Sleigh Ride

Recently, I’ve enjoyed getting the fake snow out for basing my Christmas Artillery figures and as the temperature drops here in the UK and December looms, it’s the perfect time of the year to do it, too.

In December of last year I added to my growing contingent of Strelets French army figures marching through the snow. I’ve just painted another dozen men to add to this already large group and am now planning to add something extra too to it too. This snowy retreat from Moscow will now include “Strelets French Army Sledge Train 1“, set.

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Strelets produced four separate sets of sledge trains back in 2015, two for the French army and two for the Russians. Needless to say, as these sets are depicting Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow in 1812, the Russians are looking decidedly healthier and better equipped on their sledges than their French counterparts! 

 So, let’s take a look at the figures in the box:

First of all – the sledge with its horse in harness. The sledge is a simple wooden affair on skis, as you might expect. Strelets have depicted a suitably thin horse with plenty of bones on display, suggesting that the hardships were not confined to the men. Often, I find Strelets horses too bulky and stocky – one of the reasons no Strelets cavalry set has ever found its way into the Nappy Cavalry Project. This starving horse brings the anatomy pleasingly into more believable proportions.

The sledge is drawn by an emaciated horse in harness.

The driver below looks like a lancer of the guard who has fortunately purloined a warm coat from somewhere. There’s a real problem as to where to put him as he appears to be sculpted to sit on something but the sledge unfortunately does not come with an armchair! I’ll work something out, maybe I’ll have him standing but in crouching position?

The driver

The set also comes with walking stragglers. The figures are very pleasingly old-style Strelets, which is to say each figure is full of great character and eccentric attention to detail. Recent sculpting is more refined but lacks a degree of personality.

  • Below Left: Appears to be a Chassuer a Cheval of the guard  who unsurprisingly has chosen to wear his fur-lined pelisse to keep out the cold. He is also an amputee, leaning on a crutch. His chances of hopping the 1000km from Moscow back to Vilnius are slim, I’d imagine!
  • Below centre: This poor fellow ‘s helmet suggests he is a dragoon. The blanket around his shoulders looks inadequate for a Russian winter. His bare feet puts his chances of survival very low indeed.
  • Below right: Like the sledge driver, this man wears a polish czapka suggesting he might be a soldier of the Polish legion, or simply an infantryman wearing any discarded head protection he can find. Uninjured and with a long coat, my money is on him being the most likely of the trio to get home.
Having one leg or bare feet was not a recipe for survival on the long retreat through the Russian winter…

The fellow below has two burdens to carry through the snow; a drum and a small drummer boy clinging to his shoulders. It’s a touching idea and one that reminds us that children and families also accompanied the French army and shared in the appalling suffering of the retreat.

There’s always one who seems to look after himself while everyone else suffers. This man is lucky enough to be riding in the sledge. He also has a very warm fur coat and a pair of fur lined peasant boots. A hat and hood protect his head and he appears to have glasses or even goggles. Instead of a child, he cradles a barrel of something alcoholic to keep out the cold. He also has a handy seat in the form of a locked casket which, presumably, contains food or even money with which to buy all the best winter clothing!

This chap has the right idea – wearing a fur coat and riding in the sledge.

Riding next to him in the sledge is an officer, identifiable by his cocked hat. The officer is again fortunate, no doubt thanks to his rank, to have a full length coat and a ride in the sledge.

The cocked hat of the officer – a man abusing his position to ride the sledge!

So that is a preview of the sledge occupants and stragglers accompanying the column of French infantry I’ve been building up in recent years. Hopefully, now well under way with just a few figures to paint I should be able to update on my progress soon.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of light music to accompany the post, though I’m not entirely sure Leroy Anderson had Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow in his mind when he composed “Sleigh Ride”…

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Polish Infantry on the March

I’ve now finally completed my 20 figures of Strelets’ Polish Napoleonic Infantry! I decided that it would be fun to place them in a mini diorama, marching wearily along some muddy country lane, mud on their boots and trousers.

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They are the 12th Infantry Regiment, which wore the usual dark blue coat (called a kurtka) but were distinguished in the Polish army by their unique yellow collars.

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I think they look rather impressive and a clear improvement on many of their figures from the past.

I’m already working on the rest of the box; 24 figures which include the four command figures (flag bearer, officer, NCO and drummer). This will be the 13th Regiment. Being a chap that always likes to paint something a little different to keep me interested, I’ve selected this regiment because (unique amongst Napoleonic Polish infantry) they wore white uniforms. These were in fact captured Austrian infantry uniforms which sported a fetching light blue colour for the lapels, collars and cuffs.

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13th Regiment, Polish Legion.

With 24 figures to paint, it will take me a fair while to get them finished. I’m enjoying my painting however, so it’s not a chore. The white uniforms are already done and I will be adding some light blue for the facings next. I’ll post an update once I’ve got something decent to share!

I like my military music, so I’ll sign off with a video of Polish Army Band marching through London in 2015 wearing dark blue uniforms and Czapka helmets similar to their Napoleonic ancestors that I’m painting.

Bye for now,

Marvin

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Strelets French Infantry on the March

After a very satisfactory Christmas Day with my family, I’ve enjoyed a bracing Boxing Day walk in the hills. Sitting back with a glass of iced single malt, I’ve been surveying the embarrassingly high number of model soldier kits which have been bought for me as Christmas presents. More details on these will no doubt feature in forthcoming posts…

The holiday has allowed me time to do plenty of figure painting already and I’ve (somewhat astonishingly) completed my large group of Strelets’ French Infantry on the March.

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It has been an interesting process, returning to paint Strelets figures again. Being nearly two years since my last serious Strelets painting, I had forgotten how different an experience it is when compared to figures from other manufacturers.  Furthermore, my painting style has developed and consequently I’ve had to rethink how to approach these figures.

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Being less ‘pretty’ and refined than other figures, it’s a different aesthetic. Strelets figures look their best in larger groups rather than showcased individuals. This marching cohort is perfect for showing off Strelets. Their chunkier figures make for clearer details when seen from a distance, ‘en masse’. Incidentally, newly released Strelets figures appear to be sculpted to an increasingly refined standard than with these early French infantrymen.

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Although, it’s been a challenge at times and involved some repainting, I’ve been really enjoying the process. As a result, I intend to paint some more Strelets figures which have just come through as Christmas presents!

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Now, I wonder if I get even more figures for my birthday, tomorrow…?

 

In the Bleak Midwinter…

Just as the snow outside has at last thawed to an icy slush, indoors I’ve been adding my own fake snow to some figures. Those Strelets French Napoleonic infantrymen on the march, which have for so long been awaiting basing, are now ankle-deep in the white stuff. I’ve also just decided to cut off any fixed bayonets in order to make them a little more uniform, though they’re still showing in these pics.

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Their brethren, meanwhile, all 26 of them, are having their greatcoats painted. I’m struggling to get the coats to a similar shade as that painted two years ago, they should look closer in colour than in these photos but regardless I’m just going to go for it. Different shades can only add to that wonderfully shabby look with its patched up clothing.

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And they will certainly need those coats in this bleak midwinter…

Snow Business

Ice and snow have come early this year. It’s a phenomenon which is more usually seen over here in January or February, rather than a whole fortnight before winter solstice. With my Christmas cavalry now taking their place with the other seasonal decorations, I’d been wondering what to turn my brush to next when a glance through the window at the winter scene outside gave me an idea…

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The snowy scene near my home this week.

Back in early 2015, I found myself painting 18 marching French infantrymen with a view to submitting one of them to the Benno’s Figures Forum Waterloo group project. The figures were from two (seemingly now largely unavailable) Napoleonic sets by Strelets; “French Infantry on the March” and “French Infantry in Advance“. Both sets feature Napoleon’s finest on the march in greatcoats and these two sets combined supplied a whopping 24 unique poses simply depicting men walking with muskets!

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Strelets French marching infantry in greatcoats. Just £2.50 plus a BOGOF offer?! Ah, Dominoes model shop – you are so very sadly missed…

The style is typical Strelets and figure painters tend to either like them or hate them. Me? I appreciated the campaign-worn, ragtag look to the men. I also rather liked their more characterful style which livens up the process of producing lots of figures ultimately doing exactly the same thing – simply marching.

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You will notice from the photos above that I never got around to basing them. The snow-covered landscape outside has given me the inspiration to mimic the Strelets box art depicting them on the march in the snow (presumably in the Russian winter).

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On the march in the snow: Strelets box art.

Having located the required boxes and prepared 14 more figures for paint, I subsequently found another dozen already primed in readiness from back in 2015…

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14 figures ready to go!

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Err, make that 26 more figures…

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Not forgetting another 18 just requiring a snowy base!

That makes for 26 Strelets figures to paint; all wearing the same beige greatcoats and all just marching! Will I get bored and quit? Possibly, but I fancy giving it a go as it makes for a nice change from painting just a handful of figures only. Consider it an end-of-year palate cleanser before my next project (or palette cleanser if you will ‘scuse the painting pun). Incidentally, Strelets also have no less than four separate Napoleonic kits available just featuring Russian and French winter sledge trains! They like their winter troops.

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But wait – one more thing: in my collection, I also have soldiers based in snow from three other Strelets sets featuring troops in ‘winter dress’ (it must be something to do with the manufacturer being Russian…). I have British guardsmen in Crimean War ‘winter dress’ and also two kits from their 1877 Russo-Turkish War range featuring Russian and Turkish troops in hooded greatcoats. All of these are currently just standing in modelling clay painted white but they could all really use some of my very wonderful “Woodland Scenics’ Soft Snow” treatment. So: yet more winter work to do!

On the March in Arnhem

Earlier this year I painted some figures for a ‘Group Build’ on the very wonderful Benno’s Figures Forum. These were then sent over to Germany for a talented chap called Jan to build into a display alongside many other figures also received from fellow forum members across Europe and the US.

The idea behind the project was to assemble a long column of marching figures taking in different historical periods while representing the painter’s own country or region.  I painted the 17th Regiment (representing my county of Leicestershire) using RedBox’s British infantry circa 1750.

 

This week, the project has finally been declared “finished” and photos of the final, grand diorama were posted on the forum. The display featured proudly at last weekend’s FIGZ wargaming & miniatures event in Holland. I feel very proud to have contributed a little something to this project alongside my talented fellow figure painters from across the globe.

So, here’s where my 17th Regiment boys ended up after Jan’s magic treatment – marching through the woodland of the US / Canadian border around the time of the French-Indian War (1754-63).

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And here are some photos of the wonderful figures which comprised the rest of the march:

 

The contributors, their nations and figures:

  • Paul, Great Britain – Grenadier Guards with marching band. Astronauts. Prussian Infantry, circa 1806.
  • Sascha, Germany – Prussian grenadiers, circa 1760. Napoleonic Westfalian Infantry.
  • Arekmaximus, Poland – Late Roman Infantry
  • Dykio, Netherlands – Soldiers painted in the colours of the ADO Den Haag football team!
  • Michael Roberts, France – French Revolutionary Infantry
  • Gunnar, Sweden – British Grenadiers, circa 1770s. Swedish Infantry circa 1700.
  • Giorgio, Italy – Napoleonic Austrian Infantry
  • Konrad, Germany – Napoleonic Highlanders
  • Edwardian, Great Britain – 14th Middlesex (Inns of Court) Rifle Volunteer Corps, circa 1897.
  • Remco, Netherlands – Napoleonic Dutch Infantry and a flagbearer with a FIGZ flag!
  • Peter, Belgium – Napoleonic Belgian Infantry
  • Dirk, Germany – Prussian infantry representing a variety of periods.
  • Dalibor, Croatia – Napoleonic Austrian Grenzer
  • Erik-Jan, Netherlands – Napoleonic French Light Infantry
  • Andrea, Italy / Togo – Italian Bersaglieri, circa 1859.
  • Bluefalchion, USA – Indian Wars US Infantry
  • Marvin, Great Britain (…yours truly) – 17th Regiment of Foot, circa 1750.

And finally , aside from making the whole diorama, Jan also found time to contribute the following figures:

  • Jan, Germany – Napoleonic Danish Infantry, Confederate Infantry circa 1860s. Napoleonic French Infantry, Medieval hunters and WWII US Infantry.

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?