Come on in, the party’s in full swing! Pour yourself a drink and mingle…
Five years ago, my first post on WordPress was published. I’ve since maintained regular blogging for five years. I wasn’t at all sure what I was doing when I started – or why, but I seem to keep on painting figures and blogging away.
Ooh, that Cossack balalaika version of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” is going down a storm…
There’s Capitaine Dubois and General Fournier indulging their Gallic love for fine wine by quaffing sauvignon blanc…Looks like both Major Donaldson and Ferik Ibrahim Pasha prefer a nice cup of tea, though…
Oh dear, Private Atkins, has disgraced himself by drinking far too much and practising his dance moves…
Finding myself in the area for a short break last week, I paid a short visit to Holkham Hall once again. I was fortunate in that the hall was open during the brief time I could visit (it would usually have been closed) but, unluckily, a special event meant that the manuscript library, which holds the yeomanry standard, was closed off to public access.
Nonetheless, it was a very enjoyable tour and I had a good talk with one of the fabulous room guides there about the Holkham Yeomanry. As we talked, visible through the windows was the south lawn looking glorious in the sun – the scene of the presentation of the yeomanry standard over 200 years ago.
My newly purchased postcard of Thomas Coke by Gainsborough.
Although a celebrated agriculturalist first and foremost, his passion for hunting on his estate meant that he would have been well familiar with guns. Here, he is pictured reloading, with three gundogs and a dead woodcock in view.
However, despite missing out on seeing the HYC standard again, there was still a pleasant surprise to be found in a downstairs room which I don’t recall being visible to the public on my last visit.
Access into the room was restricted but I could see it contained a snooker table with the walls festooned with examples of antique taxidermy and also what appeared to be 30 identical flintlock muskets.
There was no guide in attendance anywhere near this area, so I was left to speculate that these could be left over from the time of the Holkham Yeomanry’s service. In fact, I’d previously seen other examples of the Holkham Yeomanry’s muskets in a case at the nearby Victoria Arms on the Estate. It seems very likely that these are also part of the original HYC arms cache, as I find it difficult to imagine why the household would otherwise have retained at least 30 muskets of a seemingly identical pattern.
I took some low-quality photos of the room on my mobile phone but when back at home, on closer examination at home I was surprised to discover something else very intriguing.
Close up on the low resolution photograph, on a mantelpiece, a grainy image appears of a mounted figurine. It’s difficult to tell, but might I suggest that the rider has a sword drawn and is – just possibly – wearing the same Tarleton crested helmet seen worn by my own modelled versions of the troop…
For over a decade now, I yearly visit that part of the country, so perhaps another trip in 2020 will reveal yet more information?
Back in 2013, I was new to painting figures. I had dabbled before in 25mm metal castings before but only began to really dedicate regular time, patience and, ah, money in 2012. At the time, on the 1st floor of a huge model and toy shop in my home town, boxes of 1:72 scale plastic soldiers of every description occupied an entire room. Then, one day, I walked in to the shop to find it all gone. The floor to ceiling high wall coverage by countless boxes of plastic troops of every description and from every manufacturer had all but disappeared.
The venerable old store was closing down and clearly, in the weeks since I’d last visited, I’d missed the ensuing super-sale bonanza. Modelling vultures had already picked the carcass clean. There would be time to have a little cry about the old shop’s fate later back home but at that point I could see a handful of boxes still remained on a shelf – the last remnant half-companies from an army on sprues once numbering many 1000s of figures.
The Marmite sculpting style of the early Strelets figures ensured they featured heavily amongst these final unwanted boxes. I decided to pick up two of their marching French Napoleonic infantry sets; French Infantry on the March (1) and French Infantry in Advance. The unloved kits hadn’t remained unpurchased due to over-pricing – priced only £2.50 each with the added inducement of a ‘buy 1 get 1 free’!
As I took them home to mourn the passing of that enormous model soldier department (not to say it’s ever helpful, knowledgeable, but sadly soon-to-be-redundant staff) I suspected that these figures would probably go forever unpainted, stowed somewhere in the loft. In truth, it was a purchase motivated by sympathy rather than by desire.
And then, a few years later, in March 2015. I decided to paint some with a view to maybe submitting them to an international group painting project. In the event, they weren’t sent abroad but I had at least now made some effort on 18 of them. To my surprise, I enjoyed painting them a lot, with no less than 24 individual poses across the two boxes, there was real personality from a crowd otherwise depicted doing more or less the same thing. Both boxes featured the troops wearing greatcoats so mixed perfectly well together.
These painted figures remained un-based for a long while until, during a heavy blizzard on a December day in 2017, I realised that their greatcoats suggested they’d do well marching through snow (an obvious idea given one box’s art even depicts snow) and somehow, I ended up adding a further 26 to make 44 marchers. And last year, continuing what was becoming a yearly tradition, I dutifully painted another dozen to follow the Strelets French sledge train I’d painted. This latest dozen painted only this week takes the painted group it up to 68.
Since 2008, both of these marching sets are now virtually unavailable but Strelets have recently made a new replacement; their French Infantry on the March (1), with apparently more on the way! I’ve tackled a sprue of these new figures to compare with the old figures. These will be the future of my French winter marching tradition once the old sets are finally exhausted.
They are very different to the original sets indeed.
Firstly, the new set has its marchers appearing sideways on the sprue, rather than face on. This has the effect of the figures being quite slender, almost appearing as a semi-flat.
Two of the figures wear some unusual headgear. PSR identify it as a pokalem, also known as a bonnet de police. Blue and piped with red, this early kind of informal headdress was warm and comfortable with ear flaps which could be worn up or down (as in these chilly examples), it could even be worn under shako.
Details, as with all newer Strelets figures, are much more subtle than before but overall the proportions and poses of these figures are impressive, even allowing for their semi-flat thinness.
To more clearly differentiate between the older regiment and the newly raised troops, I’ve adopted a grey greatcoat for the new recruits with a green ball plume.
The old style figures are now down to their last couple of remaining sprues. Do I have a preference between the sets? Plastic Soldier Review prefer the new set of figures. But for all that, when it comes to painting, I can’t help but have a fondness, perhaps even a bias, for the ‘Old Guard’, those original, ugly and unloved refugees from a dying High Street model shop.
This is one last group from the new Strelets French Foreign Legion figures I’ve been tackling, but I’ve decided to paint them as something a little different.
The “French Foreign Legion XXth Century” box includes figures engaged in action rather than the marching and mounted figures seen in my recent posts. Some of these figures wear the sun or pith helmet rather than the classic kepi and it is the figures wearing the pith helmets which I’ve been concentrating on.
In trawling the internet, I managed to find a single illustration of the French colonial marines wearing the double-breasted coat (known as the capote) together with the pith helmet. I have since struggled to re-find it again and so have no idea where it originated but given the anchor badge on the helmet it clearly was intended to be a marine. I suppose it is entirely possible that the French marines wore the famous capote,but marines in this uniform do not appear frequently on the internet.
So, looking so similar to my French Foreign Legion figures, I set about recreating that uniform with the blue trousers and anchor cap badge. I’ve added a little straggly grass to give a marshy, far-east impression, perfect for veterans of the Tonkin Campaign in the 1880s.
I was first inspired to create some French colonial marines after seeing 28mm khaki-wearing later versions of these troops on Atomic Floozy’s splended blog.
I thought the kneeling figures were quite effective:
Standing and firing figures:
And when the fighting becomes hand-to-hand, the other end of the rifle becomes useful…:
En guard! Yes, I know, I’ve forgotten to paint those bayonets…
All in all, I am quite pleased with my small force of French marines and I’ll be sticking with the infantry of France for my next paint too…
There are stirrups which are unnecessary when riding camels, so I’ve simply painted over them. One of the mounted legionnaires you will notice holds a pair of binoculars, an essential item for any patrol.
Now, I’ve said it before. I really don’t like pegs on figures. Even when expertly made, I don’t like the concept – tiny plastic pegs in tiny holes do not a secure connection make.
Being camels intended for a number of other Strelets sets, needless to say these Foreign Legion pegs did not connect with the camel’s holes at all well and when they did it unseated the rider in an awkward way. What’s more, the legs of the riders were far too narrow for the camel also so I was left wrestling, bending and gluing for an unconvincing sit. The end result is just about convincing, I think.
The concept of camel-mounted legionnaires is fanciful, owing more to the romance of cinema than to reality. However, as my miniature camel train lopes off across the rolling Saharan dunes into the sunset, I’m still not quite done with the Foreign Legion. I’ve opened another box of French Foreign Legion also recently issued by Strelets, but this time I’ll be applying my own twist to it…
And now the men of the mounted company were very pleased with themselves. They had not to march, the morning was reasonably cool and… added to this, they were getting away from the detested garrison duty, and after a little time voices began to rise in the marching song of the Legion, Le Boudin, the whole column taking up the chorus: Tiens, voila du boudin voila du boudin voila du boudin…
The Legionary on the march is a cheerful person, even when encumbered with from sixty to eighty pounds of kit, besides a rifle and ammunition, and marching on his own feet under a temperature of 100 degrees in the shade…
Strelets new “French Foreign Legion: Desert Patrol” box includes 6 camel-mounted legionnaires and 8 marching figures. I’m sharing the latter in this post and will follow up with the camel riders in a following post.
Each of the eight marching men is in a unique pose:
This next figure is carrying a Lewis machine gun. Not manufactured until just before WWI, this is something of an anachronism with this uniform which, according to Plastic Soldier Review, can be best dated to no later than 1912. As they concede however, “you can find the Legion using this weapon in films”, and so fits the cinematic vibe of this set.
All in all, a lovely set of figures by Strelets. My criticism as a figure painter would be that the detail is very subtle in parts and I like crisper detail. My other criticism is that for a force well known for its brutal marches through hostile desert (march or die!), 8 isn’t enough – I want more!
The remaining 6 camel-mounted legionnaires will follow in my next post, until then here’s Laurel and Hardy on the march to ‘Fort Arid’ in their classic Foreign Legion spoof Beau Hunks.
In one way, the Legionary is like an animal of the jungle. Put him in barracks with their monotony and he becomes surly and dangerous to himself and others, place him in his proper surrounding – the march, or battlefield – and he becomes what he is by nature, the soldier par excellence.
I know it’s ‘hump day’, but what’s this? Have I ditched horses for dromedaries?
Yes, I have! For the time being, anyway. This is my first attempt at painting camels and I’ve enjoyed it a lot. These ‘ships of the desert’ are courtesy of Strelets new “French Foreign Legion: Desert Patrol” release. I think Strelets’ camels are well sculpted, the proportions (so far as I my limited knowledge of dromedaries goes) seem perfectly good. Plastic Soldier Review, however, are – shall we say – less than impressed with their gait!
It features 8 walking legionnaires and 6 mounted camel riders dressed in the classic late 19th / early 20th century uniform familiar to us from the movies.
The concept of camel-mounted legionnaires from the 1890s/1900s is entirely fanciful according to Plastic Soldier Review who scoff that “no legionnaire ever patrolled while riding a camel until after 1945“, recommending that we find some mules for the riders and use the camels as baggage carriers, or even throw them away. Not me!
There are three different camel poses for the 6 riders to choose from:
France did later create companies of camel cavalry within their North African army (but not in the Legion). These were known as Compagnies Méharistes Sahariennes“, whose ranks were filled by local Arab and Berber tribesmen. These same camels turn up in other Strelets sets; the British, Turkish and Australian Camel Corps sets which each include 3 nice additional poses including a sitting camel. My three poses also reappear in another newly released set “Rif Rebellion“. Perhaps their Arabic riders might also pass for some Méharistes?
With nothing factual to go on, I’ve painted their tassled drapes in dark red rather than the blue I’ve seen used by Méharistes, just to give my figures a little extra colour. The saddle is a leather cover draped over a wooden seat.
Like me, PSR at least appreciate the theatricality and romance of the set stating that “if you want to recreate movies like Beau Geste (1939) or March or Die (1977) then this set is great” – and I say ‘who wouldn’t want to do that’? The legionnaire figures themselves are in progress and I’ll share the rest of my hot and thirsty ‘desert patrol’ when they’re finally done.
For all things French Foreign Legion related, you could do a lot worse than head on over to the fabulous Mon Legionnaire blog which has lots on La Legion in wargaming, in history, and it’s portrayal in art and popular culture.
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 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”.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
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
pale yellow facings
white braid (white-silver for officers)
tarleton helmet with a black turban and silver chains
brass chain wing shoulder scales
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.
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: :
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!