Friday, 29 August 2008


The Emperor, rudely made aware that noble blood formed no substitute for skill at arms, hastily despatched General Lentulus to take command...

So says the good book in its preamble to the battle of Sittangbad. Now I don't have an Imperial army as yet, but as I enjoy working on personality figures I could not resist modelling this gentleman.

I haven't been able to identify a Lentulus figure from the photos in Charge! but then, as the book's authors were happy to use the same figures to represent multiple personalities, this isn't really a problem. There aren't any Austrian figures in the Stadden or Suren ranges but the Duke of Cumberland figure happens to have a suitable uniform and is a nice example of Suren's work to boot.

General Lentulus - Suren Cumberland on Stadden Horse

I didn't do much remodelling on this figure. The saddle blanket was of a distinctive design that I hadn't seen before (though it appeared to match one on an engraving of Cumberland), so I replaced it with a paper one. The pistols and their holsters were also replaced.

Lentulus does have a historical counterpart, a Swiss officer Josef baron Lentulus being in the Austrian Service. His son (Rupert Scipio Lentulus) was also active in the SYW, fighting for the Prussians after being captured by them at Prague. Both father and son rose to the rank of General.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Kelly's Heroes (SYW Style)

My title refers to Le Noble's Frei-Korps. I can't find a great deal of information on this unit, but the manner of its ending seems to give a fairly major clue as to its character. A unit that has to be disbanded at gunpoint must possess qualities that, if not laudable, are at least interesting. Certainly a general fortunate enough to command such troops will never have to search his mind to find excuses should he lose a battle.

I am intending to use this unit as light infantry. I'm not sure how historically accurate this is as I won't be modelling the unit's jager detachment, only the troops in 'double-blue' uniform. That's a decision based on aesthetics: I like the distinctive double-blue, while the green of the jager uniform looks distinctly 'un-prussian' to me.

The Stadden prussian SYW figures are not ideal for modelling this unit, due to the poses available. The officer marching in parade order with sword upright and the musketeer in march-attack both seem altogether too formal. The officer with spontoon has the right sort of pose. One can almost imagine him shouting "this way you scum" as his troops attempt to sneak off to the rear. But the weapon is altogether too cumbersome, so a simple conversion to using a sword is called for. He also needs lapels added.

The problem of the rank and file is rather greater. A suitable figure with correct uniform and equipment, sculpted by Charles Stadden (or at least with the same elegant proportions), animated 'at the ready' is simply not to be had. I don't like the firing pose (which is the only alternative given to march-attack) as this always looks odd at the start of the game when there are no enemy near enough to shoot at. The Stadden FP16 Prussian Grenadier charging is suitable: but this has the grenadier mitre cap: hence the tricorne modelling discussion in the previous posting.

Modelling tricornes has proven to be a most frustrating process: I think I have made one of these articles with each and every modelling mistake possible (brim too thick, crown too bulbous, fold misplaced in every various fashions, etc.). Currently about one in six comes out as usable: at least by my standards, a professional would probably reject them all. It might be sensible to make a mould from my best attempt but the only way to get better at this is to practice, so I will persevere. The entire experience means that me and the King of Wittemberg are entirely in sympathy.

The photo shows the two figures converted and then undercoated. I am not altogether happy with the converted grenadier: as usual with Stadden prussian grenadiers the figure appears slightly over-sized. I think Charles Stadden may have had the Potsdam giants in mind when he sculpted these.

Thursday, 21 August 2008


One of the great virtues of our blogs is the manner in which ideas can be floated, discussed and developed. In this case I refer to a posting by Adderphue which gave his method for creating tricornes - by creating a wide-brimmed hat and folding it to shape. This is a solution to creating a tricorne that seems to be within my limited sculpting abilities. One of my current projects (of which more another time) might be solved if I can make tricornes in this manner, and so I am currently experimenting with it.

The big question is: how does one fold a tricorne? Looking into this one very quickly realises that the question itself is rather inadequate to the problem. The hat's shape evolved over time until it finally became the bicorne. So the initial geometry of the unfolded hat, and placement of folds, changes according to which period we are trying to model. A useful starting point is to look at the tricorne at its simplest. This has folds in the form of an equilateral triangle, and gives us the hat worn by these gentlemen.

Gentlemen Pensioners

The maths for this is simple. The figure below shows that the ratio of the hat's central and outer radii is given by r1/r2 = cos 60 = 0.5. All other shapes can be gotten by slight variations on this. For example, if we want each side to have a concave curve to it then we reduce the inner radius slightly. To mimic the tricornes on the Stadden figures, we need to also to raise the front of the hat and pinch the rear corners of the tricorn.

Tricorne Geometry

Monday, 11 August 2008

Guards, Grenadiers And Waistcoats

If there was a church near me with a conveniently ill-guarded set of bells I think I would be ringing them now in celebration. My third regiment of infantry (fusiliers) is complete. In retrospect, the tactic of painting en masse did not suit me at all: I did manage an unprecedented 36 Olley painting points in just over a month, but painting large numbers of figures was not as enjoyable as my usual method of painting in small sub units. So I will return to my old routine of a company at a time.

Now what does a wargamer, of a certain age, do when he finds himself in possession of three regiments of infantry - each one boasting forty-eight bayonets - in all their glory? Well, at least in my case, he finds himself attempting to resemble 'so far as a slightly bulging waistcoat permits, an eagle about to swoop'. I don't actually possess a waistcoat, nor any bulge where the waistcoat should be, but those are the precise words from the book. Of course, if you are not familiar with Charge! you are left at this point wondering what this fellow is blathering on about. For you it's a bit like the US cavalry spotting Indian smoke signals: you know there's something up, but you don't know quite what and you really would rather like to know if they refer to you.

The description in Charge! of the stand of the 'Pultava Guards' against the combined might of the 'Douro Grenadiers' and the 'Musselburgh Fusiliers' was a part of the book that I read over and over in my youth. If I read it now, I find I am so familiar with the words that I hardly read them off the page at all. So it was a delight to finally be able to play it out. My Guarde Grenadier regiment took the place of the Pultava guards, my Fusiliers the Douros (as they have pointy hats) and my musketeers were the Musselburgs.

The Guarde Prepares to Receive The Assault

I shall not attempt to recapture the prose of Young and Lawford in recounting what happened. However, the Guarde mounted a magnificent defence, total casualties to the attackers being 51 shot down and 6 prisoners taken, while losing only 12 men in return (the 'fusiliers' were left with only the unengaged company standing). The dice did take a decided bias towards the Garde and 'salty expressions' would have been the order of the day if this had been played against someone else. But there was more to it than just the dice. Company strengths of only twelve men left the power of the attacking columns greatly diminished while increasing their vulnerability to musketry.

The Columns Make Their Assaults

This leads me to speculate over the reasons for one apparent consistency in the Charge! rules and why it was there. If we look at Light Infantry and Pioneers they both use 12 man company establishments. This would appear to be the natural organisation for line infantry too: four companies form a square far more readily than three. It is notable that, later in the book (ie. at Sittangbad), four companies are indeed adopted, although this is done while retaining a strength of 16 men.

The Defeated Columns Prepare To Hand Over Prisoners

Fighting this action has finally laid another childhood dream to rest, and at the cost of only a few uncomplaining metal lives. I am not a reader of Horace, but I do read Kipling and it was in 'Stalky And Co' that I found Kipling quoting the following lines from Horace, Ode 17, Bk. V, which seemed to me to be a suitable (if somewhat pretentious) way to end this blog entry:

How comes it that, at even-tide,
When level beams should show most truth,
Man, failing, takes unfailing pride,
In memories of his frolic youth?