Thought I’d share on this day an image I found of a Victorian Christmas card depicting the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own) gathering mistletoe.
The so-called ‘Cherry Pickers’ are seen here gathering a different crop to cherries. The regiment acquired the nickname following an incident during the Peninsular War, in which the 11th Hussars were attacked while raiding an orchard at San Martin de Trebejo, in Spain. The colour of the trousers, unique to British cavalry, were adopted from the Saxe-Coburg livery and were described as ‘cherry’. Lord Cardigan referred to his men as the Cherry-Bums (or when ladies were present – the more genteel cherubims).
It must be a memorable painting as I recall that I once received a Christmas card of Harry Payne’s Christmas Cherry Pickers when I was around 12 years old and have never forgotten it. It was originally published by postcard manufacturer Tuck and Sons, one of their 6-part #8085 “Christmas” series and it comes as no surprise that their celebrated military uniform artist Harry Payne had a hand in this.
After the first Christmas card was sent in 1843, it appears that cards featuring sentimental scenes of brightly uniformed soldiers were a popular theme in the Victorian era helping connect families and friends scattered across the extensive British empire.
I was surprised to learn that in 2004 famous toy soldier manufacturer Britains produced a “Winter Limited Edition” for their Collector’s Club featuring a representation of Payne’s iconic Cherry Pickers postcard scene in model soldier form! Only 250 sets were made. I’m always pleased to see an artist’s vision of soldiers brought to life in model form. It seems to me to be the perfect Christmas decoration, being something along the lines of my decorative Army of Advent.
And the tradition of modelling military Christmas scenes continues today with Replica Model Soldiers issuing a seasonal scene every year with charming themes include snowballing soldiers, “The Garrison Christmas Dinner” and “US Army Winter Manoeuvres”!
It’s that time again. Once a year, here at Suburban Militarism, two regiments from my Army of Advent are selected to stand duty as Christmas decorations during the month of December. It’s a prestigious obligation, much like being the chosen battalion for the annual Trooping of the Colour ceremony.
My tradition started back in 2013, pre-dating this blog, beginning with the raising of the first Christmas-themed infantry; a platoon of the 1st Noel Regiment of Foot. My daughter, then in primary school, kindly designed their standard which was eventually bestowed on them with full ceremony and which they carry to this day.
Since them, the Army of Advent has expanded to include infantry and cavalry brigades, artillery, and a General Staff, with a ‘pioneer and sapper corps’ planned. In future years, God willing, once all the regiments have been raised, the plan is to continue to add a handful of men to regiments as a Christmas craft tradition. A selection of each, hand-picked ‘best men’, will be selected for the prestige of representing the regiment on the plinth.
The honour of taking this December-long parade has so far fallen to the following regiments:
The 1st Noel Regiment of Foot
The 1st Noel Regiment of Foot
The Yule Grenadiers
The 1st Noel Regiment of Foot
The Christingle Dragoons
The Carolling Hussars
The Carolling Hussars
Cracker Battery, Christmas Artillery
The Midwinter Fuzileers
The Mistletoe Guards
The Yule Grenadiers
The Eggnog Cuirassiers
The 1st Noel Regiment of Foot
The Poinsettian Rifles
N.B. Prior to 2016, only one regiment was paraded.
As you can see, this year it is the turn of a company of selected men of the 1st Noel Regiment and a section of the newly-raised Poinsettian Rifles. The Poinsettian Rifles were established earlier this year using metal 1/72 scale figures from Hagen Miniatures. It’s been five years since The First Noel paraded. I thought that, as pleasant as the old figures are, I wanted the venerable 1st Noel to parade in a fashion that looked rather less like being in combat. So I’ve painted some new figures.
The old figures were Revell’s Austrian infantry of the 7 Years War:
The new figures are by HaT and are from their set of Seven Years War Austrians Marching. I’ve been spending odd occasions over the whole of 2021 adding paint to them and have finally got them Parade Ready in time for December. Only just this week, the men of the 1st Noel finally received their festive plumes (pieces of actual tinsel cut to size and glued on to their tricornes).
In a decadent move, the 1st Noel have also changed their hat lace from white to gold. They are based in ‘deep and crisp and even’ snow with a ring of red glitter around their penny bases, to add to their seasonal glamour.
So, on the 1st December, in a formal ceremony, a representative of both the Yule Grenadiers and the Eggnog Cuirassiers (last year’s display regiments), symbolically extended a Christmas cracker to the respective junior subalterns of the Poinsettian Rifles and the 1st Noel. This was all done in a highly ritualised manner, strictly to the beat of the drum, until the cracker was pulled and the subsequent ‘bang’ thereby inaugurated the 2021 Christmas duties. This solemn event is known as the ‘Trooping of the Cracker’. The intoning of the cracker’s enclosed joke by the subalterns is a particularly sombre and moving ritual.
Now, despite all these careful preparations, there are some problems. Firstly, tradition has it that the chosen regiments should stand guard on the mantelpiece over the season. Having moved house earlier this year, I now have no mantelpiece to place them on. I do, however, have a TV cabinet. With the television mounted on the wall, I am free to use this cabinet and so these Christmas dandies can take centre-stage in the lounge once more.
My other problem relates to command. Essentially, neither the Poinsettian Rifles nor the 1st Noel have any! Major Poinsettia of his eponymous rifles is, as yet, only a name on the payroll and not an actual, painted figure. With a ‘can-do attitude’ which is a feature of his regiment, Lieutenant Sylant-Knight of the 1st Noel Regiment has taken command of the Rifles in the interim, being rewarded with a brevet rank of Captain.
Brevet Captain Sylant-Knight’s regiment, however, is in turmoil. The 1st Noel are missing its overall commander – Colonel de Winter!
Colonel de Winter has led the regiment with distinction since 2013 but, during the recent house move, has gone AWOL. Now, I admit that I do have a history of losing individual figures. Colonel Giftrapp of the Yule Grenadiers, for example, went missing for a number of years and only surfaced to retake command of his regiment last year!
So until such time that Colonel de Winter returns from his sabbatical, Major-General Minns-Pye (hitherto serving as C-in-C General St. Nicholas‘ Chief of Staff) has kindly agreed to take command of his old regiment during this year’s tour of duty.
With another three weeks to go until Christmas, both regiments have plenty of time to enjoy their moment of glory…
It’s high summer here in the UK, but perversely I’ve been painting another edition of my Christmas-themed Army of Advent. I felt my Advent infantry corps could use some Jäger marksmen and sourced some from Hagen Miniatures of Germany. This is a group of German Jäger from 1750-1780 in Austrian service.
It’s a nice little group, the ‘hunters’ variously loading, aiming or firing their rifles at their targets. One rifleman has discarded his tricorne and appears to have a longer musket rather than a shorter rifle. This is clearly deliberate by the sculptor and I wonder if there is a reason for this?
For a Christmas theme, I decided on the Poinsettia, a large red flower with deep green leaves. In the USA in particular, and elsewhere, the Poinsettia is associated with Christmas and used in decorations.
And so, the Poinsettian Rifles were born. I thought that their uniform should reflect the plant and so I’ve given them an appropriately riflemen green uniform to reflect the leaves of the Poinsettia.
The flower’s red appears in their waistcoats and breeches.
As a final flourish, the men sport a Poinsettia in their tricornes.
As with the rest of the Army of Advent, they find themselves in ankle-deep in snow.
There are seven figures in total, so I may as well show them all:
The intention is for them to stand decorative guard over the Christmas season and, as with all the other Adventian regiments, they’ll need a plinth to stand on. This I am working on (plaque, paint and varnishing needed) and will present when December arrives in…ah… around four months time!
December, 1812. Napoleon’s army may be struggling against pursuing Cossacks and the cold Russian winter during their infamous retreat from Moscow, but for at least one French infantryman there’s something to look forward to…
I invited over the regiment’s commanding officer, Major Pigsin-Blankets, together with some of his men to observe and try out a glass of my eggy drink experiment.
I chose a recipe off the BBC Good Food website which called for condensed milk. Next, I added four egg yolks and some sugar syrup I made with a teaspoon of vanilla essence. The whole mixed together…
…and don’t forget the brandy!
Did someone say brandy?!
Two hours chilled in the fridge before serving over ice! I added a dash of nutmeg on top as a final flourish. My verdict? Totally delicious, if very sweet!
There has been a very timely post by Clare Mosley the Derbyshire Records Office about the historical Christmas ‘posset pot’, an ancient eggy drink not dissimilar to eggnog. Apparently, during the Great Plague of 1666, “it was even used as cure for the disease.” Well, we could all use a bit of that magic lately.
My pot of yellow paint can now rest for a while as Hagen’s lovely Prussian Cuirassiers have now been fully converted into the bright yellow uniformed Eggnog Cuirassiers; the heavy cavalry regiment of the Army of Advent.
I’ve mostly based their uniform on the Prinz von Preußen Cuirassiers, being attracted to their bright colours. The saddlecloths have been painted the same as that regiment’s design of crimson edged with white but instead of the royal cypher, I’ve added a small white symbol with yellow centre (a bit like an egg, see?) to the pistol housings.
You will notice that the flag bearer is still forlornly waiting for his guidon. Traditionally, Advent’s flag designs have been in the hands of my daughter but teenagers, it seems, have other interests and so I may need to attend to it myself it she doesn’t get around to it soon. Whatever it looks like, it will not look anywhere near as detailed and realistic as those which Stokes created recently on The Grand Duchy of Stollen blog.
I like Hagen’s horses, just the right side of slender and a little like an ill-fed thoroughbred on campaign – a stark contrast to Strelets’ stocky horses which all seem to have been out in the spring grass for far too long! Admittedly, the pose of these Hagen horses leans towards the excessively dramatic but at least nobody can accuse the Eggnog’s of a lack of enthusiasm in their charge.
Trumpeter and Officer are below. The officer is Major Pigsin-Blankitts who is riding a high-spirited black stallion going by the name of Bethmännchen.
The regimental Christmas plinth is also now prepared and, with the grim kind of winter we seem to have in store for us in the northern hemisphere, I reckon the Suburban Militarism household will need every bit of their colourful spectacle when appearing on the yuletide mantelpiece later this year.
I’ve realised that I forgot to mention the results of my poll regarding whether the Eggnog’s should have coloured lace on their tricornes, As these photos demonstrate, the winner was for no coloured lace. All of which made things easier for me!
My Eggnog Cuirassiers have been coming on steadily, thanks for asking. In a random change from the last cavalry painting I undertook, I’ve decided to paint the riders first and then the horses (previously I painted from hoof upwards).
These 20mm Hagen Miniatures are lovely figures and, although metal is never my best medium, I’ve enjoyed bringing out the crisply sculpted details.
The regiment’s colours are based on the Prinz von Preußen Cuirassiers, a regiment which I’ve painted before in their early Napoleonic guise as the Von Beeren Cuirassiers and using Italeri’s Prussian Cuirassier box. Their colour makes them one of the most distinctive cavalry regiments that I’ve painted and one of my favourites.
The Von Beeren Cuirassiers were wearing the same distinctive yellow tunic they had worn since at least the 7 Years War era and which had earned them the nickname “The Yellow Riders” (‘gelbe reiter’). I think I’ll retain that pleasing little moniker for Advent’s Eggnog Cuirassiers.
Previously, I used a lighter yellow for the Von Beeren boys but I wanted something bolder and – how can I put this – something altogether more yolky!
The Prinz von Preußen Cuirassiers had tricornes without any lace but, as these are actually Eggnog Cuirassiers, I’m thinking I might add some coloured lace trim. I’m undecided so what do you think? Feel free to influence my painting below:
There’s – as ever with me – little bits to attend to for the riders but I’ll be soon turning my attention on to mounts and horse furniture. The Eggnog’s horses seem particularly spirited!
The Army of Advent are now formally under the command of senior officers! I’ve been a somewhat distracted from hobbies and painting in recent weeks by the irritating and insistent demands of the ‘real world’. This latest group of soldiers are in truth still only 99% finished but, as it’s been a few weeks since I’ve shared anything even near to complete, I’m showing what I’ve got anyway!
Introducing… General Rudolf St. Nicholas and two of his senior staff:
Figures are by the wonderful Hagen Miniatures, They’re not being used quite for their originally intended purpose as Prussian generals of the 7 Years War but they nonetheless find a very welcome home in my Army of Advent. Rather than place them in ‘deep and crisp and even’ snow drifts, as I’ve done with the rest of the army, I’ve situated these senior officers in a landscape dusted with a fresh seasonal snow flurry.
The first figure is of the Commander-in-Chief himself. I’ve used Hagen’s figure of Frederick the Great, ‘Der Alte Fritz’, raising his hat aloft to his adoring troops. General Rudolf St. Nicholas is riding his magnificent grey stallion, Pandepascua. The figure came with a choice of three alternate upper torsos and I chose this hat-raising one, it being the most visually distinctive.
His Chief of Staff, Major-General Minns-Pye rides Striezel. For the Army of Advent’s General Staff, I’ve placed them in the dark red uniform similar to that worn by the 1st Noel Regiment. A yellow sash and gold trim on the tricorns are indicative of their rank.
Finally, we have Maj-Gen. Stockingfiller bestride his easy-going Trakehner stallion, Bredele.
I was going to include Lt-Col. Figgypudding on his Lusitano stallion, ‘Panforte’. I realised belatedly that I had still to attend to a number of things before he’s ready (saddle cloth, riding gauntlet gloves, spurs, etc. etc.), so maybe I’ll present them both later.
Horses. They can get a little overlooked in modelling, and I know some people positively hate having to paint them, which I get. I like to give my horses their due, however. In fact, I seem to have developed the convention of naming the noble steeds of Advent army officers after Christmas puddings and seasonal cakes from around the globe. In my officer’s stables, for example, I already have a dun stallion named “Panettone” and a tough little Arabian called “Pandoro”. So, continuing on in that tradition, I introduce to you the Commander-in-Chief’s extremely fine – and rather pampered – grey stallion, Pandepascua!
Chief of Staff, Major-General Minns-Pye prefers his elegant and black stallion while on campaign to anything quite as fancy, and as physically delicate, as some of the other thoroughbreds he sees ridden by certain other headquarters staff. Introducing his trusty Hanoverian warmblood – “Striezel” (‘show’ name – Allerheiligenstriezel!).
Next, I have Bredele, Maj-Gen. Stockingfiller’s chestnut-bay Trakehner. A good-natured equine with a tendency to lazyness, much like (it has been said) old Stockingfiller himself!
And finally, completing this show of officer’s horses, we have a stallion every bit as spirited and forward-going as his own master (St.Nicholas’ zealous military secretary, Colonel Figgypunding). “Panforte” is the name of this feisty bay Lusitano.
The scale of these figures is perfect for my Army of Advent and they seem to go nicely with other 1:72 sized plastic figures I’ve used so far, as can be seen by the photo below.
I’ve been working on painting from the hoof up with these Hagen figures, so next in my list after the saddleblankets and pistol holders are done will be the riders themselves. As you can see, I’ve made a start with the coats but there’s plenty more to do before they’re fit to command the Army of Advent.