In my previous post, I revealed the 36th regiment in my Napoleonic Cavalry Project to be the 18th Hussars. It’s a return to Italeri for the first time since their Mamelukes in 2017. The detailing is terrific if subtle.
The horses are elegant but are something of a problem. Firstly, they connect to their bases with pegs – and I don’t like pegs. Thankfully, these ones fit perfectly together but are never as strong as if they were moulded together and a couple of horses parted company from their bases during painting.
Secondly, the horses don’t have the sheepskin saddle covers, an essential item for any self-respecting hussars of the period, but with these nicely sculpted horses, I can live with that.
Finally, the horses come with two disfiguring marks, discs, on their right flanks, presumably a feature imprinted from the moulding process. It looks a bit ugly and I’m not sure whether the scars which are left by attempting to delicately carve them away is better than just leaving them in place. It’s a shame as the horses are beautifully sculpted.
No overt command figures included in this set except the trumpeter.
I keep picking up boxes of these Italeri Hussars / Light Dragoons so I’ve still got enough for more regiments if I return to them to do more in the future.
Formed in 1759, the regiment was first known as the 19th Dragoons and Drogheda’s Light Horse. It was renumbered a few time before settling on the 18th in 1769. Wellington himself spent some time in the regiment as a junior officer.
In 1805, it adopted the “King’s Irish” title and was converted to hussars two years later. It was sent to the Peninsular theatre in 1808 for a year’s service where it faught in the successful cavalry actions of Sahagún and Benavente and also at the Battle of Corunna where the commander Sir John Moore was killed.
It was back in the Peninsular under their old comrade Arthur Wellesley in 1813 and fought in many of the battles leading to the French defeat (including Vitoria, Nive and Toulouse).
For the 100 Days campaign, The 18th Hussars were a part of Sir Hussey Vivian’s 6th British Cavalry Brigade alongside the 10th Hussars and the 1st Hussars of the King’s German Legion. Numbering 447 sabres in three squadrons, they were commanded by Lt-Col the Honourable Murray.
During the Battle of Waterloo, the 18th Hussars found themselves on the extreme left of Wellington’s line, behind the buildings of La Haie farm. Being over 2km away from the centre of the Allied line, the regiment had an almost uniquely quiet time for most of the battle. Having plenty of space to do so, they were formed up in line rather than in columns.
Only late in the day was the regiment moved to the seat of the action in the centre as the French cavalry began to retreat with the rest of their army. Their spirited attacks on the enemy nonetheless cost them over 100 casualties.
The 18th Hussars remained in France after Napoleon’s defeat as part of the Army of Occupation. It was disbanded in 1821 as part of the post-Napoleonic Wars reduction in the British Army’s strength, that numbered regiment not to be reformed again until 1858.
When it comes to a hobby, pleasure should be the guiding principle. My head has been telling me to do something a little different from Napoleonic-era cavalry figures. My heart, however, simply loves to paint them! And there are seldom more pleasing uniforms to paint than hussars.
So far in my Napoleonic Cavalry Project I’ve painted;
So, at the risk of boring everybody, I’m painting some more!
The set I’m using is an old classic; Italeri’s British Light Dragoons (Hussars). It’s a set of lovely figures, the old Esci sculptor beautifully detailing the flowing pelisses and intricate braiding. It was originally released by Esci in 1985 very specifically labelled as being Lord Cardigan’s 11th Hussars of the Crimean War. It was then reissued with a couple of extra poses the following year as being British Light Dragoons of the Napoleonic Wars/Waterloo! These two sets were both reissued by Italeri when they took over the rights to the moulds on Esci’s sad demise around 1990.
It is appropriate that the first British hussars in my project have come along quite late as the British army was itself slow to adopt hussars into their cavalry arm. Some continental armies had a hussar tradition going back to the late 17th century, but Great Britain only began to convert light dragoons to hussars in the early 19th century. That reluctance can be seen in the official name of the British hussar regiments. At the time of Waterloo, all were formally still known as Light Dragoons with the word “hussars” being almost a grudging adjunct in parentheses.
At Waterloo, there were four British hussar regiments (not including the King’s German Legion’s three hussar regiments also present) and these were;
The 7th (The Queen’s Own) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars)
The 10th (Prince of Wales’s Own) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars)
The 15th (The King’s) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars)
The 18th (King’s Irish) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars)
Excepting the 10th Hussars which wore bright red shakos, these Italeri figures could stand for any of the other three (although the 15th I think may have had shakos too). I’ve opted for the 18th Hussars.
The 18th Hussars wore blue dolmans with white braiding, faced with white. Their Pelisses were also blue and white braid with white fur trim. Their brown fur busbies had a bright blue bag. It is on the horses that Italeri widely deviate from historical fact. Hussars during this period had fur saddle covers with hounds teeth edging but my regiment must have sent all theirs to be cleaned.
I’m well advanced with this set already so will be sure to share my handiwork shortly.
Ever since picking up this box of figures, I’ve had the name of a song, “The Faithful Hussar”, going around my head but had no idea of the melody or even where I’d heard it. Google put me out of my confusion; it was used as the moving end scene in the classic anti-war film “Paths of Glory”. I’d seen it recently and the final scene is always moving. A captive German lady (herself a German actress who married the film’s director Stanley Kubrick) silences the baying French Poilu and reduces them to tears with her timid and tender song “The Faithful Hussar“.
“…And then appeared upon the scene the only man I have ever met who seemed to me to be bad, wholly bad, evil all through, without a single redeeming virtue save courage.” John Geste
It must be the heat. This endless 2018 UK heatwave has brought about my own bout of le cafard. In my sultry ennui, thoughts have turned to the desert. And when I think of the desert, I think of my WordPress avatar. He is an old Esci 1/72 scale figure of the French Foreign Legion from my childhood collection. Some time ago I dubbed him Sergeant Lejaune, after a character from Beau Geste. The little fellow had something of the bearing of a tough and experienced NCO about him.
Such was the terrific quality of the sculpting that it was possible to reveal a face of real character.
I think I painted him about 5 or 6 years ago along with a handful of other Legionnaires from Esci’s now very rare set “French Foreign Legion”.
In P.C. Wren’s iconic novel about the French Foreign Legion, “Beau Geste”, Colour-Sergeant Lejaune is first described by Major Henri de Beaujolais of the Spahis, who had discovered his body in the deserted Fort Zinderneuf:
“Lying on his back, his sightless eyes out-staring the sun–lay the Commandant, and through his heart, a bayonet, one of our long, thin French sword-bayonets with its single-curved hilt! No–he had not been shot, he was absolutely untouched elsewhere, and there he lay with a French bayonet through his heart.”
So begins the mystery of Fort Zinderneuf with its eerie garrison of dead legionnaires still arraigned propped-up at their posts in the embrasures. John Geste describes his first meeting with this fearful sergeant thus:
“He came from the regimental offices, a fierce-looking, thick-set, dark man, with the face and figure of a prize-fighter; glaring and staring of eye, swarthily handsome, with the neck and jowl of a bull-dog. He also had the curious teeth-baring, chin-protruding jaw-thrust of a bull-dog, and there were two deep lines between the heavy beetling brows.
…This was Colour-Sergeant Lejaune, a terrible and terrifying man, who had made his way in the Legion (and who made it further still) by distinguishing himself among distinguished martinets as a relentlessly harsh and meticulous disciplinarian, a savagely violent taskmaster, and a punishing non-com. of tremendous energy, ability, and courage.
…To his admiring superiors he was invaluable; to his despairing subordinates he was unspeakable… He took an actual delight in punishing, and nothing angered him more than to be unable to find a reason for doing it…
At this point you’re probably beginning to realise what a thoroughly unpleasant character Lejaune is. Not perhaps the best name for a welcoming avatar! In the book, we learn a little of Lejaune’s history. He came from service in the Belgian Congo, a colony which had a reputation for appalling brutality towards its indigenous inhabitants even amongst the widespread colonialist attitudes of the day.
And later, through the coming to the Legion of a deserter from the Belgian army, we learnt a sinister, significant, and explanatory fact… Lejaune had been dismissed from the Belgian Congo service for brutalities and atrocities exceeding even the limit fixed by good King Leopold’s merry men.
Looking again at my avatar, however, although I dubbed him Sergeant Lejaune, he has a distinctly kindly face with more than a hint of a warm smile about him. He’s more of a favourite uncle than a fearful NCO. Perhaps he’s the alter ego of Wren’s Lejaune? Belgian sadist his namesake may be, but as my avatar he’s quite a welcoming face to visitors.
Here are a few of his ‘chums’ from the French Foreign Legion. Bear in mind that I painted these back in 2012/13, I believe, when I’d only been painting 1/72 scale for a matter of months. I think they stand up pretty well!
I said that this Italeri set is very rare, but boom times are coming to lovers of Beau Geste in miniature scale. In some great news, I understand that Italeri are soon reissuing this set of figures, although it seems only as part of a big “Beau Geste: Algerian Tuareg Revolt Set” which comes with a fort, Tuareg tents, Tuaregs and more. At 64 euros, I may have to think carefully about that! What’s more, Strelets are also apparently working on their own fine-looking set of Foreign Legion and Arabs!
Lejaune and the Movies
The character of Colour-Sergeant Lejaune has been depicted in film a number of times since Wren’s novel was first written. Here’s a brief overview of how he’s been portrayed:
Beau Geste (1926)
This early version of Wren’s famous tale was a silent movie and starred Ronald Colman as Beau Geste with the actor Noah Beery playing the role of the Sergeant Lejeune.
Interestingly, Noah Beery reprised his role as Sergeant Lejaune in 1939 in a radio play, starring alongside Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier (Olivier had previously played Beau Geste on stage) as part of the CBS Campbell Playhouse radio series. In reprising his role, Beery was switching from a silent-only role to a voice-only performance, demonstrating an impressive range of ability. You can listen to the play, with Welles at the beginning introducing Beery as “your favourite villain” below:
Beau Geste (1939)
The very splendid blog “Movies a la Mark” posted on the 1939 Hollywood production of Beau Geste starring Gary Cooper. The brutal sergeant, this time instead known as Sergeant Markoff, in this film was played by Brian Donlevy. The site has this glowing tribute to Donlevy’s loathsome Legionnaire portrayal:
“Best of all, and what gives the picture real guts and grit is Brian Donlevy’s famous performance of ‘Sgt. Markoff’, next to whom the Sahara is no big deal. Brutally sarcastic and about as sadistic as the Production Code would allow, this remains one of foremost villain roles of the 30s.
For whatever reasons, the other cast members did not like Donlevy at all – maybe he was a method actor ahead of his time? On-set relations probably did not improve when Ray Milland accidentally stabbed Donlevy in the abdomen with a bayonet, bad enough to leave a lifelong scar.”
‘Accidentally’? One has to wonder given the strained relations on set!
Beau Geste (1966)
1966’s update had Telly Sevalas playing the infamous nemesis of the Geste brothers. This film took great liberties with the original plot; the British Geste brothers were now American and had been reduced to just two. As with the 1938 film, our sergeant had been renamed again to Sergeant-Major Dagineau. Dagineau is revealed to be a former St. Cyr military school educated officer who was broken to the ranks once his previous troops under his command had deserted to a man.
Beau Geste – BBC TV Series (1982)
I well recall eagerly watching this series as a boy when it was released, greatly enjoying the depiction of these soldiers on television. The brothers Geste were played by Benedict Taylor, Anthony Calf and Jonathon Morris. In the 1982 BBC series, John Forgeham played the sadistic sergeant. A character actor noted for his ability to play less than sympathetic roles, the 6-foot tall Forgeham was very well cast, exuding menace and violence in every scene.
The series stayed much closer to plot than other films and the name of Sergeant Lejaune was retained. The production also notably paid very close attention to authentic legionnaires uniform and equipment, the troops even shown singing the legion’s famous marching song “Le Boudin”. In Wrens’ book, Lejaune also calls for them to sing this song;
“Now, my merry birds,” said he, “you’re going to sing, and sing like the happy joyous larks you are. We’ll let our Arab friends know that we’re not only awake, but also merry and bright. Now then–the Marching Song of the Legion first. All together, you warbling water-rats–Now.” And led by his powerful bellow, we sang at the tops of our voices.
The BBC budget restricted the outdoor filming location to a less authentic, but nonetheless vaguely convincing, Dorset sandpit. It was not the first film of the Foreign Legion to have its desert scenes shot in the south of England, the 1967 Carry-On film “Follow that Camel” substituting the Sahara for Rye and Camber sands!
An Update: It seems that the Foreign Legion is all the rage in this hot weather. My good friend Mark at Man of Tin Blog has coincidentally just posted on his own band of 15mm Peter Laing Legionnaires, complete with palm trees courtesy of Danish chain “Flying Tiger”. I wonder if there’s a Sergeant Major Lejaune amongst them too?
Earlier last year, I painted some Esci Scots Greys for the Bennos Figures Forum Famous Waterloo Project. This sparked my enthusiasm for painting Napoleonic cavalry leading ultimately to my Napoleonic Cavalry Project. For some reason, I never showcased the finished regiment but I think they fully deserve a place in the project they inspired, hence this post.I’ve included a section for them on the Nappy project page too.
Looking back, with all I’ve learnt in painting horses in the project over the year, I might have painted the greys a little differently. The hooves should not be black on a grey horse. Secondly, I would have painted the grey colour a little differently or perhaps even tried some different types of grey (e.g dapple or steel). Perhaps some of the horse manes would have been grey too. Otherwise, I think they stand up pretty well.
I should point out that these are my original Esci Scots Greys figures from my childhood collection! So here they are: regiment #15 in the (ongoing) Nappy Cavalry project!
And finally(!), here are the nearly finished Esci Hussar figures (save for a little work on the horses). I might put them forward for the BFFFWP or otherwise build up a small regiment of both types. It’s been fun working on these figures, if something of a challenge too. There may, however, be one last thing to do. These Esci figures portray horses without a sheepskin blanket roll cover. This invites the possibility of a small conversion using some modelling clay and glue. I may leave them for now but come back to them again to attempt this at some later date.
In the meantime, on to the next figures! Which will be…? Well, I may have a go at some more of these hussars and I have a few Scots Greys to add to the others I’ve just done. But then there’s also these figures that have just come through the post:
And as one final mention of all things hussar related, I visited an excellent museum in 2013 dedicated to the 10th and 11th Hussars (and their successor regiments), called Horsepower in Winchester. It was well worth a visit for anybody with an interest in cavalry and military history, not least due to the lack of any entrance fee!
So now I know why I’ve steered clear of attempting to paint hussars in the past. All that intricate gold braiding, outrageous colours and a fancy fur-lined pelisse cast rakishly over the shoulder make for some fiddly painting. Following on from the previous post’s Scots Greys, I’ve picked to do some hussars which are also up for grabs in the BFFFWP exhibition. Whether I’ll submit, or get the chance to submit, all these figures is a moot point, but nevertheless it’s nice to have something to paint for, beyond simply obeying one’s own whims and preferences.
A few words about Hussars. Basically, they are a type of light cavalry which originated in Hungary. The etymology of the word is complicated, but its emergence as a military unit came as bands of émigré Serbian cavalry were employed in wars against the Ottoman Turks. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, hussars gradually became a familiar feature in many European armies.
Q: What’s the difference between a hussar and a light dragoon? This isn’t a joke; it’s the kind of rhetorical question that occupies my mind when to everybody else at my workplace I simply appear to be just staring into space. The answer, so far as I can tell, is ‘fashion’: Hungarian style. First, they wore a short jacket called a Dolman with lots of horizontal gold braid on it. An over-jacket, usually with yet more ornate braiding, called a Pelisse was usually worn slung over a shoulder. Headgear was (usually) a busby with a coloured bag hung over one side of it. Finally, an incorrigibly dashing moustache was an essential part of ‘the look’.
The whole point of all this extreme military dandyism was to cultivate the type of regiment which at least according to one French brigadier “…could set a whole population running, the men away from them and the women towards them.” Indeed, according to wikipedia:
Hussars had a reputation for being the dashing, if unruly, adventurers of the army. The traditional image of the hussar is of a reckless, hard-drinking, hard-swearing, womanising, moustachioed swashbuckler. General Lasalle, an archetypal showoff hussar officer, epitomized this attitude by his remarks, among which the most famous is: "Any hussar who is not dead by the age of thirty is a blackguard." He died at the Battle of Wagram at the age of 34.
All this ornate fashion sense could make them more expensive to equip and it certainly makes them more difficult to paint. I’m using the figures recommended in the BFFFWP, Esci’s British Crimean Hussars. Like the Scots Greys, these chaps are also an unpainted relic of my youth, recovered from the loft. Apparently, these Esci figures make for better Napoleonic hussars than Crimean ones, so I’m painting the Bremen and Verden Hussar regiment (green dolman) and the Luneburg Regiment (blue dolman). Lots to do on them still, as can be seen in the photos, and I haven’t even started on their horses. In fact, the horses are a bit of a problem as they have been sculpted without a sheepskin blanket cover. Which frankly just won’t do. Obviously. I mean, these are hussars, for heaven’s sake!
With some figures from the BFFFP still up for grabs (unless another forum member elects to paint them over the next week or so), I sought out some of my Esci Scots Greys. These little guys were inside a plastic box which contained many other soldiers, the common denominator of these being that they were all figures from my childhood. I’ve mentioned before in this blog how a key driver of my renewed interest in this hobby was to give colour to figures that frustratingly remained unpainted as a child. So, it’s perhaps a little strange that I have hitherto not attempted to paint any of those original childhood soldiers. To some extent, I wonder if I’ve considered them historical relics, or perhaps I’ve been stalling until I feel I can do them justice?
The Scots Greys, or more correctly the “2nd [The Royal North British] Dragoons“, have achieved some fame for their charge in the battle of Waterloo. In truth, they were but one part of the Duke of Wellington’s entire Household and Union Brigades involved in that charge. Indeed, they were supposed to remain in reserve for the charge but took part on their own initiative as the charge developed. They helped throw back the main French attack and captured a regimental eagle in the process, although fatigue and the lack of any planned objective led to heavy casualties from the French cavalry’s counter-charge. Many artists have chosen to portray the Scots Greys at Waterloo, Richard Caton-Woodville being one notable example, further spreading their fame. But it was the great Victorian military painter Lady Butler who really cemented their legend on canvas with her iconic depiction of their part in the action:
This image was reproduced by Dino De Laurentiis in his astonishing and epic 1970 film “Waterloo“, the director even slowing down the sequence to present the image more distinctly:
With such depictions as these, it was easy to forget that another four regiments took part in the same charge; the 1st and 2nd Life Guards, the Royal Horse Guards (the Blues), and the 1st (King’s) Dragoon Guards, the 1st (The Royals) Dragoons and the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons. But it is the Scots Greys which feature heavily in popular depictions and, of course, in releases from model soldier manufacturers too! Hence this release from Esci way back in the 1980s.
Esci correctly portrayed their Scots Greys with covers over their bearskin shakos (unlike many of the artists who chose to show the more romantically uncovered headgear). I’m no expert on the uniforms but have done my best with some basic research. As for the greys themselves, I’ve suffered a couple of artistic tantrums in painting them up. My wife is an equestrian who has a horse (a dun, not a grey!), so I’m a bit self-conscious about getting it right. Which I probably haven’t. But I’m happy to leave them as they are – they’re probably good enough after waiting all these years, I think!