A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

British Sappers & Miners

For a while now, I have been looking for some fellows to do sapping and mining work for the British army in my Peninsular War siege games. I already have some nicely authentic French sapeurs armed with pickaxes and shovels, and garbed in cuirasses and helments – these are from the LW and Strelets sets, and were kindly donated by Clive when he came to do some siege testing a couple of years ago.

It might appear to be an obvious subject for a plastic set, but no-one has done a British equivalent to date, so I have been keeping an eye open for conversion possibilities to balance things up. I have a few odd figures – also left by Clive – from the HaT British Marines and Sailors set, and even a couple from the Orion English Pirates set, who can serve well enough as men stripped down for serious digging. To these I have now added some men from Art Miniaturen’s nice set of Austrian engineers, plus a couple from the Finescale Factory set of French pontonniers (which I believe is now back in production, and available from SHQ), and a pair of officers from Falcata.

It occurred to me that an undressed man of any nationality is pretty much the same, so the possibility of these becoming Spanish by simply substituting a couple of specifically Spanish officers into the line-up is already noted. There is one of the Austrians that I attempted to fudge into a pre-1812 Royal Artificer who would need to be hidden or replaced as well.

Ideally I would have used officers with spyglasses or something more obviously specialized (I had ideas of modifying a British ensign so that he was holding a pole, but gave up on that one), but ended up with a couple of chaps lining things up with their swords – presumably with the intention of guarding their men while work goes on, or at least of pre-empting any possibility of disagreement about the task in hand.

As with their French opposite numbers, the men are individually mounted on 20mm discs, backed with magnets so they may stay on their movement trays, and the bases themselves are painted in the official house shade of Siege Mud which is used for siege equipment and engineering.

I’m a little bothered that the man with the wheelbarrow is easily recognizable as Hamish, with whom I played in a band for many years, but he doesn’t seem to be bothered so I won’t consider the matter further.

Another ticked box for the siege games – the British may now dig holes and tunnels whenever they like. Next big gap is some decent trenches and earthworks. Don’t go holding your breath.


  1. Nice work. I might steal some inspiration there, though my French sappeurs are still unpainted.

    Trenches are a thing though. I thought about using specially cut pieces of dado rail or moulding or something.

    1. Dado rail could be just the job - good wheeze - I've been having a look at Wickes website and similar. First problem I have is lack of a real idea what a horse-&-musket period trench looked like.

      These chaps are really just a stopgap - I live in hope that one day one of the premier plastic manufacturers will do a box set for Badajoz, though now I come to think of it that would have lots of heroic stormers and maybe no diggers. Strelets would do a whimsical take on it, I'm sure.

  2. Hamish is a fine fellow, but he won't get much in that apology for a wheelbarrow!

    1. My recollection of Hamish is that he would be more likely to spend the day pushing it around to avoid getting anything put in it. Keep looking busy, avoid eye contact at all times.