Presentation of the Yeomanry Standard, Holkham Hall, October 1798.

“The two troops of Holkham volunteer cavalry, commanded by Major Coke, received their standard from the hands of Mrs. Coke…”

The Mercury Newspaper, Norfolk, 6th October 1798.

It is early October in the year 1798. Leaves have started to fall in the grounds of Holkham Hall in Norfolk and a mild autumnal day is ahead. If we gaze out of the windows of the majestic stately home, we shall see that the south lawn of the estate today presents an extraordinary scene; for drawn up before us are 100 horsemen of the newly raised Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry. From across the lawn comes the sound of jangling tack and the cries of horses, punctuated by occasional shouts of military instruction. From our vantage point by the window, we can clearly make out the elegant red dress of Mrs Coke. Suddenly, an officer rides up to her and dips his sabre in salute. In her hand she holds out to him what appears to be a richly decorated standard…

In recent weeks I finished painting my version of the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry, a local troop of horsemen raised by Thomas Coke of Holkham Hall, Norfolk during the French Revolutionary wars. Further information on this topic, can be found in previous posts:

Interestingly, the provincial paper, the Norwich Mercury, recorded the moment that the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry’s standard was first bestowed upon the new troop. The correspondent recorded that, on October 6th, 1798:

“The two troops of Holkham volunteer cavalry, commanded by Major Coke, received their standard from the hands of Mrs. Coke. At eleven in the morning the troops, proceeded to the chapel, where the standard was consecrated by the Rev Henry Crowe.”

The chapel, Holkham Hall.

The account continues:

At twelve o’clock the troops were drawn up on the South lawn, within a short distance of the house, when with some ceremony, the standard was given into the hands of Captain Edmund Rolfe. After the ceremony, the troops were entertained by their commanding officer, Major Coke, in Holkham House.” From Records of the NYC”.

Captain Edmund Rolfe rides up to Mrs Coke to take receipt of the Holkham Yeomanry’s newly consecrated standard. Thomas Coke looks on proudly…

Thanks to the keen eye of Mark at Man of Tin blog, I managed to source some metal 1:72-scale Georgian-era civilians from KAMAR, a German manufacturer of excellent military figures. These figures have helped me recreate the scene and you will note that my troop of Holkham Yeomanry have arrived in force also:


List of local dignitaries at Holkham Hall:

I’d like to introduce some of the local dignitaries attending the presentation, beginning with the host and Major Commandant of the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry:

Mr Thomas William Coke of Holkham

In 1798, Thomas Coke had fallen significantly out of favour with His Majesty King George III. He had been a vocal supporter of both the rebelling American colonists and also the French Revolutionaries, eventually feeling forced to repudiate the allegation of being an outright republican. A man of the ploughshare and not the sword by nature, Coke even initially opposed the establishment of local yeomanry forces in 1793.

By 1798, he felt moved to raise his own yeomanry force in the district of Holkham; ‘ eager to show my zeal in defence of my King and Country at this alarming crisis… ‘ and was petitioning the Prince of Wales for permission to base its uniform upon the Prince’s own 10th Light Dragoons. Coke was appointed to the rank of Major-Commandant of the HYC on the 19th July 1798.

On the 6th day of October 1798, the newly formed and trained Holkham yeomanry were to receive their standard in the grounds of Holkham Hall. For the purposes of my scene, I have chosen to depict Coke acting in his role strictly as host at Holkham Hall and dressed in civilian attire. Perhaps there’s even a very vague passing resemblance? It is quite possible that he would have been dressed in his military uniform, I suppose, but on such an occasion but I wanted to reproduce something of the man, and the agriculturalist, I’ve seen in a number of portraits.

Thomas William Coke of Holkham by Thomas Lawrence, 1815. Photo credit: Walker Art Gallery

Mrs Jane Coke (neé Dutton)

Mrs Coke, far from being a passive wife was, like her husband, a committed abolitionist and keen supporter of social welfare. At the time of the presentation in October 1798, Jane had been married to Thomas Coke (apparently for love) for nearly 23 years. She had born him three daughters: the eldest, Jane (21), being already married; Anne Margaret (19) the middle daughter; and the youngest, Elizabeth, who was only 3 years old.

For Mrs Coke’s figure, I’ve dressed her in a dark red dress, hopefully referencing the dress seen in her portrait, below right. I’ve even reproduced the white flower and leaves pinned as a brooch that she wears.

Jane died tragically at 47 years old, just 18 months after performing her essential role in the presentation ceremony. Her portrait now appears up on the wall in the Manuscript library (seen above) alongside that of her husband. Jane’s face is now seemingly forever gazing across to the standard which she had bestowed upon the regiment just months before her untimely death. I confess that I appear to have made the replica standard a tad larger in proportion than in reality…


Lady Jane Elizabeth Howard (neé Coke)

The eldest daughter of Thomas Coke and “a renowned beauty” according to Wikipedia. By the time of the presentation of the Holkham Yeomanry’s standard, 21 year old Lady Jane had been married for two years to Charles Nevinson Howard, styled as Viscount Andover.

Only 15 months later, her husband Charles was to be killed in a tragic shooting accident, the consequence of an ‘accidental discharge of his fowling piece’. They had no children.

The Rt Hon. Jane Viscountess Andover. After John Hoppner – Philadelphia Museum of Art, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17729616

Jane was to remarry 6 years later, having this time a more lasting union to Admiral Sir Henry Digby, a veteran of the battle of Trafalgar. This marriage gave rise to 3 children. Interestingly, their daughter, also called Jane, grew up to be a ‘scandalous adventuress” and her story is an astonishing one in its own right!

Viscount Andover and his wife, Jane.

Charles Nevinson Howard, Viscount Andover

Charles Nevinson Howard, in the peerage known as Viscount Andover, was 22 years old at the time of our presentation. The son of the 15th Earl of Suffolk, he had married Coke’s eldest daughter, Lady Jane Coke, on 21 June 1796.

The site of the Holkham Yeomanry presentation was to prove to be also the place where he was to die a mere 15 months later. The estate was designed explicitly for the hunting of game and on the 11 January 1800, aged just 24, Viscount Andover was killed by the accidental discharge of his gun whilst out shooting in the grounds of Holkham Hall.


A reporter from ‘The Mercury’

One of my remaining figures I’ve fancied to be the reporter from The Mercury, the provincial newspaper which happily covered the event in such detail.

Front page of the Norwich Mercury from 1823, the same provincial newspaper which reported on the events at Holkham Hall in 1798.

You will not that our correspondent’s top hat is cream coloured, the inspiration being a character I found in a satirical print on Thomas Coke dating from 1821.


Local landowner

Finally, one last local dignitary is included in my scene. In one hand, he holds a green bottle which we might imagine contains some port. In the other hand, he raises a glass, no doubt toasting to the future success of the newly-formed Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry! And to that we all give three hearty cheers!

And just to conclude this project, I’ve taken some more shots of men of the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry drilling and manoeuvring with the entirely appropriate and glorious spectacle of Holkham Hall in the distance. Please note that any feint impression of tall obelisk in the distance that you may spot is a figment of your imagination, as clearly such an edifice would not have been built for another 50 years…

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The Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry (Nap. Cavalry Regiment #34)

There’s a documentary TV series running on the BBC which features the work of the Household Cavalry. On a very recent episode, the cavalry (horses and soldiers both) were shown on their annual summer camp. Once a year, over 100 men and horses head off to Norfolk to undergo training including a ride over Holkham beach, plunging into and out of the surf.

This is all happening just a stone’s throw from Holkham Hall where, nearly 221 years ago, the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry were first raised by Thomas Coke from amongst local volunteers. Surprisingly, it seems the mounted cavalry tradition continues in Holkham right up to this day!

Whereas the Household Cavalry are regulars, Coke’s Holkham Yeomanry were part-timers, local men to the area and were equipped by the wealthy Coke with some assistance from the government with its military supplies.

Research has led me to believe they would have looked similar to the 10th Light Dragoons, Coke having petitioned the Prince of Wales (the regiment’s honorary colonel) to adopt the same colours. Two sergeants of the 10th were ordered up by the Prince of Wales to train the troop in the standards of the British army’s light cavalry drill.

My Holkham Yeomanry’s uniform consists of:

  • blue jacket with white edging
  • white breeches
  • pale yellow facings
  • white braid (white-silver for officers)
  • tarleton helmet with a black turban and silver chains
  • brass chain wing shoulder scales
  • black boots

For added decoration, I painted on to the figures some brass chain wings on the shoulders rather than going with the sculpted straps. It’s a style I’ve seen on other yeomanry troops of this era, including the Sussex and Warwickshire cavalry.

I spent a little time on the helmets to include a brass rim around the peaks and also silver chains holding the turban in place, not included by the sculptor.

Pointing the way to Holkham beach… for this figure shown above I removed his weapon and left him gesturing with a finger.

In my previous post on the horses, I mentioned the pale yellow shabraques including a device in the corners with a black shape on a red background to indicate the ostrich device seen on the Holkham Yeomanry’s standard on display in Holkham Hall.

I’ve extended this theme for the officer’s sabretaches – being a yellow background, edged with red, with a central device in the centre and a gold crown above (not seen in these photographs but since corrected!). Three black dots to the side and below indicate the H, Y and C initials of the troop.

For the officers, they have a crimson sash around the waist and a little extra braiding which I added to create some ornate Austrian knot cuffs. To better differentiate the two figures, I’ve given one a twist of the head and arm. I’ve also provided him with greying hair thinking he could serve as the middle-aged Thomas Coke (the same age as yours truly – there’s time to raise my own regiment yet…). Instead, I have other plans for Coke and will perhaps instead nominate the figure to be his Troop’s 2nd-in-command, Captain Edmund Rolfe;

The other officer I propose to be Lieutenant George Hogg;

For the trumpeter figure, I’ve kept it simple. No fancy trumpet cords, just the brass instrument itself. Also, no expensive uniform in reverse colours or bandsman’s epaulettes; just the grey horse distinctive to all cavalry trumpeters.

With my men and horses now painted. There is one more element to my Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry project still to come: a recreation of a scene reported on by the local paper where the standard was presented to the troop by the lady of Holkham Hall, Mrs Jane Coke. I’ve now ordered my chosen figures for this scene and am awaiting delivery…

Just leaves me to conclude with a gallery of some more pics of the troop (click to ’embiggen’), followed by a brief regimental history.


Biography: The Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry [Great Britain]
  • Raised by Thomas Coke of Holkham Hall after petitioning the Prince of Wales in May 1798.
  • Coke appointed Commandant, 19th July 1798.
  • The HYC receive their standard on the south lawn of Holkham Hall, 6th October 1798.
  • Initially consisted of 2 troops numbering approx 50 men each.
  • Officers consist of Major Commandant Thomas William Coke; Captain Edmund Rolfe; Lieuts. George Hogg and Martin Folkes-Riston; Cornets Jason Gardner-Bloom and John Ward.
  • Briefly disbanded in 1802 (following the Peace of Amiens) but re-raised again the following year.
  • Attached to the 1st Regiment of the newly organised Norfolk Yeomanry together with the Norfolk Rangers, the Lynn & Freebridge, the Smithdon & Brothercross, and the Marshland Troops.
  • The whole regiment later adopts the Norfolk Rangers’ uniform (green jackets).
  • Disbanded for good, 1828.

The links below to my previous posts also provide further information: :


Nags of Norfolk: Modelling the Holkham Yeomanry

About a year ago, I reported on my visit to Holkham Hall in Norfolk and discussed the history of it’s own yeomanry cavalry troop which lasted from 1798 to 1828. After some investigation on the uniform of the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry in a post earlier this year, I’ve decided to go for it and have a bash at reproducing a vision of this long-forgotten troop in 1/72 scale.

I’m using Strelets British Light Dragoons in Egypt set and have sourced a double 2nd-hand set for less than half the price on eBay. So far, I’ve concentrated on Strelets’ horses which I’ve been previously perhaps a little unfair in describing as over-fed. With some paint on them, they now look muscular rather than portly and I always appreciate the clear, crisp detail provided by these ‘old-style’ Strelets kits. Besides, I imagine that these steeds of Norfolk farmers and local men would have been substantially better fed than regular army horses on campaign.

Following evidence that Thomas Coke of Holkham Hall requested permission to dress his yeomanry troop in the ‘colours of the 10th’ (light dragoons), I’ve taken that to have extended also to the shabraques which the wealthy agriculuralist Coke has very generously supplied to all his troopers!

For it’s design, I’ve broadly followed the 10th’s colours as seen on this Britains model below. Instead of a white device on a red background in the corner of the cloth, I’ve gone for a black emblem, hoping to mimic the ostriches I saw on the Holkham Yeomanry standard in Holkham Hall.

Being Napoleonic cavalry, they could conceivably be included as the 34th regiment in my Napoleonic Cavalry Project when complete (be they yeomanry or the 10th Light Dragoons themselves). Additionally, I’ve had a vague idea to include the standard in a scene with these figures. I’d like to recreate the act of it being presented to them by Mrs Jane Coke of Holkham Hall, a moment reported on in some detail by the local newspaper in 1798. After being given some great ideas by Mark at Man of Tin blog, I’m considering my options…

For now, my yeomanry horses are now being put out to grass whilst I turn my attention to the Holkham men themselves next!

Standing Strelets Soldiers II: Riflemen of the 95th (for Pat)

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:

Adding Colour to the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry

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”.

Holkham Hall, Norfolk, in the Summer of 2018.

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.

Reinagle’s painting of Thomas Coke (1752-1842), 1st Earl of Leicester; National Trust, Shugborough. Holkham Hall visible in the distance.

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.

Standard of the Holkham Yeomanry Cavalry which I photographed during my visit. The base colour matches their facings.

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:

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

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.

A vision of Thomas Coke in his Holkham Yeomanry uniform? George IV (1762-1830) when Prince of Wales 1803 by Sir W. Beechey. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019.

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.

Due sometime, ah, hopefully soon… HaT’s Peninsular British Light Dragoons artwork looking distinctly Holkham-esque.

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!

Strelets Light Dragoon horses as seen on Plastic Soldier Review. More like sturdy Suffolk Punches than nimble Norfolk chargers!

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.


Even though his Holkham Troop had disbanded 14 years prior to Coke’s death, it seems the yeomanry of Norfolk had not forgotten him. Above is the dedication on the imposing Holkham monument made in memory of Thomas Coke, which reads; “Erected by subscription originating with the YEOMANRY…” The column’s architecture mostly commemorates his substantial agricultural rather martial achievements, and the corners of the column’s plinth support sculptures of an ox, a sheep, a plough and a seed-drill – so no swords here, just ploughshares.

The 37th Stands at Ease…

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…

“So, let me get this straight. We ‘ere because we ‘ere?…”
The scene just moments before an irritated Pioneer Sergeant swings his axe behind him.

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.

Easy Company

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.

Thank you, kind assistant!

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…


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: La Cantinière

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:-

Fenton’s image of a cantinière during the Crimean campaign.

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.

Fenton’s cantinière tends to a wounded, or possibly just profoundly drunk, Zouave…

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.

Another view by Fenton of the same cantinière.
© National Army Museum .

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!

http://tonystoysoldiers.blogspot.com/2018/11/interfering-with-mrs-duberly.html

http://tonystoysoldiers.blogspot.com/2018/11/mrs-duberly-on-parade.html

As for me, jut one last post still to come on my own Crimean personalities…

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.