Uhlan Regiment No. 1 (Merveldt) [Nappy Cavalry Project Regiment #32]

My 32nd regiment in the Napoleonic Cavalry Project reaches its completion with the basing of Merveldt’s Uhlans (Uhlan Regiment No.1). The figures are by Mars about whom’s merits I discussed in a recent post.

I won’t pretend that they were the easiest paint, and I can’t exactly say that they’re perfection incarnate, but I do reckon I’m satisfied with the end result! It’s good to have some Austrians as part of the project at last.

The most tricky aspect of the figures was perhaps the attachment of the lances to the figures. The hands were very indistinct and so I simply attached some old Esci Polish Lancers versions to the hand area with a blob of glue. Job done.

The curious horse poses allow for only certain figure combinations. Hence, one horse appears to be charging hard into the ground, presumably felled by a bullet. The only figure which satisfactorily sits with this equine this the man leaning backwards in a kind of counter-balance. Three of these figures means that a quarter of my regiment is in the process of being felled by a volley! It makes for a unique, dramatic and interesting pose, though.

The rearing horse allows for two standing figures, who, in another pleasing pose, appear to be desperately holding on to their agitated mount by the bridle. This was likely a not uncommon situation in battle.

A spare figure without any horses left to hold I simply gave a lance to, thrusting his weapon in the air and urging his comrades on… or perhaps admiring it… or waving it for attention… OK, possibly an unconvincing pose!

“Hang on, this looks like an Esci lance to me…”

Austrian Uhlan officers would not have had lances and so I’ve attached a sword which came with the Mars set to one of my officers but left the other simply gesturing heroically to his men. They have black pouch belts with gold edging.

The remaining figures include this one urging his horse forward and thrusting the lance.

Also, there is the figure with his arm held high in the air. Another slightly curious gesture, but not a bad one by any means once the lance is attached.

So that concludes regiment number 32 in the old ‘NCP’. Slated as the next regiment in the endless project are some figures which may see me make a return to painting some French cavalry. More on this anon. Until then, I continue the tradition of a sort-of-biography of the latest completed regiment.


Regimental Biography: Uhlan Regiment No. 1 (Merveldt) [Austria]

Austrian Uhlans were effectively Polish lancers and were dressed as such. Their country came under the leadership of the Habsburgs after 1772 when that empire gained part of the territory (Galicia). The first uhlan unit, the “Uhlan Pulk” was raised in 1784 with 600 men intended for use against a rebellion in the Netherlands. Later it was renamed the “Uhlan Freicorps”.

A Richard Knotel illustration of a Merveldt Uhlan in 1813.

In 1785, this unit was sent to Vienna and broken up into various uhlan units attached to a variety of chevaux-leger regiments. The first Uhlan Regiment, No.1, was raised on 1 November 1791 from those Uhlans existing in the Kaiser, Karaiczai, Lobkowitz and Levenehr chevaux-leger regiments.

Austrian 2nd Uhlans. Watercolour by French military artist, Henri Boisselier an example of which can be found at: https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:248368/

This 1st regiment of Uhlans were known as Merveldt’s Uhlans in 1796, after the regiment’s proprietor (a position similar to that of honorary colonel), Maximilian, Count von Merveldt. Merveldt garnered considerable experience in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars against the French and he was considered a very able commander of cavalry, rising to the rank of general.

The No.1 regiment’s headquarters moved over the years, in 1791 it was based in Sárospatak in Hungary, ending the Napoleonic wars in St. Floeian, near Linz. It’s recruiting area was Galicia and most of the uhlans therefore were made up of either ethnic Polish or Ukrainian men.

Preben Kannik’s fabulous illustration of a wounded man of the Austrian Merveldt’s 1st Uhlan Regiment.

Uhlan Regiment No 1, as with the three other Austrian Uhlan regiments, wore jackets of green (initially ‘grass green’ but later ‘dark green’) with red facings. The pennons on their lances were black over yellow. Trousers were also green with red stripes with the lower part covered in black leather near the boots, although grey overalls could be worn when on campaign. The sheepskin over the saddles appears to have been black, though this is open to question. The only regimental distinction was the colour of the czapkas; No.1 having yellow czapkas and numbers 2, 3 and 4 being green, red and white respectively.

Another illustration by Boisselier of Austrian Uhlans; No. 4 (left) and No. 2 (right).

At Austerlitz in 1805, a handful only of Merveldt’s Uhlans were in the 1st Cavalry Brigade, otherwise the regiment was not represented. During the 1809 War of the Fifth Coalition, the regiment fought at Ursensollen-Amberg. One detachment was at the blockade of the Oberhaus fortress. Parts of the regiment were also involved in the Regensburg battles and later at Stadt am Hof. In July 1809, they were in Bohemia and fought against Saxons in the battles of Gefrees and Nürnberg.


Napoleon I. 1809 vor Regensburg by Albrecht Adam. Wiki Commons.

Merveldt’s Uhlans did not take part either in the Battle of Aspern-Essling, being instead kept in defence on the Danube later harassing the French rear lines of communication. After the Battle of Wagram, it retreated to Bohemia when the campaign ended.

 Wojciech Kossak’s “Austrian Uhlan of Savona“, 1891.

The 1st regiment towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars was fighting in the Northern Italian campaign of 1813-14 alongside its sister uhlan regiment No.2 (Schwarzenberg). Consequently, having largely missed out on the key battles of Austerlitz and Aspern-Essling, they were also to find themselves absent from the decisive Battle of Leipzig in 1813. The regiment’s namesake, Count von Merveldt, however was present at the ‘Battle of the Nations’, where he was unfortunately captured when wandering too close to Saxon troops.

In Italy, his regiment continued to do great service however; patrolling, reconnoitring and, as can be seen in the following brief quote I discovered about the Battle of Feistritz, also putting the enemy to flight!

… Austrian Generalmajor Speigel responded quickly, and a very successful charge of the Merveldt Uhlans encouraged the French to withdraw.

The Defense of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Northern Italy, 1813-1814, G.F. Nafziger, M. Gioannini

Notable Battles: Austerlitz, Ursensollen-Amberg, Regensberg, Gefrees, Nürnberg, Feistritz.

Men are from Mars…

A quick update on my Mars Austrian Uhlans. The figures are almost there, but there is a little more work to do including some paint still to be applied on the Czapkas amongst other things. The horses are next up on the painting table and also looming is the question of lances.

I’ve decided that the lances provided by Mars require too much effort removing from the flash. There are also no pennons provided and so would require their manufacture. Consequently, I’ve opted to source some lances from another set, possibly from some of my old Esci Polish lancers. The next challenge will be how on earth to affix them to the figures, the hands being extremely vague and amorphous!

Mounting them on horses will be another interesting challenge, a couple of the poses and postures being a little strange, I think. It makes for an interesting and different figure, however.

Aside from these technical issues, I’m pleased with how they’re looking now they’ve got some paint on them. An update, hopefully with mounted and lance-armed uhlans, to come in due course.

Martian Uhlans

A glance through my venerable Napoleonic Cavalry Project tells me that since 2015, I’ve attempted sets from 6 different manufacturers representing 7 different nations. My next set of figures brings both a new nation and manufacturer to the project.

Mars Scots Greys – which Plastic Soldier Review confirms as being copies of original figures by Esci.

Mars are a Ukrainian manufacturer who, I believe, started out producing copies of other manufacturer’s figures (Matchbox, Revell, Esci, etc.) Although I can’t verify claims, some believe that this was effectively piracy of other companies’ work. However, in the plastic model soldier world, some felt that even this bootleg reissuing of out-of-production old sets at least made some old figures, often much in demand by hobbyists, available once more and was so to be welcomed. It’s a contentious issue for sure and one perhaps left to the lawyers to pass judgement over but since (I think) 2009, Mars have been making their own sets instead.

The quality of some of their own-brand work has been criticised as being disappointing by Plastic Soldier Review, amongst others, with PSR saying of one set; “This set is typical of Mars output in many ways. The sculpting is not attractive and the poses quite flat, with some of the faces being particularly messy. Accuracy is good and the selection of poses is adequate if uninspired. The subject itself is unusual and not widely known…”

Mars Lithuanian Medium Cavalry

Once again, however, criticism should perhaps be tempered by the fact that in today’s trading climate, a plastic soldier manufacturer is out there producing sets at all. Furthermore, as PSR suggested, Mars have often concentrated on eras overlooked by other companies, including an extensive 30-Years War range, Crimean Tartars, and the Lithuanian-Teutonic wars (see above). Fancy some late-Mycenaean Light Infantry anyone? Mars has that covered too!

15 figures – 12 horses? The answer is that a choice of riders is offered.

Mars have largely steered clear of the ever-popular Napoleonic period, yet they have produced a few cavalry sets; Russian Dragoons, Russian Uhlans and Austrian Uhlans. The latter are particularly interesting as, to my knowledge, no one has produced Napoleonic Austrian cavalry with the sole exception of HaT’s early Curassiers and Chevauxleger sets in 1998/2000. For such an important participant to the Napoleonic Wars, this seems a real oversight (Great Britain has 11 sets with two more slated for release). Furthermore, it’s been said that during the Napoleonic Wars;

“Austrian cavalry was considered the best in Europe, and one of the best of the time anywhere”

(Fisher and Fremont-Barnes “The Napoleonic Wars”)

The ‘best Napoleonic cavalry in Europe’ surely needs a place in the Nappy Cavalry Project, but can Mars’ Austrian Uhlans figures justify that inclusion?

The set is a bit of an enigma in parts but there’s some real quality there for sure. Even PSR grudgingly admitted that “the sculpting of this set exceeded our admittedly low expectations.” The ‘riot of flash’ of the sprue for the weapons reported by PSR seems to be also present on parts of the figures too for me and I’ve had to spend some time trimming and cleaning them up – never a skill that I excel at!

It’s curious that whilst their Austrian Uhlans seem good, Mars’ Russian Uhlans set doesn’t quite match the same degree of quality. I can only really appreciate the standard of these Austrian’s once I’ve painted them up, so I’ll share how I get on and maybe you can judge for yourself!

Martian horses, lots of flash on their noses but otherwise I think look pretty good.

So, for regiment number 32 in the Napoleonic Cavalry Project I will be attempting the Austrian 1st Uhlan Regiment (Merveldt’s Uhlans) who, like all Austrian lancers, were made up of Polish men.

Wish me luck!

Cracker Battery in the Snow

Nothing says ‘Christmas’ quite like a 7 pounder artillery battery in the snow. My bizarre and distinctly unseasonal Christmas decoration is finished with this display showing Cracker Battery, Christmas Artillery of the Christmas Corps.

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You may notice that Cracker Battery have taken time out of their gunnery practice to build a snowman. The Snowman was crudely and quickly made by yours truly but I think it looks decent enough. The carrot nose was made out of the end of a cocktail stick.

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“Nothing like a bit of team building” as their officer Captain Fortune-Fisch advises.

You may also observe that there’s also a small pile of snowy projectiles ready for loading; these are somewhat over-large calibre snowballs. No doubt Bombardier Partihatt will carefully sculpt them to size before loading.

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You may notice that I’ve painted their cannon a nice light shade of blue. I must say that Revell’s sprue was perfect. The cannon came together so perfectly that I didn’t even need to apply any glue, it just snapped together with engineered perfection.

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Oh, wait. Looks like it’s started snowing again…

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It’s a suitably seasonal scene, I like to think. I promise not to bring it out until at least early December! In the meantime, I’m adding a handful of Carolling Hussars as well, so I may share progress on those in due course.

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Christmas Crackers

Yes, I know it’s only just turned November, but I want to talk about Christmas, dammit! Just like the painfully over-eager High Street shops, for me early November is a time of preparation. For Suburban Militarism it is also the time when a handful of figures are painted up to join their brethren in the Christmas Corps in readiness for a seasonal duty.

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A Carolling Hussar

This prestigious group of model soldiers take their turn for a tour of duty on the mantelpiece as part of the household’s December Christmas decorations. In previous years, the following troops have been created:

With the Christmas Corps now comprising two slowly growing regiments of infantry and two also of cavalry, I thought it about time to add some suitably seasonal artillery to help the season go with a bang. Therefore, I am introducing:-

  • Cracker Battery of the Christmas Artillery!

I’ve remained consistent with the range of figures that I’m using. Revell’s sublime Seven Years War soldiers have provided all the figures so far. Up to about a year ago, the cavalry and infantry sets were becoming extremely rare until Revell reissued them in combined boxes of either Prussian and Austrian infantry or cavalry. This terrific development has pleased many. However, Revell only ever produced one set of artillery figures; the Austrians.

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And what a set it was! Superbly detailed sculpting and terrific poses. Unfortunately, Revell have not reissued this set, nor I believe have any plans to, leaving 7YW wargamers desperate for artillery support. The old 1994-era boxes of Austrian artillery are now as rare hen’s teeth and going for a tidy sum whenever boxes do crop up. So I’m very lucky to have sourced this box for a reasonable fee for the Christmas Corps.

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Men of Cracker Battery awaiting paint.

The Austrian artillery wore a light brown uniform but I wanted something with a just little more colour than that but different to the other regiments in the . So, I’ve elected for navy blue coats, red turnbacks with straw-coloured waistcoat and breeches; coincidentally this is also the colour of Prussian artillery during the 7YW.

Here’s how they are looking so far (with a biography of each man in the battery).

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Cracker Battery; Christmas Artillery:

1.Captain Rupert Fortune-Fisch

The officer of the battery is well-educated and the perfect gentleman. A keen interest in mathematics greatly assists in the accuracy of his guns. His tricorn hat is adorned with a sprig of Broom, a feature particular to the Christmas Artillery. This is a tradition which goes back to when they were said to have ‘swept away’ the enemy at the Battle of Broombriggs Farm. At this action, low on ammunition, their cannons famously took to firing off brandy-lit Christmas puddings at the enemy.

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2.Battery Sergeant Major Fred Cheaptoy

A stalwart of the battery and the Captain’s most dependable man. No one knows gunnery drill better than Cheaptoy. Although he knows the drill, BSM Cheaptoy sees his role as purely supervisory, seldom getting involved with any actual physical work.

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3. Corporal Frederick Faketache

This is the man trusted with the lighted portfire (well, once it’s painted…). No one else in the battery can be relied upon so dependably to actually fire the cannon when told to do so, and NOT beforehand…

Before he does apply the fuse, Corporal Faketache cries out “have a cake!”, at which point new recruits take a bite out of their regulation ration of Christmas cake only to scatter crumbs in shock as the gun noisily discharges. Old hands know better and cover their ears. Traditionally, the warning call was “have a care!”, but years of standing near loud cannonades has badly affected both his hearing and his memory. It is precisely this deafness which prevents any premature firing of the gun.

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4. Bombardier Joseph Partihatt

Bombardier Partihatt can be seen below engaged in his favourite duty, carrying the ammunition over to the cannon. This involves much strength but little brain; a task in which Partihatt is perfectly suited. What’s that in his hands, you enquire? A white cannonball? Not so; the Christmas Artillery only ever fire snowballs, of course!

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5. Gunner William Dredfuljoak

Good old Bill Dredfuljoak is the battery comedian, always ready with a quip or an amusing anecdote, even (or especially) when limbs are being severed and heads are being detached by counter-battery fire. Below, he adopts a nonchalant stance so typical of the man. When in action, if the battle reaches a crisis point, he can often be heard being implored by his Captain to “shut up, man and for pity’s sake get a move on with that bloody sponge!

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6. Gunner Johnny Tweezers

Johnny has a stick. Johnny likes to use his stick to move the cannon left or right. That’s about all there is to say about Johnny Tweezers. However, as a bass-baritone, Gunnar Tweezers sure holds a good note during the singing of any Christmas carols. His loud vocal is said to ‘boom like mortar fire’.

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7. Wheeler Thomas Plasticfrogg

Wheeler Plasticfrogg might appear at first sight to be adopting a super-hero pose below. He is in actual fact rehearsing his key role in the battery which is basically wheeling the gun into position. Plasticfrogg takes his job very seriously and the sight of him exercising by stretching and moving imaginary cannon wheels about is a common sight during off-duty moments. BSM Cheaptoy considers him “a bit too-bloody-keen.”

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So that’s the men of Cracker Battery. The Revell set still leaves me with enough figures for two more similar sized batteries to add to the brigade in future years and even provides some horses and drivers delivering ammunition.

In other news, I have purchased and extremely cheap lighted church model to also appear in my seasonal display on the mantelpiece with Cracker Battery. I may paint this up to appear more visually appealing too, perhaps a coloured roof or white walls.

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Although Captain Fortune-Fisch is pleased as punch with the location of his new billet over the Christmas period, the local parson may not be quite so enthusiastic…

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Talk Christmas artillery

No artillery battery is much use without a cannon, so I’ll post an update on that once that’s been painted and assembled. I am also making plans for the final display, which I will also post on at a later date.

Once more – my apologies if this ridiculously early Christmas-related nonsense has made anybody queasy…

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Strelets WWI Austro-Hungarian Infantry

My Austro-Hungarian Pucherna infantry regiment has a pedigree that goes back to 1741. Garrisoned in Transylvania, its ranks are filled by ethnic Romanians. The multi-ethnic empire of Austria-Hungary fought Russians, Serbs, Greeks, Italians, Poles, and indeed other Romanians. In the K & K army, it was not uncommon for Poles to find themselves fighting other Poles, Italians fighting other Italians and Slavs fighting against other Slavs.

Anyway; the figures. First up; this is the finished officers armed  with revolver, binoculars and, somewhat anachronistically, a sword. No Austrian officer would have worn one in the Great War but I suppose it’s a way for Strelets to identify the officer more clearly for wargamers.

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None of the Other Ranks are wearing any metal helmets, just the kepi which, along with the rest of their dress, probably dates them to the early war period.

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I like this next figure, head down, holding on to his hat and running through the storm of bullets and shrapnel – though whether it is towards or away from the enemy lines, who can tell!?

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I’ve painted a couple of men carrying some type of machine gun. Being more knowledgeable than I about Austro-Hungarian machine guns, I can only quote Plastic Soldier Review who had this to say about it:

The standard machine gun of the war was the Schwarzlose M07/12, but this is not that. It has a bipod just in front of the ammunition feed, which must be fairly close to the point of balance, and it has a drum feed rather like the later Thompson sub-machine gun. This makes it look like the lightened German MG 08/15, although when this weapon was given a drum feed it was on the side rather than underneath. As an intended assault weapon its water jacket would have been emptied before being carried like it is here, yet it would still have been much heavier than this figure seems to suggest. However we can find no evidence that the Germans gave numbers of this weapon to the Austrians, so the question must be why it is in the arms of an Austrian.

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Perhaps, then, Strelets have simply been unfussy in their desire to include a machine gunner in the set, useful potentially for wargaming purposes. Incidentally, I have forgotten to paint the stock a wooden colour, something that I will attend to one day…

Other weapons include, of course, the rifle which is depicted being fired either standing or kneeling.

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Also, there are examples of men throwing a hand grenade. It appears to be similar to the German stick grenade, nicknamed the ‘potato masher’ by the British troops. I understand that the Austrians hand their own version of the stick grenade which was thicker and bulkier, so this might be a good match. With the empire having supply problems, I suspect that shortage of materials may have resulted in different versions or even German imports.

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The faces of Strelets figures often seem to suggest something of an individual character about them, such as this chap kneeling and loading his weapon.

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Finally, the use of the bayonet is being practised by this soldier who is holding a suitably aggressive expression.

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And with that group of Austro-Hungarian infantry now despatched, I’m left musing what to paint next in my growing WWI project…

For now, with my summer holiday immanent, a short hiatus will begin as Suburban Militarism will be putting down the brush and taking a well-deserved vacation and heading for a beach. Until next time, best wishes to all my friends and visitors!

 

 

 

Strelets WWI Austro-Hungarian Infantry in Gasmasks

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.

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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.

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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.

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WWI German Gummimaske and storage cannister.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Italian dead after the Austrian gas attack on Monte San Michele. http://www.esercito.difesa.it, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50801790

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.

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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.

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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.

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My great-grandfather, Private Harry Bennett, Leicestershire Regt, 1914-18 war.

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.

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Men of the Leicestershire Regiment on the march during the Great War.

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.

 

Men of the Common Army

My Austro-Hungarian troops of the First World War have come on apace. Althoug a little ‘rough and ready’, Strelets are always fun to paint with the result usually containing unusual poses and characterful faces.

The Austro-Hungarian army consisted of three distinct parts:

  • the Common army (Gemeinsame Armee),
  • the Imperial Austrian Landwehr (a territorial reserve)
  • the Royal Hungarian Honved  (the Hungarian equivalent of the Landwehr)

These troops of mine represent a regiment from the Common Army. Specifically I’ve nominated them as being from the Infanterieregiment Pucherna (numbered the 31st) and given them the yellow facings that characterised the regiment. It was a Romanian regiment garrisoned in Nagyszeben, capital of Transylvania which was then under the dominion of Austria-Hungary.

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“Infanterist” painted by Hans Printz in 1914

Anyway, with some remaining ‘bits’ still to do and of course the basing still to sort, here’s how some of them are looking so far. First off; a handful of troops from the Strelets WWI Austrian Infantry set:

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Strelets Austro hungarian ww1 (12)

Strelets Austro hungarian ww1 (7)

Strelets Austro hungarian ww1 (6)

Strelets Austro hungarian ww1 (5)

Strelets Austro hungarian ww1 (4)

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And a preview of the other Strelets figures from the WWI Austro-Hungarian infantry in Gasmasks set. I only have one sprue of this set, bought in a private sale with another hobbyist, hence only a handful of figures. The reflection in their eye pieces give them a suitably nightmarish aspect.

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Strelets Austro hungarian ww1 (11)

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Strelets Austro hungarian ww1 (8)

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Being an early Strelets set, there are lots of poses, some of which I haven’t displayed as yet but will do so when I’ve got them all based and ready to present; hopefully some time later this week.

Pike Grey and the “K & K”

Earlier this year, I had begun to paint some 1st World War figures, starting with Serbian infantry, followed by some 1914-era French. Figuring that I’d like to turn my attention to the Great War once more, I’ve reached for some figures from a country that has been overlooked by plastic 1/72 scale manufacturers hitherto; Austria-Hungary. This is perhaps surprising given the nation’s size and significance to the conflict. In fact, only HaT and Strelets have made any Austro-Hungarian figures that I’m aware of at 1/72 scale.

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Contemporary WWI postcard depicting troops of Austria-Hungary in action.

Neither manufacturer has made sublime figures, in my opinion, but I’ve opted to go for figures by the Ukranian manufacturer Strelets. Strelets have recently manufactured an impressive new kit; the WWI Austro-Hungarian Honved (a Hungarian version of the Austrian Landwehr). However, I’ve gone for their earlier, and now increasingly rare, sets of “WWI Austrian Infantry” and “Austro-Hungarian Infantry in Gasmasks’.

 

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WWI Austrian Infantry…

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…and they also come in gasmasks.

The style of Strelets figures tends to prompt a polarised response from hobbyists but I must confess to being a fan. They’re not ‘beautiful’, but typically they’ve plenty of character and loads of crisp detail to hang your paint on.

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Going into the Great War, the Austro-Hungarian Army introduced a uniform colour known as “Pike-Grey” (“hechtgrau” in German) for general issue to the infantry in 1908. The main headdress in the field was the kepi, also coloured the same pike-grey. I’m unsure as to why the shade of grey was named Pike. ‘Hecht’ refers to the predatory freshwater fish, yet that is largely olive-green in colour with little in common with the light grey uniform shade.

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“We want to win and we have to win!” – The Central Powers of Germany and Ottoman Turkey, with Austria and Hungary (distinguished by the ornate knot on the trouser thigh).

A little history:

The empire of Austro-Hungary was inaugurated in 1867, being a dual-monarchy split between Austria and Hungary in place of the former single Austrian Empire. The empire’s full official and very wordy name was “The Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of St. Stephen”. The new dual monarchy was formed following Austria’s defeat at the hands of an increasingly powerful Prussia in 1866, which marked the decline in power and influence towards Prussia (and consequently Germany) and away from Austria. The empire and it’s army was colloquially known as the “K und K”, or the Kaiserlich und Königlich, referring to the Empire being both Imperial and Royal (i.e of the Austrian emperor and Hungarian king).

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Christmas 1914 for a wistful infantryman of the “kaiserlich und königlich” army.

It was certainly a curious conglomeration, the Austro-Hungarian empire, which eschewed the increasing popular idea of nations bound by ethnic identity then sweeping Europe. The state instead consisted of many different ethnic groups speaking different languages (including German, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Ukranian, Croat, Slovenian, Italian and Romanian). Their ageing monarch at the outbreak of the war in 1914 had ruled these disparate lands for 66 years.

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The cataclysm began with the declaration of war by the Austro-Hungarian empire upon Serbia in 1914. As the other Great Powers were drawn inexorably into the conflict, the Dual Monarchy found itself faced with war against Russia to the east as well as Serbia and Montenegro in the Balkans to the south. In May 1915, another front opened with Italy’s entry into the war on the side of the Allies.

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Serbian cavalry charges Austro-Hungarian troops, December 1914. The Austro-Hungarian army broke and fled back across the Danube for the second time.

From the very beginning, things did not go well for the empire. It’s invasion into Serbia saw the K&K army ignominiously expelled to the dismay of the Emperor, being badly beaten by the Serbs at the battle of Cer. A second invasion later briefly took the Serbian capital Belgrade only for the army to be badly defeated and ejected once again by a Serbian counter-attack at the battle of Kolubara in the winter of 1914. Another front then opened with the Austro-Hungarian campaign in Russian-controlled Poland which was to prove another failure. A counter-offensive by Russia them also cost the Austrians many casualties and prisoners of war and resulted in lost territory.

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Austro-Hungarian troops engage the Russians in the Carpathian mountains.

With German and Bulgarian assistance however, the Austrians eventually managed to conquer Serbia and Montengro (see my earlier post on the flight of the Serbian army through Albania) but were confronted by renewed assaults by a re-equipped Serbian army and its allies, the French, British, Romanians and, latterly, the Greeks. Their heavy reliance on German help effectively made the Austrians increasingly subordinate to their allies. To the embattled Germans, fighting with an ill-equipped and beleaguered ally was akin to being ‘shackled to a corpse’ (a quote widely attributed to German General Erich von Ludendorff).

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K & K troops defending a mountain pass against Italian troops.

As the war progressed, Italy exerted great pressure on Austria-Hungary who, once again, required the assistance of German armies to turn the tide. The Russians withdrew from the war after the 1917 revolution but eventually, terrible food shortages and political strife at home, together with declining fortunes both in the Balkans and the Italian front, led to the empire’s own disintegration and collapse. The Czech, Slovaks and Hungarians eventually declared independence and forced the remainder of this once extensive ’empire’ to sign an armistice on the 3rd of November 1918, 8 days before the Germans did the same.

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Fierce combat against the Italians in the desperate Battle of Doberdò, 1916. Mountain warfare in the mountains was a feature of the war against the Italians.

Despite defeats, setbacks and poor equipment; and despite the fractured ethnic and linguistic nature of the empire, the Austro-Hungarian army had endured for four long years of war against the allies. In its battles across the mountains of the Alps and the Carpathians; in Italy, Slovenia, Serbia, Poland and Romania; against the Russians, Italians, Serbs, Montenegrins and others; the K&K army had suffered over 1 million military combat deaths (the 4th highest of any country in WWI) and a further 3 and half million soldiers wounded. It was a terrible price to pay for a defeat that would ultimately see its old empire disappear into history.


I’ll be presenting my Austro-Hungarian army of 34 figures, gas-masked or otherwise, soon.

Marvin

The Christingle Dragoons

Having completed the Carolling Hussars recently, I’ve been working on the other regiment for my Christmas decorations; the Christingle Dragoons.

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The dragoons are Revell’s Austrian Dragoons of the 7 Years War. I’ve painted some a few years ago as the Prinz Savoyen Dragoons, so I know they’re an impressive set. My only quibble is that the beautifully sculpted horses for these dragoons seem to be a significant few ‘hands’ higher than the hussar horses in comparison (see below)!

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Like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza… OK, so the Christingle dragoon’s horse (right) is rearing up but it appears quite a bit taller than the squat Carolling Hussar’s mount?

As with the Carolling Hussars, I’ve based the uniform design on a real 7 Years War regiment; the Prinz Karl Chevaulegers of the Saxon army. This regiment was named after Prince Karl of Saxony (Duke of Courland) and took part in a number of key battles in the war (Breslau, Leuthen, Torgau, etc.).

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Prinz Karl Chevauleger uniform

My Christingle Dragoons are named after a curious symbolic object used in Christian Advent services. The Christingle apparently originated with a German Bishop called Johannes de Watteville in 1747, but it took until the 1960s for it to become a British custom which has since grown in popularity. My first encounter with it was a few years ago when daughter first attended a local Christingle service on Christmas Eve.

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A Christingle

The Christingle is usually constructed with an orange, a candle, a red ribbon, some cocktail sticks and sweets. I suppose, on reflection, an orange uniform with red facings might have been more appropriate!? Never mind, I think green, red and white are good Christmas colours.

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Just as I did with the Carolling Hussars, I’ve also added a little tinsel to their tricornes; red tinsel for the hussars and gold for the dragoons. Also, you may notice that I’ve painted a small orange and candle Christingle motif.

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I fancy that some more festive decorations could improve my Christmas cavalry still further. Perhaps some extra tinsel, a mini bauble or some glitter around the base?

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Taking aim at a plump turkey for the regimental Christmas dinner…

But my “contribution” to the household Christmas decorations won’t be complete until I finish off the two flag bearers for the two regiments. My girl has designed the flags for my two Christmas infantry regiments in previous years. I’m awaiting her designs for the cavalry flags while I am finishing off the two figures themselves. I asked her to make the designs in the swallow-tailed shape of British light cavalry regiment guidons. I’ll share the finished figures in due course!

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