Sunday, December 2, 2012

28mm Thorakites Command - Relic Miniatures

Having been absent from this particular genre for a little while, it is really good to be painting some 28mm ancients again. This set is Relic's Thorakites Command, my first foray in to Successor armies.

The Thorakites themselves are interesting subjects. As a troop-type, they are a fairly late development in the Macedonian/Successor style of warfare, a late evolution of the supporting troops that the iconic phalanxes relied on to guard their flanks, protect them from enemy skirmishers and whittle down the enemy ranks with javelins (when I start in on the rest of the unit the soldiers will carry both spears and javelins, to show their versatility).

They were well-off men, as their equipment was expensive, and between the cost and their late arrival on the scene, they were not employed in very large numbers. From what I hear only the Seleucids ever deployed them in bulk - so I've given them great big Seleucid icons on their shields. After the arrival of the Romans in the Greek theaters of war the similarity between Thorakites and Roman-style infantry were noted, and some referred to the former as "imitation legionaries", assuming that they must have been derived from their western neighbors. However everything I've read suggests that they are in fact of indigenous Macedonian/ Successor evolution.

Well, here they are. I didn't have any relevant transfers for the shields, so I've painted them by hand. In time these guys will be the command element of a larger unit. Stay tuned!

 And here are some closeup shots of these personalities:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

6mm French Line Infantry - Seven Years War

Slowly, very slowly, my 6mm Seven Years War French project is taking shape. The third piece of I have done is a unit of French Line Infantry, this time with "front turnbacks" in their coats - meaning the front edge of the coat is buttoned back against the sides, exposing the colorful lining of the inside. This was just a way for the soldiers to spiff up their uniforms a bit, and historically some units did and others did not. These gentlemen bear the flag of the Provence regiment, which I believe technically means they should not have these turnbacks, but I'm just not that much of a stickler. And I didn't have a flag for a unit with this uniform.

For information about the uniforms of the armies involved in the Seven Years War I've been using the excellent resource at Kronoskaf. You can find the project here:

Once again these are Baccus 6mm models. The level of detail is really very good considering the small size of the figures, and I like being able to pack a lot of little guys in to such a small area. I've mounted them on wooden bases from Litko, which I give just a very basic scenic treatment.

This is the entire army at this point...not very formidable yet, but they're slowly expanding.

Monday, November 12, 2012

HMS Victory - GHQ 1:1200

I don't know why it is, but some models end up sitting around for awfully long periods of time before successfully commanding my attention. It isn't necessarily that I have forgotten they are there, though that happens sometimes, but often enough the will to complete them just isn't there, even while very similar projects speed on through to completion. Why is that? Finishing this GHQ kit of HMS Victory is all the more satisfying then, for having sat idle so long on my work table.

I've given this model the same treatment as the others I've done - thin plastic sheeting underneath, cut to the contour of the hull, to raise it up just a little bit; booms and dolphin striker added to the bowsprit; photo etched brass rat lines from Langton; Langton sea base. I've also started mounting the models on Litko black acrylic bases, and added magnetic sheeting underneath. I've lined a big cigar box with flexible steel sheeting, and now am able to transport them much more easily.

Once again I have copied the National Maritime Museum's (Greenwich) excerpt from Dr. Colin White's (no relation to myself) 'The Nelson Encyclopedia.'

Now the last surviving example of a ship of the line of the sailing era, the Victory owes her survival mainly to her close association with Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar. But he served in her for just over two years and by that time she was already a distinguished ship in her own right, with more than 20 years of active service to her credit and a number of battle honours.
 The orders for the building of a new first-rate were given by the Board of Admiralty on 13 December 1758 and her keel was laid in Number Two Dock at Chatham Dockyard on 23 July 1759. She was designed by Sir Thomas Slade, Surveyor of the Navy, a particularly able naval architect who was responsible for some of the most successful ships of the Royal Navy of that period. Over 2000 oak trees were used in the construction of her hull – equivalent to some 60 acres of forest – and the final cost was £63,176 (over £50,000,000 today).
 The proposal to name her Victory was not universally popular. The previous ship of that name had sunk with all hands off the Scillies in 1744 and so sailors believed that the name was unlucky. But the new ship was begun at the height of the Seven Years War 1756-63, and 1759 saw such a remarkable series of British victories on land and sea, that the year was nicknamed the annus mirabilis ('wonderful year'). Suddenly, the name seemed appropriate after all.
 Building proceeded very slowly, so she was not launched until Tuesday 7 May 1765 and even then the hull remained at moorings 'in ordinary' (reserve) without being fitted out. This long period of weathering meant that her hull timbers were very well seasoned, which is one of the main reasons why she has survived for so long. When war with America broke out, she was completed and prepared for active service, being commissioned for the first time in March 1778. Fitted for the first time with a full set of masts, she was given some 27 miles of rigging and four acres of sail. She was equipped with 104 guns.
 She quickly proved a most successful ship. The excellent design of her underwater lines made her easily manoeuvrable despite her size; and in the right conditions she could sail faster than many of her smaller consorts. These qualities made her a popular ship and she was constantly requested by admirals.
 Following a refit and a period in ordinary during the peace, the Victory was recommissioned in 1793 as the flagship of Lord Hood in the Mediterranean, and took part in the capture of Toulon in 1793 and of Corsica in 1794. After another refit during the winter of 1794-95 she returned to the Mediterranean and on 3 December 1795 became the flagship of the new commander-in-chief, Sir John Jervis. Under him, she was present at the Battle of Cape St Vincent, 14 February 1797, and played a key role in the opening stages of the battle when her broadsides repulsed a determined Spanish attack on the British line of battle. Badly battered in the action and in any case now quite an elderly vessel, the Victory was sent home at the end of 1797 and converted into a hospital ship. It seemed that her active service days were over.
 However, when war broke out in 1803 following the brief Peace of Amiens, there was an urgent need for first-rate battleships and so the Victory was given a major repair and fitted out as Nelson's flagship, in which role she served throughout the long campaign that eventually culminated at Trafalgar in October 1805. During those two years she was never docked. All necessary repairs were carried out by her own ship's company, either at sea, or in the sheltered waters of Agincourt Sound in the Maddalena Islands in Sardinia.
 At the Battle of Trafalgar the Victory led Nelson's line into battle, coming under the concentrated broadsides of six French and Spanish ships during the long, slow approach. She was badly damaged, both in her masts and in her hull, so when she returned to Britain with Nelson's body on board in December 1805, she was again given a major refit. In 1808 she was commissioned as the flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir James Saumarez for service in the Baltic, continuing in this role until November 1812 when she returned to Portsmouth and was again placed in ordinary.
 After a period when her future seemed uncertain, the Victory was recommissioned in 1823 as the flagship of the Port Admiral at Portsmouth, lying permanently at anchor in the harbour. Sentiment played a key role in ensuring her survival and her association with Nelson was emphasised in a number of ways. A plaque on the quarterdeck marked the spot where he fell; the words of his famous signal were inscribed around the ship's wheel, and the cockpit where he died was arranged as a shrine. There was even a collection of Nelson relics on board, including the royal barge in which his body had been conveyed up the River Thames in the state funeral procession. She became a tourist attraction – visitors were rowed out to her by watermen and then conducted around the ship by old sailors. At around the same time the custom grew of marking Trafalgar Day with special ceremonies on board and a dinner in the evening at which the toast to 'The Immortal Memory' was drunk. Later in the mid-1890s, the custom began of flying the flags for 'England Expects' from all her masts and yards on Trafalgar Day.
 However, time was taking its toll and by the early 1920s Victory was in such poor condition that she was in danger of sinking. By now, successive refits and repairs had changed her appearance so much that Victory bore little resemblance to the ship that Nelson had known. So the decision was taken to move her to a permanent home in drydock in Portsmouth Dockyard and to restore her to her condition at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar. Eventually, after six years of careful research and restoration led by the Society for Nautical Research, Victory was opened to the public by King George V on 17 July 1928. However she retained her status as a fully-commissioned ship in the Royal Navy and to this day continues to serve as the flagship of the Second Sea Lord.

Here is a shot to give a better sense of the scale of the model.

And here is Victory seen between two more GHQ ships, HMS San Josef on the left and HMS Centurion on the right.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Santissima Trinidad - GHQ 1:1200

The latest project off my painting table is GHQ's 1:1200 model of the famous Santissima Trinidad, the great lumbering Spanish behemoth that perished in the aftermath of Trafalgar.

Once again I have copied the National Maritime Museum's (Greenwich) excerpt from Dr. Colin White's (no relation to myself) 'The Nelson Encyclopedia.'

The most famous Spanish warship of her day, the Santissima Trinidad played a central role in two of Nelson's battles. With her four gundecks mounting a total of 136 guns, she was reputed to be the largest ship in the world, a claim often repeated subsequently by historians. In fact she was appreciably smaller than the French three-deckers launched just before the war.

 Built in Havana in 1769 to the designs of the Irish naval architect Matthew Mullan, the Trinidad was originally a standard three-decked battleship, mounting 116 guns. In 1795 her forecastle was joined to her quarterdeck, and a light battery of eight pounder guns mounted, thus creating her distinctive 'four-decker' appearance. But although this change made her look most impressive, it also considerably worsened her sailing qualities and her stability. So she tended to be a liability in battle, rather than an advantage.

 Trinidad was also an obvious 'trophy' and the British made very determined attempts to capture her. At the Battle of Cape St Vincent, 14 February 1797, where she was the flagship of the Spanish commander in chief, Teniente General José de Córdoba, she came under attack from at least five British battleships including briefly, Commodore Nelson in HMS Captain. After a heroic defence in which she was totally dismasted and suffered over three hundred casualties, she surrendered. But before the British could take possession of her, the commander-in-chief Admiral Sir John Jervis was forced by the arrival of fresh Spanish ships to break off the action. The Trinidad's crew managed to rig jury masts and bring their battered ship safely into Cádiz harbour, despite a gallant attempt to recapture her by the British frigate HMS Terpischore under Captain Richard Bowen.

Eight years later however, Trinidad was less fortunate. At the Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral Don Baltazar de Cisneros, she was once again set upon by a concentration of British ships and eventually surrendered to HMS Neptune, commanded by Nelson's close friend Captain Thomas Fremantle. HMS Prince took her in tow, but she had been so badly damaged that she sank in the great storm that followed.

For the sake of size comparison, here is a shot of Santissima Trinidad between HMS San Josef (116 guns) and HMS Centurion (50 guns). San Josef's main mast is the same size as ST's fore mast. 

And here is a hypothetical scenario depicting a fight between Santissima Trinidad and George Washington, though the two never actually met in battle. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

6mm French Artillery, Seven Years War

Here is another Baccus Miniatures 6mm subject from the Seven Years War - a french artillery piece with its crew. Nicely detailed little figures, considering the size.

This is the entire army at this point - a humble beginning, but it's slowly growing:

Monday, October 1, 2012

HMS San Josef - GHQ 1:1200

Below are some photos of GHQ's 1:1200 HMS San Josef, a 112 gun first rate ship of the line built by the Spanish, and the terminal point of 'Nelson's Patent Bridge for Taking First Rates' - a humorous phrase referring to the circumstances under which Horatio Nelson, commanding HMS Captain at the Battle of St. Vincent, captured the San Josef. I hope I will be forgiven for copying the National Maritime Museum's (Greenwich) excerpt from Dr. Colin White's (no relation to myself) 'The Nelson Encyclopedia. It will make much better reading than any summarizing on my part. 

The San José was a three-decked Spanish first-rate battleship of one hundred and twenty guns, built in the northern Spanish port of Ferrol to the designs of the French-born naval architect Franciso Gautier in 1783. On 14 February 1797 she formed part of the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Cape St Vincent, when she flew the flag of Rear-Admiral Don Francisco Winthuysen. She was in the thick of the fighting and suffered badly from the heavy British broadsides. Over one hundred and fifty of her crew were killed or wounded, including her admiral who lost both legs and was carried below to die.

At the height of the action the San José was rammed by her next astern, the eighty-gun San Nicolas and the two ships became locked together. It was at this point that Nelson made his famous move, leading a boarding party onto the San Nicolas and capturing her by storm. Seeing the plight of their comrades, the Spanish in the San José tried to help them by firing on Nelson's men, only to find themselves assailed in their turn. This further blow was too much for an already demoralised crew and moments later, a dazed Nelson found himself receiving the surrender of all the Spanish officers on the quarterdeck of the San José. He handed their swords one by one to one of his barge's crew, William Fearney, 'who put them with the greatest sang froid under his arm'.
San José actually enjoyed a long active service in the Royal Navy as HMS San Josef – the only foreign first-rate battleship ever to do so. Her first service was as Nelson's flagship in the Channel in January 1801. Some of Nelson's biographers have suggested that this was done as a special compliment to him, and he certainly asked if she was available. But the most likely explanation is that she was brought into service hurriedly as a replacement for the British first-rate Queen Charlotte, which had been accidentally destroyed by fire the previous year. San Josef remained in active service and after Nelson's death, her association with him meant that she was preserved long after her useful life was over. She lasted until 1849 and when she was finally broken up, much of her wood was made into furniture and other relics.

And here is the San Jose very, very late in life, in a photo published in 'The Royal Naiy in old Photographs' by Wilfrid Pym Trotter. M. C. Naval Institute Press

Thursday, September 20, 2012

6mm French Line Infantry from the Seven Years War - Baccus Miniatures

For the first time I've tried my hand at some 6mm figures from Baccus Miniatures, French infantry from the Seven Years War. I was very impressed with the level of detail of these figures and, being one who likes to lavish all the attention I can bear on the things I paint, there was plenty here to keep me busy. The kit includes printed paper flags of various units, and I have modeled the Boulonnais Regiment here.

For such small sculpts, the bayonets are actually quite sturdy, and there seems little danger of them bending or breaking off unless they are really strongly abused. I've actually shaved them down a bit, as I felt they were at first too clunky and broad. Even so they remain strong.

The 24 figures of the unit sit on a 30mm X 60mm plywood base from Lithko, which I've just given a very basic terrain treatment, and I really like the effect  from a moderate distance. See the last photo for a size comparison.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

USS Constellation - GHQ 1:1200

Below are some photos of USS Constellation in 1:1200 scale, from GHQ. This is the famous 38 gun American frigate of the Napoleonic War/ War of 1812 period, and should not be confused with the ship which lives down in Baltimore now - that one is a later construction, from the 1850s if memory serves, and supposedly contains some of the timbers from the ship depicted below. Or at least it did at the time of its construction.

I really like the incredibly crisp hull sculptings from GHQ, and especially the fact that the waist of the ship is properly recessed. This model even has details of steps leading down in to the waist, and hatches with gratings down there, as you can see best in the last photo.

I've added Langton ratlines and sea base, and raised the hull up on plastic sheet to give it more bulk, so it will fit in a little bit better with Langton models, which tend to be over-sized in comparison. Other than that a pretty straight forward job.

I omitted installing ship's boats in the waist, just because I like to be able to see the detail down there. I like the depth it gives the model, and it suggests an interior.