Ottomania: The Harbaci Palace Gate Guard (Jannisaries)

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

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

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

Man of the 73rd orta (the Crane Keepers)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ottomania – Topçu Ocağı Corps Completed!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ottoman Artillerymen

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

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

More heavy lifting of ammunition:

Light my fire – Turkish portfire carriers:

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

Ramrod holders:

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

Ottomania – Last of the Topçu Ocağı

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 Topçu Ocağı). 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:

That left just one more box untouched from RedBox’s Turkish artillery releases; the 16th Century field artillery set.

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 Topçu Ocağı of the Kapikulu Corps). Turning my attention to the broken cannon, I had to get creative.

One of my finished siege gun crews from earlier in the year.

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.

My remaining gabions from Anyscale Models

I’ve said before that there is significant doubt that there was any real standardised uniform for the Turkish Topçu Ocağı, 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.

My 16th Century artillery will deliberately look similar to these 17th Century Ottoman field artillery figures I painted.

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?

The Sultan of Al-Suburbia? A Red Box commander from my Jannisaries set.

Ottomania: The Crane Keepers (Janissaries)

Having spent some time building up the artillery arm of my Ottoman Turk army, I’ve been recently turning my attention to the infantry; namely the famous elite foot soldiers of the Sultan known as the Janissaries.

The Ottoman army of the 15th-17th centuries consisted of the Navy, the Eyalet Askerleri (provincial army) and the Kapikulu Askerleri (or sultan’s army). Within the Kapikulu was the Topcu (artillery) and also the entire Janissary Ocak or Corps. The Ocak consisted of three sections;

  • The Cemaat (assembly)
  • The Boluk (division)
  • The Segmen (dog handlers)

The three Janissary ocak themselves consisted of a total 196 orta regiments split between them with the Cemaat having the lion’s share of these. It is my intention to use the RedBox Janissary box to paint three of these ortas, representing one from each of the ocak divisions. My first group of ten are from the Cemaat ocak. Specifically, the 73rd Orta known as the Turnacis (Crane Keepers).

The Janissary ortas were known by peculiar names which indicated something of their origins or duties. The 73rd Orta got their name Turnacis from their origins based within the Sultan’s considerable hunting establishment (presumably Cranes being a popular game bird).

“The Janissaries were charged with looking after the training and the welfare of… dogs, which were greyhounds and mastiffs. There don’t seem to have been any hunts at Topkapı [palace] itself – miniatures show deer roaming around the palace grounds. And cranes were known to have been kept there. “ from Hunting, an imperial pastime in the Ottoman – Hürriyet Daily News.

Each orta had its own insignia which could even be tattooed onto the men. It’s possible that the Turnacis had an insignia related to Crane birds. Even their tents had a design specific to their orta (the 73rd having a white and yellow band at the top of theirs).

But what I really don’t know is exactly what they would have looked like.

Having done some research, including my Osprey ‘Elite Series’ on the Janissaries, I’m still none the wiser as to the colours of the clothing used by my troops. Some things were common, such as the distinctive bork white felt hat. The large woollen dolama coat was apparently very waterproof, surprisingly light, and was commonly tucked under the sash when in combat or activity to allow ease of movement.

But I’m not sure if colours were specific to individual units. It’s almost certain that the Janissaries as a whole did not have a single coloured uniform. As regards individual ortas, however, proud as they were of their regimental distinctiveness, I like to think they were much more likely to adopt a colour scheme unique to their unit. At any rate, it seems that Janissaries are regularly depicted by both artists and modellers alike as having colours specific to their orta.

On the wargaming table, some great looking Janissary ortas (battalions) with colour schemes unique to their individual regiments. Apologies to whoever painted these figures – I can’t find your blog to credit your lovely work!

So, for enjoyment’s sake, I’m happy to go along with that idea for my Janissaries and allow my creativity free reign to colour schemes for each orta. Even this clip of a film on YouTube shows the Ottoman Janissaries wearing a single uniform colour while in combat with Peter the Great’s Russian soldiers.

For the Crane Keepers, I’ve gone with dark blue coats and trousers with a light blue sash. The lining of the coat is white as are the famous bork hats.

I’m occasionally working on another orta which I hope to post at some point when they’re ready. In the meantime, I’m having great fun with a very entertaining little diversion featuring bearded clerics, a bald admiral and a wounded patient…

 

Siege Guns of the Kapikulu Corps

The third instalment of my Ottomania project is yet another group of artillery. After recently painting two boxes from the 17th century, I’ve been making use of one of RedBox’s 16th century guns instead. Cannon technology changed little between the 16th and 17th centuries, so the gun crews can be placed together with no problem at all.

The siege cannons in the set come in a four but as I appear to have, err, lost part of a crew somehow, I’ve only attempted three of them (this at least makes things a quicker to do).

Redbox’s 16th Century siege artillery guns are certainly of the kind of large calibre which suggest they’re capable of hurling wall-breaking cannonballs. Plastic Soldier Review suggests the barrels might be a little short, a notion which is supported by the guns looking somewhat stubby. I think they’re pretty convincing siege guns nonetheless.

The figures are of the usual high quality and this time I’ve gone for a grey uniform, blue trousers and a red sash. My Serbian friend from Bennos Figures Forum found some interesting information about the Turks.

“I spoke with one man from the history museum, he said the Ottomans never had regulation about the uniform colour…In fact, in XIX century we cannot speak about any standardisation of uniform except for Nizams…”

No regulation there may have been, but I like to think that perhaps wealthy leaders might choose to equip their artillery troops in some distinctive manner. Anyway, as I always say, ‘my figs – my rules!’

This group of siege gunners belong to the Kapikulu Corps, the Sultans’ elite of the Ottoman army which contained its own infantry, cavalry and artillery, much like Napoleon’s Imperial Guard. Begun in the early 14th century, the Kapikulu grew in size and Süleyman I increased them to 48,000 strong, half of which were Janissaries (elite infantry). Most of the artillerymen in the Ottoman army belonged to the Topcu Ogaki Regiment of the Kapikulu Corps. By the time of Bayezid II (1481-1512), up to 5,000 topcular (artillerymen) were serving in the corps.

The Topcu Okagi specialised in all forms of siege warfare including the manufacture of ordnance and guns, mining, sapping, transport, labouring and siege works. Such was their sophistication that my Osprey guide suggests that their sapping and mining activities (trenches, saps, artillery emplacements) had more in common with WWI than the 16th/17th centuries.

The figures contain an officer holding a quadrant, by which means he could (with some decent grasp of mathematics) calculate the desired angle of elevation on the gun barrel. For a good overview of its use, see this post by the “To the Sound of the Guns” blog dedicated the American Civil War. It seems that such a device was still very much in use in the mid-19th century and, indeed, has not entirely disappeared from gunnery even today!

Once more, I’ve made use of the very convenient and effective gabions by Anyscale Models, used in my two other sets (the 17th Century field gun crews and the Humbaraci Corps Mortars). I’ve even enough left over for the remaining box of Turkish 16th Century artillery… but that will probably be left now for another day, as that’s quite enough for now!

Next up on my painting table is a return to more familiar territory and finishing off those Mars Austrians for the good old Nappy Cavalry Project!

The Humbaracı Corps

Continuing with my new 17th Century Ottomania project, I’ve been further developing the Sultan’s artillery. The two guns of the Ottoman field artillery that I painted are now joined by four siege mortars of the Humbaracı Corps.

Once more, I’ve made use of more gabions from Anyscale Models, a slightly different type to those used in the last group of artillery, however.
Four mortars in total are crewed by a total of 16 men of the Humbaracı Corps.

Siege warfare was developed to a highly sophisticated art by the Ottomans and their artillery was amongst the first professional, standing force in Europe. Mortars were an effective means of hurling missiles over city walls in order to degrade the target by indirect fire. I have set my mortars at a high angle as if they are close in on an invested town’s walls, terrorising inhabitants and defenders alike with their bombardment.

Established in 1481, the Humbaracı Corps included mortar, bombardier, grenadier, mining and incendiary regiments. These were all part of the elite Kapikulu Corps and my Osprey guide has this to say of their ordnance;

The Humbaracılar used havayi mortars, humbara bombs of glass or iron, and humbarasi grenades of glass or bronze.

You will note that the Mortars are sited on a kind of raft of wood to provide a stable base. Interestingly, Osprey also state that “…when not cast-on-site, Ottoman gun barrels were normally transported separately from their cumbersome carriages”.

In my eagerness to finish these off, I realise now that I’ve neglected a couple of final touches including those portfires with their glowing ends which I so enjoyed producing for the last set.

As with the last group of Ottoman Artillery field guns, and entirely for my own satisfaction, I’ve imagined the corps to be wearing a consistent dress uniform in a kind of light blue with mid-blue trousers and red sash.

The reality might have been far more diverse and less uniform, but I can’t find a definitive statement on their dress. I also rather fancied keeping the artillery in a uniform manner because the infantry and cavalry will be far more individualised when I get around to painting them too.

It seems that I’m not the only one to take this approach as other hobbyists have painted their Ottoman artillery in uniform colour schemes too, one of which inspired my own design for the Humbaraci Corps.

Excellent Old Glory figures of Ottoman artillery crews – as seen on Lonely Gamers blog.
…and these beautifully painted uniforms of the sipahis and a gun grew from the now sadly dormant Kaiser Bill’s blog.

If that’s not enough Turkish artillery for you (and surely it is), there’s a third set that I’m busy working on too, so I should have a sizeable Ottoman artillery contingent when I’m done. But more on that in due course!

2018 in Review

As the fourth year of Suburban Militarism on WordPress comes to a close and a New Year looms, it’s a time for reflection. Swedish Napoleonic cavalrymen; Ottoman Turkish artillerymen; Serbian and Austrian infantry of the Great War; Belgian Carabinier cyclists; 28mm Yeomanry figures based on illustrations by Marrion; Saxon Cuirassiers and not forgetting some Napoleonic Poles back in January.

So, here’s a brief pictorial overview of some of the figures painted over 2018.

Looking forward to 2019, I know well enough by now not to forecast my painting plans in any great detail as distractions lead me on to other unforeseen areas over the year! However, currently demanding my attention are:

  • My Ottomania project – now well under way with the artillery corps progressing nicely;
  • The Great War project – I have a number of excellent kits I intend to tackle as I continue to develop my WWI collection;
  • Some 54mm Yeomanry cavalry figures are crying out for attention;
  • I have my eye on a couple of soon-to-be-released new figures for 2019;
  • And of course, there’s the Nappy Cavalry Project which continues proudly into its fifth year being now up to 31 regiments strong!

My ever growing pile of unpainted model soldier kits suggests the likely fate of at least some of these hobby intentions, however!

Best wishes for a happy and peaceful 2019 to all Suburban Militarism’s friends and visitors!

Marvin

Tis’ the Season for Giving… and Receiving!

This time of year, I get to enjoy two days of opening presents. With my birthday being on the same week as Christmas Day, if I’m lucky, I tend to end up with plenty new model kits and books. Time for a quick overview of some of the military related gifts that I’ve received this year.

Firstly, following on from the very pleasing painting of Strelets French Army Sledge Train figures earlier this month, at my suggestion for a birthday present I’ve been kindly supplied with set 2 of this series. It will probably be December 2019 before I even think of getting to work on them, however.

I’ve also come into ownership of two boxes of RedBox’s Ottoman (or Osman) infantry: namely the elite Yeniceri (Janissaries) and Eyalet troops. They are really great quality figures for sure and I’m now committed to developing Ottomania – my Ottoman Turkish army project.

Apropos of this, my father-in-law was visiting a military bookshop in Birmingham recently and asked if there was anything I’d like for Christmas whilst he was there. I mentioned a book on Ottoman armies by the peerless Osprey to further assist my Ottomania project and it seems he took the idea and ran with it!

Written by David Nicolle and illustrated by Angus McBride and Christa Hook, no less than three books on the topic were unwrapped on Christmas Day;

  • The Janissaries (Elite series No.58)
  • Armies of the Ottoman Turks 1300-1774 (Men-at-Arms series No.140)
  • Armies of the Ottoman Turks 1775-1820 (Men-at-Arms series No.314)
Christa Hook’s illustration of 16thC Ottoman Janissaries.

A bit more reading material – something that I’ve wanted for a while is the now well-out-of-print book by R.G. Harris on “50 Years of Yeomanry Uniforms: Volume 1”. Harris was one of the contributors to some of the books in the essential Ogilby Trust “Uniforms of the British Yeomanry Force” series in the late 80s / early 90s.

This 1972 edition has that evocative musty smell of old bookshops and features 32 terrific full page and full-colour illustrations by Edward A Campbell. I was interested to read in the preface that Campbell was responsible for the artwork in the 1931 Players cigarette card series Military Headdress, which I am well familiar with from my own collection.

Campbell’s illustration of an officer of the Norfolk Yeomanry (see also my post on the Norfolk and Suffolk Yeomanry collection).

Campbell’s paintings were based on ‘painstaking research’ of which most apparently is sadly unpublished. Even more tragically, the preface informs me that “the author of the text is preparing a second volume on the Yeomanry which will incorporate a further selection of Captain Campbell’s work…”, yet I can find no evidence that Volume 2 was ever published.

Uniform of the Northamptonshire Yeomanry, an example of which I saw earlier this year in Northampton.
Officer of the Shropshire Yeomanry, another uniform that I saw earlier this year during my trip to Shrewsbury.

So much to read, so much to paint, but so little time. I really need to get on with some chores, not to mention hours of overtime that I need to do. What’s that quote? “Starve your distractions – feed your focus!”. Trouble is, I rather prefer the distractions…

Ottomania! RedBox Turkish Artillery (17th Century)

My Ottoman Turkish Artillery project (which I’ve now shamelessly dubbed ‘Ottomania’) kicks off with a completed box of RedBox’s “Turkish Artillery (17th Century)”. As I’ve indicated in a previous post, RedBox have issued a number of different kits featuring Turkish artillery from the 16th/17th centuries, so I intend to do more.

I’ve created two gun teams which service two different calibres of gun. Both guns are large compared to Napoleonic artillery. Plastic Soldier Review informs us that the larger gun has a barrel length of 35mm (equivalent to 2.5 metres) while the smaller gun has a barrel length of 29mm (equivalent 2.1 metres).

Much of my time was spent on the basing which features resin-cast gabions as a defensive emplacement. I’m convinced that the extra time spent on basing is important for artillery groups.

I’m particularly pleased with the way my gabions turned out. Some preparation was necessary before painting with some initial cleaning before being mounted on some short lengths of plastic card to better accommodate the modelling clay base. Minor holes which had appeared in the original resin cast were filled in with a little bit of glue. 

With a generous gun crew of 8 figures to service each gun, I was careful to make a big enough space to accommodate them all without crowding.

The walls of Vienna brace for another projectile about to be sent hurtling towards them.
The smaller of the two cannon, mounted on a fetching blue carriage.
The larger of the two guns about to be fired.

And I’m already planning my next lot of Ottoman artillerymen, making use of yet more gabions with some highly specialised siege artillery. More on that to come…