My most important posting ever

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This is such an important message that I  believe it warrants being on my blog, despite having nothing to do with the hobby (other than that there may be no hobby for many of us if we don’t take action).

I want to promote this comic-strip by cartoonist Toby Morris, helped by Dr Siouxsie Wiles, who is fast becoming New Zealand’s most well-known face of the science-based approach to stopping the pandemic: https://thespinoff.co.nz/covid-19/25-03-2020/the-side-eye-viruses-vs-everyone/

The strip explains really well how the virus works, and what we need to do to break the chain.

Keep safe everyone. Maybe we can reduce our lead mountains whilst we are locked down!

 

 

 

A HUGE battalion of Gardes Françaises

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Phew, this was quite some painting effort: sixty-six privates, along with four NCOs, three officer, two ensigns, and three drummers – a total of 78 figures!

They depict Le Régiment des Gardes Françaises, an infantry regiment of the Military Household of the King of France under the 18th century Ancien Régime.

These Gardes Françaises will join my ‘imagi-nation of the Barryat of Lyndonia (which featured in Wargames Illustrated 385, Nov 2019).  I just have to come up with a good back-story of why they are there!

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My favourite figure in this unit has to be the stately officer saluting with his hat.  Crann Tara Miniatures have really excelled with the sculpting, anatomy and posture, perfectly conveying the image of  the archetypal 18th century gentleman officer.

I’ve painted this unit almost entirely with GW’s Contrast paints. These worked beautifully, flowing well and providing shading with no effort from me. Just look at the officer’s stockings, the wood of the muskets, and the men’s faces – this shading all  happened by itself!

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Behind the ranks you can see (left) an NCO keeping his men in place with his spontoon, (centre) the colour party carrying the splendid flags of this regiment, and (right) the mounted colonel – he’s actually a borrowed Minden Miniatures general, but he’ll do as the colonel at a pinch.

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At the left of this picture there’s another NCO marching along carrying his spontoon.  In the centre are the three drummers, wearing their intricately laced uniforms (a real challenge to paint!).

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Here’s the massed effect of the whole battalion in line, officers to the front, NCOs to the side and rear, drummers on the flank.

The unit looks pretty impressive when the camera pans along the whole line, with its frontage of nearly half a metre. 

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… and here they are from the rear, flags fluttering and the colonel commanding his men from horseback.

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Before I based these figures, I arranged them for a photo-shoot to recreate my favourite military painting, Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux’s The Battle of Fontenoy, 1745: The French and the Allies Confronting Each Other. You can see more pictures of this recreated painting here.

 

Motorised Foreign Legion security patrol in 1930s Morocco

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Based in dispersed forts in the southern wilderness of Morocco and Algeria during the 1930s, the French Foreign Legion’s motorised companies ‘maintained an efficient net of surveillance over the tribal inhabitants of hundreds of thousands of square miles of some of the most arid and dangerous country on earth.

‘Patrols were very long and hazardous, being isolated with a few vehicles many hundreds of miles from help for months at a time.’

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I recently bought some Mad Bob Miniatures resin models depicting the Panhard armoured cars and trucks that would’ve been used on these long-distance patrols.

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I’ve painted them in the distinctive camouflage pattern used in the desert. However, I must admit that my yellow lines are a bit too hard-edged compared to the spray-painted lines on the real vehicles.

I’ve depicted the armoured car’s crew wearing their working dress of blue mécanicien denim, which made them look like any French factory worker. 

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The ungainly tall Panhard 165 TOE (Théâtres d’Opérations Extérieurs, or Foreign Theaters of Operation) offered reasonable speed, light-weight armored protection and good off-road performance. It was armed with a short-barreled 37mm gun and a machine gun.

They were designed for use in North Africa, where the first of them saw action against Moroccan insurgents.

That experience led to a modified version, the 175 AMD, with a strengthened suspension and an added station for a rearward-facing driver. These also went to North Africa. During the Second World War, they were in action against the Allies in Morocco and Syria and then the Axis powers in Tunisia.

The 165/175’s most striking visual characteristics were its uneven road-wheels, the rear pair being massive, supported by leaf springs. 

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During the Rif War in Morocco, France experimented with combined armoured columns and aviation. A troop carrier was required to quickly transport infantry units to the front of the column whenever the highly mobile and evasive rebel troops were spotted. To simplify maintenance and lower costs, Panhard proposed an adaptation of their 175 chassis.

The resulting Panhard 179 shared its mechanical elements with the Panhard 175. The rear was completely rebuilt as a compartment with doors at the rear and sides. Above the main armored box was a sloped roof with hatches for ventilation. A MAC 31 or FM 24/29 7.5 mm machine gun was placed at the right of the top structure.

It carried ‘in considerable discomfort’ an NCO commander, driver, machine gunner and seven riflemen, with two light machine guns. The soldiers were seated on back-to-back benches facing each wall. ‘Ergonomics was then an unknown science, and men’s physical wellbeing was not given a high priority in this early experiment with mechanised infantry in a desert environment.’

And imagine the sheer heat of driving in an enclosed metal box across the baking desert!

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While I was painting these models, I had in mind a small self-contained armoured column on an extended long-distance desert patrol. However, I don’t have (yet!) a tribal enemy for them to fight. So they will probably end up fighting in WW2 battles instead.

I’m a bit hazy about French vehicle markings. After selecting a door-badge for the two 179s, I later found out that the charging horseman insignia was actually used by a reconnaissance unit back in France – but it looks good, and that suits me!

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PS: Quoted text in this posting comes from books and magazine articles by renowned Foreign Legion expert, Martin Windrow.

At last! My favourite painting in miniature

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“Gentlemen, we never fire first; fire yourselves!”

Voltaire’s version of this famous episode as the British approached the French line during the Battle of Fontenoy has become proverbial. He wrote:

The English officers saluted the French by doffing their hats . . . the French, returned the greeting. My Lord Charles Hai, captain in the English Guards, cried, ‘Gentlemen of the French Guards, fire!’ The Comte d’Auteroche, then lieutenant of Grenadiers, shouted, ‘ Gentlemen, we never fire first ; fire yourselves.’

I’ve now painted enough Crann Tara figures of the Gardes Françaises to recreate my favourite-ever military painting: Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux’s The Battle of Fontenoy, 1745: The French and the Allies Confronting Each Other.

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The Gardes are all Crann Tara figures, apart from the mounted officer and the casualty, which are Minden Miniatures (as are the British in the background). Click on the above picture at the top to enlarge it.

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This is still only a portion of the figures I am painting for my Gardes regiment, which will eventually have 54 rank and file, along with many additional officers, NCOs and drummers.

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Painting Crann Tara’s 1/56th Gardes Françaises

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Being a public holiday today, I just couldn’t resist starting to paint some of the Crann Tara figures of the Gardes Françaises that I mentioned in my post yesterday about recreating my favourite battle painting.

These truly are exquisite figures. Getting close up with them during the painting process, I marveled at the complex undercuts and the fine detail. There was no guesswork required as to where each strap, belt and buckle was going, or how swords fitted under the clothing, as is so often the case with less finely sculpted figures.

I used GW Contrast paints  for the first time on these figures, instead of my normal black undercoat method. Working with a light undercoat was new to me, and I must say found it quite unforgiving of missed areas of painting.

But the Contrast paints themselves worked really well. I love the way they flow so beautifully, and create their own shading. The faces in particular have worked well, with no other painting required.

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The drummers’ lace was every bit as difficult as I had anticipated! Mind you, it was beautifully sculpted, and with a more exacting painting style, would probably respond really well.  However, even with my quick and ready style, I still manged to create a fair impression of the royal lace, especially at wargaming table distance.

I found the cravattes and tassels for the flag-poles in my spares box. They are somewhat out-of-scale, so I will have to replace them in due course.

Now, just a few NCOs and then 54 privates to go!

 

Recreating famous painting of the Battle of Fontenoy

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I’ve mentioned before that my favourite-ever military paining is Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux’s 1873 painting, The Battle of Fontenoy, 1745: The French and the Allies Confronting Each Other.

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I first came across saw this picture many years ago on the cover of Charles Grant’s 1975 book  The Battle of Fontenoy.  To me the painting instantly reflected the feel of 18th century warfare, with its glorious colour and pageantry, its mannered politeness, and also its timeless horror.

I’ve now at last begun painting a battalion of the Gardes Françaises based on this painting. They’ll form part of my Barryat of Lyndonia imagi-nation. I’ll just have to think up of a suitable cover story as to why the Gardes Françaises have joined the Barryat’s army!

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I’m using 1/56th scale figures from Crann Tara Miniatures, and as you can see in these pictures, they are simply superb! The posing, sculpting and detail are some of the best I have ever seen. Click on the pictures to study these exquisite figures in close-up.

I’m trying something different with the way I paint my figures for this project. Normally I undercoat in black, then drybrush in light grey before painting. However, this time I have undercoated in Citadel ‘wraith-bone’ spray, and plan to paint the figures with GW’s new Contrast paint range. It will be interesting to see how they turn out. Painting those drummers is going to be a particular challenge! 

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I am converting the officers from wearing gaiters to wearing stockings, as per the panting. I successfully filed off all the gaiter buttons, but my shoe-buckles haven’t worked out quite as well. I initially tried making them from Green Stuff, but having never worked in that medium before, I ended up with buckles about a foot wide in scale! So glueing on small squares of paper, along with careful painting, will hopefully do the job.

Anyway, I’ll report back once I’ve painted this first batch of figures for what will eventually be a battalion of 54 guardsmen, along with another dozen officers, NCOs and drummers.

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On parade! Shogunate Japanese armies

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Over the last year I’ve been gradually parading each army in my wargaming collection for inspection to take stock of what I’ve got. In this posting in my On Parade! series, it is the turn of my Shogunate Japanese armies.

For this posting, I started by taking the above photo of my entire Japanese collection on its shelf in my display case. By chance, the lighting and background almost gives the impression of a traditional Japanese kabuki theatre show! You really must click on this photo to see it at full effect.

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Here’s the first samurai I ever painted. I had a great deal of trepidation when I started work on the complicated armour of this 28mm Kingsford figurePainting the intricate silk lacing was quite a challenge. I used an almost dry brush to pick out the well-sculpted threads.  While the result doesn’t bear too close scrutiny, the overall effect has (I think) worked quite well.

I based the colour-scheme on an Angus McBride plate in the Osprey book ‘The Samurai’. The plate portrays an unnamed samurai in c.1553. This  is clothed and armoured almost the same as the samurai in the book, so I suspect they may both have used the same source.

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Now my first samurai is joined by his buntai (warband) of Kingsford 28mm warriors. They carry a mix of weapon types – yari (spear), teppo (arquebus) and yumi (bow). Such a mixture of weaponry within the same unit is historically correct for Japanese soldiers of this period.

I painted these models as retainers of the Takeda clan. I used VVV decals for the small sashimono (back banner) worn by most of the figures, but I hand-painted the Takeda mon (badge) onto the large banner.

The soldiers’ armour is mainly rust-coloured, and their clothing various shades of beige or sand. Their samurai leaders are more variegated.

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To oppose my Takeda buntai, here is the Hojo clad. The carry the triple triangle emblem on their yellow sashimono, which I drew with a drafting pen. Their large standard portrays the so-called ‘five lucky colours’.

The foot soldiers’ armour is mainly black, with light blue lacing and clothing. Their samurai leaders are clothed in different colours according to taste.

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I’d admired this set of 28mm Perry Miniatures unarmoured samurai for many years. So although I settled on Kingsford for my armoured samurai, this set did not escape my clutches.

There are three things I particularly like about these figures:

  1. The way they look so Japanese – something indefinable, but definitely there.
  2. The realistic poses imbued with so much flowing movement.
  3. Their wonderful facial expressions, straight out of the TV series ‘Shogun’!

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These figures are from are North Star’s Koryu Buntai set, modelled after the eponymous characters from the 1952 movie Seven Samurai.

Seven Samurai is set in war-torn 16th-century Japan, where a village of farmers look for ways to ward off a band of robbers. Since they do not themselves know how to fight, they hire seven ronin (lordless samurai) to fight for them.

  1. Kikuchiyo – a humorous character who initially claims to be a samurai, and even falsifies his family tree and identity. Mercurial and temperamental, he identifies with the villagers and their plight, and he reveals that he is in fact not a samurai, but rather a peasant. Eventually however, he proves his worth.
  2. Shichirōji – an old friend of Kambei (the leader of the Seven Samurai) and his former lieutenant. Kambei meets Shichirōji by chance in the town, and he resumes this role.
  3. Kyūzō – initially declined an offer by Kambei to join the group, though he later changes his mind. A serious, stone-faced samurai and a supremely skilled swordsman whom Katsushirō is in awe of.
  4. Kambei Shimada – a ronin and the leader of the group. The first samurai recruited by the villagers, he is a wise but war-weary soldier.
  5. Heihachi Hayashida – an amiable though less-skilled fighter. His charm and wit maintain his comrades’ good cheer in the face of adversity.
  6. Gorōbei Katayama – a skilled archer recruited by Kambei. He acts as the second-in-command and helps create the master plan for the village’s defence.
  7. Katsushirō Okamoto – a young untested warrior. The son of a wealthy landowner samurai, he left home to become a wandering samurai against his family’s wishes. After witnessing Kambei rescue a child who was taken hostage, Katsushirō desires to be Kambei’s disciple.

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A busy track sometime during the Sengoku Jidai (‘Warring States’) period, in the shade of a castle and some cherry-blossom trees.

An old-timer ambles along, whilst a mother drags her bawling child, following a well-dressed lady. A ronin stands with his sword over his shoulder. Two workers hurry along, one carrying a mattock and the other with goods balanced on a pole. Meanwhile a yellow-clad monk watches the passing traffic. 

These are all Perry figures.

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This geisha by Kensei practises her moves with a pair of fans.

If you’re going to do samurai skirmish gaming, you might as well go the whole hog so far as stereotypical Japanese terrain is concerned. I think I’ve pushed all the buttons here: cherry blossoms, humpbacked red footbridge, and a sturdy torii ornamental gate!

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This model, which is also included in the above-mentioned North Star koryu buntai set, depicts the manga comic hero Ogami Ittō. He was the shōguns executioner, but disgraced by false accusations from the Yagyū clan, he is forced to take the path of the assassin. Along with his three-year-old son, Daigorō, they seek revenge on the Yagyū clan and are known as ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’.

Don’t forget to visit my other On Parade! postings, in which I’m gradually doing inspection parades of every army in my wargaming collection.