Thursday, 23 December 2021

3rd Chasseurs a Pied


 So, it's been a long time - had a lot on my plate and never seems to be enough time to do the research, AND paint these armies, AND do this blog. I actually took these . pics over a year ago but it's taken until now to get round to putting them up on the blog. Part of the delay comes from being in the process of trying to write an article about this unit - perhaps to publish online somewhere - and not wanting to post the pics of the figs without the research (who they all were, the history behind this unit and its make up in June 1815). But I've decided it might be years yet till I finish that so I'll just put the pics here and the accompanying data and stories will hopefully follow later on at some point. 


The 3rd Chasseurs, part of what was referred to as the Middle Guard - was only formed in May 1815 so, as a unit, they had been together for less than 2 months when they marched up that slope in a brave attempt to finally crack the Allied line. 


The battalion was formed of 4 companies - each of around 200-250 men. Of these almost exactly half were ex-Imperial Guardsmen - largely ex-Young Guard, who had been formed into the Chasseurs a Pied de France on Napoleon's exile to Elba. 


The other half were drafted from pretty much every infantry regiment in the French army - 18 men from the 59 Ligne, 9 from the 4 Legere, 34 men from the 39 Ligne, 3 men from the 101 Ligne, and so on. 
Many of these men were Serjeants or Corporals in their original regiments but on transfer lost their rank and just became "Chasseurs".


They were largely veterans of many campaigns - many of them were survivors of Russia and a large number had spent years in Spain and Portugal. 


One striking feature was the high percentage who had spent years as prisoners of war - some for over 10 years - and had only been released in the peace of 1814. Some poor souls released in Russia, had only made it back to France in 1815, just in time to be pressed back into service! It makes one wonder what kind of physical and mental state this troops must have been in. 



I've tried to reflect what I imagine must have been quite a ersatz hotchpotch situation regarding uniform and equipment - and have mixed Chasseur uniforms with line uniforms. 





A huge thank you to Steve from Victrix who was extremely kind and sent me some spare sprues of their excellent Chasseurs a Pied. Victrix make up the bulk of three of the four companies. 


The fourth of the 4 companies is comprised of Perry metals and converted plastics. I had great fun with these - you might also spot some old Foundry figures mixed in at the back. I've probably committed all manner of sins regarding wrong buttons and plumes etc but will hide behind the "ragtag army" defence and pretend such "errors" were in fact all carefully considered and deliberate. 






As I say, this project is actually over a year old and since then I've also completed a squadron of French dragoons and a squadron of French line Chasseurs a Cheval, both at 1:1. Photos of those to follow in the New Year, I hope. 

Until then, Merry Christmas all and let's hope things start getting better in 2022!

Friday, 14 August 2020

No.1 Company 2nd Light Battalion KGL

 Back in January, in the good old days before Covid, I made yet another pilgrimage to Kew to spend another day of research for my Waterloo database. This time I turned my attention to the KGL - as mentioned in a previous post, I'd started to feel as if I might be "doing a Silborne" in only focussing on the British and wanted to include other nations on this blog. I had already transcribed the KGL Waterloo rollcall (nearly 20 years ago now!) and knew that I'd come back to it one day and fill in some of the blanks. So the day at Kew was spent making copies of musters and other documents to build up the same level of detail at Company-level as I'd done for all the homegrown British regiments.

At the same time, I thought I'd put together a company at 1:1 in 28mm and used Calpe, Perry and few bits of Victrix. I decided to do all of these men with muskets but I now realise that, although accounts differ, at least half the men of this battalion were armed with rifles - so I'll need to go back and add a similar number of rifle-armed figs and spread them out across the 6 companies present.

This battalion, like it's companion the 1st Light, was a battle-hardened unit in which most men had enlisted 1803-1805 and virtually all had fought in countless actions throughout the Peninsula War. They were veterans of Salamanca, Vitoria, and numerous other battles. At Waterloo, famously, they were tasked with garrisoning the farm of La Haye Sainte and fought furiously throughout the day to repel repeated French attack, only finally being forced out through want of ammunition around 6pm.


On taking over the farm, the commanding officer, Major George Baring, posted three companies in the orchard enclosed by hedging to the south of the farm, two companies in the buildings, and one company in the enclosed garden to the north of the farm. 
It seems that Number 1 company was one of the three companies in the orchard and was pushed back during the first massed French attack so that all three companies were within the farm's walls. The main source for this company is the reminiscences of Private Frederick Lindau, whose memoirs were published in 1846.  He describes being in the orchard at the start and then spending most of the battle defending the main gate. 

There is no list of casualties for the battalion that I know of but by going through all of the musters I have managed to produce my own statistics for the six companies. While it is impossible to ever know what number of men were only slightly wounded and thus present on the muster of 24th June, (doubtless with an interesting array of cuts, bruises, bandages and ripped and singed uniforms), the number of men suddenly "sick absent" on the muster can be counted. From these it seems the 1st Company suffered considerably higher casualties than the rest of the battalion, suggesting they were, as Lindau so graphically describes, in the thick of brutal fighting all day.

1st Company - 40% confirmed casualties
2nd Company - 11%
3rd Company - 26%
4th Company - 25%
5th Company - 14%
6th Company - 30%

Here then are my men of the 1st Company.

One day I'd like to build my own La Haye Saint for these guys to defend, but until then, this will have to do. 




(From left to right) - Corporal Diedrich Eichler (wounded), Bugleman Adrian Van Dyk,  Private John Landzettel (wounded),  Private Frederick Lindau (wounded - see below), Corporal Henry Holtze (wounded), Colour Serjeant Lewis Schmidt, Private Christian Wellerschied (taken prisoner), Private Jurgen Hartz (wounded), Private Gottfried Zens (wounded). 

Lindau describes using his scarf to bandage his head after being wounded by a musket ball. This wound troubled him greatly after Waterloo ("things appeared larger than they were") and he applied for and received a Discharge in October 1815. Unfortunately for me, he also clearly mentions fighting all day using a rifle, so this chap with a musket will have to take on a new identity!

Lindau writes of his "back-up man", Jurgen Hartz, waking him on the morning of Waterloo having had a premonition "‘Get up and give me some wine! Today will be a hot day, and I will be killed, because I just had a dream that I was hit by a shot in my body; it did not hurt at all, and I fell peacefully asleep again.’ ‘Dreams don’t mean anything,’ was my reply, and ‘Come on now, they are working on a barricade. We will help, to make us warm up; there is no wine left’. Lindau goes on to describe, during the battle, "My friend Harz fell down by my side from a ball through his body.". But Lindau was exaggerating the extent of Harz's death for dramatic impact, as Jurgen Hartz did not die and appears on the musters "sick absent" on June 24th 1815 and then sent to Colchester 1st September. 

Serjeant Lewis Schmidt was an old friend of Lindau's and had once snuggled up with the latter inside an oxhide for warmth during the icy retreat from Burgos. Just before Salamanca in 1812, Lindau had rescued Schmidt from a Spanish peasant who attempted to push him into a ditch and murder him for his jacket's pewter buttons, which he had believed were silver. 

Bugleman Adrian Van Dyk's Dutch name is interesting. There were several Dutch soldiers in the battalion (e.g. Henry Weissleder, also of No.1 Company) who, under French rule, had been sent to garrison the town of Hamelin in Hannover but instead deserted and, travelled to England to join the KGL.




I will try (some day!) to do more companies of this battalion but who knows when that will be! The second battalion were bolstered by two companies of the first battalion, the light company of the 5th KGL line, and 200 Nassauers. I would like to add them some day too. Too many units, not enough time. If I can just live to be 278 (and win the lottery), I should get them all done. 

Saturday, 18 July 2020

45e Ligne - Voltigeur Company

Following on from the previous post, here is the missing company - the Voltigeurs. There are about 60 men in the company - too many to easily fit in one photo - so here are lots of pics of small groups.




















Figs are a mix of Perry metals, and Victrix/Perry plastic conversions. The officers are by Calpe.





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.