Wednesday, 17 June 2020

1er Battalion, 45e Régiment de Ligne

Happy Waterloo Day! To celebrate, here is my second French battalion at 1:1. It's taken quite a while, there's still some tidying up to do (some Corporal stripes missing) and the Voltigeur company (out skirmishing) are still to come, but it's been good to have a deadline to try to hit.

The 45e Ligne was one of the eight battalions which formed the 3rd Infantry Division under the command of Baron Pierre Louis Binet de Marcognet. I've now done two of them. This is how the madness builds. You do a company, then think "maybe I could do a battalion", then "maybe I could do a DIVISION!"  At this rate, I should have it finished by 2030.

1st Company

Figs are nearly entirely Perry Miniatures - I've just had to include a few Victrix for officers and NCOs (more on the latter below), a couple of old Foundry and there's even an officer by Essex somewhere.  The guy with his shako held high on the end of his bayonet is one of a handful of Perry Metals from the Spanish War of Succession range that I picked up on ebay and converted.

2nd Company

Various sources I have read suggest that there was a great lack of uniformity in the appearance of the French infantry on campaign, especially in what was thrown together in a hurry in 1815. A quote I recall but cannot place was something along the lines of there being hardly two men dressed alike. I had hoped that doing a battalion entirely in greatcoats would be really easy and much quicker than the previous battalion I had done in full tunics. However, in the end, I'm not certain this was actually the case. All the different coloured greatcoats were time-consuming in their own way, and much of the rest of the equipment was no different to the non-greatcoat battalion.

3rd Company

Each company is about 66 men strong, including officers, drummers and NCOs. With eagle and guard, this comes to a total strength of 402. Adkin gives a nominal strength of 502 for this battalion so, even considering that around 10% of every battalion strength was in the rear echelons (with baggage etc), my battalion is  probably a little understrength. Maybe one day I'll add the missing 50 men, but that task is now at the foot of a very long to-do list!

4th Company

 I've searched high and low for information about company fanions. While I found a few images for Grenadier and Voltigeur company flags, I have never seen or read anything for the four fusilier companies. The latest Perry French infantry box (1807-1814) contains a serjeant's right arm with a small company fanion stuck in the end of the musket and I liked the idea of trying to have one for each company. So, with a bit of artistic licence, I've just used the company pompom colours - green for 1st, blue for 2nd, orange for 3rd and mauve for 4th.

Grenadier company

On the assumption that the Grenadier company might get "first dibs" on any new kit supplied to the battalion, I made them slightly less rag-tag, with a more uniform colour greatcoat than the other 5 companies.

The 45th had served at Austerlitz, Jena, Friedland, Essling, and Wagram. Presumably, many of the men of the Grenadier company were veterans of those battles.

I hate painting drums and drummers and really rushed these through to get them done in time. Please don't look closely! Move on..that's enough now...

 I don't have a table long enough to put out the battalion advancing in line (as they were as part of Marcognet's massed column at Waterloo), so I've placed them in a normal battalion column formation, in which, when the Voltigeurs were detached to the front to skirmish, the Grenadier company moved to a central position at the rear).

Fittingly, my attempt to take these pics on the 17th June were hampered by the same thunder, lightening and torrential downpours that hampered all the armies on the same day 205 years ago.

One strange event that happened during the much better weather of March/April/May was that, on two occasions, I discovered that several figures on my workbench looked as if they had melted. At first, I thought I must have spilt some thinner or similar on them and the plastic had been damaged. But when it happened the second time I realised it was a beam of very strong sunlight coming through a gap in the window blinds, then through the lens of my magnifier lamp and melting all in its path! A couple had to be discharged from active service but luckily most were recoverable. Actually, it was quite a happy accident as I quite liked the effect the melting had on some of the figs: On the left above is a chap whose shako now looks more than a little battered, but I really like that campaign-worn look! In the other pic above, the figure in the background in the forage cap has swelled up so that he now looks like something from a Bruegel painting - campaigning was hard but surely there must have been a few portly fellows like this!

The 45th is, perhaps, best known as one of the French regiments to lose it's eagle at Waterloo. I've always found it strange that none of the British accounts of the furious combat that took place in the attack and defence of French eagles ever mention either the 2nd/3rd Port Aigles, nor of the sappers all of whom were supposed to be guarding the eagle. Having men in halberds swinging at you, or a load of bearded men coming at you with axes is surely not something you would forget. Unless we are expected to believe that both Port Aigles and the 4 sappers were already hors de combat or had run away, I can only conclude that this commonly held belief that eagles had a special guard in combat is up for debate. Whatever the historical truth is, I enjoyed making these two Port Aigles out of Victrix and Perry bits and bobs. The eagle bearer is by Front Rank. 

One of the difficulties of doing 1:1 if you want all the figs to be different is there are never enough NCOs and thus I have to make a lot from conversions. The lovely new Perry box does include a couple of serjeant arms, including the company fanion one above, but I only had a couple of these so had to get creative. Some of the other arms are borrowed from the British, Austrians and Prussians!

So, that's it for the moment. Voltigeur company skirmishing to follow next. 

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Happy Waterloo Day - some Belgians

I don't like posting pics of unfinished figures but it's Waterloo Day and I felt like I should post something. The only thing close to being finished are these Belgian line infantry. Still some tidying up and bits to do - canteen straps etc - but they're coming along.

More to follow soon, hopefully.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Brunswick Light Infantry 1st Battalion

Continuing the new non-British European slant, here is a company of Brunswickers from the 1st Light Battalion, presumably fighting somewhere in or around Hougoumont.

The first Light Battalion saw action at Quatre Bras (hence the odd bangaged head above) and at Wateloo were grouped with the Avant Garde and the Leib Battalion in the defence of Hougoumont. 

I'm not certain that this battalion's exact role in the battle is known but Osprey's Brunswick Troops 1809-1815 gives casualty figs of 6 killed, 31 wounded, 34 missing. This is much lower than the other Brunswick light and line battalions, so they were presumably either not heavily engaged or were protected from the worst of the French artillery bombardment by being stationed within the farm complex. 

Figs are a mix of Perry metals and plastic conversions. 

Friday, 29 March 2019

25ème Régiment d'Infanterie de Ligne

Many years ago I used to go and watch comedian Al Murray do his hilarious Pub Landlord show. 

That joke isn't funny anymore
That character - a moronic Little Englander who loathed the EU and all things foreign, who wallowed in all the hilarious cliches of a once Great Britain, harping back to Lancaster bombers and the glorious Few while, himself, having never done anything more heroic than open another packet of crisps and pour another pint - was extremely amusing at the time. That was because, in those days (around 2000-2006), such a character was a dying breed, pathetically clinging to the 1970s when such casual bigotry, sexism and boorish nationalism were commonplace. It was very funny watching Murray putting the boot into this stereotype as we watched that generation and mindset slowly die out. 

But how wrong we were. Fast forward to 2016 and I am sure I am not alone in finding it difficult to laugh at Murray's old routine. His character's tiny-minded, isolationist, "let's-get-back-to-the-good-ol-days" brand of xenophobia has somehow triumphed in real life and, thanks to the dripfeed of lies and vitriol from the likes of The Daily Mail, The Express and The Sun, the nation is about to commit economic suicide so that Rupert Murdoch and a handful of other billionaires with vested interests can finally be freed of the shackles of EU regulation. A poll pre-2016 showed that 0.4% of the population rated the UK's relationship with the EU as their key political concern (the NHS and education were top) yet somewhere here we now are, hurtling down this road towards this ludicrous clifftop.

I spent almost a decade of my life living and working in various European countries. It was a wonderful experience that really broadened my mind and it sickens me to think that the younger generation will be denied that freedom to be part of that community, to just catch a train to a new country and start work there the next day, and to live there for as long as they wish without having to get visas or go through the rigours of applying for citizenship. And for what? Who will benefit? Trump and Putin want Brexit, Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg want Brexit, Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre want Brexit. Madness. I feel ashamed when I talk to my European friends who live in the UK, that they have gone through these two years of uncertainty and fear, that they have been made to feel unwelcome. Unsurprisingly, they all now talk of leaving the UK, their home, and that makes me so angry. My friends will be gone and instead I will be left with the smirking face of Farage.

It probably seems silly, but in the same way that Al Murray is probably having to radically rethink his career and his past views on xenophobia and nationalism, so my own trivial little project - representing every soldier in the British Army at Waterloo, has given me pause for thought. As a boy, all the books I read on Waterloo were extremely Anglocentric - if the Dutch-Belgians were mentioned at all it was only to describe their cowardice in fleeing the battlefield at the commencement and never being seen again. Mercer's line about Brunswick squares looking shaky was de rigour in every 1960s/1970s account. There was scant mention of the KGL and the British Guards held Hougoumont alone. Happily, this has now been set right and my shelves are full of excellent books that give a much broader and less jingoistic account of the battle. 
My focus on ONLY researching the British Army never had any patriotic element - I have always been interested in the story of the forgotten "unimportant" man in history, the lowly Private in the ranks, rather than the Wellingtons and Napoleons. If records existed for other nations as they do for the British army and were also kept a short train journey away at Kew in west London, then I would have been just as interested in researching those other countries' records. 
All of this has been irrelevant until 2016 but since then all of my endless ranks of redcoats and fluttering Union Jacks have started to leave a slightly bad taste in my mouth. So, for the last few months I've been working on my first French regiment 1-to-1 scale to be ready for 29th March 2019, the date that the UK was originally scheduled to leave the European Union. The next few posts will be pictures of thee Dutch, Belgians, and Germans that I am currently working on. 

Here then is the 25ème Régiment d'Infanterie de Ligne - part of Marcognet's 3rd Division. My plan now is to (one day!) do the rest of this Division to represent it in its attack on Wellington's line. This formation advanced with each of its eight battalions in line, forming one huge column. Unfortunately, my garden table is not long enough to fit on even this one battalion when extended into line, so most of these pics show the battalion advancing in the more traditional column. The next battalion I do will be in greatcoats (much quicker!)

Grenadier compagnie

Grenadier compagnie

Voltiguer compagnie

Voltiguer compagnie

1ere Compagnie

1ere Compagnie

2eme Compagnie

3eme Compagnie

The figs are nearly all Perry plastics, bolstered by a few Perry metals and Calpe and Victrix officers. The mounted Colonel and adjutant didn't make the deadline! They're nearly finished and will be added soon.
One small obstacle was finding enough Sergeants - although Perry and Calpe make some (with musket carried in right arm), they were either with discs (not pompoms) or in greatcoats. So, I set about trying to make some conversions:


Some of them I really like, some of them are a bit rough and ready! The guys in gaiters make me smile, they remind me of the Airfix French that started me off all those years ago.

And finally some corporals

Flank company corporals

Centre company corporals
So that brings me to the end of this rather atypical post. I generally paint toy soldiers to get away from the depressing aspects of the world so I won't use this blog to rant again. Hopefully, you can forgive this one-off outburst and enjoy these pics!