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…

 

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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…

Turkish Topçu

My two teams of Ottoman topçu artillerymen are more or less painted and are awaiting their mighty guns. Not only that, they are also awaiting their gabion protection screen. The diorama bases (one for each gun team) are already in progress and so I should start applying paint to them soon. 

In the meantime, here’s a pictorial review of my (nearly) painted Ottoman topçu.

This artilleryman is opening his powder horn, an item that still requires a little paint…
The ammunition being carried. I’ve supposed the cannonball is made of stone. I particularly like how this man’s coat is pinned back.
The spongeman. The man responsible for ramming home that stone shot. After firing, 
he will then dip his fleecy ramrod into a bucket of water and clean out the barrel of the cannon to make sure there were no sparks to set off the next charge.
I’m no artillery expert but I suppose this man might be a ventsman whose unenviable task was putting a thumb over the touchhole, to stop any premature explosion if any burning particles have been left by a previous shot.

Once the gun is ready, this firer will step in to ignite the charge with his portfire and the cannon will discharge. I am quietly pleased with the burning, glowing end of the cord, a quick job of experimental paint mixing which seemed to work pleasingly well.

This chap with the fez holds a handspike which he will use to help move and re-sight the cannon prior to the next shot.
This artilleryman holds a sledgehammer which is used for some reason which I read about but have since temporarily forgotten! It’s possible that it was used to drive the large cannonballs home or to assist in the repositioning of the cannon, but I’ll find out more…
Commander of gun crew “iki” (number 2). His holdfast on the turban needs attending to.
Commander of gun crew “bir” (one). His feather is still awaiting some paint.
Another portfire holder.

They’re impressive figures by Redbox and I’m quite pleased with the way these Ottoman artillerymen have come out. Well, my next task is diorama making which, as I’ve said, I’m already now under way on, so hopefully something to show at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Gabions Galore

In my last post I indicated the purchase of something to assist my latest project painting which is 17th century Ottoman Turkish artillery by RedBox. I’ve discovered some siege equipment, wicker gabions cast in resin, for sale on the internet.

A wicker gabion

If, like me, you’re not that familiar with early siege defences, then you may appreciate a little explanation courtesy of Wikipedia:


Early gabions were round cages with open tops and bottoms, made from wickerwork and filled with earth for use as military fortifications. These early military gabions were most often used to protect sappers and siege artillery gunners. The wickerwork cylinders were light and could be carried relatively conveniently in the ammunition train, particularly if they were made in several diameters to fit one inside another. At the site of use in the field, they could be stood on end, staked in position, and filled with soil to form an effective wall around the gun, or rapidly construct a bulletproof parapet along a sap.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabion
Pégard, engraver [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Cheap, quick and effective construction pieces even today, they are still a popular form of erosion control and landscaping. The side of motorways are commonly lined with metal cages filled with rocks; the modern alternative to wicker cylinders filled with earth.

An artillery emplacement of gabions by Anyscale Models

Anyscale Models produce four fabulous resin artillery screens of wicker gabions for just over £5, which allows me to protect eight of my gun teams for a very reasonable price. Manufacturer of my Ottoman Turks, RedBox, actually make their own 17th Century battlefield accessory set, but for the same price I would only get 3 gabions, not 48! Unfortunately for me, Anyscale Models’ main focus seems to be the 20th century and these are something of an anomaly.

A 1/72 scale Ottoman Topçu Ocağı mortar crew shelter behind the gabions.

My gabions are billed as being suitable for 20 -28mm scale and so should suit RedBox’s Turkish cannon and crews very well. They come in two different types, the slightly more expansive of the two are intended to be used for my larger calibre guns. These gabions will, of course, require some painting, so we will see how that goes!

Meanwhile, the painting of my Turkish topçu (artillerymen) progresses very well and I should have the two 8-strong gun crews from my first box of Turkish Artillery (17th Century) painted soon. With up to four more sets from RedBox’s range of Ottoman Artillery to choose from, if I’m happy with the end result, then I may well need more gabions…

Turkish Delight

So, what to paint next after all those snowy winter figures I’ve been working on for weeks? I’m feeling that it’s time for Suburban Militarism to attempt something else. Something warmer… Something different… Something completely different…

RedBox have been producing some very fine figures of late. The eras and conflicts that they concentrate on are mostly to do with the 16th/17th century. This is a little outside my areas of interest but nonetheless, I’ve been impressed by their recent figures. And so, for my next slow-burn project I will be having a go at building the Sultan’s army from their wonderful range of Ottoman Turks, starting with their artillery.

The Ottoman Empire was enormous at its height and was unsurprisingly therefore very powerful militarily. The Ottoman Empire was amongst the first European nation to have a professional and permanent artillery corps and consequently were the most effective in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. In an era dominated by siege warfare, much of the Ottomans strength lay in their numerous and formidable artillery corps.

My latest box model soldiers…

RedBox, in their typically generous manner, have produced an impressive number of different artillery kits for these Ottoman Turks, including the following named sets;

  • “16th Century Turkish Artillery”
  • “17th Century Turkish Artillery”
  • “16th Century Turkish Siege Artillery Gun”
  • “16th-17th Century Turkish Siege Artillery Mortar”
  • “Turkish Sailor’s Artillery 16th-17th Century”
Image of the two constructed 17th C set guns by Plastic Soldier Review

With industrial progress being slow in the 16th-17th century, all the kits could more or less be reasonably used together without creating an historical absurdity. Plastic Soldier Review states that “the guns in [the 17th Century] set are exactly the same as those in the set of 16th Century Artillery, and are still very appropriate to the 17th.”

1 of the 2 sprues of Ottoman Turkish gun crews in the box

I’ve decided to start with some figures from their “17th Century Turkish Artillery” set. Having a few boxes of Turks arrive through the post recently, I’ll probably dip in and out of these different kits.


Ottoman Topçu (artilleryman) from observations taken by the Swedish ambassador to the Ottomans.

The Topçu Ocağı (or Artillery Corps) being both a professional and a favoured division of the army did wear uniforms, though of exactly what sort is open to question. There appear to be many variations on colours, so it may be that colours simply varied with from unit to unit. For my first figures, I’ve gone with the colours shown consistently on all the RedBox box covers which closely match the illustration shown above by a contemporary Swedish ambassador. I may even maintain the same uniformity throughout all of the Sultan’s artillery, other arms being much more varied.

A re-enactor of the Siege of Vienna 1683.

With artillery sets, I guess the only way to present them is as a group together in a mini diorama, as with my recent Cracker Battery. To facilitate this, I’ve made another purchase which I hope will go perfectly with my Turkish artillery units. I’m rather excited about it but I’ll reveal what this is in a future post!