Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mustering a troop of the Sixth Light Dragoons.

Eight Light Dragoons on the painting table.

Though my brief reserve service was with the infantry and the majority of the Generals that I admire were masters of that arm, I love the cavalry. Perhaps it was inheriting my father's old copy of "The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard" or perhaps it was the riding lessons where as the sole boy in a class of girls, I struggled manfully with a beast by the name of Major and spent afternoons after school being repeatedly thrown and trodden on. ("Heels down, Conrad. Heels down. Don't saw at his mouth, how would you like it".) I think it is a testament to Major's irascibility that even in my riding school, a place where Captain Nolan's creed of kindness to horses was gospel, Major was considered a bully and horse apart and I the only pupil required to carry a whip.

I never have the luck or the nerve to command cavalry properly on the tabletop (something my friend Fitz possesses in abundance), but my heart is with them all the same. I am more Cardigan than Uxbridge.

Allan Mallinson's horse stories have always fascinated me. Well written, completely grounded in time and place, they evoke a past of sabres, duty quietly done and barracks with the smell of horse urine sharp in the crisp morning air. That the novelist is a retired soldier and former ordinand of the Anglican church shouldn't have surprised me as he writes so well of both those worlds. His hero, Mathew Hervey, now Lt. Col of the Sixth Light Dragoons has become one of those boon companions, whose occasional visits pass all too quickly, but who never fails to lift the spirits. They are a small but select group of friends; Brigadier Gerard, Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson, Jim Hawkins, Captain Aubrey & Dr Maturin, Porthos, Aramis, Athos & D'Artangan and Bertram Alberforce Wooster.

So when I decided that I must have some cavalry for my Napoleonic forces, British Light Dragoons it had to be. You can see the fruits of my labour above and demanding fellows they are too. I'm a speed merchant at the best of times, but there is just so damn much to paint on a cavalryman that they take an age.

Still, I finished, barring flocking and varnishing, eight last night, with another sixteen or so based, undercoated and the horse colours blocked in. With officers and other such harmless persons, I should be able to muster about half a troop of the Sixth Light Dragoons before too long.

The uniform of the Sixth is the post 1812 Light Dragoons uniform and from what I can gather from the books, it follows this pattern.

Coats: Dark blue.
Turnbacks: Buff (which seems to be a sort of off yellow)
Lace: Silver (white from what I can gather)
Trousers: Bluey-grey with a stripe in the facing colour.
Plume: White with a red bit at the bottom.

Anything I was unsure off, horse furniture, plumes, etc, I cobbled together from the illustrations of John Pimlott's excellant little book British Light Cavalry. I'm not hugely concerned about accuracy as they are a fictional regiment and I have no one to please but myself. Normally I paint my troops as generically as possible so that they can serve a variety of masters, but in this case, painting up a particular regiment was very satisfying and something I might try again. I have across painted up particular figures for the Halberdiers, though I think I might enjoy sprucing up some of my French infantry with regiment titles and the like.

Hussars of Conflans next perhaps?


  1. Excellent cavalry, sir!
    I might have to look up Mallinson's books. I enjoyed the Brigadier Gerard stories (although I tried reading a Sharpe book, first in the series I think, and didn't enjoy that so much).

  2. Hello there Eamon,

    Your dragoons are very attractive! Yes, do paint up the Hussars de Conflans. That would be a neat unit to have in your collection. I hope Mrs. Kinch gets well soon.

    Best Regards,


  3. I've got a box of new plastic Napoleonic French waiting for my attention...and though Naps are a scary direction for me, I still love the idea of collecting Peninsular War someday soon...