Friday 8 September 2023

Early 16th Century Peasants

This is the first unit for the army, or should I say peasant band, I am currently working on. 71 peasants for the German Peasant's War of 1524-1525. The release of the excellent new miniatures by Steel Fist,, meant that I could not resist building up a force for the collection. The Steel Fist figures are fantastic sculpts with loads of character that really capture the feel of the early 16th century and match contemporary images of the German Peasants. Whilst the unit pictured is formed predominantly of Steel Fist figures suitable figures from other manufacturers have been added, these being Wargames Foundry, Artizan and even a couple of old Grenadier miniatures and an old Pro Gloria figure, now sold by Warlord. Some of the figures have been converted and head swapped for variation or to bring them more into the 1500s. They have all been armed with a wide variety of different weapons and farm implements from loads of different manufacturers. The banners shown in the pictures are all from Pete's superb range of flags:

A unit of German peasants prepares to fight under a crucifix and banner showing the "bundschuh".

28mm German Peasant's Wars miniatures.

A unit of German peasants made up of Steel Fist, Artizan, Foundry, Warlord and Grenadier miniatures.

28mm 16th century peasants.

German Peasant's War miniatures.

The figures carry an assortment of weaponry from improvised agricultural implements to bills, halberds, spears and ahlspiess.

The peasant unit from behind.

One of the command bases with the bundschuh banner.

Another command base with the peasants fighting under a wooden crucifix. The crucifix is from Essex Miniatures.

An example of one of the peasant bases.

When working on this unit I wanted a versatile set of figures that could be used for German Peasant's War games but also as Tudor rebels and as militias in sieges. As such the figures have been based in a way that means some of the better armed troops, those with more armour and better weapons, such as halberds, bills, ahlspiess and spears, have been based together whilst those with more improvised weapons and less armour have been based together to represent less militarily prepared peasants. This means I can take some of the bases out of the unit and use them for other armies as shown in the photo below where the better armed troops are representing French infantry from the 1520s.

Some of the bases serve well as militia troops. Here they represent French infantry for the 1510s and 1520s.

Other bases are more suitable for completely unamoured peasant levies as shown by these bases.

28mm poorly armed peasants.

The peasant bands that formed during the German Peasant's War of the mid 1520s had landsknecht in their ranks, after all the bands of landsknecht mercenaries were formed from the German population of the time. They followed the organisation of landsknecht formations closely and appointed officers using the same titles such as feldweibel and rottmeister. Some of the Steel Fist sculpts are wearing elements of landsknecht dress to reflect this. The pictures below show the new unit mixed with some bases of landsknecht halberdiers. For German Peasant's War scenarios this is how I intend to field the figures, a mix that includes some landsknecht and some peasant bases. I considered mixing in landsknecht figures with some of the peasants on the bases but I think the method below works well and this means I can also use the peasants for different types of scenarios where landsknecht were not in their ranks.

During the German Peasants War many of the peasant bands had landsknecht in their ranks. Here the peasant bases are mixed with those of landsknechts. Note the "robber knight" on the right of the photo who has been persuaded to join the peasants.

Peasants and landsknecht for the German Peasant's War.

28mm German peasants and landsknecht.

I am also keen to use these figures to game Tudor rebellions. At a push they can work for anything from the Battle of Blackheath in 1497 through to the 1549 rebellions. For the 1549 rebellions, Kett's in Norfolk and The Prayer Book rebellion in Devon and Cornwall, I will mix in some bases of Assault Group figures. The Assault Group have miniatures that are specifically for the 1549 rebellions and would help bring the unit into the mid Tudor period. 

During the Sixteenth century the English male population was expected to be armed and armoured and to provide many of the troops in the royal army, in many ways a rebel army wouldn't look that different to a force raised by the monarchy. English rebel forces of the era lacked the well armed retinues of the nobility but still included militarily experienced archers and billmen. The hard fighting that the Tudor government's mercenaries and loyal troops had to do in 1549 demonstrates this fact well. To show that English rebel armies were relatively well armed I have mixed the peasant bases with archers as well as better armed and armoured English shire troops, some still bearing the cross of St George on their padded jacks and armour. In the photos below they can be seen under a banner of the Virgin Mary. I think they form a pretty convincing force of Tudor rebels.

Another unit of 70 or so armed peasants is on the way so hopefully I will be able to get some pictures of a whole army of these chaps on the blog in the coming months.

Here the peasants have been mixed in with archers to create units of Tudor rebels.

Tudor rebels marching under the banner of the Virgin Mary and a crucifix.

28mm Tudor rebels.
A 28mm force of Tudor rebels with archers, rebels armed with polearms and light artillery pieces.

Friday 1 September 2023

Dismounted Gendarmes

Here are a few pictures of a recently completed unit, a group of dismounted gendarmes. They are perfect for an up and coming scenario that I have planned this month. The figures are by Steel Fist,, and they really look the part. All have interchangeable heads and plumes, whilst some of the poses are open handed, or can have their weapons swapped with relative ease. This means that plenty of variation can be achieved within a unit.

Whilst the classic image of 16th century gendarmes is of them fighting on horseback, often on barded horses, they did at times dismount and fight on foot when required. They were not always keen to do this. During the 1509 siege of Padua, a rare occasion when Imperialist and French forces were allied, the assaults upon the breaches in Padua's walls were going so badly that on 29 September Maximilian I was forced to ask the French and German heavy cavalry to join a final assault against the Venetian held city. La Palice, in command of the French cavalry, reported to Maximilian that they were prepared to join the assault on foot only if the German men at arms would be joining them. Upon hearing this the German heavy cavalry made a fuss and stated it was below their dignity to dismount or storm a breach and that true gentlemen fought on horseback. By October 3 1509 the assault was abandoned as was the siege!

Whilst the example above shows there could be reluctance to perform such roles, there were occasions when gendarmes did dismount, either to assault positions or to stiffen the defences of fortifications. The siege of Rhodes in 1522 is a famous example of Knights Hospitaller from all over Europe defending the cities walls on foot against Suleiman the Magnificent's Ottoman army. This could happen on the battlefield too with Robert de La Marck, better known as Fleuranges, and his brother, fighting on foot with the landsknecht in French service at Novara in 1513 and Claude de Guise fighting amongst the landsknecht at Marignano in 1515. Guise also led a force of landsknecht across the River Bidassoa under heavy fire from Spanish forces during the 1521 French invasion of Navarre, whilst a year later Anne de Montmorency, under nominal command of the Swiss at La Bicocca , was joined by other French nobles and accompanied the Swiss in their ill-fated assault on the sunken road. 

As such this is a useful unit to have as the figures are suitable for different roles in siege scenarios and can be mixed in with other units to represent them being joined by dismounted nobles as in the examples above. In the last three photos below  I have mixed these new bases in with some of the more generic 16th infantry I painted up a few years ago: This could represent them being joined by other infantry for the assault or perhaps show other members of the "lance", the men at arms, "archers" and squires who supported the gendarmes and formed the Compagnies d'ordonnance. The new figures work really well when mixed in with their less heavily armoured comrades.

28mm Steel Fist dismounted gendarmes

Dismounted gendarmes storm the walls of a besieged fortress

Dismounted gendarmes storm the breach

28mm dismounted gendarmes

Dismounted French gendarmes and the supporting members of the "lance" form a unit on foot

French gendarmes and their supporting men at arms and archers storm a breach

A unit of dismounted French gendarmes and support troops