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.

prussian cuirassier

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).


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…
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.


‘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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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.





Guard Chasseurs a Cheval, with Napoleon [Nappy Cavalry Project Set #14]

After the better part of 10 months, after 15 regiments representing four nations, the Napoleonic Cavalry Project is now virtually complete. The 14th regiment is the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Imperial Guard, Napoleon Bonaparte’s personal escort. These dandies look like hussars, though wear colpacks on their heads. I’ve painted Napoleon in his familiar guise wearing the green uniform of a colonel of the Chasseurs a Cheval.

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His horse is painted as being his famous grey which bore him throughout many a campaign; the Arabian stallion Marengo (a brief biography of the two is below).

Now it just leaves me to photograph a final parade of the regiments some time before Christmas!

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Bring on those photos!


Biography: The Chasseurs a Cheval of the Imperial Guard (France)

The Chasseurs a Cheval of the Imperial Guard originally began life as a part of a regiment of Guides raised by Napoleon when just a general in the Revolutionary Wars in 1796. They would go on to become one of the most prestigious regiments in the army, providing the personal guard to the emperor and nicknamed by some ‘The Pet Children’!

In 1800, a single company was raised of Chasseurs, commanded by the emperor’s stepson, which formed a part of the prestigious Consular Guide. This company took part in the narrow victory at the battle of Marengo. By 1802, they finally became a full regiment consisting of around 1000 men with a single company of Egyptian Mamelukes joining them as a part of the regiment later.

They performed a distinguished role at the battle of Austerlitz, badly mauling the Russian Imperial Guard. Missing the battle of Jena in 1806, the 1st Hussars (a regiment painted earlier in this project) had the privilege of escorting Napoleon on that occasion. They would return to personal escort duties in time for the triumphal entry into Berlin. They later took part in the great charge of Murat’s cavalry at the battle of Eylau in 1807.

During the Spanish campaign, this regiment performed well but was surprised, outflanked and badly cut up by British cavalry, their commander, Général de Brigade Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes, being wounded and captured.

In the war of 1812, once more under the command of the returned General Lefebvre-Desnouettes, the regiment (as with the rest of the army) lost heavily over the course of the campaign, though distinguished themselves protecting their emperor from a particularly threatening attack by Cossacks.

During the final Waterloo campaign, they formed part of the Light Cavalry Division of the Imperial Guard, numbering some 1200 sabres. Though leading the initial advance on Quatre Bras, they were not seriously engaged and suffered light losses. At Waterloo, they were deployed as part of the cavalry reserve. The Guard Chasseurs were sent in leading the 2nd wave of fruitless attacks against the Allied squares in the afternoon and thus their proud history as Napoleon’s favoured cavalry regiment would finally come to an end.

Napoleon and Marengo: The emperor Napoleon and his horse Marengo formed a partnership at the early years of his rise to power. Imported from Egypt in 1799, the small stallion was a reliable mount and was present (and occasionally wounded) in many of his campaigns during the wars between 1799 to 1815. Together they experienced the battles of Austerlitz, Jena, Wagram, amongst others, and campaigns across the continent from Spain to Russia. They faught their last battle together at Waterloo in 1815. Parted, Napoleon was sent to St Helena in the South Atlantic whilst Marengo was brought over to Ely in England and, no worse for those years campagining, he finally died at the ripe equine age of 38.

Notable Battles: Austerlitz, Wagram, Eylau, Somosierra, La Moskowa, Quatre Bras, Waterloo



The face of Napoleon

And here he is, approaching his final lick of paint, the man himself; Napoleon Bonaparte!

I still have a few things to do such as hair and the tricolour cockade in his bicorn. He looks somewhat crazed with a wild stare! I don’t usually ‘paint’ eyes because at this scale, I feel it’s more effective to ‘shade’ them. However, Italeri seem to have sculpted them larger and more distinctly than usual with this figure, so I had little option but to try. More through accident than design, I’m pleased with the result.

Napoleon’s wearing the uniform of a colonel of the Chasseurs a Cheval. He’s holding some rolled papers in one hand and his gloves in the other.

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His escort, the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Imperial Guard are nearly painted too (a couple of examples are below), so I’ll soon turn my attention to all the horses. Napoleon Bonaparte, of course, will be astride his famous Arabian grey, Marengo…

Vive l’empereur!

Baby, baby, naughty baby,
Hush, you squalling thing, I say.
Peace this moment, peace, or maybe
Bonaparte will pass this way.

Baby, baby, he’s a giant,
Tall and black as Rouen steeple,
And he breakfasts, dines, rely on’t,
Every day on naughty people.

Old British nursery rhyme

I’ve made a start on what are the final figures to be painted in my Nappy Cavalry Project. Not a regiment as such, but rather a special person and his entourage intended for the end of year parade and review. Yes, as the poem suggests, my dignitary is Napoleon Bonaparte himself, the very man who dominated Europe and gave his name to an entire series of wars at the beginning of the 19th century.

Using Italeri’s French General Staff set, I’ve chosen to also paint a handful of the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Imperial Guard, a regiment which acted as his personal guard right up to the battle of Waterloo. Indeed, such was the bond between the man and the regiment that Napoleon often wore the uniform of an officer of the Chasseurs a Cheval. Incidentally, I’ve painted Chasseurs a Cheval of the line early on in this project in April / May.

Further updates on progress to come!

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In progress: Boney is waiting to be fully revealed. He is guarded by two of his mounted Chasseurs of the Guard.



1st Carabiniers-à-Cheval [Nappy Cavalry Project Set #12]

The Carabiniers-à-Cheval, the penultimate regiment in this year’s project, have now been finished. They’ve been fun to do and have a look that is pleasingly unique. Italeri have, not for the first time, produced a terrific set with these figures. This was a set I bought ridiculously cheap a few years ago when my local hobby shop closed down, perhaps I should dedicate them to their once truly terrific model soldier department?!

Painting the Carabiniers white uniforms and their black horses was the biggest challenge. I like to think that the end result is satisfying but, looking at these pictures, I can only state that what seems to work rather well to the eye just isn’t being reproduced in photographic form. The white uniforms look too white and the black horses somehow look grey! They’re a little better than that though in ‘real life’ and you’ll just have to believe me…

As we move in to the final two months of the year, I now aim to do one more regiment, plus a final end-of-project special feature which I’ll reveal nearer the time!

Voici les Carabiniers:

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Biography: 1e Carabiniers-à-Cheval [France]

In 1679, French cavalry regiments were required to have two carbine firing specialists in each company. Some years later, these carbine-wielding marksmen were grouped into dedicated carbine companies, one for each regiment. By 1693, the next logical step was to group them all into a dedicated regiment: The Royal Regiment of Carabiniers. By the time of the Seven Years War, it was named the Royal carabiniers de monsieur le Comte de Provence, and based in Strasbourg. In 1774, they became the Carabiniers de Monsieur. Two regiments of carabiniers were appeared in 1787 and, in an evolution from their original light cavalry role, were now designated as ‘heavies’, wearing blue coats and bicorns.

By the time of the Revolutionary Wars, they were now distancing their royalist heritage and wearing tall bearskins, effectively being Horse Grenadiers for a short while. The French Ministry of War ordered that the carabiniers must always be chosen from seasoned and reliable soldiers. After losing their Horse Grenadiers title, they continued to wear bearskins (inconveniently without any chinstraps) and blue coats sporting a scarlet trim for 17 years in total.

The Carabiniers-à-Cheval featured in many campaigns for Napoleon; they fought against the Russians and Austrians at Austerlitz; and in the 1806/07 campaigns against Prussia and Russia (e.g at Friedland). In 1809, with the temporary absence of the Guard cavalry, the 1er Carabiniers Regiment formed Napoleon’s escort. During this campaign however, at Aspen-Essling and Wagram, Austrian lancers they encountered hurt the regiment sufficiently for Napoleon to decide to equip them with metal helmets and cuirasses covering both front and back. This change also stipulated the adoption of a dramatic all-white uniform and brass sheathing on the cuirass plates. On their heads was a romanesque helmet sporting a red woollen crest.

The Carabinier regiments traditionally rode on large black horses. The Russian campaign restricted the availability of horses thereafter such that other colours had to be ridden in compromise, albeit on the best mounts available. They distinguished themselves at Borodino in 1812, and later at Dresden and Leipzig in 1813. Fully engaged in the defence of France at Montmirail, Craonne and Reims, they survived the first restoration of the monarchy in 1814 mostly thanks to their traditional royalist heritage.

The regiment missed the action at Quatre Bras but at Waterloo both regiments played a part. They were attached to Kellerman’s 3rd Cavalry Corps, alongside the 2nd and 3rd Cuirassiers, each fielding a little over 400 men. For much of the day, they were inactive. In late afternoon, when Marshall Ney ordered mass cavalry attacks against the Allied squares, Kellerman specifically ordered the Carabiniers a Cheval to hold back and remain out of the carnage. Ney eventually found them sheltering in a hollow and, in a rage, ordered them to join the main cavalry attack. These fruitless charges on Mont St Jean ridge caused them heavy casualties and the defeat at Waterloo proved to be the denouement for both the regiment and its emperor.

Notable Battles: 1792: Valmy, Austerlitz, Friedland, Wagram, La Moskowa, Leipzig, Waterloo.

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Carabiniers a Cheval Progress Report

I returned from the dentist earlier this week without receiving any surgical procedure but with a promise to undergo a tooth extraction in a month’s time. In the meantime, I’ve been making steady progress to the Carabiniers a Cheval regiment. Stll things to do, mostly to the horses. I’ve made minor revisions aplenty and gradually it’s all getting close to the finish. I’ve found this an interesting challenge with those white uniforms and brass cuirasses. All that metal armour makes it feel as though I’m tackling ancients and not nappies!

After some prevarication, I’ve gone for black horses for all the figures. This will be closer to the ideal than the reality, but I like my Napoleonic cavalry regiments to look their absolute parade-ground best rather than suffering from the vicissitudes of being on a long winter campaign. It is thought by some sources that the carabiniers wore their pre-1809 blue uniform on campaign rather than their impractical white one, furthermore the difficulties of sourcing horses especially on campaign would have made the aim of having exclusively black horses a difficult one to obtain. But whilst they’re on my shelf, this regiment will parade in white uniforms mounted on black horses!

In other news, I’ve received through the post this week some more boxes of figures. Firstly, I bought at a discount some more Revell Life Guards to enable me to complete (at some point in the future) two Life Guard regiments to add to the Horse Guards recently completed. In addition, in a complete change of theme, some boxes of imperial Strelets Roman infantry also came through, which will probably be form one of the aims for my hobby next year.

Here’s a preview of the 12th regiment’s figures as they approach completion.

Carabiniers in Progress (8)

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French Carabiniers-à-Cheval

The 12th regiment in my project is already well and truly underway. After a number of figures from other manufactures (Waterloo 1815, Zvezda and Revell), I’ve chosen to return to an Italeri set with the excellent “French Heavy Cavalry”, or perhaps more accurately “French Carabiniers-à-Cheval”.

In truth, I started this set right back in May but wasn’t entirely happy with the way it was progressing, and then I got distracted by another set of figures…! But I’ve had to come back to them because they have such an astonishingly ostentatious uniform. Furthermore, I have yet to attempt a regiment in this project wearing a cuirass. With their impractical white uniform contrasting starkly with a red woollen crest, that brass cuirass with blue trim is an outrageous final flourish. It all makes for a distinctive addition to the project.

So now I’ve just got to paint it, something I wasn’t entirely comfortable doing last time. Defining details on a white uniform is always a real challenge for the figure painter. Then there’s the brass cuirass – there’s just not very much I can do with sheet metal other than add the paint! Nevertheless, they look terrific in white, red and brass and I’m enjoying painting them immensely.

A cuirass of the 2nd Carabiniers worn by the desperately unfortunate 23-year-old trooper François-Antoine Fauveau. It was gilded with brass rather than the polished iron of the cuirassiers.
A cuirass of the 2nd Carabiniers worn at Waterloo by the desperately unfortunate François-Antoine Fauveau. It was gilded with brass rather than the polished iron of the cuirassiers.

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17e Regiment De Dragons [France] (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #7)

Italeri’s French Dragoons set is quite probably the finest cavalry set they’ve ever produced. It’s quite a contrast to the severely problematic Prussian dragoon set that I tackled previously. Plastic Soldier Review gives the set a 10/10 for sculpting, losing a point only on historical accuracy due to the notable lack of muskets to some figures. Having a musket is particular important because traditionally dragoons were supposed to be a kind of ‘mounted infantry’ undertaking infantry as much as cavalry duties.

17th Regiment of Dragoons
17th Regiment of Dragoons

I chose to depict the 17th regiment as I couldn’t resist the temptation of using some pink paint for a change. How many armies go into battle in pink? Not many. I don’t have any complaints with this set, it was easy to paint and looks great. So without further ado, here’s some photos and the regimental biography.

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Biography: 17e Regiment De Dragons [France]

This line of cavalry unit was involved in almost all the campaigns of Napoleon. Created in 1743 from a joint unit of German, Polish and Saxony volunteers. During the 18th century, the 17th Dragoons were involved in the War of the Austrian Succession as well as the Seven Years War. After the French revolution in 1791, it became formally known as the 17th Regiment of Dragoons. They were involved in the iconic Battle of Valmy and campaigns throughout the revolutionary wars.

In 1800, they took part in the battle of Hohenlinden against the Austrian and Bavarian armies, ending the second coalition against Napoleon. Following campaigns against the Prussians and Russians in 1806/07 saw the 17th Dragoons fight at both Eylau and Friedland.

The regiment was then sent to Spain in June 1808, helping to capture the capital Madrid. The following year, they distinguished themselves with a notable charge led by Major Haubbensart at Coruña. Involved in the brutal battle of Albuhera during 1811, the regiment ended its Spanish campaign in 1813 after the disastrous defeat at Vitoria. They were withdrawn to join the Grand Army in Germany, assisting in the fighting retreat back to France, fighting in the battles in Troyes, Arcis sur Aube, and then Paris itself.

After Napoleon’s abdication in 1814, only fifteen dragoon regiments were retained by France. The 17th briefly was renumbered the 12th until the Hundred Days campaign where each regiment resumed its old number. Over 300 strong and under their Colonel Louis Labiffe, the 17th took part in the victory over the Prussians at Ligny. As part of Exelmans 2nd Cavalry Corps, so far as I can tell, it appears they were with Grouchy’s forces pursuing the Prussian to Wavre. With Emperor Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo taking place just a few miles away, the regiment was to be finally disbanded some time later.

Notable battles: Valmy, Austerlitz, Jena, Eylau, Moscow, Leipzig, Ligny.