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 Frenderick 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.

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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Christmas Artillery snow2

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.

revell austrian artillery.jpg

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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Revell Christmas Artillery (9)

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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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Revell Christmas Artillery (12)

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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Revell Christmas Artillery (15)

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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Revell Christmas Artillery (17)

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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