Turkish Delight

So, what to paint next after all those snowy winter figures I’ve been working on for weeks? I’m feeling that it’s time for Suburban Militarism to attempt something else. Something warmer… Something different… Something completely different…

RedBox have been producing some very fine figures of late. The eras and conflicts that they concentrate on are mostly to do with the 16th/17th century. This is a little outside my areas of interest but nonetheless, I’ve been impressed by their recent figures. And so, for my next slow-burn project I will be having a go at building the Sultan’s army from their wonderful range of Ottoman Turks, starting with their artillery.

The Ottoman Empire was enormous at its height and was unsurprisingly therefore very powerful militarily. The Ottoman Empire was amongst the first European nation to have a professional and permanent artillery corps and consequently were the most effective in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. In an era dominated by siege warfare, much of the Ottomans strength lay in their numerous and formidable artillery corps.

My latest box model soldiers…

RedBox, in their typically generous manner, have produced an impressive number of different artillery kits for these Ottoman Turks, including the following named sets;

  • “16th Century Turkish Artillery”
  • “17th Century Turkish Artillery”
  • “16th Century Turkish Siege Artillery Gun”
  • “16th-17th Century Turkish Siege Artillery Mortar”
  • “Turkish Sailor’s Artillery 16th-17th Century”
Image of the two constructed 17th C set guns by Plastic Soldier Review

With industrial progress being slow in the 16th-17th century, all the kits could more or less be reasonably used together without creating an historical absurdity. Plastic Soldier Review states that “the guns in [the 17th Century] set are exactly the same as those in the set of 16th Century Artillery, and are still very appropriate to the 17th.”

1 of the 2 sprues of Ottoman Turkish gun crews in the box

I’ve decided to start with some figures from their “17th Century Turkish Artillery” set. Having a few boxes of Turks arrive through the post recently, I’ll probably dip in and out of these different kits.


Ottoman Topçu (artilleryman) from observations taken by the Swedish ambassador to the Ottomans.

The Topçu Ocağı (or Artillery Corps) being both a professional and a favoured division of the army did wear uniforms, though of exactly what sort is open to question. There appear to be many variations on colours, so it may be that colours simply varied with from unit to unit. For my first figures, I’ve gone with the colours shown consistently on all the RedBox box covers which closely match the illustration shown above by a contemporary Swedish ambassador. I may even maintain the same uniformity throughout all of the Sultan’s artillery, other arms being much more varied.

A re-enactor of the Siege of Vienna 1683.

With artillery sets, I guess the only way to present them is as a group together in a mini diorama, as with my recent Cracker Battery. To facilitate this, I’ve made another purchase which I hope will go perfectly with my Turkish artillery units. I’m rather excited about it but I’ll reveal what this is in a future post!

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Fire!

Now in receipt of the two other gun crews of Victorian Royal Artillery figures by Perry Miniatures, I realised I needed to get a little more serious about how I put these things together. I needed to be historically accurate and fully understand the drill and workings of a Victorian-era Royal Artillery battery in receipt of a new-fangled breech-loading Armstrong cannon.

Except, I didn’t.

I just got carried away producing my little diorama without doing enough research. A classic failing of mine, modelling enthusiasm over diligent research. I think the Armstrong may have been painted in a certain colour, though I was uncertain enough over which colour that I just left it as natural wood (something I’d seen previously in one image of the gun on the internet).

Nevertheless, I’m quite pleased with how the first Armstrong 12 pounder and gun crew have (nearly) turned out. I think I’ll paint the cord which was pulled to fire the cannon. You will notice that I added some cotton wool for a smoke effect and may add a tiny bit more coming out of the breech itself from the charge. There are also some implements still to add to the scene: the sponge and the handspike have yet to be added (I’ve been advised where thanks to Paul from Bennos Figures Forum) and the spongeman could really use a bucket to dip his sponge into, but this didn’t come with the set. I might try and make one. The thing is: I’ve stupidly lost the sponge rod! (so I might have to fashion one of those too)…

Nevertheless, historical queries and stupidly lost equpment aside, I’ve really enjoyed putting this artillery team together. New scale (28mm), new era (Victorian), new material (metal), and a new arm (artillery), have made for a fresh challenge.

Images of what I’ve done so far are below. I’ll post ‘finished’ photos in the future, until then, I’m on to painting the next gun teams! I think they look okay.

Suburban Militarism goes on holiday!

I’ve returned from my holiday away much refreshed. I was hoping that my holiday by the sea might allow me to visit the Royal Marines museum in Southsea. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite get time for that but instead did enjoy a number of other military history related excursions, in addition to all the sun, sea, sand and horses that made up the vacation. Yes, you read that correctly – being based in England’s New Forest meant lots of wild ponies (which offered some further colour guidance in my Nappy cavalry project).

Being based in Milford on Sea, I was but a short boat ride away from Hurst Castle, a Tudor castle that was expanded considerably during the Victorian era in response to French naval expansion. Situated on the end of the long sandy spit, the castle guards the approach of any naval craft passing between the Isle of Wight and the mainland (the key port of Southampton being just around the corner). This fort is one of Palmerston’s Follies, so-called as these coastal defences instituted by the Prime Minister were never used, the French threat having faded with their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

It’s hard not to be awed by Victorian coastal defence. Upon entering Hurst Castle, I was immediately struck by the sight of some 38 tonne muzzle-loading cannon. These monsters hurled shells across the Solent weighing up to 820lbs which took 12 men up to 6 minutes to load.

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I’m not the tallest man in the world, but this pic gives an idea of scale! Thick rope curtains would have provided some protection for the gunners operating near the gunport.

Being muzzle loaders, loading the shells from the front required the gunners to move the cannon back on steel sliders until there was room enough to do it. In the 1870s, this required operating a huge sponge to damp down the embers in the barrel, then loading the charge of gunpowder weighing 130lbs, followed next by a copper band spacer. By the turn of the century, a cordite charge would later make things a little lighter and therefore easier.

38 tonne cannon. The metal sliders can be seen.
A 38-tonne cannon! The metal grooves on the floor aided aiming.

Finally, the enormous shell was loaded into the muzzle with the aid of a mechanical lifting mechanism.

Yours truly with some of the shells.
Yours truly with some of the shells!

There must have been nearly fifty of these gunports around the castle, housing 10 of these 38 ton cannons and many more of various calibre. I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the receiving end of whatever punishment they were capable of dealing out through them, ironclad or no ironclad!

One of the gunports without a cannon obscuring it.
One of the now bricked-up gunports on show without any cannon obscuring it.

Before Lord Palmerston instigated his grand designs, it was a polygonal (12-sided) Tudor fort, built by Henry VIII to counter the Catholic threat following his break with Rome. Like Palmerston’s version, it was never seriously tested, although a stray Spanish vessel was wrecked by a storm on to the nearby beach during the Armada threat. It thereafter had periods of both ruin and refurbishment. At the end of the English Civil War, this Parliamentarian stronghold was notably the last prison of the captive King Charles I, before he eventually left for London and the executioner’s block.

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My daughter aiming a Tudor cannon while I ram home the shot!

There were some interesting displays around the old fort on local casualties from the world wars and an impressively eclectic display of weaponry. Mercifully, I won’t go into any great detail about here except to share some more pics:

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Looking out from the old Tudor keep towards the Hurst lighthouse and the mainland.

Weaponry on show included Lee-Enfields, French Gras Chassepots, Belgian muskets, and others.
Weaponry on show included Lee-Enfields, French Gras Chassepots, Belgian muskets, and others.

Examples of cannon balls and shot of the type used in the Battle of Mudeford 1784 against smugglers (which the smugglers won). Also a 'pipe from HMS Victory'...
Examples of cannon balls and shot of the type used in the Battle of Mudeford 1784 against smugglers (which the smugglers won)… Also a ‘pipe from HMS Victory’.

Just a few more military-related nuggets to share in a future post that I discovered whilst on holiday. Thereafter, due to family and work commitments, there may a brief hiatus before I can finally get back at last to the modelling!