I am particularly delighted to have a book come through the post recently which is an indispensable guide to the era I’m currently painting. It’s a 2016 hardback edition of C.S. Grant’s “The Armies and Uniforms of Marlborough’s Wars”. This terrific book combines two previously separately released volumes on the topic and – best of all – is lavishly illustrated throughout with line sketches and lots of full-colour depictions of Marlburian-era soldiers by one of my favourite military uniform artists, the now sadly deceased R.J. Marrion (the author’s ‘great friend and collaborator’).
To anyone interested in the War of the Spanish Succession, I can only highly recommend it – if you can find or afford a copy, that is! Although recently published, it seems to be very rare and, from some sellers, hideously expensive. For an era whose records of military uniforms are sketchy at best, it is proving extremely useful to tap into Charles Grant’s ‘many years of research’ with this beautifully presented book.
I’ll be honest here, it didn’t come cheap but I think is worth every penny and is an essential help to one of my 2020 projects – wargaming the Marlburian Wars.
Yes, wargaming isn’t something I’ve ever done before but I’ve been steadily looking into it with a view to trying some solo games. I’ve already invested in a green baize table cover for the landscape and also secured some ‘buildings’. The intention is to explore putting my 1/72 scale Lace Wars figures into use on the wargaming table. This will be a slow-burn process involving steady research and development, specifically requiring:
developing my understanding of wargaming and how it works!!!!!
developing some Marlburian-era rules through research on the period
developing the armies themselves by painting the figures (1 regiment (Sankey’s) completed so far!)
Of course, I’ve plenty of other figures from different eras I could use for skirmishes, etc, but my Lace Wars figures are the first being developed with wargaming specifically in mind and this has already led to some development on the bases;
By grouping the bases together instead of individually (I’ve grouped them in groups of 4, 2 and singles), it will facilitate rapid deployment and movement during the game, the individually based figures allow for any casualties/losses to be reflected on the table… Apologies to wargamers – this is all new to me!
So my first regiment is virtually completed. The British army is already represented by the above Sankey’s Regiment which consists of 24 figures including 2 sergeants, an ensign and an officer. I’ve deliberately used a simple, plain, green grass scatter on the bases to help reduce shedding of the grass through wargame use, and also to better match my dark green baize which they’ll be marching across.
The flag was a real pain to paint! I love the sculpting but trying to understand the fold of the flag and then reflect that fold with the painted cross of St. George resulted in a number of repaints. The end result is still not right but I’m sticking with it!
Given that the Act of Union was in 1707, British regiments at this time were for some time represented by either English or Scottish flags instead of the Union flag. So I have shown this English regiment carrying the cross of St.George into battle. The other regimental flag, the colonel’s colour, was much more open to individual interpretation often with any colour background and a design of the colonel’s own choosing.
I’ve already started on the other half of the box of Strelets’ advancing infantry by depicting a Scottish regiment – more on that in a future post!
“This regiment was formed in 1881 and adopted the name of “Princess Charlotte of Wales Regiment”. In 1885, the regiment was granted the title of “Royal” in recognition of the service of the 1st Battalion at the action of Tofrek in 1885. The drawing depicts a private of the old 66th Foot in the uniform of 1855.“
Number 13 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).
“This regiment was raised in 1689. In the Royal Warrant of 1713 it was described as the “Royal Regiment of Welsh Fuzileers”. The present form of spelling “Welch” was adopted in 1920. The drawing shows a fusilier in 1849.”
Number 12 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).
Back in 2013, I was new to painting figures. I had dabbled before in 25mm metal castings before but only began to really dedicate regular time, patience and, ah, money in 2012. At the time, on the 1st floor of a huge model and toy shop in my home town, boxes of 1:72 scale plastic soldiers of every description occupied an entire room. Then, one day, I walked in to the shop to find it all gone. The floor to ceiling high wall coverage by countless boxes of plastic troops of every description and from every manufacturer had all but disappeared.
The venerable old store was closing down and clearly, in the weeks since I’d last visited, I’d missed the ensuing super-sale bonanza. Modelling vultures had already picked the carcass clean. There would be time to have a little cry about the old shop’s fate later back home but at that point I could see a handful of boxes still remained on a shelf – the last remnant half-companies from an army on sprues once numbering many 1000s of figures.
The Marmite sculpting style of the early Strelets figures ensured they featured heavily amongst these final unwanted boxes. I decided to pick up two of their marching French Napoleonic infantry sets; French Infantry on the March (1) and French Infantry in Advance. The unloved kits hadn’t remained unpurchased due to over-pricing – priced only £2.50 each with the added inducement of a ‘buy 1 get 1 free’!
As I took them home to mourn the passing of that enormous model soldier department (not to say it’s ever helpful, knowledgeable, but sadly soon-to-be-redundant staff) I suspected that these figures would probably go forever unpainted, stowed somewhere in the loft. In truth, it was a purchase motivated by sympathy rather than by desire.
And then, a few years later, in March 2015. I decided to paint some with a view to maybe submitting them to an international group painting project. In the event, they weren’t sent abroad but I had at least now made some effort on 18 of them. To my surprise, I enjoyed painting them a lot, with no less than 24 individual poses across the two boxes, there was real personality from a crowd otherwise depicted doing more or less the same thing. Both boxes featured the troops wearing greatcoats so mixed perfectly well together.
These painted figures remained un-based for a long while until, during a heavy blizzard on a December day in 2017, I realised that their greatcoats suggested they’d do well marching through snow (an obvious idea given one box’s art even depicts snow) and somehow, I ended up adding a further 26 to make 44 marchers. And last year, continuing what was becoming a yearly tradition, I dutifully painted another dozen to follow the Strelets French sledge train I’d painted. This latest dozen painted only this week takes the painted group it up to 68.
Since 2008, both of these marching sets are now virtually unavailable but Strelets have recently made a new replacement; their French Infantry on the March (1), with apparently more on the way! I’ve tackled a sprue of these new figures to compare with the old figures. These will be the future of my French winter marching tradition once the old sets are finally exhausted.
They are very different to the original sets indeed.
Firstly, the new set has its marchers appearing sideways on the sprue, rather than face on. This has the effect of the figures being quite slender, almost appearing as a semi-flat.
Two of the figures wear some unusual headgear. PSR identify it as a pokalem, also known as a bonnet de police. Blue and piped with red, this early kind of informal headdress was warm and comfortable with ear flaps which could be worn up or down (as in these chilly examples), it could even be worn under shako.
Details, as with all newer Strelets figures, are much more subtle than before but overall the proportions and poses of these figures are impressive, even allowing for their semi-flat thinness.
To more clearly differentiate between the older regiment and the newly raised troops, I’ve adopted a grey greatcoat for the new recruits with a green ball plume.
The old style figures are now down to their last couple of remaining sprues. Do I have a preference between the sets? Plastic Soldier Review prefer the new set of figures. But for all that, when it comes to painting, I can’t help but have a fondness, perhaps even a bias, for the ‘Old Guard’, those original, ugly and unloved refugees from a dying High Street model shop.
For some time, I’ve had my eye on acquiring one of the many Victorian newspaper illustrations of rifle volunteers from the movement’s heyday in the 1860s through to the end of the century. It was an abstract concept until Mark from Man of Tin drew my attention to such a print on display over his painting desk. It looked so good that it convinced me to do likewise.
The image I’ve chosen featured in a recent post and is taken from The Illustrated London News, September 1963. The caption reads: Review of the Norfolk Volunteers on Mousehold Heath: Lady Suffield presenting the prizes won at the Norfolk Rifle Association meeting.
I chose this one because of my interest in military volunteers from Norfolk, being a county I lived in years ago. What’s more, the illustration is a good scene of Victorian volunteer soldiery together with depictions of men and women of the local community taking a keen interest in proceedings. The dark-coated men lined up are from the local Volunteer Rifle Corps.
To either side are the mounted Norfolk Light Horse in their scarlet coats, wearing black dragoon helmets with falling white plumes, a force which I posted about earlier this year. This short-lived formation were attached to the local rifle corps. Other mounted military men in the distance appear to be officers wearing a variety of headdress and I can even make out a hussar.
The mounted man in the foreground appears to be an infantry or militia officer.
In the centre with the cocked hat could even be the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk which at the time of this event would have been Thomas Coke’s son**.
And so, the artistic militarisation of my household walls continues…
“The Durham Light Infantry was formed by the linking of the ’68th Foot or Durham Regiment’ with the 106th Bombay Light Infantry in 1881. The 68th Foot became a Light Infantry Corps in 1808. The drawing portrays a Private of the 68th in 1846.”
Number 11 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).
“The Gordon Highlanders were formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 75th Stirlingshire Regiment and the 92nd Highlanders. The Duchess of Gordon played an active part in the recruiting of the regiment by bestowing a kiss on each intending recruit. The drawing depicts a private of the regiment about 1840.“
Number 10 of 25 from “British Uniforms of the 19th Century” – a cigarette card series issued by manufacturer Amalgamated Tobacco (Mills).
Earlier this year, I visited and posted about the Queen’s Royal Lancers and Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum in Thoresby Park, Nottinghamshire. The museum included within the collection exhibits related to one of Nottinghamshire’s two yeomanry regiments; the South Notts Hussars, including the mess dress uniform shown below.
This reminded me that I had a 54mm figure of the regiment which I had lying around unpainted and it seemed a perfect spur for me to dig it out and finally get some paint on it.
My figure is an officer of the South Notts Hussars Yeomanry from 1908. It’s from the 54mm “Squadron Range” sold by Tradition of London. As you can see, I’ve mounted my yeoman on the same style plinth as all my other 54mm yeomanry range figures. Also as usual, I’ve put the name of the regiment on the front and some details of the figure on the back.
Information on old yeomanry uniforms is not always clear-cut but I note that the Uniformology website disagreed with the sculptor about the number of caplines around the busby, insisting the line went around the headdress four times instead of the more usual two shown here.
The trickiest part of the figure for me was creating the Austrian knot details on the cuffs which were very indistinct on the figure. A check of the internet helped me gain an understanding before I quickly attempted some freehand work which, I like to fool myself, looks okay for a first attempt.
I’m quite pleased with the pouch belt which I gently brushed with a mix of gold and gold-yellow to reveal its very subtle pattern.
This figure arrived last year as part of a huge collection being sold on by the family of a collector who had passed away. I am mindful of being but the latest custodian and always aim to do them some justice. The other figures from this collection formed most of my “Marrion’s Men” series of yeomen.
The pouch is black with a silver cover and a gold emblem and other metalwork on the belt is gold. Headdress consists of a black fur busby, a gold-laced red bag, and a white over red plume.
I think it’s a really nice figure and a great example of a late 19th / early 20th Century hussar’s uniform. However, at nearly £50 a painted figure + P&P from the Tradition website, I think I’ll stick to the far more enjoyable activity of painting my own!
Some great images of the regiment can be found on The British Empire website including a photograph of the regiment on the march dated the same year as my figure; 1908. It’s a great scene of the regiment mounted in Full Dress with ladies and children walking on the path alongside.
The nearby ceiling light reflects off the glass case and from the floor the sign inside was barely visible to the (shorter than average height) visitor, but thanks to holding my camera high up to take the photo, I could confirm that it reads “Norfolk Light Horse Volunteers“. It contains a Full Dress sabretache and a pouch.
Nothing particularly remarkable here, perhaps. The reason I’m posting about this obscure object is because I’ve been lately furthering my knowledge of Victorian military volunteers by reading W.Y. Carman’s “Light Horse and Mounted Rifle Volunteers 1860-1901“. This is an interesting guide to the short-lived phenomenon of Victorian mounted volunteers; not part of the yeomanry as such, but an adjunct to the wider Rifle Volunteer Movement which began in 1859. In 1862, it is thought that approximately 1218 mounted volunteers comprised up to 28 troops of both Light Horse and Mounted Rifles. By 1881, the demands, costs and complexities of maintaining these forces had seen them dwindle away, leaving only 5 units remaining totalling 530 men.
The Norfolk Light Horse, whose sabretache was up on the wall in the Muckleburgh Collection, lasted only 5 years, forming in September 1862 but disappearing well before the end of the decade (August 1867). They had their genesis in the newly formed Norfolk Mounted Rifles and, after evolving into a Light Horse formation, went on to number up to 60 men in total.
”The uniform consists of a scarlet tunic with blue facings, white cross belt, white breeches, and Napoleon boots, the head dress is a busby with blue bag ; the forage cap is blue trimmed with white. A number of the troop have daily appeared in the city during the week, on their way to drill ; they are exceedingly well mounted and certainly present a very imposing appearance… The Norfolk Chronicle, 6th April, 1861.
Initially wearing the busby described above, this troop soon adopted a dark blue / black dragoon helmet with a white plume and an unusual triangular leopardskin patch on the front. By 1863, although still wearing the red tunic, the white breeches had gone and the men are depicted wearing blue overalls with side stripes.
The painting below dates from 1862 and depicts the local 1st City of Norwich Rifle Volunteers in their grey uniforms but also shows some men of the “Norwich Light Horse Volunteers” (as they were known locally for a while), easily noticeable in their scarlet-coloured undress uniforms. Officers Captain Gurney and Cornet Grimmer are said to be amongst them. It’s a nice scene and great impression of volunteer soldiering in the Victorian era.
Particularly interesting to me is the view in the background of a rifle range, a topic I posted on back in 2017. The backstop, the targets and the flag can all be made out and also a very high second embankment on the hillside above, no doubt to stop badly aimed rounds from ricocheting up high off the rising ground. I think it’s also just possible to see the rest of the red-coated Light Horse troop mounted on the hill in the far distant skyline.
Mousehold Heath seemed to be a popular location for activities relating to Norfolk volunteer activity, so it’s perhaps no surprise to discover pictorial evidence of a rifle range. Part of this heath still exists today, albeit surrounded by new development on the outskirts of Norwich. The area is the opposite side of the city centre to where I used to live, so I am not particularly familiar with it. I wonder if there’s evidence of the range still to be found there?
In it’s brief existence, the Norfolk Light Horse played a colourful part in a number of local events and occasions. The Records of the Norfolk Yeomanry Cavalry describes something of the unit’s brief existence, including the review on Mousehold Heath seen in the newspaper illustration at the top of this post and reported enthusiastically by the local paper. Examples of their appearances at local events include;
1861 – (As the ‘Norwich Mounted Rifle Volunteers’), a volunteer review at Holkham Park.
1862 – A volunteer fete at Crown Point.
1863 – A ‘grand military parade’ in Norwich in celebration of the marriage of the Prince of Wales.
1863 – Annual volunteer review at Mousehold Heath.
1864 – A volunteer review at Gunton Park, notably with the “band of the 1st Norwich Light Horse” in attendance.
1866 – Escort duty for the Prince of Princess of Wales visiting Norwich – particularly prestigious for the NLHV as the King’s Dragoon Guards were reduced to merely lining the streets!
The Chronicle’s reports on such occasions could be warmly evocative:
‘The 1st Norwich Light Horse, commanded by Capt Hay Gurney, marched with the Lancers from the Cavalry Barracks… As soon as the cavalry had reached Tombland, the other troops fell in and the entire body moved off amid the cheers of the spectators, who by this time were numerous… Every window was filled with lookers on, for the most part ladies, whose bright smiles and cheerful faces, betokened the delight they took in the spectacle.” The Norfolk Chronicle, 14th March, 1863.
Returning to the sabretache and pouch I’d seen in the Muckleburgh collection, I wonder whether W.Y. Carman had access to these original objects when he published the book in 1991. In the passage on the Norfolk Light Horse, he writes;
“A Full Dress sabretache is known. It measured 10 and a half inches high and 9 and a quarter inches at the base. The ground was bright blue or ultramarine with silver lace around the sides and base showing a red outer edge. The regulation crown was set over a ‘VR’ cypher and a three-part scroll. The latter was of red cloth and had silver letters and edging, reading ‘Norfolk / Light / Horse’. W.Y. Carman
Smith and Harris’ “The Yeomanry Cavalry of Norfolk”, gives the dimensions as below, distinctly different to Carman’s measurements, and are surprised by the sabretache being the “smallest on record” with a pouch for holding papers, maps, etc as broad as the sabretache. This is perhaps explained by the sabretache being of such small dimensions whilst the need for a pouch large enough to provide utility still remained.
“The sabretache is of particular interest as it is the smallest specimen on record, the width of no more than 7 inches at the top and 8 inches at the bottom, overall depth 9 inches…strangely the pouch is almost as broad as the sabretache.” Smith and Harris.
The clear differences in dimensions, not to say other minor differences in the size and shape of the crown, cypher and other details, make me wonder if they really aren’t two completely different sabretaches. I feel the shape of Carman’s ‘tache further confirms this suspicion.
Carman also describes the pouch:
At the same time a Full Dress pouch was seen, the flap being black velvet edged with silver lace and the embroidered crown with a crimson lining was over N L H V in silver letters. The precise date of these items is not known. Another pouch had an ultramarine flap.”W.Y. Carman
Military artist Bob Marrion probably got a first-hand look at the Muckleburgh sabretache (even though his illustration was published around the same time as Carman’s work) as his sabretache on the cover of Vol.12 of the Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force book seems to match the one in the collection very closely.
So, the items I saw in the Muckleburgh Collection in 2017 are either;
different to the ones written about by W.Y. Carman
or the pouch and sabretache which he reports as ‘last seen in 1958’ are one and the same with the Muckleburgh Collection’s and must have somehow resurfaced to find their way there.
Either way, it’s a shame that these relics, some of the few remaining items relating to the existence of this short-lived local mounted force, should be positioned so discreetly in the collection. Over 150 years ago, that humble sabretache would have once been a small part of the grand reviews and colourful parades which brought pleasure to many across the county.
The Royal carriages, escorted by a detachment of the Norwich Light Horse, appeared in sight. The autumnal tints of the trees, the bright uniforms of the Volunteers, the genial sunshine, and the hill and dale of the road, these with the long train of carriages contributed to form a delightful picture…” The Norfolk Chronicle, 3rd November, 1866.
Postscript! – Also high up on the same wall as the Norfolk Light Horse sabretache was another but from a different yeomanry regiment which has also thrown up something of interest. More on that in another post…
I have already presented the painted horses for the latest regiment in my Napoleonic Cavalry Project, so now it’s time to show them with their riders in-situ. I can announce that the 33rd regiment is Napoleon’s Chasseurs à Cheval of the Imperial Guard.
Wait a minute! That regiment has already appeared in the project, so I’ve got some explaining to do. I felt it was worth attempting this set for a number of reasons;
When they first appeared it was as a mere 5 mounted figures, (certainly not a full ‘regiment’) and were acting simply as an escort to Napoleon himself.
Those figures were by a different manufacturer; Italeri, not Revell.
Italeri’s figures had the men wearing full dress uniform with a pelisse and a plume and bag on their kolpaks. Revell’s men appear in plainer service dress.
Finally, both figures were of sufficient quality as to demand inclusion, these Revell ones being just too good not to attempt.
Unlike the 5 mounted and 2 unmounted figures in the Italeri French Imperial General Staff set, there are plenty of figure in Revell’s Mounted Guard Chasseurs set – a whopping 18 in total which includes a single standing figure.
Did I say they were of ‘sufficient quality’? That undersells it a bit as these Revell figures are very good. My only observation is that the detail is just so finely produced that it makes the painter’s task very tricky. Larger, crisper details may not be reproducing details accurately to scale but it makes the details pop out better to the eye. I’ve matched the basing to my original Italeri versions from 2015. They go together pretty well, I think, the difference between the styles of dress and sculpting can be seen when comparing them to the crisper Italeri versions I painted.
I was particularly impressed with Revell’s officer figure. The pose of his rearing horse with it’s leopard-skin shabraque is an audacious piece of sculpting and works well, I think, with the officer mounted. It’s a piece of dramatic hero posing that’s really memorable.
Other unique figures included in the box was this chasseur below standing on guard with musket and fixed bayonet. The trumpeter meanwhile is unmistakable with his dramatic white colpak and sky blue uniform.
It’s been a pleasure to work with these figures. What a shame that Revell aren’t producing any more Napoleonic cavalry – these guys are over 26 years old now! They didn’t make many Nappy cavalry sets, (aside from reissuing Italeri figures, their only other original set being the excellent British Life Guards), but what they did produce was a real boon to the hobby.
In time-honoured tradition, that just leaves me to share more of the finished figures with a regimental biography to follow:
Biography: Chasseurs à Cheval of the Imperial Guard [France]
The Chasseurs à Cheval of the Imperial Guard originally began life as a part of a regiment of Guides raised by Napoleon when just a general in the Revolutionary Wars in 1796. They would go on to become one of the most prestigious regiments in the army, providing the personal guard to the Emperor and nicknamed by some ‘The Pet Children’!
In 1800, a single company was raised of Chasseurs, commanded by the emperor’s stepson, which formed a part of the prestigious Consular Guides. This company took part in the narrow victory at the battle of Marengo. By 1802, they finally became a full regiment consisting of around 1000 men with a single company of Egyptian Mamelukes joining them as a part of the regiment later.
They performed a distinguished role at the battle of Austerlitz, badly mauling the Russian Imperial Guard. Missing the battle of Jena in 1806, the 1st Hussars (a regiment painted earlier in this project) had the privilege of escorting Napoleon on that occasion. They would return to personal escort duties in time for the triumphal entry into Berlin. They later took part in the great charge of Murat’s cavalry at the battle of Eylau in 1807.
During the Spanish campaign, this regiment performed well but was surprised, outflanked and badly cut up by British cavalry, their commander, Général de Brigade Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes, being wounded and captured.
In the war of 1812, once more under the command of the returned General Lefebvre-Desnouettes, the regiment (as with the rest of the army) lost heavily over the course of the campaign, though distinguished themselves protecting their emperor from a particularly threatening attack by Cossacks.
During the final campaign that led to Waterloo, they formed part of the Light Cavalry Division of the Imperial Guard, numbering some 1200 sabres. Though leading the initial advance on Quatre Bras, they were not seriously engaged and suffered light losses. At Waterloo, they were deployed as part of the cavalry reserve. The Guard Chasseurs were sent in leading the 2nd wave of fruitless attacks against the Allied squares in the afternoon and thus their proud history as Napoleon’s favoured cavalry regiment would finally come to an end.
Notable Battles: Marengo, Austerlitz, Wagram, Eylau, Somosierra, La Moskowa, Quatre Bras, Waterloo.