Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Hussite War Wagons

War wagons are one of those things I've often wanted but had shied away from for many years. I think I bought the first of these at a show where there wasn't much else I wanted, so I got them just because they were there.

It is possible that the use of this kind of converted wagon first started in Poland and then spread to Bohemia where they were used to great effect in the Hussite Wars. They were then adopted by Hungary and in Germany, with similar types being used in Russia.

Below are some of the wagons I have. The crew is a real mix. There are figures from Donnington, Khurasan, Minifigs, Irregular, QR, Vexillia and Mirliton. The Donnington peasants are particularly useful, with very Bohemian style clothing (15th century - not 1950s Greenwich Village).

Some of the wagons have a crew which looks more professional which I use for the later 15th century such as the Hungarians.

These are the two styles of wagon from Irregular Miniatures. The wagon itself is the same in each case - the separately cast side planking is the difference. I think the style of planking is randomly provided.

They also do a wagon of the same style which comes with a small artillery piece.

I have more Irregular wagons than any other, with enough to have some shooting to the left and some to the right.

Note the stone thrower - the wagons often had containers filled with stones for bombarding the enemy. Some other wagons have the stone throwing Swiss figures from Khurasan in them.

Alternative Armies

This wagon is from Alternative Armies (until recently sold as and originally by Tabletop Games).

The wagons require more construction than the Irregular pieces. The sides of the actual wagon are separate but come with different options including the open ramp for one side. They come with horses but I decided to do them in a static pose.
It took a while to work out how to get everything together but once it was cleaned up of flash etc. they went together quite smoothly.

Alternative Armies (rear view)

This one has an artillery piece from Minifigs deployed alongside. The gunner is from QR, the shield bearer from Irregular.

 It also comes with a small section to go under the wagon - I haven't put these in as they are difficult to see but perhaps I will get round to it one day.


The Minifigs wagon has a one piece body with separate side hoarding. It is also provided with the under cart protection. It comes with two pairs of horse but I used Irregular horses for all the wagons.
The body of the examples I had from Minifigs needed a bit of tidying up including some filling but nothing too onerous

The comparison picture shows that the three companies go together pretty well. Each of them has its pluses and minuses. The Alternative Armies one, while tricky to put together, is probably the most accurate with its ramp and the suspension poles. It also doesn't have a driver's seat - the driver would probably have ridden one of the horses. However, the modern recreation at the Hussite Museum in Tabor does have a box for the driver to sit on.

I also have some by QR miniatures. These are much smaller though still pretty nice. Each pack has two wagons - one is dug in with its wheels partially buried.

Museum have fairly recently produced a range of war wagons. These look nice, and follow several modern reconstruction. However, I'm not convinced that the modern artists have interpreted the sources well - hinged side panels have become propped up roofs.

There are some very pretty war wagons on various websites, whereas I have gone for the plain wood look. This is based on contemporary pictures such as the Schlact im Walde* and the picture at the head of this blog.

What I will need to do is to add flags to some of the wagons. There are specific designs for different parts of the Hussite army. Since I have rather a lot of wagons, I may add some Hungarian heraldry to a few, as in Győző Somogyi's book on the army of Matthias Corvinus.

There are some clips online from a trilogy of Czech films made in the 1950s covering the Hussite Wars, There is certainly a political dimension to them, but the efforts to get a historical look are laudable. This is a clip of the Battle of Sudomer which has some good shots of war wagons. Note also the teams of unarmed pavise bearer and crossbowman. The music chosen by this editor may not be to everyone's taste :)

Wagner, Drobna and Durdik's book on Medieval Costume, Armour and Weapons has a particular emphasis on the Bohemians and shows several good pictures of wagons. Worth looking at, despite its age.

Much newer are the pair of books on die Heere den Hussiten. The plates aren't as interesting as the same company's book on the Teutonic Knights, so if you are not a German reader then I wouldn't recommend them.

*A wonderful source for the late 15th/early 16th century in Germany. One thing it shows is the wagons moving around the field, but how typical this was and how much is artistic licence is of course debatable. This and two subsequent posts give more details of the battle. A short account by von Berlichingen is here - this confirms that the wagons were attacked while still trying to form a wagenburg.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Stradiots, Hussars and Genitors

There was a parallel development of light cavalry at opposite ends of Europe which reached its height as the 16th century began.
The roots were, of course, far older. In the East, there was the steppe tradition which had come into Hungary and its neighbours many times. As Hungarian society changed, the number of locals who could provide skilled light cavalry began to decline. However certain regions and sections of society maintained their traditions for longer, in part due to the influence of the Tartars to the east and increasingly the Ottomans to the south.

These are QR Miniatures from their Polish late 16th century range. They look very similar to the illustrations of Hungarian horse archers from the late 15th/ early 16th century in the Army of King Matthias  so I have used them for these. A couple in the pack are armed with firearms so I have not used those. Others have cartridge boxes on their backs which I could have tried carving away but they are easily overlooked. 

These are QR Miniatures Serbians. Serbian cavalry entered Hungarian and then Polish service as their homeland was occupied by the Ottomans. Their style influenced the local cavalry, with the use of a lance being emphasised instead of a bow or crossbow. One of the theories for the origin of the word 'Hussar' is that it comes from Serbian. over time, 'Serbian' may even have been a description of the style of cavalry rather than being a reliable indicator of the origin of all the men.
The figures seem to have been based very much on the Polish hussars in the Battle of Orsha painting*. Link has a number of close ups - I've shown a detailed view of the hussars at the head of this page. Also in the painting are similarly dressed figures who have bows as well as lances. They are likely Lithianians, though the green flag may originally have been blue.

The flag I have given them is Hungarian from here - it was a style carried at Mohacs in 1526.
These are some of my favourite figures.

These are some figures from the 'By Fire and Sword' range. Again, they are intended for alater period than I am modelling, so some have holsters on their horses. A bit of chopping and painting soon hide them though. These are from the 'Transylvanian' range. Most are actually sold as Szekelers so that is what I am using them as. They are quite similar to the Hungarians shown in the Babenberg family tree. I wonder if the blue trousers are significant - they seem to be increasingly a feature of Hungarian military wear until they became a standard part of the uniform in the 18th century.

These figures would probably work as Moldavians and Wallachians as well, and perhaps Lithuanians if they are not as dolled up as the ones in the Orsha painting.

A comparison shot of the QR Serbians with BFaS Szekelers. Since they are likely ot be unfamiliar to many, I've put a comparative Essex element next to them.

Apart from the comparative Essex figures, these are Stradiots - those in the centre element are from Venexia, those on the right are Mirliton. All the Stradiots are mounted on Vexillia horses - some have had the Eastern style rump covers added.

Stradiots were recruited by the Venetians in their territories across the Adriatic. They were initially Albanians though their name is probably Greek. This has a selection of pictures of Stadiots and Hussars - there is often argument about which are represented in certain pictures.

For a while, the Venetians paid them according to the number of heads taken (see Commynes), so some of the horses have Xyston severed heads hanging from the saddle.

More stradiots and/or hussars can be found in Maximilian's Weiss Kunig including plates 75, 77, 82 and 83.

The role of stradiots and Albanians in war can be seen in various contemporary histories such as Chalkokondylas, Bembo and Commynes

Most of Western Europe used little or no light cavalry for most of the Medieval period. The main exception was in Iberia. The conditions, the Morish influence and the availability of suitable horses meant that the use of light cavalry continued through the reconquest and beyond.

These are mostly Donnington New Era figures from the new Islamic range and I really like them. There has been a lot of attention to detail, using mostly Ian Heath's pictures I think. These in turn are based largely on the 'Conquest of Majorca' and the 'Cantigas de Santa Maria' . There are many other examples here.

Berber horsemen continued to look very similar over the next centuries as can be seen in the Conquest of Oran.

The same picture shows how the Christian Spanish had changed by this time.

This shows the Essex Andalusian horse next to jinetes of the 14th century and some from the late 15th/early 16th. Even by the 14th century the equipment had become heavier. The middle figures are by Alain Touller, those on the left by Venexia (though on Vexillia horses). Both ranges are unfortunately OOP.

*Watchers of BBC's Being Human may remember that Orsha was where Hal made his, umm, lifestyle choice.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Bohemians, Hungarians and Poles

I have been steadily replacing the pictures which were stored on Photobucket. I thought I ought to add a few new things.

Some time a year or so ago, I thought I would add a few things to my 13th century Hungarians so that I could use them as 15th century Hungarians.

The knights were obviously ought of date, so I painted some new ones. I needed some Serbians, so that was new lead. 
In fact, by the time I was finished, there was nothing from the 13th century army which was going to be used.

This post covers the infantry I used.

The best description of the 15th century Hungarian infantry is from Matthias Corvinus. Matt Haywood's useful site on Eastern European armies of this period has the information so I won't repeat it.

This sounds to me very like the Bohemians portrayed in action against Maximilian just after the end of Corvinus's reign. This has been debated on the DBMM and DBM yahoo groups in some depth so I won't go into the pros and cons.

Bohemians found their way into a number of armies after the end of the main Hussite Wars. There were various opportunities for these experienced soldiers in Germany, Hungary, Poland and with the Teutonic Knights as well as in their native land which was wrangled over by the neighbouring states and local rulers.

Even though I think these men probably fought in a similar fashion for these various employers, the DBMM lists portray them in different ways. 

The Hungarian lists separates out the various parts described by Corvinus. The 'shield bearers' are spear elements. For these, I used Vexillia's own Polish pavise bearers. There are only two poses but it is enough IMHO. They are very easy to paint, with quite a lot of armour. 
The pavises are from Minifigs. Not only do you get quite a lot for your money but they have no stand to get in the way. The shield designs are a mix of Bohemian and Hungarian origin, including some from Maximilian's victory parade. Some have St George, St Michael or David fighting Goliath, though on the battlefield the designs are very hard to see.

Various pictures of Maximilian's battle at Schoenberg 
exist ncluding this: 

As well as the various engravings of Schoenberg (aka Wenzenbach or the Bohmenschlacht), Maximilian's tomb has an interesting representation. Maximilian and his men are shown in fashionable armour of some timeafter the battle but the Bohemian opponents are wearing more typical armour of the 1480s. The scene is dramatised but gives some idea of the variety of arms being used.
See here for another couple of portrayals of the battle as well as a discussion of the Hussite soldier (in German).

In the sidebar is a link to Uwe Tresp's work on the Bohemian soldier which covers their tactics, weaponry etc. through the 15th century.

The 'MM list also has some Blade elements. I'm currently using some of the Polish figures from QR miniatures which are part of their 13 years war range. The figures are pretty good though rather chunky compared to the Vexillia figures. Some of the other figures have what looks like a goedendag but I suspect it is an ahlspiess as shown on Maximilian's tomb. The QR figures may get replaced - I have a variety of Minifigs figures which match the size of the Vexillia figures better, and despite being old they have some character.

 The Polish, Hussite and German lists all have double based BwX with Bw behind. They appeared in the German and Hussite lists for the first time with the current edition and it caused a problem - they had inferior bow as a rear rank which isn't according to the rules. As it isn't clear what would happen in various circumstances, the tournament organisers have generally decided that they will cost and act as BwX/BwO.
For those unfamiliar with DBx terminology, BwX usually represents a thin crust of shield bearers with some kind of melee weapon protecting larger numbers of shooters.

As I had already painted the late 15th style pavises for the Hungarians, I decided to go with more straightforward heraldry for these. I could have made some sabot bases to turn the spear into the front rank of the BwX but decided to go the whole hog.

The shield devices are city militia devices according to the very nice sheets of Polish and Teutonic heraldry like here.
They have been made for the Tannenerg/Grunwald period whereas these figures are mid to late 15th century. Some are for towns which rebelled against the Teutonic Knights, allying themselves with the Polish king. In contrast to the rather busy designs on the later pavises, I used red and white designs almost exclusively.

The painting of the Battle of Orsha shows Poles using a pavise and shooter combination in 1514. There are some debatable points about the accuracy of the painting but it is good to look at anyway.

 I know comparison photos are often useful.
These are handgunners - from the left:
QR - QR, Mirliton - Donnington NE, Donnington NE - Mirliton.

The final Mirliton figure is noticeably smaller than the other figures which it came with. I think it was made for the Condotta range which has slightly smaller figures than the Swiss-Burgundian range.
 Crossbow men -
from the left:
Vexillia-Mirliton, QR - QR

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Photobucket wipe out

Up until now, I've used Photobucket to host my pictures. With their change to T&Cs making the majority of the pictures here no longer visible, I shall need to update the links to a new host.

I'll try an make this the incentive to add some new content as well. I've had stern words from a couple of people I know telling me to get a grip as it has been a year since I've added anything, so I shall endeavour to do as I've been told :)