Sunday, 21 August 2016

Casualty Markers

Following last month's wargame I left with quite a few projects in mind; viewing friend's collections and discussing the hobby brought aspects to my attention that I had either not thought of at all or shelved for whatever reason so this is the first of those projects.

To begin I ordered some circular dial markers from Warbases and then set about kit bashing, sculpting and painting the following grim vignettes.

The first casualty to get the treatment was a Tudor Billman with a crossbow bolt lodged in his stomach.

The body, head and one arm are all from the Perry Ansar plastics box, the heads are particularly expressive and lend themselves quite well to the addition of a cap and hair. Some of the torsos feature wooden type necklaces which I've found when painted look rather convincingly like the neck of a gathered shirt. Furthermore, the bare feet are easy to add sculpted bear paw shoes typical of the early renaissance and the legs can easily be painted as hose / tights. All of the figures in the box also wear some sort of skirt which can be easily filed down and sculpted upon, it really takes a few stages off the base coat sculpting process that I have adopted.

This figure was in a running pose so I cut and re-positioned the legs then filed one side so it sat flat on the base. I then sculpted the base coat, added the arms and head then sculpted the hair and cap. The arm holding the bolt is from a WW2 plastic of which I've no idea where it came from or how I got it but needless to say it's an arm with a hand in the right position.

I'm really pleased with this one, everything came together well for a good composition and fun to paint, the face was just right for a pained expression.

This figure had a similar build to the first, the legs being cut and re-positioned before sculpting of the coat. The arms are from the Perry WOTR & Mercenaries boxed set. I cut a deep laceration across the face of the figure and wanted to try and express the dying moments; the base coat has been opened to get some air, he's writhing in pain pushing his shoe off and holding on to a final comfort of his rosary beads as he prepares for the end.

I painted the base coat in halved livery split by a white cross of St. Denis. Red and Yellow was the livery of Louis XII and, by coincidence two of the commanders of the Therouanne garrison as well as the city arms of Therouanne - future French infantry units are going to look rather uniform !

In the interest of balance I then set about creating another Tudor casualty, a Longbowman with a nasty open fracture on his foot, his sword broken he pleads with his assailant or perhaps a friend to come to his aid;

I used the same build process as earlier described, the body, arms and head with an expressive face are from the Ansar set, the pouch is from a Games Workshop set of Empire bowmen, quite useful things. I achieved the fracture by bending the foot to partial breaking point.

I spent quite a bit of time getting the painting right on this figure, the exposed bone took a while to get right and I thought I'd add a Tudor rose as some extra detail on the Cross of St. George on his chest. I decided against the arrows in the end as I felt they didn't really contribute much to the composition.

I then turned my attention back to the French, this time I used an Ansar figure which when viewed from the rear and sides did not require any work to make a base coat, the only sculpting therefore being the coat sleeves, hat and hair.

For this scene I positioned the arms and head to depict the dying moments of reaching for a lost objective / friend / weapon. The legs and arms are from the Foot Knights box, the legs not being from the same figure took a while to get right, the first two attempts were rather short looking chaps. The figure had a sash to which I added some GS. In comparison to the others, a fairly straightforward build. 

I was quite happy with the result though the combination of palette and large hat does add an air of a musketeer type appearance to this figure.

For the final vignette I wanted to try and create something a bit more intricate, inspiration came from a scene in the Pavia tapestry;

This was quite a difficult build, I had to make a few compromises but the overall feel is the same (I hope);

The Tudor assailant in base coat was constructed in the same manner as those previous, I tried numerous times to get the figure to kneel on the neck of his victim but just couldn't get it so I settled for kneeling on the side and holding the victim's head. One arm is from the Foot Knight set and the other from the command sprue in the Mercenaries set to which I only realised when painting does not have a gauntlet, so I painted a nice silver hand instead !

In using armoured arms I thought this gave the feel of a more senior yeoman with a bit of wealth so I thought I'd attempt a more contemporary bellows visor which turned out OK, I'll certainly give it further attempts for future units.

The victim's body was one of the figures in the WOTR set, the hands were quite hard to get right. Also given that the leaning figure obscures the victim I regretted picking a figure with a Brigandine as some fairly fiddly painting ensued.

Overall the completed scene is pretty good and useful to use as a casualty marker behind a French or Tudor unit.

So there we have it, inspiration projects part one, a nice set of casualty markers.

There certainly will be more of these, I really enjoyed thinking the scenes up and putting them together, I'll have to turn my attention to some cavalry at some point though I may have to ask Warbases if they can do some slightly larger markers.

The next inspiration project is already underway.

Bye for now


Monday, 15 August 2016

French light artillery & crew

This project has been a slow burner as I began work on the crew some time ago, I abandoned the unit for a while as I wasn't sure how best to convert the master gunner but inspiration has since provided the result.

Here are the conversions bar one member who I neglected to photograph prior to basing;

Left to right, the chap with the breech was perhaps the simplest conversion; I added green stuff to his arms to give more voluminous sleeves typical of the early 1500's and did a head swap from a Wargames Foundry Landsknecht (also Perry sculpted), he wears the red & yellow livery of Louis XII.

The master gunner wears a woollen base coat in national colours, the base coat was added after the figure was prepared; I filed away about 1-2mm off the torso and created a GS fill between the legs, allowed it to dry and then sculpted the coat on top. The filing / cutting in the gap between the arms and body was quite fiddly but I think it's turned out OK.

After this photograph was taken I added a few more things to the painting. Master gunners were much in demand and were spread throughout the French armies of the period, serving wherever they were sent, I thought I'd add a red and yellow Bishop's mitre livery badge of the city of Therouanne to demonstrate his allegiance to his current role.

To further mark him as a master gunner with the experience of a long siege I painted small powder burns and marks on the front of his base coat, hand and sleeve, a little touch but it adds to the character.

Finally, the chap with the sponge was perhaps the most difficult sculpt, the puffed sleeves are quite hard to get right in terms of how much volume there is in the material and how much I can emphasise the fold in each pull of material. The head is a plastic Ansar head with added GS cloth hat, I've had so much use out of that box of plastics, they're a veritable hive for conversion and head swaps in particular, very expressive.

I also built up the breastplate a bit and altered it to look like a Maximilian style breast plate in the latest fashion.

In contrast to the other light culverin I painted the wood and iron work of the gun in red. There are various examples of gun frames whether natural or painted in different colours. German pieces for example tended to be black with red ironwork, the latter a protective layer to prevent rust as is shown here.

This now concludes my work on the conversion of both of the Perry light guns, here they are in defensive position on the outskirts of a ruined village - the fencing and gabions are from Renedra with a few bits added and the ruined building is from 4ground - they do a nice version of this with red daub which I must get some day.

Here they are alongside a larger gun on a section of Therouanne's walls;

I think I'll eventually get the bombard and convert the crew in this manner to add to my Tudors, pieces of that nature though dated were still being put to use well into the 1520's. This work has also served to remind me that my Tudors are bereft of artillery at present so I shall get to that too.

Bye for now


Monday, 1 August 2016

Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset unit complete

In the production of the latest unit for my armies of 1513 I have returned to the Tudors. This came about primarily from a long background project of attempting to sculpt a convincing base coat which finally came to fruition.

Armed with my new skill it seemed fitting to create a unit of Tudor infantry. The whole composition and nucleus from the army's conception had been to replicate the forces that Henry took with him to France and whilst I could do this fairly painstakingly with commanders, heraldry, flags and troop proportions the main signature element of the period had eluded me and this was a massive compromise.

I pushed on regardless and feel I still managed to get a feel of the period in other ways but this aspect  slowly burned away in the background, I knew I had to do it somehow and I guess that's what prompted me to have a go at sculpting, that and a lot of encouragement.

Once I was satisfied with the look I had created I began to slowly turn out Tudor billmen and accompanying command for a new unit;

This was the first figure that I was satisfied with, the eureka moment if you like. The aspect I had previously had the most difficulty with was the folds in the skirt and with this effort I was finally happy that I had achieved a convincing look. The sleeves were occasionally difficult too as I kept sculpting too many folds in them whereas they're actually fairly stiff things. 

In sculpting these I began with the idea of carrying on using the existing Tudor heads from Perry miniatures but I wanted some greater variety so I did some head-swaps from the old Foundry Renaissance range (also Perry sculpted) as they fitted quite well as in the examples above and below.

The next figure to get the treatment was that of the commander. The head was from a Foundry Gendarme and the body was sculpted on to that of one of the Perry WOTR foot knights. An aspect of this sculpt is that there are more folds, those with wealth in this period demonstrated this factor in many ways, one of which was to wear rich fabric and a lot of it which led to skirts / base coats with more folds than the poorer elements of society. I also sculpted a slashed breast as was the fashion.

Whilst the Landsknecht heads gave some variety they didn't quite look right and the other obvious issue was that I would soon leave me with quite a lot of headless Landsknechts so I explored some alternatives. To really complete the Tudor image I wanted sombre cloth caps, the bobbed type haircut typical of the period and some more expressive faces. In discussion over a pint with Simon Chick and looking through his lead/plastic mountain the solution for this came from an unlikely source;

The heads in this set are very expressive and with a bit of work - generally removing existing hair or cap then adding sculpted hair and a new cap they work really well. I've also found most of the arms to be useful and more recently the bodies are quite useful for casualties (more on that soon).

 Below is another billman in an attacking pose with the Ansar / cloth cap and hair sculpt treatment;

Staying with the Ansar heads there's one in the sprue with a turban and a particularly expressive face which I didn't want to do that much to.

The European courts all featured Moors from North Africa as servants and musicians to lesser and greater extents. Henry's court at this time had quite a few; the servants in Catherine of Aragon's entourage included Moors, a Moorish trumpeter John Blanke can be seen in the Westminster Tournament roll and James IV at this time is recorded as having a troop of Moorish drummers.

The Maarquess of Dorset campaigned in Spain so I made the leap that he too may have added to his entourage. That's my excuse anyway for a rather spectacular standard bearer;

To demonstrate a slightly more refined appearance I painted the turban in a rich gold, black and red pattern and sculpted slashed and puffed sleeves on the undergarment, these were then painted in Dorset's livery of Murrey and White.

The banner is the heraldry of Dorset though in hindsight I think it may include elements added after 1513 - I don't think there are many pedants out there who may notice. It's an intricate multi quartered design typical of the din of the ashes of the Wars of the Roses where families expressed their ever changing allegiances and standing in this manner.

I have a drawing of the Marquess' swallow tailed standard that I knew was correct for this campaign and for that matter an earlier expedition to Guyenne of 1512; ' The Lord Marquys Dorset, parted white and murrey with a like fringe, a unicorn of ermine rayonee alternately of silver and gold sprinkled with sprigs of pinks'

So why not have 2 banner bearers. For this figure I used a foot knight body and arms and added a sculpted base coat with one of the standard Tudor heads.

The banner was rather intricate to paint but no less rewarding. I had a discussion on LAF as to what colour Murrey was with the consensus being red wine which works for me. The colour on the Moor's liveried clothing is slightly darker but it all adds to variety.

I was then at the point of having a reasonable sized unit which I unveiled recently at a refight of the Battle of the Spurs game (see previous post), here are some more detailed photographs;

I wanted to make this unit stand out as a celebration of the hard work that had gone into it so I chose a large 120 x 60 mm base to give a platform for a mini diorama and the maximum potential to show each figure off.

Whilst the new look is spot on for the period I'm not overly keen on sculpting an entire replacement army for my existing Tudor forces so I opted to integrate and re-base with the figures I had with around 60-70% in base coats to those lesser equipped.

I currently have a mix of basing styles in my forces; 60x30 and 60x60mm bases, the smaller of which (above) I've found to be a bit too small with little opportunity for any sort of scene or cohesion. Also, some of the very oldest of figures in the army are on these bases so I used this as an opportunity to take these bases out of the army, retain the figures I wanted to keep and put aside those I didn't. So this unit has replaced 4 of these smaller bases, re-using a few figures in the process.

I've had a few thoughts about the way forward.

I think it's best to continue this approach of sculpting new additions whilst retaining some figures not similarly attired, this gives variety and I think also reflects the pockets of the commanders of each retinue. Some brought thousands to Henry's call whereas some only a handful.

I've opted to have a few large 120x60mm bases for more senior commanders and a majority 60x60mm bases for lesser commanders complemented by further 60x60mm bases without flags.

Here's the new and old

I'm considering keeping a handful of 60x60mm bases in present form to represent Northern levy's or militia, I'm not sure, perhaps I may just have a lesser proportion of base coated chaps among them - your thoughts are welcome.

Note some rather improved photography too - new camera and this time I've even read the manual.

Now for some biography, Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset, 1477-1530

In 1507 Dorset fell foul of Henry VII's suspicions and was interred in the Tower and then Calais for 'as longe as Kynge Henry VII lyved, and shulde have bene put to deathe, yf he had lyved longer' this was pardoned at Henry VIII's ascension following which he soon took the king's favour, due in no small part to his prowess at jousting.

In May 1512 perhaps eager to please Henry despatched an expedition of 5000 infantry for the reconquest of Guienne, in conjunction with his Father in Law Ferdinand of Castile. Dorset was chosen to command and received his commission as lieutenant-general. Ferdinand acted only for his own advantage, and despite the protests of Dorset kept making excuses for delay, while all the time he was securing for himself the kingdom of Navarre.

The English troops were kept idle until a severe pestilence in the camp utterly demoralised them, and taking matters into their own hands they insisted on returning home.

An account describes that 'The Englishmen did eat of the garlick with all meats and drank hot wines in the hot weather and did eat all of the hot fruits that they could get which caused their blood so to boil in their bellies that they fell sick three thousand of the flux and thereof died eighteen hundred men.'

When this news reached Henry he wrote in anger to Ferdinand to stop them by force if necessary; but his orders were too late, and the English army returned home without having effected anything, landing at Plymouth in November.

Ferdinand wrote to his ambassadors in England to tell the king that Dorset was doubtless a very distinguished nobleman, but was entirely to blame for the failure of the expedition. Although Ferdinand himself had shown bad faith, his censure was in the main just, for Dorset seems to have displayed none of the qualities of a general; it is, however, fair to remember that he suffered much from sickness. At first it was contemplated bringing him and his associates, who put the blame on their chief, to trial, but it was impossible to discriminate, and eventually, at the request of the council, the matter was hushed up.

Dorset answered the call for the French campaign of 1513 with a retinue of just over 300 men, joining the King in the middleward. The number is above the 200 odd average so not altogether un-modest. Unfortunately nothing survives of his achievements in the campaign.

In the years to follow Dorset's achievements in the tourney are noted as is the King's favour. In 1523 he took part raids on the Scottish border to keep order whilst Suffolk was campaigning in France.

Overall he was a brave soldier, the 1512 campaign is often referred as a fiasco and indicative of a failing Tudor army but I think this is only the case as it's an early expedition after a relative period of military inactivity. I would agree however that Dorset seems to have owed his position chiefly to the favour of the king though a contemporary source recounts that he was esteemed, the first general of those times for embattling an army. The same authority continues that his speech was soldierlike, plain, short, smart, and material.

I've been interested in Dorset since beginning the collection and I'm glad to have him join the ranks and to represent a new chapter in my Tudor army.

I think that's enough rambling for the moment !

Bye for now


Monday, 25 July 2016

The Battle of the Spurs, sculpting & terrain bumper bonanza !

In the last week or so I've had three events worthy of posting about, rather than doing them individually I thought it best to simply do a bumper summer blog posting.

Last year I commissioned David Marshall of TM Terrain to add to my existing terrain representation of the South West side of the walls of Therouanne. The nucleus of this commission was that this side faces the villages of Bomy and Guinegatte (Enguinegatte), the ground between which saw the Battle of the Spurs on the 16 August 1513, one of the key notable points of Henry's French campaign of that year, you can see a summary of the historical battle in an earlier blog post here.

Following the addition of the real estate the natural progression was some bespoke terrain to hold the walls; a road runs alongside with open terrain to the left and deep trenches skirt the walls, an eyewitness account of a Welsh soldier testified that these trenches were so deep that men were afraid to walk near the edge in case they fell in and their banks were set with impenetrable hedges, David's interpretation of this next chapter in the commission partnership can be seen in these photographs taken in his workshop;

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With a reasonable section of walls and accompanying terrain the Army Royal venture had reached a notable chapter in its 8 year history, a refight of the Battle of The Spurs seemed a fitting way to mark the occasion.

To help realise this notion Michael Perry and Simon Chick offered their assistance; Michael had the space, additional figures and considerably more terrain to fully represent the action whilst Simon stepped in to offer troops from his Burgundian armies to bolster my meagre French forces. The stage was set for a day of gaming and socialising.

Michael had done his homework in researching the action and set up the field of battle in advance, with his permission I have saved myself some writing and shall handover to his account and expert photography of the day's action;

The Battle of the Spurs (or Guinegatte) 1513

The Battle of the Spurs, otherwise known as Guinegatte was the subject of the game this weekend. Simon Chick with his large and impressive Burgundian Army and Stuart Mulligan with his equally stunning Henrician force were up for the game fest. We thought that the Burgundians would suffice for the French army with a few additional figures from Stuart and Michael. David Marshall of TM Terrain also joined us to see the walls of Therouanne, that he'd built for Stuart, in situ on the table. This is a beautiful piece of work as you can see by the photos. Dave Andrews, who's responsible for a large part of the terrain squares, was also here along with Aly Morrison and Rick Priestly, who remembered most of the rules. Michael took the photos unless otherwise stated.

Simon and Stuart have been working on their respective armies for years, converting many of the figures you see with 'Green stuff'. In fact this was the culmination of eight years work for Stuart, always aiming to recreate Henry VIII's siege of Therouanne and the associated Battle of the Spurs. Although, he now needs to produce the whole French army !

In 1513 Henry VIII and Maximilian I besieged the town of Therouanne in Artois. The French were determined to break the siege and a second attempt (the first being successful) of resupplying the town with bacon and gunpowder carried by Stradiots on their saddles was made on 16th August. Accompanying the Albanian cavalry were French cavalry with the intention of distracting the besiegers while the supplies were rushed around the flanks. Infantry were not deemed to be needed and were left 12 miles to the south. However, the French were surprised when cresting the ridge at the village of Bomy to find the English arrayed to meet them. English and allied cavalry and mounted archers went out to greet them. Henry, apparently, wanted to join in but was advised to stay back with the infantry and so kind of missing his one and only battle. The French cavalry waited a little too long and were caught changing formation and falling back. This ended in a rout for the French.

Michael included French infantry in the game set up so as to make a potentially more interesting punch up. Also he added a small French garrison that could attempt to sally out of Therouanne and attack the guns. We used 'Hail Caesar' with the troop stats shown in the previous battle report. For the French, Simon commanded the large infantry ward and the small reserve of cavalry, Aly took the large division cavalry, Alan the small infantry ward and medium sized division of cavalry and Michael the medium ward on infantry. For the English it was more of a committee approach with Rick generally ordering the the two divisions of cavalry and Stuart, David and Dave commanding the three infantry wards, one of which were Landsknechts and two of English troops. English and allied troops were placed first in behind the line indicated on the photo (below) and the French second.

The French won the toss and moved first. Aly went off at full steam, sending his huge amount of cavalry down his left flank to confront the English horse. If only he had some support, Alan's cavalry and infantry as well as Michael's were very tardy although Simon's ward in the centre made a slightly better show.

In response Rick arranged his first cavalry division in neat lines but held fast wait for his second division to enter the field, but didn't.

The Landsknechts,in the centre made a move to their right to try and worry the on coming cavalry the other English ward had some trouble moving and only advanced slowly. The third ward failed to enter the table.

Aly then sent out a small unit of skirmishing mounted crossbow to goad the opposing horse, scoring a 6 and forcing a morale test that made one cavalry unit flinch and fall back. He then proceeded to do the same in the next three turns! His dice rolling was certainly an improvement on the previous game.

Simon was making good progress in the centre but his right flank was only moving like a snail. Alan managed to bring up his horse in support of Aly and then fell back a little as the Landsknechts looked as if they attack.

The English managed to get their reserve cavalry and infantry on to the field, the cavalry supporting their comrades and the infantry moving up through Guinegatte.

Gradually, the two lines closed along the front and fire was exchanged while Aly made his first cavalry charge against a unit of Border horse, wiping them out and going into the next unit of horse.

Charging and counter charging by Rick's horse carried on for the next few turns but with the English horse only winning one of the combats. The Landsknechts did charge in against Alan's horse but unluckily threw bad dice and recoiled.

Meanwhile, the garrison had sallied out and made very slow progress across no man's land to attack one of two guns that were capable on firing on them. They managed to reach the gun despite being heavily mauled but came off worse in the fight and fell back.

The game was up, no wards or divisions were actually broken but both English cavalry formations were so close with the French still having one in reserve and the infantry in the centre would then be out flanked and so it was judged a French victory! So, it was a complete reverse to the original battle, but the French did have infantry this time.

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I was keen to create a unique unit for the game and considered the date to be a fitting opportunity to present my latest sculpting and painting with this unit of Tudor bill under the command of the Marquis of Dorset;

Individual studies

I shall draw to a close at this juncture as I'd like to write some biography on The Marquis of Dorset as well as outline how the unit came together and my plans for the future.

I hope you've enjoyed this extended post.

Bye for now