Come on in, the party’s in full swing! Pour yourself a drink and mingle…
Five years ago, my first post on WordPress was published. I’ve since maintained regular blogging for five years. I wasn’t at all sure what I was doing when I started – or why, but I seem to keep on painting figures and blogging away.
Ooh, that Cossack balalaika version of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” is going down a storm…
There’s Capitaine Dubois and General Fournier indulging their Gallic love for fine wine by quaffing sauvignon blanc…Looks like both Major Donaldson and Ferik Ibrahim Pasha prefer a nice cup of tea, though…
Oh dear, Private Atkins, has disgraced himself by drinking far too much and practising his dance moves…
Plenty of free time yesterday allowed me to spend some time preparing the evening meal and – best of all – painting my soldiers. More correctly in this instance, I was painting their horses. Yes – I’m back at the Napoleonic Cavalry Project with the 37th Regiment in the collection. You can make up your own mind whether having painted 37 Napoleonic cavalry regiments is something to be proud of…
When they were available, I prevaricated over purchasing Napoleonic HaT’s Brunswick Cavalry box. HaT figures are always nice, but they don’t often excite me a great deal. As the Nappy Cavalry Project progressed and options for new sets declined, I found myself belatedly wishing I’d secured a box before it had sold out. So it was with some pleasure that I discovered that HaT were releasing the set recently as part of a raft of re-releases.
During the 1806 invasion of Prussia by Napoleon, one of the Prussian Field Marshalls, the Duke of Brunswick, had been mortally wounded during the Battle of Auerstedt. The Duchy of Brunswick itself spent the next five years as part of the Napoleonic kingdom of Westphalia, occupied by French troops.
The Duke’s son, himself a major general in the Prussian army, loathed the French as much as his father and dedicated himself to fighting for liberation for his Duchy. He raised a corps which became known in England as the Black Brunswickers for their all-black uniforms (apparently adopted ‘in mourning’ for their homeland). After some initial success, he and his troops fled to Britain to become part of the British army where they faught in the Peninsular War. A re-raised Brunswick corps faught at Quatre Bras (where – like his father – the Duke was killed fighting the French) and also at Waterloo where they saw the French finally defeated.
The Duke’s Black Brunswicker corps have been reproduced in various ways by HaT and recently by Strelets. The Brunswick Corps cavalry consisted of a regiment of hussars and a squadron of uhlans, both wearing the ubiquitous black uniform. HaT’s Brunswick cavalry box reflecting the relative sizes of the regiments includes 3 uhlan figures and 9 figures of the hussars.
The pre-Raphaelite painter Millais, painted the above in 1860 following a conversation with William Howard Russell of the Times:
My subject appears to me, too, most fortunate, and Russell thinks it first-rate. It is connected with the Brunswick Cavalry at Waterloo…They were nearly annihilated but performed prodigies of valour… The costume and incident are so powerful that I am astonished it has never been touched upon before.
In terms of my own painting, I’ve been here before – painting black-uniformed Germanic hussars in 2015 in the early days of the project. These were Waterloo 1815’s Prussian Leib Hussars who also wore the death’s head symbol on their shakos. The key difference between those Prussian uniforms and the Brunswick Hussars is that the Brunswickers go even further with all that Gothic blackness, having black lacing and black breeches too.
Better get back to those horses. Speaking of which, I’ve come to the conclusion that my horse painting technique has stood still for too long and have pledged to slowly develop my ‘repartoire’. Firstly, I’ve turned my attention to my dun horses. We own a dun pony called Woody, so I feel it’s important I always paint at least one in any given regiment. Trouble is, I’ve never been quite happy with them, so I’ve changed the colour mix and I’m already a little happier with the shade for the coat.
Next, inspired by Bill’s magnificent dapple grey from his glorious Spanish hussars (Tiny Wars Played Indoors blog), I might turn my hand at some variations too. Palominos, Piebalds or Strawberry Roans anyone?
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.
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.
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 ortaafter 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.
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!
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 TopçuOcağı).
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.
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.
So, all these fellows are just patiently awaiting the development of their dioramas, which I’ll share when complete!
I began the year painting figures from what was both an unusual topic and an unusual era for me; 16th/17th century troops of the Ottoman Empire. Specifically, I focused on their artillery corps (the TopçuOcağı). These are impressive sculpts from RedBox which was a key reason why I was drawn to them in the first place. Using resin-cast gabion gun emplacements, I created mini dioramas from their following sets:
When I made my 16th Century Siege Artillery earlier this year, I only attempted 3 of the 4 guns in the box as I had a) inexplicably lost one of the gun crew and b) carelessly cut through the axle on the gun carriage! Happily, the missing Ottoman artilleryman finally turned up after a month hiding behind the sofa (thereby not demonstrating the kind of martial qualities required as a member of the TopçuOcağı of the Kapikulu Corps). Turning my attention to the broken cannon, I had to get creative.
So I’ve embarked on a bit of scratch-building by cutting away the broken axle and drilling a hole through the carriage. Next, I used a scalpel to whittle away a cocktail stick to act as a replacement axle. I still had trouble getting it through the hole which I resolved by cutting deep into the carriage so that it sat convincingly on top the axle instead.
You’d have to know how hopeless I am at such practical construction to understand how ridiculously pleased I am with my handywork. I feel like an engineer! My engineer father will be impressed, I’m sure.
I’ve been painting 20 artillerymen figures and they’re approaching completion. So, I’m now working on the big guns…
…and also tackling the resin-cast gabions which have been a feature of these artillery teams.
I’ve said before that there is significant doubt that there was any real standardised uniform for the Turkish TopçuOcağı, but I readily confess that I like the uniformity of miniature figures in my painting. Furthermore, I think it suggests something of the relatively advanced professionalism of the Ottoman artillery at a time when their corps were peerless in Europe.
Finally, I’m also thinking that these figures could also stand nicely as being the artillery of a wargaming imagi-nation; perhaps a fictitious Islamic nation, constantly at war with other neighbouring 17th century Balkan lands, Tsarist Russia or North African states. The Sultanate of Al-Suburbia, perhaps, or the Caliphate of Militaristan?
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.
This is one last group from the new Strelets French Foreign Legion figures I’ve been tackling, but I’ve decided to paint them as something a little different.
The “French Foreign Legion XXth Century” box includes figures engaged in action rather than the marching and mounted figures seen in my recent posts. Some of these figures wear the sun or pith helmet rather than the classic kepi and it is the figures wearing the pith helmets which I’ve been concentrating on.
In trawling the internet, I managed to find a single illustration of the French colonial marines wearing the double-breasted coat (known as the capote) together with the pith helmet. I have since struggled to re-find it again and so have no idea where it originated but given the anchor badge on the helmet it clearly was intended to be a marine. I suppose it is entirely possible that the French marines wore the famous capote,but marines in this uniform do not appear frequently on the internet.
So, looking so similar to my French Foreign Legion figures, I set about recreating that uniform with the blue trousers and anchor cap badge. I’ve added a little straggly grass to give a marshy, far-east impression, perfect for veterans of the Tonkin Campaign in the 1880s.
I was first inspired to create some French colonial marines after seeing 28mm khaki-wearing later versions of these troops on Atomic Floozy’s splended blog.
I thought the kneeling figures were quite effective:
Standing and firing figures:
And when the fighting becomes hand-to-hand, the other end of the rifle becomes useful…:
En guard! Yes, I know, I’ve forgotten to paint those bayonets…
All in all, I am quite pleased with my small force of French marines and I’ll be sticking with the infantry of France for my next paint too…
There are stirrups which are unnecessary when riding camels, so I’ve simply painted over them. One of the mounted legionnaires you will notice holds a pair of binoculars, an essential item for any patrol.
Now, I’ve said it before. I really don’t like pegs on figures. Even when expertly made, I don’t like the concept – tiny plastic pegs in tiny holes do not a secure connection make.
Being camels intended for a number of other Strelets sets, needless to say these Foreign Legion pegs did not connect with the camel’s holes at all well and when they did it unseated the rider in an awkward way. What’s more, the legs of the riders were far too narrow for the camel also so I was left wrestling, bending and gluing for an unconvincing sit. The end result is just about convincing, I think.
The concept of camel-mounted legionnaires is fanciful, owing more to the romance of cinema than to reality. However, as my miniature camel train lopes off across the rolling Saharan dunes into the sunset, I’m still not quite done with the Foreign Legion. I’ve opened another box of French Foreign Legion also recently issued by Strelets, but this time I’ll be applying my own twist to it…
And now the men of the mounted company were very pleased with themselves. They had not to march, the morning was reasonably cool and… added to this, they were getting away from the detested garrison duty, and after a little time voices began to rise in the marching song of the Legion, Le Boudin, the whole column taking up the chorus: Tiens, voila du boudin voila du boudin voila du boudin…
The Legionary on the march is a cheerful person, even when encumbered with from sixty to eighty pounds of kit, besides a rifle and ammunition, and marching on his own feet under a temperature of 100 degrees in the shade…
Strelets new “French Foreign Legion: Desert Patrol” box includes 6 camel-mounted legionnaires and 8 marching figures. I’m sharing the latter in this post and will follow up with the camel riders in a following post.
Each of the eight marching men is in a unique pose:
This next figure is carrying a Lewis machine gun. Not manufactured until just before WWI, this is something of an anachronism with this uniform which, according to Plastic Soldier Review, can be best dated to no later than 1912. As they concede however, “you can find the Legion using this weapon in films”, and so fits the cinematic vibe of this set.
All in all, a lovely set of figures by Strelets. My criticism as a figure painter would be that the detail is very subtle in parts and I like crisper detail. My other criticism is that for a force well known for its brutal marches through hostile desert (march or die!), 8 isn’t enough – I want more!
The remaining 6 camel-mounted legionnaires will follow in my next post, until then here’s Laurel and Hardy on the march to ‘Fort Arid’ in their classic Foreign Legion spoof Beau Hunks.
In one way, the Legionary is like an animal of the jungle. Put him in barracks with their monotony and he becomes surly and dangerous to himself and others, place him in his proper surrounding – the march, or battlefield – and he becomes what he is by nature, the soldier par excellence.