Trooping the Colour and a Postcard

Some weeks ago, I posted about the depiction of women in historical military uniforms showcasing some of my modest collection of trade cards and postcards on the subject. Through my letter box has come another of my ‘Girl Soldier’ series of pre-WW1 postcards; a Life Guard!

Life Guards girl soldier (2)

This is most appropriate given that this Saturday was the day when lines of brightly coloured soldiers aren’t just seen on my painting table here at Suburban Militarism; they’re also seen on television parading for the Queen’s birthday – The Trooping of the Colour. Essential viewing for this military uniforms enthusiast!

Beats watching Game of Thrones any day, in my (eccentric) opinion.

Anyway; any viewer of the Trooping of the Colour ceremony might note that it’s not just men appearing in the parade.

The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery which is made up of nearly equal numbers of males and females. Being a ceremonial artillery unit that is mounted on horses, women undertake tasks of a mounted regiment becoming farriers, saddlers or tailors, in addition to riding the horses and operating the six 13 pounder WWI-era guns.


Certainly, the women of the King’s Troop RHA have proved themselves more than capable of performing their duties during The Trooping of the Colour. How long before we see women riding in the parade wearing the full cuirass of the Lifeguards or Blues & Royals, I wonder? Possibly in the not-too-distant future.

Girl soldier

I imagine that comic postcard illustrator Ellam would have scarcely believed it possible when he penned his “Girl Soldier” series for postcard manufacturer Ellanbee in the early years of the 20th century. It’s possible that the Girl Soldier series was intended to be absurd; ludicrous. Yet over 100 years later, women are an increasing presence in the British army latterly in combat roles and, therefore, in its ceremonial duties as well.

For now, then, the vision of a female Life Guard such as Ellam’s still remains an illustration. Or does it? Though there are no women in the Household Cavalry at present, for some time now there have been female musicians in both the Band of The Life Guards and the Band of The Blues and Royals, which come together from time to time, mounted or dismounted, as the Massed Band of The Household Cavalry and take part in the Trooping of the Colour. So the reality of the female Life Guard comes inexorably closer.

WO1 E. Freeborn, Bandmaster of the Lifeguards.
A musician in The Band of The Life Guards.

Following the appalling tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire last week, the Queen led a minute’s silence before the Trooping the Colour ceremony to remember the victims. Kensington and Chelsea council has asked the British Red Cross to help co-ordinate an appeal to support those affected and it has started an appeal to raise money. Various websites are also calling for donations, including the London Evening Standard Dispossessed fund, which has already raised over £1m. JustGiving also has a page specifically for firefighters.



British Cavalry Uniforms of the 19th Century: The 2nd Life Guards

A series of regular blog posts displaying images from “British Cavalry Uniforms of the 19th Century”; a set of trade cards issued by Badshah Tea Co. of London in 1963. 

#15: The 2nd Life Guards

“Charles II formed the Duke of Albermale’s Troop of Life Guards in 1660. In 1788 they became the 2nd Life Guards and in 1922 they were amalgamated with the 1st Life Guards. Our illustration shows an officer in full dress of the Waterloo period.”

Officer, 2nd Life Guards (c.1805)

Sites of interest about the 2nd Life Guards:

National Army Museum page on the 14th Light Dragoons (who later became the 12th Royal Lancers).

My painted versions of the 1st Life Guards wearing Waterloo-era uniforms from the Nappy Cavalry Project.

The Household Cavalry Museum website.

British Cavalry Uniforms of the 19th Century: 1st Life Guards

A series of regular blog posts displaying images from “British Cavalry Uniforms of the 19th Century”; a set of trade cards issued by Badshah Tea Co. of London in 1963. Appropriately, given my recent efforts at painting them, this one features the Life Guards in their uniform used after Waterloo.

#5: The 1st Life Guards

“This illustration shows an officer of the Life Guards in the full dress uniform worn at the Coronation of George IV. The present day style with the plumed helmet did not come into use until the 1870s.”

Officer, Life Guards (c.1821).
Sites of interest about the Life Guards:

National Army Museum page on the Life Guards.

Household Cavalry Regiment website; a “labour of love — intended to be
of help to (and about) the Regiment”.

Site of the Household Cavalry Museum in Horse Guards, Whitehall, London. (One day, I WILL visit this too…)

British Army’s own web page on the Life Guards, still a functioning regiment to this day.

And, of course, there’s my own Waterloo-era Life Guards figures painted recently!

1st Life Guards (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #18)

My list of Nappy Cavalry Project regiments grows ever longer! In my recent post, I bemoaned my disaster with varnishing the figures. Essentially, what happened was that I was delighted with my horses up until I applied my usually reliable varnish coat. Something has tainted the varnish and the effect was to make my horses too shiny, too dark and to obliterate any shading details. Needless to say, I was a tad unhappy. A coat of fresh varnish has dulled the shine a little but the loss of subtle detail seems terminal.

Oh well, they will have to do. They are pleasing enough, just not quite as good as I felt they would have been…

1st Life Guards (c.1815)

I’ve painted this set before as the Royal Horse Guards, of course and this set by Revell really is a terrific sculpt. The delicacy of the detail makes things tricky for the painter but ultimately rewards the patience needed to tackle it (varnishing horrors notwithstanding).



Mark Adkin’s magnificent “Waterloo Companion” book states that the Life Guards were mounted on “large, black horses with manes brushed to the left to distinguish them from the Blues who brushed them to the right.” The manes appear to be brushed to the right of the horse, which makes them correct for Horse Guards but not ironically for Life Guards as stated on the box!

Anyway; enough pedantry, here are the photos:

Biography: 1st Life Guards [Great Britain]

This prestigious regiment has its origins in March 1660, King Charles II appointed Officers to three Troops of Horse Guards with the express intention that they protect the royal person. They saw action in wars against the Dutch and in the Monmouth Rebellion at the battle of Sedgemoor. In the 18th Century, the Horse Guards served in the Jacobite rebellions and the War of the Austrian Succession.

By 1788, only the 1st and 2nd troops remained in existence and, along with the two troops of Horse Grenadier Guards, were reorganised into two regiments; the 1st and 2nd Regiments of Life Guards. The 1st Life Guards fought in the Peninsular War and were present at the Hundred Days campaign, when they were attached to Wellington’s Household Brigade of heavy cavalry (alongside the Royal Horse Guards, the King’s Dragoon Guards and their sister regiment, the 2nd Life Guards).

The 1st LG got the chance to taste action prior to the battle of Waterloo in the torrential rain of the 17th June, skilfully assisting Wellington’s withdrawal after Quatre Bras. In one incident, they came to the aid of British light cavalry by successfully counter-charging French Lancers. Losses were light and they took to the field the next day with 255 sabres.

On the field of Waterloo, they were positioned with the rest of the brigade to the west of the road to Brussels. At 2:20pm, the 1st Life Guards and King’s Dragoon Guards charged the advancing French cuirassiers numbering some 780 sabres and, after some minutes of intense melee, routed them. Losses were heavy in the battle and their commanding officer Lt.Col. Ferrior was mortally wounded after allegedly leading the regiment in up to 11 charges throughout the battle. Assisting the great victory with such gallantry only added to the fame and honour of the prestigious 1st cavalry regiment of the British Army.

The 1st Life Guards merged with the 2nd Life Guards in 1922 to form a single regiment; the “Life Guards”, a regiment which remains in service even today.

Battle Honours: Dettingen, Peninsula, Waterloo.



Someone has blundered…

Disaster, if that’s not a gross hyperbole, has struck more than once at Suburban Militarism this week. Let me explain;

“Urghh. What a week…”

Firstly, I took a day off work and planned a Suburban Militarism Day Trip on the train to visit the Staffordshire Yeomanry Museum. My train was approaching the station bang on time when it suddenly stopped just short. Apparently an unfortunate incident on the train (a passenger being sadly taken ill) meant a long delay and it only rolled up to the platform when 25 mins late. All of which meant that I would now undoubtedly miss my connection to Stafford! I trudged home dejectedly…

“Where’s my train?”

My second disaster struck only last night. I had just finished my Life Guards horses and, feeling pretty pleased with them, I was ready to apply my trusty Daler Rowney matt varnish.

Unfortunately, my beloved Daler Rowney has sadly let me down! Instead of the crisp matt, I’ve now got a satin finish; gloss even. Worse; it seems to have made them appear darker. The fine shading details are totally lost and the shiny horses look terrible! I’m at a loss to explain why my varnish has so suddenly ‘gone bad’, but even a second coat after much more stirring has done nothing but made it worse. I’m not sure it will be retrievable even with a fresh pot of varnish. Needless to say, after all the hard work – (and these Revell Life Guards really were hard work) – I’m gutted.

“Arrrgh! Noooo…my Varnish!”

What makes a trusted varnish go bad? Age? Answers on a postcard, please. Or even in the comments section of this blog. I’ll have another go when a fresh pot of varnish arrives through the mail and I will post the results; good or bad…

Ho hum. On a brighter note at least, I’ve at least been finishing off some more of my Quiberon Expedition figures; specifically, the Royal Louis Regiment. Pictures to follow (varnishing dramas aside).

Royal Louis
Lymington Museum depiction of the Royal Louis Regt.


Revell Life Guards update

No waffle – here’s how my Revell Life Guards are looking (sorry, photos seem a bit dark!). The horses will be next under the brush.

Oh, maybe just a little waffle, then. I’ve been looking through my trade cards and found an album of cards by non-cigarette brands. After the Second World War, as the production of card sets by tobacco manufacturers waned, confectioners and tea brands seem to have taken up the practice in their place. The artwork seldom seemed to have matched the fine quality of pre-war sets, but some were attractive nonetheless.

Being a prestigious and well-known regiment, the Life Guards featured regularly. Here’s a selection I’ve found just in my own collection:

Life Painting: Revell Life Guards

Last year, as part of 2015’s Nappy Cavalry Project, I painted some Revell Life Guards. Being somewhat contrary, for that particular project I chose to paint them as their sister regiment in the Household Division; the Royal Horse Guards (aka The Blues) – which you can view here. I enjoyed painting them so much that I immediately resolved to paint the remainder of the box as Life Guards too, possibly at some point in 2016.

Revell Royal Horse Guards
Royal Horse Guards (The Blues)

So that’s exactly what I’m now doing…

Early stages of painting: Lots still to do, including their grubby faces!

I’d forgotten just how tricky these Revell guys are to do. Some of the detail is really tiny, and it seems especially so after painting Strelets figures. Already, I’ve gone through a number of troughs of doubt as to how they are progressing, convinced I need to re-do this or that, or even contemplating completely starting again. Hopefully, they’ll all turn out okay in the end!

Even though they are still in the early stages of paintwork, it’s interesting to compare the figures with their Royal Horse Guard versions from last year (see below).


Updates on my progress to follow in due course!

Blue Notes

Nearly finished those Royal Horse Guard riders and so I’m now looking to start work on their horses. These Revell guys are certainly tricky, there’s not much sculpting detail to hang my paint on, so I have to be steady with my brush. That said, I do really like them and all that hard work seems to have paid dividends.

There’s some considerable disagreement in the internet world about how they were exactly supposed to look in 1815. As always, I do aim for historical accuracy but where there is any doubt, I’m more than happy to opt for whatever I like the look of best.

It’s just a coincidence that I’m now painting the Blues when I’ve only just recently painted the Royals. These two grand old regiments merged in 1969 to form the Blues and Royals, whose troopers can commonly be seen in London – still dressed in their blue coats – when performing ceremonial duties as part of the queen’s personal bodyguard.

Here’s how they are progressing:

Royal Horse Guards (7)

Royal Horse Guards (4)

Royal Horse Guards (2)

Royal Horse Guards (3)