More Soldiers of the Sun King

After a brief hiatus, I’ve been dipping into the Strelets Lace Wars figures once more by adding the Sun King’s army with another French Regiment. Introducing the Regiment de Poitou, which in the Blenheim campaign consisted of a small battalion in Prince Isenghein’s Brigade.

They wear the usual white-grey coat with blue cuffs, white gaiters and a tricorne with yellow trim. I think they make a nice contrast to their sister regiment, the de Montfort.

Regiment de Poitou
Regiment de Montfort

I’ve used the other loading and firing figures which came with Strelets French Fusiliers (Early War) box, using the same two figures to further emphasise the regimental distinction.

I’m pleased with my officer figure who carries a spontoon. This figures fully justifies the “Lace Wars” label with his exuberant wig, frilly white neckerchief, white fur trim on the tricorne and lacy sleeves. Unfortunately, I seem to have yet to paint his white gloves which remain a distinctly less-than-foppish-dandy shade of black. I’ll reach for the brush soon to put that right!

I’ve not fussed with the shade of grey-white worn by the regiment and I think they look better for it. At John of Just Needs Varnish suggestion, I’ve staggered the two ranks in the firing line, front firing rank to the left and rear loading rank to the right, so the bases still line up;


The loading pose:


The firing pose:

I know that Strelets are working hard on the production of more WSS boxes including the very recent release of French grenadiers and marching musketeers. Some British cavalry masters have already made an appearance on their website too. Distribution in these troubled times remains a problem however, so modellers and wargamers may have to be patient for a while yet.

Regiment de Montfort

Presenting the Regiment de Montfort, a Walloon/Spanish auxiliary regiment consisting of 2 battalions of upwards of 1200 men. Part of the Marquis de Montfort’s brigade, the regiment was present at the battle of Blenheim.

My first French Infantry regiment makes uses of two poses from Strelets new French Fusiliers (Early War) figures. The title on the box is something of a conundrum as the uniform is perfectly serviceable for the entire duration of the conflict!

The box also contains two other firing and loading poses similar to these figures which I will use for another French regiment. Also in the set are some command, advancing and kneeling figures. Knowledgeable people may point out that French infantry at this time fought in three ranks, not two. In terms of basing, I just based them all individually, forgetting previous good advice to stagger the figures on the bases – which was more than a bit dim of me!

This officer figure carries a spontoon but lacks a gorget below his neck, an essential device of rank for the time. Nonetheless, a lovely figure in a great pose.

My loading figures are cleverly pictured biting off the end of their cartridge ready to pour powder down their musket. A very effective pose with good facial features to boot.

The French at this time wore coats of Pearl-Grey, a light coloured coat in an off-white hue. I’ve seen many interpretations of this shade and in the end simply went for a very light grey which I hoped would work. I admit that my feelings vary between “a little too grey” and “satisfactory”, but I shan’t lose any sleep over it!

I won’t be pitching straight into another French regiment for a little while as I’ve recently signed up for Ann’s Immaterium’s April challenge to paint up some of my other many, many unpainted figures from the pile.

Crustacean Cavalry

I sincerely hope all visitors are staying healthy and following the advice during this horrendous pandemic. During this difficult time, any slight sense of normality is welcome and it’s more comforting than ever to occasionally engage in the act of immersive act of figure painting. I’ve been finishing off my Les Higgins War of the Spanish Succession cuirassiers.

The Bavarian army during the War of the Spanish Succession initially included three cuirassier regiments (the Arco, Wieckel and La Tour regiments). This later increased to four with the raising of the Wolframsdorff Regiment. With their “lobster-tailed pot helmets” and metal cuirassies, these troops looked like something familiar from the previous century. During the English Civil War, the so-called Haselrig’s Lobsters wore this armour, not too dissimilar from the Bavarian cuirassiers of 60 years later:

Lobster cavalry armour of the English Civil War, Household Cavalry Museum, London. (my photo)

I’ve chosen to paint these Les Higgins figures as the Arco Cuirassier Regiment, led by Cavalry General Johan Baptist Graf von Arco. Although the numbers in the regiment could vary significantly, a Bavarian cuirassier regiment at this time could have anything up to 900 men, organised into 8 -12 companies.

All the Bavarian cuirassiers during the War of the Spanish Succession wore grey coats with colours of cuffs & lining being distinctive to each regiment. The Arco Regiment was distinguished by mid-light blue facings and horse cloth. The original Robert Marrion illustration below, originally depicting the Wieckel Regiment, has been doctored by somebody with Arco facings and posted online.

All my Les Higgins’ Arco Cuirrassiers are wielding a pistol, which looks a convincing pose, I think.

As soon as I took these photos and uploaded them I found a post-it note to myself with the words “cuff buttons” and “stirrups” written on it, not coincidentally the exact same things I’ve forgotten to paint on these figures! (my friend Pat will know that feeling well). Ah, well. I’ll attend to it in due course. Nevertheless, I’m feeling quite pleased with my first WSS cavalry regiment, and my first metal Les Higgins figures too.

Hoping all visitors to this blog keep themselves and their loved ones healthy and we get through this together soon. In the meantime, when I’m not figure painting, I’m NHS employed and so will be playing a very tiny part in the national response during this time.

Best wishes, Marvin.

Lace Wars with Les

Just wanted to share some progress on my Les Higgins War of the Spanish Succession cavalry, sample figures courtesy of John Cunningham. There’s still a little corrective paint required on one or two of these figures, nonetheless I’ve been creating (from left to right):

  • a trooper of the Bavarian Arco Cuirassier Regiment
  • a French dragoon of the Royal Regiment
  • a dragoon of the Danish 5th Jydske Dragoon Regiment
  • a trooper of the Regiment du Roi, a French Horse Regiment

Still work to be done, but they’ve given me the template for creating an entire regiment of each. Yesterday, I received more of these wonderful old Les Higgins miniatures so I can set to work when I’m ready. These, along with the other mountain of figures should at least keep me well occupied in these troubling times of global pandemic.

Scrubbed and drying, ready for paint: my Les Higgins 20mm cavalry haul.

For anyone interested in purchasing Les Higgins recast figures, please visit this page on Vintage Wargaming Figures for more information.

Les Higgins Miniatures

I was very pleased to receive through the post recently samples of 20mm scale metal figures. These were a large group of recast Les Higgins figures, very generously supplied by their manufacturer, John Cunningham.

Caricature Combat! Co-founder Brian Marlow duals with Les Higgins (taken from the 1971 Les Higgins Miniatures catalogue as displayed on the Prometheus in Aspic blog).

The interesting story behind Les Higgins Miniatures is nicely recorded on the Vintage 20mil website. Founded in 1967, Les Higgins himself tragically passed away aged 49 in 1972. The company continued for some years as Phoenix Model Developments. The figures all belong to my recently favoured Marlburian period and include lovely examples of:

Musketeers

Grenadiers

Command figures

Cavalry

The group of cavalry caught my attention, examples of what I believe are;

  • a trooper of horse
  • a hussar
  • a French dragoon
  • a dragoon wearing a tricorne
  • a trumpeter
  • a horse grenadier
  • and a cuirassier with a ‘lobster’ helmet.

A very nice group of horses were also included for them to ride:

In addition to the Les Higgins figures were some examples from other 20mm manufacturers of yore; Alberken and Douglas Miniatures.

Alberken Miniatures:

Begun in 1964, Nottinghamshire-based Alberken was formed by Albert Horsfield and Ken Watkins, (whose main business was making “pie machines”)! The manufacturer name was a portmanteau of their first names. The figures are described on Vintage 20mil as being “thin in build, a bit static in pose, sometimes lacking in detail and stand around 22mm high and noticeably flat“. Albert Horsfield tragically died in a car accident just a year after forming and Alberken subsequently ceased production. Full story again on Vintage 20Mil.

Douglas Miniatures:

Douglas Miniatures were the forerunner to the manufacturer of the 54mm MJ Mode figures which I painted last year. Vintage 20mil states that the early Douglas Miniatures were “quite literally a ‘cottage industry’, with Johnston sculpting the figures in his own kitchen in Glenfield.” In a bizarre coincidence, I happen to paint all figures in my kitchen in Glenfield…

It’s interesting to compare a Les Higgins grenadier (left below) with an Irregular Miniatures version which also came through as a sample.

Left: a Les Higgins grenadier and Right: an Irregular Miniatures grenadier

So, I’m keen to see how these lovely old veterans paint up with a long view of incorporating some into my Marlburian armies. I thought I’d begin by having a go at some of Les Higgins’ cavalry figures, so I’ll post more on these when I’ve made some progress.

“We could perhaps be super-optimistic and see (international wargaming) as a future way of solving our international differences without firing a single, full-size explosive shot!”. And so say all of us…

The Female Dragoon: A Farewell to FEMbruary 2020

While painting 20mm British Horse figures for my War of the Spanish Succession armies, I’ve been enjoying the submissions from other participants in the 2020 FEMbruary challenge. With a nod to this, Mark at Man of Tin blog posted about a page he’d found on a copy of an 1893 edition of “The Girls Own Paper”.

This article is most certainly ‘of its time’ yet it contains many inspiring and fascinating stories about “Women Soldiers”, much of which I was familiar (Hannah Snell of the Carnatic Wars, and the Dahomey Amazons) but one account in particular caught my eye. The article mentioned Christian Kavanagh (aka Welsh, Davies and ‘Mother Ross’) who had led a “strange and decidedly romantic career“.

1706 illustration of ‘Kit Kavanagh’ – Public Domain

This “cross-dressing” lady had joined the British Army in 1691, in pursuit of her reluctantly enlisted husband. After fighting in the Battle of Landen and wounded in the ankle, Christian (or Kit) was released from capture and joined the Royal North British Dragoons (Scots Greys). After serving for many years she was said to have been wounded at the Battle of Schellenberg and later found her husband among the French prisoners after the Battle of Blenheim. With her husband now in a relationship with a Dutch lady, they remained simply regimental comrades until Kit was badly wounded at the Battle of Ramillies.

It’s possible that this ended her military career, although Wikipedia have her searching for her husband’s body at the Battle of Malplaquet. It is said that when her gender was discovered by a surgeon, she was nonetheless given a military pension by Lord Hay and ended her days as a Chelsea Pensioner, presented to and honoured by Queen Anne, and eventually buried with full military honours.

Her tale was recounted at the time to author Daniel Defoe and subsequently published as “The Life and Adventures of Mrs Christian Davies“.

As with many old tales, this story has been no doubt subjected to embellishment and myth, but the core of the tale must undoubtedly be true and many similar tales of surreptitious female enlistment into armies exist across different nations and eras (for and example, see my post on Heroic Female Soldiers of Serbia). Even today, the tale of Christian Kavanagh continues to inspire new tales such as this ‘delightful and fun’ work of fiction based on her life, “The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavanagh” by Marina Fiorato.

The War of Louis Quatorze blog posted on this same story appropriately last February.

All this chimed nicely with my latest venture painting a Marlburian horse regiment. Admittedly, they’re a regiment of horse not dragoons, but when I do paint some, then perhaps I’ll add a feminine touch to the face of one figures so that my own Trooper Davies can secretly take her place in my army too?

My Horse is Irregular…

I’m patiently waiting for a little something to arrive through the post which I hope will enhance my slowly progressing FEMbruary submission of Empress Catherine and the Russian Court.

In the meantime, as the shocking Storm Dennis rages outside it is at least an opportunity to add some paint to those War of the Spanish Succession horses which arrived from Irregular Miniatures some weeks ago.

These are first metal 20mm figures I’ve ever had the pleasure to paint, so I’ll have to see how the riders go. It’s also a toe in the water for some other classic metal 20mm figures which I’ve received.

Right – I’d better nip outside now and check for any storm damage…!

Firing Line: The 1st Foot Guards

Presenting my project’s third regiment from the Duke of Marlborough’s British army; the 1st Foot Guards!

Lovely figures, once again by Strelets, if not entirely historically accurate. They are mostly all from their new “Firing Line” box of British Infantry figures. Blue breeches, cuffs and collars are a distinctive element in this regiment’s uniform.

For the grenadiers, I’ve used a couple of figures from their “In Attack” box instead, simply because the ‘firing line’ grenadiers looked so good that I’m thinking of keeping them back for a special purpose.The grenadiers have blue fronted caps, piped with yellow, examples of which I’ve attempted to reproduce (see 1st Guards grenadiers crossing the River Nebel below):

The musketeers I’ve shown with yellow hat lace.

The Strelets Firing Line box comes with various firing and loading poses. For the 1st Guards, I’ve concentrated all the firing figures together within this single battalion. Strelets supplied two poses standing to fire their muskets.

But there were only a limited four figures in a kneeling pose across the box.

The NCO was a pleasing figure to paint, suitably adopting a shouting and pointing pose:

This commissioned officer appears to be wearing gaiters and is holding his pair of white gloves.

More ‘fun with flags’… Would you believe that I actually quite enjoy the tinkering challenge of not-quite-getting-it-right, until I eventually admit defeat and accept whatever outcome. With this one, I realised I had foolishly put the red device in completely the wrong corner! Oh well, never mind…

I’m now thinking that I’m ready to tackle something else in the WSS project which perhaps isn’t British infantry. I’m not sure what exactly yet and anyway the FEMbruary challenge will now take precedence for a little while. Furthermore, I’ve recently come into possession some more WSS figures – but more on this in another post.

Strelets, meanwhile, recently announced on their forum that they are committed to also producing both cavalry and artillery sets for this series, in addition to the French Fusiliers slated for production – so much more to look forward to there! 🙂

Court Appearances: FEMbruary 2020

FEMbruary has been declared! For the 3rd year, I’m formally throwing my hat into the ring for FEMbruary 2020. Begun in 2018, this cracking idea by Alex at Leadballoony blog invited modellers to share their work on female miniatures or otherwise join in as “part of an ongoing conversation about how women are presented within our hobby”. In previous years, Suburban Militarism has submitted:

Catherine the Great by Bad Squiddo Games

This year, I’m turning to my preferred 1/72 scale. The figures I’ve chosen are from Strelets’ “Court and Army of Peter the 1st” ‘big box’ set which I’ve had for a little while now in my far-too-large pile of unpainted items. It features soldiers and guards from Tsar Peter I’s newly formed professional Russian army, and also contains a number of unusual and entertaining court figures, including Peter the Great himself.

For FEMbruary, I’ve taken from this set three aristocratic ladies in fine dresses, one of whom is the Empress, Peter’s wife. I’ve already glued them on pennies and PSR’s description of each is below:


“Empress Catherine I (1684-1727) – Peter’s second wife, whom he married in 1707 and was named Empress but only really had power after his death. The marriage was a very happy one.”


“Court lady – In ‘German’ or western dress, with a large wig as required by Peter.”


“Court lady – As above, but this one pets a small dog at her skirts.”


Much of the court personalities from this set will of course fit the era for my new War of the Spanish Succession project. As such, they could as Plastic Soldier Review state; “work equally well at the court of Louis XIV or any other monarch, so the potential is quite considerable. However a top quality paint job is about the only hope for these otherwise rather unsatisfying figures.” Gulp! The pressure is on to meet that challenge, and I hardly need confess that I’ve not painted 18th Century ladies dresses before, never mind a dog…

The figures seem to show those early Strelets characteristics of imagination and fun, with a distinctive sculpting style which divides opinion. In the main, I haven’t found flash to be a particular issue with Strelets figures but these courtly ladies underwent some serious plastic surgery with my scalpel. In the case of the lady and dog, her face quite literally went ‘under the knife’!

Always up for a challenge, I’ll share my progress, good or bad, in due course. In the mean time, do pop over to Leadballoony’s blog for more on other FEMbruary figures and participants!

Lace Wars: The 1st Guards

Two regiments (and 1 box) already completed in my War of the Spanish Succession project, I’m still happily painting the lovely Strelets British infantry. For the latest figures, I’m making use of Strelets other very newly released WSS sets;

  • British Infantry in Attack
  • British Infantry Firing line

After a couple of line regiments, I felt it was time to include an elite formation and so I’ve started work on the most prestigious infantry in the British Army; the 1st Foot Guards.

The 1st Foot Guards at Blenheim, crossing the River Nebel.

My C.S. Grant book on the uniforms of the WSS informs me that the 1st Guards wore a red coat with facings of “Royal blue” and breeches of blue. Depictions of the regiment from this time seem to show a mid-light coloured blue, including this 1st Foot Guards re-enactor wearing a grenadier’s uniform:

I have Vallejo paint called “Royal Blue” but I’ve instead opted for their “Flat Blue” which seemed a more satisfactory shade.

Impatient for Strelets to produce other sets (presuming of course that they do), at the wise suggestion of John at Just Needs Varnish blog, I’ve been exploring other potential sources of 20mm scale WSS troops. As a first toe in the water some figures have arrived today from metal 20mm manufacturer Irregular Miniatures. These are some infantry officers to make up my shortfall from the Strelets boxes and a regiment of British Horse consisting of an officer, a trumpeter, a flag bearer and five troopers:

I think they’re very impressive! 🙂 Size comparison shows the figures to be slightly smaller than the Strelets figures. This is because these Irregular Miniatures figures are ‘true’ 20mm which is to say 1/76 scale rather than 1/72.

Anyway, there’s an awful lot going on on the Suburban Militarism painting desk at the moment, and those Foot Guards won’t paint themselves!