Monday, 16 June 2008

Methode d'Equitation

No, not Baucher's work, but simply a bit more on the correction of the bad habits of a Prussian dragoon officer. I haven't read the book anyway, I was just looking for a title, and a pretentious one will do fine (I came across a reference to Baucher while reading a biography of Louis Nolan). I've gone ahead with my plan, the remodelling of the draggon officer being done in a number of stages.

The big problem I find is that I have a bad habit of holding the wrong place and so damaging other bits that I've just done. This is a particular hazard when the milliput decides to misbehave (a common occurrence) and I concentrate on the immediate problem and forget about other, vulnerable parts of the model. The only solution is to let the milliput harden before continuing. So what should have been a simple, quick modelling task took a few days while I allowed the milliput to harden between each stage.

Step one was the easy bit: mostly a matter of minor vandalism as I attacked the figure with a craft knife. I removed the horse furniture (reins on the horse, and blanket and pistol holders on the officer). The officer's scabbard was lost along with the blanket that it was attached to, so a pin hole was drilled to accept a wire scabbard that would be added later. The officer's coat at the rear was also pared down a bit. A paper saddle blanket was then glued onto the horse, and the officer was then glued onto that, now of course, in the desired upright position. So far so simple.

Step two saw the application of milliput to form the lower parts of the horse furniture. First up was the rear of the saddle aft of the rider's buttocks. The front of the saddle was next added although this is invisible and serves only to support the rider and the pistol holders, which were then placed on top. The square pads beneath and to the rear of the rider's legs were then added. Lastly, the horse's mane, where it was damaged when removing the reins, was also repaired. None of this is particularly difficult as it involves only simple geometric shapes. The figure after this stage is shown in the photo.

After Minor Vandalism and Some Milliput

The next step started with a wire sword scabbard being pushed into the hole drilled in step one. With this in place I could then add more bits of milliput to extend the rider's coat downwards. This requires rather more skill and judgement than previously, and I found it easier to do in two steps: the first being to add enough milliput to establish only the general look of the tails. Once this had hardened I tidied up with a needle file and then added a few more touches of milliput to refine things. I also added the top covers of the pistol holders and the pistol buckets at this point.

The final step saw new reins made out of thin, beaten wire glued onto the figure. The officer's hand holding the reins was also remodelled using milliput (as little more than a blob, I'm not a good enough sculptor for anything better). After that it was done to a paint job to hide all faults: the final result is shown below.

The Riding Master's Star Pupil

Well, from my admittedly biased viewpoint, I think the remodelled figure is a big improvement. At the very least there will be no unkind remarks from the ranks about the officer's riding ability: Captain Nolan would have approved of the change.

Sunday, 15 June 2008


The command Forwards! in this case is not the signal for yet another desperate advance of Prussian grenadiers across a cannon swept field. Rather, it is the instruction of the regimental riding master to his pupil. The centre of attention of all this is the Suren dragoon officer (mounted as usual on a Stadden horse) in the photo below.

The figure is a beautiful piece of work, as is to be expected from anything sculpted by Edward Suren. But picky idiot that I am, I do not want to use the pose that it has been given. Suren has sculpted this gentleman to be leaning well back in the saddle (the lean looks rather more pronounced in real life than in the photo). I must emphasize that there's nothing intrinsically wrong with the pose, it just doesn't fit with my personal goals.

I am trying to acheive a certain, consistent, effect with my armies. Its detractors like to label this as the "clone patrol", a description which really is fair enough. Perhaps the phrase "drill instructor's dream" is kinder: what I'm trying for is the impression of an 18th Century army locked into rigid formations, responding with clockwork precision to the commands of its officers. So - for instance - the ranks of my line infantry are in march attack and, on a good day with no use of alcohol or any other aid, you can fairly hear the crunch of a thousand boots hitting the ground in perfect time. In my vision there is a certain scope for the odd animated figure, but this is limited to personality figures who don't exist on the table in multiple copies. Or to express this as a simple rule - personality figures are allowed to have personality.

Now dragoon squadron commanders don't qualify as personalities under this scheme. I'm planning on having three squadrons per cavalry regiment so three of these gentlemen leaning back in the saddle would, for me, be all too much of a good thing. But as I have noted before, this is where anyone building only a small army has an advantage: we can afford to expend a much greater effort on a per figure basis. So I can look at modifying the figure a little.

The first thing to note is that the entire figure is involved. The feet are tipped forwards to counterbalance the weight of the torso leaning backwards. So cutting the figure in half at the waist and tilting the upper body forwards will not work - unless we want to give the impression of the officer being gut-shot. Instead, the plan must be to pivot the entire figure at the point where it sits on the horse. Doing this means that the rear of the saddle blanket is then raised markedly above the horse's back, so the metal blanket must go, to be replaced by a paper one (this is really no greater loss, paper ones are easier to paint). The horse furniture at the front presents a similar problem, this needs to be raised so that we can pivot the figure at it's seat rather than at the pistol holders. So I'll cut these off, and glue them onto the horse separately.

Well, that's the plan for today. The sun is shining, there's a nice cool breeze: I think a few hours spent sat in the conservatory fiddling about with these figures are called for.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

More Dragoons

We must, I think, sympathise with the travails of fathers in days gone by. There was once a time when a child, left to his own devices, might take up such unworthy pastimes as flute playing. And there was little the enlightened parent could do, other than perhaps chop off the head of one's first born's best mate. My current slow progress has, I'm thankful to say, nothing to do with flute playing.

An 18th C Hoodie Caught On Camera

For my next planned battle - Action!, from the Wargame - both sides will possess a full regiment of three squadrons. So its time to start recruiting my cavalry. First up is a second squadron of dragoons: the new two squadron regiment is shown in the photo. That leaves me with a further squadron to add to each side: something I'll do at intervals to add some variety as I work on the additional infantry units that I need.

Cuirassiers & Dragoons

Decently sized cavalry units will be something of a novelty for me. As youths my friends and I fought battles with Charge! rules, but with sadly understrength units. This was not down to any policy on our own part, but a result of the size of a box of Airfix figures, plus the inclusion in the box of such eccentric figures as 'trooper crouching behind dead horse and waving sword'. And somehow we never used multiple boxes of the same figures, but preferred variety: even to the extent of mixing in units from the AWI up to the ACW.

Military 'history' is an unreliable witness. So if we are to believe French accounts of the passage of the Somosierra, Napoleon smashed a Spanish force of 9000 men and 16 cannon, entrenched in a strong position, with little more than a single squadron of cavalry and his own iron will. Whereas, if we read Oman we discover that the Emperor sacrificed a brave squadron to no effect and was forced to wait for the attack of his infantry to develop.

My own metal heroes are subject to the same faults: my dragoons will willingly relate how they held back twice their number of cuirassiers at Blasthof. My cuirassiers will tell you that they overthrew the dragoons, who were only saved from total ruin by the intervention of their infantry supports. And my cuirassiers, it seems, do not perform head counts.