A. An introductionary tale about how someone gets excited about obscure miniatures
Today is… yet another Work in progress-update. (hooray!) In the last few posts I had always teased them, as they were never at the point where I had them almost done, but now, only the bases are missing, but those take a lot of time to dry…
As of late I’ve come into contact with a time period I would have never actually imagined liking: the German Unification Wars. When I was still a kid, I dabbled a bit in 1:72 WW2 and Napoleonics, so it came to me as a surprise, that I could like this period. Because I always found the Pickelhaube (Helm with Spike) kinda silly looking and the early bolt action rifles lacking. The uniforms were way too uniform and not exotic anymore and it felt way too fresh. For that I thought the Great War to be a little bit silly as well. (Yeah, I know I somewhat collected WW2, because I loved German Panzers, like many kids and my father stirred me in that direction. Still I didn’t really enjoy it apart from the Panther (Pzkfw V) and the Panzer IV actually.)
And yet – even before the Perrys released their new 3ups I became almost infatuated with it. Firstly I recognized the striking likeness of the Prussian (Russian) cuirassier helm from 1808 onwards which always intrigued me and then I noticed that there was no that one Pickelhaube, but quite a huge collection of them: Varying from troop type (Line Infantry, Cuirassiers, Artillery and even Dragoons had their unique models), to countries (basically everyone apart from ze French used those pointy leather helmets at some point. Some relinquished the spikes though.) and the evolution from those bell-like high cone-helmets to the more modern-looking ones. To say the least, I became fascinated with this not-so unique piece of equipment, though I haven’t bought a real one for myself. But I also came to appreciate the new uniform cuts that became more and more directed towards utility than fashion. The utility belt in white or black (Fusiliers/Light infantry) was actually the real interesting piece as it revolutionized how much movement someone would have. Additionally there was the small fact, that not so long ago the French declaration of war towards Prussia has been 150 years ago and with it all the goodness of interesting history is starting to become more prominent again. It probably is also a bit of nostalgia as my grandfather always used to play me German marches, for me to go to sleep, which I still enjoy from time to time. One of the marches that really hit home was the Königsgrätzer Marsch, the one written by Piefke after the decisive victory over Austria in 1866, as it incorporated the Hohenfriedberger Marsch. The latter being an hommage to Frederic the greats victory, and to a time I always found very fascinating, because I had those old omnibuses with the cigarette pictures. Unfortunately I didn’t find the time and money to spent to buy into the miniatures yet. Anyways going from the music I saw parts of the Battle for Dybbol series (Schlacht an den Düppler Schanzen) my interest grew, until I finally bought into the miniatures.
It all started with Prussian Cuirassiers
B. Minis and history
I. Why they look like they do
What are they? Prussian Line Infantry dated roughly 1866. They belong to the North Star 1866 license which are as I could gather again produced by Helion Co. It’s a mixture from the skirmishing and trail-arms sets.
Am I painting them as Line Infantry? Kinda… Actually those are (be amazed by that short typical German regimental name): Grenadier Life-Regiment „King Friedrich-Wilhelm III“ 1st Brandenburgian Infantry-Regiment Nr. 8 or in German Leib-Grenadier-Regiment „König Friedrich-Wilhelm III.“ (1. Brandenburgisches) Nr. 8. It gets better.
Are they guard infantry or regular line? Both kinda… As for their uniform they are strictly speaking regular line infantry and not even distinguishable from regular ones. Prussian infantry in 1866 would be divided into regular line musketeers, grenadiers and light infantry fusiliers as well as Jägers, which are a topic for itself. Formed into Batallions the regiments had the first two reserver for musketeers or grenadiers, who were virtually indistinguishable from each other in their field dresses. The only significant difference between them was in their parade dress, where grenadier units would have a black horse-hair plume (for the lack of knowledge on my part I’m calling it that right now) and the musketeers wouldn’t have one. I’m not really sure if the designation „musketeer“ was still in use or had already been replaced with simply „line infantry“. The infantry-regiment 8th was something rather special though: Defending in the Siege of Colberg, which saw a mass of leftover units, it was formed after, from a bunch of reserve battalions (Neumark, Pommerania) as well an hastily assembled garrison grenadier unit (Von Waldesleben) to become one of the most iconic regiments in the whole Prussian army. As the siege had been one of those battles, no-one actually expected winning, many survivors were decorated with silver medals (of honor), making them a somewhat elite-force. To make it short: Friedrich Wilhelm III was quite smitten with them, making them his Life-guard regiment, which wasn’t part of the guard, but the regiment he was colonel-in-chief of, creating a tradition, where each Prussian king and later emperor would take the seat. By 1866 it would have been the most famous Wilhelm I. (There is still the guard with the first and second regiment that’s also not to be confused with the Infantry regiment-number.) . Taking part in many of the battles from 1808 onwards like Großgörschen, Laon or Paris its legend grew as it played a role at the storm on the Düppler Schanzen as well as Königsgrätz. Its tradition actually continued far beyond the first world war into the second where it had been reestablished as a Wehrmacht „regiment“.
So much about its history, now a little bit about the equipment: Till 1871 the Prussian army used fixed bayonets, therefore they never had scabards for bayonets. The bayonets could still be removed, but regulations told to have it on all the time. Of course the short-sword could also be used as a bayonet and this would from 1870/71 onwards become the norm. Using the Dreyse Needlegun (Zündnadelgewehr), which was still not a bolt-action rifle and instead used paper cartridges, the Prussian infantry was superior in equipment in both conflicts ’64 and ’66 as the gun could be loaded while lying down in cover for example. The french Chassepot rife, which also was a breach-loading gun with paper-catridges was far superior though, making it unexpected for Prussia to perform the way they did. As Prussia was thoroughly militarized this was even more true for its military. Meaning the common soldier couldn’t even decide to use his own bread-bag. Everyone was issued the same reddish-brown backpack made of – I think – cow-leather, a white canvas-one, same goes for the metal-cantin-tin which was worn strapped to the dark grey coat, everyone was wearing en bandolier. This was of course also taken after the Russian model as well. Of course also other nations wore it that way, prominently French infantry officers as well as French dragoons (in the Napoleonics). Why though? Going back, wayyyy back to the late renaissance and even sometimes at the beginning of the 18th century many unit types, that were fighting directly on the front-lines wore armour in form of mostly breastplate (of course most Cuirassiers wore them until the early 19th century, completely abolished them throughout the 15th years of the Napoleonics only to see: „Oh the French Carabiners and Cuirassiers are somewhat surviving their mass-charges more than ours, why can this be?“ – helmets & cuirasses). They became somewhat obsolete, as the muskets started to become more reliable (they were still pretty poor accuracy-wise, rarely hitting even within 100m till the end of the 19th century!). It probably wasn’t the only reason, as fashion became more important for the monarchs, who now preferably used (very very VERY EXPENSIVE) standing armies and mostly not conscripted ones or straight-up mercenaries. (The Swiss were employed by the French royality all from the 15th century up until revolution and Swiss units were also regular under Napoléon and after him.) And simply put, steel-plate was expensive, even those mass-produced ones. Mind you, they were still bullet-proof to most small-arms, whereas the term comes actually from. To finally come to a close, the coat was a substitute for breast-plate. Though it wasn’t bullet-proof it mainly could protect its wearer from slashes and sword-hits and probably even a bit from stabs. (This paragraph did come out way longer than I thought) The only thing that wasn’t so much standard issue was the drinking flask.
II. The miniatures
Coming to the interesting thing now. I chose the North Star ex-helion now helion-again 1866 Prussians in 28mm, because they were simply the best looking and historical most accurate. Yes there are also the Foundry-ones, but they are more expensive and I’m a cheapskate. They are also really old and quite small, given they have coat-wearing ones, which I’m probably tempted to buy at some point, but right now North Star 1866 were my choice. There are also the Eagles of Empires ones, which I own 2 squads of, let’s say they are decent, but not so much on the historical side of things. Addtionally I wanted to have the older models of the Pickelhaube, which would be more taller and didn’t look so much like a modern steel-helmet (firefighter helmet or police here). The older Pickelhaupe is taller, more bell-shaped and has a different ornamentation than the model used in the FPW (this one actually has no neck-guard I read as well). As previously stated, the Perrys have announced their 1870/71 (probably with helmet options for ’66) line, which I’m incredibly hyped for.
Sculpting-wise the Helion-minis are rather well done, all having good postures and decent faces you can work with, if you’re willing of sacrifice a lot of time (looking at the shooting guy, you’ll soon see, who’s face I stripped 3 times). But they aren’t without their problems, as mold-slippages happen more than I’d like, I think I had about 3-4 figurines within 48 that had mild to heavy slippage where one of them had casting-sides that were 1mm apart from each other. (They are a drag to clean/safe.) Same goes for the cleanliness of the casts. Most of them have visible mold-lines that have to be removed. Additionally some come with mold-breakage, meaning details are filled in with metal, because the mold has suffered damage at that place. This especially goes for the space between arms and the body where the gun is held before the body. Unfortunately this isn’t where the problems stop, as the spike from the helmets tend to either be bended into an unnatural direct or a rightaway broken off, guns are also often bent. While a bended part is easily fixed, the spikes are terrifying to repair back on without always breaking again, as they are tiny and like to get lost in the ether of time. Some faces are also a little bit goofy in their expressions, but this is one of the minor problems, that can be solved with enough dedication.
Painting uniforms is to be completely honest quite a dreg. I really like the results, but to get to them I take an eternity. As I have to basecoat them, clean the mistakes and until I have basecoated every different color its already more than one week that goes by. Then comes the shadings, and 3-4 layers of highlights, sometimes even more. This is of course after I have done the face. Here’s a bit of a work in progress of one of them:
Lastly here are the finished miniatures minus the one above, though I haven’t done the bases yet.
Lastly there is stille the problem of the bases… Like I told you in the beginning and in a previous post, I’m not too keen on multi-bases as they detract from the indivdual models. So I came up with the idea of modular mini-dioramas or plainly said: movement trays. I try to model them so that they can be used for different configuration of models and positions. I really have to think of a cheaper and faster way though, then using Citadel texture paint to build up the shape.
Thank you for visiting,