Friday, 16 February 2018

From SidneyR: Graf von Bek's North German Horse (66 Points)

From the journal of Don Fernando de Torrescusa, Marquess de Girona, Envoy of His Most Catholic Majesty, Carlos the Second, King of Spain, to the Flemish Free City of Laarden in 1688.

There were six of them, and then the rest of the squadron rode into view from behind the black, winter trees.  

Against the frozen field, the grass thick with hoar frost, I could see them clearly although we were some way off from our position on the hill.  De Gautier's excited chatter was momentarily silenced as they accelerated quickly from a canter to a gallop.  I snatched my spyglass from its tubular case of Andalusian leather.  I could plainly pick out their clothing and equipment: deep brown, ochre, buff and carmine riding coats - with front breastplates in blackened steel, swords curved as I had seen in Hungary, and stirrups shortened in the Polish fashion.  Several of the troopers had fair, straw-coloured hair, sometimes curling down onto their shoulders, unfashionably long.  

Their coats were trimmed in animal furs to keep out the cold.  Ostrich feathers, dyed Hapsburg scarlet, were secured to their hats in an overly ostentatious display of loyalty to their paymaster.  Their standards displayed images of Fortuna, Goddess of luck and chance, the Imperial Eagle and a prancing horse, all of which were very different from the familiar Burgundian cross displayed on the standards of the Laarden regiments and on the flags of His Majesty's Spanish tercios.

They were fast, gliding at speed over the snow-flecked downland, scattering the hussars and forcing the French dragoons to mount hastily and ride off.  I could pick out the small puffs of smoke of a few dragoon muskets being fired in a ragged fusilade against the horsemen, just as I could see the glint of pale sunlight catching the cavaliers' sword-steel as they broke the French dragoons' threadbare line.

The horsemen were barely a formation by the end, much less a squadron.  They did not pursue.  No doubt their captain, or Graf von Bek, had ascertained that there were far greater opportunities for plunder and looting in the location of the now-reclaimed supply wagons than in an effective pursuit of the French raiders. Nevertheless, even despite the lack of a vigorous chase, de Gautier had wound himself into a corkscrew of excitement while watching the slaughter, clapping his hands wildly and gesticulating his arms like the sails of an Antwerp windmill in a firm wind. During the looting, he even instructed his trumpeter to mark the skirmish with a brassy clarion note in the icy morning air.

Yet I had seen it all before.  Just as the Swedes have their Finns, and the Poles have the Tartars, the Imperial forces of the Emperor Leopold are currently augmented by mercenaries recruited from the Baltic towns, even as far east as Livonia and Courland.  I had seen their aggressive charges and predilection for plunder before on the fields of Honigfelde, Rennenberg, Wolgast and Bredtstede.

I had guessed as much when I had first seen the squadron galloping hard into the attack, but their standard of a Hapsburg eagle on a golden field confirmed my suspicion.  Even without the Imperia-sanctioned heraldry of von Bek’s cavaliers, the eastern-fashioned arms, cold weather clothing, unfashionable hair and rapacious brutality were as bold a signature as I would have recognised anywhere.


My first inspiration for this squadron was a curious reference to William III bringing within him 200 Finnish troops “in bearskins and black armour” for his invasion of England in November 1688.  To my knowledge, no picture exists of these Finnish troops.  No uniform, no standard, nothing.  But I very much liked the idea of troops being clothed in fur and armour against cold winter weather.  Another inspiration was the frequent reference to cavalry, or 'reiters', being "Hungarian" or "Polish" in German-language accounts of horse squadrons in the 1670s and 1680s.  This is normally taken to be that the troops in question were equipped in the style or fashion of, or with equipment typical of, Hungarian or Polish troops, without being themselves from Hungary or Poland.

From these starting points, I reasoned that any Imperial force from the 1680s may well have some cavalry formations equipped with some more eastern-style arms (the more curved swords which Don Fernando claimed he saw in Hungary), and could have included troops equipped for winter conditions in "bearskins and black armour" (echoing William III's Finnish mercenaries' clothing).  

I tried to keep the tones of the clothing to an authentic brown-red-grey theme - typical for 17th Century cavalry on campaign.  I painted the hair on several of the reiters in pale, Nordic tones, again suggesting of a Baltic location for their recruiting ground.  With green-stuff, I added feathers to hats, fur-lined trim to coats, gauntlets, and deep late-17th century cuffs with additional buttons to try and give the horsemen an individual look.

The figures started life as Foundry ECW cavalrymen, but I tried to convert them into a distinctive, if undisciplined, squadron of aggressive North German Horse from the 1680s.

I’ve placed the troops I have just painted alongside six other reiters from the squadron which I started painted in the Challenge last year but didn't finish in time (and indeed, they sat sadly on the painting table until early April, 2017). I painted the standard of Fortuna by hand from an online collection of German standards from the 1650s - so a few liberties have been taken with history in that regard by placing Fortuna in a squadron from the 1680s.  And, to be clear, the front six reiters are not in Challenge VIII and are there just to make a fun photograph and complete the squadron!

So, in total, six 25-28mm cavalry, totaling 60 points to my tally and Renaissance Side-Duel.


More stunning miniatures and flights of imagination from the brush and pen of Sidney Roundwood. Bravo!! 

These figures' origins as venerable Foundry ECW castings have been completely re-purposed to support the 'history of Laarden' with the subtle additions of fur trim, feathers, gauntlets and heavy cuffs - absolutely wonderful work, Sidney. I also really like the new basing recipe you've created for this project; it's subtle, yet frames the figures nicely within their Lowcountry setting. 

66 points, which includes a few extra for the modifications. Thanks for sharing these with us Sidney!


  1. Beautiful work and more snippets from life in 17th Century Laarden. What's not to love about this?

  2. Fine,fine work once again Sidney - incredible stuff.

  3. You see me speechless Sidney! That’s some pretty impressive painting and conversion. You don’t do any things by halves, do you?

  4. More lovely work, and that's just the writing, Von Beck was I thought the war hound from Michael Moorcocks "War hound and the world's pain" set in the 30 years war. The painting and conversions are of the highest standards, splendid!
    Best Iain

  5. What a splendid squadron! Excellent work, Sidney, I wish I had your eye for colour!

  6. Awesome Sidney, downright awesome!

  7. Well they just look fantastic Sidney!!


  8. Wow! Just WOW! I love the detail and thought that went into these and then how you translated that into a truly beautiful outcome with the brushwork and basing. One of my favourite entries so far. More please Sid!

  9. Another total painting and blogging immersion experience - super cool Sidney.


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