Friday, June 28, 2013

Tirailleurs Corse

Thought I'd get these guys out in short order as I had them on the painting table for the last two weeks.  They are a bit of a hotch-potch and the recruiting sergeant cast a wide net for these lot, drafting them from wherever he could find them!  The figures include Victrix and Perry's plastics, Foundry, Perrys, Elite and even an old Hinchcliffe in amongst them!  Amazingly, they don't appear too out of place together - although that was more accident than design.

Tirailleurs Corses - Voltigeur, Carabinier and Tirailleur companies
Basically I scrounged 24 figures to put together a battalion of the famous Corsican Tirailleurs light infantry (known for obvious reasons as 'the Cousins' - Napoleon himself being from Corsica).  The idea is for a forthcoming game based on the battle of Ebelsberg in the 1809 campaign where these guys were prominent in charging across the 500 meter long bridge over the Traun river against huge odds into the Austrian held town, while under fire all the way.  It was a prodigious feat of arms but they were nearly wiped out in an equally heroic Austrian counter-charge by the newly recruited boys of the Vienna Volunteers Landwehr.  Napoleon was reportedly not well pleased with the horrendous butcher's bill for Ebelsberg which included over 500 men of the 900 strong Corsican veterans.

Voltigeur (yellow plumes) and Carabinier companies (red facings and green plumes)
Tirailleur companies
I have to say that I didn't actually paint any of these from scratch but rather converted them from other French and Italian figures.  As well as a fair bit of re-basing, it required repainting them in the famous Corsican (also shared with their cousins, the northern Italian Tirailleurs du Po) poo-brown uniform.  Actually its almost the same kind of brown as the Austrian artillerymen - a nice reddy-brown rather than tan or earth tones.

Carabinier company (ex-Italian line)
Voltigeur company (also formerly Italians)
Tirailleur companies - mix of figures with Perry's, Foundry, Elite and can you spot the old Hinchcliffe?
The sole Hinchcliffe figure is a survivor of the first metal figures that I acquired in my teens.  He's a real Lazarus and this latest uniform is about his fourth reincarnation!

I do like to use some marching casualty figures 

After Wagram the survivors of both Tirailleur battalions, reportedly around 300 effectives from about 1600 at the start of the campaign, were amalgamated with the 13th Legere, itself largely depleted from the action it saw in the 1809 - particularly at Ebelsberg.

Well, back to the Austrians again - I've still got a mountain of metal to paint up.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Austrian 'Wurst' Gun, Crew and Limber

Just completed one of the most challenging models I've put together in some time - one of the Perry's latest releases from their metal range of the Napoleonic Austrian army: the 'WurstKanone' with crew, limber and team.  Its a huge metal model - together with some of the Russian gun limbers, one of the largest Perry's make.  The metal kit consists of six horses, three of which have the 'Fuhrwesen' teamsters molded with the horse, the seven part limber (seven parts!), the 6 pdr gun and four man crew.  

Its a beautiful model and up to the Perry's usual high standard.  The poses of the teamsters and gun crew are fantastic with one leaning on his pommel while his horse crops the grass, another twisting in the saddle - so I've got him talking to the gun crew Kaporal who's probably telling him not to take off before the crew are properly perched on their precarious looking 'sausage seat' on the gun trail (and from whence the gun got its name).  I note there are no handrails or anything to hold onto, just a foot-rail on either side of the seat, so you'd think going at anything faster than a brisk trot could be a tad risky!

Although beautifully made, putting the limber together with its very fine metal parts and the two-piece limber shaft was a real pig! There are plenty of limber pieces - more than you'll need, so that putting the team together even with (if you were a real pedant) fine jeweler's chain is distinctly possible.

There is some flash on it here and there, requiring a bit of clean up with scalpel and fine file before gluing etc. Because of its size (its over 26 cm long) I decided to approach it a bit at a time, including dividing the base into three.  Once I'd finished putting the limber and gun together (the limber over and over again!), I base coated and painted all the figures horses and pieces separately.  Once these were just about finished - I did the mounted teamsters first on the middle base section, removing them from the paint sticks. [A word of warning here: I use a hot glue gun to put 'em on wooden ice cream sticks - don't overdo it with the hot glue!  The horse and figure bases are quite thin and will bend and break when removing them from the paint sticks unless very careful!]  After a few anxious moments I mounted the three teamsters & horses on the main base and let dry while I finished the gun, crew and limber.

I decided to mount up the gun on a separate base so that the limber can be used with or without and with a full six horse team or four (thinking about the size and the room it takes up on the wargaming table here).

The crew mounting up on the 'sausage seat'
The corporal has a word...
A precarious looking enterprise
The idea of just having a limber is so it can deploy behind the battery (once I've finished it!) or be limbered up - (about to be) on the move as it were.  The other piece I've got to go with this is the Austrian horse artillery caisson - it also looks like its going to be challenge!  Artillery batteries with attendant limbers, caissons, extra gun-handlers as well as the guns and crews themselves were an enormous enterprise and quite difficult to represent on the wargaming table.  The sheer room the establishment of a three or four gun battery requires would be just too prohibitive - mind you, if you were of a mind to, Perry's produce all the bits and bobs you'll need for any of the main armies. I did see one done once of a French battery with 'hired help' resting limbers, caissons - the lot.  The full thing looked magnificent but would have taken up a sizeable chunk of an average table!  What I want to do is have that higher level of detail but take up the minimum space.  At least that's the plan!

Four horse team and limber section

Detachable lead team
The gun and crew also presented a bit of a challenge to base separately as the gun trail had to be able to be mounted on the limber as well.  I'll just have to remember to lift it separately when I put it on the table for a game!

Gun base section
The thing to remember is that Austria was the only major army NOT to have true horse artillery!  The 'Wurst Kanone' were the closest thing that they did field - more of a mobile artillery than a true horse artillery.  I don't believe they moved anywhere near the speed of the cavalry they were meant to support - certainly not comparable with the French, Russian, British or even Prussian versions.  Limbered up with crew straddling the long gun seat they reportedly moved at a brisk trot at best.  These were not sprung so you can imagine it would have been a fairly bone-jarring trip across the battlefield before leaping off to unlimber and deploy.  The seat could be removed but it was often left on during action so they could rapidly limber up and move at a moment's notice - even if they didn't travel that fast!  Nonetheless they were a mobile artillery and considered themselves elite artillerymen - the Austrian artillery was never less than proficient and at least as professional as their French opponents, even if tactically they didn't match the French use of artillery.

So, a 'Wurst' battery is a must-have for any respectable Austrian army - one limber down, one caisson and battery to go!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Egyptian Campaign: Regiment des Dromadaires command

Well I finished this eclectic little group of camel-mounted Froggies and am quite pleased with the result.  They were hanging around for ages half done and I decided on impulse to do something a bit different and the choice fell between my WW1 Belgian Minerva armoured car and the French Camel Corps or Regiment des Dromadaires mounted command group.  I did some more work on the Minerva but in the end couldn't resist the exotic French cameleers. They certainly were a colourful lot.

The most exotic unit of the French Armee d'Orient,  the Camel Corps was first raised in April 1799 while Desaix was given the Mission Impossible task of pursuing Murad Bey and the remaining Mamelukes up the Nile valley all the way to the Cataracts and even into what is present day Sudan with an infantry force supported by a small gunboat flotilla.

Desaix' campaign was launched from Giza at the end of August 1798 with less than 3,000 infantry and two guns. Some of his infantry were camel mounted but there were unlikely to be more than a few squadrons i.e. 2-300 men, who acted as a scouting force in the absence of cavalry. He was reinforced in January 1799 with 1,000 cavalry but at the time at Samhud (over 300 miles south of Giza & the largest engagement of the campaign) still faced 5,000 foot, 2,000 'Meccans" (think of an ancient version of Taliban fanatics!) 7,000 Arab horse as well as 2,000 Mamelukes!  In nine months Desaix had marched over 5,000 miles and cleared the Nile of the Mamelukes and their allies, completely defeating them. It was an astounding feat of arms made with a totally inadequate and hopelessly outnumbered force that nevertheless succeeded in hounding the Mameluke threat virtually out of existence. If you want to read about it I recommend Strahan's excellent  'Napoleon In Egypt' (see one of my previous posts on it) and equally US historian J. Christopher Herold's 'Bonaparte In Egypt' - perhaps the best reference on the Egyptian campaign.

Once occupied, the French found that maintaining a military presence over such a vast area could not be done with precious few cavalry (which were soon needed by Napoleon for the Syrian campaign anyway) and isolated infantry posts.  After loosing one or two and having several hundred men slaughtered they realised that a mobile force was needed to police the huge distances involved and the best way to do it was by mounting a sufficient force on camels.

Due to the general initial chronic shortage of cavalry and horses, small cavalry units had been mounted on camels after the Battle of the Pyramids but it wasn't until April 1799 that Napoleon ordered the formation of a regiment.  The men were drawn from grenadier companies and amalgamated with Desaix' camel mounted infantry, ultimately numbering around 700 men in three squadrons with a company on foot.  The regiment acted like a desert dragoon force - so essentially mounted infantry - which explains why they quickly abandoned the idea of putting trained cavalrymen on camels!

According to my precious copy of the old Blanford's "Uniforms of the French Revolutionary Wars', the uniform was all over the place - and quite complex.  Some wore this, some wore that and at different times as French uniform supplies were initially chaotic after they quickly abandoned their heavy wool jackets for anything lighter!  The only consistency was the sky blue with bright red facings.

As can be seen with two of my figures, an early experiment was the two-seater pannier arrangement which was eventually abandoned for the more practical single seat.  As one came with what appeared to be an officer figure seated behind the turbaned trooper, I made another from Victrix and Perry plastic bits and bobs.

The regiment carried lances amongst a wide variety of weapons but these too were abandoned for the more useful infantry muskets. According to the Blandford through attrition by March 1800 they only numbered one squadron of 250, supported by a company of about 100 men on foot; the regiment disbanded when the French left Egypt in 1801.

Personally I would have liked to collect the entire Armee d'Orient but I've seen few figures I like and few here collect the same period or more importantly, their opponents in the campaign - the huge varieties of Arabs from armed peasant felaheen to horsemen, Saudi fanatics, Albanian and even Greek mercenaries and of course, the magnificently attired and armed-to-the-teeth Mamelukes.  Oh, and not forgetting the Brits who helped kick Napoleon out of Syria and eventually the French out of Egypt.  Perhaps one day I will collect them all but for the moment I have more Austrians to paint!

Au Revoir mes Amies from the Regiment des Dromadaires of the Armee d'Orient!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Very tardy but some more Napoleonics painted

Gearing up to start work again (part-time) and trying to get all the domestic projects completed or well on the way before I start has meant that posting on the blog and gaming have taken a bit of a backseat in the last few weeks.  Nonetheless I have managed to get some of the small mountain of Perry's lead I have purchased painted.  In fact I have managed to paint and base (making my own bases) over 140 Austrian foot and two mounted officers in the last month or so in addition to close to a hundred casualty markers including the latest set of Perry's Russian casualties, my favorite of which is the two fusiliers carrying a wounded officer on a musket. Because they are so unique I decided to lavish a bit more time and detail on them.

Like the other casualty markers I have mounted them on a numbered card base so that each can represent up to four casualties per marker - not quite as many as a D6 dice but aesthetically much more pleasing on the game table. If I have a criticism of the Perry's it is in the quality of the finishing of their metal figures.  They are a bit rough with quite a bit of casting flash on all the figures which can be quite hard to detect and clean off before painting. Fine tendrils of metal fold back on the figure and are difficult to discern. I presume this is the result of high volume casting due to the demand for them but at the end of the day it is a quality control issue that most other figure manufacturers manage to avoid.  That said, they are beautiful figures and with the high level of fine detail, thoroughly enjoyable to paint.  I note also that the quality of their plastic figures continues to improve - I have encountered few such problems with of the recent Perry's boxes of plastics.

In addition to finishing the 36-figure battalion of Austrian 'German' line in helmets, I also did a second battalion of Landwehr (so two full units of 32 with their mounted Oberst). I have a second battalion of helmeted German line in metal but I may take my time painting them up as there are plenty of others I have prepped and ready to go. The latest lot of metals finished are the Hungarian Grenadiers.  Again, the same high quality of figure and the results you get more than makes up for the annoying casting flash and the occasional bent base (which can make an alarming crackling sound when straightened out!)

If you guessed the mounted officer in the middle doesn't look like a Perry's you'd be right.  He's a conversion with an old Essex Grenadier head on a plastic Victrix mounted officer - having two mounted figures in the box of Landwehr turned out quite handy - I think he fits in quite well.

The Austrian army didn't have a dedicated elite such as guard units but they combined the grenadier companies of various regiments into battalions that formed grenadier brigades.  Each regiment had two companies forming the grenadier division, three of these regimental divisions formed a grenadier battalion,  named after a regimental Inhaber (literally the owner) or the colonel who led them. These units were the Austrian's shock troops and considered the elite of the army.  I've painted the battalion to represent the Hungarian Grenadier Battalion Scharlach considered one of the better battalions (the elite of the elite as it were) as they were drawn from some of the best Hungarian regiments in the Austrian army - IR's 31 (Benjowski) 32 (Gyulai) & 51 (Splenyi). Others included Puteani (I bet the Italians had a laugh at that one), Scovaud - the latter drawn from from IR 4 (Hoch & Deutschmeister), IR 49 (Kerpen) and IR 63 (Bianchi).

Hungarian companies were 200-240 men (German 160-80) on average, with six companies per battalion roughly 1000-1400 men which I've represented by a 24 figure unit (or 20 figures for a German battalion).  Brigade sizes varied enormously so that in 1809 Kienmeyer's Reserve Division was 5 battalions strong whereas Lichtenstein's (involved in the assault on the granary at Aspen) was a huge 12 battalions. Being a heretic I have made a 32 figure battalion so they keep in roughly with the rest of my Austrian units (bugger history - its all dodgy anyway!)  Actually, for Black Powder you can use battalions ranging from 24 to a massive 48 figures per unit and you'll still be historically accurate.  I now have a total of 64 grenadiers with a mounted officer that I can divide into either two or three units, whichever best fits any particular wargaming scenario.

The grenadier division from IR 51 Splenyi in Grenadier Bttn Scharlach
Like I said, I have a mountain of stuff still to paint and my next major will likely be the new Austrian Wurst limber and gun, followed by the rest of the battery - Austria's unusual version of horse artillery.  But before I embark on this I will make a minor diversion and finish my Egyptian campaign French Camel Corps figures.  I'd love to collect the entire French army from this period - its the great 'what-if' of Napoleonic wargaming and one mostly overlooked.  I can't remember how I acquired these but a Revolutionary French in Egypt unit was one of the first I ever painted when I started to get back into Napoleonic wargaming about 15 years ago and I've been fascinated by the period ever since.

Nearly done - I'll finish and base them and post the results hopefully next week.  I don't know what make they are (Essex maybe?) with a plastic converted figure seated behind the camel trooper second from left. Well, that's enough for now.  I apologise for not looking in on many of my blogging mate's blogs over the last few weeks but I hope to make amends before the end of the month when I'm likely starting back at the daily grind again!