Polish scythe-men

(Editor’s note: This comment by Rob Morgan is in response to Jim Rohrer’s question in the earlier blog post on “Scythes as weapons.”)

By Rob Morgan

Scythes? A fascinating and long running subject, Jim. The scythe, from its medieval origins, ran through peasant revolts and uprisings into the 20th century. Its efficiency as a weapon was awesome, and if you can find a copy of the article referred to in my note it will be graphically obvious! The scythe was feared.

As for the Poles as scythe-men, well, the great wheat-growing areas of Poland, Ukraine and a few other eastern countries were home to peasants with the skill to handle it, peacefully and in war. The 1848 rising against the Prussians is focused on, but take a look at the range of possibilities for bands of scythe-men.

  • The 1830-31 Uprising v. Russia.
  • 1846 Krakow Rising v. Austrians.
  • 1846 rising v. Prussia.
  • The Great Revolution of 1848 v. Prussia and Austria.
  • The 1866 ‘Siberian’ Uprising v.Russia

In addition, there were many occasions during the early 20th century when peasant scythe-men saw action. There are photographs in ‘Purnell’s History of World War I’ Vol. 8, which show peasants and workmen armed with be-ribboned war-scythes in 1919. Poles fought the Russians in the 1905 Lodz Uprising, and in 1918-21. Polish peasants armed themselves and fought against Imperial Germany, Weimar Germany, Czechs, Lithuanians, and the Soviets. There was even a rising against Poland’s own government at one stage. Remember that, for most of the time, these peasants were subjugated to the land, so it wasn’t  a case of just reaching for the gun over the fireplace.

As for modelling them, well, in 20/25mm, the company Red Box makes set 72111. Take a

Sample Red Box Ratniki figures

look at it on the Red Box web site, or on the Plastic Soldier Review site, under the Late Renaissance period. It’s entitled ‘Moscow Infantry (Ratniki).’ In fact, it’s a set of generic peasants armed for the most part with pole-arms. Twenty, arguably 24 of them, can be converted easily into scythe-men, simply by either flattening the end of the weapon point, or by slitting it and adding a thin sliver of paper or plasticard cut to shape. They are wearing peasant smocks, with sashes, and leggings with cross garters. The leggings can easily be smoothed to make soft boots. The headgear needs

More Ratniki figures from Red Box

altering, but can be flattened to make a smaller, more typical, fur hat. The four-cornered sczapska type of hat began to appear in the mid-1800s and the figures’ hats can be shaped. This is a little time consuming, but will be worth it for an unusual unit. Or the top of the plastic head can be removed and a circle of card for a straw hat inserted, with the original top glued back on. That’s the best peasant unit to go for, in my opinion. There are other peasant figures around, but all of them will need the weapon-blade added in some fashion. They’ll do for the 1848 period and either side of it.

As a personal note, Jim, I’ve added some additional notes to your ‘DIY Fort’ piece — look out for it in the next Lone Warrior. Here’s a photo of  my Fort Zinderneuf. A desert fort manned by colonial auxiliaries of the Italian Agordat Camel Corps. The original figures were 25mm by Raventhorpe Miniatures, and you can find a colour plate of the unit in the Osprey Men-at-Arms title ‘Lawrence and the Desert Revolts’ No.208, by Dr David Nicolle.

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1 Response to Polish scythe-men

  1. Jim Rohrer says:

    Rob, thanks for the suggestions. My figures are 54mm but following your lead I will search for spear men then modify their clothing and reshape the spear tip.

    Your fort is very nice. The mortar looks real.

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