Sunday, 4 September 2016

Tudor Organ Guns

Henry invested a lot in the ordonnance for the 1513 campaign, in part as a display of wealth and his interest in the very latest artillery but also out of necessity to found a burgeoning arsenal. In the period of relative peace that preceded 1513 there had been little call to allocate funds to expensive guns. Henry VII had not been particularly interested in artillery as he was committed to peace rather than war and economy over extravagance.

Henry VIII however thought differently and thanks to the economic shrewdness of his father he inherited a healthy treasury which enabled him to afford to amass the best and most modern pieces available and furthermore, where possible he wanted to manufacture them in England.

This realisation came relatively early in his reign and the government in 1513 appear to have operated on the assumption that new guns would have to be provided for the entire army. One can get the sense of the urgency to be in a state of readiness for the campaign in the testament of the Venetian Ambassador when commenting upon preparations at the newly established foundries, January 1513;

'by day and night and on all the festivals the cannon founders are at work'

From what I have gathered the following ordonnance was amassed;

  • 120 organ guns, 40 for each ward and each with its own cart
  • 180 other artillery pieces comprising;
  • 6 bombards 'Nuremberg Pieces' presumably bought or hired from the continent, two in each ward, each pulled by a team of 24 Flanders mares
  • the 12 'apostles' specifically commissioned by Henry for this campaign which were 6 bronze cast siege guns of 'unusual magnitude each cast in the image of an apostle' and 6 pieces of the field.
  • the remainder was made up of demi culverins, serpentines and falconets of unknown composition and allocation.
Quite a lot of preparation - to think these all had to then travel by sea I take my hat off to Tudor logistics & organisation.

To address the lack of artillery in my Tudor army I have started at the top of the list, the organ guns.

Organ gun and Hackbutts 1496 from Phillip Monch Kriegsbuch

Lighter field organ gun from Maximilian's 1502 book of armaments

An organ gun was a multi-barrelled anti personnel field piece which fired either diced shot for the larger calibre examples or standard shot in single or multiple rows. They could be wheeled to aid an assault (or indeed defence) of a breach in a wall or used to bolster the infantry in the field. It could be argued that the organs were of much greater use when approached by enemy troops than the larger field pieces. Henry's order of what appears to be an unusually large number may have been to compensate for the relative lack of shot in his army at that point or perhaps just sheer extravagance.

There's an interesting short film and demonstration of an organ gun of the later 16c here.

The guns I used are former Hinchcliffe miniatures, now available from Hinds figures, each gun comes with 3 possibilities for the calibre of gun and size and type of wheel for the carriage, they're very detailed and easy to assemble. For the crew I used plastic Perry Miniatures bodies and arms from their WOTR, Mahdist Ansar & Confederate Artillery ranges with sculpted additions, here's how I put each piece together;

This is my favourite option which I believe is based in part upon the Phillip Monch design above, there are three rows of 12 arquebus sized barrels on a rotating central stock. I painted the carriage in a dark natural wood with blackened iron fixings and added some additions from my bits box of which the green monogrammed and liveried wooden powder box is a particularly nice result.

For the master gunner I followed what is now for me a fairly standard base coat and cap sculpting process - you can view this in more detail in the previous Dorset's Retinue post.

As a challenge I wanted to try and have an open coat which I think has worked out fairly well, the belt has been loosened at the waist and the chest flap has been undone. Also I made an effort at a hair crop typical of the period gathered in slightly at the neck. I then tried sculpting a St.George cross on the back of the figure which though it is the right size and proportion still feels to be in too much relief so I may try a slightly flatter example later or simply return to painting them on.

To complete the look of the figure I painted a gold St.George cross livery badge on the cap and some weathering on the coat to represent the dirty work of loading and firing an artillery piece.

The gunner's assistant proved to be an unexpected challenge principally as the touch-hole for the gun is relatively high, the whole assembly, sculpting and painting process made for an awkward looking figure until it was met with the gun. Also, the hand is perhaps in an unnatural position of being twisted under rather than over at the wrist, I can't decide, it looks OK in the finished piece.

The second gun is of a slightly larger calibre barrel arranged in a single linear battery. I painted this in a lighter wood tone with blackened iron fixings and bronze barrels. The additional pieces were from various artillery bits with the addition of a sculpted coat and cap which the assistant gunner has taken off.

The sculpting process was as above for the Master Gunner and a little bit different for the assistant.

The Master Gunner was washed / painted in the slightly dirtier tone as described above

I wanted his assistant to look a bit different, in the first instance I wanted to have a figure holding a halberd on the notion that as these were fairly short ranged pieces the gun was at a greater risk of being rushed. In addition, I wanted to show a figure who had removed his base coat for the hot work of servicing the gun.

The main initial effort was filing away the right amount of plastic from the figure to begin. I used a Stanley knife blade for this as it enabled quite a bit to be taken off but in a controlled fashion, previous efforts with a scalpel and needle files took a long time. You essentially have to remove the plastic around the waist, to then re-build with green stuff, you need to take away down to the intended depth of GS that you'll use so that there is as little visible join as possible if that makes sense.

After that the midriff has to be re-built by sculpting the rear, codpiece, doublet and all of the points with fastenings. A particularly good source with illustrations for this is The King's Servants book by the Tudor Tailor which features line drawings and contemporary photographs of the clothing.

I was fairly pleased with the result but then I thought;

if he's taken his coat off it must be nearby, it's too expensive to lose _!

So I set about trying to represent a coat laid over the basket and barrel of equipment, unpainted it looked like a Dali painting of a melting coat but I think it's turned out OK.

Quite an enjoyable project and my Tudor Army now has some home grown fire-power to assist it in the field.

Right, it's about time I returned my attentions to the French......

Bye for now



  1. an unmitigated success, on every level Stuart!

  2. Great pieces Stuart and very informative post. I wasn't sure if organ guns were actually used past 1500, so you've given me a reason to get some! As always your figure conversions are absolutely the best!
    Cheers, Peter

  3. They look fantastic and an very interesting post

  4. Stuart, such marvelous work! Figure selection, conversion, painting, and composition, all exquisite! You are a master craftsman.

  5. I'm so impressed by you work !!! Stunning !!!

  6. Great attention to detail and fantastic results.

  7. Fantastic work as always, I love the discarded coat it's all so good.
    Best Iain

  8. Brilliant stuff Stuart, I particularly like the Master gunner and the chap who has taken the base coat off.