5th Belgian Light Dragoons (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #17)

Well, after some weeks developing these figures (alongside the 4th Dutch LD), It’s nice to see them finally see the light of day. I do like these uniforms with their unfussy green double-breasted jacket. These early HaT figures are a little stiffly posed, as I’ve said before, but with the application of paint, they are reasonably impressive. This set came with the option of adding a rolled greatcoat tied over their shoulder. Initially, I was keen to add them to this regiment but I found that one of the poses restricted its addition and so I left them out as I wasn’t sure it would ultimately work all that well.

Enough said. It’s the 17th regiment in my Nappy Cavalry Project, so you know the drill by now; bring on with the photos and biography!

Biography: 5th Belgian Light Dragoons [Netherlands]

At first glance, the 5th Belgian Light Dragoons, in their green uniforms, look a little like French chasseurs a cheval and indeed this would cause some real problems for the regiment during the Waterloo campaign. In the Anglo-allied army, the 5th were brigaded with the Dutch 6th Hussars in van Merlen’s 2nd Light Brigade.

At Quatre Bras, the regiment charged at a vital moment to cover the withdrawal of Dutch-Belgian infantry and in so doing took very heavy casualties, losing 170. This was its first encounter with what were, prior to Napoleon’s abdication, their former allies. Indeed, Merlen their brigade commander had been an adversary of the British in Spain, fighting for the French. Furthermore, a Lieutenant Dubois of the 5th had a father who was a French general.

It was whilst engaged in a prolonged melee with the 6th Chassuers a Cheval at Quatre Bras that the French and Belgian cavalry called out to each other. The French cavalry indicated by their downturned sabres their peaceful intentions, encouraging the Belgians to rejoin the French colours. Merlen’s bellicose response was to launch a charge at them! Unfortunately, the regiment then suffered further by being shot at by British troops whilst retiring (their green uniforms looking much like the enemy’s). Similar confusion occured later, Highlanders stood to arms when a returning Belgian dragoon vedette answered a challenge in French!

Although mauled, the regiment still fought at Waterloo, now down to only 271 sabres. In particular, it counterattacked the French cavalry penetrating between the Allied squares. Van Merlen was unfortunately killed and the 5th Dragoons lost 157, but the regiment had performed magnificently.

 

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Now it’s my hussars that have made the news!

I reported recently that my British Heavy Dragoons regiment made it into the excellent Benno’s Figures Forum newsletter. Well…it’s happened once again!

This time it was my Silesian Hussars that made the ‘headlines’. Actually, my figures sort of made the headlines twice over. The picture at the top of the newsletter depicts the diorama display of the Benno’s Figures Forum Famous Waterloo Project, for which I humbly contributed 4 figures earlier in the year. Clicking on the picture below should take you to the full newsletter.

Once more, I can only say that I’m very pleased to see that they were considered worthy of inclusion and it gives me great encouragement to continue with the project. Now – must get back to painting those British Horse Guards…

Newsletter2

Napoleon Had Five Hundred Marching Soldiers…

“Napoléon avait cinq cents soldats, Marchant du même pas.”

I painted a far larger number of figures for the BFFFWP group build than I actually sent (only the four figures). One of the sets that I was working on with an eye to submitting to the project was the Strelets French Infantry in Advance set. I only had a box in the first place because my local retailer was sadly closing down and selling remaining stock at stupidly cheap prices. I had little intention of painting them any time soon until the BFFFWP spurred me into action.

Well, it’s a typical Strelets set, with its distinctive sculpting style and emphasis on plenty of character in the poses. Strelets actually brought out two sets of these marching French Napoleonic infantry, resulting in no less than 24 different poses of soldiers simply marching with their musket! The other feature of this set is that they are made to look distinctly campaign weary and footsore; wearing greatcoats, sometimes covering their shakos from the vicissitudes of the weather and occasionally even sporting patches for their threadbare uniforms.

Certainly not the prettiest set ever produced, they are nonetheless easy to paint and make for an effective and evocative display of marching Napoleonic soldiery. Painting these troops put me in mind of a song I learnt in my French class at school; “Napoléon avait cinq cents soldats“. I’m ashamed to say that my knowledge of the language isn’t great but I well recall reciting this song – I was delighted to learn it for fairly obvious reasons! I might not have “five hundred soldiers marching” and they’re most certainly not in step, but I might just like them enough to paint the full 96 in my possession…

Strelets French Infantry Advance. Just another box and a half to paint...
Strelets French Infantry Advance. Just another box and a half to paint…
Not sure what the French version of the old marching song "It's a long way to Tipperary" is, but these guys are singing it...
Not sure what the French version of the old marching song “It’s a long way to Tipperary” is, (It’s a Long Way to La Rochelle, maybe) but these guys are singing it…
Strelets French Infantry Advance.
Strelets French Infantry Advance.
Strelets French Infantry Advance
Strelets French Infantry Advance
Strelets French Infantry Advance
Strelets French Infantry Advance
Marching off to the front...
Marching off to the front…

As a postscript to the above, I found the following nugget of information on the web about the “Napoléon Avait Cinq Cent Soldats” song:

[After singing the first verse in full] Then the second time you drop the last syllable from the Napoleon line: “Napoléon avait cinq cent sol—“
The last line (Marchez en même temps) is sung with full gusto.
The third time, you drop the last two syllables and successively down the line to the song’s conclusion.

I’ve been singing it all day but I will get that song out of my head eventually…

A Last Hussar…

And finally(!), here are the nearly finished Esci Hussar figures (save for a little work on the horses). I might put them forward for the BFFFWP or otherwise build up a small regiment of both types. It’s been fun working on these figures, if something of a challenge too. There may, however, be one last thing to do. These Esci figures portray horses without a sheepskin blanket roll cover. This invites the possibility of a small conversion using some modelling clay and glue. I may leave them for now but come back to them again to attempt this at some later date.

Luneburg Hussars
Luneburg Hussar (check out my fingers – these guys are really small, you know…)

 

Verden and Bremen Hussar with fingers...
Verden and Bremen Hussar with fingers

 

Luneburg Hussars
Luneburg Hussars
Luneburg Hussar
Luneburg Hussar
Verden and Bremen Hussar (rear view)
Verden and Bremen Hussar (rear view)
Verden and Bremen Hussar (front view)
Verden and Bremen Hussar (front view)
Luneburg Hussar
Luneburg Hussar (front view)

 

Luneburg Hussar
Luneburg Hussar
Luneburg Hussar
Luneburg Hussar

In the meantime, on to the next figures! Which will be…? Well, I may have a go at some more of these hussars and I have a few Scots Greys to add to the others I’ve just done. But then there’s also these figures that have just come through the post:

Italeri British Light Cavalry
Italeri British Light Cavalry

And as one final mention of all things hussar related, I visited an excellent museum in 2013 dedicated to the 10th and 11th Hussars (and their successor regiments), called Horsepower in Winchester. It was well worth a visit for anybody with an interest in cavalry and military history, not least due to the lack of any entrance fee!

Huzzah for Hussars!

So now I know why I’ve steered clear of attempting to paint hussars in the past. All that intricate gold braiding, outrageous colours and a fancy fur-lined pelisse cast rakishly over the shoulder make for some fiddly painting. Following on from the previous post’s Scots Greys, I’ve picked to do some hussars which are also up for grabs in the BFFFWP exhibition. Whether I’ll submit, or get the chance to submit, all these figures is a moot point, but nevertheless it’s nice to have something to paint for, beyond simply obeying one’s own whims and preferences.

A few words about Hussars. Basically, they are a type of light cavalry which originated in Hungary. The etymology of the word is complicated, but its emergence as a military unit came as bands of émigré Serbian cavalry were employed in wars against the Ottoman Turks. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, hussars gradually became a familiar feature in many European armies.

Q: What’s the difference between a hussar and a light dragoon? This isn’t a joke; it’s the kind of rhetorical question that occupies my mind when to everybody else at my workplace I simply appear to be just staring into space. The answer, so far as I can tell, is ‘fashion’: Hungarian style. First, they wore a short jacket called a Dolman with lots of horizontal gold braid on it. An over-jacket, usually with yet more ornate braiding, called a Pelisse was usually worn slung over a shoulder. Headgear was (usually) a busby with a coloured bag hung over one side of it. Finally, an incorrigibly dashing moustache was an essential part of ‘the look’.

The whole point of all this extreme military dandyism was to cultivate the type of regiment which at least according to one French brigadier “…could set a whole population running, the men away from them and the women towards them.”  Indeed, according to wikipedia:

Hussars had a reputation for being the dashing, if unruly, adventurers of the army. The traditional image of the hussar is of a reckless, hard-drinking, hard-swearing, womanising, moustachioed swashbuckler. General Lasalle, an archetypal showoff hussar officer, epitomized this attitude by his remarks, among which the most famous is: "Any hussar who is not dead by the age of thirty is a blackguard."[18] He died at the Battle of Wagram at the age of 34.

All this ornate fashion sense could make them more expensive to equip and it certainly makes them more difficult to paint. I’m using the figures recommended in the BFFFWP, Esci’s British Crimean Hussars. Like the Scots Greys, these chaps are also an unpainted relic of my youth, recovered from the loft. Apparently, these Esci figures make for better Napoleonic hussars than Crimean ones, so I’m painting the Bremen and Verden Hussar regiment (green dolman) and the Luneburg Regiment (blue dolman). Lots to do on them still, as can be seen in the photos, and I haven’t even started on their horses. In fact, the horses are a bit of a problem as they have been sculpted without a sheepskin blanket cover. Which frankly just won’t do. Obviously. I mean, these are hussars, for heaven’s sake!

Updates to be posted.

Verden and Bremen Hussars in progress.
Verden and Bremen Hussars in progress.
Luneburg Hussars (in progress)
Luneburg Hussars (in progress)
Verden and Bremen Hussars in progress.
Verden and Bremen Hussars in progress.
Luneburg Hussar (in progress)
Luneburg Hussar (in progress)

Esci Scots Greys

With some figures from the BFFFP still up for grabs (unless another forum member elects to paint them over the next week or so), I sought out some of my Esci Scots Greys. These little guys were inside a plastic box which contained many other soldiers, the common denominator of these being that they were all figures from my childhood. I’ve mentioned before in this blog how a key driver of my renewed interest in this hobby was to give colour to figures that frustratingly remained unpainted as a child. So, it’s perhaps a little strange that I have hitherto not attempted to paint any of those original childhood soldiers. To some extent, I wonder if I’ve considered them historical relics, or perhaps I’ve been stalling until I feel I can do them justice?

The Scots Greys, or more correctly the “2nd [The Royal North British] Dragoons“, have achieved some fame for their charge in the battle of Waterloo. In truth, they were but one part of the Duke of Wellington’s entire Household and Union Brigades involved in that charge. Indeed, they were supposed to remain in reserve for the charge but took part on their own initiative as the charge developed.  They helped throw back the main French attack and captured a regimental eagle in the process, although fatigue and the lack of any planned objective led to heavy casualties from the French cavalry’s counter-charge. Many artists have chosen to portray the Scots Greys at Waterloo, Richard Caton-Woodville being one notable example, further spreading their fame. But it was the great Victorian military painter Lady Butler who really cemented their legend on canvas with her iconic depiction of their part in the action:

Lady Butler's "Scotland Forever"
Lady Butler’s “Scotland Forever”

This image was reproduced by Dino De Laurentiis in his astonishing and epic 1970 film “Waterloo“, the director even slowing down the sequence to present the image more distinctly:

Scene from the film "Waterloo"
Scene from| the film “Waterloo”

With such depictions as these, it was easy to forget that another four regiments took part in the same charge; the 1st and 2nd Life Guards, the Royal Horse Guards (the Blues), and the 1st (King’s) Dragoon Guards, the 1st (The Royals) Dragoons and the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons. But it is the Scots Greys which feature heavily in popular depictions and, of course, in releases from model soldier manufacturers too! Hence this release from Esci way back in the 1980s.

Esci correctly portrayed their Scots Greys with covers over their bearskin shakos (unlike many of the artists who chose to show the more romantically uncovered headgear). I’m no expert on the uniforms but have done my best with some basic research. As for the greys themselves, I’ve suffered a couple of artistic tantrums in painting them up. My wife is an equestrian who has a horse (a dun, not a grey!), so I’m a bit self-conscious about getting it right.  Which I probably haven’t. But I’m happy to leave them as they are – they’re probably good enough after waiting all these years, I think!

Esci Scots Greys on bottle tops!
Esci Scots Greys on bottle tops!
Esci Scots Greys
Esci Scots Greys
Esci Scots Greys painted by me!
Esci Scots Greys painted by me!
Esci Scots Greys
Esci Scots Greys
Esci Scots Greys
Esci Scots Greys
Another figure from Esci Scots Greys
Another figure from Esci Scots Greys
Esci Scots Greys circa Waterloo 1815
Esci Scots Greys circa Waterloo 1815
Esci Scots Greys - Rear view
Esci Scots Greys – Rear view
From childhood relic to full technicolor models!
From childhood relic to full technicolor models!

Cheers!

Prussian Jager: [Almost] Finished!

And hot on the heals of the last post, here are the almost finished figures for the Prussian Jager. I say “almost” because I’ll select a couple from this half-dozen to send on to my forum friend in Germany; Jan, aka ‘MABO’. These two selected soldiers will probably be subject to a little bit more tinkering before I’m satisfied enough to send them through the post.

They’ll have to wait though; the HaT Nassau Grenadiers need finishing off next. They seem to be coming along nicely so they shouldn’t be too much longer.

Interestingly, I compared these finished figures with ones I’d painted a few years ago, which were amongst the first model plastic soldiers I’d ever painted. The old ones were okay, but I like to think that these last few years have enabled me to make these new ones distinctly better.

Now, on a personal level, I have to state that this past week has been something of a challenge. Problems with my health (very uncharacteristic of me) have seen me struggling. Even today, I’m finishing off these figures with nerve damage to my painting hand that’s lasted for over a month now (a consequence of D.I.Y. and not figure painting: a salutary lesson there to us all, I think!). In addition, I’m struggling with a winter cold and a muscle spasm in my left shoulder! None of which has stopped me from nearly finishing this pleasurable project, I’m happy to say.  Ah well, I’m feeling a little better today and have rediscovered some positive attitude, so I can at least state that I seem to be on the mend! Enough about my moans: here are the Prussians!

HaT Prussian Jager (nearly) done for the Benno's Forum FIGZ diorama.
HaT Prussian Jager (nearly, nearly, nearly) done for the Benno’s Forum FIGZ diorama.
Almost finished; my Prussian Jager for the Benno's Forum FIGZ diorama.
Almost finished; my Prussian Jager for the Benno’s Forum FIGZ diorama.
HaT Prussian Jager for the Benno's Forum FIGZ diorama.
Another view of the HaT Prussian Jager for the Benno’s Forum FIGZ diorama.