Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Polish-Lithuanian ‘Foreign Infantry’

 This blog post covers a new set of units for my Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth army of the 1620s; the so called ‘Foreign Infantry’. To represent these I have used figures from 1898 Miniatures.  Read on to find out more about the Foreign Infantry and 1898 Miniatures.

28mm figures from 1898 Miniatures ‘Tercios’ range

Although cavalry were the most important part of the Commonwealth armies in this period there was an increasing focus on infantry.  Any campaign involving sieges, as well as the need to hold settlements and river crossings, needed foot troops.  In the campaigns against the Swedes in the 1620s, Polish forces found that they were involved in many sieges, as the Swedes would often avoid pitch battles in the open where the Polish cavalry could dominate.

A contemporary picture of infantry fighting in the first part of the 17th century.

The native Polish infantry, drawn from the peasant population, were effective but few in numbers, and the Polish nobility were reluctant to further reduce their work force by allowing more recruitment from the peasants in to the army.  The Commonwealth therefore turned to hiring infantry from other sources, typically abroad.  This ‘Foreign Infantry’ was recruited from across Europe but mainly from the German states to the West of the Commonwealth borders, and also from German speaking parts of the Commonwealth. (For this reason they were sometimes referred to as ‘German Infantry’.)

Recruitment of the Foreign Infantry worked in a  similar way to the rest of Europe at this time.  A colonel was commissioned to raise a certain number of troops and it was then the colonel’s responsibility to find suitable candidates.  There were no uniforms as such, and so the recruits would be dressed in their regular ‘western’ clothes looking very much like the typical foot troops in the rest of Europe. 

One difference may well have been the composition of the troops recruited. It was typical in this period to recruit infantry as one third pike armed troops, and two thirds shot, armed with a musket.  One of the primary roles of pikemen was to protect the shot from cavalry. In the Commonwealth forces, with their superior cavalry, pikes were considered less necessary. In the 1620s campaign there is no evidence that the Foreign Infantry were armed with pikes, so it is possible that they were just musket armed troops. 

A detail from a contemporary picture showing the typical rag-tag appearance of troops in the TYW

For my Commonwealth army, based on the force at the Battle of Dirschau in 1627,  I need some units of Foreign Infantry.  I could just re-use some of my existing Thirty Years War Imperial foot to represent the foreign infantry, but I have plenty of potential candidates in the lead pile.  I decided to paint up some figures from the 1898 Miniatures ‘Tercio range’ that have been accumulating in my lead pile since their release in 2019.  These figures are a great representation of the typical foot from across Europe in the 1620s, 30s and 40s. 

Here is link to the 1898 Miniatures site link, and also to a review of the figures I wrote for Wargames Illustrated link.  In summary, I really like them! They are really characterful figures, and give a great impression of the typical non-uniformed troops from the TYW, wearing a mixture of styles and types of clothing. If you are interested in getting some of the 1898 figures then you can buy directly from them in Spain, or go to Empress Miniatures who are a UK stockist (here).

(Although I’m planning to use only musketeers for the Commonwealth army I have the pikemen to make these units up to regular pike and shot units later.) 

The metal figures were fairly straightforward to prep.  One slight pain was having to glue on the troops sidearms, a sword hung on the left hip from a baldric or belt. These look really nice on the figure, but I’m a bit worried about robustness in the long term as the swords are very thin and stick out in a realistic, but easy to bend way.  If you expect to be heavy handed with your figure then you should consider leaving the swords off.  

I gave the figures my normal, black spray primer undercoat.  I then painted up a test figure to try out how I wanted to paint the figures.  I combined a couple of approaches to try and speed up my normal snail’s pace painting speed. 

Primed figure with heavy dry brush of Flat Brown

After the primer was cured I gave the figures a very heavy dry brush in Vallejo Flat Brown (70.984).  This helps show up the details on a matt black figure, and, as so much of a 17th century soldier ends up brown, this can provide a base coat for things like shoes, belts, bandolier, scabbard, musket, etc. 

Base coats slapped on, waiting for the ‘magic’ to happen

I painted up a base coat across the other, non-brown items, not being too precious about neatness as minor errors would be corrected by the next stage. Next I gave the figure a generous wash of GW’s Agrax Earthshade (the ‘magic part’).  This provides a shade and also neatens up the figure overall. When this wash was dry I highlighted the original base coats again. 

This gave a nice impression of what I think a 17th century soldier on campaign might have looked like. (This approach combines techniques I’ve learnt from Matt at Glenbrook Games and also Sonic Sledgehammer.)

With the test figure done, I moved on to the rest of the unit.  I used a fairly muted set of natural colours for the rest of the unit. Here they are, all based up.  Front rank giving fire, and rear rank loading. A sergeant, with halberd, commands the unit.

Give fire!
Rear rank loading.

Since starting this post I have completed a second unit

I really enjoyed painting these 1898 figures, and I’m pleased with how they came out.  I have another 2 x 12 figures to do, before moving back to the mounted part of the force.  I am also working on some command stands for the Foreign Infantry, and should have some figures from another smaller manufacturer to showcase.

Until next time!

Andy @ Friends of General Haig


  1. Great work on wonderful looking figures. They look like beauties.

  2. Very handsome work, Andy! These are beauties, indeed!

  3. They're pretty cool looking Andy!

  4. Haven't heard of this manufacturer before, they look a bit grimy, really nice!
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks, Iain! Yes, 1898 do a great job of making the figures look like battered veterans of a hard campaign or two.