Sunday, 27 June 2010

More Victrix French Infantry

Home from work early evening, and the living room was still quite well lit by sunshine so I moved all my painting gear in there for a while. Finished another unit of French Line Infantry. This time in firing positions. Also retouched the cockades I'd missed on some others.

On a slightly different note, I'd decided to play the Mel Gibson DVD 'The Patriot' in the background. I'd last caught some of it on TV a few years back, but was interrupted when I accidentally locked myself out of the house part way through. After finding a neighbour with a ladder and hauling myself through an upstairs window, I arrived back where I'd started only to catch the end credits rolling.

After viewing the film in its entirety I found I was quite disappointed by much of the Errol Flynn style swashbuckling and slo-mo action pieces. The Gibson character seemed to be some kind of mix between Patrick Henry and Jackie Chan. I'd read on the internet that many of the main characters in it were inspired by several different real life personalities from the period. Regarding other AWI related movies, I'd heard that the film 'The Crossing' (1999) about George Washington had some merit. So I'll maybe seek that out next.

I'd watched 'Braveheart' with the same raised eyebrow as I had The Patriot, especially since I'd read the James Mackay book 'William Wallace'. I remember viewing most of it through partially closed fingers and groaning loud enough to annoy the rest of my housemates who knew nothing of the background. The infamous 'Battle of Stirling Bridge' anyone? No, lets forget that. Actually we'll mix up the chronological order of actual events, dress them all in kilts and insert a pain inducing love story.

What gets me most, is that the true events these type of films nit pick from.....are actually a thousand times more awe inspiring than the Hollywood fantasy. The Scottish troops pulling down the Bridge behind the advancing British leaving much of their army stranded to its fate would have looked incredible. Wallace's imprisonment and escape (the British actually throwing his still living self from a castle wall into a garbage heap because they thought he'd starved to death in his cell) would likewise seem to be cinematic gold, surely?

Ok. Enough grumbling and more painting!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Victrix Napoleonic French Infantry 1807-1812

I'd assembled these from the plastic kits. Bit tricky at times, and I needed to fill some of the gaps between body parts with modelling clay. I guess Napoleonics are considered to be the 'classic' wargaming figures. I'd always been impressed by their appearance in battle reports and magazines. Ranks of colourful soldiers, all ordered and marching off to either doom or victory!

Researching which colour scheme/uniform type I'd use was mind boggling. I knew French uniforms were many and varied from the period, but this had me racing backwards and forwards between the internet and the Osprey book I'd picked up (French Line Infantry. 1). I settled on 30th de Ligne as it seemed straightforward and had a colour picture of a sergeant in the middle pages. However, I'm still slightly lost as to how the Drummer and officer are meant to look. Any help on this part would be gratefully received.

As you can tell I'm a relative newcomer to the Napoleonic era and my only background prior to this was seeing the 1970 film 'Waterloo' and Ridley Scott's 'The Duellists'. So I'm definitely not quite knowledgable enough to quibble about the cut and colour of a Curaisseur's underpants at the moment (haha).

These were also the first figures I'd done in many years with a white underbase. Upon doing the basecoat I thought I was struggling somewhat until I read someone elses blog who described thinning down the paint 50/50 and doing washes. Allowing the colour to seep into the creases and joins. I found this a lot easier and obviously spent less time having to tidy the model between colours and coats.
When this was complete I steeled myself for a first attempt with the Army Painter dipping method. My first reaction after submerging them into what looked like crude oil was "I've made a bollocks of it". Giving it five or six shakes to remove the access calmed the nerves a bit and I left them to dry. Coming back a couple of hours later I was much more impressed. I've always been a fan of gloss varnish on models so I'm unsure about going over them with the Anti Shine spray at the moment. Anyway, I'll definitely stick to the Army Painter for the rest of these Frenchies.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Armoured Panzergrenadiers (Flames of War)

Pictured here are some of the final models I painted for a complete 1,750 point Flames of War Panzergrenadier Army.

The troops were painted using the Vallejo German Infantry Paint set. They were undercoated with black, then done in a base coat with highlights. I then decided on a Sumpftarn camouflage pattern (not sure if this is entirely accurate for Grenadiers, but I liked the result). After which I used a flat Earth on the base and then covered it in flock from Galeforce Nine.

The Panther A and Tiger IV were base coated in Vallejo Middle Stone Yellow then given a camo pattern using a Humbrol Green and a mix of Mahogany Brown and GW Scorched Earth.

In the Beginning.....

I was eleven years old when my aunt and uncle took me to Portsmouth to see some of the ships that had returned from the Falklands War. We’d stayed at another relatives Bed and Breakfast, and whilst there I’d wandered down the street one day and come across a shop selling metal model soldiers. Afterwards I went back to my uncle and talked enthusiastically of my great find. Being a provider of many fantastic birthday presents relating to military history over the years, he allowed my further indulgence with a five pound note. From what I remember I came away with a handful of Ottoman Turks – some on horseback along with a rather nifty looking standard bearer.

I’d loved my old plastic Airfix soldiers that filled my toybox at home. I’d spent many hours with a friend down the street digging bunkers and redoubts into my grandmother’s flower bed, and then pelting them with a fusilade of pebbles from our driveway. Likewise, when the winter months came along, arranging their massed ranks across the living room floor and imagining them storming the stony fortress of the fireplace surround.

These metal soldiers were however ‘the real deal’. Once I’d watched the film Young Winston when I’d had an afternoon off from school. Somewhere within it, was the scene of Churchill and his father looking down over a home made battlefield arrayed with such models. I was impressed with the seriousness they showed, and subsequent depictions from magazines and TV made me aware that there were rules on cannon fire, movement and morale that brought an element of realism to the affair. Up until that point the only realism my own plastic soldiers had experienced was the introduction of a Dinky Chieftain tank that allowed me to fire matchsticks at my HO/OO scale Highland Regiment.

My parents, always wary of what I was "spending all my money on next", greeted this foray with renewed scepticism. My step-mother mentioned the fact that they "didn’t do anything" – which was a direct comparison to my previous obsession with Star Wars toys. In her eyes at least the battery powered Imperial Troop Transporter barked out commands as it skitted its way across the kitchen lino. I tried desperately to explain that these metal (seemingly inert) little chaps actually stimulated more imagination. And anyway I still couldn’t accept that the final Star Wars film of that time (Return of the Jedi, 1983) had portrayed the battle hardened Stormtroopers being defeated by a population of cute looking teddy bears.

The local toyshop in my hometown of Melton Mowbray was called ‘Arbon and Watts’, and although packed out at the front with Fisher Price, it had a small cabinet of Citadel Miniatures. Despite being in the fantasy range, these held a similar appeal in the fact there was a newly released Wargame rulebook to go with it (Warhammer Fantasy Battles, First Edition – long before Games Workshop became a global conglomerate!). This started several years of collecting and wargaming in this genre, spurred on by quite a few school friends with enough bedroom space to lay several battle boards and requisite scenery. These games were usually huge events, lasting many days over the summer holidays. The principle seemed to be: "get everything you have on the board, then fight to the death". I seem to remember my Ottoman Turks even made a re-appearance. Probably wondering what the hell they were doing taking on an Orc War Wyvern.

As time went on there were a number of other distractions (primarily girls and punk rock) that led me to either sell what armies I’d collected or put them in the parents attic. Nevertheless, I’d still occasionally retreat to my room for a couple of days after buying the odd miniature. Happily sealing myself off from the world.

Present day and I’ve experienced an upsurge in enthusiasm. I’m partly blaming Harry Pearson’s excellent book ‘Achtung Scweinhund! – A Boy’s Own Story of Imaginary Combat’. Also, the appearance of a nice new shop nearby called ‘Wargames Inc’ (Loughborough) which has introduced me to Victrix and Flames of War figures, as well as allowing me to meet many other enthusiasts.