After painting a group of Strelets British Line Infantry standing at ease earlier this year, I received some very kind feedback from my friend, diorama supremo Pat who challenged me to use some of the remaining figures to produce some men of his favourite regiment; the 95th Rifles.
The 95th are, of course, instantly recognisable in their green uniforms. I’ve had to make changes to account for differences between the line infantry and the rifles. Pat will no doubt be able to correct me if I’m wrong anywhere here but my adjustments have included the following;
With no white bars across the coat, there should be just three lines of buttons which because of accoutrements will barely show at all.
Cuffs are far simpler for the Rifles, being black with white edging.
The Baker rifle is shorter than the Brown Bess musket and, where I could, I’ve cut the musket down to size a little.
The badge shows a Light Infantry bugle which I’ve, very roughly, approximated on the shakos.
It is the first time I’ve painted the 95th in their Napoleonic guise and I just hope they meet with Pat’s approval!
Also ready to join their standing comrades finished from last month, I conclude with two officers and an NCO of the 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment.
I haven’t taken fussed at all over the flag, simply slapped some paint on it to resemble a British Napoleonic regimental version.
And finally, men of the 37th and the 95th standing together:
I’ve been reading the Google-transcribed text of “Records of the Norfolk Yeomanry Cavalry“, wordily subtitled; “To which is added the Fencible and Provisional Cavalry of the same county, from 1780, to 1908”.
I referenced this work last year in my post on the history of yeomanry cavalry on a north Norfolk estate; Horsemen of Holkham Hall, a stately home which I visited during the summer of 2018. In the post, I was unsure as to what colour uniform the local Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry actually wore and speculated they were likely to have adopted the popular choice in Norfolk of red coats with white or blue breeches.
The only real clue that I could find lay in the words of the Holkham troop’s commandant, Thomas Coke of Holkham Hall, who petitioned the Prince of Wales for permission to raise the troop. The letter, reproduced in Records of the Norfolk Yeomanry Cavalry, has Coke writing;
“I have to request your Royal Highness’s permission that we may wear the colours of ye loth for our uniform…”
Ye loth? I speculated in my post that it could even be a miss-scanned ‘yellow’. Judging from similar instances of typographical errors appearing in the document, it now becomes clear to me to be “the” (written as ‘ye’ in those days) and “10th” (i.e. that numbered regiment of Light Dragoons). Reading on, makes it blindingly, and embarrassingly, obvious;
“I have to request your Royal Highnesses permission that we may wear the colours of the 10th for our uniform, and that your Royal Highness would have the condescension to order two soldiers from that Regiment to drill us;…”
Furthermore, the Prince Regent was in fact Colonel of that Regiment, the 10th Light Dragoons, an office he held from 1796-1819, so it would make perfect sense for Coke to petition the Prince of Wales in this manner, newly raised yeomanry troops otherwise having permission to wear whatever style uniform they (or their benefactor, in this instance Coke) preferred.
So, if the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry apparently wore a uniform which imitated the 10th Light Dragoons then we might reasonably assume they would have worn a jacket and Tarleton helmet looking something like the Prince of Wales’ own officer’s uniform seen below:
Being Colonel of the 10th (‘The Prince of Wales’s Own’), the Prince took great pride in his regiment. Barred from active service, he ‘…channelled his interest into collecting and into the design of military dress and accoutrements. As Colonel Commandant, and later Colonel, of the 10th Light Dragoons, patterns of uniforms and equipment were submitted to the Prince for approval, many of which he retained at Carlton House‘ (Royal Collection Trust). It is known that he wore the Tarleton above at a review in 1798, which is around the time that Coke was raising his Holkham Yeomanry.
It’s a dark blue jacket with a pale yellow, almost buff, facings, with twenty one lines of silver lacing across the chest. The Tarleton helmet has a black silk turban with silver chains surmounted by a crest of black fur and a white feather plume. I wonder how closely the Holkham Yeomanry troop imitated this arrangement.
The Prince had a number of portraits created depicting him in an earlier version of the uniform around the time of his first appointment to the 10th Light Dragoons in 1793. The turban on the Tarleton is different, a leopardskin, and the braiding can be seen to be a more sparse arrangement.
It has been my intention for a while to create some Holkham Yeomanry in some form or other, preferably in my favourite 1/72 scale as an unusual addition to the Napoleonic Cavalry Project. HaT have been crowdfunding some Peninsular War-era British Light Dragoons which should be issued at some point, so these might well do the trick but progress to production has been slow (a couple of years in the making so far, I think), so I might have to be patient for those for a while longer yet.
For a more immediate fix, there’s always the Strelets issue of British Light Dragoons in Egypt. Their heavyweight horses look like they’ve been out in the fresh springtime pasture for far too long. Also, unavoidably I suppose, some of the riders appear to be in less than ideal poses – either involved in either some wildly vigorous sabre drill or perhaps in the midst of putting down an insanely violent bread riot in Wells-Next-The-Sea!
Well, this is all food for thought in my attempt to bring the Holkham horsemen back to life, in some half-assed way or other! Time to get back to those other cavalry figures that I’m painting.
Based and almost ready for action: men of the 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment of Foot stand at ease.
Prior to basing, they experienced a pre-emptive strike by my young cat, Marnie. She accidentally knocked them all off the table and they consequently suffered a little from a hard landing on the kitchen floor. I’ve tried to cover over areas of chipped paint but a few areas inevitably have been missed, I’m afraid.
I like the individuality of the figures, I’m particularly fond of this little private conversation going on in the rear rank…
The 37th Regiment featured in many significant campaigns and battles of the 18th century, including the battles of Blenheim, Quebec, Dettingen, Culloden, and Brandywine, amongst others. It spent much of the Napoleonic Wars on garrison duty in the West Indies and Gibraltar but did, however, serve in the closing stages of the Peninuslar War in 1814 where it won a battle honour.
It was absent from the Waterloo campaign, being sent for service in Canada. So perhaps it’s quite appropriate that these Waterloo-era figures to appear in such a casual and relaxed state?
As we are in Spring here in the UK, I’ve based them in a springlike meadow with flowers and lush grass. Bees are buzzing and birds are singing in this pastoral lull with the thought of hostilities far from their minds.
Below, a private in the rear rank seems more interested in the pleasures of the baggage train to the rear than any enemy to the front…
Tricky to pick out the details but nevertheless great fun to do. I’ve still got some officers to share for this group, whenever I get around to finishing them.
For a fabulous example of what can be achieved with this range of Strelets ‘non-combat’ figures, hop on over to Pat’s 1:72 Military Diorama’s blog and view his Peninsular War “Retreat to Corunna” diorama – endlessly interesting and with nearly 270 figures, a damn sight more ambitious than my own little line up!
As for me, I do still have a couple of sprues spare and was thinking of producing some Rifle Brigade or Belgian Infantry figures sometime too.
I always appreciate the opportunity to paint troops in poses which aren’t depicting combat. The dramatic choreography of such in-battle poses is all well and good, but they can have a certain sense of the melodramatic about them. For the majority of soldiers, the old adage that ‘war is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror’ applied.
Figure manufacturers naturally tend to focus overwhelmingly on those ‘terror’ moments – the combat which is the purpose of wargaming – and avoid the mundane. Recently however, Ukrainian manufacturer Strelets have been releasing a series of boxes featuring 1/72 scale Napoleonic infantry who are in non-combat poses, being either ‘on the march’, ‘standing shoulder arms’, ‘standing to attention’ or ‘standing at ease’.
Strelets are producing a range of these figures including (at present) Napoleonic French Line infantry and Old Guard, Austrians, Highlanders, Prussian infantry and Landwehr, but it is the British Line Infantry Standing at Ease which I’ve selected as my foray into this series.
The figures are typical of what is becoming familiar as the ‘new-style’ of Strelets sculpting; more realistically and delicately sculpted, taller and more slender. The detail consequently is a little less crisp and clear than before which presents, I think, more of a challenge to paint than the nice chunky details of yore.
So it’s taken some time and care to pick out all that intricate detail on the plastic to produce these guys: men of the 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment of Foot. Still on the painting table are a couple of their officers.
My source for their uniform has been a Richard Simkin image from the book “Uniforms of the British Army: The Infantry” edited by WY Carmen which features some of Simkin’s illustrations of the 37th Foot. The regiment has yellow facings with white turnbacks on the coat.
Incidentally, the Hampshire Regiment museum is in Winchester, one of a number of great regimental museums in the town and well worth a visit, something I did myself a few years ago.
Although there are a few campaign figures I’m painting I have managed to include some non-commissioned officers including two pioneer sergeants and another sergeant carrying a spontoon.
The plan is to stand them all together on a single base once all their command figures are done. Better get thinking in a little more detail about that…
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.
Another one from the Crimean Personalities series.
As I’ve indicated before, none of the French “Last Assault on Sevastopol” figures are named individuals as in other sets, but it is possible to positively identify at least one more of them from some Roger Fenton photographs. And here she is below:-
The photograph shows a ‘vivandiere‘, or equally a ‘cantiniere‘, a woman attached to a French infantry regiment. They primarily provided food and drink, organised washing, ran the canteens and tended to the infirm or wounded.
These ladies were formally enrolled into the army, they were subject to its discipline and rules, and were assigned next to the musicians in the Order of Battle, parading whenever necessary with their attached regiments in uniforms which closely echoed the men’s.
Though traditionally called vivandières, during the time of the Revolutionary Wars it seems such women became known as cantinières (i.e. those serving wine in canteens). With the restoration of the Bourbon Monarchy, the army was instructed to eliminate the title of cantinière and officially restore the more traditional vivandière. Regardless, the troops themselves simply continued to use cantinière, however.
During the time of the French 2nd Empire, the cantinière had become a romantic icon of the French Army and Napoleon III doubled their numbers in time for the Crimean War with at least one assigned to each regiment.
So it was no surprise that Roger Fenton should encounter one and indeed seek to capture some images of these remarkable female soldiers.
Strelets figure certainly bears some resemblance to the lady in the photograph. They have reproduced the cane in the photograph as being a riding crop, but the addition of some brass paint makes it a little more cane-like again. For the colours, I’ve simply chosen something appropriate to match a French infantryman. The eyes however appear to have been sculpted – and painted – into a squint or wink!
I was planning to hold back on this figure until next FEMbruary, but with that challenge being so far off it seemed wrong not to paint her at the same time as the rest of her Crimean French compatriots.
Of course, the proliferation of French cantinières were not the only female presence on campaign in the Crimea. Roger Fenton took other images of women including the formidable Mrs Fanny Duberley, a popular wife of a captain in the 8th Hussars. She kept a very entertaining journal of her experiences which can be read online here. Another modeller, Tony at Tin Soldiering On blog, recently created his own brilliant version of this spirited lady (see links below) by altering an old mounted Airfix Maid Marion figure. Brilliant!
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.
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.”
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;
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.
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!
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):
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.
“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.
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!…
Another instalment of my Personalities of the Crimean War series, featuring figures by Strelets:
Field Marshal FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan
The commander-in-chief of the British army in the Crimean War began his army career playing a full part in the Peninsular War. He later served in the Waterloo campaign as aide-de-camp and military secretary to Wellington. The carnage of the battle of Waterloo cost Somerset the amputation of his right arm.
Somerset retained his close association with the Duke of Wellington and, having been promoted to Lieutenant-General during the years of peace after Waterloo, was appointed to command the British army in the Crimean campaign with a brevet rank of full General. In 1852, he was raised to the peerage and became known as the 1st Baron Raglan.
Success at the battles of Alma and Inkerman led to his promotion to Field Marshal, but as the privations of the Crimean winter took its toll on his men, Raglan began to receive criticism in the press, although whether it was entirely fair is debatable.
A poorly executed failed assault on the defences of Sevastopol piled the pressure on the commander and, being weakened by dysentery and a depressive illness, Raglan died whilst still on campaign in June 1855.
Lieutenant General Sir Henry John William Bentinck
With both of Henry Bentinck’s brothers being generals, and his father a Major-General, senior command in the army was virtually a family business. Bentinck began his army service as an ensign in the Coldstream Guards and by 1841, he was an aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria and a brevet colonel.
By the time Bentinck landed in the Crimea with his regiment, he was a Major-General. He took part in the battles of Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman, being badly wounded in the arm in the latter. Despite the wound, he continued to serve in the siege of Sevastopol.
On his return from the Crimea, he was created a K.C.B. and promoted to the rank of General. Bentinck died in 1875.
Lieutenant General Sir Charles Ash Windham
The fourth son of an admiral, as with most of the generals featured in my British personalities series, Windham began his career in a prestigious guards regiment; the Coldstreams. From the rank of Ensign, he went on to purchase a series of promotions throughout the 1830s and 1840s.
After service in Canada, Windham returned to England in 1842 where he remained until the outbreak of the Crimean War. Achieving his colonelcy in June 1854, he was then appointed Assistant Quartermaster General of the 4th Division for the campaign. He soon became renowned for making clear his stern criticism of the poor military leadership of the British army at this time.
At Sevastopol, he was given command of the main British attack on the Great Redan. The result was a failure in which he personally rode back to beg for more reinforcements to continue the assault which had achieved its objective but was ill-equipped to hold it. Windham received criticism from soldiers in his command but was made a popular hero by William Russell, the Times War Correspondent, who declared that Windham’s gallant conduct had saved “the honour of the army”.
Windham’s career continued to be dogged by controversy and mixed opinions as he served in the Indian Mutiny and in Canada until he eventually died while convalescing in Florida in 1870.
The son of an M.P., James Estcourt’s first appointment in the army was as an Ensign in the 44th Regiment. Transferring to the 43rd Regiment, Estcourt served in Gibraltar and later on the Euphrates Valley Expedition. His services on this journey of science and exploration led to his promotion to Lt-Colonel.
Successful service on a boundary commission in Canada and a friendship with Lord Raglan helped Estcourt, now a Brigadier-General, to be appointed Adjutant General for the campaign. However, together with General Airey, he was criticised by a press who considered them both responsible for the winter privations and terrible suffering of the troops.
Stoutly defended by Raglan, Estcourt was appointed Major-General in December 1854, despite the ongoing criticism. Ironically, he fell victim to the same insanitary conditions for which he was being held by some to be responsible and succumbed to cholera in June 1855.
According to the Dictionary of National Biography, his friend and mentor Lord Raglan was “afraid to attend the funeral, for fear of showing his grief; but the last visit he paid before his own death, was to Estcourt’s tomb.”
Major General Sir Henry William Barnard
Sir Henry William Barnard obtained a commission in the 1st Foot Guards in 1814. A newly made Major-General, Barnard landed in the Crimea in 1854, in command of a brigade in the 3rd division of the army, with which he was present during the winter of 1854–5.
Through their figure, Strelets have nicely referenced Roger Fenton’s above photograph of General Barnard posing with a foot on a shell. Whether or not the pose was deliberately made at Fenton’s request, by delicately resting his boot on the shell, the stance nicely suggests something of the violence and danger at the same time as the fragility of the combatants. It’s just one of the postures that Strelets have employed in their Crimean range that is really pleasing to me, painting becomes the act of bringing to life a brief moment from over 150 years ago.
When former chief-of-staff General Simpson succeeded to Commander-in-Chief, Barnard in turn became his chief-of-staff, a position he held at the fall of Sevastopol in September 1855. He later succeeded to the command of the 2nd Division.
In 1857, Barnard took an active command in the Indian Mutiny and won the crucial battle of Badli-ki-Serai but died of cholera on 5 July 1857, eleven weeks before the fall of Delhi to the British.
In the process of painting some more Crimean War personalities, I’ve been particularly concentrating on a specific character who, though unnamed on the box artwork, bears an unmistakable resemblance to the 7th Earl of Cardigan.
Strelets’ “Into the Valley of Death” set dedicated to the Charge of the Light Brigade was purchased about 5 years ago and the figure in question is wearing the uniform of a hussar. Given the set’s topic, this means that it must belong either to the 8th (King’s Royal Irish) Hussars or 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars.
Plastic Soldier Review feel they can identify him – “The [figure] could well pass for Lord Cardigan, the man who actually led the charge.” There’s certainly a strong resemblance. The Light Cavalry Brigade’s commander was Major General James Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan of the 11th Hussars.
Arriving some months after the Battle of Balaclava, photographer Roger Fenton took some images of officers of the 11th Hussars, survivors of the charge, but not of the Earl of Cardigan himself. Below are his images of Cornet Wilkin and Lt. Yates of the 11th. Also below is Fenton’s famous image he titled “The valley of the Shadow of Death” itself, a gulley strewn with spent cannonballs.
So anyway, who’s Ronald?
That’s Ronald above, Cardigan’s charger shown as a small detail in Caton Woodville’s painting of The Charge. He was a thoroughbred chestnut gelding coincidentally sharing the same russet-colour as his owner’s ginger whiskers. Ronald was the horse that led the Charge of the Light Brigade, over 670 men (and their horses), into – and out of – the ‘valley of death’.
As with his aristocratic rider, Ronald was indeed incredibly fortunate to survive having ridden at the very head of the brigade right into the teeth of the Russian artillery position, escaped from being surrounded by Cossacks, and then returned all the way back again unscathed. Of the famous charge, a shocking 475 other horses failed to do the same. Furthermore, he should be considered very robust for even surviving the trip over to Crimea by troop ship (many horses did not), and then making the same arduous journey back home again.
Ronald continued to prove particularly durable, managing to enjoy life until 28th June 1872, nearly 18 years after Balaclava and a full four years after the passing of his master. There are, it seems, a number of tributes to Ronald on the web. Including:
Of his many depictions, I’ve based my painting of Ronald on the Alfred Frank de Prades portrait. This shows Ronald to have markings consisting of two white ‘stockings’ and one white ‘sock’, although other portraits I’ve seen occasionally differ. I do know (thanks to the perfect preservation of his head!) that he had a star on his forehead and a snip near his right nostril, all of which I’ve been careful to try and reproduce on my own little tribute in 20mm figure form. Strelets horses certainly aren’t their strongest feature (the leg positioning on this figure isn’t quite right, I feel), but otherwise it’s not too bad a sculpt.
The Earl of Cardigan himself is a pleasing figure, I think, and Strelets have captured something of his features and ornate uniform. I’ve used a darker red than I commonly use to achieve the cherry colour of his busby bag and overalls, a feature unique to the 11th Hussars which gave rise to their nicknames “The Cherry Pickers” and “The Cherry Bums” or, for when ladies were present, “The Cherubims”!
On Cardigan and Ronald’s return to the Brudenell home in Deene Park, it became apparent that their adventures had found them considerable fame and both were greeted as heroes by the thronging crowds. Such was the fervour that many tried to pull out poor Ronald’s hair for a keepsake as he passed! A well-deserved long retirement for Ronald ensued until the Earl of Cardigan passed away in 1868, at which point his famous steed was required to follow as part of the cortege. However, it seems that the old war horse very nearly didn’t make the funeral procession thanks to a very comical series of mishaps:-
“However, the old horse, having endured ghastly sea journeys, life on the foreign front, the atrocity of battle, near starvation and probably deep terror, found the whole prospect of a funeral procession far too exhilarating and became boisterous. To avoid the solemn pageantry of the day being ruined by the over-excited horse, they administered laudanum. But, in the heat of the moment the dose must have been inadvertently overdone, for then no one could move the dozing charger. Eventually an inspired individual called for the sounding of the cavalry charge. Stirred to duty, Ronald jumped into wakefulness and set off as required.”
Such was the affection felt for Ronald by the Brudenell family and the British public that, when he did eventually die, the Brudenells preserved his head and tail which continues to be displayed at his home in Deene Park, Northamptonshire. His hoof was turned into an inkwell (a popular tribute for beloved horses of the time) with a sculpture of him and his master atop.
To me, it has sometimes seemed that some of Tennyson’s famous lines on the men of the Light Brigade could have equally applied to the brave horses like Ronald who suffered so much in the charge, dutifully carrying their riders through hell:
Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die.
I’ve handful more ‘personalities’ I’m working on, which I’ll doubtless share in due course.