Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Some more pictures from the Boxing Day wargame, episode 1 published yesterday
Picture 1 shows French Guard Foot Artillery deploying with Guard Infantry in the background, the latter comprise a mixed company of Fusilier Grenadiers (AIP, Aifix and Hat conversions) Old Guard Grenadiers in campaign dress (Airfix with ACTA leg-extensions (!) and Hat with Airfix heads, and, four Old Guard Foot Chasseurs (Hat conversions). In the foreground are some of the Light Infantry screen all laboriously converted just in time for Hat to bring out their own, much better versions.
The second photo is of Allied Cavalry advancing in support of the Light Infantry - these are Prussian and British Hussars (HELMET) and British Light Dragoons (Italeri).
Picture 3 shows the British Foot Artillery deployed having established a clear field of fire, British Commander and servant from the Staff Corps in the middle distance. The guns fired on four successive turns and my usual facility of throwing regular dice scores of "1" held true throughout!
Next a longer shot of the French deploying, this is about move 4, and most of the French Heavy Cavalry are yet to form up.
Last pic shows Russian Allies. Line infantry and Militia nearest the camera along with 1805 period Grenadiers, behind the Infantry are Cossacks (Replicants) and Dragoons (HELMET). The Infantry are a mixture of Black Cat 1812 Line Grenadiers, ACTA Militia conversions, mainly from ACW figures and many additional conversions to bulk-up the 1805 Grenadiers originally from an unknown Russian manufacturer.
More soon if requested, comments and feedback always welcome.

Monday, 28 December 2009

This is my first Blog posting for some considerable time, and as usual I have plenty of excuses for the non-arrival of any new news. However as this is a toy soldier Blog and not another of those that allow the author to sound off on their favourite subject (themselves) I shall limit my defence to the fact that I needed to find gainful, full-time employment and following a period of contract work in the Autumn, I started a five day week at the end of November. All this has meant that I have not been able to focus on HELMET Soldiers at all, nor this Blog. Excuses over.
I have been painting Napoleonics in my limited spare time in order to have a decent sized wargame starting on Boxing Day. I tend to paint the British with an eye to the War of 1812, so generally light on troops that were in both America and Europe in the period, but more of that later.
I took the opportunity of attending the London Toy Soldier Show in early December, as a punter and not a trader, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, my wallet took a hard pounding, mostly on the new Harpers Ferry figures by Replicants, bought from the ever friendly Steve Weston, I also picked up some useful bits and bobs, spare heads and stuff for future conversions. Finally I had a brief chat with a fellow converter ending in an agreement to produce some figures for a possible Siege of Vienna, 1683, game sometime soon............. more news later.
I also bought, via mail order, a box of the new(ish) Victrix Napoleonic British Infantry in hard plastic kit form. These are great with terrific characterisation and detail, the downside is that they are large figures and will not fit with any of my existing regiments. I guess they could be used separately as skirmish pieces.
So to the pictures. Our son, back from Uni, and I try to start a wargame each Boxing Day, and these few photos show the start of that event, if people are interested I'll post more to show how the game develops. We use our own simple rules which are still sort of in development, we need simplicity due the the large (ish) number of figures we deploy and the need to keep the game moving along.
The first picture shows Jonathan - the new Corsican Ogre - beginning to set up the Frenchies, I took this photo without him knowing, or so I thought. He took the second picture, of yours truly, setting up the gallant allies, definitely without my knowledge. So ignoring the ugly old gentleman in the background, it does show the very basic terrain,a crossroads with a scatter of walls and ruined buildings. The third picture shows some of the first British to arrive, Light Infantry and Rifles on open order scree a Foot Artillery Battery, a weak company of Redcoats and some Light Cavalry acting as escort to the general, in this instance Lord Peregrine D'Arcey and his servant, a corporal in the Staff Corps.
Picture 4 shows some French skirmishers, dismounted Vistula Lancers and Foot Dragoons, part of a screen also comprising a full company of Light Infantry, apart from the Replicant officer these are conversions from Accurate and Armies in Plastic with head swaps and greenstuff additions. Finally the French begin to arrive in force, Guard and Line Infantry in the background along with a couple of guns, Dragoons in the middle instance and Hussars in the foreground. Behind the Dragoons is the Emperor himself with his escort, backed by a half squadron of Mamelukes and a pair of giant pink hands which could cause problems later. Figs here are mostly Italeri and Armies in Plastic with A Call to Arms and Airfix as well as some Irregular metal models, as per usual most have been converted to some degree or other.
Enough for now, comments, questions and feedback welcome. I'll publish more pics if there seems to be a demand, in the meantime enjoy what remains of Christmas and look forward to a Happy 2010!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

"Small Wars" have always held a fascination for me, and at risk of denigrating the sacrifice of those who fell in such conflicts, their appeal seems to be something around understanding and involvement. By that I mean, I can more readily comprehend the causes and course of such wars and feel some empathy with those involved.That's why I am drawn to the War of 1812, with apologies to those the other side of the pond,(compared to the wider Napoleonic conflict this is a small war), The Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, and, as seen in the picture - The Jacobite Rising of 1745.
I have been interested in this era for as long as I can remember, seeing the film on Culloden made by Peter Watkins for the BBC as a schoolboy in 1964 probably kick started that enthusiasm. Since then I have collected two sets of 25/28 mm armies, one from Minifigs, and the second by Front Rank. A real bonus has been the increase in the amount of reference material available, especially on the Jacobite forces, through authors such as Stuart Reid. When I began painting my Minifig troops back in the late 60's much of the resultant colour scheme was based on (un)educated guesswork, remember the BBC in 1964 was still broadcasting in black and white.
A couple of years back I started to produce figures for the Rising in 1:32 plastic, reasoning that the Timpo "Napoleonic" Scots were a cinch to turn into Bonnie Prince Charlie's Highlanders- as usual I grossly underestimated the amount of time involved, but at the same time enjoyed the challenge. So again the madness took over and I sought bout suitable figures from beyond the confimes of Timpo, so the pictures contain men that started out as Marx Vikings, Accurate War of Independence Militia, Imex ACW, A Call to Arms English Civil War, Armies in Plastic Ansar, Barzo French and Indian War and others......................
The imminent release of the Regulars in the new F&IW range from Armies in Plastic will, i fervently hope (fingers massively crossed here) provide the basis for some "British" Regulars and Irish Piquets - The "Wild Geese". That being the case and if God is kind, the '45 will be my ext projest in the New Year, failing the it's back to the Polish Winged Hussars for me..........
I plan to use Imex AWI artillery for most of the gunners and still have the challenge of making suitable figs for mounted dragoons, but this is a small war so I won't need too many will I????
Anyway more news later,

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Recently I had the opportunity to visit "The Master", Mike Blake and great pleasure it was too. Most of us in this hobby contact our fellow enthusiasts via phone or Internet and this trip and the good old face-to-face communication that took place was truly inspirational, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and learned a great deal. Thanks Mike.
So, full of new enthusiasm I returned with a plan to paint up some Napoleonics for a Summer Wargame in the garden with our Boy before he returns to university. I was determined to complete some outstanding projects and at the same time start some new ones. Prior to seeing Mike I had always converted two figures and then painted them, then two more conversions, followed by the painting then so on. Now I am determined to prepare or convert all the figures in the unit and then paint them in one long painting exercise, although I still only paint them two at a time. This seems to speed things up and encourage me to finish what I have begun.
Most of the pictures here are of Italeri models, Mamelukes and British Light Dragoons, but first off a couple of British Hussars, from the 15th Light Dragoons, they are straight up and down HELMET kits, and are the first two of a squadron strength unit, Our squadrons comprise an officer, trumpeter and 16 men. I painted the officer and trumpeter of the Light Dragoons shown in the next two pictures over a year ago and they have been leading a phantom squadron ever since. Happily this sad state of affairs has been rectified and they now have the satisfaction of knowing that their shouted orders and tootling trumpet calls are now heard by 32 little plastic ears and responded to by 16 plastic men and horses. I really like these figures and have done very little to them, merely cutting of the right hands of some and re-fixing (pinning and glueing) at different angles to add variety.
Some of the Mamelukes have had the same treatment, and I have added firearms and blunderbusses to a few. The officer has had his held pistol removed and replaced with a HELMET sword, his sash and missing pistol built up, and white plume added. Additionally I added a load of greenstuff ornaments including shabraque to an Italeri Saracen horse, and based the whole thing on one 0f the colour plates in the Osprey Mameluke book, which was very useful for colour scemes and details of armament these chaps carried.
The Light Dragoons will be seen in the War of 1812, Peninsular and Waterloo scenarios, the Hussars in Spain and Belgium and the Mamelukes will face them in the same battles, so all in all some fairly flexible units.
That's all for now, comments, feedback, questions and blank cheques all welcomed.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Bit of a mixture this time and a chance for me to catch up on some ongoing and perhaps neglected projects.
I have always wanted to add limber teams to tow my guns, rather than having to imagine them being dragged along by invisible horses and drivers, or even worse by some strange earth force that dates back to ancient times when people painted themselves rather than toy soldiers. The French Napoleonics are reasonably well catered for with two Italeri sets, which although of some inaccuracies are pretty good material, however there is nothing for the Brits or other nationalities, so I decided to make a 4 horse team that I could use for the Napoleonic War, The War of 1812, The Crimea and anything else in between. So far it has been a labour of hate, but with some useful learnings on the way. The first two photos show the (nearly) completed drivers and their mounts. The men are simple adaptions from HELMET spares, nothing really special about them, however the horses were the real problem. The third picture shows construction of the four horses before painting, as you can see I did head swaps on the driver's horses, and also a tail swap on one for a bit of variety and to use heads that had moulded reins. Much of the simplified harness uses milliput and/or greenstuff, but my real problems arose from my opting to use decorative gift wrapping tape for the main strapping. My (obviously logical) reasoning being that this was pre-cut- although I had to cut it in half lengthwise, as it was too wide - so I would have to do less tedious cutting, secondly I chose the metallic type as I knew this to be stronger.
Alas dear reader I could not find a glue that would stick the damn stuff to the plastic of the horses. Super glue wouldn't touch it, I spent a whole evening, the air rent with numerous foul expletives, sticking my fingers together and to the horses, even when I thought I had achieved success as soon as I put the ****ing thing down, the joints slowly and provocatively slid apart, cue more swearing. Eventually I used a contact adhesive and a couple of coats of strong varnish. Learning Point? "Check what glues will work on the proposed materials before construction work begins, and try not to swear too much in the course of what should be an enjoyable hobby."
The fourth picture is a better photo of two of our new Prussian Hussar kit, it and the Uhlan should be up on the website this week - please spend generously.
Lastly a picture of some more of my War of 1812/ Peninsular War British Infantry, these are made from a variety of bits see if you can guess the source. Ken C this means you!
That's all, next time some more Napoleonics.
Take care, play fair and keep your powder dry.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Greetings to one and all.
This edition of the Blog is a shameless attempt at generating income for HELMET Soldiers and shows some stuff I'm currently working on.
I would be really grateful if people who read this could post comments and suggestions, I want to make HELMET a success and the only way I can achieve this is through satisfying my customers.
Not much writing this time around, hopefully the pictures will tell their own story, however the photos were taken on Saturday afternoon during what alarmingly seems to have become a British summer, so they are a tad bright, apologies for that and sun glasses are recommended!
First up is one of our new hand made accessories, an archers' mantelet, this and a couple of other pieces are now for sale on the website are ridiculously low prices. www.helmetsoldiers.co.uk
Next the first in a range of 54mm/1:32 flags. These are for the 1st Footguards at Waterloo. They come on the same sheet with a cavalry standard as bonus and will retail at 2 GBP plus postage. We previewed these at the Plastic Warrior Show in Richmond, and actually sold some! They are not computer generated, but I paint them in watercolours at twice full size. I have completed a sheet with 8 Parliamentary cavalry standards from the English Civil War, and am working on French flags for 1815, they all should be available shortly.
Lastly there are two photos from a projected range of allied cavalry for the Napoleonic period, first to see the light of day will be the Uhlan followed soon by the Hussar as shown here. We are also working on a new body ( aren't we all?) so that we can produce Dragoons, Cuirassiers and Landwehr cavalry. More news soon.
Ant reaction/comments gratefully received.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

These Blogs are coming along in threes, just like London Buses........
As promised I attache some pictures of the painted Winged Hussar along with some WIP photos of the second member of this mad project.
So I decided that I just had to have some Polish Winged Hussars and my addled brain began to process the potential difficulties of obtaining and converting suitable figures, the problems resolved themselves onto three main areas:
1. A mounted figure to use as a basis.
2. How to make and fix the wings
3. Weaponry - of which there is quite a lot.
Taking those in order, the obvious starting point foe the figure is a mounted Knight isn't it? Well I certainly thought so, they've got armour and are in the right sort of position. Therefore I got some cheap bits via ebay, and stated to study the Osprey book on the subject, and guess what, even if you want to produce a rough approximation of Polish armour you need to almost completely re-sculpt the armour. The two top pictures show this as well as the ones in the previous Blog, all I was left with was the top half of the cuirass, the rest is Milliput or Greenstuff. I used a lot of Milliput as the weight counters the top-heaviness of the completed model. The heads are from Maros in both cases. The clothing, what you can see of it and the animal skin are from Greenstuff, it all took a long time.
I pondered long and hard over the wings, and discarded a number of options before settling on this solution. The Osprey source shows that in the 1680's they were attached to the rear of the cuirass not by a series of straps as I had imagined also they were (obviously I guess) very light, so these are made from thin copper tube carefully bent to shape, with feathers from thin card fixed with impact adhesive. The feathers for each wing are made in one piece, I had thought to make individual feathers, but luckily a shaft of common sense hit my brain and things were made slightly easier. The wings are attached to the figure by sliding the copper tubes over pins that are fixed and then bent at right angles so they are vertical, this can be seen in the first pic above. A bonus of this method is that the wings can be removed and packed away as they are quite fragile.
Weapons, this started well and ended badly. The sabre if from HELMET spares as are the pistols attached to the front of the saddle, the pained model also uses our pistol holsters, the lance is brass and the pennon from painted paper. So far so good, then disaster...... The painted fig should have a long straight sword slung from the saddle under the left thigh, I just couldn't get one to fit as I left this part much too late, When I started the second model, this was one of the first jobs I tackled, see photos above - the blue feet by the way are there because on completing the armour I noticed that the Britains knight no longer looked right, mainly because one leg was about 8mm longer that the other, so major amputation and transplant surgery was necessary.
So main lessons were, research the basis figure well before spending money and starting converting, be clear from the outset how to construct the various components, and lastly make sure everything will fit together in the right order to avoid last minute frustrations.
Next I'll complete the WIP figure and make perhaps one or two more and then think about producing some Turks by way of opposition, then more War of 1812???
Comments and feedback welcome

Monday, 30 March 2009

I guess I should entitle this Blog as "An Attack of Madness, tempered by a Return to Common Sense".
The Story So Far......................
So I got interested in the late 17th Century and started to convert some figures for the Monmouth Rebellion with a view to perhaps using them in other conflicts, such as against the Moors at Tangier and in Europe or Virginia etc etc. I found a terrific Blog which has fuelled my enthusiasm and extended the possibilities that this period can deliver, if you are at all interested click on the link http://warsoflouisxiv.blogspot.com/ it is an example of some of the better thing that the Internet has produced.
So there I was looking at wars in the 1680's when I sort of remembered the siege of Vienna in 1683 (?) and the charge of the Polish Winged Hussars, so I checked my books and found some info, but not in any great detail, I searched the web and found some more pictures and film clips, both movies and re-enactment footage, then I bought, secondhand, the Osprey book on Polish Winged Hussars, the red mist descended and I had to have a go, so the first two pictures show my first attempt, with the converting finished but the painting yet to be done. I will describe how I built this beast, what went well and what went wrong, next time...................
The next two photos show how I built some of the musket armed figures shown in the previous Blog, with another pic here as a reminder. In actual fact these two chaps are the first of my Monmouth Rebels, the construction principles remain the same, however. These two are from the Accurate AWI Militia set. I chose them for a number of reasons:
* They both have flintlocks - apparently Monmouth was fairly well supplied with these.
* They are wearing long coats, which although of the wrong design can be easily adapted to reflect the style of the 1680's.
* They are wearing breeches and stockings, so no work needed there.
They both needed to have different headgear, the one on the left had his hat cut off at forehead level and a new on added, the brim is Milliput, a flattened ball of the stuff pressed onto the flat surface left after cutting, the rest of the hat was built from greenstuff, all very simple. His colleague has a metal head made by Maros. The plastic head was removed and a hole drilled in the neck to take the metal stub on the Maros head, after a dry run to make sure everything fitted the new head was fixed with superglue. When this has dried I added a neck cloth from putty, this is historically accurate and adds strength to the join and covers any gaps.
The rest was comparatively simple the coat fronts, pockets and cuffs were fixed with Milliput, the weight of this material compensates for the top heavy metal head, and the buttons gradually built up with thick paint.
I trimmed the cape from one of the coats and also trimmed off the powder horn and made a more in-period powder flask, finally I added some greenery in the hats, which Monmouth's men used as a sort of fieldsign/badge.
That's it, next time it's the Hussar.
Cheers and take care.

Monday, 23 March 2009

This Blog is as regular and reliable as good news in the economy.

Apologies once again for the erratic and irregular postings, this has been mainly due to two factors, once again I have been made jobless, that is my normal full time employment has been "terminated due to the current economic situation", and secondly, I have had what my doctor still, with that knowing little piece of humour that endears the profession to the rest of us, the 100 day coughing virus, which leaves me feeling, well, pretty crud.

So I have been job hunting and trying to get well. Simultaneously I have embarked on yet another new period, focusing initially on what is generally known in the UK as the Monmouth Rebellion. Very briefly, this was an attempt in 1685 by the illegitimate son of Charles II, James Duke of Monmouth to bring about regime change and topple his uncle, King James II. Activities were centered in the West Country and ended after a brief campaign at the Battle of Sedgemoor where Monmouth and his army were defeated.

I chose this period because I find it of great interest personally and it is another "little war" that lends itself to re-creation in 54mm scale and there is a surprising amount of information available on the uniforms colours and organisation of the protagonists, finally the regulars as seen in these photos can, I hope be used in other theatres such as Tangier against the Moors and in Europe against the armies of other nations.

What we show above represents a company of Kirke's Regiment from the army of James II, they are mostly produced by converting A Call to Arms ECW figures, although there are some AWI models from Accurate and ECW from Replicants. Next time I will explain how the conversions were achieved and also mention some useful sources including a truly inspirational Blog which anyone interested in the period should follow.

In the meantime feedback welcomed and see you soon.



Sunday, 4 January 2009

Hi to everyone, and a happy New Year to you all.
We have had yet more technical issues so this edition has been delayed somewhat, however, here is a brief glimpse of the wargame we started on Boxing Day.
We don't get the chance to fight many games, and up until now the rules that we have made up and used resulted drawn battles and unrealistic carnage, especially annoying having spent hours painting the figures and see them blown away in seconds. So I wrote a new set, what we wanted was rules that were simple, but realistic and made us behave in ways that encouraged 19th century tactics, so far we are reasonably pleased with them, but it's early days.................
So we used all our War of 1812 figures, the British number 70 Regulars with a dozen Riflemen and a foot artillery gun, the Americans had 88 Regulars including 12 Rifles plus 4 cavalrymen and 10 Militia and a gun with crew, The scenario was set around the need to capture a cross roads with the redcoats defending and the Americans attacking in two columns. The first two pictures show some of the defenders lining a fence and occupying a ruined cabin. The idea behind these Brits is to also use them in Peninsular War battles, as soon as Hat release their forthcoming French light infantry.
The long haired kid is my son, Jonny, here commanding the US forces with more dash and aggression than normal. The last two photos show the two American attack columns the first is a mixed force of Regulars, Marines and Militia, the second is made up of two complete companies of the 18th Infantry following their colours and general.
The first few moves saw the US artillery consistently miss it's targets, and the boldly advancing Militia fire a volley and then retreat with alacrity! The US Regulars met with greater success, and although taking casualties as they advanced (our new rules say that no-one can move and fire in the same move - so you have to take calculated risks around gaining ground or causing casualties) forced the British Riflemen to retreat and threatened to outflank the British line.
More next time