The March of Time: Old Soldiers to New Recruits

Back in 2013, I was new to painting figures. I had dabbled before in 25mm metal castings before but only began to really dedicate regular time, patience and, ah, money in 2012. At the time, on the 1st floor of a huge model and toy shop in my home town, boxes of 1:72 scale plastic soldiers of every description occupied an entire room. Then, one day, I walked in to the shop to find it all gone. The floor to ceiling high wall coverage by countless boxes of plastic troops of every description and from every manufacturer had all but disappeared.

The venerable old store was closing down and clearly, in the weeks since I’d last visited, I’d missed the ensuing super-sale bonanza. Modelling vultures had already picked the carcass clean. There would be time to have a little cry about the old shop’s fate later back home but at that point I could see a handful of boxes still remained on a shelf – the last remnant half-companies from an army on sprues once numbering many 1000s of figures.

The Marmite sculpting style of the early Strelets figures ensured they featured heavily amongst these final unwanted boxes. I decided to pick up two of their marching French Napoleonic infantry sets; French Infantry on the March (1) and French Infantry in Advance. The unloved kits hadn’t remained unpurchased due to over-pricing – priced only £2.50 each with the added inducement of a ‘buy 1 get 1 free’!

Hmm, whatever happened to French Infantry on the March (2)?

As I took them home to mourn the passing of that enormous model soldier department (not to say it’s ever helpful, knowledgeable, but sadly soon-to-be-redundant staff) I suspected that these figures would probably go forever unpainted, stowed somewhere in the loft. In truth, it was a purchase motivated by sympathy rather than by desire.

And then, a few years later, in March 2015. I decided to paint some with a view to maybe submitting them to an international group painting project. In the event, they weren’t sent abroad but I had at least now made some effort on 18 of them. To my surprise, I enjoyed painting them a lot, with no less than 24 individual poses across the two boxes, there was real personality from a crowd otherwise depicted doing more or less the same thing. Both boxes featured the troops wearing greatcoats so mixed perfectly well together.

These painted figures remained un-based for a long while until, during a heavy blizzard on a December day in 2017, I realised that their greatcoats suggested they’d do well marching through snow (an obvious idea given one box’s art even depicts snow) and somehow, I ended up adding a further 26 to make 44 marchers. And last year, continuing what was becoming a yearly tradition, I dutifully painted another dozen to follow the Strelets French sledge train I’d painted. This latest dozen painted only this week takes the painted group it up to 68.

Since 2008, both of these marching sets are now virtually unavailable but Strelets have recently made a new replacement; their French Infantry on the March (1), with apparently more on the way! I’ve tackled a sprue of these new figures to compare with the old figures. These will be the future of my French winter marching tradition once the old sets are finally exhausted.

New recruits on the march!

They are very different to the original sets indeed.

Firstly, the new set has its marchers appearing sideways on the sprue, rather than face on. This has the effect of the figures being quite slender, almost appearing as a semi-flat.

Two of the figures wear some unusual headgear. PSR identify it as a pokalem, also known as a bonnet de police. Blue and piped with red, this early kind of informal headdress was warm and comfortable with ear flaps which could be worn up or down (as in these chilly examples), it could even be worn under shako.

Details, as with all newer Strelets figures, are much more subtle than before but overall the proportions and poses of these figures are impressive, even allowing for their semi-flat thinness.

To more clearly differentiate between the older regiment and the newly raised troops, I’ve adopted a grey greatcoat for the new recruits with a green ball plume.

The old style figures are now down to their last couple of remaining sprues. Do I have a preference between the sets? Plastic Soldier Review prefer the new set of figures. But for all that, when it comes to painting, I can’t help but have a fondness, perhaps even a bias, for the ‘Old Guard’, those original, ugly and unloved refugees from a dying High Street model shop.

They march and sing:
“Napoléon avait cinq cent soldats.
Napoléon avait cinq cent soldats.
Napoléon avait cinq cent soldats.
Marchant du même pas !”

Standing Strelets Soldiers II: Riflemen of the 95th (for Pat)

After painting a group of Strelets British Line Infantry standing at ease earlier this year, I received some very kind feedback from my friend, diorama supremo Pat who challenged me to use some of the remaining figures to produce some men of his favourite regiment; the 95th Rifles.

The 95th are, of course, instantly recognisable in their green uniforms. I’ve had to make changes to account for differences between the line infantry and the rifles. Pat will no doubt be able to correct me if I’m wrong anywhere here but my adjustments have included the following;

  • With no white bars across the coat, there should be just three lines of buttons which because of accoutrements will barely show at all.
  • Cuffs are far simpler for the Rifles, being black with white edging.
  • The Baker rifle is shorter than the Brown Bess musket and, where I could, I’ve cut the musket down to size a little.
  • The badge shows a Light Infantry bugle which I’ve, very roughly, approximated on the shakos.

It is the first time I’ve painted the 95th in their Napoleonic guise and I just hope they meet with Pat’s approval!

Also ready to join their standing comrades finished from last month, I conclude with two officers and an NCO of the 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment.

I haven’t taken fussed at all over the flag, simply slapped some paint on it to resemble a British Napoleonic regimental version.

And finally, men of the 37th and the 95th standing together:

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #8

8. The Coldstream Guards

“The Coldstream Guards Regiment was formed in 1650 as a unit of the Commonwealth Army. It was the only Regiment of the Parliamentary Army that was not disbanded at the Restoration in 1660. The illustration shows the uniform worn by Sergeants in 1832.”

Number 8 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).

The 37th Stands at Ease…

Based and almost ready for action: men of the 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment of Foot stand at ease.

Prior to basing, they experienced a pre-emptive strike by my young cat, Marnie. She accidentally knocked them all off the table and they consequently suffered a little from a hard landing on the kitchen floor. I’ve tried to cover over areas of chipped paint but a few areas inevitably have been missed, I’m afraid.

I like the individuality of the figures, I’m particularly fond of this little private conversation going on in the rear rank…

“So, let me get this straight. We ‘ere because we ‘ere?…”
The scene just moments before an irritated Pioneer Sergeant swings his axe behind him.

The 37th Regiment featured in many significant campaigns and battles of the 18th century, including the battles of Blenheim, Quebec, Dettingen, Culloden, and Brandywine, amongst others. It spent much of the Napoleonic Wars on garrison duty in the West Indies and Gibraltar but did, however, serve in the closing stages of the Peninuslar War in 1814 where it won a battle honour.

It was absent from the Waterloo campaign, being sent for service in Canada. So perhaps it’s quite appropriate that these Waterloo-era figures to appear in such a casual and relaxed state?

As we are in Spring here in the UK, I’ve based them in a springlike meadow with flowers and lush grass. Bees are buzzing and birds are singing in this pastoral lull with the thought of hostilities far from their minds.

Below, a private in the rear rank seems more interested in the pleasures of the baggage train to the rear than any enemy to the front…

Tricky to pick out the details but nevertheless great fun to do. I’ve still got some officers to share for this group, whenever I get around to finishing them.

For a fabulous example of what can be achieved with this range of Strelets ‘non-combat’ figures, hop on over to Pat’s 1:72 Military Diorama’s
blog and view his Peninsular War “Retreat to Corunna” diorama – endlessly interesting and with nearly 270 figures, a damn sight more ambitious than my own little line up!

As for me, I do still have a couple of sprues spare and was thinking of producing some Rifle Brigade or Belgian Infantry figures sometime too.

Easy Company

I always appreciate the opportunity to paint troops in poses which aren’t depicting combat. The dramatic choreography of such in-battle poses is all well and good, but they can have a certain sense of the melodramatic about them. For the majority of soldiers, the old adage that ‘war is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror’ applied.

Figure manufacturers naturally tend to focus overwhelmingly on those ‘terror’ moments – the combat which is the purpose of wargaming – and avoid the mundane. Recently however, Ukrainian manufacturer Strelets have been releasing a series of boxes featuring 1/72 scale Napoleonic infantry who are in non-combat poses, being either ‘on the march’, ‘standing shoulder arms’, ‘standing to attention’ or ‘standing at ease’.

Strelets are producing a range of these figures including (at present) Napoleonic French Line infantry and Old Guard, Austrians, Highlanders, Prussian infantry and Landwehr, but it is the British Line Infantry Standing at Ease which I’ve selected as my foray into this series.

Thank you, kind assistant!

The figures are typical of what is becoming familiar as the ‘new-style’ of Strelets sculpting; more realistically and delicately sculpted, taller and more slender. The detail consequently is a little less crisp and clear than before which presents, I think, more of a challenge to paint than the nice chunky details of yore.

So it’s taken some time and care to pick out all that intricate detail on the plastic to produce these guys: men of the 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment of Foot. Still on the painting table are a couple of their officers.

My source for their uniform has been a Richard Simkin image from the book “Uniforms of the British Army: The Infantry” edited by WY Carmen which features some of Simkin’s illustrations of the 37th Foot. The regiment has yellow facings with white turnbacks on the coat.

Incidentally, the Hampshire Regiment museum is in Winchester, one of a number of great regimental museums in the town and well worth a visit, something I did myself a few years ago.

Although there are a few campaign figures I’m painting I have managed to include some non-commissioned officers including two pioneer sergeants and another sergeant carrying a spontoon.

The plan is to stand them all together on a single base once all their command figures are done. Better get thinking in a little more detail about that…


British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #7

7. The King’s Regiment (Liverpool)

When this Regiment was raised in 1685, it was designated “Princess Anne of Denmark’s Regiment”. The title was changed when George I came to the throne, this time to “The 8th Foot”. The drawing shows a Sergeant wearing the uniform of 1828.

Number 7 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #6

6. The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment

The 16th Regiment of Foot, of which we show a private in 1828, was raised in 1688. In 1782, the regiment received the county title of “The Buckinghamshire Regt”. The Hertford Militia became a battalion in 1881 when the regiment became known by its present title.

Number 6 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #5

5. The East Lancashire Regiment

The first Battalion became the 30th Foot (Cambridgeshire) Regiment in 1782 and it was amalgamated with the 59th Foot (Nottinghamshire) Regiment in 1881 to form The East Lancashire Regiment. The drawing shows a Private of the old 30th Foot in 1815.

Number 5 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).

British Infantry Uniforms of the 19th Century: #1

1. The Suffolk Regiment

“The drawing shows a private of the 12th Regiment of Foot in 1806. The regiment was raised in 1685 by James II at the time of the Monmouth Rebellion. It was numbered 12th Foot in 1782 and received the title of ‘The Suffolk Regiment’ in 1881.”

Number 1 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).

2018 in Review

As the fourth year of Suburban Militarism on WordPress comes to a close and a New Year looms, it’s a time for reflection. Swedish Napoleonic cavalrymen; Ottoman Turkish artillerymen; Serbian and Austrian infantry of the Great War; Belgian Carabinier cyclists; 28mm Yeomanry figures based on illustrations by Marrion; Saxon Cuirassiers and not forgetting some Napoleonic Poles back in January.

So, here’s a brief pictorial overview of some of the figures painted over 2018.

Looking forward to 2019, I know well enough by now not to forecast my painting plans in any great detail as distractions lead me on to other unforeseen areas over the year! However, currently demanding my attention are:

  • My Ottomania project – now well under way with the artillery corps progressing nicely;
  • The Great War project – I have a number of excellent kits I intend to tackle as I continue to develop my WWI collection;
  • Some 54mm Yeomanry cavalry figures are crying out for attention;
  • I have my eye on a couple of soon-to-be-released new figures for 2019;
  • And of course, there’s the Nappy Cavalry Project which continues proudly into its fifth year being now up to 31 regiments strong!

My ever growing pile of unpainted model soldier kits suggests the likely fate of at least some of these hobby intentions, however!

Best wishes for a happy and peaceful 2019 to all Suburban Militarism’s friends and visitors!

Marvin