It takes a bit of extra time to do so whether I’ll be prepared to take a similar approach all the time is in doubt.
In 1916, the Austro-Hungarian army attacked the Italian troops at Monte San Michele deploying a mix of phosgene and chlorine gas. This was the first use of gas on the Italian Front and thousands of unprotected Italian soldiers died.
There were many ways to become a casualty in the First World War, none of them anything less than terrible, but even in the midst of the industrialised mass killing of that conflict, gas attacks seemed a particularly barbarous and cruel manner to harm the combatants, even to people of the time.
The use of such chemical weapons was actually banned under 1899 Hague Declaration, so it’s use was already illegal and therefore a war crime. Being difficult to deploy against the enemy in a targeted and effective way (wind direction could be crucial), and also being easily subject to counter-measures thanks to the development of the gasmask, its use thankfully has largely died out in subsequent conflicts although, as in the recent Syrian allegations, the threat of this dreadful weapon sadly persists even today.
Gas and my Great-Grandfather: some final words
For years, I had always been told that my great-grandfather had been a victim of a gas attack in the First World War. This, I had been informed, was the reason his mind had been affected to such an extent that after military discharge he was apprehended chasing his family down a street with an axe. Harry Bennett was incarcerated in an asylum where he died only a few years later seemingly in poor physical as well as mental health. I offered a few words about this in a very early blog post back in November 2014.
A soldier in the Leicestershire Regiment, it was whilst he was serving in France that he had written to his wife to suggest that his latest child (my grandmother) should be named Francis, it being a reference to the country where he had found himself while separated at her birth. Actually, at my nan’s funeral a few years ago (she was 98!), it was reported that he rather less romantically suggested she be named “one-too-many” before then proffering Francis! My brother carries the masculine version of that name, and now my own daughter does too, in her middle name.
More recently, some information came my way from my mother regarding his service record. It made no mention of gas poisoning but instead made some references to an injury received in battle, from which he’d recovered, and also a persistent foot problem (“trench foot”?) which resulted in discharge. It now occurs to me that, at a time when post-traumatic stress was not understood – much less accepted – the ‘mental effect of gas poisoning’ story might have been a way in which his shattered mental health could be understood and accepted within his family and community. Traditional notions of bravery and cowardice in war made severe psychiatric breakdowns caused by modern warfare appear to be signs of weakness or moral failing. Being employed by a mental health NHS Trust, perhaps I of all people in my family am in a better position to offer a far more compassionate understanding of my poor grandfather’s condition, a century on from his breakdown.
I’d like to introduce the third figure in my series of R.J. Marrion-inspired 54mm yeomanry figures. It’s another figure that appears on the front cover of the “3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters)” book which was wonderfully illustrated by the late Robert Marrion.
I should say that these are ‘figures’ plural asthere are two of them, these identical twins coming as a pair in a single purchase from eBay. My figures appear in a much lighter shade of green under the camera lens, appearing a little more akin to the illustration to the naked eye.
“For Camp Church Parade Order, the officers wore the green forage cap, the green serge frock, Full Dress overalls, brown leather wrist gloves and the Sam Browne belt (as seen on the front cover).
I don’t know about a ‘camp’ Church Parade Order – it looks pretty macho to me…
The Robert Marrion illustration shows the officer resting his hands on the pommel of his sword, which is out of its scabbard. Initially, I thought that the sculptor no doubt faithfully recreated this sword but, unfortunately, as both my figures are missing this item, they must have got lost. One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that in the illustration the officer’s hands come up to the top of his belt. On the figure, however, the hands come to rest quite a bit lower meaning that the sword will have to be trimmed significantly short. So, I then mused that perhaps there was no sword, but then the empty scabbard suggests otherwise. An oversight on the part of the otherwise impressively talented sculptor, perhaps?
Despite resting their hands upon air, the figure still looks convincingly as though the officer is merely folding his hands, in my opinion. But I’m going to go with the sword to match the illustration and I have secured a 54mm scale alternative for their “Infantry Pattern” sword which, with a little trimming, I hope might act as a substitute.
You will notice that this officer of the Sharpshooters is a decorated soldier. On his chest, Marrion has depicted two medals. From the book cover, I could see that one is clearly a Queen’s South Africa Medal with bars, suggesting that he served in the Anglo-Boer War as part of the regiment’s initial incarnation as the 18th, 21st and 23rd Battalions of the Imperial Yeomanry. On 23 July 1901, the 3rd County of London Imperial Yeomanry (Sharpshooters) was formed from the veterans of these Boer War Imperial Yeomanry battalions.
After a little research, the other medal on my figures’ chest I now believe to be the King Edward VII Coronation Medal, a slightly oval-shaped medal awarded in 1902 to celebrate said monarch’s coronation with Queen Alexandra. It was awarded to “...service officers who were present at the coronation ceremony, performed extra work in its preparation, or who were involved in the coronation parade.” Interestingly, the date of the coronation which was printed on all the medals – 28th June 1902 – is incorrect. The king had to postpone the coronation until October when he’d recovered from an emergency operation for appendicitis.
With the exception of my original Sharpshooting Trumpeter, the remaining figures have all come from a lady who is selling off her father’s impressive collection of figures. I politely enquired after the missing swords for these figures and through the post a week later, completely unexpectedly, was a wonderful handmade card from the gentleman’s widow.
Within her charming card, she had included a couple of swords that she had discovered loose amongst her late husband’s large collection. One weapon was quite suitable for one of these two figures, although it also appears to be an absolutely perfect fit for my next Marrion Man, who was also missing his sword…
It was a very generous act indeed by the lady. It’s a sad and sobering activity to observe; the selling off of a husband and father’s old model soldiers. As the army dissipates, it’s old commander having passed away, it is a vision of the (hopefully still very distant) future, when my own stock gets dispersed by my own spouse and daughter in a similar manner, hopefully to another grateful collector. Ah, but enough of such maudlin musings. Many a soldier I plan to add to Suburban Militarism’s army yet!
My Sharpshooter officers are both currently still standing in a blob of Blu Tack, patiently awaiting smart basing of the type that their fellow sharpshooter received a week ago. The final based and labelled figures, hopefully even with swords to lean upon, will be presented in a future post!
Blu Tack is a poor way to present one of R.J. Marrion’s finest yeomen. But until now, Blu Tack is all I’ve had to keep him standing upright. I’ve previously recounted as to the long history of this trumpeter figure. Having been lost for so many years – and then foolishly mislaid again for a couple more – once he did finally return, I had to admit to him that I’d in fact given up all hope and thrown away his original wooden base. He was naturally outraged at my lack of faith.
And so, by way of apology, I’ve sourced something altogether more respectable for my straying Sharpshooter. I like to think that it presents my humble tribute to artist Robert Marrion in a far more suitable manner than a blob of Blu Tack.
The nicely turned wooden base is made of unvarnished alder wood from a purveyor in eastern Europe (on collection, my local Post Office teller gave my poor wife quite a grilling, not many Ukrainian stamps pass through these parts and what’s more you can’t be too careful what with that poisoning in Salisbury…).
I did think about varnishing the base, or maybe adding some kind of colour to it but in the end I decided I liked the natural look best of all. No frills, just the figure.
The engraving was very cheaply sourced online and labels the figure nicely, I think. I’ve abbreviated the lengthy regimental title to 3rd CLY (Sharpshooters). On the rear of the figure there is another plaque detailing rank and date.
So, here’s presenting the first of my series of ‘Marrion’s Men’; a trumpeter of the 3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters). In Drill Order, he dates from the early 20th century, just after the conclusion of the Anglo-Boer War, a conflict which inspired the formation of his regiment.
A series of regular blog posts displaying images from “British Cavalry Uniforms of the 19th Century”; a set of trade cards issued by Badshah Tea Co. of London in 1963.
#17: The 8th Hussars
“The regiment was raised in Ireland in 1693 as Dragoons and converted to Hussars in 1822 (the King’s Own Royal Irish). The 8th Hussars took part in the famous Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava. This is a trooper at the end of the 19th century”
A series of regular blog posts displaying images from “British Cavalry Uniforms of the 19th Century”; a set of trade cards issued by Badshah Tea Co. of London in 1963.
#10: The 15th Hussars
“This regiment was raised in 1759 and was then known as Light Dragoons. In 1807 it was converted to Hussars and in 1922 it was amalgamated with the 19th Hussars. Depicted on this card is a trooper wearing the uniform of the 1825 period.”