Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Staff Corps Dragoons

Cavalry Staff Corps 1813, from Costumes of the Army of the British Empire, according to the last regulations 1812, engraved by J.C. Stadler, published by Colnaghi and Co. 1812-15

Better men than I have reviewed Mark Urban's "The Man Who Broke Napoleon's Codes" - so I shall give but the briefest of summaries. Suffice to say that it's a splendid book, buy a copy and anything else by Mark Urban that you can find.

Essentially, there was a chap called George Scovell, who was a very talented officer - a gifted logistician and cloak and dagger expert who longed to be a dashing commander of cavalry. French couriers were routinely captured and their messages passed to the British during the Peninsular war, which led to the French making use of codes in order to conceal their communications. Scovell broke those codes and kept on breaking them, keeping Wellington informed of what his enemies were doing.

I regret to say that Wellington treated Scovell rather shabbily - not something that sits well with my admiration of the Duke, but there you are. However, Scovell did manage to accomplish his ambition of commanding cavalry and that is where the Cavalry Staff Dragoons come in.

He had nothing to do with the Scoville scale. Entirely differant Scovell, I assure you.

Some of the Staff Cavalry Corps,
as their founder would have liked them - charging into battle
(click to embiggen)

The Cavalry Staff Dragoons were raised in 1813 and they formed the first unit of formal military police in the British army. So far as I'm aware there were Provosts, but I haven't been able to dig up much information on them. As well as policing the army, the Cavalry Staff Dragoons escorted senior officers and carried messenges. I haven't had much luck finding nice ADC figures for my British army, so I decided that the Staff Cavalry Corps would fill the gap.

As regular readers will know, military police are a subject close to my heart.

The chaps, still charging, slightly different angle
- still working on "set dressing" adding woodland scenics and rocks the background
(click to embiggen)

The dragoons eventually reached a strength of four squadrons and apparently did some service in the line of battle, according to Wikipedia, though I've been able to find no reference to it elsewhere. I happened to have some Strelets Crimean era Light Dragoons knocking about the house, because I had bought the Strelets Balaklava set in a fit of madness a few years ago. I really like the figures, though I'm fonder of the lancers than I am of the Dragoons. I was at a loss as to what to do with them unless I wanted to raise a Russian army to face them*. Working on my usual "close enough for government work" rules of thumb, I decided that they would do for Staff Cavalry Dragoons on the grounds that the uniform hadn't changed that much and that the dragoons had been accoutred as light cavalry because that was the sort of thing that appealed to George Scovell.

A last desperate courier, mortally wounded, swaying in the saddle,
but determined to deliver his message
(click to embiggen)

I wrote to Richard Borg a few weeks ago to ask about the Grande Bataille expansion for Command & Colours: Napoleonics. He very kindly gave me some advice about the upcoming expansion and how he runs multi-player games on a single board. I was thinking that allowing Leaders to have an attacked ADC that they may use to order a unit might be interesting - replacing the "Taking the initiative" rules from Memoir '44. The Staff Cavalry Corps would seem perfectly suited to this sort of thing.

*Yes, I know it's the obvious answer - but really? Another horse and musket army?


  1. Nice minis Conrad. We recently played C&C:Napoleonics and I had my arse rightly handed to me while playing the French. It is a great game.


  2. Hi CK,

    Great post old chap! I have seen this book kicking around but have yet to read it although I own Urban's Rifles and Fusiliers whaich are both superb. I am intrigued about the next C an C expansion - I believe it is the Spanish - is there a date for this at all?

    By the way, I downloaded Vassal and it looks like a very handy piece of kit so many thanks for finding it!

    All the best,


  3. Very nice - glad to see that someone is managing to paint toys!

  4. A great read Mr.Kinch! That was was the first of Mr. Urban's books I read and you're right; Scovell was treated rather shabbily by the great man, but unfortunately he was a man of his times and didn't value your worth unless you had a title no matter how intelligent you were.

    Do you have plans to paiint Scovell's Corp of Guides?

  5. Thank you very much - I feel it is only fair however to point out that I did not paint the figures in question, which were painted by Mark Bevis.

  6. There is of course a nice Staff Corps trooper figure among the Hinton Hunt personality figures


  7. Clive, you have a terrible habit of just when I'm happy, turning up and rubbing my face in old figures that I can't get...