Thursday, 31 January 2019

Secunda Britannica, Legio Comitatenses

Here is my second unit completed: the Secunda Britannica, Legio Comitatenses. Again this unit was chosen back in the 1980s when I started my Late Roman Army, partly for the British connection and partly for the attractive shield colours. It seems a popular choice: I have seen quite a few pictures of this unit in miniature online and Little Big Men studios offer transfers for the shields.

I intended this to be the first unit I would complete so re-used most of the already painted legionaries with spear and shield. Unfortunately, just as I thought I had it finished, I hit a few problems: lead rot had attacked the officer and aquilifer - the former snapped off at the ankles just as I was doing the basing and, at that eleventh hour, I noticed a deep pit of crumbling metal on the aquilifer. As I was going to have to replace these, I also decided to save the un-armoured trumpeter figure for an auxilia and to add an extra legionary to the command base, just to make a better, more balanced arrangement. As this took a bit of time, I actually finished painting the Lanciarii Gallicani Honoriani first.

The officer was easily replaced with one from Museum Miniatures - again I made a new shield from brass sheet and Milliput. The aquilifer was more of a problem - I had a couple of spare Asgard / TTG figures but the moulding was so poor that the faces were gaping hollows, making them look unsettlingly like a Roman Nazgul. Instead I used a Museum Miniatures figure but with an Asgard eagle as the descriptions I have read suggest that these were normally made side on, rather than facing with wings spread. The aquilifer's sword scabbard was ridiculously narrow, looking more like a holder for a conductor's baton, so I filed it down and glued in a wider piece of metal to match the other figures.

At some point I had acquired some Minifigs Byzantine figures, including trumpeters with large shields - very similar to their Late Roman legionaries - but armoured with large scales, what look like braces with a chest strap and a very different helmet. I took one of these, filed down the armour, added a diagonal strap (like the legionaries) from foil, did a head swap for a ridged helmet and made a new trumpet from brass rod and Milliput to replace the mis-moulded one of the figure. The picture shows the result next to an original figure on the right.

For ease of painting, I simplified the shield pattern, making the "spokes" straight rather than bulged out in the middle. Now I have seen the excellent transfers from Little Big Men, I regret this but not enough to go back and repaint them! The small black dots at the outside ends of the spokes were done with the end of a cocktail stick dipped in thinned black paint. It took a bit of trial and error to cut (with a very sharp knife) the end to the correct diameter and then find the right paint consistency and depth but once I got that sorted out, it was quick and easy - certainly much easier than using a brush. You just need to clean the paint off the stick every so often and check the paint hasn't thickened too much from evaporation.

Once the aquilifer was painted, I noticed a problem. As far as I can see, his headdress is a wolf rather than a lion so, although modelled carrying an eagle, I think that makes him a signifier? I'll live with it for this one but I'm not sure what to do for my third legion when I do that - is it easier to add a human face to the Asgard / TTG figure or a lion's face to the Museum Miniatures one?

The legionary on the left is completely newly painted whilst that on the right is one of my original 1980's paint jobs tidied up. The difference shows particularly in the face and the paint thickness on features like the crest.

That's two 1980s nostalgia legions done and I have a cavalry unit almost finished too. After that I'm not sure what to do next - an auxilia, another cavalry unit or maybe some of my backlog of WW2 or Italian Wars figures.


  1. Great work, really impressive for 15mm!

  2. Wow these are great for 15mm! Lovely work,I'm hoping to take a break from the great Italian wars soon and move onto late Romans/britons and pagan saxons for dux bellorum, so this is pretty useful!
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks very much guys, really appreciate the comments.
      If I was starting from scratch, I wouldn't use these old and rather inaccurate (at least not meeting current interpretations) figures - I'd have chosen Khurasan or Legio Heroica - but it is a nice exercise in nostalgia.