My Christmas Cornucopia

I always enjoy seeing some of the gifts and presents that other bloggers get for Christmas, so I’m sharing some of mine too.

First off, this box of Marlburian British Infantry in Advance from Strelets wonderful new foray into the War of the Spanish Succession. I’m delighted that Strelets have begun this series which has been woefully neglected by in 1/72 scale plastics. What’s more, the figures are beautifully sculpted, too.

At my suggestion, I’ve also received from kindly relatives a box of these unusual figures, also by Strelets:

Strelets’ Roman Senate 1 box is about five years old now and as the name suggests had a sister box (number 2) also issued, which features many of the same figures. Two sprues contain senators all standing in their togas and alternatively listening or debating. A final sprue contains senators armed with knives, a statue, and Julius Caesar, all of which are designed to help you recreate the infamous assassination in the senate. A step out of the usual horse and musket era and into ancients; I’ve already been developing my plan for these which I’ll share in due course!

In another step away from 18th-19th century warfare, I’ve received a set of my favoured 1/72 scale plastics by the increasingly impressive Red Box. Last year, I developed my Ottomania project using their well-sculpted Ottoman Turks. As a kind of adjunct, I can now dip a toe into their late middle ages Duchy of Muscovy figures with these “Pishalniki” (arquebusiers).

What’s this? Wargaming?!

Earlier this year, Man of Tin blog, The Grand Duchy of Stollen and others paid tribute and mourned the passing of a deeply respected figure in the wargaming world; Stuart Asquith. Never having wargamed before, I was interested to read about the man and his achievements which included a book I’d had buried in my loft since my childhood; his Military Modelling Guide to Wargaming. His guide to solo wargaming was unwrapped on my birthday and together, who knows, I may investigate putting some of those figures of mine to use…

Of course, I need somewhere to keep all my crap, I mean precious hobby items and these boxes will do the job nicely; one with the grenadier from the sadly closing local discount hobby shop and the other from stationers Paperchase and featuring the Nutcracker which has been curiously popular this Christmas.

And finally, an amusingly appropriate stocking-filler…

I’ve already been busy working on some of my new figures and I’ll share progress shortly.

Until then, I wish a happy, productive and peaceful New Year to all Suburban Militarism visitors and friends!

Bombarding in a Winter Wonderland

And in other snowy news, the expansion of the base for Cracker Battery is finished. To expand the scene, I added some fir trees, a holly bush and a rickety old country fence.

The white modelling clay I’ve used is a slightly different shade to the original stuff but hopefully isn’t too noticeable.

They were not slated for a tour of duty as part of 2019’s decorations but when my wife saw me taking it back upstairs into storage she insisted it went out with the rest. So, Cracker Battery is also on display, their 7 pounder (that’s a seriously heavy snowball) points menacingly at my two other Christmas regiments…

Seasonal Soldiery on Parade

This year’s Christmas decorations are already up and, therefore, so are my two new Christmassy regiments; The Mistletoe Guards and the Midwinter Fusiliers! Handmade flags (by my daughter) flying, I first assembled them proudly parading on their specially made plaques:

And here they are either side of the mantelpiece where they will stand guard for the duration of the season:

The Mistletoe Guards

Having showcased my Midwinter Fusiliers last week, I’m now in a position to share the other regiment which is also due to take its place as part of this year’s household Christmas decorations. Introducing the newly raised Mistletoe Guards!

The figures are 1.72 scale from Zvezda’s Prussian Grenadiers of Frederick II set. There are only three of these figures in each set but I got lucky in finding a seller on eBay who had clearly bought a number of boxes but had no use for the standing or marching poses. For soldiers intended to simply stand to attention over the fireplace during December, they were perfect.

The Mistletoe Guards’ uniform is closley based on another regiment I’ve long-since admired. The Grand Duchy of Stollen blog has a beautifully painted regiment known as the Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja’s Own) Grenadiers. I’ve long been an admirer of this fabulous and venerable blog and this particular regiment’s brightly coloured uniform always impressed greatly.

So, in humble tribute to that wonderful Stollenian regiment, my festive Mistletoe Guards have been carefully painted to mimic their B Company (with yellow pompoms).

As usual for the Christmas Corps, the Guards are deep in snow (courtesy Woodlands Scenics) and the pennies upon which they are based have bright blue glitter around the edges for added seasonal decoration. I was planning on adding a little mistletoe to their grenadier caps but thought that would only cause untold havoc in the ranks should any ladies visit during the festive period.

As with all the regiments in my Christmas project, my daughter Eleanor has designed a fabulous regimental standard. It features mistletoe on a pale green base, the name of the regiment underneath, and is all edged with light blue and red. The figure of the ensign is from HaT’s Prussian Seven Years War Infantry Command range.

The mounted officer is also from HaT’s Prussian Command set, the Midwinter Fusiliers’ mounted colonel being from their Austrian box. The officer, a gentleman altogether more reliable than the rest of his command, has a spring of misteltoe in his tricorne hat. Colonel Hoarfrost of the Midwinter Fusiliers was mounted on a horse I named ‘Blitzen’. I think the Mistletoe Guards’ officer (Major Frank Incense), rides a fine, forward-going, dun stallion of Italian pedigree and known as “Panettone”…

Finally, there is an NCO of the guard keeping the ranks in order with a large spontoon.

So my newly raised regiments are intensively drilling for their decorative role on the fireplace. As soon as the Christmas decs are up, I’ll post them in situ on their specially made and labelled plinths.

Christmas Decks

My basing arrangements for the two new Christmas infantry regiments progressed well. I ordered online what I thought was two mdf plinths when in fact it was two half-dozen! Never mind, it’s worked out very nicely. The bases were cheap and I intend to customise them over time for each regiment in the Christmas Corps anyway.

A game of Jenga, anyone?

Here’s the two finished bases for this year’s new regiments; The Midwinter Fusiliers and the – as yet unpresented – Mistletoe Guards. I’ve gloss-varnished the top decks with a few coats and painted the surround in black with a just a dash of brightly coloured coloured glitter (blue for the Mistletoe Guards and white for the Midwinter Fuzileers). Engraved plaques indicate the name of the regiment on parade.

But that’s not all. Although, they are not due to take a tour of duty on the mantelpiece this year, I noticed that my artillery, Cracker Battery, where already in a diorama that was too big for any single plinth.

So, I bonded two plinths together to accomodate it.

To help me expand the original snowy scene further and fully fill out the new base, I ordered some more wintry scenery items over the internet. Snow covered fir trees (or perhaps that’s spruce?) have been added to the scene and I’ve drilled some holes into the base before gluing their wire trunks in place.

I’ve also added a weathered, old country fence in the background to which I’ll later add a dusting of my own snow. Yes, I know that would ordinarily cause ammunition supply problems but for Cracker Battery, ammunition is all around them – snow!

Next, I add some white modelling clay to build up around the base…

Once the clay dries, there’s fake snow to add to the base and the fence. The black edges need work and plaque too. I feel it still needs just a little something else in the scene’s composition but I’ll share finished results in due course!

Feztive Fuzileers

“We are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.”

Laura Ingalls Wilder
Captain de Winter of the 1st Noel Regiment of Foot rides his trusty mare “Tinsel” through the snowy town of Advent…

As December looms; here in the UK the days get shorter, the nights get darker and, what’s more, I turn to my hobby with its little rituals and traditions. Once such tradition is my preparation for December’s Christmas decorations. This primarily takes the form of yearly expanding my ‘Christmas Corps’ of festive figures.

Every year since 2013 I have paraded 1/72 scale soldiers, specially-painted with a seasonal twist, on the mantelpiece in the living room. Forming part of our Christmas decorations, these colourful 18th Century-style regiments have Christmas-themed names and commonly feature holly in their helmets, tinsel in their tricornes, and snow on their shoes. And in the case of last year’s artillery group, known as Cracker Battery, even a snowman and snow cannonalls can feature too.

So far, the Christmas Corps is made up figures representing the following:

Figures suitable have been limited to Revell’s classic 7YW range which thankfully have been recently reissued albeit with the disappointing exception of their very wonderful Austrian artillery set.

Cracker Battery with snowman

HaT meanwhile have reissued their own hitherto out-of-stock Prussian 7YW infantry range and also released a new Austrian infantry range to boot. Great news for fans of the 7YW in 20mm and I naturally wondered if I could make use of these impressive HaT figures in my Christmas Corps alongside the existing Revell versions.

Finally, Zvezda some years ago also produced a box of “Prussian Grenadiers of Frederick the Great” which featured their usual very high standards of sculpting and production. That box is increasingly hard to come by nowadays but I had a box in storage and was also fortunate to discover a seller on eBay who was getting rid of some second-hand figures – most of which were those posed either marching or standing to attention. These poses are perfect for any regiment whose martial intentions are limited to merely standing on the mantelpiece during Christmas – so I secured them at a very reasonable discount.

A Carolling Hussar with red tinsel in his mirleton.
Gold tinsel in the tricorne for this Christingle Dragoon.

So it comes as no surprise to say that I’ve been hard at it lately with these figures with the intention of raising two more infantry regiments for the Christmas Corps. With the 1st Noel Regiment and the Yule Grenadiers as the 1st infantry brigade, I intend these two new ones to form the 2nd infantry brigade. First off, I’ve been using HaT’s Prussian infantry Marching set to raise some fusiliers. The HaT Prussian infantry box comes with a choice of headdress; grenadier mitres, fusilier caps or musketeer tricornes and I’ve opted for the fusilier caps to create the first regiment in the new II Infantry Brigade.

Presenting

The Midwinter Fuzileers!

The Midwinter Fuzileers (note pretentious antique spelling) wear grey coats with flat-blue waistcoats and breeches. Their gaiters and facings are white. Fusilier caps have silver plates with a red fabric backing.

With the 1st Noel wearing dark red, and the Yule Grenadiers wearing white, I wanted a very contrasting uniform. Designing a new uniform is one of the great pleasures of the Christmas Corps project and after a few false starts, the neutral grey / mid-blue/ white combination seemed to work nicely – very smart!

Their officer, Colonel Hoarfrost is from the HaT Prussian Command set and is mounted on a faithful steed whom we shall call “Blitzen”. Since these photos were taken, Blitzen’s saddle cloth has been decorated with a yellow star to mimic the motif on the regimental flag. In his tricorne, this Christmas dandy wears some evergreen foliage decorated with pink tinsel:

He is ably supported by an NCO carrying a spontoon.

Their flag, carried by an ensign, has been designed by my daughter. This is a service which she has faithfully provided me with since designing the flag of the 1st Noel Regiment back in 2014!

Flag of the 1st Noel Regiment designed by my (then) 6 or 7 years old daughter.

Hitherto, any festive figures have simply been placed loosely above the fireplace in a group. This year, I’ve decided to provide a more formal presentational platform which I’m currently gluing, painting and varnishing like some deranged Geppetto. More on this soon.

I’m also now working on the other regiment – something which I confess to being quite excited about! This regiment will be presented when they’re ready to take their place on the mantelpiece on their own platform hopefully within a week.

Tis’ the Season for Giving… and Receiving!

This time of year, I get to enjoy two days of opening presents. With my birthday being on the same week as Christmas Day, if I’m lucky, I tend to end up with plenty new model kits and books. Time for a quick overview of some of the military related gifts that I’ve received this year.

Firstly, following on from the very pleasing painting of Strelets French Army Sledge Train figures earlier this month, at my suggestion for a birthday present I’ve been kindly supplied with set 2 of this series. It will probably be December 2019 before I even think of getting to work on them, however.

I’ve also come into ownership of two boxes of RedBox’s Ottoman (or Osman) infantry: namely the elite Yeniceri (Janissaries) and Eyalet troops. They are really great quality figures for sure and I’m now committed to developing Ottomania – my Ottoman Turkish army project.

Apropos of this, my father-in-law was visiting a military bookshop in Birmingham recently and asked if there was anything I’d like for Christmas whilst he was there. I mentioned a book on Ottoman armies by the peerless Osprey to further assist my Ottomania project and it seems he took the idea and ran with it!

Written by David Nicolle and illustrated by Angus McBride and Christa Hook, no less than three books on the topic were unwrapped on Christmas Day;

  • The Janissaries (Elite series No.58)
  • Armies of the Ottoman Turks 1300-1774 (Men-at-Arms series No.140)
  • Armies of the Ottoman Turks 1775-1820 (Men-at-Arms series No.314)
Christa Hook’s illustration of 16thC Ottoman Janissaries.

A bit more reading material – something that I’ve wanted for a while is the now well-out-of-print book by R.G. Harris on “50 Years of Yeomanry Uniforms: Volume 1”. Harris was one of the contributors to some of the books in the essential Ogilby Trust “Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force” series in the late 80s / early 90s.

This 1972 edition has that evocative musty smell of old bookshops and features 32 terrific full page and full-colour illustrations by Edward A Campbell. I was interested to read in the preface that Campbell was responsible for the artwork in the 1931 Players cigarette card series Military Headdress, which I am well familiar with from my own collection.

Campbell’s illustration of an officer of the Norfolk Yeomanry (see also my post on the Norfolk and Suffolk Yeomanry collection).

Campbell’s paintings were based on ‘painstaking research’ of which most apparently is sadly unpublished. Even more tragically, the preface informs me that “the author of the text is preparing a second volume on the Yeomanry which will incorporate a further selection of Captain Campbell’s work…”, yet I can find no evidence that Volume 2 was ever published.

Uniform of the Northamptonshire Yeomanry, an example of which I saw earlier this year in Northampton.
Officer of the Shropshire Yeomanry, another uniform that I saw earlier this year during my trip to Shrewsbury.

So much to read, so much to paint, but so little time. I really need to get on with some chores, not to mention hours of overtime that I need to do. What’s that quote? “Starve your distractions – feed your focus!”. Trouble is, I rather prefer the distractions…

A Miracle in Advent

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the town
Not a soldier was stirring or marching around…

With my Cracker Battery of the Christmas Artillery taking a turn on the mantelpiece for the Christmas period, my 12-year old daughter wondered if she could take some photos. Recently she has been undertaking a photography course and, in my unbiased opinion, has a real aptitude for it.

Noticing my fake snow jar, she asked if she could create some winter scenes with it using my figures. She had not previously photographed my figures before and I just let her snap away using a 2nd-hand free camera she is using. It’s just a bargain basement instamatic type thing but the results were really interesting.

I told her to take as many she liked and I’d make up a Christmas story from the output, putting these random scenes together. The result was this overlong piece of doggeral I’ve entitled “A Miracle in Advent”. It wasn’t meant to be ‘published’ on the blog, being just a random piece of fun to make use of her images. I also threw in a few of my own where the story needed it.

Nonetheless, featuring some of my figures as it does, here it is – for posterity if nothing else. Presenting “A Miracle in Advent” – be warned – it’s five minutes of dreadful rhymes.