The latest addition to my Spanish Armada 54mm Operation Sealion type invasion scenario Arma-Dad’s Army are the feared Spaniards themselves.
Having converted some suitable cheap plastic knights into an Elizabethan militia rabble called a Muster, not as well equipped (‘furnished’) as the Trained Bands, I thought it time to complete some of their opponents.
These figures are 54mm Chintoys Conquistadors, an unfinished unpainted project kindly gifted by Alan Tradgardland Gruber.
For some ideas of colouring, I checked Blandford’s trusty Warriors and Weapons of Ancient Times, Funcken and eventually some old Ospreys on the Conquistadors and the Spanish Armada. The Spanish troops did not have our modern conception of a uniform.
I struggled to decide how to paint the Spaniards – motley colourful or more uniform?
In Osprey 101 Conquistadors there is an interesting quote from The Broken Spears (the Aztec account of the Spanish invasion) describing Spanish cavalry:
“There were about fifteen of these people, some with blue jackets, others with red, others with black or green, and still others with jackets of a soiled colour, very ugly, like our ichtilmatli [cloak made from the fibres of the maguey cactus]. There were also a few without jackets. On their heads they wore red kerchiefs or bonnets of fine scarlet colour …” (p. 12)
“The clothing was colourful, red being an especially popular colour, and feathers were often worn in the hats.” (p. 12)
Osprey Elite 15: The Spanish Armada – “It has already been noted that the Spanish frowned upon uniformity of dress as bad for a soldier’s morale, but the circumstances of English military service led to a more advanced attitude … The counties had no fixed regulations for outfitting their militia.” (P. 51)
“Uniform colours were not adhered to, as individuality in clothing was thought to inspire soldiers to valour and pride in themselves. The red cross of St Andrew and a red scarf or sash were worn as identifying marks of the Spanish service.” (P.9)
The front cover plate by Richard Hook of Spanish command figures shows an intriguing black clad light pikeman from Plate K1 “This unarmoured pikemen comes from the ‘tercio of the sextons’ who were famous for their sombre dress.” (Osprey Spanish Armada p.62)
“The nicknames given to the Spanish tercios in the Netherlands – the ‘ tercio of the [beribboned] dandies ” , “ the sextons ‘ and so on – reflect a sense of pride and corporate solidarity.” From The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road 1567-1659 by Geoffrey Parker, John Elliott, Olsen Hufton (2004) .”
Motley, red or black … a colour scheme is slowly emerging.
Overall the Tudor British colours were originally white and green but steadily blue coats became more standard for the English, “guarded” by edging stripes of their unit colours.
Taking the dominant Spanish red colour, this avoids a motley painting nightmare of coloured stripes and varied uniforms.
Army Red on Army Blue at 54mm scale? How very H.G. Wells and Little Wars. All the more reason to keep the toy soldier style of painting shiny!
The solution was found on Barney Brown’s Herald Toys website:
I really liked the black, red and silver colour scheme with leather brown. This was it, dark colours, the black and red diabolical colours of flames. I have painted them as fearsome as the Cornish might have seen or talked of them.
From Osprey, Elite 15 – The Spanish Armada:
“As for the common soldiers and people of England, they had been brought up on stories of Spanish cruelties against the Dutch. They had heard how the people of Naarden had been massacred, and that the garrison of Haarlem had been executed despite having surrendered on good terms. They also knew that as a result the people of Leiden had starved rather than surrender to the Spanish; and that the Citizens of Oudewater had set their own Town in fire rather than let the enemy enter.”
“The people of London knew that 8,000 citizens had been killed and 1,000 houses destroyed when the ‘Spanish Fury‘ had burst upon the great city of Antwerp. With the pamphleteers telling them that the Armada was loaded with Jesuits and instruments of torture, it seemed that the coming battle would be to save not only their Protestant faith, but their very lives.” (Page 55)
(At this point to offset this Protestant propaganda, I feel I should point out that some of my best friends growing up were / are Catholics.)
They are painted in shiny toy soldier style (including pink cheek dot) using Revell Aquacolor Acrylics (gloss and matt) and then spray varnished in gloss. I want them to have look of factory painted shiny Britain’s straight out of a red box lead hollowcast figures. Bases are 2p mdf bases from Warbases.
Off the painting table, waiting for the varnish to dry. Red, black and shiny.
The Chintoys Conquistador Set 1 figures have a variety of weapons of the time, there are 8 poses in the set.
The figure poses from the Chintoys bag header or graphic insert
Reading the Osprey books I began to recognise some details of the uniforms and weapons. Each figure carries a light sword.
1. The Swordsman with the sash and Combed Morion
The strangely pointy helmet of the combed or Spanish Morion was not just worn by stereotype Spaniards. He also has a breastplate or cuirass. The stuffed breeches apparently gave some protection against sword cuts.
2. The Crossbow figure
The flat cap and slashed or pinked jacket to show different colours shout “Tudor” to me. If only such recast heads with these hats existed or were easily available.
In the conditions of South America, bow cords soon wore out and the winding cranequin and working parts rusted so they were steadily less serviceabl. Even still crossbow bolts could easily pierce the cotton padded body armour of the native warriors. Slow to reset though. Not so good in the rain either. A sword is also carried, just in case!
3. Arquebus figure – firing
Again, an obvious codpiece and stuffed breeches. This shorter weapon (a caliver or arquebus?) require no musket rest. In the humid jungles and mountains of South America, these weapons became rusted and less serviceable.
4. Arquebus or musket figure – standing
Note: The musket style rest and leather strap with powder charges – a bandolier of boxes. Again, an obvious codpiece and stuffed breeches. A plainer Morion helmet is worn.
Awrquebus, Caliver or Musket?
Before anyone objects to my firearms ID, both the Osprey Spanish Armada and the Wikipedia entry on the caliver and arquebus say that the distinction between these and the ‘musket‘ are not clear and definitive. It partly depends on size.
Whilst the Conquistador figures are c. 1520s-1540s and in their Armada roles I am using them for the 1580s-90s, both armour and dress styles were in slow transition. These figures are from an age where the bow and crossbow are slowly and steadily being replaced by the arquebus and musket as easier to learn for unskilled troops. The Cornwall or local Muster of untrained, ‘unfurnished’ troops and even the Trained Bands in 1588 in many areas still had a fair complement of bowmen and polearms, which by the late 1590s Armada invasion scares were steadily being replaced by ‘pike and shot’.
In this way I can mix in some later English Civil War figures of musketeers, ensigns and pikemen to represent the most well equipped Trained Bands. The minimal pike armour of helmet, breastplate or corselet and tasset thigh guards are relatively unchanged 50 to 60 years later.
5. Swordsman with round buckler shield
This sword and buckler (shield) man wears a burgonet helmet with slight swept back peak or crest. As well as a corselet backplate and breastplate armour he also wear tassels or thigh armour plates.
6. Swordsman with heart shaped shield
He wears a cabacete helmet with swept back metal crest. He also wears the cotton or maguey Caruso fibre quilted padded jacket in place of plate armour, similar to the native tlahuiztli body armour of Aztecs and Mixtec seen on some warriors here and in the Osprey Elite Conquistadors book.
The Spanish plate armour apparently went rusty in the tropic heat of South America, despite being painted black, and was heavy and hot to wear. No surprise the Spanish went native in their body armour, sandal footwear and lack of hose.
The unusual heart shaped shield is made of hide and is called an adarga.
7. Halberd Man
The halberd with red tassel – the sign of a sergeant in British Trained Bands and soldiers. Note the obvious codpiece. In the Osprey Armada book cover, the Spanish officer carries a fancy halberd – a sign of rank, rather than common polearm?
8. Spear Man
In place of a jack (jacket of jerkin) or breastplate, he wears a padded quilted cotton jacket based on the Aztec / Mixtec body armour (see No. 6). He also wears a simple sallet type helmet.
I enjoyed painting these, once I had settled on an impressive if unhistorical colour scheme. The Mixtec / Aztecs from Alan Gruber are already half painted in unhistorical generic South American tribe colours, again shiny toy soldier style.
Elizabethan figures in 54mm are quite scarce. Recast or replacement Tudor or Elizabethan heads are not easy to find.
Although the Chintoys figures appear expensive at £2 to £3 each, expensive to someone who mostly works with cheap plastic poundstore figures, Chintoys figures are good unusual figures to add character in amongst cheaper converted alternatives. This obviously dilutes the overall cost of building up skirmish forces for the Armada and South America.
To further dilute the cost, I have a few bags of seaside cheap Hing Fat / China made pirate figures of a later century can also stand in for Armada seamen and landing parties with their swords and primitive firearms. I also have a handful of some Safari Toob Jamestown settlers (1607) sailor and civilian figures to mix in.
I didn’t realise that Chintoys made a second Conquistador set which have now been bought from a U.K. Dealer and stored away for Christmas as Spanish and English reinforcements and character figures. The Chintoys Spanish warriors is already in the family presents box.
Set CHT012 has eight good individual figures or characters and their varied weapons, figures could be either Spanish or English. The Chintoys Spanish Warriors set CHT024 appear to be in slightly earlier 16th century costume and armour but still have a crossbow and primitive firearm.
Although I balk at paying £20+ for eight admittedly good figures, the price is diluted by padding out the skirmish forces with Pound Store and cheap plastic knights and pirates.
Here is one such weird Greco- Roman cheap plastic knight with stuffed Tudor style breeches converted with kitchen roll and PVA glue hair into a fierce and furious Spanish raider!
Pricey as they seem to an Airfix kid whose price boundaries are skewed or set by cheap plastic soldiers, the cost of Chintoys figures is put into perspective by the costly alternative of 54mm metal figures from Phoenix / S and D Elizabethan range or the effort to cast and convert the Prince August Spanish Armada homecast chess set.
Likewise my Mixtec Aztec Zapotec set of spare figures from Alan Gruber will be padded out or reinforced by select cheap plastic Wild West “Native American” Indians.
All great fun. Now what do Spanish Armada invasion barges and Tudor beach defences look like and can I make one or two such boats out of milk cartons?
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN 31 October 2020