The History of Colour-Sergeant Lejaune

“…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

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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.

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Such was the terrific quality of the sculpting that it was possible to reveal a face of real character.

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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”.

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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.”

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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.

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…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.

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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)

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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.

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Noah Beery (far right) as Sergeant Lejaune.

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:

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Orson Welles on the radio

Beau Geste (1939)

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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.

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Sergeant Markoff (aka “Lejeune”)

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)

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Telly Savalas as Sergeant-Major Dagineau (aka Markoff, aka Lejeune…)

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)

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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.

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Forgeham’s Lejeune tears a strip of an unfortunate Legionnaire.

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!

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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?

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Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #25)

Italeri have produced a number of very impressive Napoleonic cavalry kits and I’m pleased to have finally tackled their Mamelukes set; possibly one of their best.

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It has involved painting a lot of detail in a large range of colours, which in turn has meant a much larger investment in time to produce them. Was it worth it? I like to think so, they are unique in my collection and looks pleasingly colourful.

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Whilst it’s taken quite a while to get them painted, but the sheer exotic value of their turbans, scimitars, etc, etc, has kept me going.

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The Mamelukes made up a very small force in Napoleon’s cavalry, but the impact of their fame gave them an importance far beyond their limited numbers, and it’s no surprise that Italeri and HaT (amongst other manufacturers) have featured them in their range.

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Well, I can now place these figures into the cabinet with the other Nappy Cavalry Project regiments. And that means I can finally get on with packing for my much-needed summer holiday! Until I return, I send my very best wishes to all readers of this humble blog and leave you with the usual regimental biography and photos!

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Now, I wonder if there are any regimental museums where I’m going…


Biography: Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard [France]

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The word “Mameluke” is an Arabic term meaning ‘property’, indicating the status of Mamelukes as being slaves. Since the 9th Century, the Mamelukes were an influential military caste of slaves which rose to become a power in Egypt eventually ruling as the independent Mameluke Sultanate until 1517, and thereafter ruling as vassals of the Ottoman Empire.

In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte led his French ‘Army of the Orient’ to invade Egypt to both protect French trade and threaten Britain’s own. The most formidable force in the Egyptian army was undoubtedly the Mameluke cavalry. Equipped in an almost medieval fashion, sometimes including chain mail and iron helmets, they were expert horsemen and swordsmen. Armed with curved sabres of very high quality, they could out-fence most conventional cavalry and were observed to have actually sliced through French muskets.

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Napoleon soundly defeated the Mameluke army at the Battle of the Pyramids where he repelled their massed cavalry attacks. The formidable Mameluke cavalry had impressed him, however, as the only effective arm of the Egyptian army. Consequently, on the 14th September 1799, French General Kléber established a mounted company of Mameluke auxiliaries which were soon reorganised into 3 companies of 100 men each known as the “Mamluks de la République”. In 1803, they were again organised into a single company attached to the Chasseurs-à-Cheval of the Imperial Guard.

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Whilst the officers were occasionally French, the rest of the force were at various times made up of Greeks, Egyptians, Circassians, Albanians, Maltese, Hungarians, Georgians and Turks (amongst others. All were armed with a brace of pistols; a long dagger tucked into their waist sash; a mace; and later even a battle-axe.

The Mamelukes served in Poland, Spain and in Russia, fighting at the Battle of Wagram and most notably at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 where the regiment was granted an eagle and its roster increased to accommodate a standard-bearer and a trumpeter. Service in Spain led to a famous painting by Francisco Goya depicting their charge against the uprising of the citizens of Madrid on 2 May 1808, a massacre which in part led up to the Peninsular War.

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El dos de mayo de 1808 en Madrid By Francisco de Goya

In 1813, losses accrued over many campaigns meant that the Mamelukes were inevitably reinforced with Frenchmen who were designated as ‘2nd Mamelukes’. Of the 2 companies of Mamelukes, the 1st was ranked as Old Guard and the 2nd as Young Guard.

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On his return to power in 1815, Napoleon issued a decree stating that the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard would include a squadron of Mamelukes. It is not known whether they formed a complete squadron at Waterloo, or simply attached themselves as individuals to various units; Mamelukes were almost undoubtedly present, however.

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Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1815, there were widespread reprisals against individuals or groups identified with the defeated Napoleonic regime. These included the small number of Mamelukes who were still in the army. Eighteen of them were massacred in Marseilles by vengeful Royalists while awaiting transportation back to Egypt.

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Monsieur Ducel Mameluke de la Garde 1813-1815.

The brightly coloured Oriental dress and exotic weaponry of the Mamelukes gave them an influence far beyond the small size of their regiment; an influence felt beyond the battlefield into fashionable society! The Mamelukes loyalty to Napoleon was never questioned and they, fatally for some, became synonymous with him and his empire.

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Notable Battles: Austerlitz, Wagram, Waterloo.

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More Mamelukes…

I’ve made some real progress on the Italeri Mameluke figures this past week, the 25th regiment in the Nappy Cavalry Project. These are beautifully sculpted figures, as fine as any other plastic 1/72 set out there.

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Though they are a pleasure to paint, it’s been a slower and more complicated process than painting regular forces due to the great variety of colours required and which differ from one figure to the next.

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Mameluke standard bearer

With the exception of the red trousers (saroual) and headgear (cahouk), each figure requires a different colour scheme. Starting each single figure required some wardrobe decisions to be made, I felt like an insecure lady deciding what to wear on a first date!

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Hopefully, I’ve made some reasonable choices.

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It’s been interesting to paint the unusual accoutrements: the turbans; the daggers; the beautifully curved scimitars; and the pistol holders wedged into the waistbands.

Next for those horses, a task which one might think I’d tire of. I still enjoy painting them, thankfully, and these Italeri horses seem as well sculpted as their riders. Updates to follow in due course. I’m looking forward to painting those arabic saddles. With luck, I might even get the whole regiment finished before my forthcoming summer holiday in July!

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A not-quite-finished bugler. He’s the only one with a white plume and green headgear.

Mamelouks de la Garde impériale!

After some dithering over the choice of the next regiment in my Napoleonic cavalry project, I can announce that it will be Napoleon’s Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard by Italeri.

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My ever-helpful assistant presents the latest box of cavalry to paint.

Part of my wariness with this set was down to tackling a regiment somewhat out of my comfort zone. Firstly, they are from Egypt and a far cry from the European cavalry of which I’m familiar.

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Mamelouks de la Garde impériale à la charge by Auguste Raffet

Secondly, they are irregulars and as such don’t wear a uniform dress, never mind the traditional Napoleonic European style uniform. But I paint military uniforms – that’s what I do! Before I hyperventilate any further, here’s a useful guide to their dress which suggests some general uniform guidelines:

During their service in Napoleon’s army, the Mamluk squadron wore the following uniform: Before 1804: The only “uniform” part was the green cahouk (hat), white turban, and red saroual (trousers), all to be worn with a loose shirt and a vest. Boots were of yellow, red, or tan soft leather. Weapons consisted of an “Oriental” scimitar, a brace of pistols in a holder decorated with a brass crescent and star, and a dagger.

After 1804: The cahouk became red with a brass crescent and star, and the shirt was closed and had a collar. The main change was the addition of a “regulation” chasseur-style saddle cloth and roll, imperial green in color, piped red, with a red and white fringe. The saddle and harness remained Arabic in style. The undress uniform was as for the Chasseurs-à-Cheval of the Guard, but of a dark blue cloth.

So that gives me something to go on. They are certainly going to take longer to paint given their disparate colour schemes. One thing is for sure, the figures are beautifully sculpted by Italeri, possibly amongst their finest. The figures are very large for the scale, but this will be of more concern to a wargamer than a mere figure painter like myself.

Painting oriental irregulars certainly provides a different challenge, and it’s one I’m looking forward to. I’ll post updates once I’ve got something to show, until then here are some images of Mamelukes as it seems these exotic horsemen were a favourite of artists over the years.

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François-Antoine Kirmann, chef d’escadron des mamelouks de la Garde impériale (1808-1811).
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Mamelouks de la Garde impériale au défilé by Felician Myrbach (1853-1940)
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Capitaine français des mamelouks de la Garde impériale by Ernest Fort (1868-1938)
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Porte-étendard des mamelouks de la Garde impériale.

 

Von Beeren Cuirassiers [Nr. 2] (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #24)

Prussian Cuirassiers are a set that I’ve had in my possession for a few years now, a purchase from a closing down sale. Having painted them I can declare that they’re a fine set – although perhaps they’re bodies, and heads in particular, are a little bit on the large side. Plenty of nice crisp detail by Italeri makes for a pleasurable painting experience.

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Italeri Prussian Cuirassier

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It’s been good to return to Italeri figures once again, and Prussians ones at that. I’ve particularly enjoyed painting something a little different from the other regiments; those bicorne hats and yellow jackets add real variety to my collection.

My ‘head-swap’ officer seems to look okay, although I originally intended to give his arm a twist downwards so that he’s not strangely holding out a piece of paper to his right. I like to think I can get away with it as his arm makes it look like he’s gesturing instead.

The trumpeter meanwhile wears a bicorne with a red crest and a white plume with a red tip, in addition to red shoulder markings:

So after that rather enjoyable kit, I’m wondering which cavalry regiment to tackle next in the project and I confess to being somewhat undecided. Furthermore, I fancy taking a brief break from Napoleonic cavalry; a change being as good as a rest, as they say. There’s plenty of figures of all types lying around and waiting for attention here at Suburban Militarism, so watch this space for developments on that.

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So, as is traditional for the Nappy Cavalry Project, here’s a few more photos and a regimental biography of my finished Von Beeren Cuirassiers below!

 


Biography: Von Beeren Cuirassiers (nr.2) [Prussia]

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The 2nd Cuirassier regiment in the Prussian army had its origins in 1666 at a time when early Prussian cavalry was simply designated as being Regiments of Horse (Regiment zu Pferde). Raised variously in accounts by either Colonel Count von Russow or Major-General von Pfuel, it immediately went on to serve in a variety of European theatres: against the French in Alsace; the Swedes in Pomerania; and against the Turks in Hungary.

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Trooper from the Cuirassier Regiment No. 2, circa 1757.

Garrisoned in Brandenburg, it consisted of 10 companies in 5 squadrons. During the War of the Spanish Succession, it fought in the great battles of Oudenarde in 1708 and Malplaquet in 1709. In the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), it fought at the battle of Chotusitz, breaking through and routing two lines of Hungarian infantry regiments. In 1745, it took part in the battle of Hohenfriedberg where it destroyed a Saxon regiment. Later that year, it also broke through enemy lines at the battle of Soor with other cuirassiers and captured the Graner Koppe heights and 22 guns.

By the time of the Seven Years War, the regiment was wearing a tunic of ‘lemon yellow’ underneath its black cuirass, in contrast to the off-white of other cuirassier regiments. It took heavy casualties in the battle of Lobositz but recovered to also take part in the Battle of Kolin where it led the charge of a brigade, scattering several enemy infantry regiments. Later, it was involved in the disastrous Battle of Kunersdorf, losing over 200 men and being routed from the field.

In 1790 came the order that all cuirassier regiments were to abandon the cuirass. However, Von Beeren’s regiment were granted the distinction of retaining their yellow tunics which they had been wearing since at least the time of Frederick the Great. That yellow tunic had earned them the nickname “The Yellow Riders” (‘gelbe Reiter’).

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No.2 Regiment’s uniform at the time of the 7 Years War, prior to the abandonment of the cuirass.

Up until 1806, cuirassier units bore the name of their colonels, also called the Proprietor (Inhaber). In October 1805, Karl Friedrich Hermann von Beeren (1749-1817) became the regimental Colonel in Chief, succeeding his predecessor Generalmajor Schleinitz. As was the custom therefore, the regiment took the new commander’s name and became Cuirassier Regiment Von Beeren (Nr 2).

Armed with the pallash (a straight-bladed sword), Prussian cuirassiers enjoyed greater prestige than other cavalry such as the dragoons, uhlans and hussars. Being heavy cavalry, the men and horses were larger, stronger and were expected to charge en-masse to crush the enemy with their sheer momentum and force.

In 1806, as political tensions with Napoleon’s France were at their height, Prussian Cuirassier officers from the elite Garde du Corps famously inflamed the situation further by ostentatiously sharpening their swords on the steps of the French embassy in Berlin.

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Cuirassier officers sharpening their swords on the French embassy steps, Berlin, 1806.

However, the woeful state of both staff and tactical organisation in the Prussian army was to be brutally exposed by Napoleon’s army during its subsequent invasion of Prussia. The Prussian cuirassier regiments were distributed throughout the entire Prussian field army – making it very difficult to co-ordinate large-scale, en-masse cavalry charges on the battlefield and greatly nullifying their effectiveness.

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During the War of the Fourth Coalition in 1806, Von Beeren’s Cuirassier regiment fought at the disastrous battle of Auerstadt as part of its colonel-in-chief’s brigade (Kuhnheim’s division). After the battle, the regiment withdrew with Blücher’s Corps whereby the majority of the regiment surrendered at Erfurt and Ratekau on November 7. As the regiment was not subsequently re-raised, it effectively marked the end of the regiment. However, seventy men and horses escaped to East Prussia where they went into forming the nucleus of the new 4th Cuirassier regiment.

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Defeated Prussian forces retreating after the disastrous battles of Jena-Auerstadt, 1806.

After the enforced Prussian military reorganization in 1806, cuirassier units were given numbers instead of colonel’s names. In 1808, Regiment Von Beeren had been incorporated into the Brandenburg Cuirassiers. Apparently, their famous yellow tunics were it seems retained and worn for some time thereafter.

No cuirassier regiments were present to see Napoleon’s demise at Waterloo. However, in 1815, Johann Carl Hackenberg watched Prussian cavalry ride through his home town of Elberfeld. This man had particular interest in seeing them as he was an artist who painted in colour all troops from 1813 – 1816. On the 2 February 1815, he observed the Von Beeren successors, the Brandenburg Cuirassiers, ride through the town wearing distinct ‘yellow cuirasses’. So it seems that even 10 years after the regiment’s destruction at Auerstadt, there continued, at least in some way, to be ‘yellow riders’ in the Prussian cuirassiers.

Notable Battles: Oudenarde, Malplaquet, Chotusitz, Hohenfriedberg, Soor, Lobositz, Kunersdorf, Kolin, Auerstadt.

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Yellow Fellows

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I’m about 80-90% finished on the 16 riders for Italeri’s Prussian Cuirassiers kit. They are certainly nice figures and look splendid in yellow. On the debit side however, the heads are a trifle oversized and the hats always seem to face the front of the body regardless as to whichever way the head is facing – which is a bit weird! To bypass this, I’ve chosen exclusively those figures whose hats are worn on the head at roughly the same angle.

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However, I resorted to a drastic head-swap operation for the officer figure. I cut off a trooper’s head and used a tiny section of pin to hold it all in place. I got a bit carried away with a hot pin resulting in – ahem – some slight melting! But I think he looks okay, nonetheless.

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Painting my chosen regiment, Von Beeren’s 2nd Cuirassiers, has been an unexpected challenge so far. Firstly, getting the yellow to look bright yet still vaguely akin to a natural fabric colour has been a learning curve. Secondly, some depictions of the regiment show a white crossbelt with red edges; my reproduction of this feature tested my painting skills considerably!

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The trumpeter had some variation in details requiring a red crest on his bicorne, a red tip to his plume and some shoulder detailing.

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I’ll be turning my attention to the horses soon. Curiously, I’ve painted these Prussian Cuirassier horses before in this project, having used them as modified replacements for the lamentable horses which came with Italeri’s Prussian Dragoons set (5th Prussian (Brandenburg) Dragoons (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #6)).

In addition to working on these figures, I confess I’ve been musing on other diversions and topics to explore. Heaven knows, I’ve got enough kits to turn my attention to, should I want to take a short breather from Napoleonic cavalry. More on this perhaps in a future post as my ideas start to take shape…

Bye for now,

Marvin

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.

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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).

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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…
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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.

Marvin

‘Pride and Prejudice’ Soldiers

The Warwickshire Yeomanry horses have been shelved for now and the Bennos Forum Group Build figures are awaiting some essential paints to be delivered. Instead, I’ve been rapidly painting figures for a friend’s son this week. Whenever she visits with her son, he has previously shown a great interest in my model soldier displays. Consequently, a couple of years ago, I painted some Strelets Cuirassiers that I had lying around and posted them off to him as a Christmas present.

My wife, struggling for an idea for his latest birthday present, asked me if I could paint some more. Unfortunately, these friends have moved away and so I’m not sure what era he’s into, although my daughter suggested he used to like medieval knights. That’s a little out of my comfort zone, so I was relieved to hear my good lady suggest instead I paint some British Napoleonic infantry, preferably flank companies and sporting a mix of Belgic and stovepipe shakos. Actually, she didn’t quite say that. What she actually suggested was that I paint some “Pride and Prejudice” type soldiers…

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A “Pride and Prejudice” soldier…

One of my ideas for 2016 painting was to tackle some superb Waterloo British Infantry and Highlanders by Italeri, so happily I had some Nappy soldiers lying around all ready to start some time this year. Curiously, despite the core of my childhood 1/72 scale armies being made up of British Waterloo infantry, I’ve never painted them! I’m not sure why I haven’t turned my attention to them previously, but here I am finally tackling some for a young lad who, perhaps, might go on to really develop his own interest in the topic. It would nice to think that these figures spark an interest in the same way that (in their unpainted guise) they did for me.

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Officer
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Sergeant

These Italeri figures are terrific, certainly better than the charming but flawed old Airfix ones that I used to have parading so many times during my childhood. These figures seem to sport a mixture of Belgic and older ‘Stovepipe’ shakos, some being covered in oilskin. The poses are good and very natural (witness the NCO standing nonchalantly).

Time was tight though, I had only been given a week to paint them! There’s lots of tricky detail on the figures and I’ve had to rush them a little more than I’d like in order to meet the super-tight deadline. Nevertheless, I’ve risen to the challenge and here’s the finished figs. At last, after so many years of waiting, my Waterloo British infantry are finally in gloious technicolour! Just a terrible shame I now have to give them away…

 

 

 

Nappy Cavalry Project: The Grand Parade!

Here’s the end of year Grand Parade of the Nappy Cavalry Project I promised. Just a bit of eccentric silliness on the dining room table! I’ve added a soundtrack of genuine Napoleonic-era military tunes, both French and British tunes. I’ve uploaded the 6-minute video to YouTube and embedded it below for your “entertainment”.

It’s a busy time of the year with Christmas but a week away (and presents still to buy for the family…), so I’ve had to rush this video a little more than I’d have like, but it’s all been good fun. Some stills of the event are below:

And I’ve still got the traditional Christmas infantry to finish off, my new Yule Grenadiers. My aim is to finish them off and have them paraded on the mantelpiece before the Christingle service on Christmas Eve.

In the meantime, I can sign off this project with a sense of satisfaction that comes from seeing it through to the end.