Monday 6 November 2023

Captain Blackadder - Montrose’s Scoutmaster-General

This post looks at the latest work from my painting table, a Scoutmaster and dragoons for my Scots Royalist force set in 1645.

The Scoutmaster edges forward to get a better look at the enemy forces.

I’ve been actively building forces for Montrose’s campaign in Scotland (1644-45), part of the War of the Three Kingdoms, for the last 8 or so years and can put together orders of battles for most of the various engagements. So, when a friend recently asked me if I’d “finished” this collection I had to pause and think. Did I really have everything I wanted for Montrose and his enemies? I remembered that there was one, slightly obscure unit, that I hadn’t yet built, and one leader that I wrote in to the Warhammer ECW army list for Montrose, that was still missing from my collection. These were Montrose’s ‘Irish’ dragoons, and Captain Blackadder, Scoutmaster-General.

28mm figures from Bloody Miniatures and Bicorne Miniatures


Montrose was always short of mounted troops to act as scouts for reconnaissance and so it seems that a small number (probably less than company strength) of Montrose’s most reliable troops, the Irish brigade, were mounted as dragoons from as early as March 1645.  In the larger pitched battles such a small unit would perhaps not have much of a significant part, but would be a nice touch for smaller scenarios. 

The dismounted Irish dragoons

I’m sure it will delight those familiar with the TV character that there was a real Captain Blackadder who makes a couple of appearances in the history of Montrose’s campaign.  He is believed to be the hapless Scoutmaster (see notes below) who was to burst in on Montrose’s breakfast, before the Battle of Philiphaugh on 13th September 1645 (see notes below), to bring news that the Royalists were about to be surprised by David Leslie’s 6,000 strong Scottish government force.  Captain Blackadder was to survive the disaster at Philiphaugh (thanks, no doubt, to a cunning plan!) and a few months later was commanding a company, or troop, of mounted men at Fyvie Castle. Sadly it is not recorded if he had a hanger on called Percy, or a servant / dog’s body called Baldrick!

Captain Blackadder’s horse is held ready for a hasty remount by his servant, who must surely be called Baldrick!

Building The Unit

There are not many firm details we know about the appearance of Montrose’s Irish troops.  However I think we can be confident that, after 6 months of hard campaigning, without access to any permanent base or organised supply, the Irish troops would have a quite irregular appearance, with their equipment ‘liberated’ from multiple sources, friend and foe, across the highlands of Scotland.  I also wanted to represent the dragoons fighting in a looser formation such as they would adopt when attacking or defending some isolated feature of a battlefield, very often the job of units of dragoons. 

Four of the figures from Bloody Miniatures painted up as ragged Irish dragoons. 

With these requirements I had a deep rummage through my lead pile and found that I had a good selection of suitable figures from the Bloody Miniatures releases, as well as some of Bicorne Miniature’s ‘ECW’ Irish figures. Bloody and Bicorne Miniatures mix together very well and I soon had what I thought would be a nice small sized unit of dismounted dragoons, as well as figures for a Scoutmaster command stand. 

Three Bicorne Irish shot and one Bloody mini, kneeling.

As with my previous unit of dragoons (link) I was not going to have a mounted version of this unit but I did want some bases to represent the dragoons’ ‘empty-horses’.  I had in my lead pile some nice small, shaggy, and saddled ponies by Eureka Miniatures which would be ideal for the sort of mounts that would be available in the Scottish highlands.

Horse holders with the remounts. ‘Empty’ ponies from Eureka.

Colouring In

The Bloody Miniatures were a real joy to paint, and I went for varieties of browns, khakis and dull greens for the rank and files’ clothing. These colours worked for how I imagine the ‘Hodden Grey’ issued to Covenant infantry, as well as the typical clothing of ordinary 17th century folk. These would most likely have been the main sources for any replacement clothing used by the Irish troops. 

 For the Scoutmaster and his entourage I went for more stylised paint schemes.  A dashing black outfit for Blackadder himself (leaning heavily on ‘Blackadder: The Cavalier Years’, from the 1988 Comic Relief one-off special), and an outrageously garish outfit for Blackadder’s ensign (who much have been called Lord Percy Percy if there is any justice in the world!).  Blackadder also has a down-trodden servant/drummer holding his horse, possibly called Baldrick of course, who looks suitable drab and has his turnip shaped ‘thingy’ thankfully hidden from view!

Finishing Touches

The dragoons are individually based so they can more easily be deployed in rough terrain.  I also made up a couple of sabot style bases (from Warbases) to make the dragoons easier to move in a group when required.

The empty-horse bases each have a sabot space for a dragoon horse-holder. The idea is that I can reuse the empty-horse bases for different forces by simply swapping out the horse holder.  

Captain Blackadder, with Percy and Baldrick, are all mounted on a single round command base. In my imagination, Blackadder is trying to inconspicuously creep forward to spy-out the enemy forces in his role as Scoutmaster, while his companions through incompetence, ruin his chances of being inconspicuos!  The Captain’s cornet is entirely made-up, using the snake and dagger motif from the second TV series. 

With dragoons and a Scoutmaster completed for Montrose does this really complete the collection?  Well, in researching Captain Blackadder I have dug in to the history of Philiphaugh again and started thinking about refighting this battle. I perhaps need some Covenant dragoons and more Covenant cavalry - it is true that you never really finish!

Until next time!

Andy @ The Friends of General Haig.

Historical Notes

Battle of Philiphaugh 13th September 1645

Philiphaugh is the final battle in Montrose’s year long campaign from September 1644 to September 1645.  It is a crushing defeat for the Royalists when they are surprised by Major-General David Leslie with a force returning from the main Covenant army in England. 

I highly recommend the account of the battle by Stephen Maggs, published by Partizan Press, called Then Beat A Flying Drum. In short, following his success at the battle of Kilsyth in August, Montrose is for a short time master of Scotland, and starts planning to take over the government of the country from the Covenanters, and also organise a force to march south to support the King in England. Montrose struggles to keep together his forces and is in the south east of Scotland near Selkirk trying to recruit. Leslie has been sent North from the main Covenant army that is campaigning in England, to recover control of Scotland for the Covenanter party. 

Leslie, with a flying column of horse and dragoon, surprises Montrose’s force on a foggy morning in September, and outnumbering the Royalists, soundly defeats them.  Montrose and a few of his force escape the defeat, but power is quickly restored to the Covenanters, leaving Montrose to retire to the North East of Scotland, unable to seriously threaten the Covenant government again before being ordered to disband by the King in 1646, and escaping to the to the Continent.  


The Scoutmaster, or to give them their full title Scoutmaster-General, was a staff position in 17th century armies originally responsible for the sentinels and pickets that were to guard an army when encamped or on the march, as well as for reconnaissance to discover the enemy’s position and strength. As time went on the position evolved in to general military intelligence and Scoutmasters were often in charge of a network of spies. 

Seeing as Montrose has a reputation for occasional poor scouting (eg Auldearn and Philiphaugh) it seems to me somewhat ironic that his Scoutmaster, at least in September 1645, was a Captain Blackadder, a name now synonymous in the UK with disastrous intrigues and supposedly cunning plans that inevitably go wrong.  Perhaps a case of fact being just as strange as fiction!