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
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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

 

Napoleonic naval landing party of sailors and marines

Lt Oratorio Porngrower RN (left) leads ashore a party of sailors and marines.   Keeping up with my return to painting ‘Big Men’ to lead my troops in skirmish games using the Too Fat Lardies’ Sharp Practice rules, I’ve just completed this 28mm naval officer by Brigade Games.  Though I’ve just realised I haven’t finished his basing!

Beside Porngrower is Lt Ffothering-Ffanshaw from the ship’s marine detachment.  He is a Foundry figure that I painted several years ago, but who has yet to see a fight on the tabletop.  This figure has to be one of my favourite ever Napoleonic figures – there is  something about his demeanour and posing that I love, and the marine uniform worn with blue trousers just looks so cool.

Here’s the whole party of sailors and marines wading ashore, all Foundry figures.  Click on the picture to see more detail. As with all my figures, the basing is not designed with any specific set of rules in mind.  But it should work fine for Sharp Practice, especially now I have some Big Men on their own separate bases.

A naval detachment obviously will need some waterborne transport, which is supplied by this Britannia Miniatures longboat and crew, also painted some years ago (again, click on the picture to get a lovely big view).   This model has also never seen the tabletop in anger, so will have to be somehow incorporated into my next Sharp Practice scenario game.

By the way, the background in the above photos is my actual back yard, and the water is clingfilm over a sheet of glass.

Next Big Man … er, Big Woman … to be painted will be the Warlord Games French cantiniere.

Spanish Big Man for ‘Sharp Practice’

After a long pause of a year or two, I’ve returned to painting some ‘Big Men’ figures for the Sharp Practice skirmish rules.  These are the officers and NCOs who form such an important part of this highly entertaining ruleset by Too Fat Lardies.

The first such ‘Big Man’ I’ve painted tonight is this 28mm 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).

So that’s the way I’ve painted him, in his brown uniform with yellow facings, as depicted in my trusty Uniforms of the Peninsular War 1807-1814 by  Philip Haythornthwaite and Michael Chappell.  You can see there are a few small differences, particularly with the hat … but the figure gives the overall effect.

I’m now starting work on a Royal Navy officer, also from Brigade Games, to lead my small naval detachment of sailors and marines.

Next step will to be to put together some sort of multi-player scenario involving a swirling melange of various British, Spanish, and French soldiers, naval types, guerillas and civilians, all with differing objectives, and then host a well-overdue game of Sharp Practice sometime in the not-too-distant future.