Crustacean Cavalry

I sincerely hope all visitors are staying healthy and following the advice during this horrendous pandemic. During this difficult time, any slight sense of normality is welcome and it’s more comforting than ever to occasionally engage in the act of immersive act of figure painting. I’ve been finishing off my Les Higgins War of the Spanish Succession cuirassiers.

The Bavarian army during the War of the Spanish Succession initially included three cuirassier regiments (the Arco, Wieckel and La Tour regiments). This later increased to four with the raising of the Wolframsdorff Regiment. With their “lobster-tailed pot helmets” and metal cuirassies, these troops looked like something familiar from the previous century. During the English Civil War, the so-called Haselrig’s Lobsters wore this armour, not too dissimilar from the Bavarian cuirassiers of 60 years later:

Lobster cavalry armour of the English Civil War, Household Cavalry Museum, London. (my photo)

I’ve chosen to paint these Les Higgins figures as the Arco Cuirassier Regiment, led by Cavalry General Johan Baptist Graf von Arco. Although the numbers in the regiment could vary significantly, a Bavarian cuirassier regiment at this time could have anything up to 900 men, organised into 8 -12 companies.

All the Bavarian cuirassiers during the War of the Spanish Succession wore grey coats with colours of cuffs & lining being distinctive to each regiment. The Arco Regiment was distinguished by mid-light blue facings and horse cloth. The original Robert Marrion illustration below, originally depicting the Wieckel Regiment, has been doctored by somebody with Arco facings and posted online.

All my Les Higgins’ Arco Cuirrassiers are wielding a pistol, which looks a convincing pose, I think.

As soon as I took these photos and uploaded them I found a post-it note to myself with the words “cuff buttons” and “stirrups” written on it, not coincidentally the exact same things I’ve forgotten to paint on these figures! (my friend Pat will know that feeling well). Ah, well. I’ll attend to it in due course. Nevertheless, I’m feeling quite pleased with my first WSS cavalry regiment, and my first metal Les Higgins figures too.

Hoping all visitors to this blog keep themselves and their loved ones healthy and we get through this together soon. In the meantime, when I’m not figure painting, I’m NHS employed and so will be playing a very tiny part in the national response during this time.

Best wishes, Marvin.

Lace Wars with Les

Just wanted to share some progress on my Les Higgins War of the Spanish Succession cavalry, sample figures courtesy of John Cunningham. There’s still a little corrective paint required on one or two of these figures, nonetheless I’ve been creating (from left to right):

  • a trooper of the Bavarian Arco Cuirassier Regiment
  • a French dragoon of the Royal Regiment
  • a dragoon of the Danish 5th Jydske Dragoon Regiment
  • a trooper of the Regiment du Roi, a French Horse Regiment

Still work to be done, but they’ve given me the template for creating an entire regiment of each. Yesterday, I received more of these wonderful old Les Higgins miniatures so I can set to work when I’m ready. These, along with the other mountain of figures should at least keep me well occupied in these troubling times of global pandemic.

Scrubbed and drying, ready for paint: my Les Higgins 20mm cavalry haul.

For anyone interested in purchasing Les Higgins recast figures, please visit this page on Vintage Wargaming Figures for more information.

My Horse is Irregular…

I’m patiently waiting for a little something to arrive through the post which I hope will enhance my slowly progressing FEMbruary submission of Empress Catherine and the Russian Court.

In the meantime, as the shocking Storm Dennis rages outside it is at least an opportunity to add some paint to those War of the Spanish Succession horses which arrived from Irregular Miniatures some weeks ago.

These are first metal 20mm figures I’ve ever had the pleasure to paint, so I’ll have to see how the riders go. It’s also a toe in the water for some other classic metal 20mm figures which I’ve received.

Right – I’d better nip outside now and check for any storm damage…!

#37 Regiment: 2nd Hussars + Uhlan Squadron [Duchy of Brunswick]

Okay, so the 37th Regiment in the Napoleonic Cavalry Project is actually two regiments as it incorporates a troop of uhlans for good measure…

My approach to painting black uniforms is no doubt excessively complex – after all, when all’s said and done, they all just look… well, black!

The box comes with 9 hussars and 3 uhlans. Firstly – the 2nd Brunswick Hussar Regiment:

Nine hussars in total all wearing their finery, pelisses, shakos and plumes. One arm ‘option’ included a bugle which I’ve used and assigned to the grey horse.

I’ve never been a fan of separate arms glued onto pegs – they never seem too secure to me, but I recognise it provides some interesting extra choices. One of the figures with fixed arms had a broken sabre which I cut off completely to hopefully give the impression of simply riding.

On the shako is a white skull and crossed bones (the Totenkopf in German), which appeared on both cavalry and infantry regiments in the army of Brunswick.

For the uhlans, with only three figures in the box I wanted to make sure that all my lancers were carrying lances, although the other arm options were available.

The czapkas worn by these uhlans have an attractive colour scheme – light blue cloth with yellow piping. These colours mimic the colours of the Duchy’s flag, which was similar to the Ukrainian flag of today.

To be honest, I didn’t have much faith on these uhlans looking all that impressive but I think they’ve turned out quite nicely.


Biography: 2nd Hussars and Uhlan squadron [Brunswick]

In 1809 Prince Frederick William, Duke of Brunswick, raised a corps of soldiers to fight the French, who had occupied his country since it’s defeat in the Jena Campaign of 1806-07. The whole army were called ‘Black Brunswickers’ because they wore black uniforms in mourning for their lost independence. Brunswick had been absorbed into the newly formed Kingdom of Westphalia which had Napoleon’s brother on the throne.

Brunswick Oels Corps (including left – a hussar) 1812, by Charles Hamilton Smith. National Army Museum.

After an initially successful uprising, Duke Frederick William eventually was forced to England where his army of over 2000 troops (including cavalry) formally entered British army. Now known as the Brunswick Oels Hussar Regiments, the Peninsular War (1808-1814) saw them fight at the battle of Fuentes de Onoro, Salamanca, Vitoria, the Pyrenees, Nivelle, the Nive, and Orthez.

In 1815, the Duke of Brunswick re-raised his army and took two cavalry regiments into the 100 days capaign; the 2nd Brunswick Hussars (684 sabres in 4 squadrons under Major Cramm) and a single squadron of lancers (just 235 men under Major Pott) .

Brunswickers at the Battle of Quatre Bras by Richard Knötel (1857-1914) [Public domain]. Infantrymen in their black uniforms are shown supported by Brunswick ‘avant garde’ light troops in grey.

The entire Brunswick contingent was heavily engaged in the Battle of Quatre Bras with the cavalry incurring 46 casualties which included the fatalities of not only the Duke himself but also the Brunswick Hussars’ own commander, Major Cramm.

The Death of the Duke of Brunswick in a contemporary print. The Duke is being aided by some of his hussars.

In Wellington’s despatch of the 19th June, he praised the contribution of the Brunswick troops and their commander;

The troops of the 5th division, and those of the Brunswick corps (The Black Brunswickers), were long and severely engaged, and conducted themselves with the utmost gallantry. Our loss was great, as your Lordship will perceive by the enclosed return; and I have particularly to regret His Serene Highness the Duke of Brunswick, who fell fighting gallantly at the head of his troops.” 

During the Battle of Waterloo, Wellington thought it prudent to keep the battle-scarred Brunswick cavalry far from the front line, in reserve near the centre. Consequently, they were only called into action during the latter stages of the battle, counter-attacking the French cavalry attacks costing them a further 92 casualties.


Notable Battles: Fuentes de Onoro, Salamanca, Vitoria, Quatre Bras, Waterloo.

18th (King’s Irish) Light Dragoons (Hussars) [Regt #36]

In my previous post, I revealed the 36th regiment in my Napoleonic Cavalry Project to be the 18th Hussars. It’s a return to Italeri for the first time since their Mamelukes in 2017. The detailing is terrific if subtle.

The horses are elegant but are something of a problem. Firstly, they connect to their bases with pegs – and I don’t like pegs. Thankfully, these ones fit perfectly together but are never as strong as if they were moulded together and a couple of horses parted company from their bases during painting.

Secondly, the horses don’t have the sheepskin saddle covers, an essential item for any self-respecting hussars of the period, but with these nicely sculpted horses, I can live with that.

Finally, the horses come with two disfiguring marks, discs, on their right flanks, presumably a feature imprinted from the moulding process. It looks a bit ugly and I’m not sure whether the scars which are left by attempting to delicately carve them away is better than just leaving them in place. It’s a shame as the horses are beautifully sculpted.

No overt command figures included in this set except the trumpeter.

I keep picking up boxes of these Italeri Hussars / Light Dragoons so I’ve still got enough for more regiments if I return to them to do more in the future.


Biography: 18th (King’s Irish) Light Dragoons (Hussars) [Great Britain]

Formed in 1759, the regiment was first known as the 19th Dragoons and Drogheda’s Light Horse. It was renumbered a few time before settling on the 18th in 1769. Wellington himself spent some time in the regiment as a junior officer.

In 1805, it adopted the “King’s Irish” title and was converted to hussars two years later. It was sent to the Peninsular theatre in 1808 for a year’s service where it faught in the successful cavalry actions of Sahagún and Benavente and also at the Battle of Corunna where the commander Sir John Moore was killed.

It was back in the Peninsular under their old comrade Arthur Wellesley in 1813 and fought in many of the battles leading to the French defeat (including Vitoria, Nive and Toulouse).

For the 100 Days campaign, The 18th Hussars were a part of Sir Hussey Vivian’s 6th British Cavalry Brigade alongside the 10th Hussars and the 1st Hussars of the King’s German Legion. Numbering 447 sabres in three squadrons, they were commanded by Lt-Col the Honourable Murray.

During the Battle of Waterloo, the 18th Hussars found themselves on the extreme left of Wellington’s line, behind the buildings of La Haie farm. Being over 2km away from the centre of the Allied line, the regiment had an almost uniquely quiet time for most of the battle. Having plenty of space to do so, they were formed up in line rather than in columns.

Waterloo by Denis Dighton [Public domain] showing the red shako-wearing 10th Hussars of Vivian’s Brigade.

Only late in the day was the regiment moved to the seat of the action in the centre as the French cavalry began to retreat with the rest of their army. Their spirited attacks on the enemy nonetheless cost them over 100 casualties.

The 18th Hussars remained in France after Napoleon’s defeat as part of the Army of Occupation. It was disbanded in 1821 as part of the post-Napoleonic Wars reduction in the British Army’s strength, that numbered regiment not to be reformed again until 1858.

Notable Battles: Bergen, Corunna, Vitoria, Nive, Toulouse, Waterloo.

1st Dutch Carabiniers (Nap. Cavalry Project Regt #35)

KAMAR of Germany supply a great range of 1:72 scale figures including their own range of figures ranging from the Viking era to WWII. They also stock other manufacturers including Phersu’s ancients and Stenfalk’s magnificent animal range, to name but two. From KAMAR, I ordered this small group of four 1815 Dutch Carabiniers in metal, thinking, that despite their small number, they might make for a pleasing and unusual addition to the Nappy Cavalry Project.

These figures are supposed to depict the Dutch Carabiniers dating specifically from 1815, referring to their part in the 100 Days campaign and the battle of Waterloo. They were part of Tripp’s Heavy Cavalry Brigade at Waterloo which consisted of three regiments from the Netherlands:

  • 1st Dutch Carabiniers (pink facings and red turnbacks)
  • 2nd Belgian Carabiniers (red facings)
  • 3rd Dutch Carabiniers (yellow facings)

I’ve elected to represent the 1st regiment which wore the unusual pink facings. Across the internet, it appears that there is some confusion over the headdress worn by these Dutch Carabiniers during the Waterloo campaign. It seems that most sources depict both the 1st and 3rd Dutch Carabiniers wearing bicornes whilst their Belgian comrades in the 2nd Belgian Carabiniers wore steel dragoon helmets.

Beautifully painted steel-helmeted Belgian Carabiniers by Kaiser Bill

In my copy of the ever-reliable The Waterloo Companion, however, Mark Adkin actually has the 1st Dutch Carabiniers wearing the steel helmet and this is further depicted in one the book’s plates.

From the Waterloo Companion; Belgian and Dutch Carabinier left and right respectively.

Eventually, I discovered a comment from a blogger which might offer an explanation for all the confusion. This blogger suggests that;

“…the uniform with the bicorne and long tailed and lapeled coat was prescribed by the Souvereign Order of 31st December 1813. The regulations of 9 January 1815 ordered a short tailed single breasted coatee and the Belgian (steel) helmet. They were to be fully implemented on 1st May 1816. So both regiments went to war in 1815 in the old uniforms.”

So, it’s probable that KAMAR’s figures are suitable for Waterloo. Incidentally, the Italian manufacturer, Waterloo 1815, have produced a set of 6 metal / resin Belgian Carabiniers with steel helmets and which would compliment my Dutchmen very nicely. Well, I suppose I might consider a purchase…

There’s plenty of colour to paint in this regiment; pink, blue, red and white and you may also notice that these troops wear an orange cockade in their bicornes, in recognition of the Dutch Royal House. I think the most pleasing aspects of the figures is their relaxed state, swords drawn but otherwise passive with their standing horses nonetheless looking pleasingly animated and alive.

To conclude, some pictures of my first metal figures in the 1:72 scale Napoleonic Cavalry Project, followed by a brief regimental biography:


Regimental Biography: The 1st Dutch Carabiniers and Waterloo

During the Waterloo Campaign, the 1st Dutch Carabiniers were part of the Dutch Heavy Cavalry Brigade under Maj-General Tripp. The regiment numbered 446 sabres across 3 squadrons and in command was Lt-Col Coenegracht.

They were initially held in reserve behind Wellington’s centre. However, after the Household Brigade had been badly mauled in their epic counter-charge against the main French infantry assault, Tripp’s heavy cavalry became the only intact heavy cavalry formation left to Wellington. Consequently, they were heavily engaged against the French Cavalry for the remainder of the afternoon.

Richard Knötel’s 1890 illustration of a 1st Dutch Carabinier (in helmet – to add to the confusion…)

The Dutch Carabiniers initially counter-charged the French Cuirassiers which had been pursuing the remnants of the Household Brigade. A fierce melee ensued until the French were forced to withdraw.

As the battle continued, the 1st Dutch Carabiniers were called upon to counterattack on a number of occasions costing them 102 casualties (25% of the regiment) including a number of their senior officers including Lt.Col. Coenegracht himself, who was mortally wounded.

A flavour of the exhausting and bloody nature of the fighting experienced by the 1st Dutch Carabiniers at Waterloo can be gleaned from this quote by Maj-General Jonkheer (respectfully reproduced from the brilliant General Picton blog):

“After resting in this position, I noticed enemy’s cuirassiers which were advancing to charge the English squares. I saw a perfect moment to charge the enemy and ordered the 1st Regiment of Carabiniers attack the enemy as they were disordered around the squares. After the charge there were numerous enemies dead and wounded left on the ground. At the moment when the 1st Regiment rallied, the enemy sent in a second charge, in this action there were more than one French cuirassier regiment. These were equally repulsed by the 2nd and 3rd Regiment, many cuirassiers were left in our hands.”


The Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry (Nap. Cavalry Regiment #34)

There’s a documentary TV series running on the BBC which features the work of the Household Cavalry. On a very recent episode, the cavalry (horses and soldiers both) were shown on their annual summer camp. Once a year, over 100 men and horses head off to Norfolk to undergo training including a ride over Holkham beach, plunging into and out of the surf.

This is all happening just a stone’s throw from Holkham Hall where, nearly 221 years ago, the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry were first raised by Thomas Coke from amongst local volunteers. Surprisingly, it seems the mounted cavalry tradition continues in Holkham right up to this day!

Whereas the Household Cavalry are regulars, Coke’s Holkham Yeomanry were part-timers, local men to the area and were equipped by the wealthy Coke with some assistance from the government with its military supplies.

Research has led me to believe they would have looked similar to the 10th Light Dragoons, Coke having petitioned the Prince of Wales (the regiment’s honorary colonel) to adopt the same colours. Two sergeants of the 10th were ordered up by the Prince of Wales to train the troop in the standards of the British army’s light cavalry drill.

My Holkham Yeomanry’s uniform consists of:

  • blue jacket with white edging
  • white breeches
  • pale yellow facings
  • white braid (white-silver for officers)
  • tarleton helmet with a black turban and silver chains
  • brass chain wing shoulder scales
  • black boots

For added decoration, I painted on to the figures some brass chain wings on the shoulders rather than going with the sculpted straps. It’s a style I’ve seen on other yeomanry troops of this era, including the Sussex and Warwickshire cavalry.

I spent a little time on the helmets to include a brass rim around the peaks and also silver chains holding the turban in place, not included by the sculptor.

Pointing the way to Holkham beach… for this figure shown above I removed his weapon and left him gesturing with a finger.

In my previous post on the horses, I mentioned the pale yellow shabraques including a device in the corners with a black shape on a red background to indicate the ostrich device seen on the Holkham Yeomanry’s standard on display in Holkham Hall.

I’ve extended this theme for the officer’s sabretaches – being a yellow background, edged with red, with a central device in the centre and a gold crown above (not seen in these photographs but since corrected!). Three black dots to the side and below indicate the H, Y and C initials of the troop.

For the officers, they have a crimson sash around the waist and a little extra braiding which I added to create some ornate Austrian knot cuffs. To better differentiate the two figures, I’ve given one a twist of the head and arm. I’ve also provided him with greying hair thinking he could serve as the middle-aged Thomas Coke (the same age as yours truly – there’s time to raise my own regiment yet…). Instead, I have other plans for Coke and will perhaps instead nominate the figure to be his Troop’s 2nd-in-command, Captain Edmund Rolfe;

The other officer I propose to be Lieutenant George Hogg;

For the trumpeter figure, I’ve kept it simple. No fancy trumpet cords, just the brass instrument itself. Also, no expensive uniform in reverse colours or bandsman’s epaulettes; just the grey horse distinctive to all cavalry trumpeters.

With my men and horses now painted. There is one more element to my Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry project still to come: a recreation of a scene reported on by the local paper where the standard was presented to the troop by the lady of Holkham Hall, Mrs Jane Coke. I’ve now ordered my chosen figures for this scene and am awaiting delivery…

Just leaves me to conclude with a gallery of some more pics of the troop (click to ’embiggen’), followed by a brief regimental history.


Biography: The Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry [Great Britain]
  • Raised by Thomas Coke of Holkham Hall after petitioning the Prince of Wales in May 1798.
  • Coke appointed Commandant, 19th July 1798.
  • The HYC receive their standard on the south lawn of Holkham Hall, 6th October 1798.
  • Initially consisted of 2 troops numbering approx 50 men each.
  • Officers consist of Major Commandant Thomas William Coke; Captain Edmund Rolfe; Lieuts. George Hogg and Martin Folkes-Riston; Cornets Jason Gardner-Bloom and John Ward.
  • Briefly disbanded in 1802 (following the Peace of Amiens) but re-raised again the following year.
  • Attached to the 1st Regiment of the newly organised Norfolk Yeomanry together with the Norfolk Rangers, the Lynn & Freebridge, the Smithdon & Brothercross, and the Marshland Troops.
  • The whole regiment later adopts the Norfolk Rangers’ uniform (green jackets).
  • Disbanded for good, 1828.

The links below to my previous posts also provide further information: :


Chasseurs à Cheval de la Garde [Nappy Cavalry Project Regiment #33]

I have already presented the painted horses for the latest regiment in my Napoleonic Cavalry Project, so now it’s time to show them with their riders in-situ. I can announce that the 33rd regiment is Napoleon’s Chasseurs à Cheval of the Imperial Guard.

Wait a minute! That regiment has already appeared in the project, so I’ve got some explaining to do. I felt it was worth attempting this set for a number of reasons;

  1. When they first appeared it was as a mere 5 mounted figures, (certainly not a full ‘regiment’) and were acting simply as an escort to Napoleon himself.
  2. Those figures were by a different manufacturer; Italeri, not Revell.
  3. Italeri’s figures had the men wearing full dress uniform with a pelisse and a plume and bag on their kolpaks. Revell’s men appear in plainer service dress.
  4. Finally, both figures were of sufficient quality as to demand inclusion, these Revell ones being just too good not to attempt.

Unlike the 5 mounted and 2 unmounted figures in the Italeri French Imperial General Staff set, there are plenty of figure in Revell’s Mounted Guard Chasseurs set – a whopping 18 in total which includes a single standing figure.

Did I say they were of ‘sufficient quality’? That undersells it a bit as these Revell figures are very good. My only observation is that the detail is just so finely produced that it makes the painter’s task very tricky. Larger, crisper details may not be reproducing details accurately to scale but it makes the details pop out better to the eye. I’ve matched the basing to my original Italeri versions from 2015. They go together pretty well, I think, the difference between the styles of dress and sculpting can be seen when comparing them to the crisper Italeri versions I painted.

I was particularly impressed with Revell’s officer figure. The pose of his rearing horse with it’s leopard-skin shabraque is an audacious piece of sculpting and works well, I think, with the officer mounted. It’s a piece of dramatic hero posing that’s really memorable.

Other unique figures included in the box was this chasseur below standing on guard with musket and fixed bayonet. The trumpeter meanwhile is unmistakable with his dramatic white colpak and sky blue uniform.

It’s been a pleasure to work with these figures. What a shame that Revell aren’t producing any more Napoleonic cavalry – these guys are over 26 years old now! They didn’t make many Nappy cavalry sets, (aside from reissuing Italeri figures, their only other original set being the excellent British Life Guards), but what they did produce was a real boon to the hobby.

In time-honoured tradition, that just leaves me to share more of the finished figures with a regimental biography to follow:



Note: As I already created a regimental biography for this regiment when they appeared with Napoleon (Regiment #14) back in 2015, I have simply reproduced once again here;

Biography: Chasseurs à Cheval of the Imperial Guard [France]

The Chasseurs à Cheval of the Imperial Guard originally began life as a part of a regiment of Guides raised by Napoleon when just a general in the Revolutionary Wars in 1796. They would go on to become one of the most prestigious regiments in the army, providing the personal guard to the Emperor and nicknamed by some ‘The Pet Children’!

In 1800, a single company was raised of Chasseurs, commanded by the emperor’s stepson, which formed a part of the prestigious Consular Guides. This company took part in the narrow victory at the battle of Marengo. By 1802, they finally became a full regiment consisting of around 1000 men with a single company of Egyptian Mamelukes joining them as a part of the regiment later.

Richard Knotel’s illustration of a Chassuer trumpeter and Chassuers in both full parade and service dress. Uniformenkunde, Lose Blatter zur Geschihte der Entwicklung der militarischen Tracht, Berlin, 1890, Public Domain.

They performed a distinguished role at the battle of Austerlitz, badly mauling the Russian Imperial Guard. Missing the battle of Jena in 1806, the 1st Hussars (a regiment painted earlier in this project) had the privilege of escorting Napoleon on that occasion. They would return to personal escort duties in time for the triumphal entry into Berlin. They later took part in the great charge of Murat’s cavalry at the battle of Eylau in 1807.

During the Spanish campaign, this regiment performed well but was surprised, outflanked and badly cut up by British cavalry, their commander, Général de Brigade Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes, being wounded and captured.

“La Revue 1810” by Auguste Boulard. Public Domain.

In the war of 1812, once more under the command of the returned General Lefebvre-Desnouettes, the regiment (as with the rest of the army) lost heavily over the course of the campaign, though distinguished themselves protecting their emperor from a particularly threatening attack by Cossacks.

Guard Chasseur a Cheval re-enactors. Photo by Steffen Prößdorf – Own work.

During the final campaign that led to Waterloo, they formed part of the Light Cavalry Division of the Imperial Guard, numbering some 1200 sabres. Though leading the initial advance on Quatre Bras, they were not seriously engaged and suffered light losses. At Waterloo, they were deployed as part of the cavalry reserve. The Guard Chasseurs were sent in leading the 2nd wave of fruitless attacks against the Allied squares in the afternoon and thus their proud history as Napoleon’s favoured cavalry regiment would finally come to an end.

Notable Battles: Marengo, Austerlitz, Wagram, Eylau, Somosierra, La Moskowa, Quatre Bras, Waterloo.


Horsing Around

I’ve not been idle on the model soldier front over this past week or so. In a return to the venerable Napoleonic Cavalry Project I’ve been turning my brush on to figures of horses; 17 in total, so that’s quite a herd!

In a change to my usual process, I thought I’d shake things up a bit by making a start on the horses before I paint the riders. So, here are the finished equines now let loose on the pasture and patiently awaiting their riders.

I won’t mention the regiment’s name yet, but the green shabraques provide a clue, if not the impressive sculpting. What a tease I am…

There’s an officer’s charger included which wears a very exotic horse blanket made out of leopardskin. You may be able to make out the head of the deceased big cat hanging out over the rump. That was great fun to paint being not at all familiar with painting African wildlife skins!

There’s a trumpeter’s horse too; a grey, naturally, but with a starkly different coloured shabraque to the rest of the regiment.

That leaves 18 cavalrymen for me to paint for those 17 horses. No, I’ve not misplaced a horse somewhere… the riders are currently still untouched in the box, so I ought to pull my finger out, if not my brush, and get painting!

Ronald Leads the Light Brigade

In the process of painting some more Crimean War personalities, I’ve been particularly concentrating on a specific character who, though unnamed on the box artwork, bears an unmistakable resemblance to the 7th Earl of Cardigan.

Oil on millboard by Alfred Frank de Prades, 1854. (c) NAM. 1967-02-19-1.

Strelets’ “Into the Valley of Death” set dedicated to the Charge of the Light Brigade was purchased about 5 years ago and the figure in question is wearing the uniform of a hussar. Given the set’s topic, this means that it must belong either to the 8th (King’s Royal Irish) Hussars or 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars.

Plastic Soldier Review feel they can identify him – “The [figure] could well pass for Lord Cardigan, the man who actually led the charge.” There’s certainly a strong resemblance. The Light Cavalry Brigade’s commander was Major General James Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan of the 11th Hussars.

Arriving some months after the Battle of Balaclava, photographer Roger Fenton took some images of officers of the 11th Hussars, survivors of the charge, but not of the Earl of Cardigan himself. Below are his images of Cornet Wilkin and Lt. Yates of the 11th. Also below is Fenton’s famous image he titled “The valley of the Shadow of Death” itself, a gulley strewn with spent cannonballs.

So anyway, who’s Ronald?

Detail of a painting by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr. Public Domain.

That’s Ronald above, Cardigan’s charger shown as a small detail in Caton Woodville’s painting of The Charge. He was a thoroughbred chestnut gelding coincidentally sharing the same russet-colour as his owner’s ginger whiskers. Ronald was the horse that led the Charge of the Light Brigade, over 670 men (and their horses), into – and out of – the ‘valley of death’.

As with his aristocratic rider, Ronald was indeed incredibly fortunate to survive having ridden at the very head of the brigade right into the teeth of the Russian artillery position, escaped from being surrounded by Cossacks, and then returned all the way back again unscathed. Of the famous charge, a shocking 475 other horses failed to do the same. Furthermore, he should be considered very robust for even surviving the trip over to Crimea by troop ship (many horses did not), and then making the same arduous journey back home again.

Ronald continued to prove particularly durable, managing to enjoy life until 28th June 1872, nearly 18 years after Balaclava and a full four years after the passing of his master. There are, it seems, a number of tributes to Ronald on the web. Including:

Of his many depictions, I’ve based my painting of Ronald on the Alfred Frank de Prades portrait. This shows Ronald to have markings consisting of two white ‘stockings’ and one white ‘sock’, although other portraits I’ve seen occasionally differ. I do know (thanks to the perfect preservation of his head!) that he had a star on his forehead and a snip near his right nostril, all of which I’ve been careful to try and reproduce on my own little tribute in 20mm figure form. Strelets horses certainly aren’t their strongest feature (the leg positioning on this figure isn’t quite right, I feel), but otherwise it’s not too bad a sculpt.

The Earl of Cardigan himself is a pleasing figure, I think, and Strelets have captured something of his features and ornate uniform. I’ve used a darker red than I commonly use to achieve the cherry colour of his busby bag and overalls, a feature unique to the 11th Hussars which gave rise to their nicknames “The Cherry Pickers” and “The Cherry Bums” or, for when ladies were present, “The Cherubims”!

The doughty Ronald was the subject of a surprising number of paintings and prints, it seems, including many images of him and his master during The Charge while some prints of the period depict Ronald alone, suggesting something of his popularity.

On Cardigan and Ronald’s return to the Brudenell home in Deene Park, it became apparent that their adventures had found them considerable fame and both were greeted as heroes by the thronging crowds. Such was the fervour that many tried to pull out poor Ronald’s hair for a keepsake as he passed! A well-deserved long retirement for Ronald ensued until the Earl of Cardigan passed away in 1868, at which point his famous steed was required to follow as part of the cortege. However, it seems that the old war horse very nearly didn’t make the funeral procession thanks to a very comical series of mishaps:-

“However, the old horse, having endured ghastly sea journeys, life on the foreign front, the atrocity of battle, near starvation and probably deep terror, found the whole prospect of a funeral procession far too exhilarating and became boisterous. To avoid the solemn pageantry of the day being ruined by the over-excited horse, they administered laudanum. But, in the heat of the moment the dose must have been inadvertently overdone, for then no one could move the dozing charger. Eventually an inspired individual called for the sounding of the cavalry charge. Stirred to duty, Ronald jumped into wakefulness and set off as required.”

From an article by Cheryl R Lutring.

Such was the affection felt for Ronald by the Brudenell family and the British public that, when he did eventually die, the Brudenells preserved his head and tail which continues to be displayed at his home in Deene Park, Northamptonshire. His hoof was turned into an inkwell (a popular tribute for beloved horses of the time) with a sculpture of him and his master atop.

To me, it has sometimes seemed that some of Tennyson’s famous lines on the men of the Light Brigade could have equally applied to the brave horses like Ronald who suffered so much in the charge, dutifully carrying their riders through hell:

Theirs not to make reply,
   Theirs not to reason why,
   Theirs but to do and die.

I’ve handful more ‘personalities’ I’m working on, which I’ll doubtless share in due course.