I can confirm that the last of my Strelets Polish Infantry on the March box are now fully painted and based. Minor quibbles aside (those muskets seem a little bendy), Strelets deserve to be applauded for this set which is impressively sculpted.
The 13th Regiment was the only Napoleonic Polish regiment to wear white instead of blue uniforms. Apparently this was because they wore uniforms which had been captured from the Austrian army.
The drummer was painted based on a depiction in a watercolour I found on the web. I do like the light blue Czapka, red lapels and white uniform colour scheme! Hopefully, he looks similar to the painting? Oh darn it, I’ve just noticed that his collar is the wrong colour…
The flag bearer had a bare plastic flag attached which required me to paint the details on its curved surface. I wasn’t sure what the flag would have looked like for the 13th regiment and so I simply copied one depicted belonging to another regiment. The result is hardly a masterpiece as I didn’t spend too long working on it, but I’m happy enough with it and I enjoyed the challenge.
And so, that’s all the Napoleonic Poles completed. My next painting challenge is already well under way. It’s another new Strelets set but the era is completely different. I can announce that for 2018, Suburban Militarism will be venturing into the First World War.
My 13th Regiment of Polish infantry are slowly approaching completion. With an all white uniform and light blue facings, the challenge is to avoid them looking a little too luminous and bright, yet still pleasingly colourful.
I’ve used ‘turquoise’ rather than light blue for their facings simply because I preferred the shade (so there!).
I started to paint the drummer in reverse colours until I found a print showing the 13th drummer in white, reversing the blue lapel colour with the red cord colour. So, I’ve gone back to the start with that figure. I’m a little apprehensive about painting a heraldic double-headed eagle onto an uneven surface (i.e. on to the draped flag). The results could be comical!
I think my ultimate aim with these figures is to place them as if taking part in an advance across a battlefield. Hence, unlike with the previous regiment, I’ve left the bayonets in place. In the meantime, the equipment and muskets are still to do, not forgetting the regimental flag and the drummer too. Updates to follow once these are done…
I’ve now finally completed my 20 figures of Strelets’ Polish Napoleonic Infantry! I decided that it would be fun to place them in a mini diorama, marching wearily along some muddy country lane, mud on their boots and trousers.
They are the 12th Infantry Regiment, which wore the usual dark blue coat (called a kurtka) but were distinguished in the Polish army by their unique yellow collars.
I think they look rather impressive and a clear improvement on many of their figures from the past.
I’m already working on the rest of the box; 24 figures which include the four command figures (flag bearer, officer, NCO and drummer). This will be the 13th Regiment. Being a chap that always likes to paint something a little different to keep me interested, I’ve selected this regiment because (unique amongst Napoleonic Polish infantry) they wore white uniforms. These were in fact captured Austrian infantry uniforms which sported a fetching light blue colour for the lapels, collars and cuffs.
With 24 figures to paint, it will take me a fair while to get them finished. I’m enjoying my painting however, so it’s not a chore. The white uniforms are already done and I will be adding some light blue for the facings next. I’ll post an update once I’ve got something decent to share!
I like my military music, so I’ll sign off with a video of Polish Army Band marching through London in 2015 wearing dark blue uniforms and Czapka helmets similar to their Napoleonic ancestors that I’m painting.
As for 2018, in my previous post I alluded to receiving a generous number of new model soldier kits as Christmas (and birthday) presents. With these kits, there’s a definite East European theme taking shape for 2018 and – dare I say it – a distinct focus on the First World War too (in a departure from my more usual 18th/19th centuries). But it’s familiar Napoleonic territory to start the year as I launch straight into the first of these new kits; the newly released Strelets Polish Infantry on the March.
These Napoleonic figures represent men of the Polish Legions, a force formed by Polish patriots who saw in the rise of Revolutionary France and Napoleon an opportunity to re-establish their nation which was dissolved and partitioned amongst its powerful neighbours in 1795. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had been in existence since 1569. Once one of the largest nations in Europe by both size and population, by the time of its eventual demise Russia, Prussia and Austria had all taken a share of the territory.
In 1797, two years after partition, a passionate nationalist desire for re-establishing a Polish nation saw a sizeable volunteer “Polish legion” created within Napoleon’s French revolutionary army. At this time, a popular piece of music was written to inspire this new legion which would later become the Polish national anthem; “Poland is Not Lost”.
The Polish Legion fought in many theatres of war with the French including Italy, Haiti, Prussia, Russia and in the Peninsular. Whilst Napoleon was more than keen to use the 20-30,000 highly regarded Polish troops for his military campaigns, he showed less passion for their cause – establishing Poland as a nation. Eventually, a diminished Duchy of Warsaw (under the sway of France) was created, but it was dissolved once more following Napoleon’s eventual defeat.
Napoleonic Polish troops wore predominantly blue uniforms closely following that of their French sponsors, although a distinct addition was their iconic Czapka helmet. Indeed, the Czapka which was worn by Polish lancers would go on to become a standard feature of most European lancer regiments later in the 19th century.
My Strelets Polish regiment is the 12th Infantry Regiment. They wear the usual all blue coat and trousers (in summer, they wore white trousers), white lapels, red cuffs and (uniquely) yellow collars. I’m minded to create an alternative Polish regiment with the remainder of the box (which also includes command figures). Possible alternatives could include the 13th Regiment (below left) which wore captured Austrian army uniforms and were therefore predominantly white. Alternatively, I could also produce one of the three “Vistula Legions” (below right), which in addition to the usual blue uniforms featured distinctive yellow lapels, cuffs and collars.
These slender Strelets figures are a significant departure from much of their early creations, such as the marching French infantry that I’ve just recently finished off. The detail isn’t always as crisp and clear as with some manufacturers making it tricky to paint, but it is sufficient to produce most details adequately. The poses are really effective and there is a nice cohesion to this marching force that was absent in the old French infantry set I’ve just finished with. As with that French set, I’ve cut off their bayonets which would have been unlikely to be fixed when on the march.
I’ve made real progress already thanks to all the free holiday time, and here’s a couple of quick snaps taken in the home and garden of some of the 20 figures I’m working on so far. I’ll update once they’re completed, which hopefully could be by the end of the week.
After a very satisfactory Christmas Day with my family, I’ve enjoyed a bracing Boxing Day walk in the hills. Sitting back with a glass of iced single malt, I’ve been surveying the embarrassingly high number of model soldier kits which have been bought for me as Christmas presents. More details on these will no doubt feature in forthcoming posts…
The holiday has allowed me time to do plenty of figure painting already and I’ve (somewhat astonishingly) completed my large group of Strelets’ French Infantry on the March.
It has been an interesting process, returning to paint Strelets figures again. Being nearly two years since my last serious Strelets painting, I had forgotten how different an experience it is when compared to figures from other manufacturers. Furthermore, my painting style has developed and consequently I’ve had to rethink how to approach these figures.
Being less ‘pretty’ and refined than other figures, it’s a different aesthetic. Strelets figures look their best in larger groups rather than showcased individuals. This marching cohort is perfect for showing off Strelets. Their chunkier figures make for clearer details when seen from a distance, ‘en masse’. Incidentally, newly released Strelets figures appear to be sculpted to an increasingly refined standard than with these early French infantrymen.
Although, it’s been a challenge at times and involved some repainting, I’ve been really enjoying the process. As a result, I intend to paint some more Strelets figures which have just come through as Christmas presents!
Now, I wonder if I get even more figures for my birthday, tomorrow…?
Just as the snow outside has at last thawed to an icy slush, indoors I’ve been adding my own fake snow to some figures. Those Strelets French Napoleonic infantrymen on the march, which have for so long been awaiting basing, are now ankle-deep in the white stuff. I’ve also just decided to cut off any fixed bayonets in order to make them a little more uniform, though they’re still showing in these pics.
Their brethren, meanwhile, all 26 of them, are having their greatcoats painted. I’m struggling to get the coats to a similar shade as that painted two years ago, they should look closer in colour than in these photos but regardless I’m just going to go for it. Different shades can only add to that wonderfully shabby look with its patched up clothing.
And they will certainly need those coats in this bleak midwinter…
Ice and snow have come early this year. It’s a phenomenon which is more usually seen over here in January or February, rather than a whole fortnight before winter solstice. With my Christmas cavalry now taking their place with the other seasonal decorations, I’d been wondering what to turn my brush to next when a glance through the window at the winter scene outside gave me an idea…
Back in early 2015, I found myself painting 18 marching French infantrymen with a view to submitting one of them to the Benno’s Figures Forum Waterloo group project. The figures were from two (seemingly now largely unavailable) Napoleonic sets by Strelets; “French Infantry on the March” and “French Infantry in Advance“. Both sets feature Napoleon’s finest on the march in greatcoats and these two sets combined supplied a whopping 24 unique poses simply depicting men walking with muskets!
The style is typical Strelets and figure painters tend to either like them or hate them. Me? I appreciated the campaign-worn, ragtag look to the men. I also rather liked their more characterful style which livens up the process of producing lots of figures ultimately doing exactly the same thing – simply marching.
Strelets French Infantry Advance
Not sure what the French version of the old marching song “It’s a long way to Tipperary” is, but these guys are singing it…
Marching off to the front…
You will notice from the photos above that I never got around to basing them. The snow-covered landscape outside has given me the inspiration to mimic the Strelets box art depicting them on the march in the snow (presumably in the Russian winter).
Having located the required boxes and prepared 14 more figures for paint, I subsequently found another dozen already primed in readiness from back in 2015…
That makes for 26 Strelets figures to paint; all wearing the same beige greatcoats and all just marching! Will I get bored and quit? Possibly, but I fancy giving it a go as it makes for a nice change from painting just a handful of figures only. Consider it an end-of-year palate cleanser before my next project (or palette cleanser if you will ‘scuse the painting pun). Incidentally, Strelets also have no less than four separate Napoleonic kits available just featuring Russian and French winter sledge trains! They like their winter troops.
But wait – one more thing: in my collection, I also have soldiers based in snow from threeother Strelets sets featuring troops in ‘winter dress’ (it must be something to do with the manufacturer being Russian…). I have British guardsmen in Crimean War ‘winter dress’ and also two kits from their 1877 Russo-Turkish War range featuring Russian and Turkish troops in hooded greatcoats. All of these are currently just standing in modelling clay painted white but they could all really use some of my very wonderful “Woodland Scenics’ Soft Snow” treatment. So: yet more winter work to do!
Italeri have produced a number of very impressive Napoleonic cavalry kits and I’m pleased to have finally tackled their Mamelukes set; possibly one of their best.
It has involved painting a lot of detail in a large range of colours, which in turn has meant a much larger investment in time to produce them. Was it worth it? I like to think so, they are unique in my collection and looks pleasingly colourful.
Whilst it’s taken quite a while to get them painted, but the sheer exotic value of their turbans, scimitars, etc, etc, has kept me going.
The Mamelukes made up a very small force in Napoleon’s cavalry, but the impact of their fame gave them an importance far beyond their limited numbers, and it’s no surprise that Italeri and HaT (amongst other manufacturers) have featured them in their range.
Well, I can now place these figures into the cabinet with the other Nappy Cavalry Project regiments. And that means I can finally get on with packing for my much-needed summer holiday! Until I return, I send my very best wishes to all readers of this humble blog and leave you with the usual regimental biography and photos!
Now, I wonder if there are any regimental museums where I’m going…
Biography: Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard [France]
The word “Mameluke” is an Arabic term meaning ‘property’, indicating the status of Mamelukes as being slaves. Since the 9th Century, the Mamelukes were an influential military caste of slaves which rose to become a power in Egypt eventually ruling as the independent Mameluke Sultanate until 1517, and thereafter ruling as vassals of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte led his French ‘Army of the Orient’ to invade Egypt to both protect French trade and threaten Britain’s own. The most formidable force in the Egyptian army was undoubtedly the Mameluke cavalry. Equipped in an almost medieval fashion, sometimes including chain mail and iron helmets, they were expert horsemen and swordsmen. Armed with curved sabres of very high quality, they could out-fence most conventional cavalry and were observed to have actually sliced through French muskets.
Napoleon soundly defeated the Mameluke army at the Battle of the Pyramids where he repelled their massed cavalry attacks. The formidable Mameluke cavalry had impressed him, however, as the only effective arm of the Egyptian army. Consequently, on the 14th September 1799, French General Kléber established a mounted company of Mameluke auxiliaries which were soon reorganised into 3 companies of 100 men each known as the “Mamluks de la République”. In 1803, they were again organised into a single company attached to the Chasseurs-à-Cheval of the Imperial Guard.
Whilst the officers were occasionally French, the rest of the force were at various times made up of Greeks, Egyptians, Circassians, Albanians, Maltese, Hungarians, Georgians and Turks (amongst others. All were armed with a brace of pistols; a long dagger tucked into their waist sash; a mace; and later even a battle-axe.
The Mamelukes served in Poland, Spain and in Russia, fighting at the Battle of Wagram and most notably at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 where the regiment was granted an eagle and its roster increased to accommodate a standard-bearer and a trumpeter. Service in Spain led to a famous painting by Francisco Goya depicting their charge against the uprising of the citizens of Madrid on 2 May 1808, a massacre which in part led up to the Peninsular War.
In 1813, losses accrued over many campaigns meant that the Mamelukes were inevitably reinforced with Frenchmen who were designated as ‘2nd Mamelukes’. Of the 2 companies of Mamelukes, the 1st was ranked as Old Guard and the 2nd as Young Guard.
On his return to power in 1815, Napoleon issued a decree stating that the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard would include a squadron of Mamelukes. It is not known whether they formed a complete squadron at Waterloo, or simply attached themselves as individuals to various units; Mamelukes were almost undoubtedly present, however.
Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1815, there were widespread reprisals against individuals or groups identified with the defeated Napoleonic regime. These included the small number of Mamelukes who were still in the army. Eighteen of them were massacred in Marseilles by vengeful Royalists while awaiting transportation back to Egypt.
The brightly coloured Oriental dress and exotic weaponry of the Mamelukes gave them an influence far beyond the small size of their regiment; an influence felt beyond the battlefield into fashionable society! The Mamelukes loyalty to Napoleon was never questioned and they, fatally for some, became synonymous with him and his empire.
I’ve made some real progress on the Italeri Mameluke figures this past week, the 25th regiment in the Nappy Cavalry Project. These are beautifully sculpted figures, as fine as any other plastic 1/72 set out there.
Though they are a pleasure to paint, it’s been a slower and more complicated process than painting regular forces due to the great variety of colours required and which differ from one figure to the next.
With the exception of the red trousers (saroual) and headgear (cahouk), each figure requires a different colour scheme. Starting each single figure required some wardrobe decisions to be made, I felt like an insecure lady deciding what to wear on a first date!
Hopefully, I’ve made some reasonable choices.
It’s been interesting to paint the unusual accoutrements: the turbans; the daggers; the beautifully curved scimitars; and the pistol holders wedged into the waistbands.
Next for those horses, a task which one might think I’d tire of. I still enjoy painting them, thankfully, and these Italeri horses seem as well sculpted as their riders. Updates to follow in due course. I’m looking forward to painting those arabic saddles. With luck, I might even get the whole regiment finished before my forthcoming summer holiday in July!
After some dithering over the choice of the next regiment in my Napoleonic cavalry project, I can announce that it will be Napoleon’s Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard by Italeri.
Part of my wariness with this set was down to tackling a regiment somewhat out of my comfort zone. Firstly, they are from Egypt and a far cry from the European cavalry of which I’m familiar.
Secondly, they are irregulars and as such don’t wear a uniform dress, never mind the traditional Napoleonic European style uniform. But I paint military uniforms – that’s what I do! Before I hyperventilate any further, here’s a useful guide to their dress which suggests some general uniform guidelines:
During their service in Napoleon’s army, the Mamluk squadron wore the following uniform: Before 1804: The only “uniform” part was the green cahouk (hat), white turban, and red saroual (trousers), all to be worn with a loose shirt and a vest. Boots were of yellow, red, or tan soft leather. Weapons consisted of an “Oriental” scimitar, a brace of pistols in a holder decorated with a brass crescent and star, and a dagger.
After 1804: The cahouk became red with a brass crescent and star, and the shirt was closed and had a collar. The main change was the addition of a “regulation” chasseur-style saddle cloth and roll, imperial green in color, piped red, with a red and white fringe. The saddle and harness remained Arabic in style. The undress uniform was as for the Chasseurs-à-Cheval of the Guard, but of a dark blue cloth.
So that gives me something to go on. They are certainly going to take longer to paint given their disparate colour schemes. One thing is for sure, the figures are beautifully sculpted by Italeri, possibly amongst their finest. The figures are very large for the scale, but this will be of more concern to a wargamer than a mere figure painter like myself.
Painting oriental irregulars certainly provides a different challenge, and it’s one I’m looking forward to. I’ll post updates once I’ve got something to show, until then here are some images of Mamelukes as it seems these exotic horsemen were a favourite of artists over the years.