Sunday 29 June 2014

Painting Progress: Heroics & Ros 1/300th Imperial Guard Engineers (& paints, etc.)

I'm managing to keep myself 'at it', in painting terms, at present... how long can this last? Pictured above are the paints I'm currently using: all Humbrol enamels, at present, plus my selection of (mostly very fine) brushes.

Starting above, a few pics of the Imperial Guard Engineers that I'm currently working on.

The rank are file are pretty much done, but the officers and drummers are still to be finished.

Basing, as with all my troops, remains an unresolved conundrum.

The observant may have noticed that I haven't done brass eagle plates on all the helmets yet. You may also notice a problem I'm having with very fine hairs becoming attached to figures. these annoying little things once belonged to Tigger (see below), our very hairy but extremely lovely pussy cat!

Here's the hairy little blighter... he's trying on a pair of my shoes: 'Hey Tigger, you silly boy... you've got them on back to front!' Some cats, eh? This pic wasn't set up, by the way, he often sit's on the shoe rack. It just so happened on this occasion that he planted little little furry mitts 'just so'!

Thursday 26 June 2014

Painting Progress: Heroics & Ros 1/300th French Wagons

Not quite finished these, but they're 'hot off the press'. It's funny, viewed with the naked eye I'm quite pleased with them, but under the microscope of the camera, they look so clumsy! I'm tempted to return to them and tidy them all up when I see these photos. But I reckon once based they'll look alright pretty much as is.

I like the wagon train uniform, with the French blue offset by beige breeches and brown facings. The H&R figures are so miniscule, and with fairly minimal detail, I'm not sure I can manage to do the collar'n'cuff facing colours!

I'll probably add blinkers to the unridden horses.

Note the large holes in the rear horse of each pair: these are meant to receive the 'T-bar' of the wagon pole. I'm sure T-bar and wagon pole aren't the correct terms... anyone care to enlighten me? [1]

I'm planning to populate my wargaming action with plenty of ancillary figures: baggage train, camp followers, beaucoup de limbers, and suchlike. One of the features of many contemporary pictures of the wars of this period is troops and their support network trudging through the landscape. This is my first batch of such folk. I also have the H&R French pontoon train. I'd love to find - or even scratch build, perhaps? - some ambulances, fire-engines, field forges, etc.

And for the final pic, below, the wagons. These need more work, to bring out the spokes, and generally 'funk 'em up'. Behind the wagons are some H&R Imp. Guard Engineers, awaiting a lick of the brush.

Heroics & Ros' figures are the smallest of the three 6mm-ish brands I've bought so far, with Baccus being larger, and Adler the chunkiest of all. As the sizes increase, so does the detail. Some of these H&R were both very thin, and slightly hare-lipped (as if the mould wasn't 100% aligned when casting). I don't know how they'll blend with the Baccus and Adler, which two brands will, I think, sit together pretty well.

I'm not sure how I'm going to base any of my units yet. With wagon train, artillery and limbers, etc., I think I'll try and find a uniform width. But I'm confused as to whether to add grassy flock stuff, or have them on rutted muddy 'track' type bases. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please share them with me!

[1] I could always browse Philip Haythornthwaite's Weapons & Equipment of the Napoleonic Wars, I guess, and see if the terminology is given in there somewhere... Think I'll save that for a(nother) rainy day! Pictured below is an older edition of this useful book, which I recently snaffled up for just £4, from the second-hand book shop at our local NT property. 

Painting Progress: Adler 6mm Polish Lancers of the Guard

This post pretty much brings me up to date, as I've only just popped these back on the shelves after (more or less) finishing the painting.

As a perfectionist seeing them enlarged like they are in the following pics is a bit disturbing for me, as they look quite clumsily painted, to my eyes. But seeing them en-masse I feel less disappointed. I think once they're based up, I'll be as happy as I can reasonably expect to be!

I'm going for quite a big regiment, of four squadrons of eight. I've painted them on their respective different coloured horses, but with a few more generally brown horses to reflect a non-parade ground on-campaign type effect. But the Polish lancers are such a beautifully uniformed unit that I wanted them looking as nice as my current skills would allow.

I used all my current uniform ref. for these, which at present includes (aside form the web, of course) the Funcken volumes, Rousselot's book, and the single volume Napoleon's Cavalry, which collates the Osprey Men-at-Arms volumes by Bukhari and McBride.

I've currently got one standard-bearer, two trumpeters, and the remainder are all troopers. Adler don't appear to have a separate office figure, or at least I wasn't given any when I bought these. Ideally I'd like an officer and trumpeter in each squadron, for the look of it. But we'll see bout that. As they're not 100% finished or based yet, I can cogitate on that!

Painting Progress: Adler 6mm foot dragoons.

The last show we attended was Sheffield Triples, and I bought some Adler French foot dragoons. These were painted around mid-June. And, like all my Napoleonics at present, remain un-based.

As can be seen from the tinlets in the background, I'm painting these using Humbrol enamels. Some of these tinlets date back to my childhood wargaming and modelling days, over two decades ago!

I ought to check this, but time is too tight: I believe I painted these guys up as the 11th Regt of Dragoons, with orange facings.

The 11th served in Russia, and, according to the Bukhari/McBride book on Napoleon's Cavalry, were at Smolensk, which I'm doing in 6mm.

In my researches I discovered that French Dragoons apparently hated being put onto a foot infantry footing, if you'll pardon my tautological sounding phrase. But I figured that I could use a bit of license: after all, this was Russia, 1812, when the loss of horses was catastrophic. To be honest they're really there as a bit of eye-candy for the overall collection. But I think they might put in some light duties at some point. I'll probably base them in a kind of light infantry skirmish order type way.

Sounds to set the scene - Napoleonic martial music

Airs Militaires Ancien, by Musique De L'Air: I bought this album as a digital download via Amazon UK.

At one of the wargaming shows we occasionally attend, my wife Teresa suggested that one thing the beautiful display games lacked was music or sound effects to set the scene, and she also suggested that I ought to try and get this sort of thing, as part of my own endeavours. A great idea... thanks love!

The album pictured above was something I found after a bit of searching on the web. There are other albums, and I'll investigate further on this theme some time soon, I hope (time allowing). For the time being tho', a few brief word on this album. I can find very little info at all about the ensemble itself. There's a brief biog in English on the Naxos classical website (here), and some French sites with a little more info (such as this IMMS [international military music society] one, in French).

As a drummer myself, I'm rather fond of vintage military drums: I took this pic at NAM (the NAtional Army Museum, Chelsea), in Dec., 2013. I believe this may be French Napoleonic drum, although I'm not certain.

According to the album I'm writing about, Airs Militaires Ancien, was released on the Corelia label in 1975. There are 30 tracks, which split roughly into two halves. The first half of which have a lot of drumming, and a fair bit of brass-heavy orchestration. The latter half is even more brass-heavy, and mostly rather fanfare like. Being a drummer myself, I like some of the drummier stuff. And it has to be said some of the brassier stuff features a few duff high notes. But in a way this latter makes for a more 'authentic' vibe. You can't expect 100% perfect execution on the bloody 'field of glory'!

If anyone knows of any other suitable recordings, please let me know. And I'd be particularly interested in hearing about any sound-effect/sound-library type recordings with suitable sounds: cannon fire, thundering cavalry charges, the sound of horse and musket era mêlée-ing, etc.

Keeping with the musical theme, but returning to my own endeavours: I bought some Heroics & Ros Imperial Guard bandsmen at Salute '14, and back in April I painted them. The following pics are from a stage or two before they were finished (and they're still not based!).

Aargh... a battlefield decapitation! I re-attached his head: he's on the left of the pic below, post superglue-surgery.

Two pipers (one wounded - see above!), the 'jingling-johnny' guy, and a cymbalist.

The band-leader, with his fancy lace pantaloons and his mace (more like a Scots caber at this tiny scale!), and a grenadier drummer in his bearskin.

Close to my heart: the rhythm section.

The two guys at centre and left are playing the buccin (read all about it here), a serpent-headed trombone type instrument. I love that H&R went to the trouble of making the serpent-heads very clear... nice!

I like these guys so much, I wanted another angle on them: this is them from in front. Also visible here, on the right, is the 'serpent'!

As well as referring to my L & F Funcken volumes, and Rousselet, etc., I also scoured the web for info on painting and basing them, and found a fair bit. One of the most helpful pages can be linked to here. Still not decided quite how to base them tho'.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Waterloo: Captain Siborne's 'Large Model' - The National Army Museum, Chelsea, London

Captain William Siborne

With around 75,000 tiny lead figures (the closest modern scale equivalent would be about 6mm), on a landscape model covering approximately 400 square feet, Captain william Siborne's 'large model', depicting the decisive moment of the decisive battle of Waterloo, is a stunning achievement.

Sadly for Siborne his obsessive information gathering brought him into conflict with the military establishment, who'd originally set him the enormous task of building the diorama, as part of the ongoing efforts top commemorate the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Sadly the calumnies perpetrated on Siborne, both during his lifetime and afterwards, are still in effect, with the National Army Museum official page on the exhibit - at least they have given it a decent home - scandalously misrepresenting Siborne's near superhuman efforts (I'll address this touchy subject later on in the post). I sincerely hope that come 2015, the 200th anniversary of this decisive fight, they might have the decency to amend their misrepresentative picture of his work.

One of the first points of interest is that most maps or other depictions of Waterloo show the dispositions or actions of much earlier in the day: Siborne chose to depict the field as it was around 7pm-ish. Here's a map of the field as it's more normally shown, with troops in their 11am 'kick-off' positions.

Siborne's unusual approach to his subject is compounded by the way National Army Museum displays his mammoth work. Maps are almost universally shown with north at the top. The model in Chelsea can only be viewed from either the north looking south (where the British and Allies are) or the east looking west (the eastern edge of the battlefield being from whence came many a pesky Prussian... more on this later!).

Here are a few of my pictures, taken on a visit in December, 2013.

An overview of as much of the model as I could reasonably fit into the lens of my crappy little camera, looking south.

The view here is pretty central to the diorama, looking from the north more or less due south, with the Brussels to Charleroi road bisecting the battlefield vertically, and heading off into the distance

Unlike generals back in the day, we can 'see behind the the hill' here: on the right of the picture are the squares that had repeatedly seen the French cavalry off. At the extreme right top corner one can just see the exposed forward position of Hougoumont.

I include this final composite picture because it helps highlight one of the problems of both viewing and photographing the model, as it's currently displayed: first off it's in a sealed room behind glass, and then there are these pesky lights, illuminating the model, which keep changing. The above pics overlap a little in content, and yet are lit in opposite halves!

Siborne spent months surveying the battlefield, and years compiling correspondence. His correspondence took in all the parties involved, including the British and the allies, Prussian and french sources. Naturally it was easiest to get british accounts, but Siborne did his best to get as complete a picture as possible. 

But you wouldn't think as much if you were to go by the brief info on this amazing exhibit that's still being peddled by the National Army Museum, whose audio presentation and online page (Model of the field of Waterloo made by Captain William Siborne, 1838) both misrepresent Siborne's efforts somewhat. 

Peter Hofschröer and Malcolm Balen have both written interesting books about this fascinating man and his travails in building this epic model (and also, of course, the 'small model', now housed in the Leeds Armoury). Balen's book combines a fairy full account of the battle itself with a parallel telling of Siborne's sad tale. Hofschröer's account is much more about Siborne and his achievements, and the wrangling with the 'powers that be' that ensued. 

Hofschröer makes a strong case for Wellington and the British establishment deliberately downplaying the impact of the Prussians, to the extent of, in Hofschröer's telling, deliberately misrepresenting the historical facts, and forcing Siborne to comply with their version into the bargain. Hofschröer certainly has something of an axe to grind on this subject, having also published a book called 1815, The Waterloo Campaign: The German Victory!

In terms of the theme of my blog, Siborne's work is fascinating not just in itself, but because of how he chose to represent the two scenes, both in terms of the landscapes and the numbers and sizes of figures. His 'small model', actually using the larger scale of the two, which gives figures sizes closer to what we'd call 25/28mm, depicting the cavalry charge in which Sergeant Ewart captured a French Eagle, as the divisions of Marcognet and Donzelot advanced. I believe there are about 6,500 models, including infantry, cavalry and artillery.

Whilst the 'small model' depicts an early afternoon action in the area around the Brussels-Wavre crossroads - including the famous farm of La Haye Sainte - his 'large model' encompasses the entire Waterloo battlefield, including Plancenoit, where large numbers of those contentious Prussians were fighting in Boney's rear. I'll need to return to the various books on the subject to fill in more info about the ground scales used, and the exact number of figures Siborne eventually 'deployed'. This latter point is interesting, as he was ultimately browbeaten, very much against his will and better judgement, into removing substantial numbers (many thousands) of Prussians!

For die-hard Waterloo nuts, it's pleasing to know that Siborne's exhaustive researches are available to buy, either secondhand, as in the Napoleonic Library edition, or new (as print on demand) from several sources. I bought my two volumes from the Cambridge University bookshop, via their Cambridge Library Collection imprint. The Napoleonic Library have also printed his correspondence, on which his History was based.

Waterloo: Captain Siborne's 'Small Model' - A Waterloo Diorama at The Leeds Armoury

It turns out that with this post I discovered my original chronology (see previous post) is probably all wrong. I thought I got back into wargaming aged 40, during 2012. But it appears I went to Sheffield Triples and The Leeds Armoury in May 2011. Hmmm!? Perhaps at that stage I was still in the 'limbering up' phase?

Anyway, I though I'd share a few of my better pics from that visit. Unfortunately the model is under glass, my camera isn't very good, and flash photography isn't allowed. I've had to adjust the brightness and contrast on most of these, and I've only picked some of the better images (in term of focus, etc.). Actually the slightly out of focus nature of some of them adds a bit to the look of the 'fog of war', I reckon.

So, here they are:

A British square, hunkered down amidst the corn. I can't recall what Siborne's figure ratios were, but the square looks pretty well stocked and cool.

A view from the British side of the field, looking south towards a ragged French infantry unit, falling under fire from the 'thin red line'.

Even Siborne's 'small model' has huge numbers of figure deployed. Here we can see the massed French battalions, at left and centre, cresting the rise and coming into contact with the British, who are on the right of the picture. The masses of figures look terrific, and the effect of the few stragglers and dead/wounded, in the foreground space, is great too, making an effective contrast.

A slightly different angle on what may be the same masses pictured above. When I get a chance I'll find out exactly which units are depicted.

I love this picture! I like it so much it's currently the background picture for the title of this blog. Okay, it's not crystal clear, but doesn't that just capture the 'fog of war' feel? with a little Photoshop tinkering to the background this could be made to look like a pretty convincing 'contemporary photograph' of the battle... taken before photography had even arrived!

A slightly more aerial view of the same rather ragged French advance.

Again, admittedly not the crispest photograph ever taken, but I do like the effect of the out of focus foreground cavalry (I think they may be French Carabiniers), set against the slightly more in-focus cavalry descending the sloped cornfield in the background. I really must find out who's who in these pics. Are the approaching cavalry retreating French Cuirassiers, or are they part of the British Household & Union Cavalry Brigades?

And finally, a close-up view of some melee action: this could well be where Sergeant Charles Ewart captured a French eagle, as there's a French infantry unit, with it's flag in the centre, and some cavalry that look like the Scots Greys wading in amongst them from the right.

I haven't the time now to do this, but I will return and edit this post once I get the info on exact units and positions depicted, and I may add some other pics as well.

I'll also update this post with more on Captain Siborne, and the sad tale of his efforts to build what should rightly be considered national treasures, but have in fact - although now both have found decent homes - suffered much neglect. He also made a Borodino diorama: being a bigger Russia 1812 nut than a Waterloo one... oh how I wish that had come down to us!

Recommended reading on the subject:

Napoleon's Smallest Victory - Peter Hofschröer
A Model Victory - Malcom Balen