Thursday 29 December 2011

Gnice One

Years ago I remember my father (who was a WWII RAF Navigator W/O) telling me that after one successful attack on the German Battleship Gneisenau the wags in the RAF sent back a Morse code signal to base saying “The Gneisenau is not so Gnice now”. This has nothing whatsoever to do with this Blog except that…

One of the things Santa brought me this year was this casting of PN/61 General Gneisenau mounted on horse PNH/1. A nice little figure with a good paint job too (although not quite in my own style). He will probably survive without a repaint but we’ll see.

I’m pleased to have him as he more or less completes the General Staff for my Prussians and recreates the Command Group I had with my original Prussian army back in the early 70s. One of the aims of this project was to build up a Hinton Hunt Prussian force if I could find enough figures (which I now have) so it’s probably time that I turned my attention to painting a few more of them!

Sunday 18 December 2011

Marquis de Grouchy

Grouchy was a Johnny-come-lately amongst the glittering ranks of Napoleon’s Marshals, being the last of them to receive a Marshal’s Baton in April 1815. His career wasn’t particularly distinguished – in fact during the battle of Novi in 1799 his attempt to surrender himself to the Austrians was misinterpreted as an ambush and he received 14 wounds before they realised their mistake. Fortunately for him the story that came out after this incident was of his heroism in trying to “resist” capture.

The Marquis was a cavalryman and he commanded the Heavy Cavalry in both Spain and Russia and led the Emperor’s personal bodyguard during the retreat from Moscow. He didn’t do much to endear himself to his colleagues – on one occasion he begged Marmont to give him a sword his men had captured from Prince Yurosov (saying that his own sword was hurting an old wound by rubbing on his hip) he then showed it off in Paris claiming to have captured it himself. It’s not surprising then that history has pinned a large part of the blame for Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo upon him. Whether this is fair or not I really do not know.

I adopted a novel approaching to varnishing this figure – after spending two evenings carefully painting him I managed to accidentally drop the poor Marshal directly into my pot of Humbrol Satin-Cote. Rather bizarrely, when I had fished him out and brushed him off, he actually dried with a proper sheen rather than the annoying glossy effect I’ve been achieving of late. Perhaps this is the answer to my varnishing problems.

Hinton Hunt didn’t make a figure of Marshal Grouchy so I used FN/354 Marshal Ney with riding coat worn over his shoulders mounted on horse BNH/10 instead. This is a repaint of the scary looking figure originally posted here.

Saturday 10 December 2011

Guard Foot Artillery - Completed

“In most battles the Guard Artillery is the deciding factor since having it always at hand, I can take it wherever it is needed.” -Napoleon Bonaparte

Hinton Hunt Guard Artillery crew and Field Gun

FN/172 Gunner ramming home
FN/173 Gunner holding cannon ball
FN/171 Gunner holding porte-fire
FN/170 Officer looking through telescope

In my House Rules the Guard Artillery are allowed to re-roll 4 dice when firing. I’m looking forward to trying them out on the table.

Saturday 3 December 2011

The Emperor’s Daughters

During our visit to London back in the summer we spent half a day looking around The Tower of London. While we were there I snapped this picture of some Napoleonic French artillery pieces that had been captured during the Waterloo campaign.

Captured French artillery pieces at The Tower of London 

It wasn’t really clear if these pieces had been captured on the main battlefield or if they were acquired at some other point during the campaign but it was slightly eerie to see such a tangible link to the Napoleonic past. Only the cannons themselves are original, the carriages being later – but accurate - reconstructions. I took the picture mainly to help me try to get the right colour green for my own model guns and I finally settled on Foundry 28B Phlegm Green as the closest match. I am lucky to have been given two Hinton Hunt French guns (A/3) some time ago and wanted to give my Guard Foot Artillery crew one of these original HH models to serve.

The Emperor with his daughter  (Hinton Hunt A/3)

I have mentioned before that Hinton Hunt artillery models are a bit out of scale with the figures being on the small side. However, it seems only right and proper to assign one of these rarities to the Guard.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Guard Foot Artillery

Just to prove that I do sometimes still paint my own figures I have spent the last week or so working on a French Imperial Guard Foot Artillery crew. My crews consist of four figures and the ones I have just completed are all lovely crisp old vintage castings.

Pictured here is FN/172 Gunner ramming home and I thought I’d give you a sneak preview before I base him up with his three colleagues ready for action. I have a genuine vintage Hinton Hunt French Field gun for the completed crew to serve and I’ll post on that in due course.

I followed the Hinton Hunt painting instructions for this figure as closely as I could and was intrigued to see that Marcus Hinton gives the collars and cuffs as blue piped in red. In every other source I’ve seen the Guard Artillery have solid red collars and cuffs but Mr Hinton knew a thing or two about military uniforms so I will stick with him on this one.

Thanks to Clive for supplying me with the HH painting instruction sheet.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Bravest of the Brave

Michel Ney was a lowly Hussar Trooper before the Revolution and a Hussar Captain after it. He was very strong and very brave, with blue eyes and red hair and was a first class swordsman and horseman – sounds like he may well have been Captain of his school football team and popular with the girls too.

Ney was fiercely loyal to Napoleon (at least at first) and fought in countless actions including Jena, Eylau, Friedland, and Borodino and of course, Waterloo. He was among the original group of Marshals of the Empire created in 1804 and was later created Duke of Elchingen (1808) and finally Prince of Moskowa (1812). His handling of the French rear-guard during the retreat from Moscow is legendary and after the crossing of the Beresina his command was down to just 60 men but he was still fighting, musket in hand.

After the abdication Ney changed sides to the Bourbons, just as most of the other Marshals did in order to protect their lands and titles. It must have been a bit of a shock when Napoleon escaped from Elba and he famously promised to “bring the monster back in an iron cage” but I don’t think he ever meant it. After Waterloo he was arrested and tried by The Chamber of Peers where many of his old comrades turned their back on him and voted for the death penalty. He was executed by firing squad on 7th December 1815 and reputedly gave the order to “fire” himself.

The figure is FN/354 Marshal Ney with riding coat worn over his shoulders mounted on horse BNH/10. I acquired this casting already painted (see him here) and decided to refurbish rather than repaint – most of the work I did was on the horse, which has also been modified by the previous owner.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

British Fifer

My thanks to Steve, who sent me this splendid little Hinton Hunt British Fifer BN/11 Fifer (playing). Steve noticed that my Guards had no Fifer in their ranks and sent this chap over to join them.

It’s a lovely crisp vintage casting and certainly deserves a place in the Guards. However, it does pose a bit of a problem as my units are 24 figures strong and to include him I will have to eject one of the existing ones from the ranks. Another solution may be to increase the size of the unit to 30 figures, after all Guard units were normally quite large. I will ponder that one.

I’ve been having quite a frustrating time with Blogger recently as it decided a few days ago to stop me posting pictures. I’ve finally found a work around so if anyone else has had the same thing happen let me know and I’ll tell you what I did.

Saturday 12 November 2011

French Leapers

It has to be said that during the Battle of the Ridge, the elite Voltigeurs of the 10th Legere took a bit of a pasting at the hands of their opposite numbers the Tirolean Jagers. It’s fortunate therefore that the latest addition to my collection is another unit of Voltigeurs to bolster the French skirmish line.

These figures are actually Hinton Hunt Grenadiers FN/3 Grenadier (firing) painted as Voltigeurs as I have no genuine Voltigeurs. I think this is a good use of these particular figures, as I seem to have accumulated more Grenadier castings than I need for regular units. I have mentioned before that when I ordered French infantry direct from Hinton Hunt in the early 70s I asked for 72 Grenadier figures because I had no idea about unit organisation – perhaps I wasn’t alone in this which may be why a disproportionate number of Grenadiers are still in circulation.

The Hinton Hunt firing figure pose is quirky and quite unmistakeable with the soldier firing high and looking as if he’s struggling to keep his ‘tree trunk’ sized musket under control. The castings are almost certainly original ones but even so they vary quite a bit in quality – in particular many of the pom-poms are large blobs due to some malfunction in the casting process. These irregularities were common in the figures supplied by Marcus Hinton, which can sometimes make it harder than you might think to distinguish the genuine vintage item from the army of impostors around today.

These figures were painted for me by Matt.

Saturday 5 November 2011

Up Guards, and at ‘em!

Those of you who read my last post will no doubt be keen to see some more photos of the latest unit to join the Allied order of battle. This is my generic unit of British Foot Guards that have been superbly painted for me by the talented Matt Golding. The figures used are actually line troops in shako from the 1812-15 range, with the exception of one Sergeant sporting a Guards bearskin.

The British Guards in line formation

Hinton Hunt produced a whole range of Foot Guard figures wearing bearskins and for a long time I thought this was a mistake as I’d only ever seen pictures of them in shakos at the time of Waterloo. However, I should have know better as Marcus Hinton was an expert on military uniforms and I’ve subsequently found out that the Guards did have bearskins during the Napoleonic Wars - although they were not worn on active service.

BN/81 Sergeant (charging)
BN/12 Drummer (playing)
BN/8 Officer (standing)

The drummer and officer above are actually from the American range by Der Kreigspieler but they are such good imitations of Hinton Hunt figures that I included them for variety. I didn’t have enough of any one figure type to do a full 24 figure unit in identical poses but I actually really like the finished effect of this mixed pose battalion.

BN/4 Private (firing)
BN/5 Private (charging)

BN/7 Private – with separate musket
BN/2 Sergeant (charging)
BN/5 Private (charging)

BN/3 Private (casual pose)
BN/9 Private (standing

I really like the BN/3 figure in ‘casual’ pose and it’s the only one like it in the whole Hinton Hunt 20mm range as far as I know. Roy told me the other day that Marcus Hinton always produced his master from a basic dolly with arms out stretched and he would then bend the arms into position. Looking at this particular figure it’s very easy to see this.

General Picton takes refuge in the Guard’s square

The Guards in column – from the rear

The British infantry range also includes colour bearers with cast-on flags, one with the King’s Colour and one with the Regimental Colour (although I believe these were reversed for the Guards). Matt has done a lovely job with these.

BN/14 Ensign King’s Colour
BN/13 Ensign Regiment Colour
BN/1 Officer (charging)

So finally the Duke has a unit he can really trust on the battlefield and they’ve already demonstrated this in their first engagement at the Battle of The Ridge – they fired two quite devastating volleys and lost not a single man in the action. However, the battle was another defeat for Wellington and I’m sure he will be expecting even greater things from the Guards next time.

Sunday 30 October 2011

The Battle of The Ridge

Roy came over yesterday to help me try out some rule amendments to my house rules “Muskets & Marshals”. The amendments included some fairly substantial changes and it was really useful to have the feedback of a real opponent rather than just trying them out solo.

The scenario was simple – the Allies were holding a vital ridge and the French had to push them off it. Roy chose the Allies so I was forced to dust off Napoleon’s hat once again and command a mixed force of French, Nassauers and Swedes. Just about all my troops were on the table (including a new unit not yet seen on this blog) plus a couple of very nice French foot batteries from Roy’s collection. Here’s a summary of events:

The Allies prepare to receive the French onslaught. That sneaky fox Wellington chose to keep most of his men safe from the French guns by hiding them behind the ridge (can you spot the new addition to the Allied Order of Battle?).

The French columns looking solid and unstoppable prepare to advance towards the ridge.

On the French left flank the light cavalry and horse artillery of both sides engaged in a cat and mouse game with the Allies initially withdrawing rather than charging. Here we can see Mercer giving the French a bit of a bloody nose.

And here’s what happened when the French horse artillery replied - Mercer 'hors de combat'.

Finally we did get a proper cavalry melee and (rather nicely) it ended in rout for the Allies.

Meanwhile Napoleon ordered the Swedes on the far right of his line to start to advance.

The Allied artillery and skirmishers scored some early successes - the Swiss in particular seemed to take more than their fair share of hits including Marshal Lannes who was leading them. Lannes became one of an unusually large number of fallen leaders during this game.

Eventually the Swedes reached the foot of the ridge and attempted to charge. They did exceptionally well considering they were all classed as 3rd rate troops and even caused the Naval battalion to give ground.

The British Foots Guards were however a different kettle of fish and remained firmly planted on the ridge. They ended the game as the only infantry still at full strength – a fitting result on their first outing.

By now, although some of the Swedes had been routed, the Allied position was looking seriously threaten as the remainder of the French army pushed forward.

Wellington now ordered Ponsonby to charge with the Union Brigade and disrupt the French advance. By one of those strange fortunes of war the Scots Grey’s found themselves facing none other than the 45th Ligne – and the latter had no time to form square

The troopers thundered forward and a fierce fight was fought for possession of the 45th’s Eagle.

Meanwhile on the left, Poniatowksi charged with what remained of the French light cavalry onto the ridge, the lancers coming up against an Austrian square.

At this point we ran out of time but both agreed that the French were the most likely to win the battle if we had played on further.

The game was great fun but it was obvious that the rules need more work, particularly on the Melee and Morale sections. In the last turn we had a number of bizarre melee outcomes and my plan is to simplify things to help eliminate these anomalies in the future. It’s also important to make sure that we can play a game to a satisfying conclusion in a three-hour time slot, which is about the usual time we have available to play.

Saving the Eagle.

My thanks to Roy for another superb and entertaining game, and NO the Scots Grey’s didn’t take the Eagle of the 45th!

Sunday 23 October 2011

A (very) Miniature Civil War – (Off Topic #20)

Over twenty years ago my brother and I decided to sell off our 15mm ACW armies and replace them with Ros & Heroics 1/300th figures. The thinking behind this was that with the limited playing space we had it would be the only way to play big Corps level games and at the same time do away with unrealistic ‘table edge’ flanks.

So Grant and Lee went micro, collected and painted around 2,000 figures, based 100 or so trees, produced a small City’s worth of buildings and painted several miles of snake fencing. The end result was very pleasing both visually and in the way the games played out with our house rules “Brother Against Brother” (named long before the commercial set of the same name!).

After a break of twelve or so years we played a game with these figures last week and true to form the Yanks (that’s me) lost. The battle was a hypothetical one based loosely on 2nd Manassas and the course of events was recorded in pictures (click here) by a Harper's Weekly artist. Remember when you look at the pictures that the infantry figures stand just 6mm tall and the battle flags are only 5mm square – each one painted without the aid of glasses - sadly now we can’t even see the figures without artificial aids let alone paint them!

Sunday 9 October 2011

The Battle of The Farm – Part Three

The Allied infantry columns were steadily closing with the French line to the right of The Farm but they were losing casualties in the process from the incessant skirmisher fire and the Austrian artillery (seconded for the day to the French army).

The Allied columns close with the French

Meanwhile, over at the Farm Napoleon moved to counter the Allied advance against the buildings by ordering the 4th Swiss into the vegetable garden to support the remaining skirmishers there.

The Swiss roll forward

On the far left the French cavalry had by now reformed after their earlier success and were preparing to turn the Allied left flank.

The French light cavalry reform and advance again

In response The Duke ordered Ponsonby to counter them with the Union Brigade, this time the Allied troopers held their ground and won the first round of melee.

Ponsonby charges the French light cavalry with the Union Brigade

By now the Allied infantry columns had advanced to within musket range of the French and the decisive moment of the battle arrived as the 45th Ligne raised their muskets to fire.

The 45th Ligne prepare to fire

The volley rang out and immediately the Splendid Splenys turned tail and ran leaving their comrades the Russians shaken and alone to face the 45th. At the same moment in the centre the Nassauer’s also took to their heels, only Blucher and the Silesian Landwehr showed much fighting spirit but it was all too late.

The Allied advance falls apart

The Duke ordered a general withdrawal and had to beat a hasty retreat on Copenhagen to avoid being swept up in the rout.

Humbugged again

France Two, England Nil, the war was not going well for the Allies...

Sunday 2 October 2011

1st Squadron Polish Lancers

The 1st Chevau-Legers-Lanciers of the Guard (The Polish Lancers) were formed in 1809. They served in many campaigns and distinguished themselves particularly at Wagram and in Spain. Some of them accompanied Napoleon in exile to Elba, returning to take part in the ‘Hundred Days’ as part of the Combined Guard Lancer regiment.

These figures are all vintage Hinton Hunt castings made up as follows:

5 x FN/43 Lancer (Mounted) charging
1 x FN/44 Lancer (Mounted) charging with separate lance

They have all been painted by myself (something of a rarity theses days) and represent the 1st Squadron of the Combined Lancers as they may have appeared on the field of Ligny.

I found painting these figures a frustrating experience, mainly because I’ve had such little time to devote to them but also because the detail on these one-piece castings can be so tricky to follow (or should I say ‘invent’). Just to remind you – this is how they looked before I started on them.

Friday 23 September 2011

You’re nae Ney, I’m Ney!

Actually they’re both FN/354 Marshal Ney but the one on the left is the result of a subtle conversion job by the previous owner whilst the slightly scary looking one on the right is the unadulterated version. I’ve had the converted one for some time but the other one is a new arrival and it’s been interesting to compare the two. Actually I think I like the converted figure the most.

You can’t help but feel a bit sorry for Michel Ney – he was definitely one of Napoleon’s greatest Marshals and his performance during the retreat from Moscow was nothing short of heroic. I know he changed sides a couple of times during his career but then many of the other Marshals did the same and they didn’t all end up in front of a firing squad as he did.

I suppose I must count myself lucky to have two Neys in my army. If Napoleon had been so fortunate during the Hundred Days things may well have turned out differently for him.

Saturday 10 September 2011

Loads of Personality

I was just putting away the figures after the conclusion of the Battle of the Farm and couldn’t resist putting all the personality figures together before they went back into the display cabinet.

One of the things I have always liked about the Hinton Hunt Figures range is the large number of personality figures produced – more than any other manufacturer even to this day. I don’t have all of them but I do have quite a few painted up and probably the same again waiting in the wings. I make use of them in my games by assigning each unit a personality figure as a Colonel that adds a bit of dash and colour to proceedings.

The Battle of the Farm is over but you’ll have to wait a bit longer to see the result.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

The Battle of The Farm – Part Two

While the cavalry melee developed on his left the Duke of Wellington was urging his Allies to advance on the opposite flank. General Mack hesitated slightly as he tried to make sense of his map but eventually he led the Splendid Splenys forward with the Russians moving on his right and beyond them Marshal Vorwarts with the Prussian Landwehr.

The Allied columns move forward

The Emperor saw the danger to his left flank and ordered one of his reserve Battalions of Swedes over to support the 45th Ligne.

Napoleon at his HQ behind the Farm orders up some reserves

All the time the French skirmishers were causing considerable annoyance to the Allies even though the Austrian Jagers were trying hard to contain them.

Elite French Voltigeurs from the 10th Legere firing from the vegetable garden

Goaded into action, one company of Jagers closed to contact with the enemy skirmishers and engaged in a fierce hand-to-hand combat amongst the cabbages. Sadly for the Allies they were repulsed.

Rule – Skirmishers: Skirmishers may melee with other skirmishers – pair off and roll one die each, highest wins (+1 for elites).

Tough fighting in the cabbage patch

With the advance from his right under way the Duke now ordered forward the Nassauers and the Naval Brigade in line formation. They immediately came under heavy fire from the Grenadiers in the Farm and casualties started to mount.

The infantry will advance…

To be continued.

Monday 5 September 2011

The Battle of The Farm – Part One

It was clear to the Duke of Wellington that a battle was on the cards after the recent clash during his reconnaissance and with news that the Austrians and Russians would be joining him he decided to seize the initiative and take the fight to the French. His aim was to smash the smaller French force but to do this he knew his men must assault and take the Farm at the centre of the enemy line.

A general view of the battlefield

New Rule – Buildings: Buildings can either be placed on the table for purely aesthetic reasons (and have no impact on the game) or may be designated as a strong-point. A strong-point may be occupied by just one infantry unit at a time. Infantry in a strong-point may fire all their muskets from any side of the building during a turn or split their fire from different sides.

The French Grenadier Battalion was tasked with defending the Farm

The Emperor placed the elite converged Grenadier Battalion in the Farm with the 45th Ligne covering their left and the 4th Swiss their right. In reserve were two Battalions of Swedes (batting today for the French but only as 3rd rate line troops). The entire French Cavalry force of one Light and one Heavy Brigade were massed on the right flank supported by the Guard Horse Artillery.

Napoleon massed his cavalry on his right flank

The battle began with a largely ineffectual artillery exchange although an early shot from the Prussian Field Artillery knocked out two Grenadiers and poor old Marshal Bernadotte who was leading them. These two hits forced a die roll to see if the Farm would catch fire but luckily for the French the roll was a 3.

Rule - Fires: Buildings taking 2 or more hits from artillery may ignite. Stone – 5,6. Wood – 4,5,6. They burn for 3 turns. At the start of move 3 any remaining occupants are removed as casualties. By the fourth turn nothing remains of a wooden building. A stone building will leave soft cover ruins and can be re-occupied on turn five.

Perceiving a weakness on the Allied left flank, Napoleon sent his cavalry forward at the charge. Stapleton Cotton ordered his Hussar Brigade to counter charge but they failed their morale check and instead met the enemy Heavy Cavalry at a standstill with predictably nasty results.

The French Heavy Cavalry charge Stapleton Cotton’s Hussars

Mercer’s Horse Artillery got off one round of canister at the approaching French Light Cavalry but they kept their nerve and the gunners broke and ran. The French cavalry followed them all the way to the table edge.

New Rule – Pursuit: Immediately after a melee in which an enemy unit retreats or routs the victor’s roll 1 die. On a 4,5,6 (3,4,5,6 for all British cavalry) they must take an immediate pursuit move keeping in contact with the enemy. If the routers fall back through a supporting unit the pursuers stop once contact is made with the enemy support. A pursuing unit will stop and break off when the table edge is reached.

To be continued.