Simkin’s Soldiers

Even as a boy, I’ve always had a keen interest in military art. In pre-internet days (remember those?) often the only way to see such art was in books borrowed from the library. Many favourites I can still recall today; Philippoteaux’s depiction of Waterloo or Fontenoy; Lady Butler’s “Steady the Drums and Fifes”, “The Roll Call” or the charge of the Scots Greys in “Scotland Forever”; Charles Fripp’s “The Battle of Isandlwana” was on my bedroom wall, whilst Terence Cuneo’s painting of Lance Sergeant Smith winning the Leicestershire regiment’s first VC in the Crimea could be seen in my local museum.

I’ve received through the post today a copy of the 1982 book “Uniforms of the British Army: The Cavalry Regiments”, which features many of the watercolour paintings by Richard Simkin. Simkin was a military artist from the late Victorian period whose output was truly prodigious. Whilst in no way perfect, he was far ahead of most of his peers both in terms of quality and historical accuracy. Though not averse to painting action scenes, his speciality was in uniform depictions. He would fulfil commissions for individual regiments or complete a series (as he did in a huge project lasting over a decade for the Army and Navy Gazette).

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Simkins’ depiction of the various uniforms of the 1st Royal Dragoons (a regiment that I painted last month).
17th Lancers, 1814 to 1848.
17th Lancers, 1814 to 1848.
A 'red lancer' of the 16th (The Queen's) Lancers regimen, c.1912.
A ‘red lancer’ of the 16th (The Queen’s) Lancers regiment, c.1912.

Aside from the many fabulous full colour plates of Simkin’s beautiful work, the book is packed with information on the history of uniform development covering all the British cavalry regiments (4 Guards, 7 Dragoon Guards and 21 numbered line regiments).

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Another regiment I painted earlier this year depicted by Richard Simkin; the 13th Light Dragoons (later to become the 13th Hussars)

Perhaps it’s come a little late for the Nappy Cavalry Project as I don’t think I’ll be painting any more British cavalry this year. Nevertheless, I’ll be spending many a happy hour browsing through its pages. This is his depiction of the Royal Horse Guards in 1815. I’ll be presenting my own painted 1/72 scale model versions hopefully a little later this week…

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The Blues. Simkin depicts the officer here wearing high boots, but these would likely have been disgarded on campaign.
Royal Horse Guard (Officer) dated from 1815.

At last, my lancers are nearly here…

I think I can call them “finished”, at last. Yes, those Red Lancers of the Imperial Guard can finally be signed off. But first, I just need to do a little research for the regiment’s biography and take a few more photos of the finished figures. Until then, a quick glance at the lancers:

Here they come; the famed Red Lancers...
Here they come; the famed Red Lancers…

And I’m already thinking of the next regiment in my Nappy Cavalry Project for 2015… (see mystery figure below)

Can you guess this next cavalry regiment?
Can you guess this next cavalry regiment?

Red Red Whine

It has been a case of slow, careful progress with the latest Nappy cavalry regiment, the Dutch Red Lancers of the Imperial Guard. It has in no way been onerous (the set is wonderful) but the figures demand careful attention to produce even a vaguely decent result. The first six are now nearly completed, with five more still to go.

But now for my ‘whine’. Mounting the figures on to the horses has been a cause for some frustration. Zvezda have designed the set so that the riders have two pegs on their legs to fit into holes in the horses flanks. Unfortunately, getting the pegs into the holes is virtually impossible even with heavy handling. All this has caused a good deal of damage to all my careful paintwork on both horses and riders. Eventually, my solution was to simply cut off the pegs and rely on the glue, which worked more than adequately.

Red Lancers in progress (7) Red Lancers in progress (6)Red Lancers in progress (8)

It may not be immediately apparent but the figures shown here all require a lot of touch-up work to hide the damage caused by the difficult mounting process. With five still remaining, maybe I’ll learn from this.

Red Lancers in progress (3) Red Lancers in progress (5) Red Lancers in progress (4)

That said; I am pleased with the figures. I’m never sure that I’ve quite done them justice but they’ll do. At current rate of progress may take a little while until the remaining five are finished, so it may be timely to post to the blog some ‘Featured Figures’ as a stop-gap soon.

Until then, best wishes to all Suburban Militarism visitors.

Better Red than Dead

This past week I initially intended to take a break from painting for a few days after intensive development of my Prussian Leib Hussars. But… well, it didn’t take long before I got straight to work on my next regiment which I can announce will be the Dutch Red Lancers of the Imperial Guard.


These impressive figures are by Russian manufacturer Zvezda. Despite having 5 boxes of various Zvezda figures in my possession, these are the first that I’ve actually painted. You can observe that these figures are curiously described on the box as being “Lifeguard Polish Uhlans”. Uhlans is a German word usually applied therefore to Germanic lancers only, but this could simply be a translation issue. As for being “Lifeguards”, they have never been described as such, but were a part of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard. And I haven’t even painted them as “Polish Lancers” either! Instead, I’ve elected to paint them in the guise of their less famous sister regiment in the Guard; the Dutch Red Lancers.

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The first six figures under development…

There will be a little more written about these figures and their historical namesakes in forthcoming posts, but in the meantime, here’s a glimpse of how they are proceeding at this early stage. Still lots to do; painting, details, shading and highlighting, etc. And some lancers can be seen currently without any lances.

I’m enjoying these new figures; the very first lancer regiment in the Nappy project, and ones with such wonderful colour and detail too! Updates will be posted…

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Dutch Red Lancer of the French Imperial Guard (sans lance…)

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