Les Higgins Miniatures

I was very pleased to receive through the post recently samples of 20mm scale metal figures. These were a large group of recast Les Higgins figures, very generously supplied by their manufacturer, John Cunningham.

Caricature Combat! Co-founder Brian Marlow duals with Les Higgins (taken from the 1971 Les Higgins Miniatures catalogue as displayed on the Prometheus in Aspic blog).

The interesting story behind Les Higgins Miniatures is nicely recorded on the Vintage 20mil website. Founded in 1967, Les Higgins himself tragically passed away aged 49 in 1972. The company continued for some years as Phoenix Model Developments. The figures all belong to my recently favoured Marlburian period and include lovely examples of:

Musketeers

Grenadiers

Command figures

Cavalry

The group of cavalry caught my attention, examples of what I believe are;

  • a trooper of horse
  • a hussar
  • a French dragoon
  • a dragoon wearing a tricorne
  • a trumpeter
  • a horse grenadier
  • and a cuirassier with a ‘lobster’ helmet.

A very nice group of horses were also included for them to ride:

In addition to the Les Higgins figures were some examples from other 20mm manufacturers of yore; Alberken and Douglas Miniatures.

Alberken Miniatures:

Begun in 1964, Nottinghamshire-based Alberken was formed by Albert Horsfield and Ken Watkins, (whose main business was making “pie machines”)! The manufacturer name was a portmanteau of their first names. The figures are described on Vintage 20mil as being “thin in build, a bit static in pose, sometimes lacking in detail and stand around 22mm high and noticeably flat“. Albert Horsfield tragically died in a car accident just a year after forming and Alberken subsequently ceased production. Full story again on Vintage 20Mil.

Douglas Miniatures:

Douglas Miniatures were the forerunner to the manufacturer of the 54mm MJ Mode figures which I painted last year. Vintage 20mil states that the early Douglas Miniatures were “quite literally a ‘cottage industry’, with Johnston sculpting the figures in his own kitchen in Glenfield.” In a bizarre coincidence, I happen to paint all figures in my kitchen in Glenfield…

It’s interesting to compare a Les Higgins grenadier (left below) with an Irregular Miniatures version which also came through as a sample.

Left: a Les Higgins grenadier and Right: an Irregular Miniatures grenadier

So, I’m keen to see how these lovely old veterans paint up with a long view of incorporating some into my Marlburian armies. I thought I’d begin by having a go at some of Les Higgins’ cavalry figures, so I’ll post more on these when I’ve made some progress.

“We could perhaps be super-optimistic and see (international wargaming) as a future way of solving our international differences without firing a single, full-size explosive shot!”. And so say all of us…

My Horse is Irregular…

I’m patiently waiting for a little something to arrive through the post which I hope will enhance my slowly progressing FEMbruary submission of Empress Catherine and the Russian Court.

In the meantime, as the shocking Storm Dennis rages outside it is at least an opportunity to add some paint to those War of the Spanish Succession horses which arrived from Irregular Miniatures some weeks ago.

These are first metal 20mm figures I’ve ever had the pleasure to paint, so I’ll have to see how the riders go. It’s also a toe in the water for some other classic metal 20mm figures which I’ve received.

Right – I’d better nip outside now and check for any storm damage…!

Firing Line: The 1st Foot Guards

Presenting my project’s third regiment from the Duke of Marlborough’s British army; the 1st Foot Guards!

Lovely figures, once again by Strelets, if not entirely historically accurate. They are mostly all from their new “Firing Line” box of British Infantry figures. Blue breeches, cuffs and collars are a distinctive element in this regiment’s uniform.

For the grenadiers, I’ve used a couple of figures from their “In Attack” box instead, simply because the ‘firing line’ grenadiers looked so good that I’m thinking of keeping them back for a special purpose.The grenadiers have blue fronted caps, piped with yellow, examples of which I’ve attempted to reproduce (see 1st Guards grenadiers crossing the River Nebel below):

The musketeers I’ve shown with yellow hat lace.

The Strelets Firing Line box comes with various firing and loading poses. For the 1st Guards, I’ve concentrated all the firing figures together within this single battalion. Strelets supplied two poses standing to fire their muskets.

But there were only a limited four figures in a kneeling pose across the box.

The NCO was a pleasing figure to paint, suitably adopting a shouting and pointing pose:

This commissioned officer appears to be wearing gaiters and is holding his pair of white gloves.

More ‘fun with flags’… Would you believe that I actually quite enjoy the tinkering challenge of not-quite-getting-it-right, until I eventually admit defeat and accept whatever outcome. With this one, I realised I had foolishly put the red device in completely the wrong corner! Oh well, never mind…

I’m now thinking that I’m ready to tackle something else in the WSS project which perhaps isn’t British infantry. I’m not sure what exactly yet and anyway the FEMbruary challenge will now take precedence for a little while. Furthermore, I’ve recently come into possession some more WSS figures – but more on this in another post.

Strelets, meanwhile, recently announced on their forum that they are committed to also producing both cavalry and artillery sets for this series, in addition to the French Fusiliers slated for production – so much more to look forward to there! 🙂

Lord Orkney’s Regiment of Foot

I’m starting to find some very useful information about British regiments at the time of the War of the Spanish Succession. A website called The Spanish Succession is dedicated to the WSS and has lots of great and detailed information even on individual regiments including my chosen one; Orkney’s Regiment. The “oldest regiment in the British armed forces” had it’s roots far back in the Swedish army of Gustavus Adolphus of all things!

Ironically, my War of the Spanish Succession regiment even fought for the French army until Charles II ‘asked for it back’ in 1688. This regiment fought in all the major battles of the Duke of Marlborough and around this time became known as ‘The Royal Regiment’.

The Earl of Orkney, who gave him his name to the regiment, was appointed to it’s colonelcy 1692. An experienced soldier, he notably led the final assault at the Battle of Blenheim on the village leading eight battalions of troops before then receiving the final surrender of the French there.

By Martin Maingaud – Public Domain.

I also found some information on Pinterest about the flags carried into battle by the Royal Regiment / Orkney’s Regiment. My previous regiment had an English flag but being a Scottish regiment, the Orkney’s national flag was carried instead of the Union flag at this time. The design is shown below:

Once again, I had to endure the horrors of painting folded flag drapes. I might neaten up those white lines, but here is the result:

Orkney’s Regiment is described in my copy of “The Armies and Uniforms of Marlborough’s Wars” as having red coats, white facings, grey breeches and yellow lace on the tricornes. The facings later became blue possibly as early as the end of the 17th century but sources depict them still with white cuffs during the Marlburian period. Certainly, artist Bob Marrion preferred to illustrate the regiment with white facings in the aforementioned book.

R.J. Marrion’s illustration of a man of Orkney’s Regiment of Foot (book cover).

The figures I’m using are still from Strelets “advancing” set of British infantry figures. Sankey’s Regiment were all marching with arms at the slope, but Orkney’s men are all charging forward with their bayonets ready.

Though the box is finished, Orkney’s Regiment is lacking an officer and also a grenadier company. I’ve ordered more boxes of this series, however, so I can open another and attend to the shortfall in due course!

Lace Wars: Sankey’s Soldiers

The War of the Spanish Succession, indeed much the 18th century’s so-called ‘lace wars’, have been significantly overlooked in plastic at 1/72 scale until Strelets began to put things right towards the end of last year. At time of writing, Strelets have four sets slated for release:

  • British Infantry in Advance (1701-1714)
  • British Infantry in Attack (1701-1714)
  • British Infantry Firing Line (1701-1714)
  • French Fusiliers (Early War)

The first two have been released and the first set has already found its way to Suburban Militarism. This “in Advance” set includes around 20 marching figures and a similar number again advancing with the point of the bayonet – I’ve started with the marching boys.

I’ve been struggling to find Marlburian uniform information on specific regiments on the net, so I may have to turn to actual ye olde books for more info. Eventually, I turned to one of my postcards which was part of a set bought from The Keep Museum in Dorchester about the Devonshire and Dorsetshire Regiments.

The postcard shows an illustration by Rob Chapman of a soldier from Sankey’s Regiment in 1718 (regiments being named at the time after their colonel). Depicted just after the end of the War of the Spanish Succession on ‘sea service’, they would later be numbered as the 39th Regiment of Foot.

I was attracted to painting this regiment by the green facings, yet my copy of W.Y. Carman’s “Richard Simkin’s Uniforms of the British Infantry Regiments” tells me that for this regiment “no distinctive facings may be quoted before 1742” but does have this to say on their subsequent green facings when :

“…pale green was used for the facings and waistcoat. The green was later named as ‘willow green’, ‘popinjay’, ‘light green’ and other variations, no doubt because a fixed shade of green was hard to find in those days when dyes changed under battle conditions.”

In the end, I’ve been happy to go with the illustration and (in the spirit of those endless shades of green that they enjoyed) have given them some lime green facings, to match Rob Chapman’s illustration.

My marching figures are now about 90% finished, but you will note that some work does still remain to be done. This grenadier company above, for example, are still awaiting some attention to their grenadier caps. No idea what the actual caps looked like but I’m thinking some more of that lime green and some other detailing might do the trick.

Also on the march are some sergeants carrying halberds and a couple of officers too wearing their gorgets. The ensign has a black flag which needs painting in some manner too:


Sankey’s Regiment: A brief history

This regiment was orignally named “Colonel Coote’s Regiment” when it was raised in 1702. The said Colonel Richard Coote however was soon to die in a duel to be succeeded by Colonel Sankey, whose name the Regiment then took. Though missing out on all of Marlborough’s great battles of the war, they still campaigned in the Low Countries, France, Germany, Spain and North America. At the battle of Almanza, the regiment mounted mules to earn the ironic nickname “Sankey’s Horse”. After the war, having been raised as infantry and later serving as psuedo-cavalry when mounted on mules, the men found then found themselves acting as marines when on ‘sea-service’!


The remainder of the box I intend to paint up as a different British regiment, though I’ve yet to decide upon which one. Another aspect on my mind is for me a somewhat novel approach to basing, but more on that in another post.

My Christmas Cornucopia

I always enjoy seeing some of the gifts and presents that other bloggers get for Christmas, so I’m sharing some of mine too.

First off, this box of Marlburian British Infantry in Advance from Strelets wonderful new foray into the War of the Spanish Succession. I’m delighted that Strelets have begun this series which has been woefully neglected by in 1/72 scale plastics. What’s more, the figures are beautifully sculpted, too.

At my suggestion, I’ve also received from kindly relatives a box of these unusual figures, also by Strelets:

Strelets’ Roman Senate 1 box is about five years old now and as the name suggests had a sister box (number 2) also issued, which features many of the same figures. Two sprues contain senators all standing in their togas and alternatively listening or debating. A final sprue contains senators armed with knives, a statue, and Julius Caesar, all of which are designed to help you recreate the infamous assassination in the senate. A step out of the usual horse and musket era and into ancients; I’ve already been developing my plan for these which I’ll share in due course!

In another step away from 18th-19th century warfare, I’ve received a set of my favoured 1/72 scale plastics by the increasingly impressive Red Box. Last year, I developed my Ottomania project using their well-sculpted Ottoman Turks. As a kind of adjunct, I can now dip a toe into their late middle ages Duchy of Muscovy figures with these “Pishalniki” (arquebusiers).

What’s this? Wargaming?!

Earlier this year, Man of Tin blog, The Grand Duchy of Stollen and others paid tribute and mourned the passing of a deeply respected figure in the wargaming world; Stuart Asquith. Never having wargamed before, I was interested to read about the man and his achievements which included a book I’d had buried in my loft since my childhood; his Military Modelling Guide to Wargaming. His guide to solo wargaming was unwrapped on my birthday and together, who knows, I may investigate putting some of those figures of mine to use…

Of course, I need somewhere to keep all my crap, I mean precious hobby items and these boxes will do the job nicely; one with the grenadier from the sadly closing local discount hobby shop and the other from stationers Paperchase and featuring the Nutcracker which has been curiously popular this Christmas.

And finally, an amusingly appropriate stocking-filler…

I’ve already been busy working on some of my new figures and I’ll share progress shortly.

Until then, I wish a happy, productive and peaceful New Year to all Suburban Militarism visitors and friends!

#37 Regiment: 2nd Hussars + Uhlan Squadron [Duchy of Brunswick]

Okay, so the 37th Regiment in the Napoleonic Cavalry Project is actually two regiments as it incorporates a troop of uhlans for good measure…

My approach to painting black uniforms is no doubt excessively complex – after all, when all’s said and done, they all just look… well, black!

The box comes with 9 hussars and 3 uhlans. Firstly – the 2nd Brunswick Hussar Regiment:

Nine hussars in total all wearing their finery, pelisses, shakos and plumes. One arm ‘option’ included a bugle which I’ve used and assigned to the grey horse.

I’ve never been a fan of separate arms glued onto pegs – they never seem too secure to me, but I recognise it provides some interesting extra choices. One of the figures with fixed arms had a broken sabre which I cut off completely to hopefully give the impression of simply riding.

On the shako is a white skull and crossed bones (the Totenkopf in German), which appeared on both cavalry and infantry regiments in the army of Brunswick.

For the uhlans, with only three figures in the box I wanted to make sure that all my lancers were carrying lances, although the other arm options were available.

The czapkas worn by these uhlans have an attractive colour scheme – light blue cloth with yellow piping. These colours mimic the colours of the Duchy’s flag, which was similar to the Ukrainian flag of today.

To be honest, I didn’t have much faith on these uhlans looking all that impressive but I think they’ve turned out quite nicely.


Biography: 2nd Hussars and Uhlan squadron [Brunswick]

In 1809 Prince Frederick William, Duke of Brunswick, raised a corps of soldiers to fight the French, who had occupied his country since it’s defeat in the Jena Campaign of 1806-07. The whole army were called ‘Black Brunswickers’ because they wore black uniforms in mourning for their lost independence. Brunswick had been absorbed into the newly formed Kingdom of Westphalia which had Napoleon’s brother on the throne.

Brunswick Oels Corps (including left – a hussar) 1812, by Charles Hamilton Smith. National Army Museum.

After an initially successful uprising, Duke Frederick William eventually was forced to England where his army of over 2000 troops (including cavalry) formally entered British army. Now known as the Brunswick Oels Hussar Regiments, the Peninsular War (1808-1814) saw them fight at the battle of Fuentes de Onoro, Salamanca, Vitoria, the Pyrenees, Nivelle, the Nive, and Orthez.

In 1815, the Duke of Brunswick re-raised his army and took two cavalry regiments into the 100 days capaign; the 2nd Brunswick Hussars (684 sabres in 4 squadrons under Major Cramm) and a single squadron of lancers (just 235 men under Major Pott) .

Brunswickers at the Battle of Quatre Bras by Richard Knötel (1857-1914) [Public domain]. Infantrymen in their black uniforms are shown supported by Brunswick ‘avant garde’ light troops in grey.

The entire Brunswick contingent was heavily engaged in the Battle of Quatre Bras with the cavalry incurring 46 casualties which included the fatalities of not only the Duke himself but also the Brunswick Hussars’ own commander, Major Cramm.

The Death of the Duke of Brunswick in a contemporary print. The Duke is being aided by some of his hussars.

In Wellington’s despatch of the 19th June, he praised the contribution of the Brunswick troops and their commander;

The troops of the 5th division, and those of the Brunswick corps (The Black Brunswickers), were long and severely engaged, and conducted themselves with the utmost gallantry. Our loss was great, as your Lordship will perceive by the enclosed return; and I have particularly to regret His Serene Highness the Duke of Brunswick, who fell fighting gallantly at the head of his troops.” 

During the Battle of Waterloo, Wellington thought it prudent to keep the battle-scarred Brunswick cavalry far from the front line, in reserve near the centre. Consequently, they were only called into action during the latter stages of the battle, counter-attacking the French cavalry attacks costing them a further 92 casualties.


Notable Battles: Fuentes de Onoro, Salamanca, Vitoria, Quatre Bras, Waterloo.

Ottomania: The Harbaci Palace Gate Guard (Jannisaries)

Continuing with my steadily expanding Ottoman Turkish army, I’m turning my attention back to the elite Janissaries. The Janissaries were organised into three separate sections.

  • the cemaat (frontier troops); consisting of 101 ortas (battalions)
  • the bölük (the Sultan’s own bodyguard); 61 ortas
  • the sekban; 34 ortas

My previous orta represented a battalion from the largest corps, the cemaat; the 73rd orta were known as the Crane Keepers (Tenercis), a reference to their origins as part of the Sultan’s vast hunting retinue.

Man of the 73rd orta (the Crane Keepers)

The Yeniçeri Ocaği, or Janissary Corps, aside from being an elite military force also acted as the Sultan’s personal bodyguard, protecting their ruler and his senior officials and property. Specifically, the security of the Sultan was the responsibility of the Bostanci Bashi, the head of the what were known as Bostanci guards. The Bostanci corps of ‘gardeners’ palace guards were a separate, specialised part of the Janissary corps. Their role involved the policing and maintenance of the many palaces and estates in Istanbul.

Painting of Sultan Selim III holding audience at Topkapi Palace
by Konstantin Kapıdağlı – Badisches Landesmuseum, Public Domain.

And it’s with the Bostanci in mind that I’ve painted the next Janissary battalion in the Ottomania project. It is from the Sultan’s bodyguard or bölük division – specifically, the 56th orta – and this battalion supplied troops for the 60-strong Harbaci Palace Gate Guard. They were also known as the Çardak orta after the district on the Golden Horn in Istanbul where they were pemanently stationed.

The Harbaci Palace Guard were detailed for the protection of both the Grand Vizier and the Janissary Agha (senior commander of the Janissaries, taking orders only from the Sultan himself). The 56th’s unit insignia curiously appears to have been a sea-going galley.

Bostanci guard by an anonymous Greek artist, ca. 1809 – Public Domain

Having no evidence of what my selected orta looked like, I took a little inspiration from the above depiction of an 1809 guard of the Bostanci, wearing predominantly red clothing.

There are still some figures remaining in the box, which I intend to use at some point for the final corps; the Sekban. I’m not sure when that will be, as a number of other figures are now calling for my attention!

Ottomania – Topçu Ocağı Corps Completed!

Campaigns consisted of invasions by great armies of the Ottomans, with heavy parks of artillery… The generals opposed to them, not being able to meet the Turks in the field, spread their forces in numerous fortresses, more or less strong, and the campaigns consisted in besieging these fortresses. With rare exceptions, these sieges were successful. The Turks brought overwhelming forces to bear on them. Their siege guns completely overmatched the guns of the defence. It was a question of a few days or a few weeks how long these fortresses could resist. From “The Turkish Empire, its Growth and Decay” by Baron G. Shaw-Lefevre Eversley (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/46481)


I’ve been beavering away these past few weeks finishing off my collection of RedBox Ottoman Artillery (known as the Topçu Ocağı).

The pace of industrial development being slow during this period, the 16th Century Artillery box is broadly similar to their 17th Century set (but with different poses) so depicted wearing the same uniform colour, the sets will match well together.

As mentioned previously, I also had one stray broken cannon left over from the 16th Century Siege Artillery set. I’ve now put that right to make it a total of four of these siege gun teams, each with a mighty wall-smashing artillery piece. I confess to a macabre liking for these monsters of cannonry.

The 16th century artillery box includes some very pleasing poses, including these struggling ammunition carriers which, from their headdress, apppear to be janissaries which have been dragooned into the laborious task:

I also particularly like the ear-protecting character in a fez, seen here standing next to the officer in a large turban:

The plastic cannon pieces themselves are a trifle bendy but it is an effect that is not too noticeable. The carriages, however, I think look convincingly solid.

So, over the past year I’ve somehow managed to make myself a besieging Ottoman artillery corps (in Turkish; Topçu Ocağı) all being neatly entrenched behind earth-filled gabions,and consisting of 12 big guns, namely:

It all makes for a reasonably imposing sight when stretched out as a siege line across the lounge carpet. Even more imposing to a nervous population cowering behind it’s city walls, I should think! Not a bad start to my Ottomania project, all in all.

I’ve enjoyed branching out into a different era to the 18th / 19th centuries and you could say it’s expanded my horizons. I’ve already painted some Janissaries and there is plenty more in the RedBox range to expand my Ottomania project even further.

What’s more, I couldn’t resist purchasing some other 16th/17th Century troops from a rival nation state that I saw going very cheap on eBay recently, so there’s definitely some life in this project for some considerable time to come.

Ottoman Artillerymen

By way of a quick progress update while the cannon, gabions and basing are underway, I thought I’d share my Ottoman artillery figures of the Topçu Ocağı artillery corps.

Three gun crews have been painted; x2 teams of eight figures each and x1 siege artillery gun team of four figures. The 16th century crews come with two men carrying what appears to be large leather bag of cannon balls. I’m still painting the bag but when it’s finished should make for a nice scene.

More heavy lifting of ammunition:

Light my fire – Turkish portfire carriers:

Turbans indicate the officers in charge. The siege gun commander holds a brass quadrant, an instrument for calculating the required elevation of the gun.

Ramrod holders:

So, all these fellows are just patiently awaiting the development of their dioramas, which I’ll share when complete!