The Post Office Rifles in Egypt

The fourth and final group of Victorian Rifle Volunteers is now completed. The group are depicted in the hot sands of Kassassin, Egypt in 1882. It was here that the Post Office Rifles (known officially as the Army Post Office Corps or APOC) came under fire from Colonel Urabi’s Egyptian army (see my previous post on this). I know that they took no casualties and am assuming for the purposes of this project that they actually returned fire.

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In my little diorama, the men of the Post Office Rifles have formed a firing line, variously loading, firing or assessing their shots under the instruction of an officer.

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I’ve added a few arid looking plants to the sand and rocks. Given the hot and dusty conditions, I’ve dry-brushed some of the desert onto their puttees and trousers to make them look suitably campaign-weary.

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Ah, those puttees… As mentioned in a previous post, I rashly began painting them with Indian army style puttees rather than selecting figures with leather gaiters, which is what they would have worn. Never mind, putting puttees aside, I still think it gives a nice impression of these men taking part in the 1882 Egyptian campaign.

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I took some time playing around with the white foreign service pattern helmets. Too much shading and the white helmet looks unnatural; too little shading and it looks too bright. After some last-minute tinkering, I think they look satisfactory.

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Artist’s impression of the PO Rifles in Egypt.

That’s all from my Victorian Rifle Volunteers project; for the foreseeable future at least. Next up on the Suburban Militarism “To Do” list are a number of possible figures. The ongoing Napoleonic Cavalry Project has been in hiatus since July and I’m about ready to tackle another regiment.

But creeping quickly up on us all, of course, is Christmas and with that in mind I’ve some more figures under way for what has been something of a seasonal tradition at Suburban Militarism – Christmas Soldiers! More about this soon.

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The Postman Always Shoots Twice

My fourth, and for now last, group in my series of Victorian Rifle Volunteers I can now reveal will be the 24th Middlesex Rifle Volunteers, more famously known as “The Post Office Rifles“.

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1930s cigarette card by Players depicting the PO Rifles in Egypt.

In 1860, the Civil Service Rifles (aka 21st Middlesex Rifle Volunteer Corps) contained a number of companies consisting exclusively of General Post Office workers. Seven years later, over 1000 of these GPO men volunteered for service as Special Constables in response to terrorist acts by the so-called Fenians (Irish Nationalists). Once the threat had subsided, these men went on to form a new separate corps, the 49th Middlesex Rifle Volunteers (Post Office Rifles), later being renumbered as the 24th. They wore dark grey uniforms with scarlet facings.

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The so-called ‘Midnight Charge’ by the Life Guards at Kassassin, 28th August 1882.

In 1882, a group of over 100 men of the GPO serving with the 24th Middlesex Rifle Volunteers volunteered for active service in Egypt with General Wolseley’s army. The intention was that the army could make use of their postal and telegraph expertise in the course of communication duties. They were duly formed as the Army Post Office Corps (APOC) by Queen Victoria’s Royal Warrant on the 22nd July 1882.

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The Battle of Tel-el-Kebir, 1882.

During their service in Egypt, they became notable for being the first men of the rifle volunteer movement to see action and win a battle honour (Egypt 1882). They came under fire during the action at Kassassin, taking no casualties. This battle was a skirmish prior to the main action at Tel-el-Kebir where the Egyptian army under Col. Urabi was defeated by Wolseley. I found a contemporary poem on the skirmish at Kassassin, from which this extract below gives a sense of the hardships experienced by these volunteers.

RAINED on all day by the sun,
Beating through helmet and head,
Through to the brain.
Inactive, no water, no bread,
We had stood on the desolate plain
Till evening shades drew on amain;
And we thought that our day’s work was done,
When, lo! it had only begun.

Extract from the poem “At Kassassin” by Arthur Clark Kennedy, 1891.

After the war, their service was considered a great success, General Wolseley stating that

“The formation of a purely military postal department has been a tried for the first time in this war. It has been very successful… I have much pleasure in bringing to the notice of the Secretary of State the admirable manner in which the Post Office Corps discharged its duties in Egypt …Their services have been so valuable that I hope a similar corps may be employed on any future occasion…”

The Gordon Relief Expedition in 1885 saw the next active service of the corps and the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 being the subsequent venture. But it is the Kassassin incident during the Egyptian campaign which I intend my figures to depict.

Now I come to admit to what can only be described as something of a figure modelling gaffe! Let me explain…

So far as I can tell, the PO Rifles should be depicting wearing leather gaiters on their lower legs. I have figures a plenty I could have used for these but, inexplicably, the Perry Miniatures figures that (for some reason) I chose to begin painting wear puttees instead. Below left shows the figures with gaiters and right with puttees.

 

Puttees were in use at this time by some British forces but almost certainly not by the PO Rifles. After some consideration however, I’m ploughing on with them regardless rather than abandoning them for figures with gaiters. Ultimately, I just really like these figures and poses, so Post Office Rifles with puttees it is. Who knows, maybe they did actually wear them?

And anyway; as I always say, ‘my figures – my rules‘!!!

The figures are already approaching completion so expect an update on progress soon.

The Robin Hood Rifles

By second group of rifle volunteers, the Robin Hood Rifles, have now been given the plinth and plaque treatment. The final result is pleasing enough, but I’ve struggled a little to get the rifleman’s green uniform to my satisfaction. My first attempt looked fine enough but the highlights were too bold and made the uniform look far lighter in shade than it would have been. The next attempt is the one you see now. The highlights are more subtle but the shade of green isn’t quite to my satisfaction, although I maintain it looks closer to the original versions seen in the museum than appears in these photos.

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After some deliberation, I’ve reproduced another rifle range scene, given that this is the only location where these volunteer riflemen might be conceivably discharging their Martini-Henrys!

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I chose some different figures from the Perry Miniatures sprue and /or  glued them in different poses to further differentiate them from the Cheshire Greys. This has allowed me to depict a sergeant making a suggestion to his officer, gesturing to men in the firing line.

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The officer, meanwhile, is using his field glasses to observe the hits (or misses) on the targets some 300 yards away.

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There are two other Rifle Volunteer Corps that it’s my intention to represent. However, they will require slightly different figures to the ones I’ve been using hitherto from the Zulu War British Infantry box (although the figures are indeed still from Perry Miniatures). I’m not certain whether I shall launch into one of these straight away or take a breather from rifle volunteers and tackle some other figures. I shall reveal my intentions in the next post! Till next time,

Marvin

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The 19th (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own) Hussars

The 19th Hussars began life as the 1st Bengal European Light Cavalry in 1858, having been raised by the East India Company in response to the Indian Mutiny.

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Very soon after, they were absorbed into the British army and became a regiment of the crown. Now designated as the 19th Hussars, they became the acknowledged successor regiment to the original 19th Light Dragoons which had been disbanded back in 1821. During the 1880s, the 18th Hussars fought in campaigns in Egypt and the Sudan, including the battles of Tel-el-Kebir, Abu Klea and El Teb.

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The 19th Hussars in the desert, capturing enemy supplies by Richard Caton Woodville

The 19th later found themselves fighting in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, most notably at the Siege of Ladysmith.

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19th Prince of Wales’ Hussars in 1885 by Orlando Norie

At the conclusion of their service in the Boer War, the regiment formally became known as the 19th (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own) Hussars (after the wife of Prince Edward).

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A fine watercolour of a hussar of the 19th. Artist unknown to me.

So, why the history lesson? Because my next figures will represent this regiment. Having a lifelong interest in the Victorian army, it is in this re-formed Victorian-era guise that I’m intending to paint the 19th Hussars. In a return to 28mm scale, I’m using Perry Miniatures British Hussars from their excellent “British Intervention Force” series set in the 1860s.

Perry Miniatures

Inspiration for a choice of regiment to paint originally came from some examples of Richard Simkin’s depiction of the regiment found in my collection.

I’ve just the three hussars to paint as a toe in the water. If I’m pleased enough with the end result, I may expand the regiment. Updates on painting progress to follow…

Exciting News!

I’m delighted to announce some rather exciting news regarding my figures. Having recently painted the Warwickshire Yeomanry figures, I hit upon an idea. Recalling from a previous visit that the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum had a very impressive collection of model soldiers, I wondered whether they might be interested in my own humble efforts (using figures by Perry Miniatures) at depicting the early incarnation of its regiment .

Earlier today, I revisited the museum in Warwick where Trustee Mr Philip Wilson graciously accepted them as an acquisition to be displayed on permanent loan!

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I’m especially pleased that these figures will be on display here at this venue because in my opinion the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum is especially good. It is a provincial regimental Museum staffed and supported by volunteers only. These volunteers bring not only great enthusiasm, but an extensive knowledge and understanding of the regiment and its history, and this is reflected in the high quality of the displays and exhibits.

Great exhibits and fascinating artefacts (not to say great model soldiers), abound. For this fan of military art, the museum seems especially blessed with great paintings, prints, caricatures and other illustrations. I saw a number of originals from which I based the painting of my own figures, including the oil painting of an officer of the 4th Kineton Troop. Many of my favourite artists, such as Simkin and Orlando Norie, are in evidence, but the jewel in the crown is undoubtedly the original painting of the Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanry’s glorious charge at Huj by the famed Lady Butler .

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Lady Butler’s “Charge of the Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanry at Huj”.

All of this (now including my painted figures of course), is accomodated in a splendidly renovated basement of the Court House in Warwick. Temporarily housed in one on the display cabinets, my figures will be soon moved to another cabinet within which is housed an original WYC Tarleton helmet, sabres and ephemera relating to the early period in the regiment’s history. A more suitable place for them in the museum, I couldn’t imagine!

Whilst signing over my figures into the care of the museum, Mr Wilson kindly showed me facsimiles of beautiful illustrations of the regiment engaged in sword drill. It is gratifying to note that these pictures suggest a type of jacket closer to those on my figures than I had originally thought possible.

It was also suggested that the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum’s own website might soon be updated with photos of my figures on display. None of my figures have ever been on any kind of public display before and I don’t mind admitting that I’m very gratified some are now appearing in such a fine museum. Following all the positive testimony I’ve given in this post, I do therefore heartily recommend giving the (free admission!) Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum a visit. You will find knowledgable and friendly staff on hand and, of course, my figures are now on display there!

Further information on the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum website can be accessed here

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Acquisition form: Proudly signing my figures over to the museum’s collection!

54th (West Norfolk) Regiment of Foot

I’m learning more about how to paint at the 28mm scale each time I tackle some figures, but I can’t say I’m totally 100% content with these final figures. I’ve had to make a few minor compromises on the uniform shown in the postcard which first inspired them, and the shade of blue in their trousers is darker than I intended. Nevertheless, I think they’re looking okay and make a nice spectacle marching in step.

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54th Regiment of Foot

I’m already thinking about my next challeng which will be a return (at long last!) to some of my piles of 1/72 (20mm) figures. I think I may finish off my Quiberon Expedition project, which I began last year after returning from holidaying near to Lymington. It was a visit to the town’s museum which inspired my interest.

Speaking of holidays, I’ll be shortly off to this years destination and taking a necessary sabbatical from all things related to military modelling. Did I say a sabbatical? Well, not entirely as my intention is to make a visit to a regimental museum there while I’m away, to be featured on this blog as the next ‘day trip’ report…

Anyway, until then, here are my men of the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment on a stifling hot march through the jungles of the Arakan during the First Anglo-Burmese War in the year of 1825:-

 

A little progress…

It’s been a little while since my last post. After the frantic painting activity of my Nappy Cavalry Project last year, it seems like I’m crawling along slowly at the moment. Another way of looking at it is that a) I’m being careful and b), that I’m getting on with other more important things!

The figures that are taking a little time are a dozen 28mm 1820s British infantry figures by Perry miniatures. They are Carlist War troops but I’m painting mine as the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment,  taking my inspiration from a postcard depicting them on campaign in Burma, 1825. They will take a little while yet to complete and bring them up to some sort of standard but hopefully they should be all done before I go away on my summer holiday in a little less that 2 weeks.

Speaking of which, during my time away I am already planning to take the opportunity of visiting another regimental museum to feature in another of my “Suburban Militarism Day Trips”!

In the meantime, here is a preview pic of progress being made so far. More detailed photos will be provided when they are finished and I’m hopefully a little happier with them!

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In progress: 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment, Burma, 1825.

The Warwickshire Yeomanry Cavalry…at last!

At long last, they’re finished! I started the Warwickshire Yeomanry figures back in February of this year, but with other projects and duties demanding my attention, it’s been a long time before I could get around to finishing them off.

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These are the first 28mm cavalry that I’ve painted. I’m fairly pleased with the end result, there’s always something to be improved upon, but they’ll do nicely. I’ve learnt to accept the numerous compromises necessary in depicting these figures as yeomanry and I think they make a good impression of the WYC in the Napoleonic period.

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I’ve added some carbines to five of the figures, representing the limited number of each troop which would be so armed.

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Trooper with carbine.

It should be admitted that the officer still requires the end of his shabraque completing as I’ve procrastinated as to how to do this. He has a sabretache with the letters WYC (more or less!) upon it. The sabretache design is based on one in service from the 1850s, evidence of anything from earlier in the regimental history being absent.

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Officer of the WYC

Photos of the final 5 figures and indeed the entire completed regiment below!

Yeoman’s Work

yeoman (n.)
c. 1300, “attendant in a noble household,” of unknown origin, perhaps a contraction of Old English iunge man “young man,” or from an unrecorded Old English *geaman, equivalent of Old Frisian gaman “villager”…

What is a Yeoman?

For centuries, yeomen were farmers who owned their land. Wikipedia suggests it was once something above a ‘husbandman’ but below the ‘landed gentry’. Many yeomen held positions of authority such as parish constables, bailiffs, wardens or in informal local police forces headed by the gentry. It was perhaps a continuation of the latter sense that the Warwickshire Yeomanry was first formed. For while the militia (volunteer infantry) was disbanded in the wake of the rescinded Napoleonic invasion threat; the yeomanry (volunteer cavalry) were retained, acting to fill the absence of any formal police force. By the end of the 19th century as it supplied men for the war in South Africa, the Warwickshire Yeomanry would be much more representative of the entire community it served, including many local men from poorer or disadvantaged backgrounds. A Yeoman could now be said to represent all social classes.

Progress on my Perry Miniatures Figures:

Meanwhile, my version of an early WYC troop is nearing completion. The first 8 of the 13 yeomanry horses have been completed, their riders mounted and scabbards attached. I’m rather pleased with them. So far, I’ve painted the following horse types; 2 dark bays, 2 bays, 2 blacks, 2 chestnuts. With the remaining 5 horses I intend to add some lighter colours, namely; a couple of greys, some lighter browns and, of course, a dun!

The final batch of 5 figures will carry some carbines too as about a quarter of the Warwickshire Yeomanry were said to be armed with one at that time. I slightly regret the few compromises I’ve had to make on these figures, such as the shorter jackets and the superfluous saddle blankets, etc. Nonetheless, I like to think it’s a very noble effort at recreating something of how the Warwickshire Yeomanry Cavalry might have looked circa early 1800s.