Thursday, 21 July 2011

Artillery Bastion

Artillery bastions built of earth were a common feature of warfare in the seventeenth century. Unlike earlier stone castles, they have not, as a rule, survived the passage of time well. One example that survives reasonably well in not only records, but also physically is the Queen’s Sconce in Newark.
There are excellent scaled drawings of bastions on sconces available. Papers from the Siege of Groenlo (1627, part of the Eighty Years War) show the sconces in great detail.
What I made was (more or less) the seventeenth century equivalent of a machinegun bunker: a protected position for a small, rapid firing (relatively) cannon.
Looking at the plans of the Groenlo and Newark sconces, and other information, gave me a general idea of how such a position might be laid out. Following a few sketches to fix the design in my mind, work started by taking a large block of packing foam and a Swann Morton PM8, and carving away all the bits that don’t contribute to making it look like a fortification.
The edges were shaped to allow the item to be modular. I don’t have any matching terrain, or any plans to make any, but hey, why not?

The immediate impression once the bastion was carved was that it was far too low. An additional sheet of foam glued to the bottom solved this. Once dry it was carved to match and the gaps filled with painters’ caulk. If you don’t know about it, it’s marvellous stuff. It comes in tubes you use in a sealant gun, and it can be squeezed out to fill gaps and holes in most substrates. It dries moderately fast, depending on the thickness of the layer, and best of all it takes paint a treat. Note: don’t confuse it with silicone sealant, which does all of the above except take paint. Silicone rejects paint almost totally and will therefore spoil your whole day.

The back of the bastion would have been secured with timber revetting, to stop the soil collapsing. The revetting is made of cocktail sticks, held in place with spruce strips. Walkways would have been constructed from timber (planks, split logs or simply small tree trunks), to prevent the whole thing becoming a quagmire. These are balsa, since the additional thickness (compared to the spruce) can be more easily concealed.
The sides of the opening have wicker hurdles cast from Fimo clay and supported with cocktail stick timbers to support them.
A generous coat of PVA and a layer of sharp sand start to remove the impression of waste plastic.

A base coat of Nearly Black (panzer grey to us) paint was followed by repeated drybrushes with various shades of grey and brown. A coat of flock went, then more drybrushing, then Pledge floor wax, with W&N matt to finish. Here's the completed position.

The cannon is an Armati products falconet, from Cornwall Model Boat Supplies. The falconet is a beautifully made two-piece kit in brass. Here, it has had a couple of washes of sepia ink but otherwise is as it came out of the packet. Although thought of as a naval weapon, there is no reason to believe that such a gun would not have been used in a defensive works (and indeed there is some evidence that they were). Falconets were not infrequently breech loaded, using prefilled breech pieces held in place with wooden wedges (“thundermugs”) and ready-made packs of small shot. A good crew could manage the almost astonishing rate of fire of two rounds per minute, as long as the thundermugs lasted!

 Infantry slogging forward into this hail of fire could be cut to ribbons. Here's an attacker's eye view.

The two herberts manning the gun are TAG renaissance figures, in this case making the pretence of a couple of old codgers who are either in the wrong place at the wrong time or simply trying to prove they can still do it like they claim the used to be able to. I’ve got some more appropriate (i.e. more professional) crew on the stocks to replace these two hooligans, but at least they illustrate the scale.


1 comment:

  1. Very well done!!! now you need to make the rest of the fort to go with it!!