Sunday, 22 March 2015

Army Red or Blue?

"There are those who raise Armies carefully designed to represent actual units and formations. This is not without disadvantages. Having failed to attain command of the corps it may be a consolation to include one's old Regiment in the Order of Battle, but it is perhaps safer to concentrate on forces of mythical powers. It will save endless arguements as to the impossibility of the Umpteenth Foot ever being routed and so on. And besides if you have any flair for military millinery it leaves you to exercise your own inventive powers in designing uniforms, colours, standards and all the panoply of military life in a more ceremonious age." 

Charge! Or How To Play War Games by Brig. P. Young and Lt. Col. J.P. Lawford

I don't know if it is just me but whilst many gamers are happy to to design fictitious armies for the 18th century - and I should qualify that by meaning to the extent that they design the "uniforms, colours, standards and all the panoply of military life" - the 19th century is by comparison relatively poorly served. What I have seen though are many gamers using historical armies in an imagi-nation setting. To my mind this is not quite the same thing as what the good Brig and the Lt. Col. intended so I wonder what readers thoughts are?

I should point out that in my opinion gamers should be able to tackle their chosen period in whatever fashion they desire but it did cross my mind about the uniform aspect. Why not design uniforms using historical models for your own armies - be they set during the Wars of Napoleon or any of the other campaigns during the 19th century?

I have given this some thought on and off for some time now and have made a point of studying, for want of a better expression, military 'fashion'. In its simplest form you could say that there are three periods up to around about 1870 or thereabouts. I call these the 'tricorne' period followed by the 'shako' period and finishing with the 'kepi'. I realise that the Prussian style helmet was also influential and I would include this as following the kepi. In each case of course there would the inevitable overlap.

Whilst the tricorne was pretty much the same whichever army you served - usually the level of lace or cockades being the only difference the shako was a little less standardised. In my opinion the bell topped version was the most common type and so any troops thus attired could serve for pretty much anybody at one stage or another. Similarly with the kepi. One could also extend this to the Prussian style helmet.

My point is that for the most part figures in the requisite headgear could serve in any number of armies, regardless of national affiliation and therein lies the attraction when designing ones own forces. Selecting a suitable attired figure for the 'era' and then designing the uniform colours should be easy enough and there are certainly mainly smaller and less well known armies that could provide additional inspiration if needed. Going down this path certainly opens many avenues as one could utilise the best figures (and I mean that from the perspective of uniform styling rather than casting detail) to form ones miniature forces.

The title of this post of course refers to that staple of military maps and professional training - the concept of the blue army and the red army. These alone could provide the basis for a pair of matching  opponents (and have indeed done so) with the main uniform colour of red or blue reflecting the affiliation of the force in question.

This is leading somewhere - I just have to decide where that somewhere is!


Ray Rousell said...

The WSS fits perfectly into your ideas, the only real difference in the countries uniforms were the hats of the Grenadiers??

Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


Your basic thinking is also true for the first half of the twentieth century. There were three basic uniform styles: German (coal scuttle helmet, tall boots), French (Adrian helmet, long overcoat with turnbacks or tunic, short boots with putees), and British (Tin helmet, tunic, short boots with putees or gaiters). These were worn in different colours (e.g. German in grey = Finland, German in brown = Hungary, British in Horizon Blue = Portugal).

All the best,


Ross Mac said...

Seapking of one has been doing just this for over a decade, I approve!

Most 19thC fictional armies tend to have a colonial slant to them and even there there the renamed historical units are more common.
A few comments on dress. Bell top shakos were almost universal from 1816 through to say 1840/50 where the tapered ones come in and hang around till the 1870's. The peaked forage cap from landweher seem to have been popular with various armies in the same periods though slowly overtaken by kepi variants. So lots of overlap.

For my money I would advise that muskets go with broad shakos and the forage cap while narrow shakos, kepis and helmets go with rifles, the later 2 through the rest of the century.

Funcken etc and the NY Public Library digital archives are a wonderful source of pictures of minor countries, balkans, south america, italy etc where variations on the big coutries can be seen for inspiration.

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Agreed. Interesting possibilities abound here. I've always thought -- and maybe I'll one day get to doing this myself -- a couple of generic early-mid 19th century armies (reinforced brigades really) would look really good based on uniforms worn the Danes (still red uniforms and bell-topped shakos) and Prussians, or North German Confederation troops, (largely blue and wearing in the early tall version of the spiked helmet). Cavalry at that point could still be a plausible mix of shakos, busbies, brass helmets, and the like, Just a vicarious thought.

Best Regards,


David Crook said...

Hi Ray,

Although the sizes varied as I recall you had two main typed of headgear for the grenadiers - a mitre cap or a bearskin. the styling could vary but essentially they were the two main styles so either could be used - if it were me I would have one side in mitres and the other in bearskins.

The WSS is a period where you could get away with using very few types of models as the uniforms were pretty much the same (especially if you are looking at 15mm or smaller).

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Bob,

That is a very good point, well made. I guess that what I am getting to is why not field fictitious armies where the uniforms are original designs? It would certainly free you up in terms of what models to use!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Ross,

Glad you dropped by! That makes a lot of sense and interesting about the Landwehr. The peaked forage cap seemed to be very popular so looking at those basically dressed figures opens up a lot of potential for armies.

I shall have to check out some of my uniform sources as you have reinforced my thnking somehwat!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Stokes,

The funny thing is that I was pondering the 1820s as being a fertile period - bearing in mind the 1824 Kriegspiel with the inevitable red and blue armies you can see where this may be heading!

All the best,


Spiderweb of History said...

Very thought provoking post...and now has me reconsidering what I'm going to do with the massive amount of 19th century 1/72 scale plastics I have.

I think I'll go 6mm for historical campaigns during the 19th century, but will use the 1/72's for imagi-nations campaigning.

Thanks for the inspiration.

David Crook said...

Hi Spiderweb,

Many thanks for the kind comments - and also the inspiration as I had not even thought about using plastics! These days there is an enormous selection of figures in 20mm plastic crying out to be used in some fashion so this is an avenue I will need to explore.

All the best,


Stu Rat said...

So, you are actually into Millinery History, then?

David Crook said...

Hi Stu,

That is an interesting thought - and a pretty good pun as well (if that is the right word).

All the best,


Archduke Piccolo said...

My own Imagi-Nations 19th century project was origanally inspired by H.G. Wells's 'Little Wars' but was intended for a Colonial setting rather like Jos. Morchauser's Hausserian wars. The respective RED (Ruberian) and BLUE (Azurian) forces represented a Brigade group: 3 battalions, with a squadron of cavalry and a gun battery attached.

This changed into something larger and more Continental... This seems to me a good topic to put on my blog...

David Crook said...

Hi Archduke,

I am experimenting with an idea at present that may morph into the 19th century in due course. The figures have been readied for undercoating (they are plastic so the usual lengthy preparation is needed) so the two sides are on the starting blocks.

All the best,