Continuing with my steadily expanding Ottoman Turkish army, I’m turning my attention back to the elite Janissaries. The Janissaries were organised into three separate sections.
the cemaat (frontier troops); consisting of 101 ortas (battalions)
the bölük (the Sultan’s own bodyguard); 61 ortas
the sekban; 34 ortas
My previous orta represented a battalion from the largest corps, the cemaat; the 73rd orta were known as the Crane Keepers (Tenercis), a reference to their origins as part of the Sultan’s vast hunting retinue.
The Yeniçeri Ocaği, or Janissary Corps, aside from being an elite military force also acted as the Sultan’s personal bodyguard, protecting their ruler and his senior officials and property. Specifically, the security of the Sultan was the responsibility of the Bostanci Bashi, the head of the what were known as Bostanci guards. The Bostanci corps of ‘gardeners’ palace guards were a separate, specialised part of the Janissary corps. Their role involved the policing and maintenance of the many palaces and estates in Istanbul.
And it’s with the Bostanci in mind that I’ve painted the next Janissary battalion in the Ottomania project. It is from the Sultan’s bodyguard or bölük division – specifically, the 56th orta – and this battalion supplied troops for the 60-strong Harbaci Palace Gate Guard. They were also known as the Çardak ortaafter the district on the Golden Horn in Istanbul where they were pemanently stationed.
The Harbaci Palace Guard were detailed for the protection of both the Grand Vizier and the Janissary Agha (senior commander of the Janissaries, taking orders only from the Sultan himself). The 56th’s unit insignia curiously appears to have been a sea-going galley.
Having no evidence of what my selected orta looked like, I took a little inspiration from the above depiction of an 1809 guard of the Bostanci, wearing predominantly red clothing.
There are still some figures remaining in the box, which I intend to use at some point for the final corps; the Sekban. I’m not sure when that will be, as a number of other figures are now calling for my attention!
Campaigns consisted of invasions by great armies of the Ottomans, with heavy parks of artillery… The generals opposed to them, not being able to meet the Turks in the field, spread their forces in numerous fortresses, more or less strong, and the campaigns consisted in besieging these fortresses. With rare exceptions, these sieges were successful. The Turks brought overwhelming forces to bear on them. Their siege guns completely overmatched the guns of the defence. It was a question of a few days or a few weeks how long these fortresses could resist.From “The Turkish Empire, its Growth and Decay” by Baron G. Shaw-Lefevre Eversley (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/46481)
I’ve been beavering away these past few weeks finishing off my collection of RedBox Ottoman Artillery (known as the TopçuOcağı).
The pace of industrial development being slow during this period, the 16th Century Artillery box is broadly similar to their 17th Century set (but with different poses) so depicted wearing the same uniform colour, the sets will match well together.
As mentioned previously, I also had one stray broken cannon left over from the 16th Century Siege Artillery set. I’ve now put that right to make it a total of four of these siege gun teams, each with a mighty wall-smashing artillery piece. I confess to a macabre liking for these monsters of cannonry.
The 16th century artillery box includes some very pleasing poses, including these struggling ammunition carriers which, from their headdress, apppear to be janissaries which have been dragooned into the laborious task:
I also particularly like the ear-protecting character in a fez, seen here standing next to the officer in a large turban:
The plastic cannon pieces themselves are a trifle bendy but it is an effect that is not too noticeable. The carriages, however, I think look convincingly solid.
So, over the past year I’ve somehow managed to make myself a besieging Ottoman artillery corps (in Turkish; Topçu Ocağı) all being neatly entrenched behind earth-filled gabions,and consisting of 12 big guns, namely:
It all makes for a reasonably imposing sight when stretched out as a siege line across the lounge carpet. Even more imposing to a nervous population cowering behind it’s city walls, I should think! Not a bad start to my Ottomania project, all in all.
I’ve enjoyed branching out into a different era to the 18th / 19th centuries and you could say it’s expanded my horizons. I’ve already painted some Janissaries and there is plenty more in the RedBox range to expand my Ottomania project even further.
What’s more, I couldn’t resist purchasing some other 16th/17th Century troops from a rival nation state that I saw going very cheap on eBay recently, so there’s definitely some life in this project for some considerable time to come.
By way of a quick progress update while the cannon, gabions and basing are underway, I thought I’d share my Ottoman artillery figures of the Topçu Ocağı artillery corps.
Three gun crews have been painted; x2 teams of eight figures each and x1 siege artillery gun team of four figures. The 16th century crews come with two men carrying what appears to be large leather bag of cannon balls. I’m still painting the bag but when it’s finished should make for a nice scene.
More heavy lifting of ammunition:
Light my fire – Turkish portfire carriers:
Turbans indicate the officers in charge. The siege gun commander holds a brass quadrant, an instrument for calculating the required elevation of the gun.
So, all these fellows are just patiently awaiting the development of their dioramas, which I’ll share when complete!
Back in 2013, I was new to painting figures. I had dabbled before in 25mm metal castings before but only began to really dedicate regular time, patience and, ah, money in 2012. At the time, on the 1st floor of a huge model and toy shop in my home town, boxes of 1:72 scale plastic soldiers of every description occupied an entire room. Then, one day, I walked in to the shop to find it all gone. The floor to ceiling high wall coverage by countless boxes of plastic troops of every description and from every manufacturer had all but disappeared.
The venerable old store was closing down and clearly, in the weeks since I’d last visited, I’d missed the ensuing super-sale bonanza. Modelling vultures had already picked the carcass clean. There would be time to have a little cry about the old shop’s fate later back home but at that point I could see a handful of boxes still remained on a shelf – the last remnant half-companies from an army on sprues once numbering many 1000s of figures.
The Marmite sculpting style of the early Strelets figures ensured they featured heavily amongst these final unwanted boxes. I decided to pick up two of their marching French Napoleonic infantry sets; French Infantry on the March (1) and French Infantry in Advance. The unloved kits hadn’t remained unpurchased due to over-pricing – priced only £2.50 each with the added inducement of a ‘buy 1 get 1 free’!
As I took them home to mourn the passing of that enormous model soldier department (not to say it’s ever helpful, knowledgeable, but sadly soon-to-be-redundant staff) I suspected that these figures would probably go forever unpainted, stowed somewhere in the loft. In truth, it was a purchase motivated by sympathy rather than by desire.
And then, a few years later, in March 2015. I decided to paint some with a view to maybe submitting them to an international group painting project. In the event, they weren’t sent abroad but I had at least now made some effort on 18 of them. To my surprise, I enjoyed painting them a lot, with no less than 24 individual poses across the two boxes, there was real personality from a crowd otherwise depicted doing more or less the same thing. Both boxes featured the troops wearing greatcoats so mixed perfectly well together.
These painted figures remained un-based for a long while until, during a heavy blizzard on a December day in 2017, I realised that their greatcoats suggested they’d do well marching through snow (an obvious idea given one box’s art even depicts snow) and somehow, I ended up adding a further 26 to make 44 marchers. And last year, continuing what was becoming a yearly tradition, I dutifully painted another dozen to follow the Strelets French sledge train I’d painted. This latest dozen painted only this week takes the painted group it up to 68.
Since 2008, both of these marching sets are now virtually unavailable but Strelets have recently made a new replacement; their French Infantry on the March (1), with apparently more on the way! I’ve tackled a sprue of these new figures to compare with the old figures. These will be the future of my French winter marching tradition once the old sets are finally exhausted.
They are very different to the original sets indeed.
Firstly, the new set has its marchers appearing sideways on the sprue, rather than face on. This has the effect of the figures being quite slender, almost appearing as a semi-flat.
Two of the figures wear some unusual headgear. PSR identify it as a pokalem, also known as a bonnet de police. Blue and piped with red, this early kind of informal headdress was warm and comfortable with ear flaps which could be worn up or down (as in these chilly examples), it could even be worn under shako.
Details, as with all newer Strelets figures, are much more subtle than before but overall the proportions and poses of these figures are impressive, even allowing for their semi-flat thinness.
To more clearly differentiate between the older regiment and the newly raised troops, I’ve adopted a grey greatcoat for the new recruits with a green ball plume.
The old style figures are now down to their last couple of remaining sprues. Do I have a preference between the sets? Plastic Soldier Review prefer the new set of figures. But for all that, when it comes to painting, I can’t help but have a fondness, perhaps even a bias, for the ‘Old Guard’, those original, ugly and unloved refugees from a dying High Street model shop.
This is one last group from the new Strelets French Foreign Legion figures I’ve been tackling, but I’ve decided to paint them as something a little different.
The “French Foreign Legion XXth Century” box includes figures engaged in action rather than the marching and mounted figures seen in my recent posts. Some of these figures wear the sun or pith helmet rather than the classic kepi and it is the figures wearing the pith helmets which I’ve been concentrating on.
In trawling the internet, I managed to find a single illustration of the French colonial marines wearing the double-breasted coat (known as the capote) together with the pith helmet. I have since struggled to re-find it again and so have no idea where it originated but given the anchor badge on the helmet it clearly was intended to be a marine. I suppose it is entirely possible that the French marines wore the famous capote,but marines in this uniform do not appear frequently on the internet.
So, looking so similar to my French Foreign Legion figures, I set about recreating that uniform with the blue trousers and anchor cap badge. I’ve added a little straggly grass to give a marshy, far-east impression, perfect for veterans of the Tonkin Campaign in the 1880s.
I was first inspired to create some French colonial marines after seeing 28mm khaki-wearing later versions of these troops on Atomic Floozy’s splended blog.
I thought the kneeling figures were quite effective:
Standing and firing figures:
And when the fighting becomes hand-to-hand, the other end of the rifle becomes useful…:
En guard! Yes, I know, I’ve forgotten to paint those bayonets…
All in all, I am quite pleased with my small force of French marines and I’ll be sticking with the infantry of France for my next paint too…
There are stirrups which are unnecessary when riding camels, so I’ve simply painted over them. One of the mounted legionnaires you will notice holds a pair of binoculars, an essential item for any patrol.
Now, I’ve said it before. I really don’t like pegs on figures. Even when expertly made, I don’t like the concept – tiny plastic pegs in tiny holes do not a secure connection make.
Being camels intended for a number of other Strelets sets, needless to say these Foreign Legion pegs did not connect with the camel’s holes at all well and when they did it unseated the rider in an awkward way. What’s more, the legs of the riders were far too narrow for the camel also so I was left wrestling, bending and gluing for an unconvincing sit. The end result is just about convincing, I think.
The concept of camel-mounted legionnaires is fanciful, owing more to the romance of cinema than to reality. However, as my miniature camel train lopes off across the rolling Saharan dunes into the sunset, I’m still not quite done with the Foreign Legion. I’ve opened another box of French Foreign Legion also recently issued by Strelets, but this time I’ll be applying my own twist to it…
And now the men of the mounted company were very pleased with themselves. They had not to march, the morning was reasonably cool and… added to this, they were getting away from the detested garrison duty, and after a little time voices began to rise in the marching song of the Legion, Le Boudin, the whole column taking up the chorus: Tiens, voila du boudin voila du boudin voila du boudin…
The Legionary on the march is a cheerful person, even when encumbered with from sixty to eighty pounds of kit, besides a rifle and ammunition, and marching on his own feet under a temperature of 100 degrees in the shade…
Strelets new “French Foreign Legion: Desert Patrol” box includes 6 camel-mounted legionnaires and 8 marching figures. I’m sharing the latter in this post and will follow up with the camel riders in a following post.
Each of the eight marching men is in a unique pose:
This next figure is carrying a Lewis machine gun. Not manufactured until just before WWI, this is something of an anachronism with this uniform which, according to Plastic Soldier Review, can be best dated to no later than 1912. As they concede however, “you can find the Legion using this weapon in films”, and so fits the cinematic vibe of this set.
All in all, a lovely set of figures by Strelets. My criticism as a figure painter would be that the detail is very subtle in parts and I like crisper detail. My other criticism is that for a force well known for its brutal marches through hostile desert (march or die!), 8 isn’t enough – I want more!
The remaining 6 camel-mounted legionnaires will follow in my next post, until then here’s Laurel and Hardy on the march to ‘Fort Arid’ in their classic Foreign Legion spoof Beau Hunks.
In one way, the Legionary is like an animal of the jungle. Put him in barracks with their monotony and he becomes surly and dangerous to himself and others, place him in his proper surrounding – the march, or battlefield – and he becomes what he is by nature, the soldier par excellence.
I know it’s ‘hump day’, but what’s this? Have I ditched horses for dromedaries?
Yes, I have! For the time being, anyway. This is my first attempt at painting camels and I’ve enjoyed it a lot. These ‘ships of the desert’ are courtesy of Strelets new “French Foreign Legion: Desert Patrol” release. I think Strelets’ camels are well sculpted, the proportions (so far as I my limited knowledge of dromedaries goes) seem perfectly good. Plastic Soldier Review, however, are – shall we say – less than impressed with their gait!
It features 8 walking legionnaires and 6 mounted camel riders dressed in the classic late 19th / early 20th century uniform familiar to us from the movies.
The concept of camel-mounted legionnaires from the 1890s/1900s is entirely fanciful according to Plastic Soldier Review who scoff that “no legionnaire ever patrolled while riding a camel until after 1945“, recommending that we find some mules for the riders and use the camels as baggage carriers, or even throw them away. Not me!
There are three different camel poses for the 6 riders to choose from:
France did later create companies of camel cavalry within their North African army (but not in the Legion). These were known as Compagnies Méharistes Sahariennes“, whose ranks were filled by local Arab and Berber tribesmen. These same camels turn up in other Strelets sets; the British, Turkish and Australian Camel Corps sets which each include 3 nice additional poses including a sitting camel. My three poses also reappear in another newly released set “Rif Rebellion“. Perhaps their Arabic riders might also pass for some Méharistes?
With nothing factual to go on, I’ve painted their tassled drapes in dark red rather than the blue I’ve seen used by Méharistes, just to give my figures a little extra colour. The saddle is a leather cover draped over a wooden seat.
Like me, PSR at least appreciate the theatricality and romance of the set stating that “if you want to recreate movies like Beau Geste (1939) or March or Die (1977) then this set is great” – and I say ‘who wouldn’t want to do that’? The legionnaire figures themselves are in progress and I’ll share the rest of my hot and thirsty ‘desert patrol’ when they’re finally done.
For all things French Foreign Legion related, you could do a lot worse than head on over to the fabulous Mon Legionnaire blog which has lots on La Legion in wargaming, in history, and it’s portrayal in art and popular culture.
In my previous post, I revealed the 36th regiment in my Napoleonic Cavalry Project to be the 18th Hussars. It’s a return to Italeri for the first time since their Mamelukes in 2017. The detailing is terrific if subtle.
The horses are elegant but are something of a problem. Firstly, they connect to their bases with pegs – and I don’t like pegs. Thankfully, these ones fit perfectly together but are never as strong as if they were moulded together and a couple of horses parted company from their bases during painting.
Secondly, the horses don’t have the sheepskin saddle covers, an essential item for any self-respecting hussars of the period, but with these nicely sculpted horses, I can live with that.
Finally, the horses come with two disfiguring marks, discs, on their right flanks, presumably a feature imprinted from the moulding process. It looks a bit ugly and I’m not sure whether the scars which are left by attempting to delicately carve them away is better than just leaving them in place. It’s a shame as the horses are beautifully sculpted.
No overt command figures included in this set except the trumpeter.
I keep picking up boxes of these Italeri Hussars / Light Dragoons so I’ve still got enough for more regiments if I return to them to do more in the future.
Formed in 1759, the regiment was first known as the 19th Dragoons and Drogheda’s Light Horse. It was renumbered a few time before settling on the 18th in 1769. Wellington himself spent some time in the regiment as a junior officer.
In 1805, it adopted the “King’s Irish” title and was converted to hussars two years later. It was sent to the Peninsular theatre in 1808 for a year’s service where it faught in the successful cavalry actions of Sahagún and Benavente and also at the Battle of Corunna where the commander Sir John Moore was killed.
It was back in the Peninsular under their old comrade Arthur Wellesley in 1813 and fought in many of the battles leading to the French defeat (including Vitoria, Nive and Toulouse).
For the 100 Days campaign, The 18th Hussars were a part of Sir Hussey Vivian’s 6th British Cavalry Brigade alongside the 10th Hussars and the 1st Hussars of the King’s German Legion. Numbering 447 sabres in three squadrons, they were commanded by Lt-Col the Honourable Murray.
During the Battle of Waterloo, the 18th Hussars found themselves on the extreme left of Wellington’s line, behind the buildings of La Haie farm. Being over 2km away from the centre of the Allied line, the regiment had an almost uniquely quiet time for most of the battle. Having plenty of space to do so, they were formed up in line rather than in columns.
Only late in the day was the regiment moved to the seat of the action in the centre as the French cavalry began to retreat with the rest of their army. Their spirited attacks on the enemy nonetheless cost them over 100 casualties.
The 18th Hussars remained in France after Napoleon’s defeat as part of the Army of Occupation. It was disbanded in 1821 as part of the post-Napoleonic Wars reduction in the British Army’s strength, that numbered regiment not to be reformed again until 1858.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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“.