Tuesday, 28 May 2019

French franc archer infantry

My focus has returned to my French army of 1513 with the creation of this unit of franc archers with polearms. They're all converted from a mix of Perry and Steel Fist miniatures along with a few extra bits of kit added from the plastic Warlord Landsknechts.

Franc archer infantry leave for the frontier

Franc archers, meaning free archers (in that their service exempted them from land tax) were locally raised territorial troops with an average age of around 32, they were something of a 'home guard' force.

They were originally created in 1448 as a standing force of regular infantry and the last notable occasion where they fought in any great number was at the Battle of Guinegate (a few miles from Therouanne) in 1479, after which a period of relative decline began. Sources get confusing at this point as they begin to get reorganised, suppressed and re-raised. To bring us up to date, after this relative hiatus 22000 were raised for frontier defence in May 1513, these were organised in 44 ensigns of 500 men each and stayed in being for 18 months. I'm convinced that the French defenders of Therouanne and some of the relief army must have been part of this decree.

Despite the name the armament of the franc archer in the early sixteenth century was very much reflective of the early renaissance; whereas previously they had been required to serve with brigandine, sallet,and predominantly bow and crossbow (though pike had been tried on the Swiss model in the late 1470's / 1480's) a decree of January 1522 required a levy of 24000 francs archers for campaigns in Italy, Guyenne and Picardy (the latter for a second invasion by Henry) to be equipped with , doublets, feathers, leather cape, shoes, corselets, mail gorgets, arm pieces, mail skirts and helmets. 2/3 were armed with pike and the rest were halberdiers, crossbowmen and arquebusiers. All were to serve in hoquetons (sleeveless coats) in the liveries of their captains and or towns / cities. They were paid month by month and stood down at the end of a campaign.

Franc archer halberdiers supported by crossbowmen, arquebusiers and ordonnance archers* the missile foot feature some livery coats, I think I may do the next unit all in livery coats with a captain as a nod to the above.

*confusing isn't it !ordonnance archers were the lightest combatant part of a cavalry lance, they began the 16c as mounted archers moving to lance armed medium cavalry from about 1515-25 on. If you'd like to see more of them I covered them in this blog post.

Based upon the equipment described up to 1490 and from 1522 (I have been unable to find anything for the 1513 muster) as well as descriptions of the skirmishing during the siege of Therouanne I have opted for a mid point for the French infantry in my collection to be 1/3 pike / polearms and the remainder missile armed. Here's the franc archer infantry in my army alongside some supporting field guns, some more missile foot are needed to even up the balance a bit.

It is also worth mentioning another staple of the French infantry; the adventurier. These were less disciplined, predominantly crossbow and arquebus armed infantry, the term adventurier meaning equally foot soldier and pillager.

These were more specifically raised for the Italian campaigns though Picardy was a recruiting region with recurring captains such as Bournonville, Sercus and Heilly becoming commonplace beginning a semi permanent formation soon referred to as the ‘bands of Picardy’ which would soon become known as the 'old bands of Picardy' during the reign of Francis I.

Various wargaming army lists seem to confuse the franc archer and adventurier both in terms of armament and ability; in the case of the former they tend to be deemed as ineffectual with their performance at Guinegate crystallising that notion; the battle was partly lost due to them turning their attention to Maximilian's baggage train but prior to this they defeated their opposite number of Burgundian and English archers, captured the Burgundian artillery and began firing into their flank with it - not bad going.

For my focus of interest the defenders of Therouanne are noted to have been tenacious, well led and determined. No doubt this has something to do with being besieged rather than any real test of open warfare but could this perhaps also reflect that Picardy was a frontier region with its franc archers having more experience than their comrades in other parts of France.

The principal inspiration for the figures in this unit came from my recent discovery of the illuminated manuscript 'Treatise on the art of war' by Berault Stuart, seigneur d'Aubigny.

Berault Stuart (note this painting is not from the book)

Berault Stuart 1452-1508 was a French soldier and later commander of the French royal bodyguard Garde Ecossaise. His military career includes leading the French mercenaries in the Lancastrian army at Bosworth and service in the early Italian wars at the battles of Fornovo and Seminara.

In 1508 he dictated his Treatise on the art of war, a brief practical discourse on warfare drawing upon contemporary works and his own military experience. In 1525 illuminated copies were created which include images of French and Swiss soldiers, here's a couple of the paintings from it;

French musicians and artillerymen are distinguishable by their coats and cloth caps

Here the French soldiers are firing the town and leading the livestock away

The main distinguishing feature of the French soldiers in this source are their cloth caps and coats of various colours and styles. This prompted me to review some more contemporary French sources for further inspiration;

From a c.1500 book of hours made for Henry VIII with paintings by a French artist. The figure wears a hocqueton - a sleeveless skirted coat. The 1522 decree required that all franc archers wear a hocqueton in the livery of their commander.

Detail from the traite d'guerre the men are wearing coats rather than hocquetons, note the difference in sleeves on each figure. It appears that these may be their own rather than livery coats as per the next example;

Detail from a tapestry depicting the 1513 siege of Dijon. In this scene Louis II de la Tremoille flanked by his personal guard wearing livery coats with his wheel badge on the breast is negotiating the surrender of the town to the Swiss. 

Detail from a series of paintings depicting Louis XII's invasion of Genoa in 1508 , the figure arming the knight wears a simple coat with puffed sleeves.

Falcon hunting scene showing various coats

With the art of war paintings as my primary source here's my interpretation in miniature;

They all wear coats of various styles, left to right the first figure wears a red and yellow short sleeved livery coat with the cross of St.Denis on the chest. This was converted from a marching Perry WOTR figure.

The second figure was also converted from a marching Perry WOTR figure in the same way but has a plain coat, slashed on the chest with puffed sleeves gathered above the elbow. Both of these were quite quick conversions. I really like the blackened sallet on this one.

For comparison here are some marching archers from the same range converted as Tudors in livery coats;

The third figure has a plain coat with voluminous sleeves slashed between elbow and wrist. This was converted from a Perry WOTR plastic figure with a metal Tudor head from the same range.

The fourth figure has sleeves puffed at the shoulder, this was also converted from a Perry plastic WOTR soldier.

The final figure has a coat with voluminous sleeves, this was converted using one of my Tudor dollies figures (available from steel fist miniatures) with the lower legs of a marching figure from the above mentioned Perry range and Tudor head.

These figures are accompanied by some soldiers in armour from the Perry Miniatures mercenaries set with minor conversions such as adding cloth caps, feathers and slashings at the knee. Here's two of them alongside a front view of 2 figures in coats one of which has a simple French field sign on the chest.

I added slashings at the knee and a bevor to the figure on the far right. If you want to try your hand at sculpting these were fairly easy additions to do. 

I wanted the armour to look a bit worn so I added a brown wash after the mid tone and highlighted the edges.

Here's the front view of the other figures in coats alongside a chap in a brigandine and puffed/slashed sleeves.

For the command group the two figures on the left are from Steel Fist Miniatures, each with converted Perry heads - the first one is a Swiss metal head which I added a wide brimmed cloth cap to and the second was made by adding a kettle helmet to one of the unarmoured heads in the mercenaries box. 

The banner is from Pete's Flags available direct from Pete via his blog

The unit commander is from the Perry mercenaries box, I also gave him a cloth cap and painted his armour with a bit more status and shine than his counterparts. The final figure has Swiss pike arms from Steel Fist Miniatures and converted chest and thigh armour. Of all the conversions I'm not 100% happy with this one as he has an odd gait but 11 out of 12 aint bad !

I took this opportunity and a rare day off to review my French infantry, first up here's a shot showing the evolution of both my sculpting and painting over the past few years. As my sculpting ability in particular got better I was more able to create figures much closer to the source material which previously seemed out of reach. 

The Picard pike on the left were the first figures I completed back in 2014 for the French army, for the most part they're a painting conversion of figures from the late 15c with some of the Perry Tudor heads and are intermingled with a few 16c figures, they look great as militia and can hold their own alongside the other later figures. If you're not keen on sculpting this would be the way to represent the French home raised infantry. Alternatively I think using some less flamboyant Swiss or Italian figures may work equally well.

In the centre are some mixed missile foot completed during 2015, a mix of figures in coats and doublets. On the right the latest additions in coats and armour. It really feels like things are coming together.

I hope you like them, I like the irregular look of the latest additions in their own coats and the difference that can be achieved from the Tudors using similar figures. To complete the French infantry I'll add some longbowmen in livery coats at some point. My army also desperately needs some commanders so there's lots of potential avenues for my current French focus to follow.

If you're interested you can get the art of war book via amazon but it's not that large and the paintings are a bit blurred. For the images search 'Berault Stuart d'Aubigny traite sur l'Art de la guerre'.

On a final note these were all painted using a magnification visor which has made a massive difference for me, they're much neater and were actually a bit quicker to paint than without it. 

Bye for now


Thursday, 28 March 2019

Building project part 2 and some other bits

I've been finishing a few ongoing little projects so I thought I'd cover them all in one post. First up is another house build / kit conversion. 

This began life as a Dutch 2 storey house from Sarissa Precision which I thought could be a good basis to convert to a simple brick building, I used this 15c French house as inspiration for the windows in particular;

Using the kit as a basic shell saves time and as I've found with previous house builds the MDF seems to take the air drying clay quite well. To begin I established which windows I wanted to keep and which I would cover. 

In doing so I then decided I'd cut out the windows which were to go so that I'd then have some spares for another build, the hole that was left was then filled in with card. The main face lift was the front which required me to remove all of the windows and add two back in a central position.

To this I then applied a layer of PVA followed by a rolled out sheet of DAS air drying clay into which I cut out holes where the windows were - just add the whole thing and feel for the windows to cut out. I did a front and side, allowed to dry then repeat.

Next was the tedious bit, scoring the brickwork. I started with the quoins on the four corners, then the windows then finally the walls. Though tedious it requires a lot of concentration so for the more complex parts I measured and drew with a pencil first.

The roof tiles (Wills rounded tile sheets HO scale) were then glued on to the existing MDF roof of the kit. I've found with this and the last kit that I converted that there's a bit of an overhang at the back which looking at the photograph now I'll have to remember to trim off if I do it again.

Finally the painting; the whole building had a ochre undercoat followed by a wash of raw umber. The white bits were a blend of ochre and white which was then treated again with a thinner raw umber wash. The whole thing was then finished with a light dry brush and highlighting.

Overall I'm quite pleased with it, the roof overhang is a bit of a distraction but it's all part of the learning process I guess.

I decided to keep the doors at the side which works quite well, it's quite a useful little multi-purpose piece. The white finished stone gives it an air of being a more well to do home or perhaps an administrative or ecclesiastical building.

The last notion gave me the impetus to paint up these two chaps from Perry Miniatures;

Next up, a couple of battered markers for Lion Rampant. I put these together for a specific scenario which requires 2 prisoners on the run but they also look great as battered markers to show the disintegration of a unit following combat.

With the exception of the purses, dagger and one of the heads they're almost complete builds from the Perry Miniatures Ansar box which I trimmed down and used as dollies;

Both figures had loincloths which were cut away and filed down ready for the skirt to be sculpted on top. The arms are bare so I sculpted a shirt on one figure and doublet on the other. The purse and knife on one is from the Warlord Landsknechts set and the other is from an old Citadel Empire kit, it's a bit on the large side but fits OK.

Here they are running away from their unit, they look great don't they !

I think I'll definitely do a few more of these as little side projects to be getting on with.

Last but by no means least is a recommendation for you. I recently treated myself to one of these;

It's a Carson Pro magnifier deluxe. click on the link to see more pictures and a video.

I've been curious to get one of them for a while and of late I've had a bit of eye strain, I wear glasses and I'm not getting any younger so I got one. At £35 it's pretty reasonable and I must say it has really revolutionised my painting. The faces on all of the figures above were painted using it. You can flip up the lenses when you're not doing fine detail work, the LED light is great and it's just made fine work far more easier, faster and neater. 

I wish I'd got one sooner. The wife and daughter think it's hilarious - which it is, especially with massive eyes on the highest magnification lens, it's worth it just for the comedy value. Anyway, if you want to hone your fine work a bit I thoroughly recommend it.

All the best


Sunday, 17 March 2019

Sir Edward Poynings

My bias to the Tudor army continues with the addition of Sir Edward Poynings and other nobles.

This was somewhat influenced by a forthcoming game with Oli which will feature action during the 1511 siege of Venlo. He took a retinue of 500 men to France in the 1513 campaign so he also fits neatly into my army.

Poynings was something of a career soldier, born in 1459 he declared for the Lancastrian cause and was implicated in an attempted rebellion under Edward IV. He fled to Brittany to join Henry VII and returned with him where he would fight at Bosworth in 1485.

In 1492 Henry VII sent soldiers under Poynings to aid Maximilian quell a rebellion as the said rebels were fitting out ships to prey on English commerce. Poynings cleared the sea of the privateers and then assisted Maximilian's forces lay siege to their stronghold at Sluys. Later that year he served in Henry's little known and short lived invasion of France following which in 1493 Henry appointed him as Governor of Calais. His next military appointment was as Lord Deputy of Ireland where Henry sent him to repel Perkin Warbeck and his Irish supporters.

He was regularly employed in military commands and diplomatic missions by Henry VII and VIII. His most important diplomatic mission alongside Sir Richard Wingfield was the successful negotiation of the Holy League alliance in 1513. He died in 1521.

He certainly led a full life and there's a few ideas there for gaming various aspects of his military career.

As I mentioned the focus for this unit was the Venlo campaign. In 1511 Henry sent 1500 archers under Poynings' command to aid Margaret of Savoy against the Duke of Guelders. The English acquitted themselves well in this venture and a grateful Margaret issued the returning soldiers with coats of red, yellow, green and white combining the Tudor livery with her own - wouldn't that be cool to represent!

Over to the figures.

I considered creating a unit of archers with Poynings at their head but my army has no shortage of those so I chose to have him alongside other Tudor knights.

As with the rest of my collection I made a conscious effort to use figures in both up to date and earlier armour as this typical composition lingered on in England for much longer than in Europe with only the richest of nobles being able to afford the latest armour from the continent. This juxtaposition represents a snapshot of knights and their equipment in the development of the early Tudor army.

I wanted to see if Poynings was accompanied by any other nobles for the Venlo expedition but I couldn't find that much so I chose the aforementioned Sir Richard Wingfield which was a real challenge for the eyes;

However for further inspiration Oli found this reference in Hall's chronicle;

[Henry VIII] 'appointed Sir Edward Poynings, knight of the garter, a valiant captain and noble warrior to be the lieutenant and conducter of the said 1500 archers which accompanied with Sir Matthew Browne, Sir John Digby, Richard Wethrill and diverse tall gentlemen and yeomen well known and tried.'

I had Digby's heraldry so he was to be the second knight in a surcoat.

It was fun choosing the figures and getting the base just right, I'm really pleased with how the unit looks and works to the narrative.

Here are the figures in individual detail.

First up here's Poynings in the latest continental armour along with some hunting hounds. The figures are from Steel Fist Miniatures and were a joy to paint.

For the armour on all figures I used the armour palette from Wargames Foundry followed by a light wash of deep blue mid tone mixed with granite shade. When dry this was re-highlighted with the armour light tone which really sets it off with an almost polished finish.

Poynings is accompanied by two more nobles below; Sir John Digby on the left and Sir Richard Wingfield on the right. Both men were seasoned soldiers who also began their military careers on the battlefields of the Wars of the Roses.

Heraldic surcoats feature on tombs and church brasses into the 1540's, most feature the complex quartering of the Tudor age however finding that Digby's heraldry was almost plain in comparison was most welcome !

Both figures are from Perry Miniatures War of the Roses range.

To bring further colour to the unit I added two banner bearers; Poynings on the left and England / St George on the right. Both Perry Miniatures.

Banners are from Pete's Flags, they really are excellent works of art in their own right. You can get in touch via his blog and/or find his range on Ebay.

Last but not least is a trumpeter of the Royal Household. This is a conversion by sculpting a base coat over the body of a Warlord Landsknecht with the arms from the Perry WOTR set and an Ansar head. The coat was sculpted.

I painted this figure last year and this unit was a great opportunity to put it to use.

It's been fun putting this unit together with so much colour, armour and heraldry. I'm presently working on another building which will hopefully be done soon. It's been quite a creative few weeks for me.

Oli will no doubt be putting more information about the siege of Venlo on his blog after our game at the end of the month so keep an eye out for that, I'm certainly looking forward to it.

All the best


Sunday, 3 March 2019

Building Projects Part 1

For the past two months my creative efforts have been focused upon something more architectural. I've been meaning to start work upon  some buildings to complement my existing city walls but this need has always seemed to fall way down the list of things to do with the hobby. I had a few days to myself at the start of the year so I thought I'd make a start.

The city walls make a great backdrop for games and photography but I've always wanted to add at least one street on the other side to add dimension and interest

Throughout January I started work on the first building, a 4 storey timber town house. I used French medieval buildings as inspiration and a source point for the timber work. Here's some photographs at key points in the build from start to finish;

This is quite far in with respect to time spent, I got a bit absorbed in the task and forgot to take photographs ! I began by drawing out the frame for the building on plasticard which was then cut, pinned and glued together.

Then came the task of putting the timber on. The wood was bought from a hobby store (The Range I think), it comes in packs with about 20 30cm lengths. You'll also need a good hobby saw and a little mitre box. You need a clear idea of what you're doing with each side of the building as it all inter-relates, the mitred joints took a while to get right but it doesn't take long to get into the flow of things.Don't worry if some of the wood is not quite square or straight it adds to the finished effect.

The windows and doors were then glued into place (having being measured and lined out on the plasticard), these came from Antenocitis Workshop, they have a good range which I'm keen to explore further. 

The roof tiles are Wills rounded tiles which you can get from model rail suppliers, they're not particularly cheap but they paint up very nicely and look good.

The resin chimney is from a pack of 10 available from Grand Manner, there's some really nice medieval / renaissance examples in the pack.

We're now ready for the infill.

I use filler mixed with brown paint* for basing my figures, this way if it ever chips it doesn't show up white. I keep a mixed pot of 3/4 filler to 1/4 paint on the go which I used for the infill on the building. I found it provides a good base to paint on and you can better see where you've worked with it as opposed to the standard white of the filler. Using a palette knife I filled 2 sides, let dry then the other 2 before then applying further infill to any areas that needed it.

*For the paint colour I used a trick borrowed from Simon Chick; I painted a small square onto some card and took it to a DIY store to colour match. They save it to their system and you can then buy it ready mixed by the litre - your bases will always match !

On to the next stage.

Using a Stanley knife blade I carefully scraped the excess infill from the timbers, this process slowly revealed the timbers with the infill daub which is very satisfying !

Here's the building ready for some paint. I've also added a couple of dormer windows using off cuts from the tile sheets and a cut down window. It was at times frustrating to get the angles and measurements right for this.

The whole building was given an undercoat of System 3 acrylic yellow ochre and then the timbers and infill were painted. This was then washed with raw umber and highlighted before a final dry brush of a light buff (ochre and white) over everything. Here's the finished piece;

For the second building I wanted to try and create a brick and stone piece to represent a more well off household. I used a mix of Flemish and French sources as inspiration and a laser cut kit from Sarissa Precision as the skeleton. 

The kit has a lot more windows so I filled in most of them on the side and two from the rear as well as moving the doors. The windows in the kit don't have any backing so I used a sheet of diamond pattern material with card backing which was glued to the inside during assembly. The whole kit needs to be built as a surface for the DAS terracotta air drying clay. Here you can see the areas I've filled with card and the roof to which the tile sheets were glued straight on to later.

Here's the piece with its DAS clay coating. You need to paint a coat of PVA on to the area you're working on, roll the clay to about 1mm thickness and then place it over. I then smoothed it in with my fingers and did final finishing bits with sculpting tools. This needs to fully dry for at least 24 hours.

Now the 'fun' bit. Working upon a side at a time the brickwork was marked out in pencil first then scored with a scalpel, set square and steel ruler. It took an absolute age to do and required a lot of concentration but stay with it !

I left the sides of this building bare as they were to be rendered which i'll explain later.

As with the timber building the whole thing was then given an ochre base coat. The brick areas were painted in raw sienna, the windows a very dark blue and the stonework a mix of white and ochre before a liberal raw umber wash.

Now the scary bit. The brickwork is then completely painted over in a light buff colour then wiped off with kitchen tissue, the paint stays in the pointing, it's magic ! Here's the finished piece;

The shutters come with the kit

The sides are rendered as the building is intended to be next to and in-between other buildings in a street row. The bricks take so much time to do that this is a blessing !

As with the timber build a small dormer window and chimney feature.

I've rendered the bottom of the back as I intend to put some outbuildings against it.

This piece took a lot more planning and thought but I found this Terrain Tutor YouTube tutorial / interview with David Marshall to be of great use. The process for the modelling and painting of the brickwork is discussed during the last 10-15 minutes. 

I commissioned David to build the city walls for me so this came in very handy for a good match. David also gave me some advice with both of these buildings for which I'm very grateful. If you're minded to commission something really spectacular you can get in touch via TM Terrain.

Both pieces were designed to go together either level or slightly jagged to reveal the side windows. I intend to create a whole row of similar buildings. 

I've found this to be a great antidote to the painters block that I seem to be afflicted with from time to time as it's just an entirely different process requiring a different type of concentration and much bigger brushes.

I'm looking forward to the next additions but I feel a return to some miniature painting is required to get this year going. This has also highlighted the need to paint up some more figures on individual bases to populate the town.

Well that was fun wasn't it.

Bye for now