Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Introduction to the Calpe 1813 Saxons

Posted by Martin on November 14, 2007

There, I knew that would grab your attention.

Peter F. has written a short introductory article for the forthcoming Calpe 1813 Saxons range. In a couple of days I’ll be adding this document on the official Calpe Web site but I thought you’d like a sneak preview and, anyway, Peter’s asked me to post it here because he’d like people to post their comments. You’ll see why when you read the article for yourselves.

It’s entitled Introduction to the Saxons – Historical or Fantasy! and it’s Peter’s explanation of the thought processes and extensive research he’s been through for the Saxon range that have led to him to decide to be true to himself and produce an historically accurate range of Saxons in campaign dress rather than give in to appeals to produce a more decorative but historically inaccurate range of “plumed up popinjays”.

It’ll come as no surpose to you that I fully support Peter’s decision to go for authenticity. There are many reasons for this: firstly, it follows the precedent set by the Prussian range; secondly, the Calpe reputation is built on deep research and historical accuracy and it would be daft to sacrifice that; thirdly, Saxons are colourful enough anyway. Lastly, and tellingly, in my mind – it’s just plain the right thing to do.

So please read and enjoy the article (I found the information about shako covers fascinating) and look forward to the first set of figures. But most important of all: please, please, please give us your feedback by commenting here. It’s your chance to communicate with a masterful sculpter at the very inception of a brand new range of figures. How often do you get that sort of opportunity?


28 Responses to “Introduction to the Calpe 1813 Saxons”

  1. Matthew Coles said


    I have just read Peter’s article and I prefer to paint campaign uniforms because no two uniforms are the same e.g some may have shako covers , others would wear forage caps or go to war bareheaded and then there the greatcoats, all these differences make for interesting battalions on the game table, I hope this has been helpful


  2. Michael MacGillivray said

    While I myself am extremely finicky about historical accuracy (relying on primary source material for uniform painting info.), I appreciate that if we were to truly depict Napoleonic armies as they appeared – even after a month of campaigning, that depiction would be of non-descript bands of dirty, indistinguishable men (ex., think of ACW photos you’ve seen). That’s true accuracy; but it would make for difficult identification on a gaming table.

    I applaud Peter’s commitment to historical accuracy. However, from a gaming point of view, I would like to see a mix. It would be nice if some units are depicted in a non-descriptive fashion, while others adhere more closely to dress regulations. Even better, if some soldiers are wearing campaign dress, but may wear a plume, based on a regimental decision. This happened all the time and can readily be found most extant uniform prints.

    The best,

    Mike MacGillivray

  3. Phil said

    I agree with Peter’s approach.

  4. Jon Marcus said

    Totally agree with Peter’s reasoning. No point in doing historical figures if after time spent researching this is all ignored. More power to you. Campaign dress it should be.

  5. Carlo Pagano said


    Certainly campaign uniforms are the way to go for this range. How can one argue with the direction Peter F has gone with the Prussians in terms of authenticity and overall “feel”. Looking forward to their “warts and all” release.



  6. Phil said

    So, Martin, have you already worked out the new look for the Calpe website when there is both a Prussian and a Saxon range?

    Should be nice I’m sure :-).

  7. Colin Craigie said

    Hi Martin

    I cannot fault Peters logic and rationale. I would support the end product. If only someone would do British 1815 infantry in Belgic shako with gaiters on the outside. This would solve my Coldstream Guards at Waterloo issue.

    Kind Regards


  8. Robert said

    Generally I concur with Peter’s comments, and I for one enjoy painting campaign uniforms- my Russians and French certainly have a lot of campaign dress in the ranks.

    But I would add the qualification that we are, after all, dealing with toy soldiers. Not meant to be derogatory, but our miniatures reflect our IMAGE of what the troops looked like as well as what they may have actually look like. This is reflected in choice of colour palette and even painting style.

    In the same way that I may model a figure with a bandaged head, I would like to have the occasional figure- especially an officer- wearing the shako with full ornaments as it does give the battalion a recognizable look- “Yes indeed, that battalion assaulting the farm on the right flank look like they must be Saxons”. Furthermore, I feel that it is quite plausible that some officers MAY have shown up wearing at least a fully decorated shako despite the lack of illustration to the contrary. To me this is not the same as having a whole battalion in full dress, after all. And this coming from a man who generally detests painting shako cords!

    In my mind it would not be taking liberties with history to include the occasional regulation shako, any more than it is to represent a unit of 450 men with twenty-four models. I would say give someone who wants to do the Saxons at least some choice. Caveat Emptor!

  9. Interesting … and Peter makes some good points.

    I’ve always thought my army is as much fantasy as historical anyway.
    The mixture of units from different OOBs/theatres/campaigns/years, the
    carrying of flags by cavalry, the addition of colourful characters
    just because I like ’em … I really feel my Peninsular War armies are more Sharpe than Oman.

    But I like campaign uniforms, so if I were ever to start on Saxons,
    this would make them all the more appealing … to me.

    But I know at least one or two gentlemen Fusiliers who may be a trifle

  10. Hmmm, an interesting and age old conundrum – accuracy vs. pretty.

    I will happily buy the campaign style figures as I find that over the years (& years & years!) my preference has moved from parade dress to campaign style figures. Of course being both a Calpe zealot and having a l-o-n-g standing determination to have a Saxon army I would probably have bought whatever was produced! 8O)

    I also think that consistency across the range matters. There’s not much point IMHO of doing some nations in parade dress, some in field inspection dress and some in campaign dress.

    Having said that a campaign look that goes so far as to remove all vestiges of the uniform (a great coat and a battered covered shako – which I’m not expecting with this range) would be a step too far for me. And the ability to be able to add the occasional more ‘dressed up’ figure (say Peter’s #2, Field Inspection uniform) I would personally see as a plus.

    I know of at least 1 local ‘Fusilier’ who may be deterred if the range is in the campaign uniform as opposed to the Field Inspection uniform. But you can’t please everyone, and above all Peter F. must be happy doing what he’s doing else he may stop …. which would be a very bad thing indeed!!

    BTW, I’ve posted a notification of this blog entry on von Peter’s. The more the merrier I figure and another 1 and a half gamers may read this as a result! 8O)

    von Peter himself

  11. Glen said

    I think Peter is right on the button here. IMO I think it is far better to have a figure that is animated, well proportioned and reflects the realities of the day. Campaign dress all the way, with the attention to detail that Calpe are famous for has my cash any day.

    The range that Peter has produced so far for the Prussians is outstanding and second to none. Taking them as a bench mark and applying it to what he will probably be producing for the Saxons will spoil us all, I can see no reason why there will not be a lot of very happy customers.

    Q. Who else do you know who makes 1813 Saxons or once these are out will have the confidence to compete?

    A. No one.


  12. Ralph said

    First off I really like my Calpe figures and I appreciate that the work that goes into them is a labour of love. Part of their appeal is the drive for authenticity that shines through these models. Keep On. So what follows is meant to be constructive, or at least thought provoking. I don’t know what Service experience other contributers have had, but I have been in Uniform now for many years, much of it in the ranks, latterly ‘in front’.

    So here is my twopen’north: You are a company grade Officer on a cold wet autumn day in 1813. Your Seniors are rousing the young soldiers who are stiff, hungry and scared. They are not professionals, they are for the most part farm labourers, salt of the earth but they haven’t seen much of the world, easily impressed by cheap finery. What rig are you going to order for the day of battle?
    I would insist on the very best – 1A’s or whatever the Saxon equivalent. Pile the pressure on, keep them busy, and once they are fell in and ready, and have time on their hands to take stock, what will they see around them? Young scarecrows, or Soldiers?

  13. Martin said

    Wow! Thank you everybody for all your feedback. This post has turned into a BFK record breaker. It’s the most comments I’ve ever had on a single post and it also made yesterday the highest ever traffic day at BFK.

    The consensus seems to be supportive of Peter’s plans with some people hoping for a few figures to be in smarter uniforms (particularly officers). I just wanted to comment on a couple of the points raised:

    Mike mentioned identification of units on the gaming table: with Saxons, the flags ought to help and, when greatcoats aren’t being worn, Saxon units had distinctive different coloured lapels, cuffs and collars. So I don’t think that problem will be too bad but I can see how it might be an issue for French and Russian units.

    Ralph makes an interesting point too and there are plenty of contemporary accounts that mention being well dressed on the day of battle. However, a factor that applies to many states in 1813 (especially the smaller ones that were involved in the disastrous 1812 campaign) is that full uniforms and kit were in desperately short supply so even if the officers wanted their units to appear at their best, it might simply have been impossible.

    The Prussians, who weren’t badly afflicted by 1812, struggled to kit out their forces and relied on British assitance for uniforms, equipment and muskets – even then, they still found it necessary to repurpose captured French material. So I can imagine that Saxony struggled too.

    I’ll close by sharing my secret wish for these campaign uniform figures. Peter’s quite rightly going for a variety of historically accurate shako covers and eschewing the full plume but I do hope that there will be a fair number of little pom-poms poking their colourful heads above the covers.

    Thank you all again for the response so far and keep it coming!

  14. Simon Walsh said

    I prefer the campaign uniforms, its Elite Minitures “Campaign” French and British Peninsular ranges that got me back to Napoleonics after a long abscence doing scruffy ACW and WWII! My only regret is I’ve a pile of Landwehr that aren’t Calpe, but I’ve started work on some Calpe Prussian Landwehr for Placenoit in 2015 !

  15. Matt Matthews said

    I stand by Peter one hundred percent. This is why I love the Calpe figures! I will buy all the Saxons! However, I am still holding out for the French!

  16. “This post has turned into a BFK record breaker. ”

    It certainly shows that there is at least some interest out there in painting up Saxons! This is a project I am very interesting in doing, and I look forward to the day when Peter eventually gets around to doing the cavalry, especially the Zastrow Kurassiers.

    Regarding the infantry, can anyone point to an illustration online of those cow-hide shako covers? I hope they weren’t from Jersey cows: I can just see my Saxons being the butt of many a joke on the tabletop otherwise!

  17. Take a look here to see how gorgeous real campaign uniforms can look (on French, in this case):

  18. Cyril said

    I buy Calpe Napoleonics for one reason – QUALITY – pure & simple. I am always confident that no matter what they are wearing they will be a pleasure to paint and look spectacular even in campaign wear.

    That said, I have to confess to being one of those soldiers who dropped his rucksack on the battlefield: I needed the speed and I was more concerned with the next 10 seconds than the next ten weeks. Also, even as late as the 1990’s troops were wearing plumes on the battlefield – I saw them in N. Ireland and in Iraq – so it is no stretch of the imagination to believe that some Saxons likewise would have needed to wear them; yes, I said “needed” (for psychological reasons and to inspire subordinates)during the period under discussion.

  19. Michael MacGillivray said

    I recant! 🙂 Disregard my comment above. As soon as British AWI figures were available in campaign dress (thank-you Alan), I bought them instead of those wearing regulation dress. I’ve been in Peter’s camp without thinking about it.

    Look forward to seeing pics of the Saxons.


  20. Jeremy Dorling said

    I agree with the majority of comments here. Campaign dress all the way – and very interesting to read what this actually would have been for the Saxons.

  21. Robert Herlinger said

    I have been looking forward to purchasing some Saxon figures for Christmas. I agree with the decision that the figures should be produced in their campaign dress.

    So I started looking through my books to locate some pictures of Saxons in campaign dress so I could prepare my painting of these figures (and to clearly understand the different shako covers).

    I am sorry but I am having great difficulty. Could someone point me in the correct direction?

  22. Mark Churm said

    Peter’s essay makes for fascinating and enlightened reading. I am once again impressed by the painstaking care that it is evident he takes when researching his subject.

    The point he makes about the disdain of “serious” gamers against the Fantasy gamers is well made and spot on. I’ve also done both, having started with historical, passed through fantasy and settled firmly back into historical gaming (though my D&D collection is still up in the loft).

    To the type of uniforms, then. My passion is to recreate the feel of the period. That’s why I struggle to find rule sets that I want to use. I usually go for campaign uniforms though I also have “pretty” figures in my collection.

    Is Peter correct to specialize in campaign dress? Absolutely. Is it wrong to buy full dress figures? Absolutely not. Should Peter cater for both types of uniform? Not if he doesn’t want to and is willing to accept the potential for some lost sales because his range is not pretty enough, or suitable painting guides are not readily available for the figures he has produced.

    And to Peter, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts.


  23. “… or suitable painting guides are not readily available for the figures he has produced”

    That was my concern at first, but if Peter continues to provide detailed comments and notes on the Saxon releases as he has done with the Prussians, that should go a long way towards dealing with that. A Bunde plate on Saxon campaign dress would be nice, though.

  24. Hugh Jordan said

    Peter’s Prussians are the best produced figures I have come across I am well on the way to replacing my old Minifig Prussians with his. So I can only assume that his saxons will be of the same high standard campaign uniforms or not.

  25. dave davies said

    i fully agree with peters decision to keep with historical accuracy with the saxons.

    But would it not be feesable to do some head sets with shakos in all their glory for both saxon and prussian ranges.So the not so purists amongs us who want a big plume unit can snip and drill and glue the new heads in.I know anglian miniatures do this for their scw figuresand seems to work.
    the thing is do i part with my pete gilder saxons and start afresh or ust add the new units?

  26. JohnPreece said

    I want a designer who has a vision and follows it through. It doesn’t matter if its beer or cheese or toy soldiers, much better to have a product of distinction and integrity even if the cost is not everyone likes it. I applaud Mr Calpe, the result has been the very finest range of models of the Prussian army we are ever likely to see.

    Personally I like dress uniforms. Ideally without backpacks or all the rubbish of the day strapped on. Not because I am a lazy or bad painter but because I want to emphasise the distinctiveness of each regiment and country. The worst example I ever saw were bavarians with so little of their uniforms showing it was impossible to see the attractive shade of blue, which was the reason I had bought them.

    My Spanish army is the Army that the Spanish would like to have fielded. Is it any less ‘realistic’ for that?

    Still for those who wish to reduce the spectacle of the Napoleonic wars to columns of identical shambling tramps in ragged coats, well, fair enough, good luck.

  27. Mike Horah said

    I have recently joined the ranks of those deeply impresed by Peter’s products, their quality and his attention to detail and historicity, so its a no brainer for me go with the historical evidence. Its a shame my painting does not always match his skill in sculpture though painting black lace on a black uniforms (Lutzowers) can be hard to do well with fading eyesight!

    Its a little odd sometimes that for a period like ACW we will delight in the random nature of uniforms on both sides and their rough character but for the first Empire sometimes prefer to imagine something more like a parade ground. I have some full dress Conn Saxons which are Ok but I think I will much prefer Peter’s – cordless shakos and all. I am eagerly looking forward to a brigade of his Saxons. And white on white I can do!

    I also share his tolerance towards the less historic elements of the hobby. Fantasy, LoR, and Warhammer has done it a great service and given it an injection of people and figure makers. When I got interested in their Sheildwall rules for using with Vikings and Saxons was delighted to find Norse saga poetry peppering the rules so I bought some books of Norse sagas including Tolkien’s tranlsation of Beowulf to get into the feel of it.

    There is romance in this hobby and there is an aesthetic to it which great figures and terrain can exemplify but there is room for the equvalent of pre raphealites and impressionism and artistry of many sorts.

    On a table a mix is fine for me and when you’ve been gaming for nearly 40 years you have no choice unless you keep scraping the ancient figures ! Some of mine are early minifig veterans from 1971 telegraph pole lances featureless faces but at the time they were super when the main alternatives were 20mm Hinton Hunt and Airfix.

    One point though – one can take this too far. I recall a cartoon in Miliary modeller with two warganmers or modellers examining a figure of a Greek hoplite and one says pointing at the base ” that’s the wrong colour sand for Thermopalae.”

  28. Rob Hamper said

    I have been a fan of Calpe and of Peter (capital guy!) for a long time and I have a mountain of unpainted lead to show for it! I have also admired the accuracy to which the Prussians have been modeled. I like historical accuracy but don’t consider myself a rivet counter. Though I’ve agonised over proper uniform shades, I won’t get drawn into an argument about whether my Prussian blue, French uniform or Commonwealth green is exactly right. Don’t much care; you can’t really prove me wrong for any number of reasons: age, wear, availability, weathering etc.

    I also admire the Fantasy gamers and actually envy their less rigourous need to abide by “rules” (except maybe for the Warhammer crowd with their Codicies!) So I have no clash with them and actually started out with fantasy figures and hope to do so again with my boys.

    So, while I tend to agree with Peter out of common thought as well as admiration, I won’t chide anyone for having a dress uniform on the table top. As for me, I like the campaign dress. However, if at some point, when there is time and inclination, there should appear alternate heads with pom-pom’s and plumes, I will be in the line to buy them. I tend to think that our soldiers can be a uniform study as well as historical representatives of their long-gone counterparts. Play on!

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