Sunday, 28 August 2011

Old Friends

Let me introduce you properly to some really old friends. You've seen them from a distance in recent blogs, but I think you should get to know them better and understand a bit of their history.

I'm talking about my WSS Anglo-Dutch.

I painted this army in my first year at university. So that would make them well over 30 years old. They were painted in record time during, I think, Easter vacation. I remember painting them in a very short time, and I remember it being sunny when I did so. So I reckon Easter, not Christmas. Certainly not summer.

Anyway, why did the army come about? Simple answer, -  I needed an army so I could get a game at the university club. Prior to going to university I'd done a lot of fantasy wargaming with Middle Earth armies using the Minifig "ME" range, so I took these up with my home made adapted rules. I discovered in short order that the club did not do fantasy. It only did proper historical games. I got a few games by taking along my ancient naval ships, but I needed to branch out. Pete Berry, now of Baccus fame, was at this time obsessing about the Great Northern War and Charles XII and had an army based upon Spencer Smith plastic figures. No one had an army to give him a game. I'd always had a passing interest in the career of the first Duke or Marlborough, so I said I'd put together an English army.

On getting home I ransacked my airfix collection and tapped up my main wargaming friend at home for spare figures. At this point I was working to the theory that what really counts for wargaming figures is the hat. If that's right most people won't notice the rest.

Royal Orkney's in that odd pose
So, every Washington's Army figure was pressed into service as infantry, with hat swaps to force figures from other ranges to make up the numbers.

Massed heavy dragoons
For cavalry I salvaged large numbers of airfix French cuirassiers and swapped the helmets for tricorns carved off every Washington's Army figure that was no use in an infantry battalion. And there's quite a few of them (8 in a box of forty figures, - those crawling figures, the barrel guys and those chaps carrying the wounded fellow).

Dutch cuirassiers
That gave me some British Heavy dragoons and some Dutch cuirassiers. A few French Waterloo artillery men and their guns were likewise hat-swapped to give me an artillery train.
Those Grenadiers

Finally a composite battalion of grenadiers was added, made up from the eponymous airfix packet, with bearskins carved into mitres.

My painting guide was Rene North's "Military Uniforms" from the Hamlyn all-coloured paperback range, supplemented by the newly published Osprey "Marlborough's Army", - which I suspect might have been the first Osprey MAA book I ever bought. My painiting style was "minimalist" and I ignored most of the carved detail on the figures.

English battalion, with home drawn flag.
But that army did me sterling service. I used it every week, pretty much, for two years or so. It usually got beat (we were playing WRG 1685- 1845 rules), but I had a lot of fun with it. By the end of my uni career it was looking a bit shabby, with paint flaking off and it generally looking like it had seen better days.

By my final year it had almost been retired as we moved on to other things, but I kept it as it really had no value to anyone else.

Fast forward possibly 20 years and I find that the WA & Cuirassier figures have been re-released. It doesn't take long to decide I'll at last put together a French Louis XIV army to face my Anglo-Dutch, although they didn't get much use due to a lack of satisfaction with rules.

Massed English foot
Last year I got a set of WSS period rules (not BP, - "Beneath the Lily Banner") so I thought I'd tart both armies up. I retouched their paint work (which meant pretty much repainting some units completely, but in the same style) and applied the Ronseal varnish. Finally I added two flags to each infantry unit.

The Dutch, with flags from
So, you can rhapsodise about what ever 28mm figure manufacturer is flavour of the month, - how good the poses are, how good the detail is, and so on. I'm keeping my airifx boys, and if I see any more lying about at shows, I think I'll add a few more.


  1. A very Interesting blog entry ... and an army to match.

    It only goes to prove that a wargames army does not have to be the best-painted in the world nor made up of the most accurate figures ever made to give years of enjoyment. You invested time and effort in creating an army from what was available at the time, and that investment has repaid you with years of enjoyment in the past, and hopefully even more in the future.

    All the best,


  2. Let us all drink a toast to "old friends".

    -- Jeff

  3. Great stuff!! These look and sound well loved!

  4. Nostalgia never goes out of fashion.

    Own up, - how many of you had that Rene North book?

  5. Just checked the shelves - I have a copy! A lovely post - not least because the Airfix AWI chaps were the first pre-20thC figures I attempted to paint. For a Napoleonic game...

  6. Alas I don't seem to have my copy anymore. I suspect I lent it to some one once...

  7. I think the Rene North book was the first uniform guide book I owned ... I used it to paint up my first 'proper' wargames army.. Airfix Napoleonics.

    We used the WRG rules that had French companies in 6s and had 'flinches' as a result of shooting hits.

    I thought they worked quite well (but I was only a nipper)...

    Still have the figures of course.

  8. We used it for Napoleonics too, - played Bruce Quarrie's airfix rules.