When I attended the Partizan wargaming show in the UK last year (back in those heady days when one could still travel abroad!), I made an impulse purchase of three wooden kits of Napoleonic French caissons and wagons.
I’d never made any wooden vehicles before, and thought they would probably be quite crude. So when I got back to New Zealand they were placed in a drawer and promptly forgotten. They probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day again, but then along came the Covid-19 lockdown, and I found myself scraping the bottom of my lead mountain for projects to occupy myself with. Then I remembered these little kits.
And how utterly and completely wrong I was with my prediction that these would be crude models! In fact , these models by Warbases turned out to be exquisite little miniatures. They went together beautifully, and were cleverly designed with very few of the visible joints that mar so many MDF kits.
I spray-painted then dark green, then dry-brushed them with a lighter green. I then just had to paint the wheel rims and, hey presto, the caissons were done!
I happened to have four very old Hinchliffe draft horses that someone gave me years and years ago, so I quickly painted them up – so now I had some motive power for at least two of my new wagons. Although a little on the small side, they work OK.
I also borrowed the driver from the Perry Miniatures supply wagon (which you can see in the background).
The wagons are based on the same ingenious system that Lieutenant General Jean Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval developed for the real French artillery, where the front wheels formed a separate limber to which any cart or gun could be attached. This means that by removing the caissons from the front wheel assemblies, I now have three limbers that can sit behind my artillery pieces if I want.
Unfortunately the guns were painted many years ago, so aren’t removable from their bases to attach to the limbers. But limbered-up artillery don’t feature often in my games anyway.
One of my wagons is a mobile field forge. This comes with a stand for when the front wheel assembly is removed, presumably so the farrier can move unobstructed round his furnace. I based the little stand separately, so I could either have the forge on its wheels or on the stand.
I already owned one other limber in my collection (another old Hinchliffe model). I found I could put one of my new caissons behind this limber. Although the Hinchliffe wheels are a bit small, the overall effect is fine.
With these models, it is now actually possible to envisage the long tail of equipment that sat behind an artillery battery: guns to limbers to caissons to support wagons. So often in wargames we see a battery of artillery as a kind of narrow line of guns, whereas this shows that other units moving too closely behind their artillery would be disrupted by all the ancillary equipment.
At the same time as I painted my wooden caissons and forge, I also painted two metal Crann Tara Miniatures limbers for my 18th century imagi-nation, the Barryat of Lyndonia. This certainly shows how the design and horse furniture for limbers changed in less than a hundred years.
But now the bottom of the lead mountain looms yet again!
Finally, on a more sombre but much more important note, here’s the latest animation about Covid-19 from my heroes scientist Siouxsie Wiles and cartoonist Toby Morris. Whilst (as at writing this) we have had only four deaths in New Zealand, the nature of this coronavirus means that we need to steel ourselves for more tough news in the coming weeks. That should only firm our resolve to keep to the lockdown.