Forest Rangers in 54mm

AIP 54mm plastic Roger’s Rangers with Light Infantry caps.

Part of the delightful parcel from Alan Tradgardland Gruber received a week or two ago was this box of Roger’s Rangers from Armies in Plastic. It was part of his contribution of surplus 54mm figures to my forest skirmish Close Wars games.

The Rogers Rangers and various other light infantry ranger units were highly mobile and lightly equipped as scouts and skirmishers for backwoods work, around the time of the French Indian Wars of the 1750s (Seven Years War).

Wikipedia media – portrait of Robert Rogers 1776

Some had ‘Light Infantry’ type headgear with brass forehead plates. One figure looked like he was modelled on portraits of Robert Rogers and other contemporary officers of the American War of Independence who had gone somewhat native in their dress and their dealings with the local forest Indians.

The Rangers with Berets

A few of the Ranger figures had already had some partial conversion work to headgear, including cutting away parts of Light Infantry helmets into more woollen or raccoon skin caps.

Other Rangers in the pack had a soft beret or cloth Tam O’Shanter type Highland Bonnet, rather than the light Infantry hat. This more formal Light Infantry hat had a shiny brass plate which must have been some simple armour plating for the head.

The Rogers Rangers are one of the most famous of the Ranger companies and inspire reanactors, gamers and modellers to this day with their 28 Rules of Ranging.

A little research on Pinterest and reenactor pages gave me an idea of the range of equipment and colours of green that these troops, Rangers and woods runners (French: coureurs des bois) wore in the forest

Both interesting blogs or websites.

I was pleased to read in Preben Kannik’s trusty old Military Uniforms of The World that these Rangers and light Infantry did not fuss with prinky lace, wigs or shaving, so were permitted to grow quite elaborate facial hair. Most of my Rangers have a fine moustache, some the makings of a full wilderness beard.

Preben Kannik 118. Great Britain Light Infantry in North America. Man, 1758.

“Various items of the Infantry man’s normal equipment were made lighter as a result of the campaign in the forests of North America. This applies especially to the equipment of the light companies of specially picked men from the regiment, who were trained to move and fight in the forests. The uniforms were stripped of all lace. The sleeves of the coat were attached instead to the jacket, which became the principal garment, and the now sleeveless coat was used as an outer garment.

“As shown here the coat was rolled up with the pack which, for the first time, is carried high on the back by the means of two straps. The water bottle was carried below the pack and a powder horn under the right arm. A tomahawk was also carried below the cartridge pouch, which was carried on a narrow strap. Two pockets made of leather or rawhide were sewn to the breast of the jacket, for carrying shot and flints. Trouser-leggings were worn instead of knee breeches and boots.”

“The hat had been cut down to a cap, which had black flaps over neck and ears. The troops were allowed to be unshaven on active service, which frequently resulted in some picturesque growths of hair and beard.

Preben Kannik’s Military Uniforms of the World in Colour.

Although the light companies supposedly wore no lace, many of the illustrations how shiny buttons, which surprised me. My Rangers have mostly blacked out their shiny buttons much in the way of the Rifles Companies 50 years later.

That spare head came in handy for a headless rebuilt hollowcast archer who was missing legs, head and bow.

The Ranger archer with added Fimo Polymer Clay pack …

Painting Armies in Plastic Miniatures

I had been forewarned by Jen Burdoo and others that Armies in Plastic Miniatures are quite hard to get Acrylic paint to adhere to, that it easily flakes and chips off weapons, extremities and bases.

After a little web browsing in various forums, I decided to undercoat in PVA glue, after their initial wash, scrub and brush up to remove any loose paint, grease or mould releasant.

An undercoat in various shades of dark green was followed by two coats of Revell Aquacolor Acrylic Matt paint. Two coats? Painting over PVA, I often find that the first coat of Acrylic often cracks a little, so a second one covers this well.

As they arrived, some of the Rangers more colourfully painted …

I left any metallic paints like the flintlock and tomahawk metal until after a coat of spray Acrylic Varnish. I really do not like the heady stink of spray paint or spray varnish.

These figures have a gloss toy soldier finish and face, using the distinctive pink gloss dot highlight on the cheek.

No two of my Ranger figures are painted the same as often these troops brought their own kit, clothes and weapons along.

The Rangers lived off the land and carried all they needed into the forest, able to hunt and forgave for themselves, making them much more independent of the army supply column. Even without buttons and lace, all that even left a lot of straps and equipment to paint – knapsack, powder horn, blanket or coat roll, tomahawk, cartridge pouch, legging straps or garters. I was surprised by the amount of such detail on these AIP figures. It felt a little like painting US or British WW2 paratroops with all their straps and buckles.

Rangers Colours and Uniforms

I did not intend my Rangers unit to be a particular type or regiment, although maybe in thanks they should be called Gruber’s Rangers?

I don’t believe that many Rangers quite wore that regimented uniform as shown in this dapper 1970s Rene North Military Uniforms paperback.

The headless figure and his 60s footballer replacement head. His old head ended up on an archer.

What they need next is some time spent on the Tabletop amongst forest trees like my Bold Frontiers trees and some company or opposition.

In my ImagiNations Close Little Wars I already have my various repaired hollowcast Forest Indians, along with plastic BMC 54mm opponents or allies in Tricornes that I have stored away for painting.

A similar box of toy soldier 54mm garage gleanings arrived from Alan Gruber today mixed in with a box of Armies in Plastic Woodland Indians. More delight for the paint table. Thanks again, Alan!

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 1 August 2020.