Saturday, 31 January 2009


Dolbadarn, Llanberis Pass, Gwynedd, North Wales
These photos were taken on the approach to Dolbadarn castle.
Date of visit 19th March 2008

Grand Army of the West (Midlands)

Grand Army of the West (Midlands)
Overall shot of my Union figures.

In column.

As my brother correcly pointed out there doesn't seem that many figures in display. In fact just 54 in all. I will have to pull my finger out and get more painted.

18th Infantry Regiment

18th Infantry Regiment
Following on from the 35th Regiment Indiana Infantry post these images are of the remaining ACW Perry hard plastic miniatures representing the 18th Infantry Regiment. As mentioned before these Union troops served alongside the 35th at the Battles of Stones River and Chickamuga. The National & Regiment flags of the 18th are included with the figures. Here’s a few brief notes taken from the ‘History of the 18th US Infantry’:
“By direction of the President of the United States, of date May 4, 1861, subsequently confirmed by Act of Congress, July 2, 1861, the infantry arm of the Regular Army was increased nine regiments, numbering from the eleventh to the nineteenth, inclusive; the new regiments to be organized into three battalions each, each battalion to consist of eight companies, the companies of each battalion to be lettered from A to H inclusive. Henry B. Carrington, a citizen of Ohio but a native of Connecticut, was appointed colonel of the regiment in 1861. The headquarters of the regiment were stationed in Columbus, Ohio, and recruiting started on the 1st day of July, 1861”

Following notes taken from, Thomas Crew
18th U.S. Infantry Reenactor, Regular Brigade Society

“After the creation of the 18th US Infantry on May 3, 1861 nearly 20 months would pass before the regiment lost its first man killed in action. During this time the 18th US actively campaigned through Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. Yet the Army of the Ohio’s path seemed predestined to keep the regiment out of the fighting. At both Mill Springs and Shiloh the 18th US arrived shortly after the fighting had ended. Then during the Siege of Corinth the regiment took part in an assault that found the Confederate positions empty as Beauregard had withdrawn his army during the night.

A total of 102 men from the 18th US were killed in action or died of wounds as a result of the action at Stone’s River on New Year’s Eve 1862, the regiments first major engagement. Robert Kennedy ... fought at Chickamauga in two days of almost continuous combat. Before he was captured on September 20, 1863 near Kelly Field he had fired over 200 rounds of muzzle loaded ammunition, changing rifles several times as they became fouled. He was sent to Danville, Virginia where he escaped and was recaptured before being sent to Andersonville. Corporal Robert Kennedy C/2/18 lived to the age of 92 and his memoir is arguably the best civil war account of any enlisted man in the 18th U.S. Infantry.
The primary source for this information is Major Mark W. Johnson’s book That Brave Body of Men, The Civil War Campaigns of the 15th, 16th, 18th and 19th U.S. Infantry Regiments, Regular Army”
The 18th recruited a large amount of immigrants mostly German and Irish. Battles fought by the 18th during the American Civil War:
Siege of Corinth; Buell's Chase of Bragg; Perryville; Stones River; Hoover's Gap; Chicamauga; Siege of Chattanooga.
Battles of Atlanta: Resaca; Pumpkin Vine Creek; Dallas; New Hope Church; Pickett's Mill; Pine Hill; Lost Mountain; Kenesaw Mountain; Chattahoochee Line; Peachtree Creek; Siege of Atlanta; Jonesboro; Lookout Mountain.

Modified Figures – Episode I (in an occasional series).

Just to show what you can achieve with a sharp knife and a bit of patience, here are some comparison images of models all based on the same miniature. No major work was required, just enough to make the command block of not appear too similar if placed together. All the following figures were taken from the Perry Miniatures hard plastic ACW Infantry box set (code ACW 1) with various parts taken from the ACW Cavalry box (code ACW 2). First up:

Shown here for reference, an officer figure made from parts straight from the sprue. Not much to explain with this one.

No. 1
Union officer - Basic right arm with sword (there are two sword options available in the infantry box).

No. 2
Union Sargeant Flag Bearer - Shown here on both images in the rear corner. Sword and sash removed, holster cut down to make a cartridge case. The right arm (holding the staff) came straight off the sprue.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Clun Castle

In A Shropshire Lad, A.E. Housman wrote:
“Clunton and Clunbury,
Clungunford and Clun
Are the quietest places
Under the sun.”

Over the next hundred years it seems that Clun hasn't changed at all. The most noise now seems to be generated by several ducks, that loiter with intent, on the River Clun near to the 14th Century bridge.

The focal point of this small Shropshire town is the imposing ruined castle and earthworks. The castle was established by Robert Picot de Say, a Norman baron, as a motte & bailey structure.

In 1233 the castle was garrisoned for the King and successfully saw off an attack by Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth. The castle was also held by Roger Mortimer of Wigmore Castle (see Wigmore blog).

In the 14th century the castle was transformed into a hunting lodge by the Fitz Alan family, the Earl’s of Arundel. They were probably responsible for the great keep which towers down the side of the motte to the north. In the wars of Owain Glyndŵr the earl of Arundel again fortified the castle.

According to the information panels the unusual placement of the eighty foot high Great Tower, complete with its false arrow loops, on the side of the motte indicates that it was more for show than defence.

By the time of the English Civil War the castle was in ruins and never saw action.
Since 1894 it has been owned by the Duke of Norfolk, a descendant of the original FitzAlan family.

Bruce Bairnsfather, the artist responsbile the the famous WWI cartoon "Old Bill", lived at Cresswell House in Clun for a short time.

Great Tower looking west

Great Tower looking east

14th Century packhorse bridge

St George's Church, Clun. The base of this structure is Saxon. It appeared to our untrained eye that distinctive, and familiar, red Roman tiles had been incorporated into the building material of the bell tower.

Grave of John Osborne who wrote the 1956 play “Look Back in Anger”. He lived in nearby Clunton. He is buried in St George's churchyard, Clun, next to his wife, the critic Helen Dawson, who died in 2004. Note the inscriptions on both of their gravestones.

Richard's castle – First one in England (possibly)

Richard’s Castle is located in a small village on the Shropshire/Herefordshire border. From a distance this stronghold simple looks like a wooded hill but take a closer look because at close quarters there remain substantial earthworks of a Norman castle.
Built by Richard, son of Scrob, a Norman friend of Edward the Confessor in the early 1050’s this castle is typical motte and bailey construction, although one of only four of this type built before the Norman conquest. Thus possibly Richard’s Castle could be the first ‘castle’ in England.
In the 1960’s excavations revealed a 12th century octagonal tower, 50ft in diameter with walls 2ft thick. This survives to the height of the first floor although you’d be hard pressed to realise this when you’re standing on top of it.

Today the castle is mainly reduced to its earthworks and foundations. The bailey wall still stands twenty feet high in places and there are remains of several towers and an early gatehouse around the perimeter.

Wigmore castle

Wigmore Castle was founded by a good chum of William the Conqueror, William Fitz Osbern, in Herefordshire, just after the Norman Conquest around 1070.

To visit the castle you’ll need to park on the other side of the village in a designated carpark and walk through the church yard and further onto the castle.

William the Conqueror seized the castle after Fitz Osbern’s son had joined a revolt and gave it to another of his supporters Ranulph de Mortimer. From this time onwards Wigmore became home of the famous Mortimer family.

In 1155 the castle was besieged by Henry II after the Mortimer’s had fallen out with the Crown, not for the first or last time.

The Mortimer family continued to strengthen the defenses over the following centuries in their position of Marcher Lords defending the area for the restless natives.

Roger de Mortimer, mentioned before regarding Ludlow Castle, held a tournament nearby in 1328 when he was regarded as the most powerful man in England. Edward III had Roger executed for killing his dear old dad. However the Mortimer family soon regained Wigmore through marrying into the royal family.

After the last of the male Mortimers died out in 1424 the castle eventually passed to Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York.

Richard's son Edward, Duke of York probably used Wigmore as a base before the Battle of Mortimer's Cross in 1461, later being crowned as Edward IV in 1462.

After the Civil War the castle faded into history and became a romantic ruin.
Ironically the ruinous state of the castle helped to preserve it. In 1999 Sir Jocelyn Stevens, Chairman of English Heritage said of the unusual approach of conserving the ruinous site rather than clearing the site of undergrowth and exposing any buried buildings:
“Wigmore Castle's spectacular ruins will continue to dominate their wild and windswept hilltop for many generations to come.
Instead, we have kept the promise I made three years ago that the Castle would remain untouched and the spirit of the place intact. I want every visitor to feel they are discovering for themselves Wigmore, the magical, evocative and mysterious ruin which invites exploration, vivid with wild flowers and sustaining a remarkably rich and flourishing wildlife."

If you want to actually want to ‘see’ the castle I’d recommend visiting in winter or spring as I seriously doubt you’d be able to see anything once the trees and undergrowth have grown.

I can recommend the Ye Olde Oak Inn with its choice of Hobson’s real ale. On my visit one of resident cats hogged a stool by the real fire whilst another fell asleep on the radiator. It’s nice to see a proper pub in an historical village. Sadly, all too often nowadays, these places are being lost forever. Use them or lose them. It will be too late to start moaning about the disappearance of this unique part of English culture, only to be seen in living history museums, whilst drinking awful imitation beer from a can sitting on your sofa

Saturday, 17 January 2009

AWI French

I've been stocking up on figures in 1:72 scale, mainly Italeri & Imex. I wasn’t that aware of the metal ranges available but largely bought them because they were cheap. For example in this box you get 49 figures and 1 horse for less than £5 - bargain. My first attempt were Italeri French Infantry (6043) AWI range. I made the mistake (?) of painting the figures copying the box art. I effectively painted these figures several times after experimenting with different wash techniques.
Italeri French Infantry Box Art

After further research these frenchies appear to be remotely based on the grenadiers of the Regiment de Soisonnais. This regiment saw action at Yorktown 1781, capturing two redoubts. If, and when, I finish the command figures I’ll post an image.

This set of figures received a bit of a pasting from the excellent Plastic Soldier Review, perhaps the most comprehensive site of its kind, but I enjoyed painting them.

Massed ranks of the Italeri's French Infantry

35th Regiment Indiana Infantry (Ist Irish)

Although the American Civil War (ACW) isn’t one of my main interests I greatly enjoyed playing a game on the ZX Spectrum called ‘North & South’ (1989) in my youth and I thought they’d be relatively easy to paint. These are my first attempt at 25/28mm miniature figures, bought directly from Perry Miniatures. This company seem to held in the highest regard in the wargaming community. The Perry brothers day job is working for Games Workshop; how they find the time to produce so much material is beyond me.

After preparing the figures, which seemed to take weeks as I have an irrational hatred of mould lines (and converted a few) the only thing left was to decide who the miniatures would represent. Before painting commenced I happened to drop into Questing Knight Games shop in Telford. The flag of the 35th Indiana Volunteers ‘1st Irish’ (US59) from GMB Designs caught my eye with its distinctive green Regimental flag. This unique flag was presented to the regiment in December 1861. After a few searches on the internet I found an interesting re-enactment site that revealed the following information.

The 35th Regiment Indiana Infantry were organised on 11th December 1861 and served throughout the American Civil War, being mustered out 23rd October 1865. It was known as the First Irish as it was made up of many Irish-Americans. Of particular interest is the fact that the 35th wore a distinguishing emerald green kepi. This Hoosier Regiment kept this kepi until the end of the war. I realised that this would provide an appealing focal point for my figures.

The 35th served as a veteran regiment under Sherman in the Western theatre. During the Atlanta campaign alone they lost over 100 men and took part a numerous battles throughout the war.

Coincidently a short time afterwards Osprey published Men-at-Arms ‘Irish-American Units in the Civil War’. This book contains a good illustration of a sargeant and the regimental flag. It goes on the highlight that the kepi was decorated with a gold wreath of shamrocks and the numeral ‘1’. This I tried to represent (badly) on the kepi/forage caps (I can never remember which is which).

Another coincidence is that the 35th served alongside the 18th Regiment at the Battle of Stones River (31st Dec. 1862 - 2nd Jan. 1863) and the Battle of Chickamuga (Sept. 19th & 20th 1863). I only mention this because the National & Regiment flags of the 18th Infantry come free (printed on the rule sheet) with the figures. The completed miniatures for the 18th will be the posted soon.

35th Regiment command stand.

35th Regiment unit with modified sargeant figure, note the distinctive green headgear.

Please note that the bases still need to be completed, flocked etc.

Confederate troops (in captured Union uniform)

These two figures were the result of the fact that I painted too many Union troops (what an idiot!). After realising my mistake, I thought I might get away with painting these figures to resemble Johnny Rebs in captured Union issue uniforms. To give the impression that these chaps had worn the clothes over a long time I added a few details such as knee and elbow patches (reminding me of my old RE teacher). I’m quite pleased with the stitches on the patches achieved using a technical drawing pen. Clearly I had to over paint the forage caps grey. Since the photos were taken I've also repainted the blanket. More conventional Confederates to follow soon(hopefully).

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Ludlow castle

Ludlow Castle defends a strategic crossing of the River Teme in Ludlow, Shropshire. This castle was another site that I remember tearing around in my youth with fond memories of yelling and hitting my older brother about the head with twig swords. The castle always reminds me of Dudley castle with its similar Norman, medieval and Tudor buildings.

The castle was established in the 11th century by the De Lacy family.

During the Anarchy King Stephen was supposed to have personally rescued the Scottish Prince Henry from a grappling hook thrown from the battlements by the defenders.

The original, imposing, Norman keep was the gateway was blocked in and a new gateway was built along side.

Roger Mortimer (lover of Queen Isabella and poker of Edward II fame) turned the castle in to his main power base early in the 14th century for his military campaigns into Wales. In fact Mortimer’s Tower was originally a gatehouse and was the main jumping off point into Wales.

During the Wars of the Roses the castle was taken by the Lancastrians in 1459 but changed hands back to the House of York in 1461.

Perhaps the most unfortunate inhabitants of the castle were the ‘Princes in the Tower’ Edward IV’s two sons. They were held here before they were allegedly murdered by the wicked old Richard III in the Tower of London. Another tragic inhabitant was Mary Tudor held here until 1528.

During the English Civil War Ludlow was a Royalist stronghold and was besieged by Parliamentarian forces but negotiated a surrender, avoiding the usual slighting.

The inner bailey features the an unusual circular chapel, normally associated with the Knights Templar order, that must have inspired by The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem similar to the Temple Church, London.

On an interesting footnote, the Royal Welch Fusiliers were founded at the Castle by Lord Herbert in 1689.

John Milton’s masque Comus was first presented on Michaelmas (29th September), 1634, for the 1st Earl of Bridgewater. The Earl’s children as used as members of the cast.

The castle is now owned by the Earl of Powis.

Nearby the predominately 15th century St. Laurence’s church dominates the skyline.
The impressive chancel contains the mediaeval choir stalls decorated with numerous amusing misericords. Several warn against the dangers of alcohol consumption. I sensibly chose to ignore those. The Church Inn, nearby to the church, is well worth a visit if you enjoy a real fire and real ale; a perfect combination on a cold English winter evening.
For a small fee you can ascend the bell tower but unfortunately the weather had closed in so we advised it wasn’t worth the effort. The ashes of Alfred Edward Housman, author of ‘A Shropshire Lad’, are interred in the graveyard.

Stokesay castle

View of Stokesay Castle showing, from left, South Tower Grerat Hall and North Tower.

Stokesay Castle is a personal favourite of mine; I was taken there several times as a child and always thought the only thing missing from the scene were the knights-in-armour and the scurvy naves.

Stokesay Castle is, technically speaking, a fortified manor house, completed around 1291 by Lawrence of Ludlow to protect himself from Welsh raiders. The castle has changed very little since. Lawrence was a rich wool merchant and was given 'licence to crenellate' from Edward I.

The impressive stone built south tower dominates the site and is the main defensive feature. It inhabitants now consists of various species of bat

The north tower is built on a more human scale with it overhanging upper rooms.

Sandwiched between to the two is the great hall with its timber roof and original tiled roof.

The distinctive timber framed gatehouse dates from 1640.

A skirmish took place at the castle during the English Civil War and after a short siege the Parliamentarians took control. Fortunately the only slighting, if that was the case at all, appears to be the reduction of the curtain wall.

Stokesay is situated just outside Craven Arms in South Shropshire, England.


Thursday, 1 January 2009

Dudley Priory

The priory was founded in 1160 by Gervase Paganel, Lord of Dudley, in memory of his father. It was established as a dependency of the Cluniac Priory of Much Wenlock and was dedicated to Saint James.

The priory was built from local limestone, quarried from nearby Wren's Nest.

Dudley Priory was closed by Henry VIII in the 1530's during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The fishpools near The Priory were drained when Priory Hall was built in 1825. During the 1930’s, The Priory were restored to their current form, and the grounds became a park.

A surviving piece of one of these enlargements is an archway to Lady Chapel area of the Priory, built in the 14th century, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is believed that the Lady Chapel was constructed by the Sutton family.

Dudley Castle is in the far background.