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…

Soldiers in Cigarette Cards: Part 1

When I was in my teens, my uncle would occasionally take me along to a ‘cigarette card fair’ which took place in a church hall. From the late 19th century up until the 1940s, cigarette packets would come with collectible cards. Card series topics could be anything from Household Hints, to Birds, to Association Footballers, or (of course) on military topics. Amongst the very earliest series was a set on the then ongoing conflict of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904.

Naturally, my interest in military history burning bright even in my teens, I chose to collect card series on military topics. Such sets as my meagre financial resources would stretch to included the following (years of issue in brackets);

  • Military Headdress (1931)
  • Regimental Colours and Cap Badges (1910)
  • Drum Banners and Cap Badges (1924)
  • Military Uniforms of the British Empire Overseas (1938)
  • Uniforms of the Territorial Army (1939)
  • Colonial & Indian Army Badges (1917)
  • Infantry Training (1915)
  • War Decorations and Medals (1927)

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I’m not sure whether these are particularly collectible today, if at all, but for me they are an interesting source of information, often with beautiful illustrations, on a variety of military-related topics. After reviewing some of these sets, I’ve decided to use this blog to start showcasing some of the best military ones I’ve discovered in storage.

To begin with, some Yeomanry and Volunteer regiments. I’ve mentioned in the last post how Yeomanry regiments have captured my interest of late, particularly with the installation of some of my figures in the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum last month. Player’s 1924 “Drum Banners and Cap Badges” series depicts a good number of Yeomanry regiments. My selection of cards from the series include:

  • Sherwood Rangers (Hussars)
  • Dorset Yeomanry (Royal Field Artillery)
  • Queen’s Own Royal Staffordshire Yeomanry (Hussars)
  • Derbyshire Yeomanry (Armoured Car Company)

The Derbyshire Yeomanry is a regiment I mentioned in my previous post. In fact, I’m surprised to realise that in recent years I’ve visited the collections of all of these regiments!

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Drum banners and cap badges of the Derbyshire Yeomanry (left) and Sherwood Rangers (right)

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Drum banners and cap badges of the Staffordshire Yeomanry (left) and Dorset Yeomanry (right).

Being all hand-drawn, the detail and skill in each card is impressive and must have taken some time to produce. It is interesting to note the variety of colours and designs used in just these four examples. The Staffordshire knot in the cap badge is an iconic symbol of that county and the Sherwood Rangers make use of oak leaves and acorns as a connection to the forest after which they are named. Two of the regiments have been converted from mounted cavalry after the First World War to alternative arms. The 14 most senior Yeomanry regiments had the honour of remaining mounted on horses as traditional cavalry, but the Dorsets have (by the time of the release of this 1924 set) been converted to Royal Field Artillery and the Derbyshire Yeomanry are shown as being an Armoured Car Company in the Tank Corps.

More references to Yeomanry regiments by Players could be found in their similar “Regimental Colours and Cap Badges” series of 1910, including this one of the Norfolk Yeomanry. As with the “Drum Banners…” series, note the excellent quality of the very detailed illustrations.

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 London Yeomanry Regiments: Left is the cap badge and guidon of the Westminster Dragoons (County) and  right is the drum banner of the Rough Riders (City)

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Guidons and cap badges of the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry (left) and the Norfolk Yeomanry (right).

 

And finally, continuing the volunteer regiments theme, Players also produced this set in 1939, depicting “Uniforms of the Territorial Army“. Once again, I think the illustrations here are excellent, and the line drawings of related buildings or architectural features compliments the image and subject perfectly.

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The Castlemartin Yeomanry were from Pembrokeshire and famously helped secure the capture and surrender of a French invasion force in 1797 gaining the first ever yeomanry battle honour “Fishguard”, quickly ending the last invasion of the British mainland. Shown in the splendid 1797 uniform, Pembroke Castle is sketched in the background.

The Sherwood Rangers uniforms I’d also seen at the The Queen’s Royal Lancers and Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum, the ancient Major Oak of Sherwood Forest is shown in the background.

Likewise, the Robin Hood Rifles were a volunteer rifle corps whose uniforms I saw on display last year in the Nottingham Castle museum (see my pics below). The background on their card shows the grand Exchange Buildings on High Street.

The Post Office Rifles are a regiment that’s been on my mind with regards to modelling some figures using perhaps some Italeri British Zulu War Infantry. The image is based on a contemporary depiction of their marching off to Egypt in 1882 and winning the first Volunteer overseas battle honour. The background image appropriately depicts pyramids and camels.

Finally, the Lovat Scouts are a yeomanry regiment which served with distinction in the Anglo-Boer War. As a Highland regiment they were attached to the Black Watch and later formed two companies of the Imperial Yeomanry and the card depicts them in pith helmets and khaki worn during this conflict. A typical Boer farmhouse is shown in the rear of the illustration.

Next time in this series:  Two superb sets on the topics of overseas British Empire uniforms in the 1930s and, one of my favourite sets, British military headdress.

PLEASE NOTE: Suburban Militarism is a non-smoking blog (and always has been). I’m glad that the cigarette companies don’t produce these today, however – I would be buying the packets for the cards and throwing away the cigarettes!