‘Defensive Terrain’, as soon as I read this all I could think of were the trench systems of the First World War where both sides ‘dug in’ to take cover and hold their ground. With a continuous line of trenches covering some 400 miles from Switzerland to the North Sea, positions were lost, retaken and lost again with seemingly no escape from the mud and the imminent threat of death. Like many, I have been fascinated and moved by the exploits and memoirs of those that lived through this particular hell on earth. So it was that this ‘Defensive Terrain’ was to become the subject of my submission with the emphasis on one dugout in particular.
As with previous builds, foam board, balsa wood and cooks’ matches were pressed into action to give the basic structure before the bits box was raided to ‘dress the set’. This, I have to confess, was great fun and before long the piece was growing as sandbags and barbed wire were added, hinting at what was beyond the comparative safety of the dugout. Each addition brought new challenges like scaling down the maps and posters or creating chin straps to hang the helmets to the wall – the whole process became totally absorbing.
Finally, then, to the miniatures themselves; after an exhaustive search my hand fell upon a delightfully whimsical pack of ‘Scarab Miniatures’, entitled, ‘British Captains, Generals and Characters’ and whilst I acknowledge the glaring historical inaccuracies of my build, I make so such apology for these miniatures.
[discussing how the war began]
Private Baldrick: I heard it started when some fella called Archie Duke shot an ostrich 'cos he was hungry.
Captain Blackadder: I think you mean that it started when the Arch Duke of Austro-Hungary got shot.
Private Baldrick: No, there was definitely an ostrich involved.
A sheer delight to work on, requiring the minimal of preparation this character pack bears a striking resemblance to a certain Captain Blackadder and chums. They are almost caricature in appearance, and as such will not be to everyone’s taste, but I cannot remember enjoying painting a set of miniatures more. This may well have been because I kept replaying episodes of the tremendous ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’, for research purpose only you understand, whilst painting them and found myself chuckling throughout. In fact it seems incredulous that it is now over twenty five years since the final episode of the series was aired. A program that, in my humble opinion, managed to combine humour and pathos in just the right balance to create a truly uniquely British institution.
Captain Blackadder: How are you feeling, Darling?
Captain Darling: Ahm... not all that good, Blackadder. Rather hoped I'd get through the whole show. Go back to work at Pratt and Sons, keep wicket for the Croydon Gentlemen, marry Doris... Made a note in my diary on the way here. Simply says: "Bugger."
As a final aside, I need to thank Mark Hargreaves, of 'Over Open Sights' fame for sharing with me his WWI painting guide for 'Tommies'. Not only a very talented painter and modeller, Mark is a Gentleman and a Scholar, thank you Sir.