Picking a tonne of trouble

You might look at the typical painting of a Napoleonic battle and come to the conclusion that the armies were full of well turned out gentlemen. There they are in all their finery, with shiny buttons and clean white strapping. Beautiful tidy uniforms, with a stylish chapeau to set it all off. They are trés propre. Except of course, in practice they really weren’t, and in the case of one particular soldier he was widely regarded as one of the unusually dressed men in war. Even attending the battle of Bussaco in a nightcap.

Welsh soldier Thomas Picton, was the son of the very nominatively imaginative Thomas Picton, and received a commission into the 12th Regiment at age just 13. However, he did not join up as an Ensign until he was a much more mature 15, at which point he upped and left sleepy Pembrookshire for Gibraltar. Which must have been something of a shock to the system, going from the rather sodden Cymraeg countryside to the much warmer rocky slopes of almost Spain. By 20 Picton had reached the rank of Captain, and moved to another regiment. Unfortunately for him this promotion to glory was somewhat temporary as the regiment was then disbanded. Evidently army cuts have a long history. In response to the forthcoming job losses the soldiers rebelled and Picton personally quelled much of their mutiny. Given some of his later history you can interpret what quelling takes the form of, yourselves.

After this he took to an early retirement, living on his parent’s estate in Wales, but evidently he wasn’t a man-made for a relaxing countryside dwelling existence, and sought a new commission. In what must be the eighteenth century equivalent of going to find yourself in Goa, the now 32-year-old Picton upped and moved to the West Indies. Luckily his gamble of slightly knowing the boss panned out, and like many a posh boy, he talked himself into the position of aide-de-campe to the Commander. After swiftly jumping through those ranks again Picton found himself as governor of Trinidad. Which is where if not a name, he certainly made a reputation for himself.

There were many fears amongst the British that the Spanish might nab back Trinidad, it was a good location in the Caribbean, had lots of resources, and is a rather jolly place for a holiday. The garrison Picton was given, to control the island with, was regarded as incapable of providing much defence against the Spanish and so Picton ruled with an iron fist. Tales of Picton’s cruelty, dodgy land deals and his influential black ladyfriend had made it back to Britain and Picton was reduced to third in control of the island after Fullarton and Hood.

Where Picton could be regarded as a rather traditional authoritarian ruler, who encouraged obedience through hate and fear, Fullarton was a liberal Whig who sought a more co-operative means of occupation. Fullarton had already challenged the mighty East India Company about their treatment of natives, and he was looking to run Trinidad in a similarly more friendly fashion. Picton and Fullarton soon fell out, and Picton’s resignation soon followed.

The resignation though was not the end of the process. Fullarton had carried out a very complete investigation and the findings of his investigation made back home, where Picton was summoned. For trial. Picton was charged, by the Privy Council, with cruelty against those practising the local folk magic, slave cruelty and execution of suspects without a proper trial. Despite Trinidad being under British rule, and Picton himself being there at the behest of the British government, he argued that the standing law on Trinidad was Spanish and that allowed for such activities. For one charge he faced the court proper, the Privy Council essentially being rather more of an inquiry, and in 1803 went before the bench accused of torturing a free citizen. The 14-year-old girl had apparently assisted her boyfriend in burglary (though not participating herself) and her torture was authorised by Picton. She had been tortured using the apparently non permanent lasting piquet method, in which the tortured is dangled above a pointy stick by their thumb. The 19th century gossip rags felt compelled to explain with pictures exactly what a pubescent girl in hardly any clothes dangling from a tree might look like, and etchings of this were popular. Picton was initially convicted, but after a retrial in which he managed to produce more witnesses, the result was a reversal of the verdict.

Whilst all this was going on Picton was continuing his military career and by 1809 was a Major-General. A year later, thanks to Wellington, he was commanding a division in Spain for the Peninsula War. Though he was never as close to Wellington as some of the other officers Picton remained one of the senior command team until his death. Though he may not have treated his slaves very well he rewarded his soldiers for their performance. After the 1812 battle in Badajoz which resulted in injury to most of the troops, including Picton himself, he rewarded all the surviving members of his troop with a guinea from his recently inherited fortune.

He accompanied Wellington into the 100 days War. At Quatre Bas he was wounded but he kept this hidden as they advanced toward Waterloo. What Picton was wearing at Waterloo is the subject of some debate. Suffering that common holiday maker problem Picton’s luggage had not arrived at the battle field, and he was forced to go to war in top hat and tails. However, stories from his family suggest that having overslept his top hat was the accessory to his nightshirt. Either way he did not make it out of the battle of Waterloo alive. His death is again subject to some debate, he most likely died thanks to a French bullet, but there seems some argument that the disliked Picton may have been killed by his own. However he died, and whatever he was wearing, he was certainly a very significant character in the eighteenth and nineteenth century military.

If you would like your own Picton, dressed in splendid top hat, the Perry Miniatures set of Wellington, Picton and Uxbridge.

Blitzkrieg tank bop

A wee while ago a manufacturer came to visit us, with their 1:72 scale tanks. We’ve mentioned them before, Blitzkrieg Miniatures, but we’re going to talk about them again today.

In particular, their 1:48 scale tanks which have been specifically designed for those of you who play 28mm. Now if you paid attention in maths at school you probably are saying ”but but miss 28mm is 1:56 scale”. And you would be right, give yourself a gold star. However, sometimes, the thing with scales is that perfect scales actually end up looking a bit wonky. Often 1:56 scale men and 1:56 scale tanks end up with the men looking as if they were Gulliver in a world of Lilliputian tanks. Which, if you are trying to look like the formidable Third Reich isn’t terribly formidable. This sort of problem isn’t uncommon, a full scale Waterloo model for example had to have a vertical shift so that the hills weren’t smaller than the tanks.

This is where the 1:48 Blitzkrieg tanks come in. These resin tanks are specifically designed for wargaming rather than being scale models. They are though still detailed and of high quality. However, they will look just a touch more formidable against your 28mm men. They also like to focus on some of the less commonly available vehicles for the period.

You can find our ever growing range just here

The History Books on the Shelf are always Repeating Themselves

Sunset in the Foret de Soignes, Belgium by David Edgar

Sometimes battles sort of take over a place. The place is world renowned, but only because something happened there. It almost loses its identity as a location. One such place is the small Belgian town of Waterloo. With the growth of early industrialisation many new towns and villages developed in the tweleth century, and in Forêt de Soignes, Waterloo was one such place. It was located in a convenient place for travellers to stop off on their way to bigger exciting places, as it sits on the long established road between Brussels and Grenappe. Stopping off was a very important thing when travelling in the early medieval period. This was not only because you don’t want to be so tired that you fall off your horse, but because the Sonian Forest like many other forest was filled with bandits and thieves. Forêt de Soignes was part of the huge Forest of Ardennes, and extended from below Brussels to Hainaut. Its vast size, which made for good hiding, was diminished when Napoleon made use of its resources for his planned invasion of the United Kingdom…Waterloo itself was also nicely located for the door to door salesmen of the 1100s, sitting north of those all important coal mines.

The small hamlet, which was named for its marshy location, though remained a place you passed on the way to the bigger more exciting towns for a long time. Though Brussels was growing in importance in Europe, and thanks to some convenient mariages by the 15th century had become part of the Low Countries. The Low Countries being significantly more prosperous bunch than Brabant.

In the late 1600s though Waterloo began to develop as a town, gaining at first a Royal chapel. Which, perhaps doesn’t sound much, but any kind of royal seal of approval meant your town was moving up in the world. If you had a place the royal family might want to worship in, there was every chance they might start hanging around a bit more. By the 18th century the Holy Roman Emperor (who was neither Roman nor particularly Holy) was ruling much of Belgium. Whether Belgium liked it or not. However, the French Revolutionary Wars were on a mission to free Europe from the monarchial yokes and decided to invade in 1794. The French, loving their compartmentalisation, and red tape, divided the whole region into administrative départments in 1795. By the start of the 1800s the population was over 1500, and then in 1813 it was decided that it would swallow up the nearby town of Chenois, and it expanded once more.

Two years later though, Europe was in the grip of yet another war. Battles weren’t something unusual for the middle part of Europe. If you were a Belgian in the 1700s or 1800s you would likely have heard of battles making it to nearby towns if not yours. The Hundred Days War had moved across Europe, travelling as far south as Italy, and up North to Belgium. By mid June much of the action was taking place only a few miles down the road from Waterloo. By the 15th of June fighting had made it to where the road for Charleroi and Brussels meets with the Nivelles-Namur Road. This crossroads traversed by hundreds and thousands of those travellers stopping off and salesmen flogging their wares to the folk of waterloo, was more usually known Quatre Bras.

waterloo stood between Napoleon and Brussels, and Wellington and Blücher most definitely did not want him getting there. Thus this small town, that had for centuries been a traveller’s rest stop, suddenly became the most important place in Western Europe. The three day event (nowhere near as enjoyable as Three Day Eventing it has to be said) ended with, of course, Napoleon’s defeat.

Taking place about a mile from the town itself the main battle took place alongside the main road to Brussels. To the west, the La Haye Sainte Orchard, which was home to the King’s German Legion for the battle. The farmhouse that the British were garrissoned in, Hougoumont, was the site of one of the battles during the Waterloo campaign. The house losing its gate to the axe of Sous-Lieutenant Legros, was then shelled under a direct order from the emperor.

However, despite the warfarring and farmhouse abuse, the town soldiered on. In 1835 the De Meeus family built the grand Agenteuil. Which was rather unfortunately burned down a mere 12 years later, but replaced by a bigger better version. Recent events clearly had not put people off, and the population had grown to over 3200 by the mid 1800s.

Though small Waterloo is a well known place. Mostly in thanks to the battle Waterloo has also given its name to many other places and structures across the world. There are at least 26 Waterloos in the United states alone, and far flung Waterloos in places as spread as Hong Kong and Sierra Leone. There are memorials to the battle in Scotland and London, and the Waterloo Bridge in Lambeth. There are songs by Abba, and The Kinks (although technically that’s more about the aforementioned bridge).

These days it is still a relatively small place with a population hitting just about thirty thousand. Every summer it plays host to hundreds of history fans and military enthusiasts. Despite its diminiutive size it is home to MasterCard, so though it may not have the people it certainly isn’t short of credit.
If you’ve visited Waterloo, or are planning to tell us about your battlefield trips by commenting or emailing us at arcanescenery@gmail.com, and if you fancy recreating your own Forêt de Soignes or battlefield we have some suitable scenery you could use.

Monday round up

This is a somewhat bijou round up this week. Focussed I think you could call it. The petite nature of the post is due to a moratorium on new shiny things because this weekend past the bossman was marrying off one of his offspring.

And for this week’s post we have another pairing, though somewhat less romantic. Two Japanese tanks.

Both from Tamiya the Type 97 and Type 1 are in 1:35 scale. Tamiya are a long established and well respected brand, and you regular tank buying chaps and chapesses are probably very familiar with them. So instead we’ll have a little look at their real life counterparts.

The Type 97, which is called 九七式中戦車 チハ (or at least I hope that’s what it says!), saw action in both the second Sino-Japanese war and the Second World War. Developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries it was the most produced tank in its size class. It carried two 7.7mm guns and was a none too shabby 38km/h top speed.

The Type 1, the Ho-Ni  (”Hi Ho-Ni I’m home!”) was specifically designed for World War II. It used the main body of the 97, but replaced its not terribly useful gun turret with a huge 75mm field gun. It was though, despite the enormous gun, rather vulnerable in close combat, having a very low armour level.

If you are battling the Pacific end of World War II, or the Sino-Japanese war, or even just fancy something to brighten up the dining table (tank candelabra anyone?) these are great kits.

Let us know what you do with yours!

The day before they won

You have to feel a bit sorry for Belgium. There it sits, squashed between France and Germany, the perpetual playground on which they sort out their squabbles. In 1815 the French Empire were at battle with almost everyone in Europe, apart from Naples. The Seventh Coalition armies of almost a million men, was commanded by the Duke of Wellington, in his fine boots, 72 year old Gebhard von Blücher of Prussia and Frederick Bianchi, who despite his rather Italian name was an Austrian leader. Whilst the smaller opposition of 280,000 were commanded by Joachim Murat, the fabulously named Marquis de Grouchy and of course the mighty Napoleon I.

The battle had moved across Europe from mid-March taking in the sights of France and Italy. By mid June it was in what is now Belgium. Napoleon I had been declared an outlaw by the Congress of Vienna in March of 1815. This sounds rather wild west, but essentially meant that Napoleon was now not protected by the law, and anyone could do whatever they liked with him. Napoleon had done well though in protecting himself against impending doom. Based on previous actions Wellington expected Napoleon to move up through the paved roads of Mons. Napoleon was no fool, and predicted the predictions of Wellington, so made use of misinformation to encourage Wellington to believe that the Mons attack was exactly what he did plan.

However, his real intent was to not push Wellington’s troops toward his colleague Blücher, but rather to split them apart. Dividing his troops into three they were able to easily take several of the outposts at Charleroi, and seat Napoleon centrally opposite Ligny. Wellington, believing that the Charleroi push had been the meat, sent his army to Nivelles and Quatre Bras.

Zieten provided a rearguard that held off the French long enough for Blücher to move his forces to Sombreffe. Whilst Napoleon assuming that they wouldn’t attempt any further moves forward moved the reserve to Fleurus, and sent Marshall Ney off to take Quatre Bras.

In response to the French moves to Quatre Bras, Wellington and Blücher made the decision for Wellington to move his troops there, whilst the Prussians maintained their position in Sombreffe.

At around half past two on the afternoon of June 16th Napoleon heard cannon fire in Quatre Bras which indicated the left flank was safe, and launched the attack from his position in Fleurus. He sent Vandamme, who was regarded as one of the bad boys of L’Armée du Nord, to begin an attack on Saint-Amand-la-Haye, leading the 3rd Prussian brigade into a hasty retreat. In response Blücher sent Pirch to retake the hamlet, however they failed and Napoleon’s troops kept hold of Sain-Amand.

By three o’clock the French had started the Ligny portion of the battle. The Prussian artillery responded but the 12th infantry still successfully captured the village church. Unfortunately for them the Prussians were persistant and well armed and the commander Pécheux found himself reduced by 20 of his officers and 500 soldiers. With such reduced numbers they withdrew, being replaced by the French artillery, who set half the tiny village aflame with their 12-pound gun battery. Again the Prussians responded, and the 3rd Brigade rose from their previous failure to take Ligny back for the coalition.

At half past three Napoleon sent Comte de la Bédoyère with written orders for Ney. The orders instructed him to send d’Erlon and his troops to attack the Prussian’s rear right. However, before the message had made it to Ney, Comte de la Bédoyère coming across d’Erlon sent the troops off in Napoleon’s desired direction. Without the note Ney was unaware of Napoleon’s instructions, and sent them right back to Quatre Bras. D’erlon’s troops did not take part in the battle that day, which is probably just as well after all that walking.

By seven in the evening Wellington was in battle with Ney, and so unable to support the Prussians. Blücher strengthened his troops and led an attack on Saint-Amand, which was initially successful, but the French Imperial Guard then responded and the Prussians found themselves once more in retreat.

An hour later the Prussians had lost the battle altogether, with Gneisenau moving to a position ready to support Wellington. The French Empire was victorious again, but it was Napoleon’s last success in this war. Indeed, it was his last success in his career.

I have attempted to locate the belligerents on a map of modern Belgium, if I have any wrong please let me know!

If you want to get your Napoleonic battle off to a good start here’s the man himself  , some artillery, for the opposition there are some rather jolly Prussians and Wellington, accompanied by Uxbridge and his ummm  rug.

If you’ve a battle report from a Ligny based game we’d love to hear from you, either leave us a comment or email us on arcanescenery@gmail.com

Supplement: Women in Wargaming

Due to a clerical error in last week’s post we failed to include the lovely Hayley, and her scenery making…And we couldn’t not include her…Also the boys want her to keep making cupcakes…an affronted women does not bake.

So here is Hayley making some actual Arcane Scenery…if you follow us on Facebook  you will know that Hayley is on a mission to amass an army so the boss will let her play.

The Heroines of Wargaming

Since its the jubilee, a week dedicated to celebrating one woman, we thought we’d spend this week celebrating a few others. On Wednesday we had our women in war history, now we have women in war gaming.

The One who Makes the Kits

 

Rachel is a resin mould-maker and caster for Warlord. She is the person you have to thank for all those tanks being as perfect as each other. In some companies this job is done by a gigantic injection moulding system with conveyor belts and whistles and bangs. But Warlord go for the craftsman, or in this case craftswoman approach.

Using the master sculpts Rachel decides on the best places for junctions to be on each model, checking that you aren’t going to end up having to glue on some  tiny bit.  She makes each of the silicone moulds, there is one for every resin design, and they can last up to 40 castings, but some of the delicate ones only make it to ten. Considering how many tanks, and figures are getting sold every day, Rachel is a busy girl.

Rachel has worked in the world of wargaming for 16 years in total, though only the last four years have been at Warlord. She even used to work with our lovely Rob  (but I’m sword to secrecy about the old gossip she gave me…).

And offered a choice between strawberries and chocolate Rachel chose…”chocolate covered strawberries!”

 

The  one who sorts them all out

You know how every workplace has that one person who sorts everything and everyone out, whilst everyone else is losing their mind? Or in the case of wargaming offices losing themselves in debates about which army would win…Well at Warlord the one who keeps a sane head above all the artistic discussions on how many flaps the new tank needs is Kristen.

Kristen has been working in the world of war games since 2004, and before becoming Warlord’s admin/credit control/trade sales/office genie she worked in all manner of bits behind the scenes at a very large wargaming company. She’s used to being the first female in all sorts of bits of the business; at her old job she was their first ever female account manager.

Though all the gentlemen that she works with are exactly that, gentlemen, she has seen a few office temps fall at the first hurdle when faced with relentless game talk and bloke jokes: “you have to like being one of the boys”.

Though she isn’t a regular gamer, Kristen occasionally plays Pike and Shot which she does enjoy. Though she may not game much she does take her very own wargamer home with her. And her chocolate or strawberry preference? “Strawberry. I’m not a big chocolate eater, but then there’s never any left around here, you’d lose an arm trying to get to it.

 The one who actually plays

Amy has been playing for 13 years and was introduced to the world by her now husband…

 How did you get into gaming?
Husband used to work for Games Workshop – so influenced by him and if I hadn’t have started playing – then would never have seen him. Also its nice to be able to take part in conversations between friends rather than looking like a dumb blonde!

What do you currently play? What attracted you to it?
I play Warhammer fantasy, Warhammer 40K, Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, World of Warcraft (cards not PC), Malifaux. I really enjoy playing and love the group feeling of being involved in something that people are so pationate about

 How do you find being a female gamer?
 I used to be the only female at the warhammer tournaments – but this has no changed. Although, it is still rare to see women intersted in gaming and we are few and far between

Would you encourage more women to get involved?
 I would definately. I think a lot of women think that it is a “mans” game, but really it isnt! Would be nice to see a few more more women interested in gaming – for the gaming and not just there to support their partners.

Warring Women

Though war is still a predominantly male activity (curse you boys stealing all that death based fun) women have played a diverse range of roles in warfare…

As Fighters
Mrs Jones. Written about by Daniel Dafoe, this Irish woman dressed up as a man, and went off to war. Unlike many of the fighters in this section she didn’t join up for ideology. She joined to find a man. Not just any man. The man she had bought and paid for (aka her husband) whom the armed forces had kidnapped and stolen away into service. Sadly not especially uncommon, but apparently Mrs Jones was not sitting back and letting anyone take her man. After moving through several regiments she eventually made it to the one her husband was serving in, and they were secretly reunited. Alas Mrs Jones was injured, and in the course of repairs, was found to be of the lady variety. Rather than the expected gentleman type. Remarkably, or perhaps pragmatically, the commanding officer did not send the missus packing. He instead insisted that the couple had a formal battlefield marriage, and that Mrs Jones be redeployed. As a vivandiere. The early modern equivalent of the lady in the NAFFI.
Mrs Jones was not the only female combatant to be immortalised in literature. In 1655 a ballad called ‘The Gallant She-Soldier’ was written about one Private Clarke. With such catchy rhymes as “She would drink and take tobacco, and spend her money too, When as occasion served that she had nothing else to do.” Whilst Phoebe Hessel fought as both a private soldier, and under the command of the Duke of Cumberland, and this was no secret. It was proudly recorded on her gravestone after her death at 108.

Flora Sandes was a young English-Irish woman who decided, in 1914, that she wanted to save people’s lives. She was rejected as a nurse applicant, even though she had trained with the Nursing Yeomanary, and so instead joined St. John’s Ambulance. As the Austro-Hungarian front moved backwards into Albania Flora ended up lost from the medical unit. A Serbian unit took her ‘in’, but for safety she was required to look like a soldier not a medic. As she spent time with the, somewhat beleagured, Serbians she became more interested in their cause and was fully commissioned as an officer. Injured in 1916 she was awarded Serbias highest military honour. Regarded as a national heroine she remained in Serbia until after the second world war, and after having spent WW2 interned by the Nazis she returned to the UK.

Milunka Savić, conversely lived her post World War I life as a cleaning lady. Despite having been awarded a raft of medals, including being the only woman to receive France’s Croix de Guerre, after she opted to take her brother’s place when Serbian men were called up in 1913, her bravery was largely forgotten until the 1970s.

Staying in the eastern end of Europe…Maria Bachkarova joined the Imperial Russian Army as a woman. No dragging up necessary in the Russian military. She formed and led the Russian Womens Death Batalion. Like all good titles it sums up the whole essence in a few words. Unfortunately over a third of the death batalion took the ‘death’ part very seriously and died.
Indeed Russian women have played such a strong role in their twentieth century warfare that they account for some of the most celebrated snipers in history. For example Roza Georgiyevna Shanina was a World War II sniper with 54 confirmed kills, Lyudmila Mykhailivna Pavlichenko is credited with a whopping 309 kills in her sniper career and lest you think girls don’t do big guns, Kazakh gunner Mänşük Jïenğaliqizi Mämetova was the first woman to receive the prestigious Hero of the Soviet Union medal.
Whilst Marina Mikhailovna Raskova was a renowned air navigator and founded three womens air units which saw service during the Second World War. She died in January 1943 as she crashed whilst attempting to land of the Volga banks.
Boudicea, famously led the Iceni tribe in 69 AD/BCE to a not terribly victorious revolt against the romans. She may not be the most successful warrior in terms of, well, actually warrioring, but her status as a legend rivals that of her mythical Roman counterpart Britannia. Whilst the maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc, inspired by the voice of God, or madness, depending on which side of the Fence you sit on, led the French army; again, though, not tremendously successfully. Whilst through the centuries of crusading and Euro-battles there were several women leading and commanding troops. These included Countess Alrude of Bertinoro whose army, in 1172, broke a siege at Alcona, Countess Matilda of Tuscany, and Duchess Gaita of Lombardy who both commanded in the Italian Crusades. Muslim commenters recorded women actively in battle during the crusades, though how much of this was truth and how much propaganda, historians are unsure of. The unfortunate Queen Sibylla of Jerusalem was killed whilst the city was under siege, whilst Richard the Lionheart’s wife Princess Berengaria became a hostage, and was so battled over that she never set foot in England.
The American Revolutionary and Civil Wars are filled with tales of women in combat. Indeed historians have suggested that hundreds of women were unmasked as soldiers when injured. Sarah Rosetta Wakeman and Sophia Cryder were two such women. Wakeman was found
Deborah Sampson, however, was apparently never unmasked. She served in a light infantry unit in the revolutionary war, using her brother’s name. She was sustained injuries in both her head and thighs. Fearing discovery she left the hospital before they could treat her leg, and pulled one musket ball out herself.
Presently women have a variable role in combat across the world. Women in Eritrea are estimated to make up around a quarter of all military personnel and have played a significant role in border disputes with Ethiopia, whilst in Gadhafi era Libya the man himself had a 200 woman strong troop of bodyguards. However, in UK, US, French and Australian military operations women are essentially banned from most front line duties. General Ann Elizabeth Dunwoody is the United States military’s only four star female general, and is presently in charge of Army Materiel Command; which is largely logistics. Whilst Médecin Général Inspecteur Valérie André, in the more active part of her career did pilot helicopters into Vietnam/Indochine during the conflict, this former resistance fighting neurosurgeon (oh yes, she is that cool) is unlikely to see any of her younger female officers be allowed to do the same in the near future.

As Fixers
This part of combat is frequently associated with women. Few people in the UK, and further beyond, would have missed out on the tale of Florence Nightingale. Indeed, if you are a resident of Derby (small city in middle England), let me assure you, you can’t get away from the wretched woman. In recent years there has been growing awareness of one of Nightingale’s contemporaries, Mary Seacole, a mixed race Jamaican born nurse who, failing to be amongst those Nightingale chose to nurse alongside her, raised her own capital to go to the Crimean front.
If you were attempting to pick an acronym most designed to amuse your front line, you couldn’t get much better than the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. A group of well to do ladies who didn’t really set First World War battlefield medicine on fire, but pave the way for those that did dig in a bit more. Feeling somewhat limited by the lack of actual on the front medicine aristocrat Ernestine Hunt founded the Sick and Wounded Corps which did go out to the front, whilst Mairi Chisholm and Elsie Knocker made their way to the front despite the War Office. Denied the opportunity to officially go out of the acceptable parts of France, self-funded their nursing efforts on the frontline.
Whilst across the pond in the American Civil War Dorothea Dix and Clara Barton led nursing into new territory. Clara Barton, a former patents office clerk initially worked on the supply side of the war, then received permission to travel in ambulances, before finally being appointed lady in charge of Union hospitals. In her post-war career she was the first president of the American Red Cross, a woman’s suffragist and was involved in activism for civil rights of African-Americans. Whilst Clara’s contemporary, Dorothea Dix, was a health campaigner from very early on. In her youth she had been sent to England in an effort to cure a reoccurring illness, and she saw the burgeoning British mental asylum system. Convinced that a state mediated response was the way to deal with insanity, and after much to-ing and fro-ing with state authorities a bill passed congress, but failed at the president. After an investigative sojourn in Scotland she returned to be Superintendent of Army Nurses, and instigated some rather unusual rules: nurses had to be 35-50, plain, and to dress plainly. Apparently this was to prevent temptation to patients and apparently sexually ravenous doctors. However, her zealous approach to everything, led to clashes, and her eventual resignation.

As Firebrands and Fanatics
A moment of nostalgia dear readers, if I may. When I was a young slip of a girl, well less of a slip more of a lumpen collapse, there were two books which would make it onto my list of life changing books. The first was ‘Shoot the Women First’ by Eileen MacDonald, a collection of interviews with female rebels and terrorists, from the infamous Astrid Proll to lesser known ETA revolutionaries. Women fighting was no surprise to me, but this defending an ideology was a new world to thirteen year old me. So too was Martha Gellhorn’s war correspondent work, not only for the human side of the horrors, but because she was working in what was very much not a womens’ sphere. This section, is about those kind of women in wartimes. The ideologues.
Dorothy Lawrence was World War I’s Martha Gellhorn. Of sorts. She was determined to be a war correspondent. However, in those years prior to the extension of the voting franchise the might of Fleet Street and Whitehall gave a resounding no to this young girl’s request. Not to be defeated she toddled off to Paris under the guise of a tourist, since apparently going on holiday to a war zone is totally okay. Once there she managed to get a uniform, haircut, paper and a quick lesson in marching and went to infiltrate. Unfortunately she was discovered, and initially suspected to be a German spy. However, once it was established that she was not she was sent home, after having agreed to keep the infiltration a secret for the duration of the war.
She would qualify just as much for the previous section (fixers), but Edith Cavell is much better known for the way she died rather than the way she lived. Her first career was teaching, but after looking after her sick father she decided to retrain as a nurse. Highly successful at this second career she trotted off to Belgium to help establish a nursing training school. However, when war broke out she was forced to return home. Not one to stand by and wait she returned to Belgium to help at the hospital, and to help allied soldiers to safety. Understandably the Germans were a little miffed about that sort of behaviour, and when a Belgian collaborator told them she was arrested. Apparently believing in being a good sport, queensbury rules and all that sort of thing when the Germans asked her what she was up to she told them. Consequently on 12 October 1915 she was shot as a spy.
The 1857 Indian Rebellion was essentially a revolt against the British East India Company, the corporation which had been left to run the country on behalf of the crown. Lakashami Bai was the Rani (no getting excited Doctor Who fans it just means queen) of Jhansi. A relatively quiet part of India for the start of the rebellion Lakashami concentrated on keeping her region quiet, and attempting to allay fears about the British. Until March 1858, when the British came to ‘relieve’ her of her post. The Rani decided she really would rather not be relieved, and fought back. Much like that other warrior queen, Boudicca, she was sadly very unsuccessful and was killed in battle, her region being captured afterward, and the British noted her beauty and danger.
One of my fictional heroines has always been the amazing Mrs Peel from The Avengers. However, there was an even more amazing real life Mrs Peel. Andrée Peel worked as a resistance agent in Second World War France. At the start of the war she had been running a beauty salon, but once she joined the resistance she moved quickly through the ranks from newspaper delivery girl to leading a section that rescued airmen. She was captured by the Germans and initially taken to the notorious Ravensbrück camp (for female prisoners), later being transferred to Buchenwald where she was about to be shot when the Americans liberated the camp.
The Special Operations Executive was the British spying and problem causing agency and worked in a similar way to the French resistance. Didi Nearne was a wireless operator, dropped in France, captured by the Gestapo, and heavily tortured, she accidentally implicated a British businessman in the spying (presumably it didn’t work out so well for him). She was then sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp, and transferred to the Silesia work camp, which she and two French girls escaped from. On the run in Germany they hid in woods until being yet again caught by the SS, and then once more escaping from them. They survived till the end of the war hiding with a priest. Lilian Vera Rolfe was another SOE operative, originally working for the British embassy in Rio de Janeiro she worked as a radio operator, but was involved in gun battles supporting the French resistance. Her commanding officer was captured by the Gestapo after the D-Day landings but Rolfe continued operating, and was herself captured. She was heavily tortured and was so ill that at Ravensbrück she was barely able to walk. Nonetheless she was executed at the age of 30.
Maria Skobtskova’s tale is less cat and mouse, but no less heroic. A twice married Russian noblewoman turned nun she and the parish priest Father Dimitri offered Jews an escape route by baptism. Upon discovery by the Nazis they were arrested and sent to camp Dora. Maria was transferred to Ravensbrück, where she died after taking the place of a Jewish woman who had been selected for the gas chambers.
Though the French Resistance is well known (even if it is only the Allo Allo pastiche version), the German resistance is lesser known, and Orli Wald was one of their members. She was imprisoned on a charge of High Treason (nobody ever gets charged with low treason I notice), and initially held in gaol. However, she was later moved to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and was selected to work as a functionary. This meant she assisted in the hospital, and often would support prisoners whom she knew were going to be selected for the chambers or some medical horror. Her camp experiences caused her great distress though, and as well as suffering from depression after the war, she also found that music reminded her too much of the Auschwitz-Birkenau orchestra. She died in a psychiatric unit after several suicide attempts.
Germany’s other resistance movement was the more famous White Rose movement. Led by a university professor and his students their protest, unlike most resistance movements was much more peaceable. They leafleted, scrawled graffiti and generally made their opposition toward the Nazi party known. Driven by a mixture of morality and Christian influences they wanted peace, and an end to the increasingly xenophobic legislation. Sophie Scholl was a student of biology and philosophy at the University of Munich, after working as a nursery assistant with hopes to become a teacher. She believed strongly in passive resistance and participated in the White Rose group with her brother. She, and the other five main leaders of the group, were charged with High Treason, and despite their youth were guillotined in 1943.

As Foundations
Better known in the history of wars is the roles women have played as the backbone of the huge war machine. And it is a huge machine. Going to war, particularly these days is no small task. You need your weapons, you need to move your troops and you need to stick them back together when the inevitable happens.
During the First and Second World Wars most of the big exploding lethal objects that chaps were flinging at one another were made by women. To the younger readership used to a world of health and safety this might sound as though the girls were having a very easy time compared to the chaps slogging it out in Ypres. However, whilst Canning Town and Chilwell were usually safer than the Somme (except on a Saturday night perhaps) working in a munitions factory was a very risky business indeed. Firstly you risked changing colour. Yes, changing colour. The girls of Leeds and Nottingham were not nicknamed canaries for nothing, as working with TNT turned their skin yellow. Seemingly amusing, and possibly hard to explain when stepping out with a boy unfamiliar with the area, this toxic jaundice was the tame end of the poisoning that many of the workers suffered. In other factories the combinations of chemicals used in the processing lead to fatal lung conditions. Rarely do the glamorous Hollywood and Elstree portrayals show the beautiful Bessie from Aintree wheezing her way through her date with her heroic Tommy. The risks of course didn’t stop with poisoning anyone who has visited somewhere like Fort Nelson on Portsdown Hill will be familiar with the dangers of filling shells. It is not for awkwardness that the shell fillers got stuck in a room by themselves. The task had got no less risky from the seventeenth century to the twentieth. In fact if anything it was much more risky since gun powder might just kill or maim the unfortunate person filling the shell, but TNT would likely take out the whole room. Which of course leads us to the biggest risk of being a munitions girl, that of being blown up. Remarkably, given how many people they killed some of the biggest disasters of military history have all but been forgotten. In London the Silvertown factory in West Ham blew up one evening in January 1917 killing 73 people, reportedly making so big a bang and so much smoke that it was visible all over London. Except in the interests of morale it did not make the news. A year later a much bigger accident, and not far from us at Arcane, the Number 6 Shell Filling Factory in Chilwell Nottinghamshire exploded. This explosion killed 134 people, but so powerful was the explosion that only 32 of the bodies could be clearly identified, and the remaining 102 were buried in a mass grave. Not all munitions factory explosions resulted in mass deaths, as the Kingsland Factory in New Jersey shows. As a result of sabotage it exploded in 1916, but thanks to the efforts of the factory switchboard operator Tessie McNamara all 1400 staff escaped.

In Britain in World War One and Two there were a plethora of acronyms flying around, and many of the initialled organisations were those for women who wished to support the war effort. A girl could join the WAF, WEC, WL, WAAC, LISC, WSOS, WFA, WNLSC, WDRC, WLA, WFC, and a whole host of other strangely named bodies. Many, such as the Land Army, Forestry Corps, Forage Corps and Land Service Corps, were concerned with making sure agriculture didn’t go to the dogs while the chaps were away. Some were a little more amorphous in their objectives such as the Womens’ Legion and Womens’ Defence Relief Corps which were volunteer organisations that ‘supported’. In practice some of the more vague establishments of the First World War became a collection of well to do ladies practicing bandaging in High Wycombe. Others however, provided a genuine support to the war effort.
The Lady Instructors’ Signals Company and the School of Signallers may have had repeated, and lengthy correspondence arguing about what their roles should be, but they certainly provided essential services.
Where women did get particularly actively involved was in the skies. The army and navy may have shied away from past history and shunned women until relatively recently, lest their feminine charms drive men crazy and compel them to go AWOL, but the newest arm of the military machine seemed unafraid of gals. Maybe they felt secure that their middle class fly boys would not be attracted to dolls who did actual work for a living, or perhaps they were genuinely progressive. Whatever the reason the air created two jobs for the girls. When the RAF was born, so too was the WRAF, making it the only part of the British Armed Forces that has always legitimately had women amongst the ranks. Though during the First World War the A was for auxiliary and they worked primarily as mechanics, by the Second World War the A became Air. However, they might have had air in their name, but they rarely reached the skies. The women of the Air Transport Auxiliary on the other hand clocked up hundreds of flying hours. Responsible for moving all kinds of planes between airfields in the UK, and sometimes to Europe, the ATA had a large compliment of female pilots from all over the commonwealth and beyond, including Americans, Polish and Chilean women. Though technically a civilian organisation these were adaptable women, having to know how to fly far more aeroplanes than many of men in the RAF would ever have to fly. Nor was it without risk. The flights may have primarily been domestic, but they were often forced to transport at night time, or along routes which they were not familiar with. Consequently fifteen of the women died in service, including Hull’s finest lady Amy Johnson.

Women have been involved in wars at all levels, and this is just an overview of the roles they have played. If you would like to find out more about this topic there are several books which may be of interest:
Kate Adie’s ‘Corsets to Camouflage’ for nineteenth and twentieth century history.
Diana Barnato Walker’s ‘Spreading My Wings’ for an aviatrix perspective.
If royal women are your thing Helen Castor’s excellent ‘She-Wolves’, which is currently on BBC Four as a documentary may be just the bag.
For fiction Pat Barker’s excellent Regeneration Trilogy includes several significant female war workers, including a yellowed munitions worker.

Ebob and the Viking Ship

We decided again to show you some more work from Ebob, whose fabulous work with a tank we had as our hobby post last week.

Ebob sculpts models, and we really recommend you check out his page, but this project is another from a kit. He made use of the Revell Viking Ship for a Norman Landing ship which he uses when playing Saga. Its another project that he completed in a weekend and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a great model.

If you’ve been inspired to show off your work to the world do please get in touch with us at arcanescenery@gmail.com

A Grievously Savage Race

Serenìsima Respùblica de Venexia…the Serene Republic of Venice.Venetians redefining words since 697…

Milan these days is more famous for its fashionistas and handbags, or for the more cynical, for being a cement filled asthma attack. Whilst Venice is a romantic world heritage site, which those same cynics might be inclined to regard as a sinking bog. But in the 15th century they were much less focussed on tourists and leathergoods, and much more interested in beating the hell out of each other. Twenty nine years of beating to be precise.

 

Anyone who has read or watched any Shakespeare will know that medieval and early modern Italian states were filled with dukes, and one such was Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan. A man described in encyclopaedias as ugly and cruel (which is just about a step away from having your photo under the definition of *stupid* in the dictionary) he was regarded as a good politician. Which is just as well, because he wasn’t going to win any matrimonial awards after beheading his first wife…

 

He was ambitious, and in his role of guardian to Teobaldo II, he sought to expand his lands. In 1423 Florence took umbridge at this (that’s umbridge not Umbria…) and attempted to intervene. Venice, in a sort of older brother role, decided to get involved and the war escalated.

Eventually, as with many wars, there was a treaty. Unfortunately for peace, whilst Florence had an interfering older brother, Milan had one of those friends, in the shape of the Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund. Sigismund was in his time Holy Roman Emperor, Emperor of the House of Luxemburg, King of Hungary, King of Croatia, King of Bohemia and an interfering little sod with bad taste in hair. He advised Visconti not to sign, and consequently more fighting broke out. The second battle started in May 1427 and was relatively short, lasting only a year. Unfortunately for Visconti, Sigismund was something of a fair weather friend, and when the going got really tough was strangely nowhere to be found.

The third battle ran for two years and began after the Venitians invaded Lucca, in Tuscany. Visconti sent Sforza to defend it, but it seems Sforza wasn’t much better a friend than Siggy Emperor-lust and at the sight of some nice shiny coins conveniently stopped defending Lucca. However, despite being able to turn one of the Milanese boys, the Venitians were not so fortunate later on in the battle and both sides ended up in something of a status quo.

Despite being able to recruit some of the most talented militarists of the time Visconti had some problems throughout the battles. Firstly that those talented leaders seemed to be perpetually jealous of one another, and the fourth and final part of the war was mostly comprised of the condottieri fighting amongst themselves. Secondly that Venice really was rather powerful. Incidentally I’m not trying to engender sympathy here, I mean the man parted the lovely Beatrice from her equally lovely head simply because she got a bit interested in his work.

The somewhat tenuous final peace came toward the end of the century. Tenuous mainly because its hard to describe Italy as a peaceful place. Though the Peace of Lodi in 1454 created something of an accord, a country filled with Medicis, Sfozas, and Borgias was never going to be blissfully happy.

If you fancy recreating some Lombardy battles there’s a few kits that could be adapted…

The Zvedza 1:72 Peasants and Field Artillery

Italeri 1:72 Medieval Tournament

And since the Italians have always been known for good dress sense perhaps the Landsknechts could double for them.

And finally… the obnoxious Visconti probably thought he’d be a name everyone in centuries to come would remember… but, man with a name like a minty biscuit, you are near forgotten…the lovely Beatrice however, has a whole opera: Beatrice di Tenda…ha take that Visconti!

PS-here’s the whole opera to keep you going till next week…and bonus points for the first person to identify where the post title comes from (arcanescenery@gmail.com or comment!)

Monday Round up

This week is a bit less manic on the new product front but we have some great new items none the less. First up we have some more packs, which are really great ideas if you want to get as many men as possible in one go. From Artizan the 1672 28mm battalion, which is nominally for the wars of Louis XIV, but as the fashions for soldiering weren’t terribly different across Europe you could paint them up and use them for all manner of different armies. Also from Artizan we have two packs of French Foreign Legion soldiers. The first are in shirt sleeves and pith helmets, so would be suitable for exploring duties as well, or for alternative history gaming. The second pack are wearing Kepi instead of pith helmets, and again would work well for alternative history, and for a range of colonial period scenarios.

A bit more up to date is the new Great Escape Hitler Youth, for the Rules of Engagement scenarios. Think more the kids in Downfall, rather than the singing boys in Cabaret these menacing, but characterful little folk will add some sinister charm to any end of Berlin type scenario.

Whilst from Trent Miniatures we have three new packs. The Royal Irish Artillery for the French Revolutionary War period are ready to get involved in the Irish Rebellion, and perfect for any games that need some fine Irishmen. The French Carabiners and their horses are from that same time period, and can give your French forces a bit of equine elegance. Whilst the Austrian Deserters are just that, these eight rebellious little buggers can add some realistic AWOL quality to your army.

Finally on the tools front. On the ever going mission to extend the paints range to all the paints in the whole entire world we have more in our Vallejo range including sepia wash, brush restorer, and brush cleaner.

That’s all for this week, remember to keep an eye out on our shop and on eBay’s new items section for all our newest things!

 

Its good knight from him, and good knight from them…

The Knights Hospitaller are, along with the Knights Templer, one of the best known medieval military outfits. The hospitallers were established in 1023, and in a somewhat dilluted form, still essentially exist.

Knights Hospitaller


The Christians, off on their early endeavours to persuade the locals to the delights of transubstantiation*, had a presence in the Holy Lands since the 500s. Those early Christian pilgrims knew what most modern holidaymakers know all too well. Local habits don’t always agree with you. So to deal with all those cases of Bethlehem-belly and 7th century balcony diving a hospital was set up in Jerusalem. Unfortunately the first hospital didn’t appear to meet Caliph Al Hakim’s architectural mojo and it, along with several thousand other buildings, was destroyed. Fortunately for the sickly pilgrims a new shiny model appeared in 1023, and so too did the hospitallers.
The monks had their order established after the First Crusade. They were a sort of multi-tasking nurses-come-monks-come-bodyguard service. Gradually the multi-tasking got a bit too much and they were divided between the fixers and the fighters.
When Islamic rulers decided that these interlopers should probably leave the knights of St John were sent, crosses between their legs off to the next nearest warm places. Which were Cyprus and Rhodes. European holiday destinations haven’t changed much in a thousand years it seems.

This is a later Siege of Rhodes…the painters were off when the first one was happening

The Templer Knights were officially dissolved by around 1321, though you can probably find several hundred books arguing several hundred other dates, including a number of rather ornate conspiracy theories. Either way the hospitallers took on a range of aquisitions, and sought to expand. They took full control of Rhodes and some of its neighbours. Their move to Rhodes was accompanied by increased millitarisation.

The Ottoman Empire wasn’t much struck on this bunch of power grabbing monks. Hey, this continent is only big enough for one group of power crazy people…And so on 23 May 1480 the Ottoman ships appeared, filled with seventy thousand men. Despite being massively outnumbered the Knights hospitaller were victorious.

The Sultan…who says you don’t get chance to stop and smell the roses when you’re a warmonger.

Which annoyed Sultan Mehmed II, and he planned a new attack. Unfortunately for him he died a year later.

The Knights continued to flourish and moved in the mid 1500s to Malta. which was a gift from King Charles V of Spain. The hospitallers kept their battles with the muslim barbary pirates going through their move to a new home. They kept a successful island until along came Napoleon in 1798. After being refused assylum he took umbridge, and then took the island.

A modern Knight, HRH Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, in St John of Jerusalem crosses

By the nineteenth century, thanks to everyone from the Ottomans and Henry VIII’s monastic dissolutions to France’s most famous petit homme, the knights were essentially no more. However, during the late nineteenth century in a rash of revivalism and love for all things medieval the order resurrged. Less as a war-going affair, and more an eltist social club. This resurrgence was responsible for their current descendents, the St John’s ambulance. The thirteenth century knights could scarcely have imagined their future was in standing around at football matches asking people who are old enough to know better whether they’d possibly had a touch too much to drink.

If you want some of your own hospitaller or templar knights we have from Fireforge the Templar and Teutonic Knights, and the Mounted Sergeants. Also there are the Italeri Templar Knights and Zvedza Livonian Knights who can act very nicely as hospitallers if neither of the first three take your fancy. Or even a D’Agostini Teutonic knight.

*The doctrine of the Catholic Church (and also the Orthodox Churches) that the Eucharist changes the wafer and wine into the body and blood of Christ.

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