Tuesday 29 July 2014

France 2014, Napoleon 1814 and Romans

I am writing this post in the beautiful little town of Thomery on the Seine, close to Fontainebleau, south east of Paris and we are four days into our holiday. In the next two weeks we are planning to enjoy the sights, the great cuisine and when I am allowed grab some time to look at things only wargamers would find interesting, and I thought I would share some of things I've been doing.

We left "Dear Old Blighty" on Saturday morning after staying in Hythe on the Friday night. That gave us a bit of time to wander around this very historic part of the south coast and I am planning some more wanderings when we get back. For the Napoleonic enthusiast the two key features that caught the eye was the Royal Military Canal, part of the defences to the coast here against a threatened invasion by Napoleon and his Grande Armee.
History of the Royal Military Canal

The Royal Military Canal at Hythe

Work was started on this defence work in 1804 and completed in 1809 together with Martello Towers along the sea front. With the expanse of Romney Marsh behind it, the feature posed a real obstacle to any landing from the sea. With Napoleon's march away from the Bologne Camp to his rendezvous with destiny at Austerlitz and Lord Nelson's victory at Trafalgar the whole work became rather obsolete, until 1940 when it was incorporated into another defence against the next threat of invasion

I mentioned two key features with the second being the famous school of British Light Infantry, Shorncliffe Camp, where Sir John Moore created the Light Brigade and developed the tactics that created one of the finest divisions in the British Army of the Peninsular War. Unfortunately time did not permit a visit so I am hoping to get a look on my return.
Shorncliffe Camp

When we left on the Channel Tunnel it was to the sound of a Spitfire doing barrel roles over the Channel as part of local celebrations for the Battle of Britain. The sound of the Merlin engine is like no other and it was a beautiful send off.

After a four hour drive from Calais we arrived at our new home for the next two weeks here in Thomery and we plan to visit historic sites nearby in that time together with a wedding anniversary trip to Paris.

I have put a link below about Thomery and the vine walls described. Interestingly the very old house where we are staying has these walls in the back garden.

Interesting stuff about Thomery

Thomery is minutes away from the palace at Fontainebleau and is right on the edge of the campaign area for Napoleon's 1814 defence of Paris. With the 200th anniversary of these events I couldn't miss the opportunity of visiting some of the key places in the campaign and will post pictures as I get the chance.

In the last two days I have visited the neighbouring town of Moret sur Loing where Napoleon stayed on his triumphal return from Elba in March 1815.

The Emperors lodgings in March 1815 in Moret sur Loing

Stood in the town square looking at this building, I couldn't help thinking of the classic movie "Waterloo" with Rod Steiger as Napoleon greeting the crowds from his lodgings on his return to Paris.

Next place of interest was Nogent sur Seine which became the centre of attention in February 1814 when, after Napoleon had garrisoned the town, coalition troops attacked it against heroic resistance from soldiers and civilians until the town finally fell. The French pulled out blowing the St Nicholas bridge behind them and the town was sacked by the allies. The Emperor had his HQ in Nogent on two occasions.

The Emperors HQ on two occasions in February 1814 in Nogent sur Seine

After leaving Nogent we followed the course of the Seine back towards Thomery, coming to one of the most evocative landmarks of the 1814 campaign and suitably enshrined with a mounted statue of Emperor Napoleon, namely the bridge at Montreau-Fault-Yonne, where the Rivers Yonne and Seine meet with two bridges spanning them which became the scene of one of Napoleon's greatest victories of the 1814 campaign.

La Battaille de Montereau by John Charles Langlois

The bridge over the Yonne with the church captured in Langlois picture in the background

Carolyn on the Seine bridge where the exploits of the French 3rd Hussars are suitably recorded

The statue was created by the son of General Pajol the famous cavalry commander

Personally leading his guns forward to direct their fire upon the retreating columns of the enemy, Napoleon
himself came under counter fire, prompting the gunners to remonstrate for exposing himself too far forward. "Fear not", Napoleon calmly replied, "the ball that is to kill me has not yet been cast".

As well as getting out and about I have had a chance to start things rolling with the new Ancients project and, bringing my "Warlords Games Roman Starter Army box" with me, have started to put the units together. I am really enjoying the creative process of putting these figures together and am planning a little project around this new venture, but it will have to be a secret for now!!


Praetorian Guard


Veteran Legionaries
I hope you have enjoyed my holiday post from France and I will post a further update later, continuing the theme. Until then au revoir mes amis.

Monday 21 July 2014

Kingdom of Holland, 1st Battalion 2nd Infantry Regiment

2nd [German] Infantry Division 
GdD Jean-Francois, Baron Leval,

OB Heinrich, Freiherr von Porbeck,
Baden Infantry Regiment Gross-Herzog Nr. 4: OB Heinrich, Freiherr von Porbeck, 2 battalions
Nassau Infantry Regiment Nr. 2: OB August von Kruse, 1st Battalion
Nassau Infantry Regiment Nr. 2: OB August von Kruse. 2nd Battalion
Baden Foot Battery: 2 – 7pdr howitzers, MAJ Franz-Friedrich-Christian von Steinmetz

GM David-Hendrik Chasse,
Composite Dutch Infantry Regiment: OB Baron de Grave, 1/2nd Infantry Regiment
Composite Dutch Infantry Regiment: OB Baron de Grave, 2/4th  Infantry Regiment
Dutch Horse Artillery Battery Nr. 3: 6 guns, HPT Hendrik-Rudolph Trip

Hessen-Darmstadt Foot Batterie: 4 – 6pdrs, LT Ludwig Venator

The Dutch infantry contingent in the German Division was a composite regiment with a battalion each from the 2nd and 4th Regiments (Some references say the 2nd and 3rd, but I've gone with Boisselier above and Burnham, http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/organization/c_baden.html).

There are not many options around in 18mm for the Dutch contingent in Spain and so I have, as with the other units shown so far, used the "Warmodelling" figures. The figures themselves are ok but are probably my least favourite of their current range. The fusiliers only come in two poses and are not the best castings, the grenadiers are only in one pose and are ok, but the voltigeurs are the most frustrating only shown in an advancing pose, again only one option. Sadly none of the options provide a campaign look as with the Germans. I would have really liked a figure with loose fitting baggy trousers to replicate the Spanish and captured cloth items that would have soon replaced the uniform leggings of the standard uniform.

I should say that the information on the Dutch at this time is very limited and often contradictory and the decision to produce a certain look will probably come down to the individual, based on the reference they know and/or prefer, based on corroboration from other sources. I have used several references in the painting of the battalion with this thought process.

One very interesting source looking at Dutch troops in the field from this period is
One reference insists the the Dutch voltigeurs copied French practice in having their collars faced yellow, and don't get me started on plumes!

So how to make the best of what we have. First up was a mounted Colonel to represent Baron de Grave. This chap was a French colonel with his plume removed and a piece of brass rod put on the side of the shako with modelling putty shaped to produce a new plume.

Next up were the voltiguers, both skirmishing and in the unit. As all the other figures were in march pose with sloped arms I decided to remodel some French voltigeurs with side plumes. With the skirmish elements I kept two of the advancing poses and put head transplants on two skrmishing French voltigeurs.

My final adaption was to use an oversize Colour from Maverick Models. The Dutch colours were a copy of the French 1804 standard and should be smaller, but given the Dutch were not using Eagles at this time I decided to give them oversize colours to help them have a bit more on table presence when on with the German battalions. You can call it artistic licence and I'm the artist and I'm happy.

All in all I'm quite pleased with the look achieved but would really like to see new options in 18mm to do the Dutch in Spain, but until then these will be my chaps for Talavera.

I am now getting ready for a two week holiday in France, so the German Division will go on hold until I am back, but I do aim to post some holiday stuff as I am close to Paris and the scene of Napoleon's 1814 campaign. Once back I'll be getting on with the 4th Dutch and some Romans!

Saturday 19 July 2014

Attack 2014 - Devizes

Fun and games at Attack 2014
I had a very nice day today making the two and a half hour drive up to Devizes in Wiltshire to attend Attack 2014. I also had the company of my old friend and fellow longstanding DWG member Vince which made the journey up and back very pleasant.

I haven't been to Attack for several years now and the last time was when it was held in the Corn Exchange so those that know the show will have an idea how long ago that was. I always remember it as a friendly local show with good games and well attended by traders and I was certainly pleased to be back for this year.

The weather in the UK for the last few days has been very hot and sultry with heavy storms of thunder and lightening and today was a real corker as the sky grew ever greyer and lowering as we parked the car. Once we were in the building and wondering round the heavens let rip with a massive downpour with the sky lit up with bolts and thunder like a rolling barrage. The lights were soon flickering on and off and then the fire alarm kicked in. The British spirit rose to the challenge and the show carried on through the rain stopping and the fire alarm being switched off.

One of my goals for today was to add to my ever growing Romano/Dacian collection and I was able to pick up a couple of Cataphract boxes, an Auxiliary Infantry unit and a Dacian Scorpio.

In addition I was keen to look at anything associated with my new collection and came across this very nice display game depicting Romans and Germans battling in the snow using a new rule set "Romavictrix", which I bought a pre-publication copy of to try out as another of my possible rule sets

After spending some time getting an overview of Romavictrix it was off round the show to meet up with friends and spend some time chatting to Greg at the Agema stand who is the proud owner of a great new business producing an exquisite range of 28mm Republican Romans soon to be joined by a corresponding Punic range.

I have watched the roll out of these figures and read a few reviews, but there is nothing like seeing the range for yourself and talking to the guy that produces them. The Punic Wars has always held a fascination for me and this new range of plastics and metals really have me working on future plans for a new collection. Greg showed me some of the metal personality figures designed to mix in with the plastic options together with some of the new allied trirari, sculpted, suitably leaning on their spears and shields looking rather bored, brilliant!

Greg at the Agema Miniatures stand

The Republican Romans looked really good
I think you'll agree this new range looks very nice and like Arnold said "I will be back".

Skirmish types
One final meeting of the day was with the guys running a lovely Wings of War game with a fantastic collection of WWI aircraft done out in squadron colours with a Zepplin and bombers on display. I haven't played Wings of War but I think I might have to give it a go after seeing the display put on by the Wings of Glory Aerodrome guys. Check out the forum for more information.
Wings of War Forum

Next up the 2nd Dutch Infantry Regiment, the next unit in the German Division.

Thursday 17 July 2014

Oxford - The Ashmolean Museum

I have been away this week on a business conference in Oxford, but managed to get in a visit to the Ashmolean Museum during some free time.

The Ashmolean, the first British public museum founded in 1683, houses an interesting collection of artifacts and art. I was naturally attracted to specific military items covering the Roman period and with a limited amount of time to spend focused my visit in those galleries.

These are some of the pictures I took during my visit and I have added a few links that will tell you more about some of the pieces.

Celtic helmet

The Wittenham Sword
 The Wittenham sword

Torcs made from gold, electrum (gold and silver) and bronze

The classic symbol of wealth and status for the Celts, particularly in Ancient Briton was the torc and the Ashmolean has examples from Spain England and Germany.

Celtic horns

The classic "Montefortino"helmet worn by early republican Roman troops
Roman Helmet Types

Collection of Roman lead sling bullets

The Roman lead bullets were interesting, with some inscribed from Perugia, central Italy, where Octavian successfully besieged Mark Anthony in 40 BC. One inscription referred to Atidius Primipilus (First Centurion) of the the VIth Legion.

Very often the "business end" of the Roman army

Discharge Certificate

The picture above shows the discharge certificate for Gemellus, a cavalry officer serving in Britain under Fabius Sabinus. Gamellus qualified for Roman citizenship after 25 years of service and his discharge was dated 17th July AD122. The original is in the British museum.

Emperor Augustus

When this statue of Augustus was discovered in 1863, the extensive remains of the statue's colouring were still visible. The picture below shows the reconstruction with those original pigments applied. The skin and the armour were left uncoloured as in the original. These findings are giving us a whole new appreciation of what Roman statues and buildings may have looked like rather than the plain white marble we are familiar with today.

Emperor Trajan

As I am about to commence my own collection for Trajan's war in Dacia, I couldn't not have a picture of the great man. You can clearly see where Vladimir Putin got the idea from, although I have an idea whose legacy will be remembered the longest.

Cromwell's death mask

Oxford played a very prominent role in the English Civil War and was one of the few cities to open their gates to King Charles, when many others were closed to him. I was therefore very interested to see this copy of the death mask of Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector during the brief period when England was a republic. I had never seen an image of Cromwell before, other than historic artwork, and it was very moving to see this image alongside the mace and city regalia housed in Oxford town hall.

I have often thought that if Cromwell had been a Washington then perhaps England would have remained a republic and changed the course of history entirely. In fact the later American Revolution may never have happened. Now there's a subject for debate!