14th Light Dragoon , Spain, 1811 .
This figure has been in my mind for years .
When the DiD Hussar trooper appeared , although parts of that figure are a mess , the boots and overalls were good enough to get me started .
The whole project has taken over a year , off and on , to finish , and I have to admit it’s the most complicated 1/6th project I’ve ever attempted.
I had always wanted to do a Napoleonic horseman , ever since as a lad I saw in magazines the incredible creations of Rousselot and Lelieprve , the two French artists who made large-scale figures back in the 50s and 60s.
These two masters produced stunning masterpieces without the aid of modern materials… everything was made like the real thing , mostly because it was the only way it could be done then.
Here's a Chasseur d'Afrique by Rousselot ( not by me ! ) :~
I saw one of these models in the flesh when I was 20 , and decided I should one day try something similar.
Here he is :
I have chosen to do a trooper from the 14th Light Dragoons , a Regiment that saw almost continuous service under Wellington during the Peninsular War , being present at most of the major battles between Talavera in 1809 and Vittoria 1813.
Like all cavalry at the time , he’s armed with a sabre , the 1796 Light Cavalry model, the Elliott carbine, and a Light Dragoon pattern pistol.
The uniform is the pre-1814 version, much nicer than the French-style outfit that officially replaced it in 1812, but which was probably not issued until they returned home in 1814.
He wears the leather Tarleton helmet, named after the AWI general , and characteristic of British cavalry and Horse Artillery during the Napoleonic Wars .
And of course he needed a horse…
This is my heavily rebuilt DiD standing horse. I’ve covered this conversion from the DiD standing horse here :
The Carbine is the Elliot , introduced in about 1760 and standard until after 1812. Most of the books will tell you it should be the short pop-gun Paget, but if you look at the fine print in the books on firearms, this was not available until after 1812.
The carbine was pretty useless save as a deterrent, since hitting anything with it beyond 60 yards was unlikely , even if you were taking careful aim on foot.
Firing while mounted was usual with troopers on both sides,
when manning the pickets and outposts, and the resulting duels must have been nerve-wracking : you were fairly safe, but not perfectly safe !
The sword is the 1796 Light Cavalry model , with a very broad blade and designed as a cutting weapon, after a Hungarian original .
It is an absolutely superb sword , light , flexible and devastating , as well as looking very fearsome indeed : it’s bark is almost as bad as it’s bite !
It was never carried drawn in action until the order to charge was given , apparently because the effect of all those glittering sabres being drawn at once was very intimidating.
The argument about whether a thrusting or cutting sword was best for cavalry raged until the machinegun put a stop to it.
British troopers generally came off best in their encounters with the French cavalry , partly because of their riding larger and better horses , but swordplay also seems to have played a part .
The French were trained to use the point and thrust : the British were trained to parry that point FIRST, then riposte with a cut .
If the thrust got through , you were probably dead , but if you parried it , you had an advantage , and could deliver a cut as you passed. Interestingly , British troopers who were wounded in these encounters generally died ; French casualties , cut rather than punctured, often survived, though with terrible disfiguring scars .
I suspect this technique of parry and cut was probably learned in India, where various Light Dragoon regiments had been serving since the 1770s .
It was eventually abandoned in favour of the thrust just in time for the demise of Cavalry in the Great War.
Incidentally , this sword , although optimised for the cut , can be used to thrust perfectly well , despite its appearance.
The scabbard is cast iron , and must have been rusted all the time .
The saddle is the 1805 Hussar saddle , copied from the one survivor in Leeds.
This was copied from a Hungarian original obtained by Frederick, Duke of York , on his visit to observe the way the Imperial Army did things. Although intended for the new , highly fashionable British Hussars, it became general issue to all the Light Cavalry .
It carries two holsters , one with a pistol and the other with horseshoes and nails, and a valise containing the trooper’s spare clothes. A forage sack and haynet were stowed behind the seat, the rolled cloak across the front .
The Light Dragoons, such as the 14th , were the eyes and ears of Wellington’s Army : by far the greater part of their time was spent in reconnaisance, and protecting the army when marching or encamped from surprise attacks , and although there were one or two notable cockups, once they had learned the job they were pretty good at it.
And when it came to mixing it with charging horses and drawn sabres , they were rather good…. if often a little too keen to gallop at everything they could see , which sometimes led to them “getting me into scrapes “ , as Wellington put it.
This figure is completely scratchbuilt apart from the DiD items.
He has everything he needs stowed somewhere , including cloak, forage cap and stable jacket , all of which actually work .
To save space here, I’ve written up the making of this figure in a parallel article : ” Making the Light Dragoon “.