Saturday, August 22, 2020

French in Egypt Project - Part IV some more cavalry & artillery

Two welcome events in the last week have cheered me up no end - our local club is coming out of Covid lockdown and commencing operations (and gaming!) again. Woohoo! And my last order from Brigade finally arrived on my doorstep last week. That has enabled me to finish my Dragoons and eventually the rest of my Army of the Orient - so the end is finally in sight! (sort of...) Although there's a small mountain of lead still to go this has been a reasonably productive two weeks or so.

 The figure production for the last fortnight or so - minus the General finished earlier.

All the figures this time are Brigade (sculpted in the UK by the talented Paul Hicks) starting with the Foot Artillery (in Bicorne). There are two 6pdrs with crews loading and firing - love the poses!

I like the idea of the gun commander yelling at the rammer not to swab the barrel before the vent-man seals the touch-hole. The vent-man is equipped with a peculiar leather glove with the thumb that seals the touch-hole to stop air getting into the barrel and potentially igniting waste powder before it can be swabbed out prior to reloading. Hicks' figure is the best I've seen depicting this vital crew member in action. 

The next lot are the dismounted Dragoons. For the campaign French cavalry arrived in Egypt with less than 800 horses, Napoleon thinking they would source locally the 12,000 or so he thought would be required. As it transpired they fell far short of finding this number and much of the cavalry were dismounted at the start of the campaign. Some Dragoons and the Guides were issued with infantry packs, trousers and boots and at least for the early part of the campaign, marched and fought as infantry (the Guides were in fact originally organised as both mounted and foot units). Tactically even when mounted they sheltered in infantry squares and/or dismounted to form square rather than taking on the Mamelukes hand-to-hand, the latter being better mounted and equipped (and arguably the superior horsemen!) Brigade also include sets of Dragoon horse-holders as well as those equipped as infantry. 

The Dragoons represented Davout's reinforcements for Desaix which including the 7th bis Hussars & 22nd Chasseurs consisted of a squadron each of the 15th, 18th, 20th and 24th Dragoons, with an artillery detachment so a mounted force of about a 1,000 in all. Facing colours for the 15th & 18th were yellow (jaune) and pink (rose) for the 20 & 24th. I now have just a unit each of Chasseurs and mounted Guides to paint so I've painted one of the Guides up as an escort for the General de Division.

The Guides were an interesting lot, going on to form the basis of the Consular and eventually Imperial Guard. Many adopted Eastern garb with their uniforms while in Egypt so I'm going to add the odd burnoose cloak etc, to give them that authentic Egyptian look!

As well as painting I'm also looking forward to getting back into a game or two next week - at long last!

Au revoir for now.


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

French in Egypt Project - part III: nearing completion (sort of)

My French in Egypt project has made further progress with more infantry, cavalry and artillery added to my 'Armee l'Orient': an extra battalion for the 21st Legere DB (historically they had three) plus one of the 61st Ligne DB which together with the mauve coats of the 88th completes the representation of Desaix' original infantry force. 

For cavalry there is a small unit (8 figures of unknown make - Eureka? Trent? ??) of the 7th bis Hussars which I have done in their tenue de embarcation - basically their original European uniform with the conical mirliton. 

Like the rest of the French army they soon wore out or replaced their heavy European uniforms but I'm guessing for the cavalry like the Hussars their first priority was obtaining suitable horses (most arrived in Egypt sans cheval ) so they still could have had mirlitons etc, at the time of the Desaix expedition down the Nile. For the purists there are a lovely line of Perrys French Hussars in their Kleber clobber with peaked shakos etc. which they wore by 1800.  For my cavalry force (still a regiment of Guides/Chasseurs to go) I also have the gorgeous Perry's French-in-Egypt Horse Artillery. Really superb figures and beautifully made guns and equipment. To complete the artillery compliment I will have another two 6pdr Foot artillery (in Bicorne) and two with crew in Kleber. Those in bicorne are currently on the painting table.

For the infantry of the 61st DB I used the Perrys figures I'd ordered but found I did not have enough in elite uniform so had to literally make them up from their very useful box of French Elite Companies (1807-1814) using their metal bicorne heads and some green stuff for neckflaps which seems to work. Currently awaiting my final order from Brigade of more wonderful Paul Hicks sculpted infantry (in Kleber) with enough elites in bicorne and some dismounted Dragoons (they fought as much on foot in square as on horseback - nobody wanted to mess with ferocious mounted Mamelukes in hand-to-hand!) 

Above includes the grenadier company (of about 60-80 men, one per battalion) in bicorne which they favoured over the Kleber leather casket - some even kept their bearskins which must have been hell to wear and maintain in the desert! The last one above is of the Demi-Brigade sharpshooter unit which was the forerunner of the Voltigeur light infantry company. The Demi-Brigade battalions were reorganised in Egypt into one elite (grenadier) and five line companies as opposed to one (smaller) elite and eight(!) line companies so I've made mine 24 figures on six 4 figure stands, with the elites/sharpshooters on two figure stands to represent their ability to skirmish although those tactics were not much called for in Egypt!

Last but not least - the Horse Artillery. Ironically they rode but the guns were pulled on limbers operated by a contracted civilian service. At that time in France the artillery train service was being organised as a part of the military but this was not the case with the Army of the Orient. Perrys show them in plain mustard-coloured tunics and bicornes without ornament which is a pity as somehow I have THREE limbers with riders in plumed bicornes etc. I may make one up with a bit a scalpel work as a civvy haulage a la Egypt! 

Sacre Bleu! Les Mamelukes - tirrez mon braves!

Nearly done with the force so far now consisting of 4 x bttn @ 24, 2 x bttn @ 18, 1 x bttn @ 16 of infantry, Dromadaire & 1 x regt @ 12 and 1 x regt @ 8 (bis!) of cavalry, 2 x 6pdr guns (Horse Arty), 1 x 6pdr with Naval crew (5) & 10 dismounted Dromadaire, two mounted Generals. 
O la vache!

Its starting to take shape now which is good as our local sports club at which our wargaming group used to meet has just announced they're coming out of Covid lockdown and resuming operations so hopefully not too long before we can stage a decent game again. Hopefully.

Cheers, Doc