“The Coldstream Guards Regiment was formed in 1650 as a unit of the Commonwealth Army. It was the only Regiment of the Parliamentary Army that was not disbanded at the Restoration in 1660. The illustration shows the uniform worn by Sergeants in 1832.”
Number 8 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).
Following my last post on my trip to The Queen’s Royal Lancers & Notts Yeomanry Museum, I wanted to briefly draw attention to growing evidence of the threat to the UK’s regimental collections (outside London at any rate). This has been brought to our attention in an article today which reveals council culture budgets across the nation have been reduced by a third. The article by Ammar Kalia examines a large disparity between generous funding for London and relative poverty for the regions. It makes specific reference to a council very local to me apparently “removing all four curators at its museums in light of a £320,000 cut in its arts budget.” Elsewhere, a Museum Trust director declares “we hear about smaller cities and shire counties’ museums which are teetering on the brink of closing down if another round of cuts come through.“
This year alone, it’s notable that already two potential visits to local regimental collections that I was considering to make have been stymied for an extended period due to ‘refurbishment’ – is it possible to suspect these temporary closures could even become permanent in such circumstances?
For the military history enthusiast, it’s now vitally important to continue appreciating and supporting such museums while they are still around to be enjoyed. As cuts to budgets bite, it’s sobering to consider that in some cases, my regimental museum reports may sadly become one of the few means then available to appreciate something of these wonderful collections.
This trip was actually a revisit to a museum which I’d last visited some 5 or 6 years ago, prior to this blog’s current incarnation and its series of museum reports. The Queen’s Royal Lancers & Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum is situated in Thoresby Park, deep in the picturesque Nottinghamshire countryside. Entry is completely free and its displays include the combined collections of:
The Queen’s Royal Lancers and their antecedents, namely;
5th (Royal Irish) Lancers
16th (The Queen’s) Lancers
17th (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) Lancers
21st (Empress of India’s) Lancers
The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry
The South Notts Hussars
On this visit, I was particularly keen to take a closer look at displays connected to the two local yeomanry regiments; the Sherwood Rangers and the South Nottinghamshire Hussars.
Nottinghamshire’s Yeomanry Regiments:
One of the first things that I encountered on entry was a cabinet which included two ancient yeomanry tunics. The first had white facings and was dark blue in colour with tightly packed rows of silver braiding covering the front of the tunic from base to shoulder – 26 rows of loops and buttons (count ’em). The garment was described as belonging to the Worksop Independent Troop, Nottinghamshire Yeomanry, c. 1820.
All that silver braiding continues elsewhere on the tunic too, with some Austrian knot detailing on the cuffs and trefoils on the back and even around the sides.
The other tunic in the cabinet dated from 1815 and belonged to the Newark Troop, Nottinghamshire Yeomanry. This coat was red with white facings, having three rows of 18 white metal buttons but without all the lace seen on the Worksop cavalry tunic above.
The shoulder scales were made of metal links, in contrast to the Worksop example’s cord braid on the shoulders.
An illustration of the 1798 uniform of this troop was available for purchase in the shop both as a postcard and notebook cover. It shows men of the Newark Troop in front of their home town’s castle ruin and the River Trent. Although the style of the coat (17 years older than the one displayed) is very different, the scarlet colour remains the same. Facings and turban appear to be a shade of orange or gold.
The above image also shows the guidon which remarkably is still in existence and appeared high up on the wall of the museum. The Royal Standard (below) was “presented on the 14th July 1795 to the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry in the name of Thomas Webb Edge and Mrs Lumley Saville. The needlework was her own. The guidon was re-presented to the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry on the 4th May 1840…[and was] always carried by the Newark Troop”.
Tucked away in an alcove elsewhere in the museum, and partially covered by another display propped up against it, appeared to be a Victorian print of a cavalryman. It reminded me of my own collection of Henry Martens series of Yeomanry illustrations, so I took a closer look.
Frustratingly, my close up photos of the title and artist/engraver didn’t come out at all, so I’m left guessing on those details now but I know it wasn’t a Martens. What I do know is that the artwork was a local production, “Printed for the compilers by Stevenson and Co., Middle Pavement in Nottingham” in 1848. This was just a few years after the Fores’ Yeomanry Costumes by Henry Martens were published. The compositional style is very reminiscent of Martens.
Interestingly, the red shako shown in the print was said to be an exact copy of that worn by the Chasseurs d’Afrique. What makes Yeomanry uniforms particularly interesting to me is this freedom that individual regiments could enjoy to mimic and reference other styles, even colourful and ‘exotic’ foreign ones such as this.
As with my Fores’ prints, this one comes with a dedication; “To Lieut. Colonel Holden, the officers, non comm’nd officers & privates of the Nottinghamshire Cavalry.” A little research informs me that the scarlet shako was adopted in 1847, just one year before the painting was published. The falling plume was black and there are yellow lines of cord on the shako depicted. The hussar uniform is blue, although it appears as a kind of light grey in the faded print. The pouch belt is black and the scabbard suggests a heavy cavalryman’s straight sword rather than a hussar’s curved sabre.
In the same display case as the tunics was this above helmet described as a “Notts Yeomanry Cavalry helmet c. 1837, probably manufactured for the regiment.” This regiment eventually became the Sherwood Rangers. It’s in terrific condition and appears to be made of ‘japanned’ (heavy black lacquered) leather. The horsehair plume is red and there are ventilation bars in the sides of the crest. Under the royal coat of arms gilt badge there is brass bar engraved with the title “Notts Yeomanry Cavalry”. A beautiful object!
The above 1845 shako badge displays the name of the South Notts Yeomanry Cavalry, forerunner to the South Notts Hussars. The hugely informative British Empire blog also has an image of the regiment’s shako with this sunburst design badge in place.
The uniforms shown above were unlabelled. Clearly not lancers, they look to be from the local yeomanry of the late 18th century and being navy must belong to the South Notts Hussars (the Sherwood Rangers wore a striking green hussar uniform). The five braiding loops tunic appears to be Mess Dress with a gold and red waistcoat underneath.
Incidentally, I have lying around a 54mm metal figure of the South Notts Hussars awaiting some paint, although a different order of dress, it’s five braiding loops closely matching the Simkin illustration seen above. Perhaps sometime soon might be a good time to make a start on it?
The 17th (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) Lancers:
The regular lancer regiments in the museum had a varied and dramatic history. The 17th Lancers being particularly well-known for their part in the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava. I think that they possibly have the most recognisable cap badge in the British Army; the macabre skull and crossbones, sometimes seen with the legend “Or Glory”. Seen on their 1815 Light Dragoon shako, it reminds me much of the headgear of the famous Prussian ‘Death’s Head’ Hussars, although they would have looked at the time more like my 13th Light Dragoon figures from 2015.
Their motto ‘Death or Glory’ was a reference to General Wolfe who fell mortally wounded at Quebec, 1759. I still have a “Death or Glory Boys” coaster taken from a visit I must have made to the 17th Lancers museum as a small child when it was still based in Belvoir Castle – looking pretty good after all these years!
More headdress of the 17th was on display, including one which saw use during the famous charge itself:
There is some controversy surrounding which bugle actually sounded the Charge of the Light Brigade, but the one on display in this museum has a very strong claim. The hole smashed through the end was caused by a Cossack piercing it with a lance, attempting (and failing) to pick it up off the ground and to take away as a trophy. An astonishing object in many ways.
An audio recording of a surviving trumpeter who was present in the charge was played on loop in the museum and you can hear it online, Trumpeter Kenneth Landfried blowing on a Waterloo bugle recorded on wax cylinder in 1890:-
Below: uniforms of the 17th through the ages on display:
a replica of the attractive light blue uniform worn in the American War of Independence;
an officer’s service uniform from the Zulu War (other ranks had white crossbelts without the silver pickers and plate);
a scarlet uniform from the time of George IV, a monarch determined to see all of his cavalry regiments wear red!
The 21st (Empress of India’s) Lancers:
A neat display dedicated to the 21st Lancers concentrated mostly on their famous charge at the battle of Omdurman. This is unsurprising given their relative newness, being formed in 1858 for the East India Company and not brought within the British army until 1862. Three regiments had previously been designated the 21st Regiment.
Being dogged by its lack of battle honours and experience (“thou shalt not kill” was unkindly suggested as the regimental motto), its reckless charge at the Dervish tribesman in 1898 seemed to some to be motivated by a need to restore some honour. Notably attaching himself to this wild charge was a young Winston Churchill of the 4th Hussars.
As a reference to its Indian origins when it was part of the EIC’s Bengal cavalry, the 21st Lancers wore French Grey facings, an example of which could be seen clearly in this late 19th Century Full Dress uniform.
The 16th (The Queen’s) Lancers:
The 16th Lancers were known as ‘The Scarlet Lancers” after successfully petitioning to retain the existing scarlet coatee when in 1840 it was ordered that all the Light Cavalry should revert back to the blue uniforms. An example of their unique scarlet lancer coat can be seen below.
The 16th Lancers famous action at the Battle of Aliwal in the Anglo-Sikh Wars was given due prominence. At this action, the regiment charged a Sikh force many times its own size, dispersed their cavalry and then broke the Sikh infantry squares, taking many casualties in the process but doing much to secure outright victory.
The 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers:
Concluding this report, this magnificent copper kettle drum below was described as being ‘used by the 5th Royal Irish Lancers’. Being that it appeared in a cabinet dedicated to the 18th century, I presume that this instrument is an antique belonging to the original regiment’s guise as the 5th Dragoons.
Notably, the 5th Regiment of Dragoons was disgraced after being infiltrated by Irish rebels during 1798. It was erased from the army list, with nothing existing for many years between the 4th and 6th cavalry regiments. This mark of disgrace lasted until it was reformed as lancers in 1858. An excellent example of the regiment’s pre-1798 uniform was on display; this lovely c.1745 mitre cap and c.1770 jacket of the 5th Royal Dragoons (note the links on the shoulders very similar to the Newark Troop’s example earlier).
The interesting display included a garment of their adversaries, Sudanese jibbahs, coats made of white cotton with additional patches sewn on.
With the exception of a thriving cafe, Thorseby courtyard seemed largely deserted of shops when I visited, so I wonder if the museum would do better in a much more accessible location, particularly so for those without a car. For those who are able to visit, with free entry and a rich collection of history to be found in nicely presented premises, the Queen’s Royal Lancers & Nottinghamshire Yeomanry museum is highly recommended!
Continuing with my Strelets Crimean War personalities series, I turn my attention to a single figure which was supplied with the French “Last Assault on Sevastopol” set and appears to be distinctly un-military. Like the rest of the figures, he is unnamed but is clearly writing something into a notebook and dressed in civilian clothing. Who is he?
Plastic Soldier Review state; “the man is in civilian dress and could serve for many things but we like to think of him as a newspaper correspondent.”
Any mention of Crimean War reporting must reference William Howard Russell. He was The Times ‘war correspondent’, an occupational description which he personally abhorred. Regardless, Russell provided many stirring, graphic accounts of the horrors of the Crimean War which brought him fame and recognition.
Often considered to be the first ‘modern’ war correspondent, use of the newly invented telegraph enabled his dynamic reports to reach the British public remarkably quickly. His despatches were reaching London in just two days after the Royal Engineers laid a cable, and an underwater cable reduced this in 1855 to a few hours only. The practice of day-to-day reporting of a distant foreign war began in the Crimean campaign.
Born in Ireland in 1821, Russell’s family had moved to England when he was a small child, though he returned to Dublin to study. Though he was qualified as a lawyer, he began the career of a war journalist which led to his assignment to the Crimean theatre in 1854.
“I was with the first detachment of the British army which set foot on Turkish soil, and it was my good fortune… to be present at Alma, Balaklava, Inkerman, to accompany the Kertch and the Kinburn expeditions, and to witness every great event of the siege–the assaults on Sebastopol, and the battle of the Tchernaya.”
William Howard Russell, “The British Expedition to the Crimea”.
After the Battle of the Alma, he wrote up his account in the pages of a book taken from a dead Russian soldier. The despatch, written in the form of a letter to his editor, was generally praised the British army’s conduct but importantly did not hesitate to describe the battlefield surgeons “humane barbarity” and also drew attention to the lack of ambulance care for wounded troops.
His influence was profound and Florence Nightingale credited her move into war nursing directly to Russell’s reports coming from the Crimea. Mary Seacole’s contribution to the care and well-being of the soldiers was also first brought to the wider public consciousness by his writing.
Being such a new concept, a war correspondent was at that time able to work without any censorship and, as with many other journalists since, Russell’s explicit reporting ruffled many feathers. Following reports which revealed the British Army’s supply and medical care shortages during the winter of 1854, Queen Victoria called his despatches “infamous attacks against the army which have disgraced our newspapers”, whilst her husband Albert stated that “the pen and ink of one miserable scribbler is despoiling the country”.
Others in the military were equally suspicious of him, making snide or prejudiced comments on his character and methods of investigation;
“…a vulgar low Irishman, sings a good song, drinks anyone’s brandy and water and smokes as many cigars as a Jolly Good Fellow. He is just the sort of chap to get information, particularly out of youngsters.”
Russell famously observed the events of the Battle of Balaclava. In describing the dramatic moment when the 93rd Highlanders stood firm and repulsed the Russian cavalry charge, he coined the now familiar phrase “the thin red line”, albeit using notably different words;
Roger Fenton’s images of Russell in the Crimea show him dressed in the manner suggestive of a military officer, possibly a deliberate affectation in order to better integrate with the troops and gain their confidence. Strelets’ figure’s civilian garb does not share any similarity with this, nor does it reflect his build (he was described as ‘portly’), but he did have a full beard during the campaign and the figure is nevertheless clearly intended to be a reporter or writer of some description.
So, I’m still happy to dub him ‘William Howard Russell’: scourge of the establishment; eyes and ears of the Victorian public; chronicler of great battles; the original ‘war correspondent’ and famous journalist of the Crimean War!
Having been very much enjoying painting Strelets characters from their Crimean War Big Box range, I thought it was time to turn my attention the French officer corps. These figures came from their “Last Assault on Sevastopol” box which, in addition to the two dozen officers, also supplied other sprues of French Zouaves, light and line infantry.
Unlike their “Heavy Brigade” set, “Last Assault…” did not come with a detailed list of named individuals. I believe most of the figures are intended to be generic officers therefore although, as Plastic Soldier Review suggests, a handful are undoubtedly intended to be specific personalities. Pioneering photographer Roger Fenton took a good number of photographs of members of the French army including anything from senior commanders to common soldiers, and even a female vivandière (a version of which Strelets also modelled for the Heavy Brigade set).
To begin, the two identifiable French personalities:-
General Aimable Pélissier
Of course, no set claiming to be about the French assault on Sevastopol could be without its commander in chief and one character provided by Strelets seems to fit the bill. The sash and physique suggests that my figure (above) is intended to be General Pélissier (below):
Below, my painted figure certainly bares comparison with Pelissier as depicted in Fenton’s image.
Now I look at him, the black and white photograph suggests a brighter colour than the light blue I have painted around his waist, perhaps yellow. Furthermore, le pantalon rouge looks more distinctly le pantalon bleu! Never mind, the white hair and dark moustache have been reproduced well enough.
Pélissier was sent by Napoleon III to the Crimea to replace the existing commander Marshal Canrobert, who was judged too cautious. A more vigorous approach to the siege of Sevastopol eventually reaped its reward with the French storming and taking the Malakoff Tower in September 1855, leading to the evacuation of south Sevastopol by the Russians.
After the Crimean War, Pélissier was showered with awards from home and abroad including the title ‘1st Duc de Malakoff’ in recognition of the Sevastopol assault. The figure wears a number of awards and medals on his chest, the large silver cross being I believe a Légion d’honneur star (or plaque). Strelets have shown Pelissier holding what I believe is a piece of paper or map.
“We can’t identify any particular individuals (although doubtless some will have chosen some for themselves), but the first figure in the fourth row looks to be taken from a famous photograph of General Bosquet, and indeed several figures seem inspired by such photographs, which is a very reasonable source to us.”
They are referring to this figure pointing a finger with his hand tucked behind his back.
Fenton actually took a number of photographs of Bosquet, including the one below. General Bosquet seems to have been quite a theatrical character, keen to be photographed in his trademark authoritative pointing pose!
Pierre François Bosquet was an artillery officer who spent 20 years as a soldier in Algeria, during which time he variously commanded Algerian tirailleurs and later some line infantry, rising to the rank of General of Division. Serving in the Crimean War from the very early stages, his division led the French attack at the opening encounter at the Alma.
It was Bosquet who uttered the now famous line when observing the Charge of the Light Brigade;
C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre: c’est de la folie!
(It is magnificent, but it is not war: it is madness!)
Bosquet’s arrival with troops during the battle of Inkerman secured the Allied victory. Seemingly ever present in the forefront of all the action, at Sevastopol Bosquet personally led his troops both on the June attack to capture the Mamelon fort and also the great attack on the Malakov in September, during which he received a severe wound. He survived the war but ill-health led to his untimely death just five years later.
The rest of Strelets’ figures though full of character do not appear to be based directly on any of Fenton’s photographic subjects, so I’m simply presenting them below, in no particular order:
Bugler and Drummer
Two satisfying musicians with lots of colour to them, a bugler and drummer of the French army, 1855.
French Officers and Staff
This figure I liked a lot for his casual stance with hands tucked into his waistband and a face of utter nonchalance:
This next roguish officer seems to be enjoying a glass of something refreshing. I realised when painting this that I have never painted glass before. So, I’ve simply added to silver a little blueish hue, assuming that this old soak has just drained it of a fine ’48 Bordeaux. I like their idea of having his overcoat draped over his shoulders.
If it’s not alcohol that helps my French officers through the rigours of the Crimean campaign, it’s tobacco. Here, a nicely campaign-weary officer contemplates another tough day in the trenches over a long pipe. Hand tucked into his waistband, I fancy he might be enjoying a smoke, post-evening meal.
What I thought was one of the least promising figures has turned out nicely, I am particularly pleased with his greying beard and surprisingly interesting face, glancing askew.
Next, another nice pose with a shoulder cape and hands clasped behind his back. This chap was a victim of an accidental assault by my wife after I carelessly left him on the dining room table. He has come through okay after corrective painting and hasty re-gluing, although he appears to be keeping a wary eye out for any further outrages.
This is another figure which looked less promising thanks to the face being along the line of the flash from the mould. A little paint has improved my assessment of a convincing pose for a man leading an assault.
Finally, below is an officer of the Chasseurs d’Afrique, a regiment which I painted some years ago from Strelets range of Crimean War figures. It’s not one of their best sculpted figures, another victim of the join on the seam, and it’s curious that his sword is drawn whilst on foot, but I like the ‘Chass d’Aff’ and felt it demanded inclusion!
Fenton took some photographs of officers from this regiment, including this one below of a mounted officer in camp.
And to conclude, some more images from Roger Fenton of the French officer corps in the Crimea:
I’m toying with the idea of one more batch of these French officers, if you can stand it, before finally moving on to something new.
You know, I think General Bosquet could easily have been talking not of the Light Brigade but of my eccentric hobby – “c’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre: c’est de la folie!” Yes, madness, I tell you! Madness!…
When this Regiment was raised in 1685, it was designated “Princess Anne of Denmark’s Regiment”. The title was changed when George I came to the throne, this time to “The 8th Foot”. The drawing shows a Sergeant wearing the uniform of 1828.
Number 7 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).
Another instalment of my Personalities of the Crimean War series, featuring figures by Strelets:
Field Marshal FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan
The commander-in-chief of the British army in the Crimean War began his army career playing a full part in the Peninsular War. He later served in the Waterloo campaign as aide-de-camp and military secretary to Wellington. The carnage of the battle of Waterloo cost Somerset the amputation of his right arm.
Somerset retained his close association with the Duke of Wellington and, having been promoted to Lieutenant-General during the years of peace after Waterloo, was appointed to command the British army in the Crimean campaign with a brevet rank of full General. In 1852, he was raised to the peerage and became known as the 1st Baron Raglan.
Success at the battles of Alma and Inkerman led to his promotion to Field Marshal, but as the privations of the Crimean winter took its toll on his men, Raglan began to receive criticism in the press, although whether it was entirely fair is debatable.
A poorly executed failed assault on the defences of Sevastopol piled the pressure on the commander and, being weakened by dysentery and a depressive illness, Raglan died whilst still on campaign in June 1855.
Lieutenant General Sir Henry John William Bentinck
With both of Henry Bentinck’s brothers being generals, and his father a Major-General, senior command in the army was virtually a family business. Bentinck began his army service as an ensign in the Coldstream Guards and by 1841, he was an aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria and a brevet colonel.
By the time Bentinck landed in the Crimea with his regiment, he was a Major-General. He took part in the battles of Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman, being badly wounded in the arm in the latter. Despite the wound, he continued to serve in the siege of Sevastopol.
On his return from the Crimea, he was created a K.C.B. and promoted to the rank of General. Bentinck died in 1875.
Lieutenant General Sir Charles Ash Windham
The fourth son of an admiral, as with most of the generals featured in my British personalities series, Windham began his career in a prestigious guards regiment; the Coldstreams. From the rank of Ensign, he went on to purchase a series of promotions throughout the 1830s and 1840s.
After service in Canada, Windham returned to England in 1842 where he remained until the outbreak of the Crimean War. Achieving his colonelcy in June 1854, he was then appointed Assistant Quartermaster General of the 4th Division for the campaign. He soon became renowned for making clear his stern criticism of the poor military leadership of the British army at this time.
At Sevastopol, he was given command of the main British attack on the Great Redan. The result was a failure in which he personally rode back to beg for more reinforcements to continue the assault which had achieved its objective but was ill-equipped to hold it. Windham received criticism from soldiers in his command but was made a popular hero by William Russell, the Times War Correspondent, who declared that Windham’s gallant conduct had saved “the honour of the army”.
Windham’s career continued to be dogged by controversy and mixed opinions as he served in the Indian Mutiny and in Canada until he eventually died while convalescing in Florida in 1870.
The son of an M.P., James Estcourt’s first appointment in the army was as an Ensign in the 44th Regiment. Transferring to the 43rd Regiment, Estcourt served in Gibraltar and later on the Euphrates Valley Expedition. His services on this journey of science and exploration led to his promotion to Lt-Colonel.
Successful service on a boundary commission in Canada and a friendship with Lord Raglan helped Estcourt, now a Brigadier-General, to be appointed Adjutant General for the campaign. However, together with General Airey, he was criticised by a press who considered them both responsible for the winter privations and terrible suffering of the troops.
Stoutly defended by Raglan, Estcourt was appointed Major-General in December 1854, despite the ongoing criticism. Ironically, he fell victim to the same insanitary conditions for which he was being held by some to be responsible and succumbed to cholera in June 1855.
According to the Dictionary of National Biography, his friend and mentor Lord Raglan was “afraid to attend the funeral, for fear of showing his grief; but the last visit he paid before his own death, was to Estcourt’s tomb.”
Major General Sir Henry William Barnard
Sir Henry William Barnard obtained a commission in the 1st Foot Guards in 1814. A newly made Major-General, Barnard landed in the Crimea in 1854, in command of a brigade in the 3rd division of the army, with which he was present during the winter of 1854–5.
Through their figure, Strelets have nicely referenced Roger Fenton’s above photograph of General Barnard posing with a foot on a shell. Whether or not the pose was deliberately made at Fenton’s request, by delicately resting his boot on the shell, the stance nicely suggests something of the violence and danger at the same time as the fragility of the combatants. It’s just one of the postures that Strelets have employed in their Crimean range that is really pleasing to me, painting becomes the act of bringing to life a brief moment from over 150 years ago.
When former chief-of-staff General Simpson succeeded to Commander-in-Chief, Barnard in turn became his chief-of-staff, a position he held at the fall of Sevastopol in September 1855. He later succeeded to the command of the 2nd Division.
In 1857, Barnard took an active command in the Indian Mutiny and won the crucial battle of Badli-ki-Serai but died of cholera on 5 July 1857, eleven weeks before the fall of Delhi to the British.
In the process of painting some more Crimean War personalities, I’ve been particularly concentrating on a specific character who, though unnamed on the box artwork, bears an unmistakable resemblance to the 7th Earl of Cardigan.
Strelets’ “Into the Valley of Death” set dedicated to the Charge of the Light Brigade was purchased about 5 years ago and the figure in question is wearing the uniform of a hussar. Given the set’s topic, this means that it must belong either to the 8th (King’s Royal Irish) Hussars or 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars.
Plastic Soldier Review feel they can identify him – “The [figure] could well pass for Lord Cardigan, the man who actually led the charge.” There’s certainly a strong resemblance. The Light Cavalry Brigade’s commander was Major General James Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan of the 11th Hussars.
Arriving some months after the Battle of Balaclava, photographer Roger Fenton took some images of officers of the 11th Hussars, survivors of the charge, but not of the Earl of Cardigan himself. Below are his images of Cornet Wilkin and Lt. Yates of the 11th. Also below is Fenton’s famous image he titled “The valley of the Shadow of Death” itself, a gulley strewn with spent cannonballs.
So anyway, who’s Ronald?
That’s Ronald above, Cardigan’s charger shown as a small detail in Caton Woodville’s painting of The Charge. He was a thoroughbred chestnut gelding coincidentally sharing the same russet-colour as his owner’s ginger whiskers. Ronald was the horse that led the Charge of the Light Brigade, over 670 men (and their horses), into – and out of – the ‘valley of death’.
As with his aristocratic rider, Ronald was indeed incredibly fortunate to survive having ridden at the very head of the brigade right into the teeth of the Russian artillery position, escaped from being surrounded by Cossacks, and then returned all the way back again unscathed. Of the famous charge, a shocking 475 other horses failed to do the same. Furthermore, he should be considered very robust for even surviving the trip over to Crimea by troop ship (many horses did not), and then making the same arduous journey back home again.
Ronald continued to prove particularly durable, managing to enjoy life until 28th June 1872, nearly 18 years after Balaclava and a full four years after the passing of his master. There are, it seems, a number of tributes to Ronald on the web. Including:
Of his many depictions, I’ve based my painting of Ronald on the Alfred Frank de Prades portrait. This shows Ronald to have markings consisting of two white ‘stockings’ and one white ‘sock’, although other portraits I’ve seen occasionally differ. I do know (thanks to the perfect preservation of his head!) that he had a star on his forehead and a snip near his right nostril, all of which I’ve been careful to try and reproduce on my own little tribute in 20mm figure form. Strelets horses certainly aren’t their strongest feature (the leg positioning on this figure isn’t quite right, I feel), but otherwise it’s not too bad a sculpt.
The Earl of Cardigan himself is a pleasing figure, I think, and Strelets have captured something of his features and ornate uniform. I’ve used a darker red than I commonly use to achieve the cherry colour of his busby bag and overalls, a feature unique to the 11th Hussars which gave rise to their nicknames “The Cherry Pickers” and “The Cherry Bums” or, for when ladies were present, “The Cherubims”!
On Cardigan and Ronald’s return to the Brudenell home in Deene Park, it became apparent that their adventures had found them considerable fame and both were greeted as heroes by the thronging crowds. Such was the fervour that many tried to pull out poor Ronald’s hair for a keepsake as he passed! A well-deserved long retirement for Ronald ensued until the Earl of Cardigan passed away in 1868, at which point his famous steed was required to follow as part of the cortege. However, it seems that the old war horse very nearly didn’t make the funeral procession thanks to a very comical series of mishaps:-
“However, the old horse, having endured ghastly sea journeys, life on the foreign front, the atrocity of battle, near starvation and probably deep terror, found the whole prospect of a funeral procession far too exhilarating and became boisterous. To avoid the solemn pageantry of the day being ruined by the over-excited horse, they administered laudanum. But, in the heat of the moment the dose must have been inadvertently overdone, for then no one could move the dozing charger. Eventually an inspired individual called for the sounding of the cavalry charge. Stirred to duty, Ronald jumped into wakefulness and set off as required.”
Such was the affection felt for Ronald by the Brudenell family and the British public that, when he did eventually die, the Brudenells preserved his head and tail which continues to be displayed at his home in Deene Park, Northamptonshire. His hoof was turned into an inkwell (a popular tribute for beloved horses of the time) with a sculpture of him and his master atop.
To me, it has sometimes seemed that some of Tennyson’s famous lines on the men of the Light Brigade could have equally applied to the brave horses like Ronald who suffered so much in the charge, dutifully carrying their riders through hell:
Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die.
I’ve handful more ‘personalities’ I’m working on, which I’ll doubtless share in due course.
“Toward the north the activity of the day begins gradually to replace the nocturnal quiet; here the relief guard has passed clanking their arms, there the doctor is already hastening to the hospital, further on the soldier has crept out of his earth hut and is washing his sunburnt face in ice-encrusted water, and, turning towards the crimsoning east, crosses himself quickly as he prays to God; here a tall and heavy camel-wagon has dragged creaking to the cemetery, to bury the bloody dead, with whom it is laden nearly to the top…”
Extract from SEVASTOPOL IN DECEMBER, 1854. By Leo Tolstoy.
Continuing my Personalities of the Crimean War series, it seemed appropriate to begin this post with an extract from Leo Tolstoy’s wonderfully vivid description of the experience of the dawning of a day spent in Sevastopol during the siege. Strelets’ Crimean War big box set “Russian General Staff and Hospital” have referenced this work by including a figure of young Count Tolstoy in his junior artillery officer’s uniform.
As you can see below, in addition to painting Tolstoy, I’ve tackled some of his fellow Sevastopol defenders and denizens too:-
2nd-Lieutenant Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy
World-famous novelist Count Lev (in English, Leo) Tolstoy was born of a respected aristocratic family. He joined the army with his brother in order to escape some large gambling debts. As a young artillery officer, Tolstoy found himself commanding a battery during the 11-month siege of Sevastopol.
The young aristocrat would go on to write about his experiences during the siege in a well-received book titled “Tales of Sevastopol“. It’s well worth a read, particularly for the English reader to understand the experiences and feelings of the besieged Russians.
His wartime experiences would also inform Tolstoy’s great work on Russia during the Napoleonic conflict; “War and Peace”. The horrors that Tolstoy experienced in Sevastopol led him to later formulate strong ideas on non-violent resistance, ideas which in turn inspired future activists such as Ghandi.
Strelets Tolstoy figure looks great. Most probably it’s down to my paint job, but somehow he doesn’t quite look like the youthful lieutenant he was at this time!
General-Adjutant Alexander Sergeyevich Menshikov:
Menshikov was the commander-in-chief of all Russian land and sea forces during the Crimean War. The ageing general was a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, like his equivalent in the British army. He was born of aristocratic parents being the grandson of Alexander Danilovich Menshikov who was a favourite of, and military advisor to, Peter the Great.
Entering the Russian diplomatic service, he became close to Tsar Alexander I and accompanied him throughout his campaigns against Napoleon. During the Russo-Turkish War of 1828, Menshikov distinguished himself at the Siege of Varna until an exploding Turkish shell badly wounded him in the groin.
Rising within the government, Menshikov was perceived to have been an impediment to the modernisation of the Russian navy, a failing with effects which would become apparent during the Crimean War. Appointed to command the Russian forces in that campaign, he was eventually viewed as militarily incompetent and was replaced by Prince Gorchakov in February 1855. Prior to his removal, Menshikov had presided over the Russian defeats at the battles of Alma and Inkerman.
I think Strelets’ Menshikov appears suitably advanced in years with his white hair and walking cane. I’m not sure what’s over his shoulder but I’ve taken it to be some sort of blanket.
Lieutenant-Colonel Eduard Ivanovich Totleben:
Born of German-Baltic nobility, Lieutenant-Colonel Totleben was a highly competent engineer and became the inspirational force behind the defences of Sevastopol. On his advice, the fleet was sunk to block the harbour mouth and the land defences were hurriedly secured before the allies could take advantage of it after the Russian defeat at the Alma.
Shortly before the fall of Sevastopol, Totleben was badly wounded in the foot and evacuated. After the war, his great contribution was fully recognised and he was honoured even by his former enemies, paying a reconciliatory visit to England. In a classic engineer pose, Totleben’s Strelets figure holds dividers and a map or plan.
Cossacks and a balalaika!
I felt I had to have a go at these two figures. These are, I understand, Terek Cossacks. The Terek Cossack Host had those distinctive fur hats with red coloured tops. I read that Terek Cossacks wore a dark grey / black uniform but Strelets has shows them as a ragtag collection of differing colours, so I’ve stuck with that for these two.
The two figures feature one man sitting on an upturned crate playing what is clearly a balalaika. His companion dances enthusiastically despite being encumbered by some serious weaponry. Once again, I think the expressions on their faces are really pleasing. Plastic Soldier Review states; “this is neither staff nor hospital, but adds a welcome touch of colour and humanity to the Russian figures.” Agreed.
A companion to the other icon carrier I painted recently, this chap is clearly of the church rather than in the army. My religious icon isn’t quite aligned properly, but it’ll do!
A layman carrying an icon:
And finally, a Russian soldier acts as a lay member of the church by carrying an icon before his comrades manning the defences, offering divine blessing and inspiration to them. He has removed his cap, presumably as an act of respect. The icon I’ve taken to be an image cast in gold with a blue drape around it. I like the figures face, intoning a hymn or prayer, and he goes well with the other religious figures I’ve painted.
So, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that I’ve got my sights set on another batch of Crimean personalities which I’ll post whenever I get some time to tackle them.
The 16th Regiment of Foot, of which we show a private in 1828, was raised in 1688. In 1782, the regiment received the county title of “The Buckinghamshire Regt”. The Hertford Militia became a battalion in 1881 when the regiment became known by its present title.
Number 6 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).