Ottomania – Last of the Topçu Ocağı

I began the year painting figures from what was both an unusual topic and an unusual era for me; 16th/17th century troops of the Ottoman Empire. Specifically, I focused on their artillery corps (the Topçu Ocağı). These are impressive sculpts from RedBox which was a key reason why I was drawn to them in the first place. Using resin-cast gabion gun emplacements, I created mini dioramas from their following sets:

That left just one more box untouched from RedBox’s Turkish artillery releases; the 16th Century field artillery set.

When I made my 16th Century Siege Artillery earlier this year, I only attempted 3 of the 4 guns in the box as I had a) inexplicably lost one of the gun crew and b) carelessly cut through the axle on the gun carriage! Happily, the missing Ottoman artilleryman finally turned up after a month hiding behind the sofa (thereby not demonstrating the kind of martial qualities required as a member of the Topçu Ocağı of the Kapikulu Corps). Turning my attention to the broken cannon, I had to get creative.

One of my finished siege gun crews from earlier in the year.

So I’ve embarked on a bit of scratch-building by cutting away the broken axle and drilling a hole through the carriage. Next, I used a scalpel to whittle away a cocktail stick to act as a replacement axle. I still had trouble getting it through the hole which I resolved by cutting deep into the carriage so that it sat convincingly on top the axle instead.

You’d have to know how hopeless I am at such practical construction to understand how ridiculously pleased I am with my handywork. I feel like an engineer! My engineer father will be impressed, I’m sure.

I’ve been painting 20 artillerymen figures and they’re approaching completion. So, I’m now working on the big guns…

…and also tackling the resin-cast gabions which have been a feature of these artillery teams.

My remaining gabions from Anyscale Models

I’ve said before that there is significant doubt that there was any real standardised uniform for the Turkish Topçu Ocağı, but I readily confess that I like the uniformity of miniature figures in my painting. Furthermore, I think it suggests something of the relatively advanced professionalism of the Ottoman artillery at a time when their corps were peerless in Europe.

My 16th Century artillery will deliberately look similar to these 17th Century Ottoman field artillery figures I painted.

Finally, I’m also thinking that these figures could also stand nicely as being the artillery of a wargaming imagi-nation; perhaps a fictitious Islamic nation, constantly at war with other neighbouring 17th century Balkan lands, Tsarist Russia or North African states. The Sultanate of Al-Suburbia, perhaps, or the Caliphate of Militaristan?

The Sultan of Al-Suburbia? A Red Box commander from my Jannisaries set.

The Humbaracı Corps

Continuing with my new 17th Century Ottomania project, I’ve been further developing the Sultan’s artillery. The two guns of the Ottoman field artillery that I painted are now joined by four siege mortars of the Humbaracı Corps.

Once more, I’ve made use of more gabions from Anyscale Models, a slightly different type to those used in the last group of artillery, however.
Four mortars in total are crewed by a total of 16 men of the Humbaracı Corps.

Siege warfare was developed to a highly sophisticated art by the Ottomans and their artillery was amongst the first professional, standing force in Europe. Mortars were an effective means of hurling missiles over city walls in order to degrade the target by indirect fire. I have set my mortars at a high angle as if they are close in on an invested town’s walls, terrorising inhabitants and defenders alike with their bombardment.

Established in 1481, the Humbaracı Corps included mortar, bombardier, grenadier, mining and incendiary regiments. These were all part of the elite Kapikulu Corps and my Osprey guide has this to say of their ordnance;

The Humbaracılar used havayi mortars, humbara bombs of glass or iron, and humbarasi grenades of glass or bronze.

You will note that the Mortars are sited on a kind of raft of wood to provide a stable base. Interestingly, Osprey also state that “…when not cast-on-site, Ottoman gun barrels were normally transported separately from their cumbersome carriages”.

In my eagerness to finish these off, I realise now that I’ve neglected a couple of final touches including those portfires with their glowing ends which I so enjoyed producing for the last set.

As with the last group of Ottoman Artillery field guns, and entirely for my own satisfaction, I’ve imagined the corps to be wearing a consistent dress uniform in a kind of light blue with mid-blue trousers and red sash.

The reality might have been far more diverse and less uniform, but I can’t find a definitive statement on their dress. I also rather fancied keeping the artillery in a uniform manner because the infantry and cavalry will be far more individualised when I get around to painting them too.

It seems that I’m not the only one to take this approach as other hobbyists have painted their Ottoman artillery in uniform colour schemes too, one of which inspired my own design for the Humbaraci Corps.

Excellent Old Glory figures of Ottoman artillery crews – as seen on Lonely Gamers blog.
…and these beautifully painted uniforms of the sipahis and a gun grew from the now sadly dormant Kaiser Bill’s blog.

If that’s not enough Turkish artillery for you (and surely it is), there’s a third set that I’m busy working on too, so I should have a sizeable Ottoman artillery contingent when I’m done. But more on that in due course!

Ottomania! RedBox Turkish Artillery (17th Century)

My Ottoman Turkish Artillery project (which I’ve now shamelessly dubbed ‘Ottomania’) kicks off with a completed box of RedBox’s “Turkish Artillery (17th Century)”. As I’ve indicated in a previous post, RedBox have issued a number of different kits featuring Turkish artillery from the 16th/17th centuries, so I intend to do more.

I’ve created two gun teams which service two different calibres of gun. Both guns are large compared to Napoleonic artillery. Plastic Soldier Review informs us that the larger gun has a barrel length of 35mm (equivalent to 2.5 metres) while the smaller gun has a barrel length of 29mm (equivalent 2.1 metres).

Much of my time was spent on the basing which features resin-cast gabions as a defensive emplacement. I’m convinced that the extra time spent on basing is important for artillery groups.

I’m particularly pleased with the way my gabions turned out. Some preparation was necessary before painting with some initial cleaning before being mounted on some short lengths of plastic card to better accommodate the modelling clay base. Minor holes which had appeared in the original resin cast were filled in with a little bit of glue. 

With a generous gun crew of 8 figures to service each gun, I was careful to make a big enough space to accommodate them all without crowding.

The walls of Vienna brace for another projectile about to be sent hurtling towards them.
The smaller of the two cannon, mounted on a fetching blue carriage.
The larger of the two guns about to be fired.

And I’m already planning my next lot of Ottoman artillerymen, making use of yet more gabions with some highly specialised siege artillery. More on that to come…

Gabions Galore

In my last post I indicated the purchase of something to assist my latest project painting which is 17th century Ottoman Turkish artillery by RedBox. I’ve discovered some siege equipment, wicker gabions cast in resin, for sale on the internet.

A wicker gabion

If, like me, you’re not that familiar with early siege defences, then you may appreciate a little explanation courtesy of Wikipedia:


Early gabions were round cages with open tops and bottoms, made from wickerwork and filled with earth for use as military fortifications. These early military gabions were most often used to protect sappers and siege artillery gunners. The wickerwork cylinders were light and could be carried relatively conveniently in the ammunition train, particularly if they were made in several diameters to fit one inside another. At the site of use in the field, they could be stood on end, staked in position, and filled with soil to form an effective wall around the gun, or rapidly construct a bulletproof parapet along a sap.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabion
Pégard, engraver [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Cheap, quick and effective construction pieces even today, they are still a popular form of erosion control and landscaping. The side of motorways are commonly lined with metal cages filled with rocks; the modern alternative to wicker cylinders filled with earth.

An artillery emplacement of gabions by Anyscale Models

Anyscale Models produce four fabulous resin artillery screens of wicker gabions for just over £5, which allows me to protect eight of my gun teams for a very reasonable price. Manufacturer of my Ottoman Turks, RedBox, actually make their own 17th Century battlefield accessory set, but for the same price I would only get 3 gabions, not 48! Unfortunately for me, Anyscale Models’ main focus seems to be the 20th century and these are something of an anomaly.

A 1/72 scale Ottoman Topçu Ocağı mortar crew shelter behind the gabions.

My gabions are billed as being suitable for 20 -28mm scale and so should suit RedBox’s Turkish cannon and crews very well. They come in two different types, the slightly more expansive of the two are intended to be used for my larger calibre guns. These gabions will, of course, require some painting, so we will see how that goes!

Meanwhile, the painting of my Turkish topçu (artillerymen) progresses very well and I should have the two 8-strong gun crews from my first box of Turkish Artillery (17th Century) painted soon. With up to four more sets from RedBox’s range of Ottoman Artillery to choose from, if I’m happy with the end result, then I may well need more gabions…