Napoleon’s Old Guard on parade

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Continuing my series of postings in which I’m undertaking an inspection parade of all the wargames figures I’ve collected and painted over the years, we now come to Napoleon’s famous Old Guard. These were painted in the early 2000s.

For a long time I had resisted the temptation to add some units of the Imperial Guard to my miniature army. After all, the guard would not have been present with such a small force. But, in the end, the glamour and colour of the ‘grognards’ of the Imperial Guard won me over, and I eventually succumbed!

Grenadiers à Pied de la Garde Impériale

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If I was going to do the Guard, why not start at the very top – the Foot Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard. These are the soldiers everyone thinks of when you mention the words ‘Old Guard’ – big bearskins, red epaulettes and plumes, long blue coats with white lapels.

I selected Front Rank figures for my unit of Foot Grenadiers. These miniatures seem to be based on the famous Detaille painting of a grenadier on guard duty, as they are in an identical pose.

The command figures for my unit include two drummers, a sapper wearing a white apron, a standard bearer holding a GMB Design flag, and a mounted officer.

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2e Régiment de Chevau-Légers Lanciers de la Garde Impériale

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I have also painted a cavalry unit for my Imperial Guard contingent. Being of Dutch heritage, it was impossible for me to choose anything other than the famous Dutch Lancers, often known as the Red Lancers, but correctly titled the 2nd Regiment of Light Horse Lancers of the Imperial Guard.

I chose to model my lancers at rest, rather than my more traditional charging cavalry pose – this was because I feel the lances look better upright than thrust forward. The pennons are by GMB Design, who also produced the flag.

Most French light cavalry units didn’t carry their eagles into battle. But my philosophy is that I want all my units to have an attractive flag and eagle. As my figures spend most of their time in the display cabinet anyway, they could be said to be depicting the regiment on parade at their home depot, rather than on campaign!

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By the way, the Parisian buildings in the background of some of the above photos are not wargames terrain. They are in fact rather expensive collectible miniature buildings from a range called Gault. My wife and I bought them as souvenirs during our honeymoon in Paris in the late 1980s! They are low-relief buildings, and far too small in scale, but still make nice photo backdrops, n’est-ce pas?

Visit my previous ‘On Parade’ postings:

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My Napoleonic French artillery on parade

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Continuing my series of postings in which I’m undertaking an inspection parade of all the wargames figures I’ve collected and painted over the years, we now come to the Napoleonic French artillery to support the infantry and cavalry. These were mainly painted between 2002 and 2008.

The artillery contingent of my Napoleonic French army consists of three batteries, each with two artillery pieces.

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These Front Rank figures are painted in the blue uniforms of the Foot Artillery, though I have given a couple of the gunners different coloured trousers to indicate campaign conditions.

I found the best way of representing the bronze gun barrels was to leave them unpainted metal, but rub on and immediately wipe off several coats of brown ink. This eventually stains the metal a bronze colour, as well as picking out the cast-on detailing.

The gun carriages are painted dark green, with the metal work done in black and then dry-brushed with gun-metal silver. I had a few spare rammers and other tools, so I’ve glued them lying on the base underneath the guns.

One of my only criticisms of the superb  Front Rank gunners is that they are hard to arrange on their bases performing the same part of the loading and firing sequence. Thus you have the gun being loaded, but meanwhile one gunner is just about to touch the linstock to the vent!

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When I later added a Perry Miniatures Foot Artillery 6-pounder battery to my army, I was pleased to find that they sculpt sets of gun crew all performing a particular part of the sequence. The result is a lively action-packed base where you can tell exactly what’s happening at that frozen moment in time.

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Front Rank make this wonderful set of Horse Artillery of the Line, with the gunners in full dress, complete with huge red plumes and lots of braid. These lavish uniforms are fun to paint, and certainly look dramatic on the table.

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My artillery only has one limber model, mainly due to the expense of such intricate models that are ultimately not much use for wargaming purposes.

This is an old Hinchcliffe limber that I bought second-hand many years ago, but which then sat unloved and unpainted because I felt the figures didn’t match the look of my armies. But in 2014 I decided to paint it just to see how it would turn out, and was pleasantly surprised.

I kept my painting fairly simple, as the figures don’t really have much detail. The figures are also smaller and slighter than my Perry and Front Rank armies – but by adding a higher base than my normal style, this isn’t too obvious from a distance.

The horses also had rather odd anatomies, with very slender and high-slung bellies But once painted, this didn’t seem too noticeable either. On the other hand, the horse harness is simply superb. And the easy method of attaching the traces is something modern companies could emulate.

Previous ‘On Parade’ postings:

Napoleonic French cavalry on parade

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Following on from the inspection parade of my Napoleonic French infantry, it’s the cavalry’s turn to be reviewed.

I painted most of these figures back in the early 2000s. You’ll see that some of them are painted in a simple block colours, because at that time I hadn’t yet learned how to use highlighting and shading!

As usual in my postings, you can click on the images to enlarge them.

12e Régiment de Dragons

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We the undersigned, administrative council of the 12th Dragoons, grant this certificate of “Congé Absolu” to Pierre van Dooren, trumpeter of the 1st Company of the 2nd Battalion, born 13 February 1787 in Weert, Department of the Meuse Inferieur. Height 170cms, brown hair, blue eyes, round forehead, broad nose, large mouth, no beard, round face, passbook number 1447.

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When I found the above transcript of the discharge papers of my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Pierre van Dooren, I knew that I just had to have the 12th Dragoons in my miniature army. And one of the figures had to be a trumpeter to represent my ancestor.

Pierre entered the 12th Regiment of Dragoons on March 3, 1807, having left his hometown of Weert on February 12, 1807. With his regiment he was in Germany (1807- 1809) and Spain (1810-1813) before entering the final battle area in the northeastern part of France (1814). He was wounded in March 1814 and was recovering in hospital at Angers when Napoleon abdicated.

My miniature Pierre wears reversed colours from the other troopers (a crimson coat with green facings) in order to make him readily identifiable to his officers in this period when trumpeters might have to issue urgent orders in the midst of the smoke and turmoil of battle. He also has a white horsehair mane on his helmet rather than black, and rides a grey horse.

Of the twelve figures in my unit, two wear the bearskin hats and red epaulettes that denote the elite company, the equivalent of an infantry battalion’s grenadiers. The others have imposing copper helmets with black horsehair manes streaming out behind. The officer has a leopard skin turban round his helmet, whilst the troopers have brown fur turbans.

Because this unit is portrayed on galloping horses, I didn’t line them up straight on their bases. I have some horses racing slightly in front, while others lag behind. This gives a much more natural look to the speeding formation.

5e Régiment de Hussards

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For as long as I can remember, whenever I think of Napoleonic uniforms, the flamboyant hussars come to mind first. So I felt it was important to include a hussar unit in my miniature Napoleonic army. I bought these Front Rank hussars second-hand, and was initially disappointed that they were depicted in campaign uniform rather than in their exotic parade dress. But the end effect is still colourful and evocative of the era.

I decided to paint my unit as the 5th Hussars, based purely on the colours of their uniforms (especially the white pelisse and the red shako). Like my other cavalry units, the horses are painted in oils rather than acrylics, which gives a much more natural look.

As these figures are wearing the post-1812 uniform with the tall round shako, I had to look for an 1812-pattern flag for the eagle-bearer. I couldn’t find such a flag online, so in the end I made my own by converting a Warflag image. Strictly speaking, hussars at this time did not take their eagles on campaign, so my unit is incorrect in having an eagle-bearer.

Régiment de Lanciers de la Vistule

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These blue-coated lancers in Polish-inspired uniforms were part of the Vistula Legion which transferred to French service in 1808. In 1811 they became the 7th and 8th Chevau-Léger-Lanciers. Their most famous action was at Albuera where they charged Colborne’s infantry.

My 28mm Front Rank figures are wearing blue ‘kurtka’ jackets, except the trumpeter in reversed colours with a yellow kurtka. The square-topped hat, called a ‘czapska’, was typical of Polish units, both foot and mounted.

The miniature lances are from a New Zealand company – whose name presently escapes me. They are designed for ancient figures, so the lance-heads are not strictly accurate. However, they are strong – and very sharp!

The lance pennons are by GMB Design. The unusual flag is a home-made scan from a book by Terry Wise.

4e Régiment de Cuirassiers

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These are the only plastic cavalry in my army. The figures are beautiful, as you would expect from Perry Miniatures.

Plastic allows finer detail than metal (the plastic scabbards, for instance, are very intricate indeed). On the other hand, the casting method used with plastic means some things can’t be done as well as in metal, the most obvious example on these figures being the in-fill between the reins. But overall the effect of the plastic is a much ‘finer’ look than metal, I feel.

Two different sets of arms allow you to have the figures either waving their swords in the air, or shouldering them – I chose the latter, except for my officer.

I used my normal black undercoat method. The horses were all done with rubbed oils. And the figures were painted with the Foundry three-colour system.

I chose to paint this unit as the 4th Cuirassiers in aurora facings. The Perry kit also included flags, which are very nicely done in an almost GMB-like style.

1e Régiment des Carabiniers

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Usually I would not have an elite regiment like the 1st Carabiniers in such a small army. However, I could not resist these miniatures when they were offered to me at a very reasonable price as part of a second-hand deal. My initial plan was to paint them and then sell them, and with the proceeds buy a more appropriate cavalry unit. But with the time and effort I have lavished on painting my Carabiniers, in the end I couldn’t bear to part with them!

The two units of Carabiniers in the French army (so-called because they were armed with carbines when they were initially raised by Louis XIV) were considered the elite of the heavy cavalry. Until 1811 they wore blue uniforms with large bearskins. My models depict the later white uniform, complete with copper-plated cuirasses and elegant Grecian-style helmets.

I did the cuirasses and helmets using the same technique I use on gun barrels. I left the metal bare, which of course meant I couldn’t use spray undercoat as I usually do with my figures. I then brushed on and rubbed off GW Flesh Ink. Finally I highlighted the cuirasses by dry brushing them with metallic gold paint.

Visit my previous ‘On Parade’ postings:

My Napoleonic French on parade

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Continuing this series of postings in which I inspect all the wargaming figures I’ve painted over the years, we come to the largest army in my collection – the Napoleonic French.

‘Valeur et Discipline’ – valour and discipline. These words proudly emblazoned on their flags, the soldiers of Napoleon’s Grande Armée marched and fought their way right across Europe in a series of bloody wars during the first decades of the nineteenth century.

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In the early 2000s I began painting my own miniature Grande Armée for playing wargames. When I put lined them all up this week to photograph them for this posting – the first time I’ve ever had the whole army out at once – I was astonished at just how many I had actually painted!

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In this posting we’ll take a look at the most basic component of any army, namely the infantry. The cavalry, artillery and guard will be covered in later postings. Remember that you can click on the pictures to enlarge them to their full glory!

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There’s a very eclectic mixture of units and time periods in my army. Unlike many wargamers, I do not follow a historical order of battle when selecting units for my miniature armies. Instead, I go for the units that will look the best in my display cabinet and on the wargames table, by choosing those with the most interesting or colourful uniforms and flags.

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The above picture must be reminiscent of the enemy’s view of a French column bearing down on their lines, preceded by swarms of skirmishing voltiguers.

Following is just a small selection of the infantry regiments in my French army.

9e Régiment d’Infanterie de Ligne

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As French infantry regiments of the Napoleonic period tended to wear very similar uniforms and carried flags that differed only in the wording, my selection was often based on the more colourful uniforms worn by the “têtes de colonne” (heads of column) – the drum-major, drummers, musicians and sappers who marched at the head of the column (as in the 9e Régiment d’Infanterie de Ligne using Front Rank miniatures shown above).

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I decided to go the campaign dress way, as I thought they would look less rigid than all in full-dress. But I also threw in a few men in full-dress to add even more variety. So you’ll see some of my soldiers wearing patched multi-coloured trousers (one even has pink and blue stripes), and others with breeches and gaiters. They wear all sorts of headgear – shakos (a few with cords, others with cloth covers), bicornes, bearskins (with and without plumes), bonnets de police, and even a couple with no hats at all.

85ème Régiment d’Infanterie de Ligne

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The Perry regiment above has an even greater campaign look. Each soldier is an individual, some in soft pokalem hats, others in shakos, some dressed in great-coats, and others in habit-vestes. I added even more variety by painting the greatcoats in different shades of grey, beige and brown. I had even more fun adding a patch or two, and even some ripped knees on the trousers.

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Actually, there’s a story to the above regiment. Back in 2005 my son and I were fortunate enough to take part with the recreated 85ème Régiment d’Infanterie de Ligne in a reenactment of the Battle of Waterloo. So it was only natural that I chose to portray this regiment.

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The overall look I wanted was for a couple of tightly-packed ranks, followed by a supernumary rank of officers, NCOs, drummers and even a wounded straggler. I think this looks more realistic than putting those kinds of figures in the main ranks, which is what I’d done up till then with all my other units. It might mean a few more figures to paint per battalion, but not too many, especially with judicious use of lying wounded figures, which can take the space of one complete file.

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Perry Miniatures produce a set of casualty figures, which I have incorporated into my regiment. An officer caught swinging round as he is hit is one of the nicest figures I’ve ever seen, despite the morbid subject matter.

Infantry in waistcoat order

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As they were the main player in the Napoleonic Wars, any company that produces a range from that conflict has to include the ubiquitous French infantryman. But there is sometimes a certain sameness about many companies’ offerings – full dress uniforms, or campaign uniforms that are only barely different.

So when I saw an advertisement for a new range of 28mm French infantry who were not only in campaign uniform, but also wearing waistcoats rather than the more normal jackets, my interest was piqued. So off went my order to Companion Miniatures.

These figures aren’t just in their scruffy white waistcoats, but they also feature lots of different types of headgear, including covered shakos (some with neck-cloths), head-scarves and fatigue caps, civilian bicornes and straw hats.

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The command figures included an officer, NCO (who is wearing clogs!), standard bearer, second eagle bearer, sapper and drummer.  They are not in waistcoat order like their men, but I think this is probably quite realistic. The colonel is mounted on a donkey, which is a decidedly different touch.

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I noticed an odd thing while I was painting the Companion figures – some of the faces came out looking like famous people! Can you see former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, “Young Ones” star Nigel Planer, and actor John Thaw from “Inspector Morse” and “The Sweeney”?

Sadly, the bad news is that the company Companion Miniatures, to my knowledge, no longer exists. A real shame, as their figures were beautiful.

The Kapiti Fusiliers

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The two battalions above also have a story behind them. They’re the Kapiti Fusiliers Regiment. Never heard of the Kapiti Fusiliers Regiment? Well, that’s not surprising really, as it only exists in miniature. Read on, dear reader, and learn more …

It was ‘Fusilier’ Mike MacGillivray (an American member of the now-defunct Friday Night Fusiliers YahooGroup) who started it all, when in 2004 he posted:

“What if we collectively selected a line(s) of miniatures, each painted representations of ourselves … and forwarded them to New Zealand HQ, so that a ‘miniature battalion’ could be put created and based … to be used in Napoleonic wargames, and designated as ‘The Kapiti Fusiliers’.”

This proposal met with an enthusiastic response amongst the Fusiliers. Before long, we had enough companies to form not one, but two battalions of the Kapiti Fusiliers. They were painted by Fusiliers Michael MacGillivray, Mark Case and Phil Roberts (USA), Mark Temple and Chris Kendrick (Australia), Eric Veitl (France), and Peter Haldezos, Scott Bowman and Roly Hermans (New Zealand). A truly international regiment!

The Kapiti Fusiliers Regiment first ‘saw the elephant’ on 16 June 2007 in the Battle of Segensburg, the first in a short series of battles in a mini-campaign. The various recruiting sergeants from far and wide across the world were pleased to hear they behaved very bravely. The second battalion was so well-painted that a Russian regiment was so overcome at their finery that they took to their heels before contact was even gained – or at least that’s what we’ll believe was the cause of the rout!

Although the Kapiti Fusiliers Regiment is barracked in my display case, they don’t really belong to me, but to all the Friday Night Fusiliers who contributed.

15ème Régiment d’Infanterie Légère

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French light infantry considered themselves a cut above their brothers in the line infantry. Their uniforms, with blue trousers, lapels, cuffs and turnbacks, were were often further embellished with fancy epaulettes and tasselled gaiters. I loosely modelled the above light battalion on the 15ème Régiment d’Infanterie Légère, using Front Rank miniatures.

The musicians of the ‘tête de colonne’ are dressed in very colourful uniforms.  There’s also a black musician is wearing an exotic oriental costume and carrying an instrument called a ‘jingling johnny’.

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I’ve got another battalion of the 15ème Légère in my army, but wearing campaign-style uniforms rather than full-dress.

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The second battalion’s large green and red plumes and short hussar-style boots are packed away. These are again long-gone Companion Miniatures, so sadly you won’t see their like again.

Rest and relaxation

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As someone famous once said, an army marches on its stomach. And here to provide some of the sustenance (though the French generally had to live off the land) are a couple of cantinieres of the 15ème Légère.

The donkey cart is a New Zealand-made product from an old company called Wildly Inspired, though I have changed the medieval wheels for Hinchcliffe limber wheels. In the background is a wonderful supply wagon made by Perry Miniatures.

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Finally, it’s not always battle – there’s also time for my miniatures to relax and chat, as these Perry figures demonstrate!

Next posting we’ll look at my Napoleonic French cavalry.  We’ve also got artillery, generals and the Guard still to come as well …

See my previous ‘On Parade’ postings:

 

Napoleonic Portuguese fighting cocks on parade

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In this continuing series of postings where I inspect the various armies in my wargaming collection, we come to one of the smallest – the Napoleonic Portuguese.

This army is so small because I intended to brigade it with my British units. The Portuguese were an integral part of Wellington’s army during the Peninsular War, fighting so well that they were colloquially known as the ‘fighting cocks’.

Portuguese 8th (Evora) Line Regiment

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I painted these beautiful 28mm Front Rank figures as the 8th (Evora) Regiment ,with its yellow facings and red lace. The Portuguese wore blue uniforms with distinctive shoulder straps, and the ‘barretina’ cap which later became the model for the new British shako.

The only misgiving I had about these figures was that Front Rank didn’t have the same range of variations for their Portuguese as they did with their British and French ranges. There were no NCOs, soldiers turning their heads, bare-headed, wounded and so on. So I painted some patches and tears on their trousers to give them at least a small amount of variation. The end result was still a very attractive regiment.

The exquisite flag was by GMB Designs, a true Rolls-Royce of miniature flag makers to this day. Sadly the red and yellow parts have faded a bit over the last thirteen years (the only GMB flags I’ve had where this has happened). I’ve retouched the yellow, but the red needs some more work, as you can see by comparing these pictures with the header photo that was taken back when I painted this unit in 2006.

Portuguese 1st Cacadores

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The 1st Cacadores (‘hunters’ in Portuguese) were light infantry, and armed with rifles. They wore brown uniforms, unlike the Portuguese line infantry in blue.

The 1st were part of the famous Light Division, brigaded together with British riflemen and light infantry.

These are Front Rank figures again, which were kindly donated to me by a very generous friend in Japan who said he would never get round to painting them himself.

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So there we have it – a small but feisty force of Fighting Cocks.

Click to see my previous inspection parades:

Colourful Napoleonic Spanish army on parade

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I’ve started a long-overdue inspection of all my wargames figures. After the Napoleonic-era British in my last posting, it’s now the turn of the Spanish. These were mostly painted from about 2003 to 2008.

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As with all my Napoleonic armies, I haven’t stuck to one particular order-of-battle, nor indeed to one particular year. So you’ll see my army contains units that never fought together at the same place or time.

My only criteria for a unit to join my army is that it looks good – and the Spanish certainly provide lots of scope for that. For example, just wait till you see the cavalry near the bottom of this posting!

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I painted these Front Rank figures as the La Princessa Regiment, wearing their pre-1808 uniform, as they would have appeared in General Romana’s expedition to Denmark to support the French. They can therefore fight on either side, as they mutinied in Denmark, were rescued by the British, and fought in the Peninsular War.

As they marched through Hamburg on their way to Denmark, they were illustrated by the Suhr brothers, and it is quite clear from their drawings that they wore a mixture of the older blue and current white uniforms. Therefore I painted some of the officers and the sapper in blue uniforms.

One particular feature of Spanish grenadiers were the ornately-decorated bags hanging from the backs of their bearskins. These were devilishly tricky to paint!

The brothers Suhr also showed the blue-checked trousers some men sported whilst passing through Hamburg – I dressed two of my soldiers in these. Plus I painted a few variations of breech and gaiter colours to give a campaign look to the regiment.

A shame, though, that Front Rank don’t model their Spaniards with cigarettes in their mouths, as this seems to have been almost a uniform item for Romana’s expedition!

Note the boy fifer. He is also modelled after Suhr, though Front Rank have increased his height – in the original Suhr drawing he appears no more than about one metre tall!

The flags are by GMB Designs, as usual for me. Unfortunately they did not produce the actual flags for La Princessa, but as the designs of all Spanish flags were fairly similar except for the small crests in the corner, I thought this would be close enough.

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These Front Rank Spanish are wearing the uniforms that were supplied by the British from about 1812 onwards. This can be seen in details such as the style of the shakos (though the coloured ribbons tied round them are a unique Spanish characteristic).

There is some conjecture as to whether Spanish infantry wore dark blue or light blue trousers – I opted for the latter as I thought they looked more colourful.

Spanish soldiers such as these formed the back-bone of Morillo’s division, which fought well in the latter parts of the Peninsular War.

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Cazadores were the Spanish light infantry. I’ve painted this unit in their post-1812 light blue uniform. As with most light troops in my miniature armies, I attached fewer figures on each base than for line infantry battalions, and mixed up the poses to give the effect of skirmishing.

The individually-based figure in the brown and yellow uniform is a Spanish officer figure from Brigade Games. I love his portly stature and casual stance. The sculpt appears to have been based on the Dennis Dighton portrait of Don Juan de Gonzalos, colonel of the Regimiento Imperiales de Toledo, right down to his bushy sideburns and his pose of smoking a cigarette (Spanish soldiers of the period were notorious smokers).

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In the Osprey book Spanish Army of The Napoleonic Wars (2) 1808-1812 there is an illustration of a soldier wearing a simple grey uniform that was supplied by the British in 1810. I thought this rather nondescript uniform might make a change from the more ornate Napoleonic uniforms I had hitherto painted.

I also got a bit brave with this battalion of Front Rank figures, having a go for the first time at swapping heads. If you look closely at the pictures, you’ll see some of the soldiers are wearing civilian headgear which I chopped off some spare Front Rank guerillas. Even more daringly, I changed some feet so that a couple of the soldiers are now wearing espradilles (sandals), which also came from the guerilla figures.

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I’d always fancied a unit of Front Rank’s Spanish guerillas – they looked so enticing in their catalogue. So I finally treated myself, and, boy, was I pleased with them! These would have to be some of the nicest figures Front Rank have produced.

The detail is very well done – even the hairnets worn in some parts of Spain are faithfully reproduced.

The officer with the top hat is a particularly nice rendition of Jose de Espin, one of Don Juan Martin’s chiefs. This figure is based on a Dighton painting, right down to the deaths-head badge on his hat. The other officer is wearing a rather ornate older-style cazadore uniform.

I’ve also added a small baggage train for my guerilla band – they would make a great objective for a scenario-based game.

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The light blue facings of this dragoon regiment indicate that they are the Regimiento de Dragones de Almansa. When I started painting these, I initially thought that the yellow uniforms combined with the red plumes and blue facings would be too much of a ‘Noddy’ effect! But in fact they look splendid on the table.

The figures are 28mm Front Rank Figurines. I used Foundry’s triple paint-set of yellow shade, main and highlight, along with a coat of gryphonne sepia ink at the halfway-point.

The horses were painted using my usual oil-paint technique. This entails spray-painting the horses with rust-coloured car primer, then painting on black or burnt sienna oil paint, and immediately rubbing it off again with a tissue so the rust primer shows through – quick and dirty, but effective!

The flag is somewhat generic, being copied out of a flag book, then flipped to make the reverse side. So it doesn’t represent any real Spanish dragoon unit, but is near enough for my purposes.

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These Front Rank generals were painted years before I began experimenting with layering, so the colours are quite flat.

In the top picture, a couple of haughty Spanish general officers ride in front of the infantry. One general is wearing the full-dress red breeches.

And if red breeches weren’t colourful enough, that is nothing to the candy-coloured light green and blue uniform of the ADC! This figure is based on a Dighton print of Lt.Col. Lardizabel, aide to General Ballasteros.

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The Perry twins produce a couple of very nice sets of Spanish civilians, perfect for populating a village on the Peninsula or watching as their boys march off to battle. I particularly like the old woman in the traditional black dress.

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So there we have it – a small but varied Spanish army. It is probably too small, and lacking in artillery, to fight by itself. But it makes a good allied force with my British.

  • See the next inspection parade: Portuguese
  • See the previous inspection parade: British

My Napoleonic British army on parade

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I’ve been wargaming since the 1990s, and during that time have amassed many miniatures across a range of periods. However, I’ve never really catalogued them all, and some of them haven’t seen the light of day for many a year. So I’ve decided that over the next few weeks I’m going to parade each army for inspection, and take stock of what I’ve got.

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From 2003 to about 2009 I collected a British army of the Napoleonic period. It hasn’t seen very much wargaming action since then, so I thought this might be a good army to start my inspection tour.

The commanders

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Of course, every army has to have a commander. And if you’re playing British, why not go to the very top – the Duke of Wellington himself. This is a lovely set produced by Wargames Foundry.

Circling clockwise from the instantly recognisable Duke himself, you can also see Captain von Streerwitz (2nd King’s German Legion Hussars, and aide-de-camp to Uxbridge);  Lt-General Sir Thomas Picton (wearing civilian clothing as he did at Waterloo); Lt-General Sir Rowland Hill; an ADC on foot; and in the foreground, Lt-General the Earl of Uxbridge, who lost his leg at Waterloo.

I obviously didn’t know much about painting horses’ eyes back then! In fact, the way I used to paint eyes on human figures at that time ended up with them looking like Thunderbirds puppets. Nowadays I just hint at eyes with some dark ink.

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Also in the Wargames Foundry set are these four figures depicting a helmeted Dragoon Guards officer; Major-General Sir James Kempt; Major-General Sir Denis Pack; and Adjutant-General Sir Edward Barnes.

I painted this set in April 2003, using a simple block painting technique with very little attempt at shading or highlighting. I think this clean style actually stands the test of time surprisingly well (apart from those googly eyes!).

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Here are some more command figures from my army – General Robert Crauford and a mounted officer of the 42nd Black Watch. These are produced by Front Rank Miniatures, whose figures are a painter’s dream, with clean surfaces and crisp detailing.

I always did wonder a bit about that pose of using a telescope one-handed. I would’ve thought that would make the view very shakey!

The infantry

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One of the pleasures of collecting a British army are those resplendent red coats worn by most of the infantry.

This picture also shows how I break each infantry unit into six bases. Regular infantry have about four figures per base, whilst light troops are represented by only two figures per base.

In many rules the number of model figures per base doesn’t actually matter, as casualties are recorded by a set number of hits required to remove a base, rather than counting and removing actual figures.

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The other pleasure of a British army are the huge and stately colours (flags) carried by each battalion. GMB Designs produce exquisite paper flags that really set off this army.

Note that I make my flags wave by curling them diagonally, rather than vertically like many other wargamers do. The diagonal fold gives them a more realistic draping effect.

The smaller Union flag held by the chap in the middle of the photo is actually cast onto this metal Warlord Games figure, and had to be painted by hand.

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When I started my British army, I had a vague idea that instead of following any real-life order-of-battle, my force would represent the series of fictional ‘Sharpe’ novels by Bernard Cornwell. So these Front Rank 95th Rifles are led by Richard Sharpe himself (left), accompanied by his faithful Sergeant Patrick Harper (centre). Both figures were made by Chiltern Miniatures (now defunct, but possibly available from SHQ Miniatures).

The prone figure on the right isn’t a casualty, but a rifleman aiming his Baker rifle whilst lying on his back.

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The 44th East Essex was the very first British unit I painted. Again, I had in mind the Sharpe novels and was planning on giving this yellow-faced unit an alternative flag for the fictional South Essex Regiment from the books – though I never got round to doing this in the end.

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This is one of my favourite units, the 42nd Black Watch. These are once again Front Rank figures.

The individually based officer is a later addition to the unit. He’s a so-called ‘big man’ required for driving the action in the Sharp Practice rules for small-scale engagements. You’ll see that several of my units have had such single figures added.

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The challenge with painting Scots, of course, are those fiddly kilts. I’m really pleased how these came out, giving a nice impression of the Government tartan worn by the Black Watch.

Since painting this unit many years ago, I’ve tried painting other figures wearing kilts, but have never again succeeded  as well as I did with this unit. It’s odd how sometimes one’s painting skills seem to decrease with experience, rather than the other way round!

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And here’s yet another photo of my favourite unit, with the bagpiper leading the way. Note that the piper’s tartan is a different colour from the soldiers – this was actually the case in the 42nd.

Those criss-cross stripey stockings were also a challenge to paint!

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Besides my five line infantry battalions, I’ve got a couple of units of light infantry, which (as mentioned above) only have two figures per base to represent skirmish order.

My light infantry don’t carry colours, and the figures are posed much more haphazardly in various stages of loading and firing.

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Here’s a close-up where you can see a couple of my light infantry ‘big men’ for Sharp Practice, in this case a bugler in a yellow jacket, and an officer with the typical metallic epaulettes of the light infantry.

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A sergeant with his private pack-donkey, no doubt carting some illicit loot away from the battle. Yeah, I know, my donkey looks more like a large dog giving his master a baleful sideways look!

The cavalry

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The most flamboyant figures in any Napoleonic army were the hussars, and the British were no exception.

I chose to paint these Front Rank figures as the 10th (Prince of Wale’s Own) Hussars. The reason for choosing this particular regiment was simply because I recalled as a teenager assembling and painting a 54mm Airfix 10th Hussar plastic kitset!

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Hussars are rather difficult to paint, but it’s definitely worth the effort for the panache they bring to the table!

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Much more sombre light cavalry than the hussars are these light dragoons.  They’re wearing an early uniform with the Tarleton helmet – in the latter parts of the Napoleonic Wars they wore shakos.

On the right is another of my command bases, showing a mounted messenger handing orders to a light dragoon officer in the later uniform.

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Now for the heavies! These dragoons are once again wearing an earlier uniform, rather than the later uniform with the classical-style helmets.

My horses, by the way, are all painted with oil paints. I paint the entire horse with a light highlight colour, wait for it to dry, then paint it with a darker colour and immediately wipe it off with a clean cloth so the highlight colour shows through.

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This photo is somewhat reminiscent of the famous painting ‘Scotland Forever!’ by Lady Butler, depicting the charge of the Royal North British Dragoons (or Scots Greys) at Waterloo. In reality the Scots Greys didn’t charge at the gallop due to the broken ground, and instead advanced at a quick walk – though nevertheless they did capture the eagle of the 45e Régiment de Ligne.

By the way, the Scots Greys didn’t get their nickname from their grey horses, but from an earlier grey uniform they wore in the 17th century.

The artillery

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The artillery gives some heavy firepower to my British army.  Unlike the redcoat infantry, the Royal Artillery wore blue uniforms.  These figures and guns are once again from the ubiquitous Front Rank.

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The Royal Horse Artillery wore a snazzier uniform than their foot artillery compatriots. The Tarleton helmet looks impressive, but I wonder how practical it was to keep on in the heat of loading and firing the guns.

Again I’ve got a ‘big man’ for this unit, whose flamboyant uniform is very hussar-like with its golden frogging and fur-lined pelisse.

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I only have one limber for my artillery. I’d love to have one for each gun, but with all the equipment and horses, limber models are just so expensive, not to mention time-consuming to paint and put together!

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Part of the fun of wargaming with a British army is the ability to deploy rockets, as shown here with the 2nd Rocket Troop of the Royal Horse Artillery. These models I think were from Old Glory Miniatures.

The Congreve rocket was a fearsome albeit unpredictable weapon. Different wargames rules replicate their sporadic accuracy in various ways, that can even include an out-of-control rocket endangering its own side!

The navy

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Along with Sharpe, another popular fictional character from this period is Horatio Hornblower. So adding a naval landing party to my British forces was a must!

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The sailors are from Wargames Foundry. They’re wearing a variety of clothing, and armed with a motley range of weapons.

The two individually-based ‘big men’ are by Brigade Games Miniatures. The naval officer at the left represents Hornblower himself.

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The sailors are accompanied by a party of Royal Marines. These figures are (I think) by Britannia Miniatures.

The ‘big man’ is a Wargames Foundry figure, and is one of my favourite figures in the whole army – I really like his pose and natty uniform.

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Of course, a naval landing party has to have a boat to row them ashore. This impressive model is by Britannia Miniatures.

Like the artillery limbers, it is an expensive luxury, as boats most likely won’t play an active part in a game. But as a model it is irresistible!

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So that’s it – my entire British army, mostly painted between 2003 and about 2009. Keep watching for my next inspection parade of another army from my collection.

  • See the next inspection parade: Spanish