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

Monday, 17 March 2014

ECW - Switchable Standard-Bearers

…and other cunning stuff.

The man himself - in Montrose High Street
Work on my windfall acquisition of second-hand ECW troops is going ahead – there is quite a lot to do, but it’s a factory process, and it’s mostly a matter of making time to sit down and get on with it, ensuring I have plenty of music to listen to.

This is figure painting of a style I haven’t done much of for many years – the previous owner was a doctor, I understand; sadly, he passed away recently and his widow arranged for his enormous collection of figures to be presented to a local charity shop, who raised a considerable sum on eBay. I believe that there were over a hundred boxes of stuff, representing a huge range of periods and styles of warfare. I bought some of his ECW figures – mostly Scots and Irish type figures – and found, to my surprise, that they were flagged and organized to suit the campaigns of the Marquis of Montrose, which – by a complete coincidence – is exactly what I had in mind myself when I bought them.

The figures are mostly SHQ and Tumbling Dice, which fits right in with my existing armies, but they are painted in a way which I used to employ myself in the days when my main concern was to get as many soldiers ready for battle as I could, in the shortest time possible. They are, to use what I think is Mr Featherstone’s phrase, “effective in the mass” rather than individually exquisite. That is not to dismiss them as crude, you understand, but recently I have grown accustomed to commissioned paint jobs on my ECW chaps which make each man a little personality, and these new troops for the Montrose unpleasantness are not like that. The painting is OK, though I have a lot of rebasing to get on with, and the acreage of Humbrol gloss varnish is astonishing, but the overall impression is of a major invasion by a faceless horde which you wouldn’t wish to meet up with.

Somehow this fits quite well with my feelings about the Covenanters and their opponents – masses of rather dour, businesslike fellows in “hodden grey”, with blue bonnets. The Scots army, we must remember, was a national army, not a collection of individual units raised by wealthy or prominent individuals, so a mass-production approach is maybe appropriate.

The task in hand is to identify the figures I can use, organize them into sensible units, clean off the remains of the old basing, get the old tweezers busy removing the cat hairs which are tacked onto the old varnish (not embedded in the stuff, fortunately), wash everything, touch up any chips or outstandingly poor bits of painting, give a thorough application of Galeria acrylic matt varnish, paint the figure bases in the house Crested Moss #1 shade, stick them on new 60 x 60 MDF stands and prepare flags. When you get within tweezer range of someone else’s figures, it all gets very personal. While I’m tinkering away I find myself chatting idly to The Doc, as I refer to the previous owner, and Whiskers, as I have christened his cat.

A box of Scots - just the first of a big new contingent - no flags yet
I have already produced a unit of Scots horse, and I have enough figures for 6 regiments of bonneted Scottish foot, plus 5 of non-Scottish chaps of generally northern (grey/brown) appearance. The plan is that Montrose will get two of the first group (Strathbogie and Gordon of Monymore) plus three of the second (who will be his Irish Brigade), and the balance will be available to his opponents, as will my three existing Covenanter units. There are also 4 small units of highland levies, who are up for grabs to either side, depending on scenario.

Almost certainly not Whiskers
Flags are interesting. Those of Strathbogie and Gordon of Monymore, and of the Irish Brigade, are distinctively Royalist, but I do not wish to disqualify these units from being called up to pitch in on the other side in the Bishop Wars, or against the Marquis of Newcastle, or at Marston Moor, if need be, so I have come up with a Cunning Plan for flags. Montrose’s foot regiments will have their standard bearers elegantly tacked onto the bases with BluTak, and spare officers will be available with alternative flags, such that they may switch allegiance as required. The Scottish fellows (including the spares for Montrose’s people) are to have general-purpose Covenanter style colours, and the non-Scots (including the spares for Montrose’s Irish) will have generic English (Northumbrian) colours, appropriate to their faceless-mass role.

One of my generic Scots units will, of course, have a colour very similar to that of the Duke of Argyll, the cross-eyed, craven, dastardly villain of Dame Veronica Wedgwood’s very readable but extremely biased life of Montrose.

Booo! - Argyll, the Pantomime Villain
I have much work to do, but at least I now know what it is. It is a comfort to have plans to dovetail these new forces with North-of-England scenarios, since otherwise they might be seen as a distraction from my main effort, for which I haven’t yet produced a proper campaign in my intended Lancashire theatre.

What fun, what fun! More pictures will appear in due course.


  1. lovely collection you've gained, and looking at the lads I thought there's quite a few that could be used for "Bonnie Dundee", 1715 and the '45, great gaming possibilities
    cheers Old John

  2. I was wondering if the old ruse of mounting your flags on a tube that then just slips over the bare pole of the standard bearer would suit...?? By the by, the statue of Montrose is marvellous....

    1. Thanks for this - I've come cross this idea before, but only now do I see the true beauty of it. I did a quick search of the house for very fine tubing - best so far is the stems of cotton buds, which is pretty good just a tad hefty - any ideas for something a bit finer? (I've already thought of "smaller cotton buds" but haven't traced any yet).

      I'm sure I could purchase fine-gauge brass tubing, but at that point it is getting easier and cheaper to just have extra standard bearers.

      Any standard recommendations for skinny tubing?

    2. Again, thanks for the tip - have now made some cotton-bud based flags - see following post...

  3. Taking Steve's idea and turning it on its head, Barry Hilton (I think) has fixed the tube into the figure's hand and pops the appropriate flag into same. It's as long as it's broad really unless you can't get the existing pole out of the figure's hand without damage.

    1. That's a good variant - i am kind of committed to the man holding a pole, because of the existing models - also ECW flags have a tiny stub of a handle. Thanks - cheers - Tony

    2. Either way, have a look here:


    3. Now THAT is an interesting site - thanks.

  4. Excellent find!

    Look forward to seeing more completed and 'in action' on the green fields of your tabletop Scotland!

  5. For a biography of The First Marquis of Montrose that is reasonably objective (Montrose is definitely the hero, but the Duke of Argyll not altogether villainous), I recommend Ronald Williams's 1975 volume (Montrose: Cavalier in Mourning). Good battle descriptions, too.

    'Let them bestow on every airth a limb,
    Then open all my veins, that I may swim
    To Thee, my Maker, in that crimson lake;
    Then place my par-boil'd head upon a stake, Scatter my ashes, strew them in the air;
    Lord! since thou knowest where all these atoms are,
    I'm hopeful thou'lt recover once my dust,
    And confident thou'lt raise me with the just.'
    - said to have been written with the point of a diamond upon the window of Montrose's prison cell.

    1. Hadn't come across Williams' book - thanks for this. I have biographies by CV Wedgwood, John Buchan, plus I have the Tranter novels on my Kindle. I've just obtained a secondhand copy of Stuart Reid's "Campaigns of Montrose" - my house is gradually filling up with books by Stuart Reid, in fact - I am big fan!

    2. Just be thankful you aren't drawn to Barbara Cartland, or Georgette Heyer.... :o)

      (Couldn't agree more w.r.t Mr Asquith, however)