‘Loos’ Ends

Following on from a post earlier this year, I came into a snippet of further information regarding John Neal, which I thought I’d share. He was a soldier in the 2nd Battalion Leicestershire Regiment during the Great War, being my great-uncle and brother to my paternal grandmother.

This extra information came in the form of a copy of his medal roll, demonstrating that he was entitled to the Victory Medal, the British War Medal and the 1914 Star. This trio of medals was commonly awarded to the early participants in the war and collectively were wryly known as “Pip, Squeak and Wilfred” (after a popular newspaper cartoon of the day).

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Pip, Squeek and Wilfred. The medal roll for John T. Neal, 2nd Leics Regt. Under remarks he is still listed as officially missing and “Pres Dead”.

The 1914 Star was a medal only awarded to men of the British and Indian Expeditionary Forces who had served in France or Belgium between Britain’s declaration of war on the 4th August 1914 and the end of the First Battle of Ypres, 23rd November 1914. This confirms that John Neal was not one of Kitchener’s new army of volunteers as I had speculated in the previous post. Instead, he was likely to have been one of the first troops in France, a member of the so-called ‘Old Contemptibles‘ (that is to say a man who was already a serving regular soldier with the BEF at the beginning of the war, or had joined up very early on). He was therefore likely to have been considered a well-trained veteran when he died in September 1915, not some green volunteer fresh out from basic training in England.

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Gallagher cigarette card featuring Pte Buckingham VC

As part of the Garhwal Brigade in the Indian Corps, the 2nd Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment had taken part in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915. The battle was a costly success for the British army and a private from the 2 / Leicestershire won a Victoria Cross that day. Private William Buckingham enlisted in 1901 aged 15, serving in India and Egypt with the battalion, and was therefore a very experienced soldier at the inception of the war. Private Buckingham’s citation reads:

For conspicuous acts of bravery and devotion to duty in rescuing and rendering aid to the wounded whilst exposed to heavy fire, especially at Neuve-Chapelle on 10th and 12th March 1915.

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Pte Buckingham VC on his return from the front alongside boys from his former children’s home in Countesthorpe, Leicester.

He was wounded in the chest and convalesced back in Britain. Though he could have spent the remainder of the war recruiting and training new troops, he chose to return to the front and died in the later stages of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Being in the same battalion, it is entirely possible that my relative and Private Buckingham will have known each other.

Returning to my great-uncle John Neal’s medal document, it wrongly lists his rank as ‘Private’, instead of Lance Corporal. Under the remarks section, he is “presumed dead”. Yet, from the information listed on the re-interment form of the same year (1920), it shows that he was at last belatedly identified by means of the discovery of an identity disc. The British Army introduced these identity discs, replacing previous identity cards, in 1907. They were made out of aluminium with the soldier’s basic details being pressed into the thin metal one letter at a time.

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British army aluminium identity disc of the kind which helped identify John Neal’s body.

The disc would have included his initial and surname, details of his regiment, and crucially his army number – 8666. John Neal was relatively fortunate in that regard; at least his body was identified via that identity disc. Of the 8500 soldiers killed on the first day of the Battle of Loos, incredibly barely 2000 have a known grave.

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‘Over the top’ at the battle of Loos, 1915.

The writer and poet Robert Graves was one of those also present at the Battle of Loos, his first experience of battle which he called “a bloody balls up”!

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A haunted look on Robert Graves face following the action at Loos.

In his book, Goodbye to All That, an appalled Graves tells the following anecdote of an officer advancing at Loos.

“When his platoon had run about twenty yards, he signalled them to lie down and open covering fire. The din was tremendous. He saw the platoon on the left flopping down too, so he whistled the advance again. Nobody seemed to hear. He jumped up from his shell-hole and waved and signalled ‘Forward.’ Nobody stirred.”

“He shouted, ‘you bloody cowards, are you leaving me to go alone?’ His platoon-sergeant, groaning with a broken shoulder, gasped out….

‘Not cowards, sir. Willing enough. But they’re all fucking dead!'”

Apart from John Neal, there was another notable death that day on the 25th September 1915 at Loos. The son of another famous writer, Rudyard Kipling. John Kipling was one of those who, like John Neal, was ‘presumed dead’ while missing in action. Unlike my great-uncle John, however, John Kipling was not found with his identity disc. However, many years later in 1992, the body of an unknown soldier was finally identified as being John following careful research, despite the continued absence of his metal disc. This caused his identity to be disputed by some historians until finally it was positively confirmed as bring John Kipling as late as 2016.

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John Kipling

Rudyard Kipling was devastated at the loss of his only son, having been instrumental in securing his commission through his high-level personal contacts in the army, when severe short-sightedness had already prevented John from joining up in either the navy or the army. Kipling Senior later elected to be closely involved in the Imperial War Graves Commission, the body which had ultimately re-interred soldiers such as John Neal into newly established cemeteries. Many, many years later, it would also do the same for his son.

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Rudyard Kipling

In his commission role, Kipling contributed to the liturgy of remembrance with his choice of biblical phrase “Their name liveth for evermore” on the stones of remembrance; the phrase “The Glorious Dead” which appears on the Cenotaph in London; and he even suggested the phrase “A Soldier of the Great War – Known unto God” which appears on the graves of unidentified servicemen – including, for many years and with great poignancy, that upon the headstone of his unidentified son.

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John Kipling – 3rd from left. His severe myopia is made evident in this photo from the reflection on his spectacles.

Kipling also worked with Winston Churchill to ensure that all of the gravestones of the soldiers were the same shape and size, regardless of rank. Thanks to this, Lance Corporal Neal and Lieutenant Kipling, both casualties of the 25th September 1915, both belatedly identified, have gravestones which differ only in inscription.

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18 year old John Kipling’s grave.
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A Sad Loss at Loos

I received some interesting information yesterday regarding the brother of my paternal grandmother. This man, John Neal, was part of a family tree recently researched by my mother and going as far back as his namesake, another John Neal(e) born in 1654. The John Neal that caught my attention had apparently died on 25th September 1915, as Lance Corporal J T Neal of the 2nd Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment.

I did a little on-line research and noticed that the date of his death coincided with the first day of the Battle of Loos. Further research confirmed that the 2nd Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment was indeed part of the attacking force (see below) and I assumed that he was one of the casualties of this battle.

LCPL Neal

You will notice that he was part of the Indian Corps, Meerut Division, “The Garwal Brigade” serving alongside Gurkhas and the commander was a Brigadier General Blackader. Leicester has a long shared history with India, the city today being home to a large Indian population. The regiment’s nickname “The Tigers” is a reference to the considerable time it spent in India. It seems that this connection continued into the First World War. The Garwhal Rifles, the 8th and 9th Gurkhas all remain Indian army regiments to this day.

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British machine gunners in action at Loos, 1915.

The Battle of Loos (pronounced loss in French) was a terrible slaughter for the British army. The French pronunciation of “Loss” here seems somehow grotesquely appropriate to anglophones for this dreadfully wasteful encounter of human life. The battle was notable for being the first time that the British deployed poison gas. It was also a test of Kitchener’s new volunteer army (“Lord Kitchener Needs You”) and I suspect that my relative John Neal could have been one such volunteer.

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Ghostly figures of British infantry advance through a gas cloud at Loos, 1915. Photograph believed to have been taken by a soldier.

However, I then discovered that the 2nd Battalion Leicestershire Regiment was actually involved not in the main battle that day on the 25th September, but took part in a diversionary attack at Pietre in support of Loos, instead. The British Commander in Chief, Sir John French said of this action:

“The Indian Corps attacked the Moulin du Pietre… These attacks started at daybreak and were at first successful all along the line. Later in the day the enemy brought up strong reserves, and after hard fighting and variable fortunes the troops engaged in this part of the line reoccupied their original trenches at nightfall. They succeeded admirably, however, in fulfilling the role allotted to them, and in holding large numbers of the enemy away from the main attack.”

So, I therefore assume that my ancestor was killed at some point during the day’s fighting at Pietre, drawing German troops away from the main action at Loos. Ironically, even the slaughter at Loos itself was only really another supporting action to the large French attack in the 3rd Battle of Artois. Such was the scale of the mass killing on the Western Front.

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The Guards Cemetery, France, where my ancestor is buried, very near to the Great Cross visible in the background.

Lance Corporal Neal’s is buried in the Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy in northern France. This cemetery is on a site once used at the front as a dressing station and HQ by the army (near to a crossroads known to the British as Windy Corner).

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Written in red pen on the interment sheet, 2 / Leicestershire Regt, No.8666 Neal, Pte J. He lies next to a Lt of the Royal Irish Rifles who was apparently belatedly identified.
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Plot IX, Row G. No. 5. – right in front of the Great Cross.

Like many soldiers, his body was exhumed from elsewhere and moved to be consolidated with others in the Windy Corner cemetery early in 1920. When he was taken from the original location, the means of identity was listed as being a ‘disc’. It sounds like his identification was fortunate as most others appearing on the same reburial form, and therefore alongside him in the cemetery, were listed simply as being “unknown soldiers”.

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It seems quite a pleasant spot, John Neal’s grave, surrounded by fields and trees. It would be nice and very appropriate to visit one day, I think.

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HM 17th Regiment of Infantry

I’ve now finished the 17th Regiment of Foot for the 2017 Benno’s Figures Forum Great Miniature Figures Parade. Lots of detail on the figures required lots of careful work. Thankfully. I had lots of time these past few days and only a few chores, furthermore I’ve really enjoyed painting them. The RedBox figures are very impressive, perhaps not the greatest I’ve ever seen, but with lots of character and crisp detail nonetheless!

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RedBox is to be also commended for tackling the topic of the mid-18th century British army. This era was incredibly important for British infantry as it began to learn how to fight in conflicts right across the globe for the first time in its history. From the Carnatic Wars in India, to the French & Indian War in North America; from the port of Havana, to the coast of West Africa; and from the Philippines in Asia, to Silesia in Europe, the British army was soon to find itself pre-eminent on a global scale (although the American War of Independence was around the corner…). It seems unjust that figures on this era remain very few indeed at 1/72 scale.

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Sergeants, drummer and flag bearer of the 17th.

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I’ve bought a few boxes of these RedBox figures and I intend to keep dipping into it to build up a force in time. For now, my 17th Regiment (just like their real forbears) are also about to travel for service overseas. Instead of North America or the West Indies, however, the are making for Germany. There they will be incorporated into a parade diorama by a talented fellow called Jan and then to ultimately make their way with the rest of the marching force over to Arnhem in Holland for display at the FIGZ convention!

Finally, on a related topic, I draw your attention to a US re-enactment group who are dedicated to bringing to life the “The 17th Regiment of Foot” as they were at the time of the American War of Independence (a decade or so later than the era depicted with my figures). Their excellent website states that it was;

“…established in the early 2000’s with the mission is to provide for its members and the public the experiences of the common British soldier throughout the conflict, and more specifically at historic sites from the Hudson River Valley to Virginia.”

In particular, they have an excellent study of the regiment’s finest hour at the battle of Princeton and in the successful defence of a baggage train, both against overwhelming odds. They conclude:

“Their conduct at Princeton and at many other battles throughout the American War made the 17th Regiment one of the truly outstanding British units of the war.. “

And this Leicester man says”hear, hear” to that!

Romaika, 1772 and a Hunting Call

This is a progress report on those RedBox figures I’m painting for the Bennos Figures Forum Group Build 2017. The theme this year is for marching figures which represent the painter’s local area or country. For my part, I’m submitting 18th century British infantry figures painted as the 17th Regiment of Foot, which later became The Leicestershire Regiment.

There’s a lot of details on these figures and they’re not an easy paint. My approach is to just have fun and do the best I can. And the are fun to paint, despite the challenging detail. I’m hoping to paint the regimental flag (now that will be tricky!) and a drummer too. Aside from the contemporary painting by David Morier, I’ve been aided by the detailed description of the regiment at the time of the 7 Years War provided on the Kronskaf website. Inevitably, I’ve had to make some compromises due to the figure’s sculpting and scale, (not to say my abilities) but hopefully it will still provide a reasonable portrayal.

Today, I’ve added the ‘greyish white’ cuffs and turnbacks, the former being lined with a delicate blue edge. I’ve worked hard on that greyish white colour – not that you’ll be able to tell the difference from white on these photos! Here’s how they are looking so far, with lots of details still to attend to…

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So why have I called this post “Romaika, 1772 and the Hunting Call”?

Well, I thought it would be nice to provide a musical accompaniment to the images of these figures; specifically I mean some of the regimental marches associated with the Leicestershire Regiment of which “1772”, “The Hunting Call” and “Romaika” are but three. The Royal Leicestershire Regiment website has this to say on this trio of quick marches.

This combination of three tunes has been in use since at least the beginning of the 20th Century: ‘Romaika’ is believed to be a Greek country dance tune and was authorised in 1882. ‘1772’ was an adaptation from an old English air of that period. ‘A Hunting Call’ is an old Leicestershire hunting song, originally used by The Leicestershire Militia.

Leicestershire is indeed renown, in England at least, for being a traditional fox hunting county which would explain the presence of the latter tune (formerly of the county’s militia). On YouTube, the Coldstream Guards can be heard playing these three Leicestershire Regiment marching tunes. Considering it includes a tune dating from ‘1772’ – what better music could there be to listen to whilst painting figures of the 17th Regiment from the very same period?

 

The Men that Fought at Minden

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The men that fought at Minden, they ‘ad buttons up an’ down,
Two-an’-twenty dozen of ’em told;
But they didn’t grouse an’ shirk at an hour’s extry work,
They kept ’em bright as gold.
Rudyard Kipling, Barrack Room Ballads, 1895

Now my Russian Cuirassiers have joined their mounted colleagues in the Nappy Cavalry Project, I can now at last turn my attention to my figures intended for the BFFGMFP.

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RedBox British infantry. Note the drummer wearing light grey at the front.

These marching figures are from RedBox’s British Infantry of the 1745 Culloden campaign. The box information suggests that these figures are suitable for campaigns stretching from the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion right through to the 7 Years War (1756-63). A fellow figure painter on Benno’s Figures Forum indicated he was interested in the battle of Minden in particular and it got me thinking of the Kipling poem at the top of this post. (No chart hits for me going through my mind of a morning as I take the bus to work – it’s Rudyard Kipling!)

But this post isn’t about Minden, or even Rudyard Kipling either. It’s not even about Richard Simkin, late-19th century military artist and painter of the Battle of Minden depicted at the top of this post. Instead it’s about David Morier, an Anglo-Swiss painter of the 18th century. My painting guide below for the BFFGMFP comes from Morier’s own illustration of the 17th Regiment of Foot, circa 1750:

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Private, 17th Regt. by David Morier c.1750s.

The regiment that I’m painting will be based on this contemporary image of the 17th Regiment of Foot. In 1751, the British army regiments became numbered in order of seniority. Prior to that date, it was the custom for regiments to be simply named after its colonel. At the time of the 1751 change, the 17th was known as ‘Wynyard’s Regiment of Foot’. The 17th Foot later became known as The Leicestershire Regiment (after my home county).

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Morier’s portrait of his patron, the Duke of Cumberland

Morier’s paintings were made under the patronage of the then Commander-in-Chief of the British army; The Duke of Cumberland (aka ‘Butcher’ to his opponents). David Morier carefully depicted many regiments in Cumberland’s army at the time, as well as some landscape paintings including perhaps his most well-known work; “An Incident in the Rebellion of 1745” (presumably catchy titles weren’t his strong point). This painting happens to be the box art used on the cover of the RedBox figures I’m painting for BFFGMFP!

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The Battle of Culloden, oil on canvas, David Morier, 1746.

The Duke of Cumberland was the son of King George II. Despite his victory at Culloden, he rarely showed any great skill at generalship and his general incompetence in the 7 Years War led to his removal from command, notwithstanding his regal position. With Cumberland’s demise, David Morier had lost his patron. He nonetheless exhibited equestrian portraits throughout the 1760s. Like myself, it seems that Morier was a prolific painter of cavalry! Here are some examples of his regimental cavalry paintings:

Tragically, he later fared rather badly – possibly as a consequence of the decline in royal patronage, ending up in London’s notoriously foul Fleet prison for debtors where he died in 1770, aged 65.

By 1760, the year of the Battle of Minden, the Duke of Cumberland had already been removed from command and David Morier was embarking on his (presumably unprofitable) equestrian exhibitions for the Society of Artists. However, ‘the men that fought at Minden’ would have still looked much as Morier had carefully depicted them some years before.

Hopefully, I can do his paintings some justice with my own figures. With all that scary detail on the figures though, I’m feeling none too confident at the moment!

The BFFGMFP…

It’s that time of year when a German gentleman named Jan from Benno’s Figures Forum announces the theme for this year’s ‘Group Build’; a collaboration in which Forum contributors from across Europe, nay – the world, collate their figures for display at the FIGZ convention in Arnhem. It is officially known as (take a deep breath) the Bennos Figures Forum Great Miniature Figures Parade (BFFGMFP)!!!

Last year, I sent some WWII Dutch cyclists and Napoleonic Dutch Infantry to join the many entertaining scenes of historical figures travelling “on the road to Arnhem”. In 2015, I sent four figures (including a Scots Grey, a Hanoverian Hussar, a Prussian Jager and a Nassau Grenadier) to join a large diorama commemorating the 200th anniversary of Waterloo. Importantly, two of these figures were Napoleonic cavalry, which kick-started my ongoing Nappy Cavalry Project…

For this year, the idea is to assemble a huge column of marching figures. The figures involved can be from any historical period and the intention is to build up a parade which travels through all the ages. We’ve been encouraged to paint a unit from our own countries or regions and with this in mind, I’ve come up with the following idea:

This year, my contribution will be –

The 17th Regiment of Foot, circa 1740!

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Soldier of the 17th Regiment, 1742 (contemporary print)

The “17th Regiment of Foot” became the “17th (Leicestershire) Regiment of Foot” in 1782, and then simply “The Leicestershire Regiment” following the Childers Reforms of 1881. Being a Leicestershire man myself, this certainly fulfils the brief to send figures representing my own country or region.

The figures I’m going to use have been lying around unpainted for a couple of years now. The figures are from Ukrainian manufacturer RedBox, specifically their British Infantry (Jacobite Rebellion 1745) set. It contains lots of marching figures, perfect for the BFFGMFP! Not having painted any RedBox figures before, I’m keen to try them out. At first glance, without being worthy of the description ‘sublime’, I’d say their figures look promising.

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RedBox British Infantry (c.1745)
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On the march: Leicestershire joins the “BFFGMFP”

I have until May to produce my contribution of what I hope will be around 15-20 figures, so there’s plenty of time. I have other things demanding my attention in the meantime. I’m still putting together the next post in my equine painting tutorial as I develop my Russian Cuirassier horses, hopefully this should be posted in the coming week, work duties allowing.

Bye for now!

Marvin.

Leicestershire Intervention Force

After having a go at some of those Strelets Romans, I quickly got distracted and turned my attention to a half-dozen figures that I’d begun earlier in 2015 but which had been abandoned due to the demands of the Nappy Cavalry Project.

These figures are line infantrymen marching from the Perry Miniatures 1861 British Intervention Force range. The force was ready to ‘intervene’ at a time of heightening tensions between the United States and Great Britain after two Confederate commissioners were seized from a British mail ship they were aboard (the Trent) by a US vessel. Hostilities between the two countries were thankfully avoided although 1000s of British troops, such as these figures, had already been sent to Canada in readiness.

I’ve painted them in a more casual way than of late and it only took about a week. They are larger than my usual 20mm scale, being 28mm. Painting at a different scale I think requires a different painting technique. What works at 20mm just might not look right at 28mm. So I was out of my comfort zone and approached these figures in the spirit of experimentation. At one point in a fit of frustration, I abandoned all the careful shading and highlighting I’d applied to the tunics (which looked terrible) and just slapped on lots of the basecoat intending to start again. But there I left it and the end result is what you see and which I’m reasonably happy with for a first effort. Problem is: I’m just not sure how I did it!

It’s also the first time that I’ve painted metal since about 2011 when I was slapping paint fairly crudely onto some Prince August 25mm figures cast at home from moulds and metal ingots. These figures are excellent and the larger scale allows for more detail (and painting mistakes) to be seen. The early-Victorian British army is one of my favourite topics but seems to be generally overlooked by model soldier manufacturers, so these figures are a hit with me.

I’ve painted them up as (more or less) my local Leicestershire regiment, the 17th (not that I’m aware they were even present in Canada in 1861). And here’s how they’ve turned out,