Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #25)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Now, I wonder if there are any regimental museums where I’m going…


Biography: Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard [France]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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El dos de mayo de 1808 en Madrid By Francisco de Goya

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.

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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.

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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.

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Monsieur Ducel Mameluke de la Garde 1813-1815.

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.

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Notable Battles: Austerlitz, Wagram, Waterloo.

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More Mamelukes…

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.

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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.

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Mameluke standard bearer

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!

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Hopefully, I’ve made some reasonable choices.

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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!

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A not-quite-finished bugler. He’s the only one with a white plume and green headgear.

Mamelouks de la Garde impériale!

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.

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My ever-helpful assistant presents the latest box of cavalry to paint.

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.

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Mamelouks de la Garde impériale à la charge by Auguste Raffet

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.

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François-Antoine Kirmann, chef d’escadron des mamelouks de la Garde impériale (1808-1811).
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Mamelouks de la Garde impériale au défilé by Felician Myrbach (1853-1940)
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Capitaine français des mamelouks de la Garde impériale by Ernest Fort (1868-1938)
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Porte-étendard des mamelouks de la Garde impériale.

 

Von Beeren Cuirassiers [Nr. 2] (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #24)

Prussian Cuirassiers are a set that I’ve had in my possession for a few years now, a purchase from a closing down sale. Having painted them I can declare that they’re a fine set – although perhaps they’re bodies, and heads in particular, are a little bit on the large side. Plenty of nice crisp detail by Italeri makes for a pleasurable painting experience.

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Italeri Prussian Cuirassier

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It’s been good to return to Italeri figures once again, and Prussians ones at that. I’ve particularly enjoyed painting something a little different from the other regiments; those bicorne hats and yellow jackets add real variety to my collection.

My ‘head-swap’ officer seems to look okay, although I originally intended to give his arm a twist downwards so that he’s not strangely holding out a piece of paper to his right. I like to think I can get away with it as his arm makes it look like he’s gesturing instead.

The trumpeter meanwhile wears a bicorne with a red crest and a white plume with a red tip, in addition to red shoulder markings:

So after that rather enjoyable kit, I’m wondering which cavalry regiment to tackle next in the project and I confess to being somewhat undecided. Furthermore, I fancy taking a brief break from Napoleonic cavalry; a change being as good as a rest, as they say. There’s plenty of figures of all types lying around and waiting for attention here at Suburban Militarism, so watch this space for developments on that.

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So, as is traditional for the Nappy Cavalry Project, here’s a few more photos and a regimental biography of my finished Von Beeren Cuirassiers below!

 


Biography: Von Beeren Cuirassiers (nr.2) [Prussia]

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The 2nd Cuirassier regiment in the Prussian army had its origins in 1666 at a time when early Prussian cavalry was simply designated as being Regiments of Horse (Regiment zu Pferde). Raised variously in accounts by either Colonel Count von Russow or Major-General von Pfuel, it immediately went on to serve in a variety of European theatres: against the French in Alsace; the Swedes in Pomerania; and against the Turks in Hungary.

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Trooper from the Cuirassier Regiment No. 2, circa 1757.

Garrisoned in Brandenburg, it consisted of 10 companies in 5 squadrons. During the War of the Spanish Succession, it fought in the great battles of Oudenarde in 1708 and Malplaquet in 1709. In the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), it fought at the battle of Chotusitz, breaking through and routing two lines of Hungarian infantry regiments. In 1745, it took part in the battle of Hohenfriedberg where it destroyed a Saxon regiment. Later that year, it also broke through enemy lines at the battle of Soor with other cuirassiers and captured the Graner Koppe heights and 22 guns.

By the time of the Seven Years War, the regiment was wearing a tunic of ‘lemon yellow’ underneath its black cuirass, in contrast to the off-white of other cuirassier regiments. It took heavy casualties in the battle of Lobositz but recovered to also take part in the Battle of Kolin where it led the charge of a brigade, scattering several enemy infantry regiments. Later, it was involved in the disastrous Battle of Kunersdorf, losing over 200 men and being routed from the field.

In 1790 came the order that all cuirassier regiments were to abandon the cuirass. However, Von Beeren’s regiment were granted the distinction of retaining their yellow tunics which they had been wearing since at least the time of Frederick the Great. That yellow tunic had earned them the nickname “The Yellow Riders” (‘gelbe Reiter’).

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No.2 Regiment’s uniform at the time of the 7 Years War, prior to the abandonment of the cuirass.

Up until 1806, cuirassier units bore the name of their colonels, also called the Proprietor (Inhaber). In October 1805, Karl Friedrich Hermann von Beeren (1749-1817) became the regimental Colonel in Chief, succeeding his predecessor Generalmajor Schleinitz. As was the custom therefore, the regiment took the new commander’s name and became Cuirassier Regiment Von Beeren (Nr 2).

Armed with the pallash (a straight-bladed sword), Prussian cuirassiers enjoyed greater prestige than other cavalry such as the dragoons, uhlans and hussars. Being heavy cavalry, the men and horses were larger, stronger and were expected to charge en-masse to crush the enemy with their sheer momentum and force.

In 1806, as political tensions with Napoleon’s France were at their height, Prussian Cuirassier officers from the elite Garde du Corps famously inflamed the situation further by ostentatiously sharpening their swords on the steps of the French embassy in Berlin.

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Cuirassier officers sharpening their swords on the French embassy steps, Berlin, 1806.

However, the woeful state of both staff and tactical organisation in the Prussian army was to be brutally exposed by Napoleon’s army during its subsequent invasion of Prussia. The Prussian cuirassier regiments were distributed throughout the entire Prussian field army – making it very difficult to co-ordinate large-scale, en-masse cavalry charges on the battlefield and greatly nullifying their effectiveness.

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During the War of the Fourth Coalition in 1806, Von Beeren’s Cuirassier regiment fought at the disastrous battle of Auerstadt as part of its colonel-in-chief’s brigade (Kuhnheim’s division). After the battle, the regiment withdrew with Blücher’s Corps whereby the majority of the regiment surrendered at Erfurt and Ratekau on November 7. As the regiment was not subsequently re-raised, it effectively marked the end of the regiment. However, seventy men and horses escaped to East Prussia where they went into forming the nucleus of the new 4th Cuirassier regiment.

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Defeated Prussian forces retreating after the disastrous battles of Jena-Auerstadt, 1806.

After the enforced Prussian military reorganization in 1806, cuirassier units were given numbers instead of colonel’s names. In 1808, Regiment Von Beeren had been incorporated into the Brandenburg Cuirassiers. Apparently, their famous yellow tunics were it seems retained and worn for some time thereafter.

No cuirassier regiments were present to see Napoleon’s demise at Waterloo. However, in 1815, Johann Carl Hackenberg watched Prussian cavalry ride through his home town of Elberfeld. This man had particular interest in seeing them as he was an artist who painted in colour all troops from 1813 – 1816. On the 2 February 1815, he observed the Von Beeren successors, the Brandenburg Cuirassiers, ride through the town wearing distinct ‘yellow cuirasses’. So it seems that even 10 years after the regiment’s destruction at Auerstadt, there continued, at least in some way, to be ‘yellow riders’ in the Prussian cuirassiers.

Notable Battles: Oudenarde, Malplaquet, Chotusitz, Hohenfriedberg, Soor, Lobositz, Kunersdorf, Kolin, Auerstadt.

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Yellow Fellows

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I’m about 80-90% finished on the 16 riders for Italeri’s Prussian Cuirassiers kit. They are certainly nice figures and look splendid in yellow. On the debit side however, the heads are a trifle oversized and the hats always seem to face the front of the body regardless as to whichever way the head is facing – which is a bit weird! To bypass this, I’ve chosen exclusively those figures whose hats are worn on the head at roughly the same angle.

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However, I resorted to a drastic head-swap operation for the officer figure. I cut off a trooper’s head and used a tiny section of pin to hold it all in place. I got a bit carried away with a hot pin resulting in – ahem – some slight melting! But I think he looks okay, nonetheless.

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Painting my chosen regiment, Von Beeren’s 2nd Cuirassiers, has been an unexpected challenge so far. Firstly, getting the yellow to look bright yet still vaguely akin to a natural fabric colour has been a learning curve. Secondly, some depictions of the regiment show a white crossbelt with red edges; my reproduction of this feature tested my painting skills considerably!

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The trumpeter had some variation in details requiring a red crest on his bicorne, a red tip to his plume and some shoulder detailing.

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I’ll be turning my attention to the horses soon. Curiously, I’ve painted these Prussian Cuirassier horses before in this project, having used them as modified replacements for the lamentable horses which came with Italeri’s Prussian Dragoons set (5th Prussian (Brandenburg) Dragoons (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #6)).

In addition to working on these figures, I confess I’ve been musing on other diversions and topics to explore. Heaven knows, I’ve got enough kits to turn my attention to, should I want to take a short breather from Napoleonic cavalry. More on this perhaps in a future post as my ideas start to take shape…

Bye for now,

Marvin

Yellow Fever

When I started the Napoleonic Cavalry Project back in the spring of 2015, eight of that year’s fifteen regiments were figures made by Italeri. Since then, some nine regiments and over 16 months later, Italeri have been entirely absent. Until now…

I’ve decided to return to Italeri after being tempted by their Prussian Cuirassier set. These cuirassiers depict the cavalry as they might appeared at the time of the destruction of the Prussian army at Jena-Auerstedt in 1806. This set is also the first Prussian regiment I’ve painted I’ve tackled in a while, since regiment #9 in fact, back in 2015.

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My ever-helpful assistant presents the latest box of figures. A cheap purchase courtesy of a model shop closure…

They are unique in the project so far in being the only regiment wearing a bicorne hat. British heavy cavalry would have also worn something similar around this time.

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Almost all the eleven Prussian Cuirassier regiments wore white uniforms in 1806, with the exception of only one – the 2nd regiment, known in 1806 as Von Beeren’s – and this is precisely the one I wish to paint simply because it wore very striking yellow coats (known as Kollets).

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I’ve never painted a yellow-coated soldier before, and have little idea how to go about shading a yellow. I’ve had a few dry runs with some spare figures and finally decided to paint over my usual black primer with some beige paint to make it easier to cover with the yellow. Then, after the application of some Vallejo Sun Yellow, I’ve shaded with a little Vallejo Desert Yellow (a light brown-yellow colour). The result is subtle, but I like it and think this has achieved about the best result I’ve managed so far, so I’m going to stick with it and press on.

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The main reason I had steered clear of this set until now was that I was unhappy with the way the sculptor had left the bicorne facing the same way regardless of whichever way the rider was looking, leaving the hat acting like some kind of compass needle! The understandable explanation was to accommodate the hat into the narrow mold, however it all looks quite absurd to have everybody’s hat always facing the same way and so I’ve simply used the figures whose heads (and hats) more or less face in the same direction.

One last thing; you may notice that these cavalrymen are missing something which might be considered an essential item for cuirassiers : namely a cuirass! This is because Prussian Cuirassiers abandoned the armour in 1790. The adoption or abandonment of the cuirass by cavalry was often subject to conflicting opinions. Some felt that cuirasses;

  • were too cumbersome in a melee;
  • or were so heavy for the horse and rider to wear that it slowed them down and made unhorsed men very vulnerable (Wellington described the sight of fallen French cuirassiers as looking like helpless turtles flipped on to their backs);
  • or placed a premium on finding enough large, strong horses to carry the extra weight;
  • or were not worth the extra expense;
  • or ultimately were useless as they didn’t stop musket balls. They most certainly didn’t stop cannonballs, either…
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A cuirass of the 2nd Carabiniers worn by the desperately unfortunate 23-year-old François-Antoine Fauveau.

Others felt however that;

  • the cuirass provided an enormous advantage against enemy cavalry sabres;
  • they made for an intimidating sight, creating the heaviest of heavy cavalry;
  • they reduced casualties and made the wearer feel safer, thereby boosting morale.

There were, perhaps inevitably, those who preferred to adopt a compromise solution of wearing only half of the full cuirass. In such cases, only the front half was worn as it was often felt that having protection on the back might encourage the practice of cowardly retreats!

Now to get back to my ‘yellow jackets’. I’ll be posting updates in due course.

Marvin

Lifeguard Dragoons (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #23)

The Russian Lifeguard Dragoons are now finished and they can join their sister regiment the Lifeguard Cossacks which I completed back in 2015. These Zvezda figures are very elegantly sculpted and beautifully proportioned. The sculpting is so subtle, however, that painting them effectively has been a real challenge. I will admit to liking a little bit more crispness in my sculpting than I’ve found in this set. But with some effort, the end result is satisfying and the Lifeguard Dragoons can proudly take its place as the 23rd regiment in the project.

Let me state – I am not a fan of pegs and holes when it comes to assembling plastic 1/72 scale figures. Maybe I’m just ham-fisted when it comes to putting these things together, but I’m not feeling confident that they would survive any careless handling. To get the riders on the horses, I found it far simpler to cut off the pegs and just rely on glue instead. After coping with some traumas, I used glue and a little modelling clay on the base of the horses to better secure them to the stands which comes with the set.

Some horses (possibly down to my assembly mistakes) look like they are in the process stumbling head first into the ground!

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Woah! Do we have a faller, here?

Another horse pose I managed to get to stay in place solely thanks to glue alone, the two pegs proving insufficient to keep it upright.

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Glue defies gravity!

Aside from three boxes of standard troopers, I also bought a “Command” set of figures which supplied an officer, a flag bearer and a trumpeter.

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Officer, Lifeguard Dragoons.
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Trumpeter, Lifeguard Dragoons

I foolishly misplaced the sword, sabretache and scabbard for the flag bearer. Instead there’s a hole ready on his thigh to attach the scabbard should I a) locate it, or b) replace it with another substitute. Additionally, I should confess that I wasn’t able to source the correct flag for this regiment and so simply resorted to choosing my own design!

Much as I admire this set I’m pleased I’ve finally got this one under my belt.

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With this set now completed, I’ve painted three Russian regiments in a row; the Astrakhan Cuirassiers, Sumy Hussars and now the Lifeguard Dragoons, all of which were manufactured by Zvezda. As wonderful as Zvezda’s figures are, it is perhaps time for a change of country and manufacturer?

I’m hoping to attempt a set next with some really crisp details but I’m still prevaricating over the next regiment, so expect an announcement soon. Until then; it’s time for the usual pictures and regimental biography…

 


Biography: Lifeguard Dragoons [Russia]

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The Lifeguard Dragoons were established in 1809 from squadrons previously belonging to the Grand Duke Constantine’s Uhlans. Taking their inspiration from Napoleon’s Dragoons of the Imperial Guard, it took its place in the Tsar’s Lifeguard Cavalry Corps alongside regiments of hussars, cossacks, cuirassiers or ‘Lifeguard Horse’.

Whilst they might have lacked some of the prestige or dramatic uniforms of the Hussars or Cuirassiers, they were were undoubtedly well trained, disciplined and considered superior to other Dragoon regiments of the line.

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Present at the battle of Borodino, the Lifeguard Dragoons were under Uvarov’s 1st cavalry corps, together with other Lifeguard regiments (the Lifeguard Cossacks, Lifeguard Uhlans and Lifeguard Hussars). During this 1812 campaign, they would get the chance to meet their inspiration, Napoleon’s Dragoons of the Guard. In one incident, the Lifeguard Dragoons ambushed and destroyed two squadrons of French Guard Dragoons. A force under General Ivan Dorohov, which included Cossacks and two squadrons of Lifeguard Dragoons, attacked French convoys and transports capturing 1,500 prisoners. The French countered with a small force which included 150-250 French Old Guard Dragoons which were then subsequently ambushed and destroyed at Bezovka by two squadrons of the Lifeguard Dragoons. To French General Caulaincourt, this annihilation of 150 dragoons was greeted in Napoleon’s headquarters with more dismay than “the loss of 50 generals.”

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After Napoleon’s ejection from Russia, the long campaign began which would ultimately push the Napoleon all the way back to Paris. In Kulm in 1813 the Lifeguard Dragoons spearheaded the massive cavalry charge against Vandamne’s infantry. The dragoons attacked the front and ran down one regiment whilst other regiments concentrated on the enemy’s flanks. In April 1813 the dragoons were awarded with St. George standards.

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In the great battle of Leipzig in 1813, the French cuirassiers routed them in the cavalry battle fought near Gulden-Gossa’s ponds. The following year, the Lifeguard Dragoons fought in the massed cavalry battle of Fère Champenoise for which they achieved the Russian military awards of 22 St. George trumpets.

Notable Battles: Borodino, Bezovka, Kulm, Leipzig, Fere Champenoise.

 

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Lifeguards on Duty

Tackling painting Zvezda’s Russian Dragoons has certainly been a challenge. In some ways it’s been a simpler task; the uniforms are far less complex than the Hussars I’ve just finished and there’s less of them to paint too (12 rather than 18).

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However, painting them has been more difficult in other respects. The figures are beautifully sculpted but the detail is so very subtle (occasionally almost non-existent on the chest) that applying paint effectively to the right places to pick out the features proves tricky.

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But we like a challenge here at Suburban Militarism, and after some work I think these figures are rather impressive.

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve chosen to paint the prestigious Lifeguard Dragoons, rather than one of the many other regiments of the line.

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This figure’s guidon and right arm are still to be glued into place.

There were as many as 36 different Russian dragoon regiments of the line, some having such exotic (to this Englishman at any rate) names as the Starodub, the Taganrog, the Arzamass, the Kazan and the Zhitomir Dragoons. They looked very similar to each other with their plain dark-green jackets but were distinguished by a wide array of different colour facings.

So far as I can tell, the Lifeguard Dragoons, being a part of the Tsar’s elite Guards cavalry, were the only Dragoon regiment to display a red plastron across the front of their jacket. I decided to paint this regiment so that I could make use of this little extra colour.

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Lifeguard Dragoons Officer
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Officer; rear view

The riders are nearly completed (being a much quicker task than those Soum Hussars!). Now for the horses which I have to report come with their own difficulties unique to this particular set; but more of that in my next update!

Soum Hussars (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #22)

I’ve praised Zvezda figures so many times on Suburban Militarism that there’s no call to do it again. Hopefully, their very well sculpted figures do all the talking. Preparation is key with Zvezda figures, coating them in PVA glue really helps the paint to stay where it should.

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The Soum (or Sumy) Hussars regiment took over a month to complete and I must confess that the length of time required to finish them was not due to any lack of painting hours on my part. Having 18 figures to paint with so much detail (and no military arm does detail quite like Hussars), meant that there was a big investment in time required to get everything painted. Raising a Hussar regiment was supposed to be more costly than with most other cavalry – and I can vouch for that, in time required to paint them at any rate!

All of which sounds like a grumble, which it certainly isn’t. When figures are this good, it is never a chore. Furthermore, I can hardly complain at having a very generous 18 figures to paint; nobody is forcing me to paint them all! I’ll go as far to say that these Russian Hussars are amongst the very best figures to grace the Napoleonic Cavalry Project and, hopefully, I’ve done them enough justice.

Photos aplenty and some kind of a regimental biography below:


Biography: Soum Hussars [Russia]

Hussars had existed in some form in the Russian army since the mid-17th century. However, by the time of Catherine the Great they had been disbanded. The Soum Hussars (or “Sumy” Hussars) came into existence in 1765 when the Ukrainian Slobodian Cossacks were disbanded and then re-formed into a number of new Hussar regiments.

At this time, a Russian Hussar regiment consisted of 2 battalions with 5 squadrons in each. A squadron had 150 hussars, a commanding officer (captain or rotmistr), and 2 subaltern officers (a senior lieutenant or poruchyk and a lieutenant — cornet). A regiment’s total strength could reach 1,500 sabres.

On June 13, 1806, by a decree of the Military Collegium, the Grodno Hussar Regiment was formed using as its basis the Soum Hussar Regiment’s own 4th Squadron. Later that year, the Soum Hussars joined the Russian army’s intervention in the Prussians war against the French. They featured in the Battle of Czarnowo on the night of 23–24 December 1806 and in the Battle of Pułtusk two days later under Major General Koschin’s cavalry brigade.  The Soum Hussars were also present at the battle of Friedland in Generalmajor Lourkovski’s brigade alongside the Elizabethgrad Hussars and some Lithuanian Uhlans.

At the time of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, the Soum Hussars were in the 1st Hussar Division, together with the Grodno, Elizabethgrad and Izoum regiments. They were subsequently in action in the main theatre of operations during the war of 1812. At the great battle of Borodino, the Soum Hussars were attached to the III Cavalry Corps under Barclay de Tolly, positioned in the centre.

 

In 1813, the Soum Hussars saw action in battles throughout the 1813 campaign and in the great ‘Battle of the Nations’ at Leipzig. This extract from Osprey’s account of Leipzig suggests something of the desperate ebb and flow to the fighting as experienced by the Soum (or Sumy) Hussars during this campaign.

“The French grand battery forced the Sumy Hussars to fall back and the first French cavalry attack started… the Sumy Hussars charged the leading French regiment and forced it back. The second French regiment then threw back the Russian Hussars but its advance was halted by the Prussian Neumark Dragoons who in turn were thrown back by the next French Regiment. In the meantime, the Sumy Hussars had rallied…”

As Napoleon retreated after Leipzig, the hussars followed and entered France in 1814. After encounters fought throughout that campaign they marched triumphantly into Paris with the rest of the Allied forces.

After Napoleon’s defeat, many hussar units were awarded collective decorations in honour of their exploits in the War of 1812: St. George’s trumpets (musical instruments awarded for valour) were awarded to the Soum Hussars regiment. The trumpets bore the inscription: “For Distinguished Service in Defeating and Ousting the Foe from Russia in 1812.”

Notable Battles: Friedland, Borodino, Leipzig.

Soum Hussars (1)

Note: There appears to be a small single-room museum located in the city Sumy which is dedicated to the Soum Regiment, information can be found here. Now there’s a location for a Suburban Militarism Day Trip!

Musings on the Napoleonic Cavalry Project

As work continues steadily on the horses and men of the Soum Hussars, my 22nd regiment in the Nappy Cavalry Project, I’ve been thinking about possible future regiments to tackle also. There are plenty of other 1/72 scale plastic Napoleonic cavalry kits still out there, but they are of varying quality and style.

HaT are wonderfully prolific in their coverage of Napoleonic subjects, and their excellent range of figures are of a consistent standard. Whilst decent sculpting, I confess that they seldom excite me enough to include them in the project. I certainly can’t disparage them – they’re fine – but neither can I say they demand inclusion. They are somewhat lacking for me in some manner and are more suited to creating an overall wargaming spectacle, rather than my emphasis on detail painting.

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Nice enough – but not quite Nappy Cavalry Project material: HaT chasseurs a cheval

Strelets are another manufacturer who are prolific in their Napoleonic range. Now, I do love Strelets figures, indeed I have ‘far too many’ of their sets in their Crimean War and Russo-Turkish 1877 War ranges. Yet, I’ve not included any of their Napoleonic cavalry in my project and neither am I likely to.

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More ‘corpulent carthorse’ than ‘elegant equine’: a Strelets horse

The reason is that first of all, Strelets’ style is perhaps just a little too unique to fit easily into the project. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, while their riding figures can be good, their horses are relatively disappointing. I’m not sure I could comfortably ‘stable’ their stocky equines with some of the more finely sculpted horses as provided by the likes of Zvezda, Revell, Italeri or Waterloo 1815.

Yet despite a number of other cavalry sets in my possession awaiting attention, one new set came through the post only yesterday:

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Mars Austrian Uhlans (1805-1815)

Mars is a manufacturer that I’ve never painted before, so this should be interesting. Furthermore, Austria is a nation not yet included in the project either. It’s a little eccentric this set; there are three figures standing and holding a rearing horse which has not been specifically provided (presumably the other horses might suffice if one were to ditch some mounted riders instead).

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A Uhlan struggling to lead an invisible horse…

Despite being lancers, there’s only one figure shown holding a lance while the lances themselves are swamped in flash and lack any pennants. Indeed, flash is something of a problem with this set. It seems that the quality of Mars output is a little varied, but this one slipped under my radar a little and on close analysis I still like the sculpting and think they are worthy of inclusion.

Like their riders, the horses are certainly in dramatic poses. They are also afflicted by some flash which I will have to carefully remove, but anatomically I think they look pretty good.

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Plastic surgery required: Mars’ horses look good despite some flash on their faces.

Despite some reservations then, I think there are still enough good sets out there to provide me with possibly another 6 or 7 regiments. There are also a number of figures that I’ve previously tackled which I’d love to revisit and paint up as an alternative regiment (more Prussian Hussars or some Polish Lancers, anyone?). All of which means that there could be up to a dozen more regiments in the project to come in the future.

Well, you have been warned…