Tuesday 29 March 2011

The 'Death or Glory Boys' - 17th Lancers

After a period of dormancy, I’ve finally finished off the 17th Lancers Richard had very kindly given me.  A new challenge here were the lances themselves but a little metal foil gave me the effect required for the pennons.

Foundry - Crimean Range

The 17th Lancers were in the front rank of the Light Brigade as they charged the guns that fateful day on the 25th October 1854.  Colonel Obolensky ordered a final volley of canister with the cavalry only twenty yards out but still they came!  The more I read about this battle the more admiration I have for the men who knowing that were surely riding to their deaths rode on without once questioning the order given.

Terry Brighton’s ‘Hell Riders’ – The Truth about The Charge of the Light Brigade – Penguin 2005, wonderfully tells the story of the day using many eyewitness testimonies to bring to life the disastrous charge.  I recommend it to anyone with a passing interest in the period, fast paced and anecdotally heavy, it becomes very hard to put down before the inevitable conclusion. 

There crashed into us a regular volley from the Russian cannon. I saw Captain White go down and Cardigan disappear into the smoke.
 Private James Wightman, 17th Lancers

My attention here was attracted to Private Melrose, a Shakespearian reciter, calling out, ‘What man here would ask another man from England?’ Poor fellow, they were the last words he spoke, for the next round from the guns killed him and many others.  We were then so close to the guns that the report rang through my head, and I was quite deaf for a time.  It was this round that broke my mare’s off-hind leg, and caused her to stop instantly.
Sergeant John Berryman, 17th Lancers

Just as I came close to a gun, it went off, and, naturally, round went my horse.  I turned him round, and put him at it again, and got through.
Captain Godfrey Morgan, 17th Lancers

When I was within a few yards of the Russian guns my horse was shot under me and fell on its head.  I endeavoured to pull it up in order to dash at the gunners but found it was unable to move, its foreleg having been blown off.  I left it and forced my way on foot
Corporeal James Nunnerley, 17th Lancers

The last volley went off when we were close on them.  The flame, the smoke, the roar were in our faces.  It is not an exaggeration to compare the sensation to that of riding into the mouth of a volcano.
Corporal Thomas Morley, 17th Lancers

Saturday 26 March 2011

Oil paint experiment

Following a discussion in the Gentlemens Wargames Parlour, and purely in the interests of research, I thought I might have a go at producing an Empress Miniatures married Zulu using the green undercoat and oil method!  

I attended my first Euro Militaire exhibition last year, an incredibly humbling experience as the quality of work on display was absolutely sensational,  but I was surprised by the amount of modellers that were using oil paints.

I was aware that traditional western artists would under paint with Terre Verte, a subtle transparent green. If you look at the back of your hand you can see why. The green beneath the translucent skin gives the appearance of veins. It would follow that the darker the skin tone, then a darker green could be used. 

Having chosen a figure it was given a green undercoat where the skin would show.
You wouldn't like me when I'm angry!

Initial skin tones done with raw umber then burnt sienna using glaze techniques.  Shortly after this stage I made the decision to complete the other areas of the model using acrylics.

There is no question that there is the appearance of greater depth to the model but I found the oils so difficult to control and ultimately became frustrated with the results, hence the decision to complete it in acrylics. On a larger scale, or in the hands of a more proficient artist this would definitely be the way forward but the dry time between
 layers would drive me to distraction!  

Last Stand at Isandlwana

The Battle of Isandlwana, Charles Edwin Fripp 1885

Charles Edwin Fripp; painter, illustrator, and special war artist, was born in London on 4th September 1854. He was one of the twelve children of George Arthur Fripp (1822–1895), a landscape artist, and Mary Percival. 

An Associate of the Royal Watercolour Society, he painted mainly military subjects and worked as a special artist for The Graphic and The Daily Graphic during various wars in South Africa including the Kaffir War of 1878, the Zulu War, and the Boer War; he also covered the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 and the Philippines campaign of the Spanish-American War in 1899. He exhibited The Battle of Isandlwana  at the Royal Academy in 1885.  The painting now hangs in the National Army Museum.

The painting depicts the last stand of the 24th Regiment of Foot  in the disastrous opening encounter of the Anglo-Zulu War on 22nd January 1879 and was completed six years after his initial sketches.  Fripp went on to witness Lord Chelmsford's successful relief of Pearson's force at Eshowe and was also in the column when the body of the Prince Imperial was discovered.  It is said that he sketched the battle at Ulundi from the relative safety of the leather roof of an ammunition cart.

The following came about having seen the wonderful posting by Captain Blood in the  'Vauban Terrain Room' of the Gentlemens Wargames Parlour.  I had, for some time, considered taking on the challenge of recreating this fabulous painting and this relatively simple but ingenious idea provided the solution. I went about it almost exactly as the good Captain described, the only difference was that I used a little generic household filler as my perspex rings were a little deeper to accommodate the 'lipped' style bases that I favour.  All figures used are from Empress Miniatures.

Plasticard base cut and shaped.
Sand with PVA and battlefield litter.
First base coat & addition of converted Zulu.
Aerial shot showing 'cap' in place.

Pure Victorian drama.

This was really great fun to do, I just wish I could take the credit for it! Of course it has the added advantage that just by moving a couple of figures around it can easily become, 'Durnford's Final Moments' -

Or the 'Defence of Rorke's Drift'!

Thursday 24 March 2011

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Now this may seem like an all too familiar story but just like so many before me, I had vowed not to get sidetracked by different eras and projects. However when a very good friend, Richard very kindly gave me 30 Foundry cavalrymen capable of representing the various regiments that made up the Light Brigade how could I refuse? Not only was this a hugely generous gift but also I felt somewhat embarrassed as Richard had already primed, and in some cases started painting, the Brigade. The project had originally started nearly 20 years ago, intended for the Queen’s Own Irish Hussars Museum in Eastbourne so the prospect of stripping down the figures and starting all over again left me considerably apprehensive as to the task in hand.

An afternoon spent with a tub of ‘Wicks’ paint and varnish stripper, a toothbrush and several pairs of rubber gloves followed (they kept snagging on the unfiled areas of the models – my, doesn’t neat paint stripper sting!). Having successful stripped the first 15; I selected the 5 for the paint table. Richard had also supplied copious amounts of reference material and was always on hand to ask advice from. Sadly what with the demands of the day job progress has been a lot slower than planned but here at least are the first five.

From this ...
... to this! 
Richard's original version No. 1 
Richard's original version No. 2

The Good Mrs. Awdry insisted on a dappled grey


Just another 595 to go!

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Half a league, half a league,
  Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns' he said:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.

Wednesday 23 March 2011

The 42nd Royal Highlanders

Although the Indian Mutiny of 1857 fits within the very broad remit of Victorian warfare that I had allowed myself to explore, I was finding it very difficult to justify such a sudden leap from the Anglo-Zulu War and leaving, albeit temporarily, my beloved Empress Miniatures. That said, when the good Mrs. Awdry asked what I might like as a token to mark our forthcoming wedding anniversary I decided to try my luck and casually showed her the Mutineer Miniatures website. Hearing “oh isn’t the elephant cute” as “go ahead and order some my sweet”, I seized the opportunity with both hands, thanked her graciously and ordered up said ‘cute elephant’, now named Nellie (Does anyone else’s better half insist on naming everything?) the Highland Infantry, Highland Command and a set of mutinous Sepoys. 

The first thing I must say about Mutineer Miniatures is that their quality of service was exceptional. Having placed the order on a Friday, taking advantage of the free post in July offer, it arrived the following morning! It really doesn’t get  better than that. 

First impressions were that they seemed weighty and little larger than the Empress models but with a real sense of quality to them. Pointless me comparing them to Empress on this note but I would suggest that they are a true 28mm from sole of boot to eye level not top of feathered bonnet. Perhaps a little more flash and casting lines than I am used to, but nothing that a sharp scalpel blade wasn’t capable of dispatching. If the truth were told I was so excited to be starting them that I rushed the clean up a little.

One potential ‘niggle’ for others might be the very substantial base plates they are attached to. I have tended to used lipped bases, which have a slight recess so this wasn’t really a problem as by the time they were glued in place and a generic household interior filler applied they looked great. Those of you that use thinner bases would need to remove part or all of this metal or be faced with building up hefty layers of terrain. 

comparison with and without extra tassel, note also metal base plate level with lipped base

Good strong poses and plenty of authentic detail to whet you appetite, although I would be thrilled if there was an additional edition with perhaps kneeling and firing included. Command pack is superb with dashing officer, burly sergeant, piper and ensign holding the colours (colours not included but brass pole is)

Like Empress, Mutineer Miniatures have gone for campaign authenticity with the infantrymen wearing the ship’s smock and added sunshade. The officers and sergeant seem to wearing a tunic of sorts, possibly a shell jacket so was painted as so. 

I needed to make a decision as to which regiment and although not mentioned as perhaps as often as the 79th or 93rd (although 8 VCs and a battle honour is still not bad going for a campaign!) there was something about the idea of having my own little unit of the Black Watch that was just too tempting. This did leave one the technical issue of tassels on the sporran. The 42nd Royal Highlanders having 5 black tassels on a white sporran, my models having just two. After much deliberation it was decided that with a little bit of the ubiquitous green stuff I could give the illusion of more tassels. 

I appreciate that there will always be room for improvement but I feel that I am finding a level of consistency with my painting that I am ultimately satisfied with. The quality and detailing of the miniatures combined with exceptional service that I mentioned earlier leave me in no doubt that I shall continue to explore this fascinating period of history with Mutineer.

Sunday 20 March 2011


In truth I had been putting off painting Zulus for some time, fearing that I would just end up creating a monotone collection of warriors - so much flesh and so little personality. I needn’t have worried; once again the quality of the Empress Miniatures sculpting gave plenty of opportunities to create rewarding characters. This coupled with excellent reference in the form of Osprey’s ‘Zulu 1816-1906’ (Warrior 14) have allowed me to produce a small unit that I am ultimately pleased with. Still room for improvement though!

Empress Miniatures Unmarried Zulu
Empress Miniatures Unmarried Zulu with Musket (rear)
I really enjoyed painting this Senior Zulu Induna but was fortunate to find an illustration by Angus McBride in the book 'Zulu' by Ian Knight.  The model is almost exactly the same giving all the reference I needed, this was particularly important to me as I still worry about being as accurate as possible to the material.  The plate description read,

"This man's appearance hearkens back to the days of King Shaka: he is wearing the full ceremonial costume of a Zulu General which, though probably limited to only a handful of the most senior commanders in 1879, would be characteristic of the conservatism of old age.  The magnificent 'kilt' is made of twisted civet and monkey fur; cow tail festoons are worn around the neck and limbs; he has a stuffed otter skin headband, and blue crane and red and green lourie feathers - both marks of seniority.  He carries the full size isihlangu shield, and an axe of the tanged pattern most common in Zululand."

Empress Miniatures Zulu Induna 
Empress Miniatures Zulu Induna (rear)

The cow tail ornaments on this sculpt are particularly effective; I used a base of Foundry 'British Gun Grey' then 'Buff Leather - light' and a final highlight of 'White'.
Empress Miniatures Married Zulu
Empress Miniatures Married Zulu

Another fabulous sculpt in the same command pack is this Isangoma.  Once again I was fortunate enough to find the perfect reference for the paint job this time in the Osprey Elite 21 - 'The Zulus' again written by Ian Knight with illustrations by Angus McBride.  The plate notes for this colourful character read,

"Isangoma.  Braided hair and a plethora of magical charms distinguish the dress of the diviner; he also wears rattles made from insect cocoons around his ankles.  As part of the ceremony the isangoma cut strips of meat from a slaughtered bull, treated them with magical potions, and threw them to the warriors, who were expected to take a bite."
Empress Miniatures Isangoma
Empress Miniatures Isangoma

Empress Miniatures Induna and scout
Empress Miniatures Induna and scout (rear)
Another stunning piece of work from the Empresses.  By 1879 a number of individual chiefs had acquired horses from white traders.

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