French Personalities of the Crimean War II

Presenting what will be the final cohort of my Strelets Crimean War Personalities, these figures are more from the extra command sprues contained within the Last Assault on Sevastopol set. Like the others, they are unnamed and contain a mixture of different officer types wearing different uniforms.

So, here they are;


The officer below wears a bicorne and seems to be leaning on a cane too.


This next officer has his arm in a sling from a recent wound;




The flag bearer wears a tall French shako. I mean to add a little gloss varnish on to that gold eagle at some point;


Next, another officer of the colourful Chasseurs d’Afrique, I really like the addition of a cigarette just visible in his right hand.


I painted this next figure as an officer of the Light Infantry – or at any rate what I thought one might look like. His chest braid I’ve painted yellow and the cuff trim and falling plume is a deep green colour.


Another decorated officer next, and one with possible delusions of grandeur. He has his right hand tucked inside his jacket, amusingly echoing that familiar hand-in-waistcoat gesture of Napoleon I.


I confess I had no idea what all that detailing on the senior officer’s coat below was, so in desperation I turned it into lots of gold braid. He looks very pleased with himself about something and ready to celebrate with that bottle?


And to complete this cohort of French figures, a reappearance of my cantinière from my recent post.


Crimean Personalities: The First War Correspondent

Sir William Howard Russell: War Correspondent

Continuing with my Strelets Crimean War personalities series, I turn my attention to a single figure which was supplied with the French “Last Assault on Sevastopol” set and appears to be distinctly un-military. Like the rest of the figures, he is unnamed but is clearly writing something into a notebook and dressed in civilian clothing. Who is he?

Plastic Soldier Review state; “the man is in civilian dress and could serve for many things but we like to think of him as a newspaper correspondent.

Any mention of Crimean War reporting must reference William Howard Russell. He was The Times ‘war correspondent’, an occupational description which he personally abhorred. Regardless, Russell provided many stirring, graphic accounts of the horrors of the Crimean War which brought him fame and recognition.

“Our Own Correspondent – The Man for the Times”, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=308379

Often considered to be the first ‘modern’ war correspondent, use of the newly invented telegraph enabled his dynamic reports to reach the British public remarkably quickly. His despatches were reaching London in just two days after the Royal Engineers laid a cable, and an underwater cable reduced this in 1855 to a few hours only. The practice of day-to-day reporting of a distant foreign war began in the Crimean campaign.

Born in Ireland in 1821, Russell’s family had moved to England when he was a small child, though he returned to Dublin to study. Though he was qualified as a lawyer, he began the career of a war journalist which led to his assignment to the Crimean theatre in 1854.



“I was with the first detachment of the British army which set foot on Turkish soil, and it was my good fortune… to be present at Alma, Balaklava, Inkerman, to accompany the Kertch and the Kinburn expeditions, and to witness every great event of the siege–the assaults on Sebastopol, and the battle of the Tchernaya.”

William Howard Russell, “The British Expedition to the Crimea”.


After the Battle of the Alma, he wrote up his account in the pages of a book taken from a dead Russian soldier. The despatch, written in the form of a letter to his editor, was generally praised the British army’s conduct but importantly did not hesitate to describe the battlefield surgeons “humane barbarity” and also drew attention to the lack of ambulance care for wounded troops.

His influence was profound and Florence Nightingale credited her move into war nursing directly to Russell’s reports coming from the Crimea. Mary Seacole’s contribution to the care and well-being of the soldiers was also first brought to the wider public consciousness by his writing.

Being such a new concept, a war correspondent was at that time able to work without any censorship and, as with many other journalists since, Russell’s explicit reporting ruffled many feathers. Following reports which revealed the British Army’s supply and medical care shortages during the winter of 1854, Queen Victoria called his despatches “infamous attacks against the army which have disgraced our newspapers”, whilst her husband Albert stated that “the pen and ink of one miserable scribbler is despoiling the country”.

Others in the military were equally suspicious of him, making snide or prejudiced comments on his character and methods of investigation;

“…a vulgar low Irishman, sings a good song, drinks anyone’s brandy and water and smokes as many cigars as a Jolly Good Fellow. He is just the sort of chap to get information, particularly out of youngsters.”

By Robert Gibb (1845-1932) – nms.ac.uk/, Public Domain.

Russell famously observed the events of the Battle of Balaclava. In describing the dramatic moment when the 93rd Highlanders stood firm and repulsed the Russian cavalry charge, he coined the now familiar phrase “the thin red line”, albeit using notably different words;

The Russians dash on towards that thin red streak topped with a line of steel… .”


~ William Howard Russell

Roger Fenton’s images of Russell in the Crimea show him dressed in the manner suggestive of a military officer, possibly a deliberate affectation in order to better integrate with the troops and gain their confidence. Strelets’ figure’s civilian garb does not share any similarity with this, nor does it reflect his build (he was described as ‘portly’), but he did have a full beard during the campaign and the figure is nevertheless clearly intended to be a reporter or writer of some description.

Russell during his time in the Crimea by Roger Fenton. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=308374

So, I’m still happy to dub him ‘William Howard Russell’: scourge of the establishment; eyes and ears of the Victorian public; chronicler of great battles; the original ‘war correspondent’ and famous journalist of the Crimean War!

N.B. Russell’s book on “The British Expedition to the Crimea” is available to read as a free download from the Project Gutenberg website.


French Personalities of the Crimean War

Having been very much enjoying painting Strelets characters from their Crimean War Big Box range, I thought it was time to turn my attention the French officer corps. These figures came from their “Last Assault on Sevastopol” box which, in addition to the two dozen officers, also supplied other sprues of French Zouaves, light and line infantry.

Unlike their “Heavy Brigade” set, “Last Assault…” did not come with a detailed list of named individuals. I believe most of the figures are intended to be generic officers therefore although, as Plastic Soldier Review suggests, a handful are undoubtedly intended to be specific personalities. Pioneering photographer Roger Fenton took a good number of photographs of members of the French army including anything from senior commanders to common soldiers, and even a female vivandière (a version of which Strelets also modelled for the Heavy Brigade set).

To begin, the two identifiable French personalities:-


General Aimable Pélissier

Of course, no set claiming to be about the French assault on Sevastopol could be without its commander in chief and one character provided by Strelets seems to fit the bill. The sash and physique suggests that my figure (above) is intended to be General Pélissier (below):

Marshal Pelissier by Roger Fenton, 1855.

Below, my painted figure certainly bares comparison with Pelissier as depicted in Fenton’s image.

Now I look at him, the black and white photograph suggests a brighter colour than the light blue I have painted around his waist, perhaps yellow. Furthermore, le pantalon rouge looks more distinctly le pantalon bleu! Never mind, the white hair and dark moustache have been reproduced well enough.

Pélissier was sent by Napoleon III to the Crimea to replace the existing commander Marshal Canrobert, who was judged too cautious. A more vigorous approach to the siege of Sevastopol eventually reaped its reward with the French storming and taking the Malakoff Tower in September 1855, leading to the evacuation of south Sevastopol by the Russians.

After the Crimean War, Pélissier was showered with awards from home and abroad including the title ‘1st Duc de Malakoff’ in recognition of the Sevastopol assault. The figure wears a number of awards and medals on his chest, the large silver cross being I believe a Légion d’honneur star (or plaque). Strelets have shown Pelissier holding what I believe is a piece of paper or map.

Another Fenton portrait of General Pelissier.

General Pierre François Bosquet

According to Plastic Soldier Review;

“We can’t identify any particular individuals (although doubtless some will have chosen some for themselves), but the first figure in the fourth row looks to be taken from a famous photograph of General Bosquet, and indeed several figures seem inspired by such photographs, which is a very reasonable source to us.”

They are referring to this figure pointing a finger with his hand tucked behind his back.

Fenton actually took a number of photographs of Bosquet, including the one below. General Bosquet seems to have been quite a theatrical character, keen to be photographed in his trademark authoritative pointing pose!

Pierre François Bosquet was an artillery officer who spent 20 years as a soldier in Algeria, during which time he variously commanded Algerian tirailleurs and later some line infantry, rising to the rank of General of Division. Serving in the Crimean War from the very early stages, his division led the French attack at the opening encounter at the Alma.

It was Bosquet who uttered the now famous line when observing the Charge of the Light Brigade;

C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre: c’est de la folie!

(It is magnificent, but it is not war: it is madness!)

Bosquet’s arrival with troops during the battle of Inkerman secured the Allied victory. Seemingly ever present in the forefront of all the action, at Sevastopol Bosquet personally led his troops both on the June attack to capture the Mamelon fort and also the great attack on the Malakov in September, during which he received a severe wound. He survived the war but ill-health led to his untimely death just five years later.


The rest of Strelets’ figures though full of character do not appear to be based directly on any of Fenton’s photographic subjects, so I’m simply presenting them below, in no particular order:

Bugler and Drummer

Two satisfying musicians with lots of colour to them, a bugler and drummer of the French army, 1855.


French Officers and Staff

This figure I liked a lot for his casual stance with hands tucked into his waistband and a face of utter nonchalance:


This next roguish officer seems to be enjoying a glass of something refreshing. I realised when painting this that I have never painted glass before. So, I’ve simply added to silver a little blueish hue, assuming that this old soak has just drained it of a fine ’48 Bordeaux. I like their idea of having his overcoat draped over his shoulders.


If it’s not alcohol that helps my French officers through the rigours of the Crimean campaign, it’s tobacco. Here, a nicely campaign-weary officer contemplates another tough day in the trenches over a long pipe. Hand tucked into his waistband, I fancy he might be enjoying a smoke, post-evening meal.


What I thought was one of the least promising figures has turned out nicely, I am particularly pleased with his greying beard and surprisingly interesting face, glancing askew.


Next, another nice pose with a shoulder cape and hands clasped behind his back. This chap was a victim of an accidental assault by my wife after I carelessly left him on the dining room table. He has come through okay after corrective painting and hasty re-gluing, although he appears to be keeping a wary eye out for any further outrages.


This is another figure which looked less promising thanks to the face being along the line of the flash from the mould. A little paint has improved my assessment of a convincing pose for a man leading an assault.


Finally, below is an officer of the Chasseurs d’Afrique, a regiment which I painted some years ago from Strelets range of Crimean War figures. It’s not one of their best sculpted figures, another victim of the join on the seam, and it’s curious that his sword is drawn whilst on foot, but I like the ‘Chass d’Aff’ and felt it demanded inclusion!

Fenton took some photographs of officers from this regiment, including this one below of a mounted officer in camp.

Captain Thomas of the Chasseurs d’Afrique

And to conclude, some more images from Roger Fenton of the French officer corps in the Crimea:

I’m toying with the idea of one more batch of these French officers, if you can stand it, before finally moving on to something new.

You know, I think General Bosquet could easily have been talking not of the Light Brigade but of my eccentric hobby – “c’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre: c’est de la folie!” Yes, madness, I tell you! Madness!…

Russian Personalities of the Crimean War II

“Toward the north the activity of the day begins gradually to replace the nocturnal quiet; here the relief guard has passed clanking their arms, there the doctor is already hastening to the hospital, further on the soldier has crept out of his earth hut and is washing his sunburnt face in ice-encrusted water, and, turning towards the crimsoning east, crosses himself quickly as he prays to God; here a tall and heavy camel-wagon has dragged creaking to the cemetery, to bury the bloody dead, with whom it is laden nearly to the top…”

By Vikcos75 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43751038

Extract from SEVASTOPOL IN DECEMBER, 1854. By Leo Tolstoy.

Continuing my Personalities of the Crimean War series, it seemed appropriate to begin this post with an extract from Leo Tolstoy’s wonderfully vivid description of the experience of the dawning of a day spent in Sevastopol during the siege. Strelets’ Crimean War big box set “Russian General Staff and Hospital” have referenced this work by including a figure of young Count Tolstoy in his junior artillery officer’s uniform.

As you can see below, in addition to painting Tolstoy, I’ve tackled some of his fellow Sevastopol defenders and denizens too:-


2nd-Lieutenant Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy

World-famous novelist Count Lev (in English, Leo) Tolstoy was born of a respected aristocratic family. He joined the army with his brother in order to escape some large gambling debts. As a young artillery officer, Tolstoy found himself commanding a battery during the 11-month siege of Sevastopol.

The young aristocrat would go on to write about his experiences during the siege in a well-received book titled “Tales of Sevastopol“. It’s well worth a read, particularly for the English reader to understand the experiences and feelings of the besieged Russians.

His wartime experiences would also inform Tolstoy’s great work on Russia during the Napoleonic conflict; “War and Peace”. The horrors that Tolstoy experienced in Sevastopol led him to later formulate strong ideas on non-violent resistance, ideas which in turn inspired future activists such as Ghandi.

Young Leo Tolstoy in military uniform.

Strelets Tolstoy figure looks great. Most probably it’s down to my paint job, but somehow he doesn’t quite look like the youthful lieutenant he was at this time!


General-Adjutant Alexander Sergeyevich Menshikov:

Menshikov was the commander-in-chief of all Russian land and sea forces during the Crimean War. The ageing general was a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, like his equivalent in the British army. He was born of aristocratic parents being the grandson of Alexander Danilovich Menshikov who was a favourite of, and military advisor to, Peter the Great.

By Franz Krüger – Музей Гвардии; Санкт-Петербург, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4787033

Entering the Russian diplomatic service, he became close to Tsar Alexander I and accompanied him throughout his campaigns against Napoleon. During the Russo-Turkish War of 1828, Menshikov distinguished himself at the Siege of Varna until an exploding Turkish shell badly wounded him in the groin.

Rising within the government, Menshikov was perceived to have been an impediment to the modernisation of the Russian navy, a failing with effects which would become apparent during the Crimean War. Appointed to command the Russian forces in that campaign, he was eventually viewed as militarily incompetent and was replaced by Prince Gorchakov in February 1855. Prior to his removal, Menshikov had presided over the Russian defeats at the battles of Alma and Inkerman.

I think Strelets’ Menshikov appears suitably advanced in years with his white hair and walking cane. I’m not sure what’s over his shoulder but I’ve taken it to be some sort of blanket.


Lieutenant-Colonel Eduard Ivanovich Totleben:

Born of German-Baltic nobility, Lieutenant-Colonel Totleben was a highly competent engineer and became the inspirational force behind the defences of Sevastopol. On his advice, the fleet was sunk to block the harbour mouth and the land defences were hurriedly secured before the allies could take advantage of it after the Russian defeat at the Alma. 

Shortly before the fall of Sevastopol, Totleben was badly wounded in the foot and evacuated. After the war, his great contribution was fully recognised and he was honoured even by his former enemies, paying a reconciliatory visit to England. In a classic engineer pose, Totleben’s Strelets figure holds dividers and a map or plan.


Cossacks and a balalaika!

Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka maya…”

I felt I had to have a go at these two figures. These are, I understand, Terek Cossacks. The Terek Cossack Host had those distinctive fur hats with red coloured tops. I read that Terek Cossacks wore a dark grey / black uniform but Strelets has shows them as a ragtag collection of differing colours, so I’ve stuck with that for these two.

The two figures feature one man sitting on an upturned crate playing what is clearly a balalaika. His companion dances enthusiastically despite being encumbered by some serious weaponry. Once again, I think the expressions on their faces are really pleasing. Plastic Soldier Review states; “this is neither staff nor hospital, but adds a welcome touch of colour and humanity to the Russian figures.” Agreed.

All together now – “Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka maya!”


Acolyte carrying a religious icon on a banner:

A companion to the other icon carrier I painted recently, this chap is clearly of the church rather than in the army. My religious icon isn’t quite aligned properly, but it’ll do!


A layman carrying an icon:

And finally, a Russian soldier acts as a lay member of the church by carrying an icon before his comrades manning the defences, offering divine blessing and inspiration to them. He has removed his cap, presumably as an act of respect. The icon I’ve taken to be an image cast in gold with a blue drape around it. I like the figures face, intoning a hymn or prayer, and he goes well with the other religious figures I’ve painted.


So, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that I’ve got my sights set on another batch of Crimean personalities which I’ll post whenever I get some time to tackle them.

Russian Personalities of the Crimean War

I have been reviewing my collection of Strelets Crimean War figures of late. These are 1/72 scale and are some of the figures I painted during the years before this current WordPress incarnation of Suburban Militarism came into being. I may blog a little more about these at some point, but in the meantime I’ve been tidying up my old Strelets Crimean War page and adding more images of them.

In the process of this, I’ve rediscovered some of the unpainted figures of the Strelets Large Boxes issued on the conflict. These were basically collections grouped together by theme and which included figures available in individual boxes as well as additional special edition figures. These large sets were titled; “Into the Valley of Death“, “Heavy Brigade“, “Last Assault on Sevastopol” and “Russian General Staff and Hospital“. It’s some of the special figures from the latter that I’ve been working on.

The box cover artwork (above) is more clever than many perhaps realise. I can find no reference to it, but it appears that the artist has based the illustrations on known portraits of Russian General Staff. Foreground on the box artwork from centre-left, I can clearly identify – Admiral Nakhimov; Rear-Admiral Istomin; Lieut-Col. Totleben; and Vice-Admiral Kornilov.

Admiral Nakhimov (Strelets version right)
Admiral Kornilov (Strelets version right)

Seems to me that Nakhimov even makes a reappearance on the cover of Strelets’ Russian Naval Artillery box below?

So, here’s my painting efforts on a small group of these Strelets Russian Crimean War personalities from the “Russian General Staff and Hospital” set, (I’ve included a brief explanation of who’s who):


1. Archbishop Innocenti (Borisov)

Archbishop Innocenti. He wears religious symbols around his neck and holds a rosary in his left hand. I’ve given him a grey beard as he was nearing 60 at the time of the war.

The Holy Hierarch Innocenti or Innokenty (secular name – Ivan Alexeevitch Borisov), was the Archbishop of Kherson and Tauride, governates which included the Crimean peninsula. He was born in 1800, in Orel Province, in the town of Eltz.

In 1819, his father also being a priest, the then Ivan Borisov studied at the Kiev Theological Academy where he apparently “devoted himself to his studies with such fervour that he sometimes spent his nights immersed in his books“.


Holy Hierarch Innokenty, Archbishop of Kherson and Tauride.

During the Crimean War, the Archbishop “played an extremely active archpastoral role” providing essential spiritual succour and care for the Russian troops. A Russian Orthodox cathedral website describes his work:

“Holy Hierarch Innokenty’s greatness of soul was evident as well in his visits to wounded soldiers in field hospitals, where typhus was rampant and where one could be an eyewitness to all of the great sorrows, all of the sufferings inflicted by war. During battles, he would go about the army ranks, encouraging the heroic soldiers. Here as well the courageous father and pastor, he was also an angel and comforter to the suffering.”

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, “Holy Hierarch Innokenty of Kherson”.

It seems that the harsh and insanitary conditions of the siege, coupled with the effort required of his great exertions, eventually took its toll on him. During an allied assault on Sebastapol, the Holy Hierarch Innocenti suddenly became unwell and he died on 25th May 1857 while travelling to the port of Odessa. In 1997 he was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church as a saint.


2. Admiral Pavel Nakhimov

Admiral Nakhimov

Admiral Pavel Nakhimov became a hero to Russian nation for leading the defence of Sevastopol with great inspiration and courage. Entering the Naval Academy in St Petersburg, outstanding gunnery performance in his first major action won him his first captaincy, achieved ironically while fighting alongside the British and French fleets that would become his foe decades later.

Destroying the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Sinope won him great acclaim but did much to bring his former allies into conflict with the Russians in what would become known as the Crimean War.

During the siege of Sevastopol, he and Admiral Kornilov hurriedly organised a very effective defence of the port city, which was also the home to the Black Sea Fleet. Nakhimov was the effective head of Sevastopol’s naval and land forces when on the 10th July 1855, while inspecting the Russian defences along the Malakhov-Kurgan ridge, the Admiral was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper, succumbing to his injuries two days later.


3. Vice-Admiral Vladimir Alexseyevich Kornilov

Vice-Admiral Kornilov appears to be holding a brass compass or watch of some kind.

Like Nakhimov, Vladimir Kornilov was also present in the battle of Navarino, Kornilov as a midshipman. He acquired great acclaim for his ship engaging and eventually capturing an Ottoman-Egyptian steamer called the Pervaz-i Bahri in 1853 – being the first action in history between steam ships. 

Vice-Admiral Kornilov

The defence of Sevastopol was led by Admiral Pavel Nakhimov with assistance from Vice Admiral Kornilov, the duo ably assisted by C-in-C Menshikov’s chief engineer, Lieutenant Colonel Eduard Totleben.

On 5 October 1854, an artillery dual began between the allies and the Russian guns. British artillery fire found its mark in the Malakoff redoubt’s magazine, with the resulting explosion killing Kornilov,


4. General Prince Mikhail Dmitrievich Gorchakov

I’ve painted General Gorchakov in a naval officer’s uniform, but in reality Gorchakov was a general of artillery. The sculpted uniform looks indistinguishable from the other naval officers I’ve painted, so it may be Strelets (and myself) are mistaken. With his balding scalp and spectacles, the sculptor has certainly captured something of Gorchakov’s physical appearance.

Mikhail Gorchakov, by Jan Ksawery Kaniewski (1805-1867) – Public Domain.

Gorchakov entered the Russian artillery as a cadet in 1807. Thereafter, he took part in campaigns against Persia and France (he was present at the great Battle of Borodino, 1812). Further experience was gained in wars against Turkey and then Poland and he rose to the rank of Lt-General.

After first commanding Russian troops in the crossing of the Danube at the start of the Crimean War, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Russian forces in the Crimea, replacing the sacked Prince Menshikov. His defence of Sevastopol, and withdrawal from the southern half of the town were characterised by competence and skill.

He died in Poland in 1861 and, as with other a number of other senior Russian staff I’ve painted, was buried at Sevastopol.


5. Rear Admiral Vladimir Ivanovich Istomin

Rear Admiral Istomin with telescope in hand.

Vladimir Istomin was another veteran of the Battle of Navarino, having only just graduated from Naval College. His career led him to participate in the Battle of Sinope, commanding the battleship Paris.

Rear Admiral Istomin was in charge of the defense of the renowned Malakov redoubt, setting an example of bravery and tenacity. He was killed by a cannonball on the Kamchatka redoubt on March 7, 1855.

He was later buried inside the Admiral’s Burial Vault in Sevastopol, alongside Admirals Kornilov and Nakhimov.


6. A Deacon.

I’ve also painted a few unnamed characters. The first is a what is described by Plastic Soldier Review as a Deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church. From his open mouth, it appears that he might be intoning some hymn or prayer. He carries an ornately engraved book of the gospels in his left hand with a metal thurible (incense burner) in the other. A little cotton wool threads make for the wisps of incense escaping the chamber.

I must say, I love this figure, Strelets doing a great job of sculpting.

All my Crimean War Strelets figures are mounted on pennies.

7. A Lay Acolyte or Soldier parading a Religious Icon on a Banner.

Religion was hugely important to the Russian soldier, a key part of his motivation and consolation. The display of religious banners was used to inspire the troops before battle.

Strelets supply two banner carriers in this set with Plastic Soldier Review describing them as “acolytes (altar boys) carrying banners”. I chose one of them to paint but on close inspection, this ‘altar boy’ is clearly dressed as a Russian infantryman. He wears a military coat and even has the infantryman’s sword. Is this a case of a soldier filling in for the lack of church staff and acting as a lay acolyte? Perhaps this was common practice in war? Answers on a postcard – or in the comments section.

8. A Wounded Naval Officer in the Hospital

And finally, a figure from the hospital. He appeared from his coat to possibly be another naval officer, so I’ve painted him as such. He has received some medical attention with a bandage around his head and his arm in a sling. At the last moment, I added a little extra blood, head wounds being known to make a mess. Sitting on a crate, the man appears calmly resigned to waiting a long time for further treatment (well, they’re not called ‘patients’ for nothing…).

I confess I’ve really enjoyed painting these figures, so I intend to plough on with another batch soon.