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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‘Star’ Wars: More Zvezda Figures!

Zvezda is a Russian manufacturer of model kits and figures, their brand name meaning ‘star’ in the Russian language, and it certainly is a star of the Napoleonic cavalry figure world in my opinion. Having already contributed the Lifeguard Cossacks, Red Lancers and French Cuirassiers; and now I’ve just finished their Russian Hussars.

All of these have been consistently amongst the very finest of figures in the entire project. I’ve already a couple more kits by Zvezda stored and ready to paint for the project but yesterday I received another one. This is a set over which I’d prevaricated somewhat; Zvezda’s Russian Dragoons 1812-1814.

 

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My young assistant kindly presents my latest purchases.

It seems that Zvezda have in recent years abandoned the traditional 1/72 box of figures and moved into the production of smaller sets of figures for the purpose of their ‘Art of Tactic’ board game rules. The consequence is that an individual Napoleonic cavalry box now features a mere 3 riders and horses!

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Zvezda Napoleonic Russian Dragoon

There must be a market for this new approach, I suppose, but I confess to being a little mystified as to why anyone would prefer to buy 3 Russian Dragoon figures for the eBay price of commonly around £6.00 (@ £2.00 per mounted figure) as opposed to spending – let’s say – £8.99 for a whopping 18 Russian Cuirassiers (@ £0.50 per figure)! The overall price is admittedly lower than for the traditional kit (sometimes selling for as little as £4.00) but generally it makes the price-per-figure far more expensive. Consequently, building a contingent of a dozen or more figures becomes almost prohibitively costly, that is to say nothing of the cost of painting an entire army.

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By the way, this is not my attempt at a diorama – the ‘landscape’ is purely coincidental!

What’s not in doubt, is that Zvezda make decent figures. If I was to be hyper-critical then I’d say that these dragoons and horses appear a little more stiff and less fluidly animated that in other sets. I’m also a little concerned that they mostly snap together as parts rather than being moulded in one piece, which may cause some issues with painting. Yet they still look good enough to be included in the project. Zvezda’s Napoleonic Russian Dragoons are only available in this new mini-set format and so I’ve purchased four boxes in total (x3 standard Dragoons boxes and x1 Command box) to have enough for one regiment of 12 figures.

It is no surprise therefore that I announce that the 23rd regiment in the Napoleonic Cavalry Project will be another Russian regiment; the Lifeguard Dragoons (in Russian Leib-gvardii Dragunskii Polk). Following on from the extremely detailed and ornate Hussars, Dragoon regiments are conversely much more simple uniforms. No complex braiding or fur-lined pelisse with these troops, just a plain green jacket with grey overalls. I reflected that perhaps it was a little too plain and so opted for the Lifeguard Dragoon regiment rather than one from the line, as the guards at least had the addition of a red plastron on their chest.

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Russian Lifeguard Dragoon 1812

Watch this space for developments, until then Suburban Militarism sends best wishes for the Easter break.

Crimean Cannons and Russian Reports

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An article recently published in the local paper was of particular interest to me. It brought to light the history behind two Crimean War Russian cannons that currently reside in my home city. I am well familiar with these cannons and indeed commented on them during a post about my visit to the Leicestershire Regiment museum in November 2015. The newspaper article about the cannons is here – Crimean Russian cannons brought to Leicester.

In the article it reveals how they arrived in the city;

“On January 23, 1858, almost two years after the Crimean War, a train pulled up in Leicester bearing two trophies in the form of Russian guns. They had been captured at the Battle of Sebastopol by the 17th Regiment of Foot – which later became the Leicestershire Regiment.

On the request of the mayor, shops, banks and major businesses had closed their doors. A great crowd gathered, lining Leicester’s main streets to see the captured booty. And the cannons, mounted on richly-decorated drays, with an escort of Yeomanry, were paraded through the streets to the museum.

And there they stood, a symbol of the military might of the Empire.

At one stage, there used to be a wooden plaque next to the cannons explaining their capture and the fact that they were presented to the city to commemorate the marriage of Princess Victoria – the eldest child of Queen Victoria – and Prince Frederick William of Prussia, the parents of Kaiser Bill.”

The reference to the 17th Regiment of Foot is a nice coincidence given my very recent figures of the regiment (albeit depicted in a guise 100 years prior to the Crimean War). Interesting too to read of the Leicestershire Yeomanry’s involvement. Having painted the Warwickshire Yeomanry, I’d like to depict the Leicestershire version sometime. It would be particularly nice perhaps to produce a diorama of the two Sebastopol cannon’s parade back in 1857, but that will have to remain just a pipe dream for now…

Meanwhile, continuing on a Russian theme, work continues slowly on the Napoleonic Soum Hussars regiment. I’ve already posted about the lengthy preparation required for these figures. Well, further retarding progress, I’ve decided to repaint all the hussars breeches as the original red colour that I’d painted, shaded and highlighted just looked far too light. Nevertheless, the process of painting these is very pleasurable. The figures are beautifully sculpted, it’s just a shame that the mould doesn’t reveal them in quite as crisp detail as I’d like. But I’m quibbling, painting these has reminded me of how much I enjoy painting hussars.

Here they are so far with their dolmans, plumes, breeches and a little of the braid already painted.

Updates to follow!

 

 

White Russians

My Zvezda Russian Cuirassiers (the riders, that is) have progressed to the stage where they are nearly ready to be varnished. I’ll say it again, Zvezda have produced some lovely figures and these are no exception. The detail isn’t always very crisp, so the emphasis is on taking care to bring it out clearly with the brush. Being the Astrakhan Regiment, these cuirassiers have yellow facings.

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The officer, flag bearer and trumpeter have more work to be done on them, so will therefore lag behind the rest somewhat. Next up: time to begin painting all those Russian heavy cavalry horses. The grim January UK weather is keeping me in doors more than I’d like, so there’s no excuse to push on with them.

Here are some photos of how they are looking so far (bearing in mind that white uniforms seldom come out clearly as a photograph)!

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And, until my next post, here’s how the Russian Cuirassiers are supposed to look in this detail from a truly enormous and beautifully detailed panoramic painting of the battle by Franz Alekseyevich Roubaud:

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Russian Cuirassiers at the Battle of Borodino, 1812.

Distractions…

Happy New Year one and all! OK – it’s eight days late, I know, but I’ve been seriously distracted by another blog I’ve been working on.

It’s a project featuring a fictional 18th century Imagi-Nation and its army called The Duchy of Charnwood. I’m using 28mm metal figures and generally having a bit of fun setting up a fantasy nation with its colourful troops. I envisage it will be a slow-burn project and therefore not be taking up too much of my time. However, in the rush to get it set up over Christmas, I’ve neglected Suburban Militarism a little and, therefore, also my Russian Cuirassiers as a consequence.

Anyway, if you want to check out all the nonsense of my absurd new blog and pay His Grace the Duke of Charnwood a visit in “The Duchy of Charnwood” click here

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I’m back on to the plastic Napoleonic cavalry now, though. Those Astrakhan Cuirassiers are well into their paint job albeit with lots of details still to attend to. They are a joy to paint, I confess. The Zvezda figures are really good and it’s a real shame that the manufacturer has seemingly abandoned full 1/72 scale Napoleonic kits. I’m looking forward to seeing these Russian cuirassiers completed and displayed in my brand new display cabinet (a Christmas present!) up on the wall with all the other Nappy cavalry regiments.

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Napoleonic Russian Cuirassier

I’ll update with new pics (hopefully soon…) once those riders are finally finished and I’m ready to start on their horses.

I sincerely wish a happy and peaceful New Year to all visitors to Suburban Militarism.

Astrakhan Cuirassiers

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My daughter proudly presenting the next box of nappy cavalry

The next regiment in the (never-ending…) Nappy Cavalry Project will be the Astrakhan Regiment using Zvezda’s Russian Cuirassiers. They make for a pleasing challenge for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s been a while since I painted a regiment wearing a cuirass, the French carabiniers and cuirassiers being painted over a year ago, and I’ve never painted a black cuirass before. Secondly, I’m keen to tackle some of the wonderful Russian cavalry as the only previous Russian contribution to the project were my Cossacks.

 

I’ve considered a number of possible Russian Cuirassier regiments and opted for the Astrakhan Regiment. The difference between regiments is mostly in the colour of the trim (the Astrakhan being yellow). The rest of the uniform is principally a white coat, grey trouser and black cuirass.

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Zvezda Russian Cuirassiers – Primed and ready for paint!

I admit that aside from a vague awareness of the wonderfully exotic name, I was largely ignorant of exactly where Astrakhan was in Russia. So I looked it up. Wikipedia showed me the following disambiguations:

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Astrakhan hat (78th Regt.)
  • Astrakhan Oblast, a federal subject of Russia
  • Astrakhan Khanate, a Tatar feudal state in the 15th-16th centuries
  • Astrakhan, a Buyan-class corvette of the Russian Navy
  • Astrakhan, Russian name of newborn karakul sheep’s pelts, and hats and coats made from these pelts
  • “The Astrakhan”, a style of fur cap historically and currently worn by elements of the Canadian Forces and some Canadian Police
  • Mrs. Astrakhan, a character from the animated film Happy Feet

It seems that Tartar history and a luxurious fleece are it’s principal claim to fame. The old city has an “East meets West feel” according to the Lonely Planet guide, which sounds intriguing. I know that I could certainly use “The Astrakhan” hat on these chilly winter mornings.

Anyway, the 1/72 scale figures by Zvezda are of their usual very high standard. The details aren’t quite as crisp as some of their other sets, but they’re fine enough. The thing about Zvezda figures is that their figures just don’t seem to want paint to stick to them, so I brush them clean with detergent and paste some PVA glue on them as a primer before even adding any paint, all of which seems to help. I doubt that they’ll be approaching completion prior to the end of 2016, but hopefully I shall find some time over the holiday period to progress them.

Not long until Christmas now, and I’ve been completely outrageous in buying myself some new figures as an early present to myself! More on these soon…

“It’s a long way to Balaclava…”

I’ve been in a figure painting competition, a so-called “duel” on the excellent Benno’s Figures Forum. Each month a new competitor takes on the mystical Mr ‘X’ in a stand up contest as to who has painted the best figure.

This month, I elected to throw my hat into the ring and go toe-to-toe (or should that be brush to brush) with Mr X. The rules include painting the same figure and this was the figure Mr X and I had to tackle; a Russian Grenadier figure from Strelets’ Crimean War range.

Strelets Russian Infantryman

And here was my painted contribution:

Votes were cast by the forum members for the best figure over the week. And the winner was (cue drum roll)…

Me! Probably one of my finest achievements here on Suburban Militarism – beating the very wonderful Mr X!

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Victory!!!!!

Featured Figures: Strelets Russian Infantry (Crimean War)

I’ve been busy putting the finishing touches to two of my Quiberon Expedition regiments. As I’ve been doing this, I realised that it’s been a while since I had a Featured Figures post, so I thought that it’s about time to dig out some figures from storage and showcase them here on the blog.

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Strelets Russian Line Infantry (Crimean War)

Let me tell you, I have lots of Strelets Crimean War figures to paint, especially Russians. I have painted up a number of their infantry already, though. Strelets produced two sets of Russian infantry, one being listed simply as being ‘line infantry’ (and wearing grey greatcoats) and the other described as ‘grenadiers’ who simply appear without the large grey greatcoat. I think the description of being either grenadiers and line infantry is simply an alternative way of differentiating the “with” and “without” greatcoats sets. I also understand that, in practice, the average Russian soldier would wear his greatcoat virtually all the time in this campaign. Having the grenadiers set at least lets us see the classic Russian infantry green uniform in all its glory as well, but it’s the ‘line infantry’ boys that I’m looking at in this post.

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As with all Strelets figures, the sculpting may not be to everyone’s liking. What these figures may lack in elegance, they often more than make up for in character and expression. The Russian Line Infantry set has a different pose for every single figure. Consequently, we see Ivan the Soldier either calling out to his comrades; reaching into a pocket; carrying his musket in a bewildering variety of ways; in the process of tearing off his coat in frustration(!); or even just contemplating the hideous folly of war while leaning wistfully with chin on musket (in a manner liable to blow his brains out if he’s not careful)! With such a wide variety of poses, not to say dizzying variety of sets released for this campaign, painting Strelets is often great fun. And fun is surely what it’s all about with hobbies, after all!

I do plan to finish the whole box of these guys – one day. Maybe then I can get on with the painting all my Urak Cossacks, the sailors and cannons, the ‘grenadier’ infantry, the Don Cossacks, the general and hospital staff, the hussars, the dragoons, the Terek Cossacks, etc., etc.!

But it’s back to more Strelets for now, as I’m doggedly pushing on with my Quiberon Expedition Project.

Lifeguard Cossacks [Nappy Cavalry Project Set #11]

It’s been a challenging time here at Suburban Militarism. The painting has been going just fine – however my mouth has been having a tougher time. An abcess has sprung up and a subsequent trip to the dentist saw him mention the terms “root canal” and “extraction” to me; neither of which sounded particularly nice!

So, as I brace myself for going under the fearful butchery of the field surgeon’s knife next week, I can at least find solace in the thought I’ve now despatched my 11th regiment in the project; the Lifeguard Cossacks!

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One of these fellows is using a lance from a cataphract of the late Roman empire era as somebody foolishly threw away his lance with the discarded sprue…
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Biography: Lifeguard Cossacks [Russia]

Cossacks owed allegiance to the Tsar and were composed of a number of regional groups or ‘hosts’, the Russian Don, Ural and Terek Cossacks being amongst the most notable of these. The red-uniformed Lifeguard Cossack Regiment was the most famous and prestigious of all the Tsar’s Cossack cavalry. Men were specially selected to join the Lifeguard, being chosen from regular cavalry regiments for their imposing height and strength.

Four squadrons from this regiment took part in the campaign of 1812, following Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. It took part in the very first battle of the campaign, contesting the French crossing on the River Neimen, later covering the subsequent retreat of the Russian army.

In July 1812, at the Battle of Vitebsk, the regiment captured a French battery right under the nose of Napoleon himself, momentarily causing some alarm in the French headquarters. Thereafter, the Lifeguard Cossacks took part in the following battles of both Smolensk and Valutino Gora. These were just the precursors to the great battle of Borodino on 7th September 1812, which would prove to be the most bloodiest day’s fighting of the entire Napoleonic wars. The regiment was a part of General Platov and General Uvarov’s cavalry attack on the left flank and rear of the French. This attack, totalling 8000 cavalry, proved crucial in at least winning the Russian army some valuable time at a crucial moment in the battle and, it is said by some, contributed to Napoleon not committing his Imperial Guard to the fray for fear of further cossack attacks.

The Lifeguard Cossacks covered the retreat to Moscow and later joined the long pursuit of the embattled and weary French Grande Army right up to Vilnius in the Baltic. Thereafter, it accompanied the Russian Emperor in all the campaigns and battles of 1813-1814, including the battles of Bautzen and Leipzig. At the latter action, the Lifeguard Cossacks distinguished themselves in a notable action whereby they gallantly counterattacked the French and Saxon cuirassiers.

By 1814, Napoleon had been forced back to defend France. The Lifeguard Cossacks charged at Fère-Champenoise, the last major battle before the fall of Paris on March 30, 1814. The regiment finally entered Paris in triumph and bivouacked on the Champs Elysees. They had come a long way from their homelands near the river Don and the Black Sea coast. In respect for the prowess, Napoleon is credited with declaring, “Cossacks are the finest light troops among all that exist. If I had them in my army, I would go through all the world with them.”

Notable Battles: Vitebsk, Smolensk, Borodino, Bautzen, Leipzig, Fere-Champenoise.

Line of Cossacks

Let it Snow!

I’ve been keen to showcase the completed Lifeguard Cossacks, but I’ve been held up waiting for my fake snow to come through the post. Late this afternoon, it finally arrived and so I’m now eagerly scattering snow about like a stagehand in “Frozen: the musical”.

Will post pictures of these wintry cossacks, the 11th regiment in my nappy cavalry project, shortly…

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One of my cossacks now riding across the, err… snow covered Russian steppe.