Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Field of Waterloo

The Duke visits the battlefield in old age.  The Lion's Mound is visible rear right. - Edward Landseer

Wellington deplored the damage done to the battlefield by the Dutch in erecting the Lion's Mound.  One does wonder though whether this was less to do with environmental concerns than with a sense that the Dutch King (and former Prince of Orange) was appropriating some of the glory.
JMW Turner's scene of the field of Waterloo shows casualties the day after the battle.  It also shows the open nature of the landscape just north of the sandpit looking south towards La Haye Sainte in the near distance.

This post examines the contemporary evidence for what the battlefield looked like.  The best sources are of course the two Siborne models.  Siborne not only studied the topography but also the crop types.

This photograph on the National Army Museum model looks south towards Hougoumont.  The field system is clearly delineated.

These photographs below show the layout of Plancenoit and the surrounding field system.  It's not surprising that the fight around Plancenoit was so hard fought.

Aerial view of Plancenoit

The Leeds model shows the high crops - mostly rye which would have been close to harvesting in June.  This rye was of a much taller variant than modern types.

These French troops of D'Erlon's corps can be shown making their way through the crop.
As this photograph above shows, with the reverse slope and smoke obscuration, the height of the crop would have further concealed the Allies from the French.
But it is evident that in certain areas the ground was bare.

A second good source of information is a set of water colours produced days after the battle by Thomas Stoney, an Irishman who visited Waterloo and Quatre Bras and painted the pictures on 20 and 21 June 1815.
This picture looks like the village of Waterloo.  A Highlander can be seen next to the carriage.
This scene of Quatre Bras shows the ghostly image of casualties stripped bare in the foreground.
I am not sure whether this is part of Plancenoit or somewhere else.

Waterloo field systems
Quatre Bras
Plancenoit Church

This scene shows the view towards Rossomme

The church at Plancenoit
The above picture by Denis Dighton shows casualties among the crops a day or two after the battle.  One might have expected all the crops to have been flattened by the movement of troops.

I like this set of George Jones pictures of Waterloo which give a nice, if slightly accentuated sense of the ground:

  • The first looks south to Hougoumont 
  • The second looks towards La Haye Sainte and south to La Belle Alliance
  • The third shows from left to right: La Haye Sainte, Plancenoit; La Belle Alliance and the observatory
  • The fourth seems to look east, with a glimpse of La Haye Sainte and then perhaps Papelotte in the distance
  • The fifth shows La Belle Alliance
  • and the final picture shows Hougoumont.

Monday, 8 August 2016

A Question of Scale

In response to M S Foy's recent comment, which prompted me to think a little more about scale, I have written the following.

This blog is dedicated to recreating the Battle of Waterloo in 20mm figures.  A simple enough proposition, one might think.

Most figures come sized at 15mm (often linked to 18mm) and 25mm (often linked to 28mm).  Yes, there are plenty of outliers in smaller and some bigger scales, but these two are seen as the 'industry' standards.

Somehow, 20mm sits uncomfortably in the middle - a bit old fashioned, or a bit plastic (given the connection to 1/72).  So why do I like 20mm?

To answer this, does anyone mind a bit of controversy?! To my taste, I find some metal 25/28mm figures too mannered, with over-sized hands, cartoonish faces and, frankly, some unsoldierly physiques.  Even a cursory knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars indicates that a route march of twenty miles a day, coupled with the simplest of rations, did not give rise to either obesity or old age.

This slim look was exacerbated by the cut of many of their uniforms: tailoring in the early 19th Century was tight and anyone who has seen an authentic uniform from the period knows that they will often only fit a modern child mannequin.

Part of this problem is the same as the one that marks the difference between period re-enactors and real soldiers.  The first are interested in uniforms, but have no real experience of soldiering.  Compare and contrast the difference in these two photographs:

Spot the real soldier!

Vintage metal 20mm figures tend to avoid the lumpen characteristics of their 25mm counterparts. They are also more sparing in their representation of the human form, allowing the painter the chance to use his skill to insert missing detail.  And plastic somehow lends itself as a material to more delicate representations.

I think there are some exceptional modern craftsmen working in metal in all scales, but on the whole, I find the 25/28mm figures less pleasing to the eye.  It's a personal opinion, and I stand ready to be roundly criticised!  Granted, all these arguments can be countered in one way or another: plastic figures can suffer from sculpting challenges and bending and there are plenty of metal manufacturers who avoid the grotesque.

There is also the simple question of cost: to recreate Waterloo entirely in metal figures would require a small fortune - the joy of plastic figures is that they provide mass at an affordable price, but can be supplemented by metal figures.  There is also the fun of conversions - you can (and I do) convert metal figures, but plastic is a lot easier.

So I am a 20mm fan and the aim of this post is to explore how these different plastic and metal manufacturers can fit together.  The question of scale has troubled model makers over the years, with some heated discussions about what defines the scale.

Despite the lack of agreement about what constitutes 20mm, there is, paradoxically, quite widespread agreement about which manufacturers fit the 20mm category.

That said, some collectors are very specific about the range they will work in; because my diorama is set to be quite large, this gives me more freedom to incorporate figures across the 20mm spectrum.

So with all this in mind, this post shows how I prefer to group my figures so that there aren’t too many glaring clashes in scale.

I have divided them into the boxing weight divisions:

Some Call To Arms

Italieri 1st series
Waterloo 1815
Other Call To Arms

Hinton Hunt

Art Miniaturen
Les Higgins

Italieri 2nd series

Minifigs S Range

In future posts I will try to explore some of the differences between each of these makes - each has its own character - some work well together, some don't.

2nd Battalion 95th Rifles

Of the two Green Jacket regiments in the British Army (60th and 95th) only the 95th was at Waterloo, but elements of all three battalions of what would the next year be renamed The Rifle Brigade were present.  Six companies of the 1st/95th, six companies of the 2nd/95th and two companies of the 3rd/95th took part in the battle.  There were of course other Rifle units in the Allied Army, all Hanoverian, but today's post focuses on 2/95th.

Riflemen of the 60th and 95th:

Because the traditional role of rifles units was as skirmishers, most attention focuses on the 1st Battalion, which fought around the sandpit.  Surprisingly, the second battalion fought for much of the battle in square, which is how they are shown in this post.

2/95th under Amos Norcott and 3/95th under John Ross formed part of Adam's 3rd Brigade in Clinton's 2nd Division (Clinton was also Colonel of the 60th).

Amos Godsell Northcutt some years later:

The casualties sustained by the companies of the 95th Rifles at Waterloo were substantial:
 1st/95th: 21 killed, 138 wounded from a total of 549 (29%)
 2nd/95th: 34 killed, 193 wounded, 20 missing from a total of 585 (42%)
 3rd/95th: 4 killed, 40 wounded and 7 missing from a total of 188 (27%)

The figures are a mixture of the Revell set, Hinton Hunt, New Line and RSM, along with a great many conversions.

Three General Staff shelter in the square, their red coats stand out nicely against the green

I like this wounded Great War conversion.

Bugles Platoon

Colonel Northcott gives the orders:

More of the buglers

Converted Esci RHA officer with telescope:

The whole square:

It's nice to have completed one that isn't red!