Monday, December 21, 2020

Statement of Intent: Creat a replica Lancer cap

It's been a while and I won't be progressing any builds before the new year against this project. that's not to say I don't constantly return to it in my thoughts and from those thoughts hatch plans.

I am hoping that by the end of 2021, I will have a new home and within that home will be a dedicated wargames room. So, my mind turns already to how to decorate said space and here I come to my point.

Other than a framed print of the Thin Red Line I have no objects to represent my love of Balaclava or the Crimean War. I have for some years been indulging in my love of design and items of military antiquity - not original antiques (though I have one) but best quality reproductions. Featuring high on this fetish is headgear.

I greatly covet three pieces of headgear from the Crimean War - a Russian spiked helmet (or perhaps also labelled a Pickelhaube?) a British dragoon brass helmet and a 17th Lancer Czapka (or Chapka). Alas, only original antiques present themselves on the internet and at price-points far beyond the sort of money I'd spend on decoration. No one seems to supply reproductions of these items although if I were capable of searching the Russian Web it could be out there somewhere. So, what to do?

Of the three items, the Lancer Czapka seems to present as the most likely subject capable of reproduction. I probably need to clarify here that I'm not talking about the full dress parade Czapka, but rather the 'foul weather' cap that the 17th Lancers took on campaign and charged in famously in 1854. I could perhaps commission this reproduction if any sutlers or reproductions specialists were interested in manufacturing one. I have the happy option of an alternative.

My good friend Michael Hunter is a leather working specialist with a living history background. I have seen his leather work over the years (art really) and it just so happens he is fascinated with the battle of Balaclava also. I broached the subject with him yesterday and he is keen to work with me to create our own foul weather caps. I say caps, as craftsmen learn so much with their first attempt that a second effort is preferable and we would both like to possess a cap each.

I intend to closely document the process for anyone else interesting in undertaking a similar project. The whole build will feature on this Blog and I may consider posting a video on Youtube but that would be a first for me. At this early stage we have a few considerations of how to approach the task.

As we both live in Australia we have no access to an original example. As such, we do not have precise dimensions or measurements and features of construction can only be gleaned through photographs. I do have a reproduction Prussian Infantry Pickelhaube which should provide us with some design and construction concepts to work from in the absence of other references. If anyone reading this blog is able to supply any details concerning the foul weather cap please do reach out.

We would like to make our reproduction as faithful as we can to the original and as much of a true facsimile as we can make it.

An optional approach would be to model the shape of the cap and clad it in the four part leather cover. The cap is intended to spend it's life on a stand or bust for show after all. From the outside it will look like a foul weather cap but would not be capable of being worn as a riding helmet. This is not my preferred option.

I have no particular interest in owning a German Uhlan leather cap but they are nice looking and they are readily available from the abovementioned Pickelhaube suppliers. I surmise that such an example would provide further construction comparisons.

I will be reaching out to the Crimean War group on Facebook to see if anyone there can assist with guidance. I will need to source fitments such as the cap chords, chin-straps and scull clasps or worse still, I may need to cast them myself (a project within a project).

In the end, this will be two blokes just trying to breath some life into the past. I'll do most of the research and fund it whilst Michael is the real talent. I'll be sure to keep you and this Blog posted.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

53rd Don Cossacks: My representation

This 20 figure unit consists entirely of Great War Miniatures and once again they were lovely sculpts to work with. The only complaint I have is that according to my research the officers are sculpted with the Russian Army Imperial eagle shako plate on their shapka. My sources identify this as the uniform for the Don Ataman regiment only (the elite bodyguard regiment for the ataman or head of the Don host).

I was required to remove the eagle impression (filing) and re-sculpt the surface of the officer's shapka which I believe you will need to do if you want to accurately depict officers from the Don regular regiments 1-54. This made my build just that little more complex as I had 75% painted these figures when I found this out ... nasty. Still, I suspect it's better to remove a detail than having to add one like a shapka plate so there's likely method to the madness.
Most of the photos are over-lit and the figures are darker in real life than they appear. I have also been unable to base them as I ran out of my cut MDF in Tonga. They are photographed in their painting stands.

I did try different colour schemes for their mounts. I have used for some years now Sarah Slater's 2014 A Horse of a Difference Colour reference chart as an initial go-to as well as Google images for specific colour types. I recently stumbled across Maija Kazal's 2018 Colours of Eurasian Wild Horses so used this for about half of the horse paint schemes. I wanted the Cossacks to deviate a little more obviously from their Western European protagonists.

I mixed a bit of red into my blue and darkening the mix with a  drop of black for the uniform coats and then darkened them a little more for the overalls. On one or two the colours veered close to purple but otherwise I'm not at all sure anyone will notice this different blue other than me.
It was only when it came to painting their hair that I woke up to the fact that they all have the same face and mustache. Next time I will file some off and vary their hirsute adornments more appropriately.

I used thicker wire for their lances than I will in future. I think perhaps one gauge less next time. I use this wire for medieval heavy lances but they looked fatter when just undercoated and again, only I probably care. The Don Cossacks painted their lances black so I heavily dry-brushed over a two tone wooden scheme which thins them a little to the eye.

I have enough figures for another equal size regiment of Don Cossacks but I'd really like some Ural Cossacks with the divergent head gear. I am considering converting them which will prove a chore and a half I am sure. Again, these are just the best sculpts available for the Crimean period. I really love them and am looking forward to building the Russian army for my Balaclava project more than I thought I would now that I have engaged with these figures.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

53rd Don Cossacks: Uniform Guide and Organization

Russian Cossacks taken 1854 by Szathmary (the Royal Collection UK)
When it comes to uniform guides on the Crimean War, most readily available information in the English language is culturally self-centred: mainly British sourced and generally about the British army. The Osprey MAA 241 Russian Army of the Crimean War provides a very useful overview (a must have) but isn't any help when it comes to Cossack uniform detail. Osprey is also generally and consistently useless when it comes to the subject of horse furniture.
Since starting the Russian army for this project, I ordered several editions from the series Uniforms of the Russian Army During the Years 1825-1855 by Aleksandr Vasilevich Viskovatov and Luca Stefano Cristini which are about the only dedicated works on the subject. When it comes to uniform and horse furniture detail they are the first and last word on the subject for this period.
I might also say that in studying the Cossacks for the first time I have dispelled any previous misconceptions about Cossack soldiery I may have had. They are too often depicted in the media of the time (and since) and by their detractors as something akin to vagabond nomads. I had vague notions that they were irregular cavalry and second rate troops akin to mobilized militia: ill-disciplined and brutal bordering on savage. I have come to realise that this branding was and is culturally dismissive and wholly ignorant of the people, the region, the culture and their traditions of militarism. Well, we live and learn yes? This is my first ever Russian army in any period so I suppose I never really looked before now.
The Don Cossacks formed a standing and significant component of the Imperial Russian forces. They operated 'irregular' tactics but were uniformed and their equipment was by this period standardized. I would define 'irregular tactics' by this period as cavalry skirmishers. They were not a lawless mob and were likely the most active reconnaissance arm of the Russian forces during the campaign. In a period of class consciousness, cultural elitism, snobbery and overt racism they were often disrespected by friend and foe alike. They were not drilled battle-cavalry and rarely stood toe-to-toe against regular formations.

The Don Cossacks fielded 54 regiments plus a Lifeguard to the Czar and an Ataman Regiment which were a body guard regiment protecting the Ataman (head) of the Don Host. Both the Lifeguard and Ataman regiments were essentially elite units and not the subject of this posting.
Each Don Cossack regiment had a number of sotnias (normally 5) which equated to a Cossack squadron with an official establishment strength of 100. The Regiment was commanded by a Polkovnik (Colonel) who rode with the first sotnia together with the Podpolkovnik (Lieutenant-Colonel). The remaining four sotnias were commanded and led by a Yesaul (Captain), supported by a Sotnik (Lieutenant), Horunzhii (Ensign), four Uriadniks (Sergeants) and ten Desiatniks (Corporals, also called Deputies).
Sotnias were capable of independent operations and you will find innumerable references to various numbers of sotnias dividing off for different tasks. 

Headdress: The Shapka - black astrakhan (rough woolen of Turkish origin) with a scarlet cloth bag (black leather lined on the underside) from the crown, and a white pom-pom. In the field, the shapka is covered with a black oilskin cover. Also, forage cap of dark blue cloth and red head-band and piping. When modelled the shapka army plate on the font is silver for officers but this should only be for the Ataman Regiment (elite Cossack regiment to the Ataman (head) of the Don Cossacks) – one of two elite regiments along with the Lifeguard (to the Tzar 
Neck-cloth: black
Coat: Checkmen coat of dark blue with red piping at collar and cuff. Note: the checkmen coat had come to replace the former jacket by edict of 1845. Officers have additional silver lace bars on the collar and cuff. The checkmen was worn with a darker blue/black girdle on the outside.
Rank Distinctions: NCO – silver galloon (narrow cloth strip – like lace) on collar and cuffs of the checkmen immediately beneath the piping. Corporals have same only on the cuff. Officers – silver lace bars on the collar (single band running parallel) and the cuff (two bars running perpendicular from piping to hem).
Pants: Dark blue with red stripe down outside leg.
Greatcoat: Grey cloth with a dark blue collar. Rolled and strapped over the front of the saddle with black straps and brass buckles.
Boots: Black with iron spurs
Shoulder straps with regimental number cut-out (1-54)
Ammunition carrier (long cartridge pouch): black leather with black rawhide cover slung from black cross belt. The belt is silver lace for officers.
Pistol holder/carrier – black leather with red top for all ranks. Pistol chords of red for other ranks and silver for officers.
Sword Belt: black leather other ranks, silver for officers.

Sabre – all steel. May also use shashka swords with brass hilt, fittings and rings on a black leather scabbard for all ranks – gilt instead of brass for officers.
Muskets were slung/mounted on black leather strap with brass buckle.
Lances were painted black.

Saddle: black leather bridle/harness/girth-strap.
Saddle cloth: dark blue edged red (all ranks).
Valise: grey cloth, fastened with black straps and brass buckles.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Action Analysis (1) 'Thin Red Streak'

I've long thought on how the Battle of Balaclava has been described ever since Russell's first dispatches to the Times and how he effectively established the court of public opinion. Since that time even the British military and political establishment have been seemingly unable to responded to the events of Balaclava outside of that prism - especially when it suited them. How Russell reported and recounted specific events established an analytical orthodoxy which has been endlessly repeated even to this day. Whilst not inclined necessarily to a determined revisionism, there are aspects to how this battle is retold which would benefit considerably from applying a fresh, critical perspective. One such aspect is the action performed by the 93rd Highlanders - the 'Thin Red Streak', later the 'Thin Red Line'.

William Howard Russell was a journalist. He has been oft described as one of the first 'special correspondents' or 'war correspondents' (a term he disliked) which are internal industry tags journalists use to infer greater subject matter credibility - like analyst or editor. He had previously been deployed to report on the First Schleswig War (1850) but prior to this he is known to have been a domestic political correspondent. His accompanying the British Army into the Crimea from 1853 was his second exposure to military campaigns at the age of 34.
Russell was not a military man or military thinker. He had no deep appreciation of strategy or tactics, let alone experience of command. As a reporter, Russell's primary skill set and purpose was to tell a story to the satisfaction of his editor - to make good copy which is double-speak for story-telling. Whilst not necessarily relevant to his account of the 93rd, Russell was also disliked by Lord Raglan who advised his officer corps not to speak to him. In turn, Russell was inclined as all journalists are toward criticism and commentary whilst not being privy to all military intelligence or inside access to decision-making.
Russell's narratives are colourful and heroic and he is largely responsible for the popular and public memory of the 'Thin Red Streak', the 'Charge of the Heavy Brigade' and the 'Charge of the Light Brigade'. I believe that Russell was inexpert and prone to exaggeration for effect. Nevertheless, he was independent of the need to justify command decisions and at least party impartial.

I don't intend to discuss the over-arching plan of attack on Balaclava in depth in this posting. In relation to the stand of the 93rd, it does serve to ask the question, 'What were Liprandi's cavalry doing?'
Unfortunately we have no access to a written battle-plan akin to what we might call a Commander's Intent for either the army commander Liprandi or his cavalry commander Ryzhov. We do have Liprandi's next-day account but a proud man's tendency to shape alleged intentions to match outcomes after the fact make's an uncritical acceptance of his account problematic.
In his report, Liprandi implies a more limited objective of his foray stating he had conformed to the orders of Prince Mentschikoff and, "attacked the fortifications of the heights forming the valley of Kadikoi". In this he is supported by Prince Mentschikoff's own report to the Czar of the same date, stating, "Lieutenant General Liprandi was given the task of using his division to attack the detached fortified enemy encampment covering the road from Sevastopol to Balaklava."
The memoirs of Stefan Kozhukhov (12th Artillery Brigade) indicate the generally understood orders within the army; "Offensive actions were planned to start by occupying the enemy’s forward positions on the Kadikioi Heights, with the intent of threatening enemy communications with Balaklava." 
Then on the subject of subsequent cavalry actions Liprandi alleges, "I ordered the advance of the cavalry ... upon the enemy's camp situated upon the other side of the mountains (Causeway Heights)." If his limited plan of seizing and holding the Causeway Heights is correct and his subsequent orders to the cavalry are also true, then I am compelled to interpret the cavalry intent as reconnaissance in-force and a raiding action. This assumption is further supported by the fact that the advance was not supported by any infantry.
In 1870, Ryzhov recollects he was ordered to, "ascend a slope on which were all the English cavalry and even some of his infantry, in a fortified position."
Lieutenant Ye F. Abuzov's (Ingerlamand Hussars) memoirs of 1874 states, " ... we were to send the Kiev and Ingermanland Hussar Regiments across the already-occupied Balaklava heights to the enemy artillery park located to the right of Kadykioi. Once the hussars had put the park’s wagons out of order, they were to retreat. After this, artillery fire was supposed to blow up the park, the enemy already having been deprived of the means to move it away." Later in his account Abuzov refers to "the supposed artillery park" indicating the inadequate intelligence the Russian planners were operating with.


Lieutenant General Ivan Ivanovich Ryzhov had command of Liprandi's Cavalry Corps, which included the Inglermanland Hussars (6 squadrons), the Kiev Hussars (8 squadrons) and the 1st Ural Cossacks (6 sotnias) - paper strengths and dispositions at the time of the attack.
Whilst other cavalry were attached to the other attack columns it is interesting to note that Lieutenant General Liprandi's entire army for the battle of Balaclava had no heavy cavalry - invariably regarded as 'battle cavalry'.
Liprandi stated he further reinforced Ryzhov's general advance with three sotnias of the 53rd Don Cossacks to which Ryzhov's later recollection fails to refer.

From this point neither Liprandi nor Ryzhov make specific remarks on an engagement with the 93rd or any body of infantry.  Liprandi refers more generally to a wider ranging contact-to-front across the cavalry thrust. Ryzhov makes an altogether divergent reference to what the English speaking accounts refer to as the Charge of the Heavy Brigade and ignors his own left flank action which we label the Thin Red Streak (Line) action. It rates no more than an oblique reference to some flanking fire effect on the main event - the cavalry action against the Heavy Brigade. Of interest is his reference to activities to his left flank of the Ural Cossacks - more on that later.
Sir Colin Campbell's account of the action in his sector two days later cannot identify further than a body of approximately 400 cavalry.
Lieutenant Koribut-Kubitovich (K-K) of Yeropkin’s Composite Reserve Lancer Regiment was positioned on the Causeway Heights at the time of the Southern Valley cavalry actions. His memoir in 1859 is consistent with British accounts of the action and as neither the commander directly involved or a member of the regiments engaged he may be seen to be more impartial than either Ryzhov or Abuzov. Consistent with brigade tactical doctrine, Ryzhov was developing his advance with two lines of Hussars, flanked by artillery support and Cossacks. K-K also states; "The Cossacks headed for the Scots standing on the height’s slope beside their camp, and moved round to engage them on both their flanks. The enemy artillery met them with canister while the Scottish riflemen mounted the rise and coolly allowed them to approach to close range and only then did they open up a murderous fire. The stunned Cossacks were bowled over but reformed and again threw themselves into the attack. This was again as unsuccessful as the first time."
Ryzhov's account of the 1st Ural Cossacks would seem to be entirely consistent with Colin Campbell's and K-K's account as follows: "The Ural Cossack Regiment had edged far to the right of the enemy, along the edge of the heights, in the same formation as they had started, which is to say—in sixes. They moved with a frightful "Ura!" and quickly shifted back and forth in a long row like some kind of flock or flight of birds, but not, however, closing with the enemy."
The Leader article in The Times 4th November 1854 edition reads; "The Cossacks, who covered the attack, were encountered by the Turks and the Highland Brigade." Russell's assertion must surely have resulted from his own observations and the general impression of observes at the time.
Later (1868) Kinglake records in his history that four squadrons separated from the main body and put in the attack on the Scot's position. He does not reveal which sources this reference relies upon and may imply a detatchment of regulars from Ryzhov's main body or might describe 400 (4 sotnias) of Cossacks.
Note: I have read accounts in certain Osprey Publishing editions as well as general on-line accounts referring to an attack by the Russian Hussars (usually Ingermanland). None of those 'sources' identify where they got their information from; however, and I cannot find them credible.

The Times newspaper was intent on giving the public what they wanted; tales of imperial glory. Russell was just the man to write it for them.
The Ural Cossacks appeared to be ranging forward into a valley which was almost as covered by Allied defensive fire as the Northern Valley was by Russian fire when the Light Brigade charged up it.
Mark Conrad's superb website and library of translated and analyzed Russian accounts makes the following observation of Ural Cossacks; "A word in defense of the Ural Cossacks: the Ural Host’s normal military mission was to provide detachments to man the Central Asian frontier lines and to provide some units for internal security tasks in nearby Russian provinces. These Cossacks were certainly not trained to operate on a formal battlefield."
Corroborating accounts have the Cossacks attempt to outflank the 93rd and wrap around them to the Allied right flank at which point they suffer further effective volley fire from the inclining grenadier company. Whilst a speculation of my own, they might also stray into range fire from the Kadakoi battery if flanking too far East. It may also be that more generally, the Cossacks could even fall under the guns of the marine entrenchments larger ordinance. Such possibilities depend greatly on the accuracy of any battle map you might refer to - which vary significantly. An exact understanding of the battlefield today appears impossible with an expanding Balaklava township have spread and developed across that landscape (2020) if Google satellite imagery is any indication.
The 1st Ural Cossacks are accounted six Sotnias which are officially 100 men each. Whilst no cavalry squadron on either side claims to have been near full strength by the time of this battle, we have no records or even commentary on what depletion the Cossacks may have endured. Suffice to say it is highly improbable that fully near 600 men rode against the 93rd and thus Campbell's likely crude estimate of 400 is in all probability nearer the mark.
Now most of us are familiar with Robert Gibb's epic depiction of the 93rd in his 'Thin Red Line' (1881) pictured at the top. It has come under some obvious criticism. What it does depict correctly to my eyes is the Ural Cossacks as being the attacking force. Naturally the Cossacks never came nearly so close as shown but might not the reason be the desire to show the enemy and the engagement's effect on the Russians within the limitations of a single canvass? Perhaps it's not as simple as an attempt at false heroism or propaganda?
What is suspect about the painting to my eye is the ground upon which the 93rd stands. Whilst the 93rd did appear from their more sheltered position behind the reverse slope to engage the approaching enemy, they sensibly formed line on high ground. A lot has been made of Campbell's direction to stay in line and not form square but without talking about their position. So how high was the ground and how hard going would it have been even for regular cavalry to have closed on them?
The thinly referenced History of the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders by Lt. Col. John Percy Groves (1895) describes the feature defended by the regiment as 'rising ground' and states the regiment formed line upon it's 'summit'.
Lt-Col S. J. G. Calthorpe (of the 8th Hussards but ADC to Lord Raglan at Balaclava) observed; "On receiving the report of the Russian advance, Sir Colin Campbell immediately ordered out all the available troops under his command." He continues, "Sir Colin caused the 93rd Highlanders, and a company from the Invalid Battalion (mustering about 100 men),to be placed in line midway between the defences of the place and the line of redoubts, in a position where they could best repulse any attempt on the part of the enemy to advance on the town." Catthorpe does not make it clear from which position he witnessed the battle unfold - presumably from Headquarters positioned at the top of the Fedoukine Heights. If so, we need to be mindful that his 'recollections' repeat details of which he cannot have had a first hand knowledge - such as the dialogue of fleeing Turkish soldiers after quitting their position alongside the 93rd. From what we can surmise in this account is that the 93rd moved forward from Kadakoi onto a rise. It does not appear to have been any sort of prepared position.
Fanny Duberly has a naturally vague reference to the event as at the time she and Henry Duberly were fleeing Westwards across their encampment, evading the expanding battle. Nevertheless, whilst emphasizing the few Scots and the masses of Russian cavalry, she describes the rising ground upon which the 93rd held as an 'eminence'.
Kinglake's comprehensive The Invasion of the Crimea (1868) describes the 'Dunrobin' feature or the 'Southern Hillock' as 'rising ground'. When coming under enemy fire and before the Cossack advance Campbell (who had effectively taken direct command of the line) moved the 93rd back to the southern foot of the 'hillock' and had his troops lie down to take cover.
I think we can deduce that the hillock was prominent enough to be a discernible feature but of insufficient height to properly shelter troops whist standing at least from the elevated firing positions of the Russian sharp-shooters and artillery on the Causeway heights. No Russian but Allied accounts later describe the apparent surprise of the Russian cavalry when the 93rd regained the summit to meet their advance. We can only guess at how genuine this reaction was but Kinglake does state this was communicated afterwards by Russian officers. We can surmise that the 'Dunrobin' feature was capable of hiding at least the prone regiment from a ground level and mounted view.

All accounts make it clear that the 93rd formed a two-rank line in good order on the crest of the hillock. Of itself this is no particular curiosity except it contravenes tactical practice in the face of advancing cavalry. So, why?
In short, we may never know. Certainly a two-rank line is the preferred formation by this period to maximise firepower to a single front. If this was deliberately or thoughtfully ordered it would require an understanding of the enemy capability and intent. I can only presume by this time in the Crimean campaign Sir Colin Campbell would have had next to no practical experience in dealing with Russian cavalry of any sort. I doubt not that a general disdain for the capabilities of the Russian soldiery by this time born of prejudice must have been reinforced by their performance at the Alma. It may have been a decision born of hubris. It may also be a quick-fire reaction under pressure and a potential error. If the enemy had been a regiment of formed Dragoons then the day may have yielded a different result.
Then again, the height of the 'Dunrobin' defended with minie fire and a double line of bayonets in the hands of proven steady troops may have been sufficient proof against cavalry attack.
Colin Campbell gives no insight into his appreciation of the enemy capability before him and his general description implies he had none.
We appreciate that the 1st Ural Cossacks were opportunist, ranging light and irregular cavalry gone raiding. They may have thought to test the resolve of a rapidly appearing line of enemy foot in the distance but it didn't take long to come under sustained rifle and cannon fire. It would not and should not have taken much to dissuade them from from advancing further and we would be foolish to imagine they ever seriously contemplated a charge.
Kinglake records the 93rd resumed the feature when the enemy cavalry were within 1000 yards. He also records that at time the Turkish 'battalions' which were formed to either flanks of the Scots lacked cohesion and had begun to dissolve to the rear.
Kinglake states that the regiment delivered it's first volley at long range, "Although they emptied no saddles, they wounded some horses and men." I find that a curious remark. Provided that an oncoming trooper is unhorsed, his mount collapses or even veers off with a loss of control, that enemy has been prevented from closing on your defended position which is the desired result.  Kinglake claims to have sourced the fire effect from later remarks by Russian officers yet his choice of words seems to illustrate there were no obvious casualties but implies or imagines better marksmanship than was evident.
Colin Campbell's brief report makes no mention of the range of the initial volley.
Micheal Barthope's The British Army on Campaign (Osprey MAA 196) writes that the 93rd engaged at distances closing to 40 yards and that 'an officer' of the regiment referred to a formation four ranks deep - but provides no citations or specific references. This is entirely at odds with any of the sources available to me and is difficult not to dismiss out of hand. I suspect it is invention.
Captain Christopher Edward Blackett of the 93rd wrote; "…two Regts came on in a dense black column of I should say twelve or fourteen very strong squadrons [and] bore right down on us. We were in line with Turks, on either flank, who on seeing the Cavalry took to their heels, but were rallied by some of our Officers driving  them back, as soon as the enemy got within about five hundred yards we opened a fire of MiniĆ© rifles on them that some began to drop their horses, the nearer they got the hotter it became for them till when they arrived to within about three hundred yards they edged off to the left and fairly cut, before and after this affair we had a good deal of both shot [and] shell but during the whole day our loss amounted to but three men wounded."  
The 93rd Regimental Records have the regiment forming back onto the summit after the enemy cavalry were 1000 yards forward. It does not state at what distance they were first engaged but describes a 'well sustained fire'.
Here's how Russell poetically describes it; (the Russians) ... "dash on towards that thin red streak, topped with a line of steel. The Turks fire a volley at 800 yards and run. As the Russians come within 600 yards, down goes the line of steel in front, and out rings a rolling volley of Minie musketry. The distance is too great; the Russians are not checked ... with restless suspense everyone awaits the bursting of the wave upon the line of Gaelic rock; but ere they come within 150 yards, another deadly volley flashes from the levelled rifles, and carried death and terror into the Russians. They wheel about, open files right and left, and fly back faster than they came."
It is almost alarming how often Russell's original reports have been uncritically accepted and repeated since. He and others since make a lot of the fire effect from staged or dramatically timed volleys with little reference to the battery fire to the immediate flank. Nevertheless, his observations concerning timed volleys likely hold as the Minie P51 musket was muzzle loading and sustained doctrine by this period would support that assertion. He may have been near to the mark concerning the distances involved. He had a long range but unimpeded and elevated view-point and could have confirmed distances in subsequent interviews with men of the 93rd.

The 93rd had already demonstrated their musketry in action. They had (in brigade) advanced up the Alma slopes in line and echelon of battalions firing as they went. They appeared well drilled, steady under fire and effective in action. So much for the men.
The Minie Pattern 1851 or P51 rifled 'musket' was issued to all of the 93rd regiment and according to the reports at the time it was capable of a rate of fire similar to a smooth-bore, muzzle-loaded musket - 2/3 rounds per minute. It's 'effective range' (a widely subjective term but essentially 'accurate range') was quoted as 250 yards but capable of being sighted up to 1000 yards with testing yielding 1 shot in 7 finding the mark (Maj G Tylden's The Minie Rifle Musket of 1851in the Field).
The above accuracy or effectiveness measures are regarding individual marksmanship testing and not wider combat effectiveness. I would suggest that effective fire by formed volleys over open ground at massed cavalry would easily extend that range and might approach the claimed distance of 500 yards recalled by Captain Blackwell of the 93rd.
Whilst the rate of fire was not unchanged from earlier musketry, the new rifled muskets delivered a large pattern bullet at greater velocity, with a flatter trajectory and greater accuracy. Each soldier carried 50 rounds, cartridges and percussion caps. The effect of fire was a significant advantage to infantry so armed. The drills had not changed effectively since Waterloo by the time of Balaclava.
We understand the strength of the 93rd to be 450 all ranks not including whatever Turkish support was present and they were facing approximately 400 lance and sabre armed Cossacks crossing from a distance starting at 1000 yards. So that's comfortably more Minie rifles than targets over a closing distance from within maximum range.
A sustained fire effect would gain from any hesitancy amongst the enemy cavalry, who would present viable targets for longer. Ryzhov's comment about the flock of birds suggest some ebbing and flowing of the mass. No one has ever described the cavalry in any particular formation and being Ural Cossacks it may be likely they were 'grouped' rather than 'formed'. Also being Cossacks, they were neither trained, expected or inclined to commit to engage. Any half-hearted forward movement or probing (even any feint or demonstration) would only serve to prolong their exposure to a fire effect over distances they would not be expecting. Let's not forget this is the first experience any side had in massed combat battles with rifles.
Blackwell's account suggests more than Russell's two-volley account but how many more rounds the 93rd delivered to drive off the enemy us unknown.
Notwithstanding the superiority in infantry firepower, the 93rd had close in-line support from Captain George R. Baker's 'W' Battery Royal Artillery. This was what we might refer to as a field artillery battery of reasonably heavy field pieces - 9 pound cannons supported by 24 pound howitzers. That is some significant ordinance. Able to engage over longer distances with round-shot, they were all equipped with canister (case-shot) which could engage effective fire at 250 and 300+ yards for the cannon and howitzer respectively. In firing canister, the guns could maintain a rate of fire at 3 shots per minute and two for round-shot.
In the face of mutually supported formed, steady and well armed infantry and close range artillery on advantageous ground, light Russian cavalry do not appear to have ever presented a genuine threat. Taken together with whatever support the Turks were providing, the position would have been formidable enough.

I cannot help but feel the last word on this chapter was that of Sir Colin Campbell's abovementioned report; unemotional, matter-of-fact and bordering on procedural. It really appears little more than a minor action. The public memory is a fable; a romance born of the need to exaggerate a positive from the battle as a whole. And who doesn't need romance? The wonderful painting of 'The Thin Red Line' also graces a wall in my home but just like the fabulous stories of King Arthur or Robin Hood, I can enjoy the mythology without believing it's real. 

Friday, November 1, 2019

Light Dragoons Photographic Update

As my British Light Dragoon regiments were the first units painted, they were also indifferently photographed. Now that I have a proper lighting array for studio and macro photography I've determined to amend this fault.
This post includes both the 13th and 4th Light Dragoon regiments at 12 figures apiece. I really love these figures and have a particular fondness for the Light Dragoon uniform of this period even over the classic Hussars.
Anyway, this is really only a photographic record for what's already been discussed by me on the units and the builds.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

17th Lancers: My Representation

Took me a week longer than it should have but here is my fourth light cavalry regiment done for the Light Brigade - the 17th Lancers. All shots are taken using my newly constructed light box - the panels for which I made using baking paper. The light blue backing paper was all that I could source in Tonga and I was lucky to find that - but I kind of like it.

Once again all models for this unit are from the Great War Miniatures Crimean War range and they are fabulous. I think they paint up particularly well and I enjoyed finishing them off more so than their hussar counter-parts.

Particular features of this representation are the inclusion of two figures from the Great War Miniatures Charge of the Light Brigade Characters pack (CBC08) - Captain Morris and Butcher Jack Vahey. I retained and included the officer from the lancers command pack to represent another of the squadron commanders so this regiment has one more officer than my others.

I've pretty well constructed this regiment as they come from the manufacturer. The lances; however, are steel wire straightened, cut and fitted into lance heads/pennons from Front Rank. There is a gap in the receiving ports of these lance heads which in hindsight I should have filled but did not. I can live with it.

I like how the regiment looks all grouped up and I had cause to reflect how impressive they would look had I opted for 18 figure regiments which was my original goal. This would have looked optimal to me but it was impractical for the whole Battle of Balaclava re-fight I am aiming for at 1:20 representative scale. If I was just going for a Charge of the Light Brigade re-fight then 18 or even 24 figure regiments would have been my chosen option.

I kept some light blood stains on Jack Vahey's butcher's cleaver but have left this shirt stain free. I surmise he would have few uniform shirts and would likely have done his butchering with an apron which he cast off before riding into the lines. I also theorized Jack would likely have appropriated a stray hussar mount from either of the two Russian regiments who engaged the Thin Red Line or the Heavy Brigade. I've painted up his mount in the colours of the Kiev Hussars and made their recorded 'dark green' shabraque slightly toward the medium: I have seen them bordering on black.

I was never sure about which angle to fix my lances but I'm happy with the upright pose. It is less dynamic than charging but then again, basing figures for miniature wargames tends to order them more that a full charging gallop would have looked like when charging their lances and closing with the enemy.

I am now only one regiment and Lord Cardigan's command base away from finishing my Light Brigade. I am also two regiments and a command base away from Scarlet's Heavy Brigade and then that's the division done. Next up I have a fair number of Russian Don Cossack cavalry to paint. I thought it was about time the Brits had someone to cross sabres with but for now I'm taking a break from this project.

Friday, March 22, 2019

8th Kings Royal Irish Light Dragoons (Hussars): Great War Miniatures

These troopers have been a long time coming. What with my multitude of other projects and three blogs apart from this one, even when attending to my Balaclava 'love' I diverted away from the Light Brigade and leapt head-long at the Heavies. Well it's back to the Light Brigade once more with my modelling of the 8th Hussars.
The third of my light regiments, I noticed how I've developed my painting and my photography since last I painted this brigade. I layer these days with Vallejo acrylics to build up my flesh tones and I dull wash my brass - which I may have overdone with the trumpeter, but I'll live with it.

A word on painting Great War Miniatures cavalry. I like to paint the horses first - the animals rather than their furniture. When doing this you need to be mindful of a few areas of what I'm calling raised-depth. The casting of the carbines extends out some way on several of the sculpts as do the rider's legs. You may decide later on that this depth might be best painted to match a saddle-cloth or even extend the feature back. My recommendation is to extend the painting of the horse in all cases and you can decide later if you prefer to go over the top or not. In the end, the eye isn't drawn to it so you just want that depth to fade into the background.

I've modeled this regiment with a couple of features we know about from the historical accounts. The first detail I included was the unfortunate Sergent Williams who was denied his sword for the charge by Lieutenant Colonel Shewell for disgracing the regiment - his crime was smoking in the lines. So, I took one of the straight sword arms, carved off the sword and filed away. The hand and finger detail are painted on. I made Williams my only NCO for this unit.
The other inclusion for my 8th Hussars is their mascot 'Jenny' the wire-haired terrier who charged with them. I can't recall the manufacturer for this miniature but can tell you it's a 15mm Wolfhound painted in a terrier pattern.

What I do for the trouser stripe is base coat it in yellow. After the unit is sealed with a mat spray coat (picture varnish) I then finish the metals. For the stripe I mix yellow and gold (Humbrol enamels) for that cloth of gold look. I do the same for the officer's braid, cords etc.

Normally I base my horse colours around Humbrol Satin Brown (No 133) but I'm out with no hope of replacement until I return to Australia. Necessity being the Mother and all, I mixed up a range of different browns and shades - I'm quite happy with the varied results.

I painted Shewell's horse from Fenton's photo - dark (I decided very dark brown) with two back socks.

I also included a dress sabretache instead of the plain leather variant for the rest of the regiment.

I enjoyed painting this unit very much. Whilst it took years to get to, I turned them around in two weeks which for me us very quick. Next task ... I straight into the 17th lancers.