Leib and Kicking

Thanks to the woeful bank holiday weather here in the UK, I’ve had plenty of indoor time in which to progress my Saxon Leib Cuirassiers. These are now, I’m happy to say, very well advanced. The riders are about finished, less the stirrups and spurs.

Saxon cuirassiers in progress (20)

The excellent, not-to-say generous, old-style Zvezda kit comes with a flag bearer, an officer and trumpeter. The officer has a white plume and a wonderfully ornate cuirass to distinguish him from the hoi-poloi of the rest of the regiment.


I’ve given him a black crossbelt as 1) I believe that it was worn by Saxon cuirassier officers, and 2) quite frankly I preferred it to other possibilities. The officer also has gold wreath of leaves around the front of his helmet, not really visible on this photo. His cuirass has a brass royal cypher and studs around the edge. I found an example of one on the internet:

saxon cuirass

As with the rest of the regiment, he has only a half-cuirass, the back being left unprotected to reveal his white coat.


The Trumpeter wears reverse facings (i.e. a red coat and white collar instead of the exact opposite for the rest of the regiment). He does not wear a cuirass and has a distinctive red crest on his helmet. He has brass trumpet with ornately woven cord attached.


The flag bearer has a flag which is, I believe, supposed to represent the Von Zostrow Cuirassiers. However, I understand from my research that the Leib regiment’s flag was very similar, all but identical but for colour differences and so must have looked much like my ‘attempt’ below. On one side of the flag in the centre, surrounded by a garland of leaves, is the Saxon coat of arms – a yellow and green striped shield with a green diagonal stripe under a crown:


A closer view of the arms of Saxony

On the other side is the royal cypher surrounded by leaves under a crown. I admit that I wasn’t sure about the crossbelt for the flag bearer and so elected for black with gold trim.

Saxon cuirassiers in progress (32)

The rest of the men wear a plainer uniform with black crests, white crossbelts and the black half-cuirass. They lack the brass shoulder straps seen on the officer which I believe is simply a rare oversight by Zvezda.


The collars and turnbacks are red with yellow trim and the cuirass is lined with red.


I have to say that when I spend far, far too long than is sensible shading and highlighting all that white clothing and black crests to my satisfaction – it’s disappointing to find that virtually none of it shows up under the camera! You’ll just have to believe me when I say they look a little better to the eye…


One other thing that I’ve noticed is that under the camera my cuirasses look more of steel gunmetal colouring than black. My approach is to mix black with gunmetal paint to get the required shade. This worked well but is at the cost of losing some of the metallic shiny surface. I’ve tried to restore the metallic sheen with a little gloss varnish but I now find that it reflects the light under the lens and now looks too metallic! I may add a little thin matt black paint to reduce the reflection a tad.

Saxon cuirassiers in progress (26)

Next on the painting table will be their horses. These are sturdy and well-sought-after Holstein horses – perfect for carrying their heavy cuirassier riders. Although Napoleon plundered the regiment for these Holsteins for his own cavalry in 1806-07 campaign, we can assume that they have since arranged remounts. I believe that the regiment would have had dark bay and black horses. I’ll make an exception for the trumpeter who will ride the usual grey.

Well, I’m loving being ‘back in the saddle’ painting Napoleonic cavalry, I have to admit!

Saxon cuirassiers in progress (36)

Yellow Fever

When I started the Napoleonic Cavalry Project back in the spring of 2015, eight of that year’s fifteen regiments were figures made by Italeri. Since then, some nine regiments and over 16 months later, Italeri have been entirely absent. Until now…

I’ve decided to return to Italeri after being tempted by their Prussian Cuirassier set. These cuirassiers depict the cavalry as they might appeared at the time of the destruction of the Prussian army at Jena-Auerstedt in 1806. This set is also the first Prussian regiment I’ve painted I’ve tackled in a while, since regiment #9 in fact, back in 2015.

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My ever-helpful assistant presents the latest box of figures. A cheap purchase courtesy of a model shop closure…

They are unique in the project so far in being the only regiment wearing a bicorne hat. British heavy cavalry would have also worn something similar around this time.

prussian cuirassier

Almost all the eleven Prussian Cuirassier regiments wore white uniforms in 1806, with the exception of only one – the 2nd regiment, known in 1806 as Von Beeren’s – and this is precisely the one I wish to paint simply because it wore very striking yellow coats (known as Kollets).


I’ve never painted a yellow-coated soldier before, and have little idea how to go about shading a yellow. I’ve had a few dry runs with some spare figures and finally decided to paint over my usual black primer with some beige paint to make it easier to cover with the yellow. Then, after the application of some Vallejo Sun Yellow, I’ve shaded with a little Vallejo Desert Yellow (a light brown-yellow colour). The result is subtle, but I like it and think this has achieved about the best result I’ve managed so far, so I’m going to stick with it and press on.

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The main reason I had steered clear of this set until now was that I was unhappy with the way the sculptor had left the bicorne facing the same way regardless of whichever way the rider was looking, leaving the hat acting like some kind of compass needle! The understandable explanation was to accommodate the hat into the narrow mold, however it all looks quite absurd to have everybody’s hat always facing the same way and so I’ve simply used the figures whose heads (and hats) more or less face in the same direction.

One last thing; you may notice that these cavalrymen are missing something which might be considered an essential item for cuirassiers : namely a cuirass! This is because Prussian Cuirassiers abandoned the armour in 1790. The adoption or abandonment of the cuirass by cavalry was often subject to conflicting opinions. Some felt that cuirasses;

  • were too cumbersome in a melee;
  • or were so heavy for the horse and rider to wear that it slowed them down and made unhorsed men very vulnerable (Wellington described the sight of fallen French cuirassiers as looking like helpless turtles flipped on to their backs);
  • or placed a premium on finding enough large, strong horses to carry the extra weight;
  • or were not worth the extra expense;
  • or ultimately were useless as they didn’t stop musket balls. They most certainly didn’t stop cannonballs, either…
A cuirass of the 2nd Carabiniers worn by the desperately unfortunate 23-year-old François-Antoine Fauveau.

Others felt however that;

  • the cuirass provided an enormous advantage against enemy cavalry sabres;
  • they made for an intimidating sight, creating the heaviest of heavy cavalry;
  • they reduced casualties and made the wearer feel safer, thereby boosting morale.

There were, perhaps inevitably, those who preferred to adopt a compromise solution of wearing only half of the full cuirass. In such cases, only the front half was worn as it was often felt that having protection on the back might encourage the practice of cowardly retreats!

Now to get back to my ‘yellow jackets’. I’ll be posting updates in due course.


Astrakhan Cuirassiers

My daughter proudly presenting the next box of nappy cavalry

The next regiment in the (never-ending…) Nappy Cavalry Project will be the Astrakhan Regiment using Zvezda’s Russian Cuirassiers. They make for a pleasing challenge for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s been a while since I painted a regiment wearing a cuirass, the French carabiniers and cuirassiers being painted over a year ago, and I’ve never painted a black cuirass before. Secondly, I’m keen to tackle some of the wonderful Russian cavalry as the only previous Russian contribution to the project were my Cossacks.


I’ve considered a number of possible Russian Cuirassier regiments and opted for the Astrakhan Regiment. The difference between regiments is mostly in the colour of the trim (the Astrakhan being yellow). The rest of the uniform is principally a white coat, grey trouser and black cuirass.

Zvezda Russian Cuirassiers – Primed and ready for paint!

I admit that aside from a vague awareness of the wonderfully exotic name, I was largely ignorant of exactly where Astrakhan was in Russia. So I looked it up. Wikipedia showed me the following disambiguations:

Astrakhan hat (78th Regt.)
  • Astrakhan Oblast, a federal subject of Russia
  • Astrakhan Khanate, a Tatar feudal state in the 15th-16th centuries
  • Astrakhan, a Buyan-class corvette of the Russian Navy
  • Astrakhan, Russian name of newborn karakul sheep’s pelts, and hats and coats made from these pelts
  • “The Astrakhan”, a style of fur cap historically and currently worn by elements of the Canadian Forces and some Canadian Police
  • Mrs. Astrakhan, a character from the animated film Happy Feet

It seems that Tartar history and a luxurious fleece are it’s principal claim to fame. The old city has an “East meets West feel” according to the Lonely Planet guide, which sounds intriguing. I know that I could certainly use “The Astrakhan” hat on these chilly winter mornings.

Anyway, the 1/72 scale figures by Zvezda are of their usual very high standard. The details aren’t quite as crisp as some of their other sets, but they’re fine enough. The thing about Zvezda figures is that their figures just don’t seem to want paint to stick to them, so I brush them clean with detergent and paste some PVA glue on them as a primer before even adding any paint, all of which seems to help. I doubt that they’ll be approaching completion prior to the end of 2016, but hopefully I shall find some time over the holiday period to progress them.

Not long until Christmas now, and I’ve been completely outrageous in buying myself some new figures as an early present to myself! More on these soon…

1st Carabiniers-à-Cheval [Nappy Cavalry Project Set #12]

The Carabiniers-à-Cheval, the penultimate regiment in this year’s project, have now been finished. They’ve been fun to do and have a look that is pleasingly unique. Italeri have, not for the first time, produced a terrific set with these figures. This was a set I bought ridiculously cheap a few years ago when my local hobby shop closed down, perhaps I should dedicate them to their once truly terrific model soldier department?!

Painting the Carabiniers white uniforms and their black horses was the biggest challenge. I like to think that the end result is satisfying but, looking at these pictures, I can only state that what seems to work rather well to the eye just isn’t being reproduced in photographic form. The white uniforms look too white and the black horses somehow look grey! They’re a little better than that though in ‘real life’ and you’ll just have to believe me…

As we move in to the final two months of the year, I now aim to do one more regiment, plus a final end-of-project special feature which I’ll reveal nearer the time!

Voici les Carabiniers:

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Carabiniers a Cheval (2) Carabiniers a Cheval (6) Carabiniers a Cheval (7) Carabiniers a Cheval (9) Carabiniers a Cheval (10) Carabiniers a Cheval (11) Carabiniers a Cheval (12) Carabiniers a Cheval (13) Carabiniers a Cheval (14) Carabiniers a Cheval (15) Carabiniers a Cheval (16) Carabiniers a Cheval (5) Carabiniers a Cheval (3) Carabiniers a Cheval (20) Carabiniers a Cheval (18) Carabiniers a Cheval (17)

Biography: 1e Carabiniers-à-Cheval [France]

In 1679, French cavalry regiments were required to have two carbine firing specialists in each company. Some years later, these carbine-wielding marksmen were grouped into dedicated carbine companies, one for each regiment. By 1693, the next logical step was to group them all into a dedicated regiment: The Royal Regiment of Carabiniers. By the time of the Seven Years War, it was named the Royal carabiniers de monsieur le Comte de Provence, and based in Strasbourg. In 1774, they became the Carabiniers de Monsieur. Two regiments of carabiniers were appeared in 1787 and, in an evolution from their original light cavalry role, were now designated as ‘heavies’, wearing blue coats and bicorns.

By the time of the Revolutionary Wars, they were now distancing their royalist heritage and wearing tall bearskins, effectively being Horse Grenadiers for a short while. The French Ministry of War ordered that the carabiniers must always be chosen from seasoned and reliable soldiers. After losing their Horse Grenadiers title, they continued to wear bearskins (inconveniently without any chinstraps) and blue coats sporting a scarlet trim for 17 years in total.

The Carabiniers-à-Cheval featured in many campaigns for Napoleon; they fought against the Russians and Austrians at Austerlitz; and in the 1806/07 campaigns against Prussia and Russia (e.g at Friedland). In 1809, with the temporary absence of the Guard cavalry, the 1er Carabiniers Regiment formed Napoleon’s escort. During this campaign however, at Aspen-Essling and Wagram, Austrian lancers they encountered hurt the regiment sufficiently for Napoleon to decide to equip them with metal helmets and cuirasses covering both front and back. This change also stipulated the adoption of a dramatic all-white uniform and brass sheathing on the cuirass plates. On their heads was a romanesque helmet sporting a red woollen crest.

The Carabinier regiments traditionally rode on large black horses. The Russian campaign restricted the availability of horses thereafter such that other colours had to be ridden in compromise, albeit on the best mounts available. They distinguished themselves at Borodino in 1812, and later at Dresden and Leipzig in 1813. Fully engaged in the defence of France at Montmirail, Craonne and Reims, they survived the first restoration of the monarchy in 1814 mostly thanks to their traditional royalist heritage.

The regiment missed the action at Quatre Bras but at Waterloo both regiments played a part. They were attached to Kellerman’s 3rd Cavalry Corps, alongside the 2nd and 3rd Cuirassiers, each fielding a little over 400 men. For much of the day, they were inactive. In late afternoon, when Marshall Ney ordered mass cavalry attacks against the Allied squares, Kellerman specifically ordered the Carabiniers a Cheval to hold back and remain out of the carnage. Ney eventually found them sheltering in a hollow and, in a rage, ordered them to join the main cavalry attack. These fruitless charges on Mont St Jean ridge caused them heavy casualties and the defeat at Waterloo proved to be the denouement for both the regiment and its emperor.

Notable Battles: 1792: Valmy, Austerlitz, Friedland, Wagram, La Moskowa, Leipzig, Waterloo.

Carabiniers a Cheval (3)