I need to talk about Christmas. I know – it’s far too early to do that, but I need to make some preparations, you see? A feature of the season, for Suburban Militarism at least, is the tradition of painting some suitably seasonal soldiers to parade on the mantelpiece among all the tinsel, Christmas cards and decorations.
In previous years, I’ve exclusively painted soldiers from Revell’s Austrian Infantry of the 7 Years War. These troops have been painted purely for decoration in bright colours and the seasonal army so far consists of two infantry regiments. The 1st Noel Regiment of Foot were the first figures I produced some years ago. The Yule Grenadiers followed a couple of years ago. I’ve been quietly adding a handful of men to each of them each Christmas time.
This year, I thought I’d expand the seasonal army with the addition of another arm; the cavalry. Using Revell’s 7 Years War Austrian Dragoons and Prussian Hussars, I am creating the beginnings of two Christmas cavalry regiments;
The Christingle Dragoons
The Carolling Hussars
For the past week, I’ve been working on four figures from the Carolling Hussars using Revell’s Prussian Hussars. The uniform I’ve chosen is based upon a real regiment, the Puttkamer Hussars of the Prussian army. Originally named the White Hussars, they took on the name of their colonel Georg Ludwig von Puttkamer (who was subsequently at the brutal battle of Kunersdorf).
I thought the Puttkamer Hussar’s all-white pelisse looked suitably wintry for my seasonal hussar regiment. For the ‘light blue’ dolman and overalls, I selected the colour turquoise. To add a little festive cheer to that all-black Mirleton headgear, I’ve glued on a little piece of tinsel!
I haven’t painted Revell’s Prussian Hussars of the 7 Years War before now. They are as finely sculpted as other Revell cavalry I’ve painted such as the Napoleonic Life Guards.
Finally, as with all my other Christmas figures, I’ve depicted them riding in snow (…deep and crisp and even)! My 11-year-old daughter has previously designed flags for both the Yule Grenadiers and the 1st Noel Regiment. On seeing my Carolling Hussars, she immediately requested that she design their colours too. To do this, I might need to attempt a conversion of one of the figures (not a skill of mine!), as Prussian hussars didn’t carry colours into battle during the 7 Years War and therefore don’t appear in Revell’s kit.
With Advent looming, I’ve already begun four more figures for the other Christmas cavalry regiment; the Christingle Dragoons. More on those figures soon. Hopefully, they should be ready in time to take their place on the mantelpiece here at Suburban Militarism, alongside hand-picked representatives of the Carolling Hussars, the Yule Grenadiers, and the 1st Noel infantry.
Who once said “Christmas isn’t Christmas without model soldiers”? Well, it might have been me…
It’s been a long while since I showcased some of my Strelets Crimean War range, so I thought I’d dig some out.
The Chasseurs d’Afrique (aka the “Chass d’Af”) featured memorably at the Battle of Balaklava, assisting the charge of the Light Brigade by clearing the Fedyukhin Heights of Russians.
As with many Strelets figures, the sculpting is an acquired taste. The figures have lots of life and character to them, but undoubtedly lack the finesse and anatomical accuracy of some other manufacturers, particularly with the horses, I think.
Furthermore, these were painted about 4 years or more ago, about the time I really took up figure painting properly as a hobby, rather than the occasional rough daubing of paint I had been doing. So my painting was still very much evolving at the time I painted these and I think it shows.
Strelets always have my gratitude for covering the Crimean War conflict in such detail and these Chasseurs d’Afrique make for a wonderful addition.
Italeri have produced a number of very impressive Napoleonic cavalry kits and I’m pleased to have finally tackled their Mamelukes set; possibly one of their best.
It has involved painting a lot of detail in a large range of colours, which in turn has meant a much larger investment in time to produce them. Was it worth it? I like to think so, they are unique in my collection and looks pleasingly colourful.
Whilst it’s taken quite a while to get them painted, but the sheer exotic value of their turbans, scimitars, etc, etc, has kept me going.
The Mamelukes made up a very small force in Napoleon’s cavalry, but the impact of their fame gave them an importance far beyond their limited numbers, and it’s no surprise that Italeri and HaT (amongst other manufacturers) have featured them in their range.
Well, I can now place these figures into the cabinet with the other Nappy Cavalry Project regiments. And that means I can finally get on with packing for my much-needed summer holiday! Until I return, I send my very best wishes to all readers of this humble blog and leave you with the usual regimental biography and photos!
Now, I wonder if there are any regimental museums where I’m going…
Biography: Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard [France]
The word “Mameluke” is an Arabic term meaning ‘property’, indicating the status of Mamelukes as being slaves. Since the 9th Century, the Mamelukes were an influential military caste of slaves which rose to become a power in Egypt eventually ruling as the independent Mameluke Sultanate until 1517, and thereafter ruling as vassals of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte led his French ‘Army of the Orient’ to invade Egypt to both protect French trade and threaten Britain’s own. The most formidable force in the Egyptian army was undoubtedly the Mameluke cavalry. Equipped in an almost medieval fashion, sometimes including chain mail and iron helmets, they were expert horsemen and swordsmen. Armed with curved sabres of very high quality, they could out-fence most conventional cavalry and were observed to have actually sliced through French muskets.
Napoleon soundly defeated the Mameluke army at the Battle of the Pyramids where he repelled their massed cavalry attacks. The formidable Mameluke cavalry had impressed him, however, as the only effective arm of the Egyptian army. Consequently, on the 14th September 1799, French General Kléber established a mounted company of Mameluke auxiliaries which were soon reorganised into 3 companies of 100 men each known as the “Mamluks de la République”. In 1803, they were again organised into a single company attached to the Chasseurs-à-Cheval of the Imperial Guard.
Whilst the officers were occasionally French, the rest of the force were at various times made up of Greeks, Egyptians, Circassians, Albanians, Maltese, Hungarians, Georgians and Turks (amongst others. All were armed with a brace of pistols; a long dagger tucked into their waist sash; a mace; and later even a battle-axe.
The Mamelukes served in Poland, Spain and in Russia, fighting at the Battle of Wagram and most notably at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 where the regiment was granted an eagle and its roster increased to accommodate a standard-bearer and a trumpeter. Service in Spain led to a famous painting by Francisco Goya depicting their charge against the uprising of the citizens of Madrid on 2 May 1808, a massacre which in part led up to the Peninsular War.
In 1813, losses accrued over many campaigns meant that the Mamelukes were inevitably reinforced with Frenchmen who were designated as ‘2nd Mamelukes’. Of the 2 companies of Mamelukes, the 1st was ranked as Old Guard and the 2nd as Young Guard.
On his return to power in 1815, Napoleon issued a decree stating that the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard would include a squadron of Mamelukes. It is not known whether they formed a complete squadron at Waterloo, or simply attached themselves as individuals to various units; Mamelukes were almost undoubtedly present, however.
Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1815, there were widespread reprisals against individuals or groups identified with the defeated Napoleonic regime. These included the small number of Mamelukes who were still in the army. Eighteen of them were massacred in Marseilles by vengeful Royalists while awaiting transportation back to Egypt.
The brightly coloured Oriental dress and exotic weaponry of the Mamelukes gave them an influence far beyond the small size of their regiment; an influence felt beyond the battlefield into fashionable society! The Mamelukes loyalty to Napoleon was never questioned and they, fatally for some, became synonymous with him and his empire.
I’ve made some real progress on the Italeri Mameluke figures this past week, the 25th regiment in the Nappy Cavalry Project. These are beautifully sculpted figures, as fine as any other plastic 1/72 set out there.
Though they are a pleasure to paint, it’s been a slower and more complicated process than painting regular forces due to the great variety of colours required and which differ from one figure to the next.
With the exception of the red trousers (saroual) and headgear (cahouk), each figure requires a different colour scheme. Starting each single figure required some wardrobe decisions to be made, I felt like an insecure lady deciding what to wear on a first date!
Hopefully, I’ve made some reasonable choices.
It’s been interesting to paint the unusual accoutrements: the turbans; the daggers; the beautifully curved scimitars; and the pistol holders wedged into the waistbands.
Next for those horses, a task which one might think I’d tire of. I still enjoy painting them, thankfully, and these Italeri horses seem as well sculpted as their riders. Updates to follow in due course. I’m looking forward to painting those arabic saddles. With luck, I might even get the whole regiment finished before my forthcoming summer holiday in July!
After some dithering over the choice of the next regiment in my Napoleonic cavalry project, I can announce that it will be Napoleon’s Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard by Italeri.
Part of my wariness with this set was down to tackling a regiment somewhat out of my comfort zone. Firstly, they are from Egypt and a far cry from the European cavalry of which I’m familiar.
Secondly, they are irregulars and as such don’t wear a uniform dress, never mind the traditional Napoleonic European style uniform. But I paint military uniforms – that’s what I do! Before I hyperventilate any further, here’s a useful guide to their dress which suggests some general uniform guidelines:
During their service in Napoleon’s army, the Mamluk squadron wore the following uniform: Before 1804: The only “uniform” part was the green cahouk (hat), white turban, and red saroual (trousers), all to be worn with a loose shirt and a vest. Boots were of yellow, red, or tan soft leather. Weapons consisted of an “Oriental” scimitar, a brace of pistols in a holder decorated with a brass crescent and star, and a dagger.
After 1804: The cahouk became red with a brass crescent and star, and the shirt was closed and had a collar. The main change was the addition of a “regulation” chasseur-style saddle cloth and roll, imperial green in color, piped red, with a red and white fringe. The saddle and harness remained Arabic in style. The undress uniform was as for the Chasseurs-à-Cheval of the Guard, but of a dark blue cloth.
So that gives me something to go on. They are certainly going to take longer to paint given their disparate colour schemes. One thing is for sure, the figures are beautifully sculpted by Italeri, possibly amongst their finest. The figures are very large for the scale, but this will be of more concern to a wargamer than a mere figure painter like myself.
Painting oriental irregulars certainly provides a different challenge, and it’s one I’m looking forward to. I’ll post updates once I’ve got something to show, until then here are some images of Mamelukes as it seems these exotic horsemen were a favourite of artists over the years.
Prussian Cuirassiers are a set that I’ve had in my possession for a few years now, a purchase from a closing down sale. Having painted them I can declare that they’re a fine set – although perhaps they’re bodies, and heads in particular, are a little bit on the large side. Plenty of nice crisp detail by Italeri makes for a pleasurable painting experience.
It’s been good to return to Italeri figures once again, and Prussians ones at that. I’ve particularly enjoyed painting something a little different from the other regiments; those bicorne hats and yellow jackets add real variety to my collection.
My ‘head-swap’ officer seems to look okay, although I originally intended to give his arm a twist downwards so that he’s not strangely holding out a piece of paper to his right. I like to think I can get away with it as his arm makes it look like he’s gesturing instead.
The trumpeter meanwhile wears a bicorne with a red crest and a white plume with a red tip, in addition to red shoulder markings:
So after that rather enjoyable kit, I’m wondering which cavalry regiment to tackle next in the project and I confess to being somewhat undecided. Furthermore, I fancy taking a brief break from Napoleonic cavalry; a change being as good as a rest, as they say. There’s plenty of figures of all types lying around and waiting for attention here at Suburban Militarism, so watch this space for developments on that.
So, as is traditional for the Nappy Cavalry Project, here’s a few more photos and a regimental biography of my finished Von Beeren Cuirassiers below!
Biography: Von Beeren Cuirassiers (nr.2) [Prussia]
The 2nd Cuirassier regiment in the Prussian army had its origins in 1666 at a time when early Prussian cavalry was simply designated as being Regiments of Horse (Regiment zu Pferde). Raised variously in accounts by either Colonel Count von Russow or Major-General von Pfuel, it immediately went on to serve in a variety of European theatres: against the French in Alsace; the Swedes in Pomerania; and against the Turks in Hungary.
Garrisoned in Brandenburg, it consisted of 10 companies in 5 squadrons. During the War of the Spanish Succession, it fought in the great battles of Oudenarde in 1708 and Malplaquet in 1709. In the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), it fought at the battle of Chotusitz, breaking through and routing two lines of Hungarian infantry regiments. In 1745, it took part in the battle of Hohenfriedberg where it destroyed a Saxon regiment. Later that year, it also broke through enemy lines at the battle of Soor with other cuirassiers and captured the Graner Koppe heights and 22 guns.
By the time of the Seven Years War, the regiment was wearing a tunic of ‘lemon yellow’ underneath its black cuirass, in contrast to the off-white of other cuirassier regiments. It took heavy casualties in the battle of Lobositz but recovered to also take part in the Battle of Kolin where it led the charge of a brigade, scattering several enemy infantry regiments. Later, it was involved in the disastrous Battle of Kunersdorf, losing over 200 men and being routed from the field.
In 1790 came the order that all cuirassier regiments were to abandon the cuirass. However, Von Beeren’s regiment were granted the distinction of retaining their yellow tunics which they had been wearing since at least the time of Frederick the Great. That yellow tunic had earned them the nickname “The Yellow Riders” (‘gelbe Reiter’).
Up until 1806, cuirassier units bore the name of their colonels, also called the Proprietor (Inhaber). In October 1805, Karl Friedrich Hermann von Beeren (1749-1817) became the regimental Colonel in Chief, succeeding his predecessor Generalmajor Schleinitz. As was the custom therefore, the regiment took the new commander’s name and became Cuirassier Regiment Von Beeren (Nr 2).
Armed with the pallash (a straight-bladed sword), Prussian cuirassiers enjoyed greater prestige than other cavalry such as the dragoons, uhlans and hussars. Being heavy cavalry, the men and horses were larger, stronger and were expected to charge en-masse to crush the enemy with their sheer momentum and force.
In 1806, as political tensions with Napoleon’s France were at their height, Prussian Cuirassier officers from the elite Garde du Corps famously inflamed the situation further by ostentatiously sharpening their swords on the steps of the French embassy in Berlin.
However, the woeful state of both staff and tactical organisation in the Prussian army was to be brutally exposed by Napoleon’s army during its subsequent invasion of Prussia. The Prussian cuirassier regiments were distributed throughout the entire Prussian field army – making it very difficult to co-ordinate large-scale, en-masse cavalry charges on the battlefield and greatly nullifying their effectiveness.
During the War of the Fourth Coalition in 1806, Von Beeren’s Cuirassier regiment fought at the disastrous battle of Auerstadt as part of its colonel-in-chief’s brigade (Kuhnheim’s division). After the battle, the regiment withdrew with Blücher’s Corps whereby the majority of the regiment surrendered at Erfurt and Ratekau on November 7. As the regiment was not subsequently re-raised, it effectively marked the end of the regiment. However, seventy men and horses escaped to East Prussia where they went into forming the nucleus of the new 4th Cuirassier regiment.
After the enforced Prussian military reorganization in 1806, cuirassier units were given numbers instead of colonel’s names. In 1808, Regiment Von Beeren had been incorporated into the Brandenburg Cuirassiers. Apparently, their famous yellow tunics were it seems retained and worn for some time thereafter.
No cuirassier regiments were present to see Napoleon’s demise at Waterloo. However, in 1815, Johann Carl Hackenberg watched Prussian cavalry ride through his home town of Elberfeld. This man had particular interest in seeing them as he was an artist who painted in colour all troops from 1813 – 1816. On the 2 February 1815, he observed the Von Beeren successors, the Brandenburg Cuirassiers, ride through the town wearing distinct ‘yellow cuirasses’. So it seems that even 10 years after the regiment’s destruction at Auerstadt, there continued, at least in some way, to be ‘yellow riders’ in the Prussian cuirassiers.
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.