Saturday, October 22, 2016

FLAGS: To be or not to be

I'm currently finishing the painting of my latest unit of foot and have decided from this point to start making my armies flags. Each unit will have it's own flag to follow as logic and rules convention both dictate. My research has been revisited and at this time it may prove instructive to anyone dabbling in this specific period (mid-thirteenth century) to lay the ground rules for flags.

Whilst various flags abound throughout and originating from the medieval period, there are only two types permitted in an army for Lewes (1264). Whilst Standards, Pennons (or pendants), Banners and gonfalons, pinsels and guidons are all types of flags familiar to the wargamer of the broadly defined medieval period, we are only permitted Banners and Pennons.

PENNONS are perhaps the simplest to comprehend as they are the smaller, triangular flags attached to the end of a knight's lance for which every knight on the field was entitled to and may very well have carried. It was in fact during this period during the reign of Henry III that the pennon is first seen in its swallow tail form. It appears we can opt for simple equilateral triangle, swallow tail or even a scalene triangle form (cut from the 'hoist' or lance top of the pennon to the tail or 'fly').

Knights in our period are simply knights bachelor. This is the most ancient or oldest order of knights and the only type in existence for our period - later knights 'banneret' and specific orders of knights having yet to be created. Pennons do not necessarily carry the blazon or coat of arms if you will, and may have a badge or heraldic device only. So, in short, any member of the knightly class including earls may have such a flag. Incidentally, squires may carry smaller variants.

BANNERS do display the blazon or coat of arms of the knight as displayed on the shield and are square or rectangular. For me, this will be the unit flag taken from the knight who commands them. So, in a unit of mounted knights I may have any number of pennons streaming but only one banner. According to A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry (James Parker 1894) a banner was regulated in size according to rank. Regulation is understood to have been most likely in effect by our period but details I have found are only available from a later time (Henry VIII). Applying back to Lewes I will apply an earls banner at 3 feet square or 3 feet across the top of a rectangle perhaps as long at the hoist as 6 feet. A lesser knight (pretty well all other comers) is less - perhaps 2 feet square or similarly across the top in case of the rectangular.

Dimensions of the banner is another calculation I'm afraid. According to Parker, a pennon was half the length of a guidon which was one third shorter than the length of a standard (both of which post-date our period). Looking to the dimensions of standards of Scotland by fourteenth century, an earl had a standard of 13 feet and knights 10 feet. It is noted that an English knight had a standard 4 yards or 12 feet long. So, unless anyone has more specific information, I might just tack on +2 feet for an English earl.  So my earl has a pennon 5 feet long - taken from standard of 15 feet and a guidon 10 feet long. Correspondingly my knight will have 4 foot long pennons.

If anyone has other ideas - I'm all ears.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Quest for Accuracy: Curse of the Pedant

I suppose the poser here is what's wrong with this image? The short answer is nothing of course. The above image is taken from L'Estoire del Saint Graal & L'Estoire de Merlin (Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Français 95, c.1280-1290) but this is the rub ... for me. This is the earliest depiction to my understanding of the oft named 'sugerloaf helm' and the earliest date for this illustration as my insert states is 1280. Up to this time, all effigies, illustrations or finds for that matter (precious few) depict the great helm as an essentially flat-topped affair.
The above seal of John deMontfort dates from 1270 and clearly shows the flat-topped great helm which is incidentally paralleled by all other surviving and datable evidence up to the abovementioned sugerloaf appearance by 1280. Whilst most followers of this blog are no doubt conversant with developments of arms and armour throughout the medieval period, I have been reminded recently of the constant development in military technology and the fact that such development never rests. The thirteenth century is no exception and this presents some traps for the wargamer - or perhaps more precisely the army builder.

I am not going to attempt an amateurish rehash of the great helm and its development but suffice to say the great helm as a replacement of the face-guard or earlier form of great helm appears to have been complete by 1250. So, by 1264 at Lewes any and all barons, knights, squires or sergeants should be modelled wearing at least an arming cap, carvelliere, pot helm, 'kettle' helm, mail coif or flat-topped great helm. There are depictions of some great helms with a slight conical top. As the sugerloaf doesn't come into effect until 1280 at the earliest, they are out for the Second Baron's War. I wish I had paid more attention to this detail previously.

Figure manufacturers don't help with labeling and packaging for the historical pedant. Using the broadest possible tags, they market their goods in a way best aimed at sales - naturally. This presents a potential pit-fall to a collector who fails to pay sufficient attention to the small details - as I have done. Anyone glancing back at my older posts will see several examples of out-of-period conical or sugerloaf helms which are now due a renovation. I am hoping judicial application of a file and a touch-up with the paintbrush will rectify this glaring oversight. I surely can't ignore it now. So, my journey continues. Thankfully this will not affect my current unit of thirty spear under the command of John Fitz John which is coming along nicely thanks to a bit of leave.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Rebel Centre Ward - Foot: Fitzjohn's spear: Prep (I)

Mirliton Miniatures with replaced shafts and a new spear
The steam fell completely off this project for me since last year with my anniversary mania for Waterloo and affairs of the heart taking precedence over my hobby - fancy. Well, instead of building a windmill and the outskirts of Lewes like I thought I would, I've returned to figure painting - or at least unit modelling at present.

I've scrounged together thirty armed spearmen and assorted weaponry for my latest unit of foot. I've been compelled to model by own hornist. I've filed back a few helmets to round them to a more typical pot helm and replaced weapon shafts with rigid steel wire - I just cannot abide wobbly spears and the like!

They are a mix of mainly Old Glory and Mirliton figures with a few Essex and Foundry figures thrown in for good measure with their commander of Gripping Beast origin I believe. This will be my 30 figure armoured spear unit of the centre ward under the immediate leadership of the rebel baron John Fitzjohn. They will have a sister unit of unarmoured foot within their ward. This is my forray finally past the half way point for the rebel army ... not before time.
Two Foundry figures - left model converted
I've tried to ensure no two figures are the same. I had several Foundry axemen (image above) of the same casting so I cut away some axes and replaced them with my own steel spears on some, filed off some of their helmets to a rounded kettle helm shape on others. I mixed what shields I had throughout across all makes.

I'm snatching what time I have to get back into this. The Mirliton figures are irritatingly segmented, requiring the fixing of all arms, weapons, shields and heads. Using two part epoxy resin is proving slow going.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Lewes and Evesham 1264-65: A Partial Review

Lewes And Evesham 1264-65 (Simon de Montfort and the Barons' War) by Richard Brooks and illustrated by Graham Turner is recently released (2015) Osprey Publishing account of these campaigns and battles, referenced as Campaign 285.

Eagerly awaited and immediately consumed (the Lewes part) I can now report on what it is and what it is not. Running to 96 printed pages, 40 of those pages are devoted to the Lewes campaign of 1264. Accompanied by 3 bespoke maps, two 3-dimensional 'bird's-eye-view' map illustrations and two of Turner's illustrations Including the cover above) it is a concise, detailed synopsis of events. This is also an invaluable must-have first stop. I say first stop because it many ways it is an updated rehash of much which is already known about this battle, limited to the confines of the Osprey Publishing approach.

Once the preceding events of the capture of Northhampton and the siege of Rochester are dispensed with, the Lewes narrative is reduced to 26 pages (graphics and text). What follows then are treatments on Lewes and it's Surroundings, Prelude to Battle, The Battlefield, Numbers and Dispositions and then a 14 page description of The Wretched Battle of Lewes which runs to only just over four pages of text - wretched indeed (sorry ... couldn't help it). If I might get my criticisms out of the way: Turner's two illustrations are nice depictions of soldiers of the period but they add nothing to any graphic depiction of the battle or how it may have looked or unfolded. I do not find them particularly useful.

What this edition is not is a detailed analysis or discussion of key events in the battle. Some brief comment is contained to be sure, but several important questions are not posed - even if answers are not to be found. The immediacy of the collapse of the London rebel left flank before Prince Edward's cavalry charge is uncritically repeated. On this particular aspect as well as other matters, the biased or inexpert medieval chronicler's are unevenly relied upon throughout as far as I can see.

Some time (as always) is dedicated to placement of this battle with attention paid to the naming and location of Snelling's Mill as a key reference point. Nevertheless, Brooks regrettably has no more access to a comprehensive geological battlefield survey than the authors which come before him as to date, none exists. Until that time it remains an academic exercise regardless of how compelling some of his arguments might be. The divergent propositions on this particular point made previously also have merit and are put forward with equal confidence.

For elevating this incredibly significant battle into a more general awareness care of the Osprey reach, I applaud Richard Brooks for attending to the second Barons' War and I'm glad to have added this volume to my collection.  

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Finalised Field

Well I've chipped away at this terrain project for more time than I care to reflect on but thanks to some school holiday leave with my daring daughters, I got 'some' downtime and put the finishing touches to the marshland for my Lewes table-top. This first shot was an indulgent one but just goes to show how realistic natural light in all its forms can render a model at the right time.
 The next shot is the completely finished marshland. As you might make out, I edged some of my bogs with foam foliage and put a few dots of static grass at the extreme shallows. I'm not happy with the acrylic lacquer but am satisfied they look wet enough - less pools and more wet mud. This feature of the ground has in fact caused far more effort on my part than it may ever justify but if we play the game enough times, some units are bound to get driven into it.
Here's what the Royalists will be looking at as they form up to advance up the slope of the Downs - rather them than me. Excuse my head shadow - nothing to be done I'm afraid. The white patch to the right is where the edge of the town will feature - at this time I'm thinking two modest houses, a yard or two and a cabbage patch.
And finally, the complete vista looking from Lewes over the Downs. Essentially, it's game ready now but I'll edge the boards with white and I have to construct some scratch-built buildings - the first of which will be the windmill. Then I can get on with painting the other half of my rebel army. Anyone who follows my generic wargame blog 'Unlucky General' will know I have already started on my next terrain project for Waterloo:Papelotte which will also feature six 900x900 millimeter boards and synthetic fur. But for today, I'm painting Charlotte's bedroom.   

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Completing the Marshes

Back to my boards after a frustrating absence and a brief stint in the Pacific. I re-read over my previous posting and there have been a few 'u-turns' in my approach to these marshes. You may see the results of my attempts at brushing colour into the synthetic fur. Not at all what I had in mind but it left the terrain with that sodden, well-trodden look like a wet cow paddock. I'm actually happy with the results where I had them but ended up returning to the spray gun to colour the remainder.
The reeds have been sewn into the pools by cutting crosses into the paper and foam beneath and pushing the ends through blobs of Selley's Liquid Nails. The reeds are taken from picking apart a brown fiber door mat. I just love this stuff for clumped grass, crops and reeds. Once unraveled, the fibers are bunched and double over and can be either glued as a double-clump or adjusted to an alternate length. Once glued, they paint up easily and so I gave them an uneven dark green coating. After the glue set, I painted the pools various mixed greens, browns and black working for a colour-depth effect at the lower points.

I read up and looked at a few water effect lessons on YouTube (what a great how-to tool site it is) but in the end I opted for applying several coats of varnish. I find that water effects and epoxy resins are all very well and good but I'll achieve the same result for my terrain pieces with what I had to hand - and for considerably less cost. I might say here, there's a conscious limit to how far I am going to go with this terrain. This is meant to be a practical wargaming table-top and not a static display diorama or model railway layout. Even though I want this to be the best I can make it, there are limits. After what I hope is an initial WOW moment, anyone seeing it will move on to the miniature battle which rages across it - not stand about adoring it.
Once the paint had dried overnight, I fixed the clumped and painted reeds with a good squirt of white wood glue. Then it will be the first of three resin coats minimum. I will fixed spots of static grass in the shallows and potential crossing points. Fixing clump foliage at the pool edges will complete the pools themselves and then I moved onto fixing bushes and shrubs about the landscape to break up the pastureland.
I puzzled over the clear line left between the main boards and the synthetic fur I added later for the marsh edges. Whilst I have fixed some shrubs along that line, I was going to break it up with extensive foliage to better merge the marsh with the grassland but I have decided to leave it. The obvious line will now clearly mark the edge of the marshy ground as a wargamer's aid; a sacrifice of aesthetics for practicality.

What I am happy with so far is the blend of green into faded grasses as the marsh land creeps toward the river Ouse. This may not in fact be correct - perhaps the grasses and scrub would be greener but I enjoy the effect and it helps marking out the bad ground. The fur-lines will be somewhat softened with some bushes and gluing them where there has been some lift.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

To the Marshes

I decided back when first carpetting the boards with synthetic fur to leave the low ground or marsh edge of the river Ouse for a different surface. I thought this becasue I wanted the 'grass level' much lower than the pastureland and the heights. After staring at it for the past two weeks and a failed experiment in dying a toweling bath-mat I came to the realisation I should have covered the entire surface and worked the pile down. Well, I've been learning as I go.
The sink points have been painted in a dark undercoat which I will later wash over with browns for a muddy effect before adding the water effect using a product I have yet to determine. They will be sown with reeds. I then carpeted around the bog holes with more synthetic fur using Selley's Quick Grip.
I'll be trimming the entire area quite low, particularly about the bogs. As the pile will be lower and thin, I plan to attempt painting in the same greens as the rest of the boards but rubbing or painting them by hand. The browns will smear into the greens and become darker toward the outer edge.