Crimean Personalities: La Cantinière

Another one from the Crimean Personalities series.

As I’ve indicated before, none of the French “Last Assault on Sevastopol” figures are named individuals as in other sets, but it is possible to positively identify at least one more of them from some Roger Fenton photographs. And here she is below:-

Fenton’s image of a cantinière during the Crimean campaign.

The photograph shows a ‘vivandiere‘, or equally a ‘cantiniere‘, a woman attached to a French infantry regiment. They primarily provided food and drink, organised washing, ran the canteens and tended to the infirm or wounded.

These ladies were formally enrolled into the army, they were subject to its discipline and rules, and were assigned next to the musicians in the Order of Battle, parading whenever necessary with their attached regiments in uniforms which closely echoed the men’s.

Fenton’s cantinière tends to a wounded, or possibly just profoundly drunk, Zouave…

Though traditionally called vivandières, during the time of the Revolutionary Wars it seems such women became known as cantinières (i.e. those serving wine in canteens). With the restoration of the Bourbon Monarchy, the army was instructed to eliminate the title of cantinière and officially restore the more traditional vivandière. Regardless, the troops themselves simply continued to use cantinière, however.

During the time of the French 2nd Empire, the cantinière had become a romantic icon of the French Army and Napoleon III doubled their numbers in time for the Crimean War with at least one assigned to each regiment.

So it was no surprise that Roger Fenton should encounter one and indeed seek to capture some images of these remarkable female soldiers.

Another view by Fenton of the same cantinière.
© National Army Museum .

Strelets figure certainly bears some resemblance to the lady in the photograph. They have reproduced the cane in the photograph as being a riding crop, but the addition of some brass paint makes it a little more cane-like again. For the colours, I’ve simply chosen something appropriate to match a French infantryman. The eyes however appear to have been sculpted – and painted – into a squint or wink!

I was planning to hold back on this figure until next FEMbruary, but with that challenge being so far off it seemed wrong not to paint her at the same time as the rest of her Crimean French compatriots.

Of course, the proliferation of French cantinières were not the only female presence on campaign in the Crimea. Roger Fenton took other images of women including the formidable Mrs Fanny Duberley, a popular wife of a captain in the 8th Hussars. She kept a very entertaining journal of her experiences which can be read online here. Another modeller, Tony at Tin Soldiering On blog, recently created his own brilliant version of this spirited lady (see links below) by altering an old mounted Airfix Maid Marion figure. Brilliant!

http://tonystoysoldiers.blogspot.com/2018/11/interfering-with-mrs-duberly.html

http://tonystoysoldiers.blogspot.com/2018/11/mrs-duberly-on-parade.html

As for me, jut one last post still to come on my own Crimean personalities…

Great Aunt’s Glider: Women’s Day 2019

Thought I’d post on International Women’s Day by featuring an image that I came across a few years ago of my late Great Aunt. Hilda passed away suddenly in hospital a few years ago at the age of 99. Found in her pocket at the time was a ticket for another solo trip away on holiday, which perhaps gives an idea of just how astonishingly active, vigorously alert and fiercely independent she was right up to the very end of her long life.

After the early death of her husband, she lived alone for many years until her death in late 2014 and when we took steps to clear her house, the photo shown below was discovered.

A small cross has been etched on the photo right in front of a lady sitting far left.

I now believe it shows Hilda with other employees at Boulton-Paul Aircraft Ltd in front of a large glider, possibly an Airspeed AS.51 Horsa, of the kind employed in Operations Overlord and Market Garden. From the diagram below, the similarity to the aircraft seen in Hilda’s photo is clear.

My mother informed me at the time that she knew Great Aunt Hilda was an inspector at a war time glider factory, and was sending the original photo to the Royal Air Force museum in London who had no photos of Melton Mowbray’s aircraft war work and were very pleased to add this to the collection.

Hilda’s side of my family are from Melton Mowbray. I found the following account from Melton resident Ray Lucas, a schoolboy during the war;

When I started work, I went to the Boulton and Paul works in the town [Melton Mowbray] as an apprentice carpenter. We were making the front end of Horsa gliders like the ones used in the D-Day landings. (From “A Boy in Melton Mowbray” by actexplorer).

Paratroops leaving a Horsa glider. By Official British Government Photographer – This is photograph TR 1046 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6881959

It’s easy to overlook the huge and varied contribution of women to the war effort in WWII, from military roles (see my FEMbruary WRNS), to Land Girls (see Man of Tin’s FEMbruary figures) and munition or aircraft factory workers or inspectors like Hilda.

From this old photo, Hilda appears to be the only one looking away from the birdie, adjusting her shoe! Fiercely independent, at her funeral, Hilda was rightly described by my mother as a ‘proper lady’. On International Women’s Day this blog pays tribute to her, and others like her, who contributed so much to the war effort in the Second World War.


‘WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar

FEMbruary 2019: Soviet Sniper Sisters in the Snow

For my final submission for FEMbruary, I’ve been tackling Bad Squiddo Games’ WWII female snipers. Bad Squiddo do an amazing range of soviet soldier women including all-women infantry squads with rifles or SMGs, scouts, medics, tank riders, heavy machine gun teams, mortar teams and even flame throwers.

My second FEMbruary 2019 submission – a female soviet sniper squad!

Bad Squiddo also do sniper teams like mine, including other non-winter duos. Coincidentally, Mark at Man of Tin blog has been tackling Bad Squiddo’s female soviet command set for FEMbruary too, whilst also setting himself a FEMbruary challenge read that resonates perfectly with my sniper women figures – The Unwomanly Face of War, an oral history of Russian women in WW2.

The two figures fit well together, with one lady calling out and pointing, while her comrade stands poised ready to act on her advice.

Svetlana the Spotter:

Individually, I like this figure’s face with her hair falling out from under her fur hat. She holds a pair of binoculars by which she has clearly identified a target. I painted the eyeglass parts for these in silver, in a rare use of bright colour.

Over her shoulder is a sub-machine gun, which I’ll tentatively identify as a PPSh-41 (aka “pepesha”) with a drum magazine.

Lyudmila the Sniper:

Lyudmila is depicted holding her weapon as if in readiness to select a target. The rifle could be anything under that wrapping so I’ll randomly call it a Tokarev SVT-40 (aka the “Sveta”), which I know the female soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko once used.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was the most successful female sniper in history. Her memoirs entitled “Lady Death” have been very recently published in English for the first time by Greenhill Books. A well-educated lady who later became an historian, Pavlichenko was eventually withdrawn from combat because of her growing status. She was subsequently fêted by the allies (touring both the US and Great Britain) as well as being honoured by her mother country.

Lyudmila’s SVT-40 rifle appears to be smothered by some covering which may have acted as some sort of sound suppressor, or at the very least I would have thought, camouflage.

These two sculpts are so good that even a guy not at all used to painting WWII figures, never mind female snipers in 28mm metal, finds himself terribly tempted to build up my collection of these soviet women even more. As I’ve already got a huge army of unpainted figures – I don’t need more temptation, dammit!

And with those completed figures, I bow out out of FEMbruary 2019. I must say that I’m very pleased with my submission of figures; the locally made M.J. Mode 54mm Wrens and these fabulously sculpted Bad Squiddo snipers. Imperial Rebel Ork and Man of Tin have been busy also and I urge you to keep an eye out for more updates on Alex at Leadballoony blog for his and other submissions!

Making a stand for FEMbruary: The Wrens

My FEMbruary submission, the M.J. Mode Wrens which I painted recently, looked like they would appreciate some kind of bespoke stand to group them all together. So, I found a convenient wooden base which I’ve painted and varnished up. I’ve also added a little metal engraved plaque (£1.50) from eBay which finishes off the group nicely, I think.


FEMbruary Challenge 2019 – Update

Meanwhile, Mark at Man of Tin blog has been kicking on with his own FEMbruary ladies; some Soviet female sniper command figures, and a terrific group of Land Girls, believable female miniatures all courtesy of Bad Squiddo Games. Also, Alex at Leadballoony blog has created the magnificent but ill-fated Seros the Red, Thrice Cursed of Khaine!

FEMbruary – à la Mode

Finishing off my group of FEMbruary Wrens that I’ve been painting up, I peeled one off a bottle top and realised that although one of the figures I checked had no clear markings on its base, the others certainly did! So, suitably embarrassed, I can now declare that my ladies are products of M.J. Mode of Leicester. Which is where I live. In fact, it turns out that the man who made them – Jim Johnston – did so in the exact same village as mine! Indeed, his first figures, Douglas Miniatures, were:

“… quite literally a “cottage industry”, with Johnston sculpting the figures in his own kitchen in Glenfield…” (Vintage 20mil website)

Curiously, a kitchen in Glenfield is exactly where, many decades later, I’ve been painting his Wrens figures! Posted from an eBay seller in Margate, these ladies have made their way home.

Much information on M.J. Mode I discovered over on the excellent Vintage 20Mil website which features an fabuous piece written about the history of Douglas Miniatures.

Douglas Miniatures logo

According to Vintage 20mil;

Insurance salesman John D “Jim” Johnston began making 54mm model soldiers for his own pleasure around 1965. In 1967 he met wargame enthusiast and rule writer Trevor Halsall in the Apex Craft Shop in Leicester. Together the two men founded the Leicester Wargame and Model Soldier Society.

One of my M.J. Mode Wrens, gloss varnished and awaiting something to stand on.

By 1977, MJ Mode (the M stood for Marie, the name of Johnston’s French wife)… concentrated on producing 54mm figures and “traditional” toy soldiers — some of the latter painted by Marie. The company also made a range of larger 25mm figures. Mounted on rectangular bases these were roughly the same build as modern Garrison figures. We believe the range was confined to Napoleonics…

This Wren appears to be glancing distractedly off to the side.

…As well as making his own figures, Johnston also cast figures for a number of other manufacturers in scales from 1/300th to 120mm and made replacement parts for Dinky toys for a local company. One customer was John Tunstill, owner of the famous Soldiers shop in Kennington, south London, whose range of “traditional” toy soldiers was cast by Johnston and transported to London by Sean Wenlock once a week in a pair of old ammunition boxes…

…”Jim was a lovely man,” Tunstill recalls, “but whenever we asked him to make a new figure for us he would always hum and hah about how difficult it was going to be. He had a strong northern accent and we used to try and arrange things so that at some point he’d say, “I’ll haf ta cast a plaster master” then we’d all cheer!”

MJ Mode thrived until 1986 when Johnston was struck by another heart attack and died. He was just 48.

This Wren is a real blonde bombshell – well, at any rate she loads torpedo bombshells on to submarines.

Jim was not very much older than I am now when he died, which is a sobering thought. Hopefully, he (if not his painter wife Marie) would have approved of my amateurish paint-job. It’s not my usual painting style, (I’ve painted – not shaded – the faces for example) and I’ve been adjusting, repainting and playing about with the results as I’ve gone along. But I’m cutting myself some considerable slack in this attempt and think they look pleasing enough painted in their glossy varnish – from a distance!

I’ve added very subtle shading and highlighting to their uniforms and the “HMS” in the centre of their caps are simply three gold dots. I particularly enjoyed how my shabby painting of the faces led to individual personalities. One looks suspiciously to her left, another has Mick Jagger-like lips (something she’d probably thank me for). Different coloured hair further adds to their individuality.

I suppose this FEMbruary submission has become also a Jim Johnston tribute. Thanks to Vintage 20mil, I now feel a real connection with these lovely old figures, unidentified as they initially were and bought on a whim from eBay. I’m not quite done with them as I’d like to base them too, an idea that I’m working on and hopefully will share in a future post.

M.J. Mode; made – and painted – in Glenfield, UK!


The FEMbruary Challenge 2019

Realistically proportioned, proud and smartly dressed, I think these ladies make a worthy addition to the FEMbruary challenge but already, Imperial Rebel Ork has smashed the ball out of the park with this incredible submission – (warning – not for those with a fear of chainsaws, zombies or Volkswagon Beetles).

FEMbruary 2019: Sailor Girls

It’s FEMbruary! This is a great idea is from Alex over at Leadballoony who managed to inspire many of us miniature figure painters last year to consider attempting female versions. Some wonderful creations abounded. For my part last year, at the suggestion of Mark from Man of Tin Blog, I attempted a figure from the wonderful Bad Squiddo Games; Catherine the Great of Russia.

2018s FEMbruary figure – Bad Squiddo’s Catherine the Great.

Alex is leading from the front once again with his 2019 call for Fembruary figures! And I’m answering that call again with a group of seven 54mm-scale metal ladies marching in uniform. These are Wrens, that is to say members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service. I guess they are WWII-era naval personnel judging by their headgear.

Wartime necessity gradually eroding those old, strict gender roles… The WRNS were first established in WWI and disbanded soon after its end., but WWII brought them back.

Purchased for a very reasonable bid on eBay, these female naval personnel are from an unknown manufacturer – can anyone advise (Man of Tin Mark – any ideas, fella)?!

The figures were purchased on eBay unpainted. They are about 54mm high and made of metal.

I’ve glued them into bottle tops with a bit of blu-tack as extra support. I’ve already sprayed them with black acrylic as a primer, so everything’s ready for painting.

Navy girls awaiting navy paint – my Wrens on the march.

The key challenge is that the style of these figures really cry out for a classic Britains-esque paint job which, as some of you may know, is not at all my usual style. I think I’ll stick, more or less, with a version of my usual approach and just see what I’m happy with.

Not the kind of thing I tend to do on Suburban Militarism, but that’s one of the things that makes them, and FEMbruary, so worthwhile. I’ll be painting some more figures from Bad Squiddo too this month which I will reveal soon.

Meanwhile, Man of Tin blog has hit the ground running with his inaugeral 2019 post on his plans for FEMbruary. Bad Squiddo Land Girls, female Russian snipers and a little choice reading material for starters.

You can also keep up to date with FEMbruary and its participants via Leadballoony’s blog post here!

#FEMbruary Challenge Complete: Catherine the Great!

My contribution to the FEMbruary challenge, a 28mm metal figure of Catherine the II of Russia is now finished! Here is the great lady herself astride her grey; Brilliant.

catherine-the-great-10.jpg

In a previous post, I observed how this Bad Squiddo figure was cleverly based upon an original portrait of the empress painted by a Swede named Vigilius Eriksen. You can observe below just how my figure compares with it’s original inspiration:

I’ve based her on a kind of rough track, complete with grasses and flowers, on her way to suggest to her husband Peter III that he should maybe consider abdicating in favour of her. Something about the sharpness of her glittering sword lends further weight to her suggestion…

Catherine the Great (11)

I used a shade of blue for her sash appropriately called “Royal Blue”, which I think looks the business.

catherine-the-great-13.jpg

Getting her face ‘satisfactory’ was an interesting challenge what with me not being used to painting female faces. It’s always easier to create an acceptable looking face when it’s covered over with a luxuriant moustache or bushy beard! That’s one terrific thing about FEMbruary – guiding me into neglected territory. I’m pleased to say that – no doubt thanks more to the sculptor than the painter – I think the face looks suitably feminine.

catherine-the-great-15.jpg

Catherine the Great (12)

Catherine’s long hair can be seen to cascade down her back, tied with a black bow.

Catherine the Great (8)

Catherine the Great (7)

And after that admittedly modest submission, and with the end of February fast approaching, I bow out of #FEMbruary. If FEMbruary in some way encourages more women into the hobby; encourages more appropriate female miniatures to be manufactured; or just enables us bloke modellers to reconsider female figures and their portrayal more carefully, then all to the good.

I urge visitors to check out the realistic female miniatures on Annie Norman’s splendid Bad Squiddo Games site and also check out some of the other participants terrific work:

Diamond Geezer

Just a quick update on my progress with my FEMbruary challenge – Bad Squiddo’s Catherine the Great and her horse “Brilliant”. The latter’s name refers to the Russian word for diamond. Well, the sculpting is a real gem, for sure (groan…).

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Brilliant – Catherine II’s grey

I’m not used to painting greys at 28mm, or in metal for that matter, so I’ve had to go back and re-adjust my paint job a couple of times. There is supposed to be a very slight dapple effect on the coat, but it’s got lost a little with those readjustments. Hopefully, the end result is satisfactory.

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Still a couple of things I’d like to do get Brilliant’s face looking slightly better. Unlike in Eriksen’s painting of Catherine the Great on Brilliant, I painted them in a light colour instead of black. This is correct for a grey – and what’s more, I am rather sad and very fussy about these things!

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I must confess that reproducing freehand all that rich, ornate embroidery seen on the saddle cloth isn’t something I’m a natural at. And it probably shows too, but it’ll do!

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Catherine herself is, I’d say, half to 2/3rd’s done. Her face and hair are up next, with plenty of other details still to do. All will be revealed when she’s finally finished and glued on to the back of Brilliant!

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The #FEMbruary Challenge!

I’m pleased to say that it appears that my previous post on the heroic female soldiers of Serbia has been particularly well-timed. Not only does it coincide with the 100th anniversary of the first piece of legislation extending voting rights to women in the UK, but it also coincides with #FEMbruary.

It was my friend from the Imperial Rebel Orc blog who drew my attention to FEMbruary – a painting challenge for this month intended to “celebrate females and highlight the dismal fact that our hobby is so male dominated“. The idea for the FEMbruary painting challenge has apparently originated with Lead Balloony.com. Well done, sir! A fine suggestion.
https://leadballoony.com/2018/01/29/more-eru-kin-and-the-fembruary-challenge

Suburban Militarism occasionally posts on topics related to women’s often overlooked role in conflict, military art and military history. Furthermore, this blog loves a communal challenge, and so I’ve ‘signed up’ to FEMbruary – a time for painting some female miniatures that celebrate, not demean, women. There was just a small matter of finding an appropriate female figure to paint, though. Not only are there not enough females in the hobby, there’s not enough female figures which are realistically proportioned and non-sexualised. Step forward, Bad Squiddo and the Dice Bag Lady!

Guided by the ever-knowledgeable Mark from Man of Tin blog, I checked out Bad Squiddo – a site dedicated to believable female miniatures! Quickly through the post came a perfectly sculpted figure together with a rather lovely Darjeeling tea bag to boot. My chosen FEMbruary figure from Bad Squiddo is one of the most powerful rulers of the 18th century; Catherine the Great of Russia!

Catherine (2)

Born as Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, this German lady came to power after her ineffectual husband, Peter III, was assassinated. She proved to be an astonishingly successful ruler for Russia, reigning from 1762 to 1796. Catherine combined intelligence, shrewdness, an appreciation for the arts, knowledge of Enlightenment principles, and an autocratic ruthlessness whenever required. Like many other powerful autocrats, Catherine fed both her ego and her libido; she didn’t stint on palatial opulence and also enjoyed a long list of lovers.

She was also keenly aware of the need to dress to impress, or should that be Empress? Her magnificent dresses brought western fashions to the Russian court. In a subtle demonstration of her power, and to cement her relationship with army, some of these were military uniform inspired dresses and explicitly mimicked military fashions and colours of the day.

catherine-iis-uniform-dress-modelled-after-the-uniform-of-the-life-guards-cavalry-regiment-st-petersburg-russia-1789-silk-gold-galloon-and-metal
Catherine the Great’s Uniform dress modeled after the uniform of the Life Guards Cavalry Regiment, St. Petersburg, Russia. 1789..

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Officer’s dress of Catherine the Great

For the Bad Squiddo figure, Catherine the Great eschews the fine dresses of court and appears in full military uniform, on a white charger with sword drawn.

catherine bad squiddo
28mm Catherine the Great figure by Bad Squiddo Games

Catherine is wearing the full uniform of the Russian Life Guards. The Bad Squiddo figure (above) cleverly takes the Vigilius Eriksen portrait (below) as its inspiration.

Catherine_II_of_Russia_by_Vigilius_Eriksen_-_Конный_портрет_Екатерины_Великой._-_1762
Equestrian portrait of Catherine II of Russia (1729-1796) – Catherine II of Russia in Life Guard Uniform on the Horse Brillante, by Vigilius Eriksen

The Eriksen portrait of her formed part of an enormous collection of paintings which Catherine acquired with the stupendous wealth that she enjoyed;

Among many portraits of the empress is Vigilius Eriksen’s Equestrian Portrait of Catherine II. She is on her horse Brilliant (Russian for “Diamond”) on the summer’s day in 1762 when she set out from St Petersburg to demand the abdication of her weak, stupid and unpopular husband, Peter III. Her backers included her lover, Count Grigory Orlov, and one of his successors, Prince Grigory Potemkin. Her sword is drawn, and she would clearly be happy to use it on her husband. Peter caved in, but within days had been murdered by his wife’s supporters. She claimed he had died of one of “his habitual haemorrhoidal attacks, together with a violent colic”. The Guardian

Catherine_II_of_Russia_in_Life_Guard_Uniform_(1771,_Russian_museum)
Detail of Eriksen’s portrait of Catherine II of Russia.

The lady who wore that uniform, sword drawn and “happy to use it on her husband”, intended it to indicate to all of Russia that a more dynamic and stronger sort of ruler was about to take power. Catherine the Great was a supremely successful leader, subject to the same trappings of power as male leaders (opulence, sex, etc.). Autocrats and despots are hardly loveable. But this ruthless lady was very charismatic, with personal qualities and achievements that were extremely impressive. What’s more, she looks splendid in a Guards uniform to boot!

And with that grey horse, Brilliante, it’s time for me to get painting horses again.



For more info on #FEMbruary, visit:

Also, for some good female gamers and hobby blogs check out: