Friday 28 August 2015

The Black Hussars – HR5 von Ruesch

The Black Hussars in a wild charge.
The Minden miniatures are full of details and animation.

As my 15mm WW2 collection is reaching a playable size; I look ahead to new projects for the fall and winter. One project that has been earmarked for expansion in 2015 is my WAS/SYW collection. Having been a long standing fan of Minden Miniatures and the sculpting style of Richard Ansell, I found it hard to resist their excellent Prussian hussars, which come in the variation of both mounted and dismounted/skirmishing.


Having decided to start out with the mounted unit, the choice of what regiment to actually paint was really not that hard. As a kid, when reading about Frederick the Great for the first time, and studying the uniform plates of Preben Kannik, I was fascinated by the Black Hussars and their scull-marked mirliton.

Knötel's take on the HR5.

The Black Hussars was first raised in 1741 as part of the Prussian cavalry reformation, by taking a squadron of trained cavalrymen from the HR1 as a core supplement to the fresh recruits. They would become the 5th hussars regiment to be added to the ranks of Frederick’s growing army. The HR5 prefix is interesting, as it was the unglamorous and numbering system devised by the Prussian army’s Grand Old Man – Fürst von Anholt-Dessau a.k.a “Der alte Dessauer”, revealing the very pragmatic DNA of Prussian military values.

Another view of the unit.
I'm basing cavalry on 60x60mm bases from Warbases
with those nicely rounded corners.

During the War of Austrian Succession (Branching First & Second Silesian War) the unit served with distinction in the second part, particularly during the Battle of Hohenfriedberg and Hennersdorf. The nickname “Black Hussars” or even “Totenköpfe” was earned, and stuck all the way up to the elimination of the state/name Prussia after WW2. 

One of Preben Kannik's fantastic uniform plates.

Later during the Seven Years War, with Frederick hard pressed in a two-front war, the HR5 would be divided and serve simultaneously in both the eastern and western theatre, playing an active part in battles such as Zorndorf, Kunersdorf and of course the battle of Minden.

The Black Hussars as they looked later during the Franco-Prussian War.

In 1808 the regiment had become somewhat of a Prussian legend, and thus was elevated to official Leib-Hussaren (Royal Guard Hussars), a prominence they would keep through the Franco-Prussian War, on to the First World War while ending as a relic of the old Empire under the Nazi rules during the Second World War.

Here are some of the regiments most famous people

Prince Friedrich-Charles of Prussia.
(Franco-Prussian War)

Kaiser Wilhelm II (WW1)

Kaiser Wilhelm's son, Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm (WW1)

General von Mackensen.
Famous WW1 General and author of two books on the Black Hussars.

Thank you very much for reading!

Friday 21 August 2015

The History of elite unit Großdeutschland - part 3; Waking up the bear

The MG42 at work on the Eastern Front.

Having now completed my intended 4 Zugs of summer uniformed infantry, I thought it was time for a little update on the journey of Infantry Regiment Großdeutschland eastward towards Moscow. We last left them enjoying the laurels of victory, after the triumph of Blitzkrieg and the fall of France. Now things move toward a darker horizon.

One of the four Zugs now finished.

The build-up towards Barbarossa

With their famous foe of the Great War soundly defeated, Großdeutschland went into winter camp at Belfort focussing on replenishing the ranks after suffered casualties and additionally to train up on new weaponry. Meanwhile in Berlin the Führer, now drunk on the success of Blitzkrieg and the fall of France, had become more and more obsessed with the prospect of an attack on his ally – the Soviet Union. 

Russian troops fought a desperate but futile battle against
the onslaught of Blitzkrieg in the summer of 1941.
(Picture from:

The notion that a pre-emptive attack would rob Britain of a potential ally, by forcing a quick campaign to get a German dictated peace settlement, and the general ideology of lebensraum found on the “Slavic wastelands” to the east, drove the Führer’s mind towards this fateful operation. But before he could direct his finely tune war machine east, he would have to secure his southern flank.

The conquest of Greece and Yugoslavia was the last piece of the puzzle,
now Hitler had a unison front to the East.

 This meant that Greece and Yugoslavia, in both cases refusing to fall into the German alliance system, were targeted for armed invasion. The operation was even sanctioned by Moscow (still an ally of Germany at this point), and forces moved into action. Großdeutschland were designated to take part in the invasion of Yugoslavia, supporting an armoured Corps in a drive towards the nations capital, Belgrade. 

HQ base with an officer consulting the roadmap to Moscow.

The attack commenced on April 11th 1941, and meet next to no resistance. In the early hours of the following day Belgrade was taken, with I battalion of Großdeutschland directed to keep the public quiet and by show of force. Hitler now had a unison front east, stretching from the Baltic coast to the Black Sea. It was time to move the pieces into their position for the big attack. Operation Barbarossa was shaping up.

The initial German strength of Operation Barbarossa

At the outset of Barbarossa, the combined forces of Hitler’s Blitzkrieg machine comprised 3 million troops, with an additional force 750.000 from allies like Finland and Romania. These were accompanied eastward by some 3.350 tanks, ca. 7.000 artillery pieces and some 600.000 motorized vehicles. 

The German army had massed an incredible 3.350 tanks
for Operation Barbarossa.

Looking to the skies, they could depend upon the Luftwaffe to support them with about 3.000 aircraft, buzzing ahead with Stuka sirens signalling the impending storm. Though intelligence had fed Moscow with proof of German troop build-up leading up to the invasion, Barbarossa caught the bear daydreaming, of not sleeping. Stalin’s many initiatives in reforming his army had not bore any fruit, on the contrary, the big political purge of capable officers had left the Soviet army with what best can be described as unproven enthusiasts in many commanding positions. This would prove costly in the months to come.

German radio operator.
Like in the Franco-Prussian War and WW1,
German communications and com-equipment
were often superior to that of the enemy. 

Crossing the historic river Berezina

On June 22nd the vast German army rolled over the border and into Russia. What would be the most decisive chapter of WW2 had begun. In May Großdeutschland had been moved up from Yugoslavia and put in support of Second Panzer Group, forming part of von Bock’s Army Group Centre tasked with taking Moscow.

The fight for river crossings and bridgeheads was intense.

Operations began with promising advances and thousands of Russian prisoners taken. Time and again, Großdeutschland would fight encircling actions, mopping up surrendering Soviet troops as the Panzers jumped forward in pincer manoeuvres. On one occasion, fighting outside Minsk, over 150.000 prisoners were taken in a single operation. Another major engagement was fought at Borisov, close to the historic river Berezina. Here Napoleon had crossed with the remnants of his Grand Armée in 1812, some 130 years earlier. Now it was the Russians making a hasty retreat. 

German artillery/air support spotter.

Großdeutschland pushed forward, with many missions consisting of establishing and holding bridgeheads in conjuncture with the Panzers advance. They advanced deeper into the core of Russia, fighting their way towards Yelnya in July. As summer peaked and temperatures grew scorching hot, Großdeutschland fought a series of intense engagements, against defiant Russian units at the well defended railroad junction at Yelnya. Having bumped into a rock on the road, and after more than a month of intense fighting, Großdeutschland was now awarded a few days rest, from which they would be returned into a defensive position West of Yelnya, offering further time to revamp their energy. 

During the summer of 41 the German army was still bathed in success,
but dark clouds were gathering on the horizon.

On the 7th August Smolensk fell with a devastating 850.000 Russian prisoners taken. This opened the remaining 300km of road towards Moscow. The goal seemed within reach. In part IV we will follow the Großdeutschland to the gates of Moscow, where the Bear finally counter-attacks.

Thank you very much for reading!

Thursday 13 August 2015

The Danish Warship Churprindsen

The Churprindsen.

About a year ago fellow club member Mark and I decided to build a collection of Danish and Swedish warships for the Scanian War, using the excellent pewter cast 1:1200 models from Langton. The Scanian War is interesting not only on in terms of the large and bloody land battles, but also at sea where the large Danish and Swedish navies had four mayor sea battles, with plenty of drama and fierce fighting to base good scenarios on.

The Danish and Swedish navies slugging it out 
at the battle of Køge Bugt, 1677.

We recently tried out some new rules that Mark had found for us – see the AAR here, and decided it was time to pick up the project again by painting up more of the beautiful Langton ships. Having already done the Christianus Quintus, the flagship of Nils Juel (my favorite Danish Admiral) at the Battle of Køge Bugt, I decided to paint up his earlier flagship, Churprindsen, from which he commanded during the two sea battles the year before in 1676.


For anyone who has been to Copenhagen, the harbor channels of Christianshavn and the area around the impressive new Opera will be familiar. In the 1600s this area was a bustling naval yard, with an impressive turn out rate of large warships to ensure Danish naval security in Øresund strait. 

Another view at the model.
Rigging these small models is a work of patience, 
but very rewarding to the look of the finished model.

In the 1660s the building master, Mathias Hermandsen, was charges with constructing 5 new and quite sizable warships, one of them was Churprindsen.  Construction was finished 1664, and the 146 ft long ship was launched with 72 guns, most of them 18 pounders. She carried a crew of around 380 men, most of them recruited through the many capable sailor at the naval docks in Copenhagen.

The Royal Danish shipyards at Holmen, Copenhagen.
The model can be viewed at the Naval Museum in Copenhagen.

Churprindsen would see action in all the four mayor sea battles of the Scanian War:

Battle of Bornholm 25-26th May 1676 (The flagship of Nils Juel)

Battle of Öland 1st June 1676 (The flagship of Nils Juel)

Battle of Møn 31st May – 1st June 1677

Battle of Bøge Bugt 1- 2 July 1677

Close quarter firefights were devastating to hull and crew.

At the Battle of Öland Christianus Quintus and Churprindsen would surround the Swedish warship “Svärdet”, flagship of admiral Uggla, and force him to strike flag and surrender after an intense fire duel. Unfortunately the price ship never made at back to Copenhagen, since a Dutch (allies of the Danes) fireship drifted up and set the Svärdet ablaze, causing it to blow up with Uggla and most of its 650-man crew.

A view of the colorful and decorative stern.

Churprindsen went on to serve the Royal Danish navy until 1710, where she was laid out as target practice for the artillery at the harbor forts in Copenhagen.

Thank you very much for reading!