As many of you may know, Mr. Tennant decided it was time to pass on his collection after laboring fifty years to create. I feel honored to be able to give them a home and to be trusted with this amazing collection. My intention is to first display the collection, but then work toward incorporating my own armies, especially the French Old Guard and eventually the Russian army, so that I can bring them to the various wargames gatherings in the Mid-South United States and hopefully generate some interest in the roots of our hobby.
Mr. Tennant's collection encompasses two corp, one French and one British, from the Peninsular War period, roughly around 1812. Each is a complete corp with command and support units, including allied nations, bands, engineers, artillery trains, pontoon trains and even Marshal Massena's mistress! These were built with the figure ratio of 1 model soldier representing 20 men, which makes for very big battalions!
The meticulousness with which Dick documented his work has been a source of genuine amazement and inspiration for me, as is his painting. The detail work that he put into these figures is nothing short of amazing! So without further ado, I present to you the Richard Tennant Collection:
RICHARD J TENNANT
My background with Wargame Figures
As a lad, I grew up in Southampton and had always been keen on toy soldiers. In 1963, when I was 19, I went along to the first National Wargames Convention at the Cotswold Hotel, Southampton and “discovered” the world of wargaming. Not only that, but also realized that my hometown was a haven for the hobby. I bought Tackle Model Soldiers This Way and managed to join the group run by the legendary Don Featherstone. Through this local wargames club I also came to know such notables as Neville Dickenson, Tony Bath and Peter Gilder.
The meetings were held in the basement of the Temperance Institute. One memorable Waterloo wargame was held when a group came over from Bath. The terrain was set out on a series of trestle tables stretching some 20 yards long! At these meetings I would drag along my girlfriend who would be pressed into service to operate the tea urns.
They were special years indeed. Neville had just bought the Albercan range, and he and Peter Gilder were “modifying” (polite term for pirating!) some of Marcus Hinton’s figures. I used to visit Neveille’s premises on Saturday mornings. It was half filled with the ‘enforcers’ of his money lending business, with just a couple of figure collectors around. One Saturday I had just finished reading Forester’s Death to the French; I related to Neville that one could differentiate the silhouette of a British cavalryman by the cropped tail of his horse; Neville immediately took down the nearest box of British cavalry, plus a pair of pliers and proceeded to start cropping the tails of the horses. A year or so later Dick Higgs joined him and they started making ranges of original masters in 25 & 54mm.
In 1969 we moved up to near Stockport. At the Manchester Model Soldier Society, run by Harry Middleton, I came to meet Frank Hinchliffe and visited him a few times over in Meltham, Yorkshire. At that time he was only making his superb 54mm equipment range and, like most of us, his own wargame armies were basically Hinton Hunt figures. The Peter Gilder range of 25mm figures was to come along a few years later. It was in May 1972 that Peter held a wargames convention in Hull, and I suspect that this was around the time his new figures were becoming available. Frank closed down his side of the model soldier business in October 1984.
Like everyone else at that time, I started with Hinton Hunt figures together with a few early Miniature Figurines. I had met Marcus at a wargames convention in 1966 and started buying his figures. By 1970 Neville Dickinson was coming on stream with the ‘S’ Range of figures and Bill Lamming was building up his range. Feeling that Marcus might not continue in the business for too long, I planned out my Napoleonic armies organization and decided to invest in the whole lot, around 1,600 figures. Even so, the order was phased over several stages. At this time Marcus employed a Mr DL Scrimshaw as Production Manager and I soon came to realize that building up a good direct contact with him would ensure a more reliable flow of figures. The first shipments started arriving in early 1970, and continued at intervals through until 1972. With such a bulk order foot figures were 9d, mounted for 1/3d and artillery equipment 5/6d! Even so, I re-equipped all my artillery with Lamming guns, at 5/0d a time, in August 1970. A few years later, I re-equipped again, this time with the Hinchliffe 20mm range of equipment.
Having made the original investment, I was loathed to later change over into the 25mm scale. Besides, I always preferred the look of the 30 to 40 figure battalions based on the 1 : 20 ratio. ( pioneered by Fred Vietmeyer ) It was only in 2003 that I came to the end of painting up this original organization that I had originally started in 1970. I am a slow painter !!
In the 90’s, I tracked down David Clayton, the new owner of the Hinton Hunt range. Following an advert in Practical Wargamer, I gathered a group of about 15 HH collectors and we combined to put in a very large joint order for extra figures. I bought a couple of extra infantry divisions. David later sold the Hinton Hunt masters and the molds to a chap in Canada. Sadly he does not seem to have started-up producing figures again.
Many years ago I acquired a number of regiments of Peter Gilder’s original collection of Hinton Hunt cavalry. Over the years I restored and corrected the painting of most of them. In October 2007 I needed more shelf space for my own collection and sold these to John Cunningham, a fellow 20mm enthusiast living in North Wales. Photographs of these iconic figures now adorn the website of The Hinton Hunter.
In the early years one of the difficulties was terrain. All that was available was British or German building for model railways. In 1967 I commissioned a range of Spanish and Pyrenean buildings from W Holmes who ran Deltorama Ltd. I later found out that he had made to model of Fort Knox used in filming the James Bond Goldfinger. Typical of the period, when he exceeded the budget, because he became engrossed in the project, he made a wedding gift of the excess! Later, in 1977 I found George Erik who made me a Spanish Windmill complex and some olive groves. Later I managed to acquire a Spanish Farmhouse from the greatest of the terrain builders, Peter Gilder.
Don Featherstone ‘soldiered on’ and died in September 2013 having reached the age of 95. He still presided over the monthly gathering of the Wessex Military Dining Club, which he founded in 1974; they met up each month and only towards the end did he miss some of the evenings. He was also the President of the Wessex Military Society, which met about four times a year, with lunch followed by a lecture. These days the Society continues to meet for a monthly lunch and bi-monthly lecture.
In 2009 I was invited to become a Trustee of the Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum in Winchester. We commissioned a project to restore/repair our large Waterloo diorama in order to have it ready for the bicentennial of the battle. This was a very large undertaking as it covers 26 square metres (280 square feet ) with about 22,000 figures. Fortunately I managed to obtain the support of Hornby Ltd, since most of the figures used in the original construction were Airfix and some were in need of replacement.
Back in 1977 David Chandler and Peter Duffy started the British Commission for Military History. They invited their fellow-wargamer, Don Featherstone to be a member and bring along some of his contacts to swell the numbers. I felt honoured to be invited, along with Ken Chapman and Ken Brooks. When I returned to the UK in 2002 I joined the committee and was the treasurer for a number of years whilst Richard Holmes was the President. From 2008 to 2015 I was treasurer of the Peninsular War 200, the official UK organization for the commemorations of the Peninsular War.
I am currently painting my last allied Spanish brigade left to complete. When they are finished, I will have about 2,800 figures representing both an Anglo/Portuguese Army and a French & Allied Army of around 1812/13.
As you can see there are three regiments of Spanish Infantry listed as unpainted on this chart. The Regt.de Asturias is finished and was shipped with the other units of the collection. Mr. Tennant is endeavoring to finish the last two Spanish Regiments and send them on so that the corp will be complete!
Dick was kind enough to share some photos of his collection as displayed in his home. My hope is to have a suitable display area arranged by the end of the summer in my own home, so I can get these magnificent figures out of their transportation boxes where they can be seen and gamed with! Below is just a small selection of photos from his display:
British and Allies
Wellington and Staff
3rd division, 2nd Brigade
3rd division, 2nd Brigade Colours
3rd Division Portuguese Brigade Cacadores
3rd Division Royal Artillery Company
6th Division Staff
6th Division, Portuguese Brigade
Heavy Cavalry Brigade
Light Dragoon Brigade
Light Cavalry Command Staff
RHA Rocket Troop
Portuguese Cavalry Brigade
Spanish Brigade Command Staff
Sappers and Miners Royal Wagon Train
Duke of Brunswick and Escort
French and AlliesOverview
Massena Staff and Pontonniers
1st Division, 1st Brigade
2nd Division Staff
2nd Division, parts of 1st and 2nd Brigades
2nd Division, 1st Brigade
3rd Division Review
3rd Division Review
3rd Division, Spanish Brigade
Heavy Cavalry Division Staff
Heavy Cavalry Division, 1st Brigade
Heavy Cavalry Division, Horse Artillery
Light Cavalry Division Staff
Light Cavalry, 1st Brigade, 1st Hussars
Light Cavalry, 1st Brigade, 5th Chasseurs
Light Cavalry Division, Horse Artillery
Light Cavalry, 1st Brigade, Westphalian Chasseurs
Light Cavalry, 2nd Brigade
As you can see there is much work to be done with such an immense collection to tend. The trip overseas had its share of bumps, so I have been hard at work repairing those figures that were damaged, but am ready now to move forward. As I ready each battalion or unit for display, I want to clean them well and add some highlighting to jackets and trousers and perhaps some thin washes of color to the faces to bring out some of the detail before sealing. Many of the horses in particular will need some touch up and highlighting to really bring them to life, so in that way I hope to add my own touches to the collection, so that eventually it will be the Tennant-Crenshaw collection, but that will be a long time coming!