Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Great War in Greyscale - 'The Old Contemptibles' 1914 British Infantry


The popular perception of the British army during the Great War is that of the conscripted, citizen-soldier; the resigned amateur-warrior who doggedly did his duty for King and Country. While this is largely true of the British war experience from 1915 to 1918 it is definitely not the case during the first year of the war.



Of all the armies that began hostilities in August 1914 the British Expeditionary Force was the most professional, the most battle hardened and the best equipped in the field. Whereas a significant portion of the men who made up the forces of Germany and France were unblooded reservists, the vast majority of the British regular army were 'Old Sweats' - veteran soldiers who had seen hard service in various colonial wars and were men who knew what it meant to be under fire. 

Nevertheless, the remorseless, high intensity combat experienced at Mons, Le Cateau, the Marne and First Ypres essentially destroyed the regular army. Battalions that began with nearly 1000 effectives were reduced to 300, 200 and some less than a hundred men by November 1914. 


The two pictures, above and below, provide grim testimony to the casualty rate amongst the BEF in the first few months of the war. The image above is the 1st Battalion of The Queen's Royal Regiment upon mobilization in August 1914, whereas the picture below shows the remnants of the battalion as they were reviewed on November 9th, only three months later. In fact of the 1000 men of the battalion who landed in France in 1914 only 17 were listed as alive by the Armistice.



Here are a few test models of 1914 British infantry that I've done in my greyscale effect to match up with the French, Belgian and Germans I've posted previously. These are 28mm figures from Great War Miniatures. These figures do require a bit of trimming and filing but are superb castings with great animation, character and crisp detail. Again, I've mounted the officers (and upcoming NCO's) on hexagonal bases to better differentiate them from the rankers on their round ones.  


Next up will be another famous vehicle from the Great War - but this one is celebrated because it was unarmed and unarmoured...

36 comments:

  1. ...horses??

    What an amazing pictures. The results are stunning

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    1. Thanks Benito! Horses is a good guess - you'll have to check back to see. ;)

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  2. Great pictures, interesting post as I'm not very familiar with the subject.

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    1. Cheers and I'm glad you found it interesting.

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  3. Nice job!

    Is that mysterious vehicle you are referring to a "Taxi de la Marne"?

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    1. Good guess! Or one of those double deckers used by Churchill's Naval Birgade??

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    2. Both of those are excellent guesses! ;)

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  4. Excellent work Curt. The story of the orginal BEF is utterly fascinating with all those famous County regiments giving the Kaiser a bloody nose. Time for a "mad minute" I say..

    I did trace the war history of a friends relative from Mons right through the all the main battles of the war to 1918 where we was killed at the Chemin de Dames in the Blucher-Yorck offensive eventually going to cemetery where he was buried and photographing it for him , it was somewhat of a humbling experience placing his picture on his grave.

    I dare say we shall see more on the BEF across the blogosphere as the key centenary gets closer. I shall look forward to it, and seeing more of your project.

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    1. Thanks Dave. That poor fellow almost made it through - as you say, pretty sobering stuff.

      Yes, I'm expecting 2014 will be a busy year for those in the heritage industry. As the last veterans of that war have passed on it will be interesting to see the level of detachment/dispassionate analysis regarding the commemorations. I'm sure we'll be hit with a storm of books and documentaries...

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    1. Thanks Phil! And same to you on your bril Spanish standard bearer.

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  6. Superb Curt, just superb, It quite amazes me how life-like you've made the figures look just using the colours you have. i love the officers glasses, are they silver?

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    1. Cheers Ray. The officers specs are in greyscale as well, with the lenses highlighted in white.

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  7. Another group of beautifully painted miniatures!! I´m very impressed with all this Greyscale thing!!

    Cheers.

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  8. Lovely looking figures Curt (as always) :)

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  9. Great work Curt.
    It is certainly a moving tale, and the grim reality of this conflict.

    Funnily enough I was listening to my Ipod painting last night and a song came on that reminded me of your current project;

    Magnum - Les Mort Dansant
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSGq9KOsZJM&feature=related

    A great track, if you enjoy rock music - a melancholic ballad of the events of the war...

    It always reminds me of my time touring the cemetery's of Northern France...

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    1. Try this - better link and moving footage of the time, skip to ~ one minute in for start of song and footage...
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4U-MfTNwL-Q&feature=related

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    2. Thanks for that Scott. Very good song (and excellent video). The lyrics remind me somewhat of Chris de Burgh before he became all schmatzy.

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  10. Very nice as usual, I was curious about the officers specs

    John

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    1. Thanks John. Yeah, I find that when I pull out a bright white within this dark tonal range it REALLY pops. The trick is not to use the lighter tones too much as they can easily overpower the entire figure and wash it out.

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  11. Amazing work - these are real pieces of art.

    I like the use of a different shape along with base size to differentiate officers - very clever!

    Miles

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    1. Hey Miles, thanks a bunch for the kind words!

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  12. Sorry a bit late on these, but just wanted to say - Wow!

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    1. Thanks Michael, its aways great to hear from you!

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  13. A very nice work, Curt. You are really a master of the Greyscale.

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    1. Well, with my WWI and Strange Aeons projects I'm certainly getting in enough practice. I'm finally feeling comfortable with the palette and being able to move along a bit quicker.

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  14. An outstanding example of painting and an outstanding tribute to the soldiers of 1914 (of all sides). I am very much enjoying this series of blog posts - wonderful modelling, exceptional painting and great understanding. Exemplary!

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    1. Cheers Sidney! Thanks very much for your support. Your own efforts in this genre is really a great source of inspiration for me.

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  15. Nice work again Curt. The greyscale is really effective!!

    Cheers

    PD

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  16. Pretty incredible as always man. This project continues to snap my neurones.

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  17. I have been thinking a lot about why I like your greyscale minis so much and today it dawned on me... I always feel they convey a deep sadness theough the choice of colour. And this is the same feeling I associate with the meatgrihder of the trenchwarfare.

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    1. Thanks very much for the thoughtful comment. Yes, when I was working through the first test models I decided to go with a cool (almost blue) grey for the skin tones as I felt it creates more of a ghostlike impression. Not meaning to sound too 'artsy fartsy' but to me this project has very little to do with the gaming aspect of the hobby but more to follow an introspective process linked to the painting of the models (reading, films, photos, music, etc.). The topic is very interesting but also, as you say, deeply sad.

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