Since finishing my Franco-Prussian War cavalry I’ve slumped as far as painting’s concerned! Part of this is due to the relief of getting my FPW armies virtually finished, but I seem to have had my share of aches and pains recently and that’s meant I haven’t been sitting at my desk painting (yeah, yeah, I’m getting old, I know)!
However, one item I did start back in June, intending to run it in parallel with getting figures painted, was a churchyard/cemetery. Churches and cemeteries have featured in many battles in the 19th and 20th centuries, no doubt because they tend to be substantially built with perimeter walls that can be defended. This also tied in nicely with the Summer Scenery Challenge running through July and August, so I thought I’d give it a go. It’s been done in very small steps, which is why it’s now late August before it’s got finished!
So, where to start? Ideally I wanted a church and cemetery that would look OK in a French 19th and 20th century setting. I did have a church, an HO model railway kit that I built in 2016 for the 150th anniversary of the battle of Königgratz (shown above) but the bell tower looked completely out of place for France (the model is actually of a Swiss church, but it looks fine in a Bohemian setting).
The first step proved easier than I thought! Since the bell tower upper portion is removable to aid storage, I just knocked up a quick alternative from cardboard and gave it a brown wash and roughly painted some slates on it (shown above). Works for me!
Next step was planning the base for the cemetery. I work on a ground plan size of an A4 sheet of paper to ease storage, so that set the size of it. I decided that I also wanted the style of the walls to match those I’d built for some of my other French buildings to keep a relatively uniform look (see above). A covered entryway/porch and trees might have looked good, but I wanted to keep the height down for storage.
Next step was to plan out the arrangement of the ground, I had a couple of goes at this, eventually going for two areas of graves with a path between them. I used some laser-cut MDF gravestones in 20mm scale that I got online from Blotz to mark out the graves.
These two areas were removable to allow units on movement trays to be placed in the cemetery without standing half an inch above the ground surface!
Well, after the steps above, I failed to take any work-in-progress shots unfortunately! The outer ground edges and the paths were covered in Vallejo white pumice, along with some rough areas I wanted in the graveyard itself. I also used Vallejo smooth rock filler to fill in the gaps around the headstones and smooth out all of the edges a bit. The church itself is an off-white grey-green shade (this was the colour of the plastic itself) which I couldn’t really match for the walls, so I painted them in Vallejo sky grey and stippled white over that. The walls then got a dirty brown shading/muckying wash, as did the headstones (which had already had some indistinct writing and symbols added to them), and the basic ground was painted in Humbrol dark earth. The whole lot was then dry-brushed with a sandy shade. The removable grassed areas with the headstones were painted in Humbrol grass green to ensure it still looked green after putting on the static grass.
I added some grass tufts and Woodland Scenics clump foliage before adding the static grass. I thought I might not have enough static grass left to do the grave areas (I was, fortunately, wrong) so, after a few false starts, I managed to get a big tub of spring grass from Warlord Games (could not get the old grass mix I’d used and found that photos of grass mixes in on-line stores do not usually look like what you get – Warlord are a happy exception). I used my old grass mix round the base edges and the new Warlord grass on the grave areas. They are a reasonable colour match, but I added some extra patches of the old grass over the Warlord grass to tone it in a bit.
And that’s it!
I painted the areas under the removable bits green and stippled some lighter colours on, so that it doesn’t look to dull when units on movement trays are in place.
A quick change of bell tower and surrounding buildings and it’s fine for Austria/Bohemia (see below).
I might even see if I can make a tiled roof for the church out of corrugated card, along with a new bell tower, that would let me use it in Italy and South America! Really pleased at getting this done, since I’ve realised for a long time it’s a piece of scenery I really should have had!