Saturday 9 September 2023

8e Régiment de Cuirassiers

 A squadron of the 8ème cuirassiers

Onwards, then with this project within a project – to produce a squadron of each of the 4 regiments of L’Heritier’s 11th Heavy Cavalry Division. The division was made up of two dragoon regiments – the 2nd and 7th – and two cuirassier regimets – the 8th and 11th. I feel I’ve come back to my origins – this obsession began as a child in the 1970s with Airfix cuirassiers charging Airfix highlanders.

French squadrons were commanded by a Chef d’escadron and comprised 2 companies, each led by a captain. L’Heritier’s cuirassiers (the 8th and 11th) were heavily involved at Quatre Bras and suffered significant casualties. It’s therefore difficult to imagine that either regiment was able to field more than 50-60% of it’s total strength at Waterloo two days later. Sources give a nominal strength of around 300 men divided into 3 squadrons, so that would mean the regiment had been reduced to maybe 3 squadrons of 50 men each at Waterloo. Therefore, the Perry figures shown here probably represent more like 2 squadrons on 18th June.

It was the 8ème cuirassiers who caused such carnage among Halkett’s brigade at Quatre Bras, taking a colour from the 69th (South Lincolnshire) Foot. Pattison of the 33rd Foot writes:

 "A large body of French cuirassiers…dashed in amongst them [the 69th], when a terrible sabring ensued.  One of the officers (Volunteer Clarke) who carried the regimental colours was hacked and cut in a fearful manner.  Notwithstanding this he preserved the standard; but the other colour was wrenched from the hands of the officer who bore it, and carried off as a trophy of success."

Looking at the casualties of the 69th, there is no obvious candidate for who the unfortunate unnamed officer was. Only one Ensign of the 69th was wounded – Edward Hodder – but he received his wound at Waterloo. Presumably, then, the Ensign who lost the King’s Colour, had the pole snatched from him but escaped the cuirassiers’ sabres. Trumpeter Jean Baptiste Charonnet of the 8ème describes the savage, frantic struggle:

“The three sides of the square of the 69th was literally marked out by the dead. In the middle of the square the Lieutenant-Colonel and the Colour bearer were lying on the ground making no movement, the latter still held the Colour in his hand, for which he was killed.  Cuirassier Henry jumped to the ground and snatched the Colour. In order to mount his horse as quickly as possible, he passed his precious trophy to Brigadier Borgnes who was close to him. Borgnes galloped away, taking the Colour with him, followed by Henry, who had been able to remount his horse. Borgnes arrived in front of the regiment, and was saluted by the Cuirassiers with loud cheering." (From Franklin's French Forces at QB)

It's interesting that Charonnet describes the Colour bearer of the 69th being killed – it’s possible that it was being carried by a lieutenant rather than an ensign, in which case a possible candidate is Lieutenant Edmund Wightwick, who died of his wounds the day after Quatre Bras - the only fatality among the junior officers of the 69th.

Of immeasurable help in this research has been this book by Olivier Lapray - I really cannot recommend it enough. This is a proper history book by a proper historian i.e. based on painstaking research unearthing new data from original sources (rather than, say, books on the subject which merely rehash the same oft-repeated memoirs and letters). This marvellous tome lists every officer who served in all 14 cuirassier regiments during the First Empire, and provides biographical info for each man. In addition to this colossal achievement, there are a wealth of wonderful illustrations – portraits, drawings, photos of original equipment, and very helpful charts and diagrams of formations and uniform distinctions.

The 8ème were commanded by Colonel Antoine Laurent Marie Garavaque who rode a black horse at Waterloo. 

All three Chef’s d’Escadron were wounded - Henry Guillaume de Bassoncourt at Quatre Bras, Pierre Bisson and Gabrielle Gadrad at Waterloo. Three lieutenants and four sous-lieutenants were also wounded, all of them except one at Quatre Bras.

Chef d'Escadron Henry Guillaume de Bassoncourt - wounded at Quatre Bras


Thursday 15 June 2023

French 2nd Dragoons

 Happy Quatre Bras Day!

Here are the French 2nd Dragoons - I did these a year or so ago, but have only just got round to taking some pics. The plan is to do Lhéritier's 11th Cavalry Division - so that's 2nd and 7th Dragoons, and 8th and 11th Cuirassiers. 

At Waterloo, the 2nd Dragoons were commanded by 
Colonel Planzeaux, and numbered around 550 men in the field. Not the best choice for Quatre Bras as I don't think they were engaged on the day! My hazy understanding is that the 1st Brigade (the two Dragoon regiments) did not arrive in time to take part, but the 2nd brigade (the two Cuirassier regiments) certianly did and were heavily engaged. 

The 2nd Dragoons consisted of 4 squadrons in 1815, each probably of just over 100 men. This lot here then only represent a quarter - another 3/4 to go!

The eagle-eyed will doubtless already have spotted that they are all sans carbine/musket/fusil. I will add them some day soon, hopefully. 

At Waterloo on the 18th June all four regiments were thrown at the allied squares in vain,

All figures are Perry plastics, an absolute joy to paint. 

Impossible to get a decent photo of the whole unit!

Next up - the 8th Cuirassiers. I've nearly finished the first squadron, and will try to post for Waterloo Day.

Thursday 11 May 2023

French artillery battery

Back after a long break! For a number of reasons have not done any painting since 2021 and wasn't sure I'd ever get back again. But all good now, and back to the project. I'm currently working on Cuirassiers and Hanoverians but in the meantime I'm going to post some pics of my last few projects from 2021. This is the first of these: a battery of French artilley. I'm aware there should be 8 guns - I'll add them one day!

Figures are a mix of Perry, Victrix and a few others. 

Here are some more - the sun was a bit bright, it's better to take photos on a cloudy day.

Next up, some French staff, or some French dragoons, I think. Will try to post them soon.

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!