Sunday, 27 July 2014

Paint Sunday

Apologies for not posting for a few weeks - I'd rather lost the painting mojo. In fact, I've clearly lost the blogging mojo too - as I started typing this post two or three weeks ago. And then when I got the urge the weather in the UK became rather hot and muggy making it very difficult to paint except first thing in the morning. I also like to have at least something completed when I post but I've been very butterfly like recently - with the result that I have lots of figures that are close to completion, but not quite there yet.

This has played hell with any hopes I had of getting caught up - this is the end of Week 30 so clearly I should have painted 300 figures. Instead, I've only completed 83.

Still, I've put in a few hours this week painting the Regimento de Linea Voluntarios de Sevilla - there were 535 men present at Ocana in November 1809. I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I wanted to add a bit more colour (so far I've been painting white jackets with red facings) - so these chaps wore brown jackets with red facings. Naturally, when I decided to paint a couple of divisions of Spanish I picked two that lacked "foreign" troops - leaving me to paint white or blue or lots of brown...

This was the 5th battalion, so I suspect they were very roughly uniformed and equipped. Unfortunately, Mr Barton's troops are very well turned out - and I added to the problem by being of a mind to paint the Spanish Royal Guard (1st Battalion, 921 men on the day) - as I was going to paint a guard unit I picked out the smarter figures from AB - but then I got cold feet - the Histoire & Collections Ocana showed them in a new uniform with shako and lace front, while the Guerreros & Batallas Ocana showed them wearing the bicornes, with plain red facings. So I changed my mind and did the Voluntarios de Sevilla.

Actually it would have been nice if Mr B had turned out a pack of figures that have ragged trousers, no boots and plain jackets. Even his "militia" figures are extremely smart. Something like the above 28mm figures from the Perries would be ideal - this would allow you to produce raggedy arse militia with a leavening of figures from the regulars for the command and as a cadre within the unit. So I've been looking around for other figures to "slot in" to my Spanish units to "roughen" them up a bit and I've come up with a couple of options.

The first is from a recently returned maker that has been something of a holy grail for 15mm AWI gamer - Polly Oliver. These have come back into production after a long hiatus (evidently there was a divorce, the wife got the moulds and refused to sell them except for silly money for years) and went on sale in April 2014. The Polly Oliver infantry and artillery are excellent - the cavalry were a bit dodgy - lovely riders but really poorly sculpted horses - evidently the horses are being re-worked which would turn these into an excellent buy.

However, while these were cutting edge figures in the 80's when they first came out, they are products of their time - so expect them to be about the same size as Minifigs / BH and have well detailed but very thin muskets. They are thus a bit smaller than AB's Spanish but an excellent match for his BH sculpts. The next issue is that there are not many variants in a pack. I'm planning on using what used to be described as "Minutemen" and is now I think the AW-A15 Militia Marching pack. I bought a shoebox full of Polly Oliver  in dribs and drabs from eBay over the years with the intention of doing something AWI with them.

This pack contains troops in slouch hats marching determinedly forward (okay I admit they aren't a perfect match for Spanish Militia!) with their muskets over their right shoulders. Their jackets are very plain and I think these guys could be used quite happily in an ACW regiment too - the powder horn is a bit of anachronism but it is 15mm after all. They are sporting trousers, a knapsack and a powder horn - but no blanket roll or pack. I think they would paint up very quickly. The drummer boy has similar jacket (with turnbacks but plain front), bare feet and his drum slung over his shoulder. The officer would fit in very nicely as a company officer for a militia battalion lacking uniforms.
My second choice for variants comes from Xan Miniatures - tucked in amongst their French are a pack NF11 Fusilers Without Shako  (before anyone gets any ideas that my painting and photography skills have suddenly improved I nicked this photo from the Xan website - hopefully both Xan and yourselves will overlook the theft under the circumstances!). The chap in the centre is a flank company figure so not very suitable but the chaps on to his left and right are okay. Spanish infantry wore a forage cap very similar to the one the figure on the left has - although every picture I've seen has the "floppy bit" hanging down the figure's left rather than right (as here) but I'm not going to let that bother me. The forage cap was very common headgear amongst Spanish troops and slotted in amongst other figures from BH or AB should add a "rough and ready" look to a battalion. Of course the head wound is an overdone trope in model figure design so I'd only be inclined to use one of these per battalion.

The French flanker in bare head isn't too useful for Spaniards (he could represent a sergeant as they wore silver epaulettes) - but I have plenty of French units to paint as well. I'm not too sure if the packing is standardised but I've got three forage caps, three head wounds and two flank company bare headed in my pack of eight.

The final issue with AB's Spaniards is - no casualties. Considering Spain was a major power (well, certainly in numbers of troops fielded) and their regiments got shot to buggery on a regular basis this is a fairly gross omission on Mr Barton's part (I guess when he was sculpting these figures we still rather thought of the Peninsula War as France v the Anglo-Portuguese army with the Spanish as rather incompetent bit-part players on the margins). So I'm using some of the figures from the AB Jena Prussian pack - the key problem with them is the pom-poms on the bicorne - you either need to ignore them and press on, carve them away and go with a plain bicorne, or carve them away and add a plume from another figure or greenstuff.

Archie is unimpressed by all my hard work - he's just lying around in the heat, thinking what new mischief he can cause. This week it was "digging up" the carpet by the front door which caused me to rip a hole in the said carpet when I opened the door to get in. Replacing the carpet by the front door with coconut matting cost me £140.

Monday, 16 June 2014

A Few Spanish Photos

Just back from our holiday in Spain, which didn't go quite according to plan - mostly because of the Spanish Royal Family. We were staying in the centre of Madrid (in the Sol area - right in the middle of things) and the first hiccup was on the Sunday when we tried to visit the Spanish Naval Museum (about 15 minutes from the hotel and well placed opposite the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum)- lots of police vans parked outside, barriers up and MPs stopping us visiting. Closed for the day as there was to be a parade - we'd seen some bandsmen in dress uniforms milling around so we found a shady spot and waited....for an hour. Saw a small motorcade go past, everyone cheered and waved the Spanish flags they had been handed by some Spanish sailors a little while before (they'd run out just before reaching us!). Heard a short speech muffled by the PA system into even more incomprehensible Spanish.

And then saw four companies (one each from the Navy, Army, Air Force and Guardia Civil) march past followed by the band. And that was the moment I realised my camera was still set up for taking pictures of model soldiers and the batteries in the camera decided to die - so lots of scrabbling around. And that was it - except for the departure of the motorcade. I have to admit, I was somewhat disappointed - I'd expected a bit more.

So the next day, we decided to visit the Royal Palace (15 minutes walk in the opposite direction to the Naval Museum) - only to find it closed for two of the next three days as the King was receiving the Mexican President. It was enough to make you want to vote Republican! So we rescheduled our plans and went to Toledo on the Wednesday rather than the Tuesday as originally intended.

And what did we find? You guessed it - the Museo del Erjercito is closed on Wednesdays. I was rather annoyed at myself for not making a note of what days it was open before travelling (of course it didn't stop me commenting to the gate guard that if any foreign powers wanted to invade Spain then Wednesday was clearly the day to choose as the Spanish Army would be taking the day off). I spent the rest of the day in Toledo behaving like a schoolboy who missed out on his treat.

On the Thursday we travelled down to Malaga for the final three days of our holiday (my wife doesn't count it a vacation unless she has at least two days at the beach) - she'd selected Malaga without any input from me, so I was rather concerned it would be like Torremelinos with a Picasso Museum planted in the middle (and modern art leaves me cold too) but I was pleasantly surprised. There were lots of tourists there but mostly not from the UK (and no "caffs" advertising "full English breakfasts" in sight) - there was a small museum from Carmen Thyssen (of the fore-mentioned Thyssen-Bornemisza Musum), the cathedral was nice and the Alcazaba / Gibralfaro dominated the Old Town and the harbour.

The Alcazaba is the lower of the two complexes and is still in pretty good order - the entrance is fairly poorly signposted (or perhaps my wife and I are simply challenged in that regard) but we eventually found it (as you are looking at the Alcazaba from the Calle Alcazabilla across the Roman Amphitheatre the entrance is up the steps on the right). Once you've hiked halfway up the hill you are rewarded with the above model in one tower - it is scaled for 20-28mm soldiers roughly.

As I said much of the Alcazaba (from the Arabic Al Qasbah meaning "citadel") is in pretty good nick considering it was built in the early 11th Century - in fact it is probably the best preserved Alcazaba in Spain (there are others, many dating from the Taifa period when Moorish Spain split into small kingdoms). Some of the materials used were taken from the Roman Amphitheatre as you can see in the picture below.

They have planted gardens (after all,this was a palace as well as a fortress) within several areas of the Alcazaba and it is very pretty - with the occasional skinny looking brown squirrel running around, fairly oblivious of the tourists.

And finally, I guess the final military use wasn't when Malaga fell to Ferdinand and Isabella in 1487 as you can see from this stone if you look carefully:

And the Gibralfaro? That was reached by a separate entrance at the very top of the hill - you can get there by walking or by bus (the No 35 from the seafront heading towards Velez-Malaga). Walking was out as my spinal problem chose this trip to re-assert itself. And the bus? On a siesta between 14.30 and no Gibralfaro for me.


Monday, 2 June 2014

More British Casualties & WIP

You'll remember that this time last week I was planning to paint some Spanish in the hope of increasing my work rate. Well, that plan didn't survive contact with the enemy. Instead I finished some half done British casualties, and faffed around with a few bits and pieces.

And here they are - a couple of Highlanders, one chap hobbling along using his musket as a crutch, and two guys shooting the breeze (at least I think that is how I'll be using them). These were the first Highlanders I've done and I didn't find the kilt as bad as I'd expected - it wasn't fun but the worst part was actually painting those bloody socks (lots of four letter words doing those). I also rather screwed up the white lining around the collar of the hobbling chap. Still that is five figures down.

As you can see this is still a work in progress. This is the 1st Battalion of the ErbPrinz Regiment - using AB 1806 Jena Prussians. My mental gymnastics with these figures can be found here. Once I've done the second battalion then I'll have not only the required Hessian infantry contribution to Laval's Division but, should I ever be needed to contribute some soldiers to Jena game, I'll have the required organisation!

And this is the target for this week - to make a solid start on these figures between now and Thursday night - because on Friday I'm off to Madrid for a week.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Totally Off Topic & Very Cool

While wandering the web (as you do when you can't be a**ed to paint soldiers) I came across a remarkable site - this chap superimposes old photos onto pictures taken today at the same spot. He's Russian, and most of the pictures are from the Great Patriotic War (WWII to you and me in the West) - they can be very atmospheric.

Anyway I was very impressed by Sergey Larenkov's Links To The Past

Week 20 Progress - British Casualties

At the end of Week 17 I'd completed 78 figures, and so was 92 figures behind schedule. My plan for the following week was to plough on with some AB French Legere - I'd done the Carabiniers and was pleased with how they had worked out, and thought I'd press forward with the rest of the battalion. Unfortunately, I'd run out of GW white undercoat, and in my eagerness, used the Army Painter white undercoat.

Now, the last time I used this was also the first time I used it. That was awhile ago when I pretty much ruined the BM French and British Line Infantry I had bought - the AP undercoat dried with a thick and "dusty" consistency totally unsuitable for 18mm figures (or 28mm come to that). They went straight into the Dettol - actually I need to get them out - that was over a year ago! Anyway, so this time round I followed the instructions absolutely to the letter and the result was better but still not  the quality of finish I get from the GW undercoat. And so I'm blaming the AP undercoat for my general lack of enthusiasm for painting the rest of the AB Legere - there was a roughness to the AP undercoat that obscured the fine detail on the AB figures and made my cackhanded painting "style" more difficult to achieve.

Apologies for the long-winded excuse for not completing what I said I would.

Instead, I painted some AB British casualties. In this I was quite inspired by a very kind gift from Paul Alba (Napoleonics In Miniature) of a battalion of marching AB British infantry and some late British cavalry. Clearly the casualties are way off the plan to carry on with Laval's Division and the 3rd & 4th Spanish Divisions at Ocana. However, I have it in the back of my head to do a British battalion in the midst of a heavy firefight (something similar to this French battalion  I did a couple of years ago) - they won't really fit in with anything else I've got as I tend to do my figures in march attack poses. My catalogue PDF from AB doesn't show much pose variation in the suitable British packs (B08 & B09) so my thinking was to add some interest with these chaps.

So there are two "deaders" (one flank, and one centre company), a "shortly to be deader" (those gutshots were fatal back then), an officer being carried on a musket by two fellow soldiers (I have visions of "gallant officer refusing to leave the Colours" for this one), one chap who has just stopped a French musket ball and is slumping forward, and a rapscallion heading off "to collect water" - he's British, surely he isn't "windy"? I'll not comment on the significance of his brown trousers... So eight in all (I'm counting the officer on the musket as three figures). So this would be 20 - 25% of the battalion - I figure add in a couple of standard bearers and a drummer and the command stand would be pretty much there. So one bag of AB B09 Flank skirmishing, and a couple of bags of B08 Centre Loading & Firing would sort me out - any vacant slots left could be filled by company officers.

And the marching figure is the one that started this off. It's fairly subtle - he's supposed to represent a chap just being shot. Before you ask I've bought several sets of British casualties folded in with AB figures bought from eBay - I could probably paint a battalion of casualties. I figure he will work as "filler" for Paul's fine gift of a line infantry battalion on the march. You may well notice a difference in stle on these figures - they were undercoated in black when I got them and I decided to go with them as they were - I'm not really happy with them but they turned out better than expected.

And here are the Spanish Militia that were almost finished three weeks ago - still almost finished as the basing needs to be done. The flag is by Adolfo Ramos (you can see the accompanying colonel's flag in the picture below) - being Spanish he has a very good selection of flags for the Peninsula War (and plenty of other stuff too in different scales). This pair are actually "generic" line infantry flags - provincial militia flags had the distinctive coats of arms for their province in the corners (as did line infantry).

This is the first militia battalion painted some months ago. Both battalions are wearing the standard M1805 uniform - the army that marched to Ocana was very well equipped by Spanish standards (and when I was originally researching the confusing mess that was Spanish army officialdom from 1797 to 1809 this uniform was one of the few things I could be fairly sure was "right") so I feel justified in not making them too hodge podge looking.

Having painted two units in white I quite fancy doing something like the Spanish Royal Guard (921 men from the 1st battalion served with the 3rd Division) - they had a rather spiffy dark blue uniform with with bright red facings. However, the Histoire & Collections book on Ocana shows them in a new uniform issued in 1809 (dark blue uniform, white lace buttonhole trim and shako). This is quite dull compared to the previous uniform (the Guerreros & Batallas book has the older outfit) - but I could see how a guard regiment could get new gear first. I had a look at the AB PDF (this has pictures of all the figures in the range) and the AB Spanish in shako still have the same sort of jackets as the bicorne chaps - so don't really work. So this one needs more research - I've ordered the new book on the Spanish Army by Stephen Summerfield and Ged Cronin so hopefully that will shed some light on the matter. In the meantime, as an alternative to white I'm rather thinking red facings and brown jackets - this was the uniform of the Regiment da Linea Voluntarios de Sevilla (a Cuerpo de Nueva Creacion according to Guerreros y Batallas ie formed after May 1808), and also one of the uniforms commonly worn by the provincial militia - so a possibility these guys could do double duty in the future.    
And here is the painting table - as you can see very little change, although front and centre are five companies of the Hesse Darmstadt Erb Prinz awaiting their command figures to be dealt with.

So, final results for Week 20 - 88 figures painted, 112 figures behind schedule. I'm hoping a return to Spanish infantry will let me regain some ground.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

National Army Museum Closure / Spanish Army Museum Exhibition

There has been a big kerfuffle on TMP over the last week or so as people realised that the National Army Museum in Chelsea is closing for two years for a complete refurbishment. I only realised a couple of weeks ago when I was looking to see what the monthly lecture programme was over the Summer (short answer - for the next two years, there isn't one) - so the closure hasn't been publicised very well at all.

Essentially, the story is that the NAM has been looking for funding to redevelop the site for years but very little cash was forthcoming. Now that the centenary of WWI is here someone thought it a good idea to finally give the NAM the dosh - so the NAM will be closed for 2014-2015 for construction work. Evidently the Museum will be lending their WWI exhibits to other museums throughout the country - but the NAM website doesn't give any real specifics, merely referring to "outreach projects" and such - it doesn't sound very ambitious.

Apart from the exhibition areas the research resources of the Museum will also be unavailable for at least the next six months which is a major pain in the bum for those researching anything to do with the British Army at all. Although I believe individual British service records are held elsewhere - my only WWI research of this sort involved a relative who had emigrated to Canada when young and joined their army. The Canadians have a really simple website that will send you a CD with copies of all the original documents. So I know my Scottish Canadian relative served as a sapper from 1916 until the end of the war (and as I know his unit I can read the unit war diary entries from the web). I know he had an undistingueshed but unpleasant career (no medals) but that he got into trouble for catching the clap - which was apparently quite a common affliction.

Anyway, back to the NAM. On TMP some people are working themselves into a high old dudgeon about the closure. I can see both sides of the argument - although closing for the centenary of the start of WWI, the bicentenary of Waterloo, and seventieth anniversary of D-Day is pretty appalling timing my feeling is that, as a nation, we're so bellicose that it would be hard to find a good two years to close - but at least the Imperial War Museum will manage to re-open (fingers crossed) at the end of July after their refurbishment.

Still, never fear - I was thinking about places to go for a few days break and Madrid looked like a good possibility. Lo and behold - the Spanish Army Museum in Madrid looks like a good bet generally - but even better, they have a temporary exhibition with toy / model soldiers until the 2nd June 2014 Temporary Exhibition - if you click on the pictures you can get large scale pop-ups of the images, and jolly nice they look too.

So, after my Valencia Toy Soldier Museum visit last year, I'm thinking this could be well worth a look.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Paint Table Saturday 3rd May 2014

Three weeks on from my last Paint Table Saturday entry and my target figure is 170 figures painted. You will recall that the last time I showed anything I mentioned that I'd lost count of how many figures I'd painted in 2014, and so I was starting from scratch. Since then, of course, we've had the Easter bank holiday so I should have been steaming ahead....well I've managed another 35 figures (so I'm now 92 figures behind schedule):

8 Spanish Militia
1 Spanish Malaga Line Regiment Officer
25 Hesse Darmstadt Erb Prinz Regiment
1 French Legere officer

So, seven of the eight Spanish Militia figures will complete my second (rather well dressed) provincial militia battalion. The eighth is a rather nice figure by Polly Oliver (from a bag of their American AWI Minutemen) - I have quite a lot of these figures assembled from purchases made from eBay over the years (2.1kg after my weigh in last week which is equivalent to about 650 figures), which have sat unloved in a drawer since I bought them. He'll get fed into a scruffier militia battalion once I get started on it.

The Hesse Darmstadt guys are done but not based up or "dipped" yet. You can see them sitting on the window sill in the photo above. If you have read the last few posts you'll know that I struggled to find appropriate figures for these chaps who performed so well in the Peninsula for the Emperor. Warmodelling (Fantassin) do a set of figures suitable for the Peninsula but I'm not struck on them - this left converting something else, waiting for a good manufacturer (AB, CGM, Xan or Khurusan) to bring something out, or going slightly off-piste.

Naturally, I went off piste. AB's 1806 Prussians work perfectly for Hesse-Darmstadt figures serving in North-West Europe in 1809 -  the problem is that the Erb Prinz Regiment changed uniforms on the way from Hesse to Spain. So, as I fancied painting some AB 1806 Prussians anyway, I decided to ignore the uniform change (okay - it's slightly imagi-nations, but if any button counters whinge, I'll pick up my toys and go home like the adult I am). This decision has led to some slightly mind bending questions of how I treat various aspects of their organistion etc - see More On The Erb Prinz here for this. They would have been mounted on their stands and be just about ready to be terrained except I decided rather at the last minute to add some NCOs and casualty figures (any figures left over as a result will be committed to the second battalion).

The Spanish Officer from the Regimento de linea de Malaga is (after slating them loudly and often) by Fantassin. He's actually a French Legere officer officer but close enough in 15mm to switch sides with a lick of paint. He's wearing the 1805 uniform of white coat, dark blue cuffs and lapels, and white collar piped dark blue. He was lying around on my table, looked easy to do, and would get my numbers up!

The Legere Carabiniers and Spanish Militia from previous weeks painting.

After being quite pleased with how the Legere Carabiniers turned out (although I'm now thinking the trim on their boots should be red as they are carabiniers) I started painting some Legere, so the officer was another easy figure to get some scores on the board.

Finally, these are my morning supervisors, Toby and Archie. Toby is an old boy, and these days he needs to go to the loo more often than he used to (I know how that feels - after the first pint or two I seem to spend half the evening in the loo), and he tends to wake up at 06.30 most mornings. My weekend therefore starts with a cold foot in the small of my back (my wife's way of saying "go and sort the dogs out") - she has unnaturally cold feet that, carefully placed, can get me out of bed in double-quick time.

Archie (the one on the right) in his normal supervisory role at my desk. I thought this came out rather well as a "selfie" - although clearly I need a shave. It's a poor show when you need to perform your ablutions before blogging!