Ensign Miniatures and the drawings of René North

Over the past few years, I’ve picked up a few 54mm metal yeomanry figures from the Napoleonic Wars which have been made by Ensign Miniatures. They have a distinctive sculpting style which didn’t fit well with my other Bob Marrion / Edward Campbell-inspired yeomanry from the late 19th/ early 20th century era. Occasionally, one would turn up at an affordable price and I would add to my collection meaning I now have three different figures.

Two of my Napoleonic yeomanry by Ensign Miniatures

A couple of years ago, I had nearly finished painting a pair of their Leicestershire Yeomanry figure but held off from completing pending a visit to my local Leicestershire Yeomanry museum in order to review any exhibits and information relating to these early uniforms. An extended period of closure ‘for refurbishment’, and also the COVID-19 virus has prevented a visit since. So. now I’ve pushed on with them and present my two Leicestershire Yeomanry officers.

The reason I had painted two was that strangely they came in an auction as a group of five identical figures. A misspelling of ‘yeomanry’ meant that I won the lot for a tiny sum. I found some spare wooden bases to use and added plaques as a finishing touch. What to do with my extra yeomen, including painted and unpainted version, I’m not so sure!

The figure came with a 1796 Pattern Light-Cavalry Sabre and nickel strips for use as sabretache slings. I’ve done my ham-fisted best with these.

The overalls were described in the painting instructions as being sky blue with either ‘scarlet bands to outer seams’ or ‘silver with central red piping’. At the time I painted these, I found some excellent colour photographs of an original uniform which showed the latter design, so I stuck with that. Sadly, this invaluable website appears to be now unavailable.

The helmet instructions were detailed and again I benefited from the example online which included a pink turban around the Tarleton. I was satisfied that my colouring seemed to hit the right note.

The faces of the two, despite being identical, I’ve somehow manage to create individual expressions which I like the look of.

The rest of the uniform consists of a scarlet jacket, sky blue collar, cuffs and turnbacks, silver shoulder scales and buttons, with a sash described as crimson. Seeing the original uniform helped enormously at the time I painted these.


René North

Further to these yeomen, I had once read somewhere that Ensign Miniatures made a large quantity of figures relating to the yeomanry. However, another random purchase (I know ‘another‘ purchase, I despair of myself, I really do…) has thrown up some interesting information on these Ensign figures.

Leicestershire Yeomanry officers by René North. In a nice coincidence, there are two of them.

My purchase was for a set of six 1960s postcards with illustrations on them of Napoleonic English yeomanry, 1800-1809 all by an artist named René North. These black and white drawings came with painting instructions written under the illustration, which I thought could maybe prove useful in any future yeomanry painting endeavours. When they came through the post, however, I immediately recognised a pattern emerging among the six regiments. The regiments included:

  1. The Warwickshire Light Horse, Private, 1801
  2. The Surrey Yeomanry, Private, 1800
  3. The West Kent Yeomanry (Sheppey)*, Officer, 1800
  4. Loyal London Cavalry, Private, 1804
  5. The Leicestershire Yeomanry*, Officers, 1808
  6. The South Bucks (Eton Troop)*, Officer, 1809

Three of the above were exactly the same Ensign Miniatures figures which I had in my possession* and very specifically the same troops for both the South Bucks and West Kent yeomanry. This seemed more than coincidence, so I delved further into it.

A little research eventually dug up a pdf copy of an old Ensign Miniatures catalogue. This catalogue showed that my yeomanry figures were part of the ‘A’ Range (summarised somewhat vaguely as “A variety of British figures at home and overseas…”) and consisted of nearly all of the six regiments specified in the René North cards. The sole exception was the “Loyal London Cavalry” which was not featured. Instead, two Scottish yeomanry regiments from the same period were also available.

Some of Ensign Miniatures’ ‘A’ Range

The catalogue cites Bob Rowe as being the designer of this series of figures. It seems clear that René North must have been a key inspiration or information source for much of Bob Rowe’s Napoleonic yeomanry designs. Who was this illustrator René North and why did he produce this monochrome set of cards? A quick glance at eBay shows a number of other “Paint-Your-Own” uniform sets covering a wide range of military topics, all black and white line drawings with full colouring information included in text.

The excellent Helion Books blogged a very informative biography of Mr North who was both the illustrator and researcher for all the cards in this series. Cost was a driving factor in issuing colourless cards, but they also encouraged the collector to colour the illustrations themselves.

“Initially the colouring information was on the actual card, but on later sets it was moved to the accompanying text sheet leaving the card purely for the illustration itself.”

My English Yeomanry series was one of the earlier releases, set #22 of a total 113 sets issued, my illustrations being dated 1961. The text on the card notably includes the sources for each illustration. The Warwickshire Yeomanry card, for example, quotes a painting which I’ve seen in their museum and which inspired my own 28mm figures which now reside there. The Leicestershire Yeomanry card cites the original uniform as the source which I had seen online.

Notably, North also produced some uncoloured cardboard soldiers, “essentially forerunners of Peter Dennis’ excellent ‘Paper Soldiers’ series published by Helion”. Described as being “modest and softly spoken with a gentle twinkle in his intelligent eyes“, one person who knew him goes on to say;

“René North’s name is rarely mentioned today…but his work is the foundation of many of the studies of British Napoleonic Uniforms and he deserves to be better remembered.”

René North passed away in 1971. Not entirely forgotten though, I can vouch that his work is still inspiring painters like myself nearly half a century after his death.

The blog post by Helion is very well worth a read for anybody interested in the topic of military uniforms and uniformology.

Campbell’s Cavalrymen #1: Soldier of Surrey

The purchase of some old unpainted Mitrecap Miniatures figures, which I mentioned in my previous post, included a Lieutenant of the Surrey Yeomanry c.1905.

This figure appears to have been inspired by this 1943 illustration by Edward A. Campbell seen in R.G. Harris’ “50 Years of Yeomanry Uniforms”:

The Campbell plate was itself based upon a photograph of the commander of A Squadron, Captain P. Noble Fawcett. Doubtful whether Mitrecap’s captain can be pinned down specifically as he, however, as I note that their figure does not sport his bushy moustache.

I posted recently on a portrait of an officer of the Surrey Yeomanry from the early 19th Century. The regiment in this early incarnation survived intermittently until disbanding in 1848. It was not then re-raised until 1901 when the Surrey Imperial Yeomanry were the first of a number of new yeomanry regiments raised after the inception of the Anglo-Boer War. Their uniform was originally based on that of the New South Wales Lancers, a unit which had attracted much admiration when they arrived in Britain as a delegation from Australia for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897.

In this BFI clip, I believe four of the New South Wales Lancers can be seen riding past holding their lances (45 seconds into the footage).

In adopting this khaki uniform, the newly formed Surrey Yeomanry were correctly obeying the new instructions regarding the colour of Yeomanry service dress uniforms. The text accompanying a plate of a 1911 Surrey yeoman by P.H. Smitherman explains;

“In an attempt to curb the extravagance of dress in the mounted branches, Yeomanry regiments formed after the South African war were encouraged to confine themselves to khaki service dress… The trooper in this plate (see below) is wearing the type of uniform that all yeomanry regiments should have adopted after the Boer War, but which few of them did. As can be seen, it is a smart and practical dress, although not perhaps as flamboyant as was customary for the yeomanry. It is a dress of lancer pattern with cap lines although the regiment never wore the lance cap.” (P.H. Smitherman “Uniforms of the Yeomanry Regiments 1783-1911)

It’s interesting to note that despite the push to place Yeomanry troops in khaki, “few of them did”. R.J. Smith and R.G. Harris acknowledge that “the Yeomanry have always had the reputation of being a law unto themselves concerning some aspects of military regulations…” (“The Yeomanry Force at the 1911 Coronation”).

The Marrion’s, Smitherman’s and Campbell’s interpretation of the colour of khaki worn varies considerably, so I’m happy that my figure’s khaki exists somewhere between these extremes. Below is R.J. Marrion’s vision of a Surrey trooper at the time of the 1911 coronation:

I confess to making a mess of attaching the hat and left hand to the figure. It took me a while to work out how it was to be held but, after spreading glue liberally in places it wasn’t needed, I finally got it about right.

The face of the yeoman appeared to me to wearily have his eyes closed, the consequence of a long day in the saddle. After the application of paint, it seemed to work well so – possibly for the first time – I’ve painted a figure with his eyes shut.

Once again, a lovely piece of sculpting by Mitrecap. I’m not sure whether I’ve done it justice or not but I’ve enjoyed painting this figure which now takes it’s place as the 9th 54mm yeoman in my collection.


Stop Press! In typical style, I forgot to add a small silver badge to the turned up side of the slouch hat. To be fair, the sculptor hasn’t included it either, but it’s something I’ll include anyway.

It appears to be this white metal cap badge. This Other Ranks version being the crest of Lord William St.John Freemantle Brodrick, 9th Viscount Midleton, Hon. Colonel of the Regiment. The Surrey Imperial Yeomanry wore this badge on the turned up side of their slouch hats.

Brodrick was Secretary of State for war and gave his name to an unpopular British army undress cap of the time.

Mitrecap Miniatures

I mentioned in a post recently that I’d won a figure in auction to add to my steadily growing 54mm Yeomanry Cavalry series (aka Marrion’s Men). I’d missed out on this figure a year or so ago and so was understandably delighted to get my hands on it this time around. It’s an officer of the Sussex Yeomanry, circa 1908. The pose though not identical is very similar and the painting guide actually directly references the Marrion illustration seen below.

This illustration by Bob Marrion features on the cover of the first book in the Ogilby Trust series on British yeomanry uniforms which ran between the late 70s and the early 90s. On the same cover is another illustration of an officer which I’ve previously painted in 54mm (see below).

Mitrecap Miniatures was, so far as I can find out, established by Dennis Johnson in 1979 and did well until it eventually was brought to a close possibly sometime in the early-mid 2000s with the proprietor’s emigration to Spain. Names of some of the sculptors for Mitrecap that I’ve seen referenced elsewhere are Keith Durham and Peter Loxley.

This July 1984 edition of Modelworld News announced that “a new name to us is Mitrecap Miniatures 23 Queen’s Road, Sheffield, South Yorks. They have quite a big range of 54mm cast figures in kit form, including the British yeomanry (i.e. TA cavalry) regiments of the pre-1939 period…

Recently, I discovered that my previously unsourced Westmorland & Cumberland yeoman figure in the Marrion series (painted back in 2018), is indeed another Mitrecap Miniature. Sure enough it is featured in their list of ‘figurines and accessories’. Their entire list demonstrates that they did a good line in volunteer troops of all kinds (militia, volunteer associations, rifle volunteers, etc).

These “Turn of the Century” figures, for example, include yeomanry of:

  • The Oxfordshire Hussars (1900)
  • Westmoreland & Cumberland Yeomanry (1900)
  • The Leicestershire Yeomanry (1910)
  • Yorkshire Dragoons (1900)
  • Yorkshire Hussars (1900)
  • Worcestershire Yeomanry (1900)
  • East Riding of Yorkshire Yeomanry (1908)
  • Westminster Dragoons (1909)
  • Fife & Forfar Yeomanry (1895)
  • Surrey Yeomanry (1905)
  • Sussex Yeomanry (1908)

Great to hear there were other yeomanry figures made under this manufacturer.

My Mitrecap Miniatures’ officer of the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry.

Now I know that the Sussex and Westmorland & Cumberland Yeomanry figures are inspired by Bob Marrion illustrations, I wonder how many of the others are too? Bob Marrion certainly produced illustrations of the Yorkshire Hussars, the Yorkshire Dragoons, the East Riding of Yorkshire Yeomanry, the Worcestershire Yeomanry and the Westminster Dragoons; all of which are listed by Mitrecap. So plenty of scope for another Marrion-inspired Mitrecap figure there.

…But now I’ve snapped up two more Mitrecap yeomanry figures which came up for auction this week for a very reasonable price indeed!*

*Honestly, Mrs Marvin!!

Neither of these figures are taken from the Marrion series of illustrations. However, on opening their still-sealed packets, I discovered that the figures were actually inspired by another artist well known to me. The painting guides reference Plate 25 and Plate 32 from “50 Years of Yeomanry Uniforms” by R.G. Harris and I thankfully have a copy of this 1972 book – a Christmas present received a couple of years ago.

One of these figures is based on this below illustration of a Lieutenant of the Surrey Yeomanry. Similar to the pose shown below in Campbell’s painting, the 54mm figure has his slouch hat detached and held in a hand:

The other figure references a plate of an officer of the East Riding of Yorkshire Yeomanry wearing a lancer uniform. This time the sculptor depicts the soldier wearing his lancer cap rather than following the illustration. The painting guide for this figure points to Plate 32 of Harris’ book and also Military Modelling’s 1983 April and May Issues.

The plates in this book are all work by the artist and former volunteer soldier, Edmund A. Campbell, who died in 1951 leaving behind a considerable number of military artworks from his extensive and first hand research. I suspect that the Mitrecap figures listed for the Fife & Forfar Yeomanry and the Oxfordshire Hussars at least could well be inspired by their respective Campbell plates (nos. 4 and 21). So it may be that I find myself developing a 54mm yeomanry series referencing the work of another military artist: Campbell’s Cavalry, perhaps?

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…