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.

On Parade! My WW2 Dutch army

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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 WW2 Dutch. You can click on each picture to inspect them more closely.  

I’ve got sufficient models to field a small mixed force of the Dutch army as it was when the Germans invaded the Netherlands in  May 1940.

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My 28mm Dutch infantry are all produced by May ’40 Miniatures. They wear green M.1927 steel helmets, and the grey uniform that had changed little over the previous twenty years. 

On the right is a machine gun team. The light machine-gun squads had a M.20 Lewis light machine-gun operated by a gunner and assistant gunner.

The Dutch infantry in 1940 consisted mainly of conscripts, with only a small number of career officers and NCOs. Squads were commanded by sergeants, and had 9-12 men armed with Steyr rifles. I have sufficient figures for three squads of infantry.

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Here’s my squad of the Korps Mariner, who were the only all-professional branch in the Dutch armed forces, and without any doubt the best the Dutch could field.

Marines wore a distinctive dark blue (blackish) uniform tunic or great coat, rather than the grey of the regular army, which gave them the nickname of the ‘Black Devils’.

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On the left is an 81mm mortar. Like many armies, the Dutch introduced mortars based on the Stokes-Brandt principle. My force is actually quite lucky to have one, as the Dutch army were under-equipped with mortars, and had only two per battalion.

On the right is a three-man Schwarzlose M.08 machine gun team. The gun is complete with its hose and drain bucket. In May 1940 the Schwarzlose machine gun was quite outdated. Still, they proved to be highly reliable and robust, and the number of break-downs was extremely low.

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On the left is a Böhler 47mm anti-tank gun. These guns would prove effective during the intensive fighting in 1940. It could easily penetrate the armour of all German tanks of that time, it had a low profile and it was easy to handle.

On the right is a Solothurn S18-1000 20mm anti-tank rifle. When it was first introduced its firepower was adequate against light tanks and other soft-skinned vehicles, but by 1940 it was insufficient to deal with newer and heavier tanks.

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The Landsverk M.36 armoured car on the left was quite modern for its time. The 37mm gun was relatively heavy for an armoured car, and was better than that of a German Pz.III tank. Their only significant weakness was their poor armour. The Dutch armoured cars that served in the May war (about 35 were operational) would excel in the fighting.

On the right is a Carden-Loyd tankette. The crew comprised a driver and a machine-gunner, which allowed each to fully concentrate on his own task. Two small domes protected the crew’s heads. The Carden-Loyd was powered by a Model T Ford engine (true!) and had a road speed of 25 mph (40 km/h).

Tanks? Well, the Dutch army had none! Before the German invasion, the Dutch considered the introduction of powerful anti-tank guns as marking the end of the tank era. As the website War Over Holland says, this belief was “amazing for an army that had not seen anything of modern warfare and that got all of its ‘knowledge’ from papers or magazines.” Of course, they couldn’t have been more wrong, resulting in the Dutch being the only belligerent to have no tanks!

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Here’s the crew of the Landsverk. They wear blue overalls over their grey shirts.

The chap in black standing drinking a cup of coffee is a hussar in leather tunic and trousers. Hopefully sometime in the future May ’40 Miniatures might produce a motorcycle for him!

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There’s a personal reason why I have built a Dutch army. In September 1939 my father was conscripted into the Depot Battalion of the Medical Troops in Amsterdam (see my previous posting on this subject). In 1940 he was promoted to sergeant, a rank he had held for only one month when the Germans invaded on 10 May.

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My Dad is the left-hand soldier of the middle row. What he experienced over those five days in May 1940, we don’t know. He never told us anything about it. My mother believes he was in Rotterdam, which was badly bombed, though as a conscript from the southern province of Limburg, it was also possible he was stationed there.

So my Dutch army includes a team of medics, in Dad’s honour.

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Terrain for my Dutch army to fight over includes several modified Gungnir cardboard buildings, a MDF windmill by 4Ground, a bridge and back-gardens by Sarissa Precision, latex brick roads from Early War Miniatures, and plastic lamp-posts, power poles and brick walls from Rubicon.

That concludes the parades of the WW2 part of my collection. Next will come samurai! And 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.

An experiment to paint realistic brickwork

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Over the holidays I’ve been painting this couple of Dutch/Flemish building. They are resin models I’ve had lying round unpainted for probably a decade or more. They are made  by Hovels Ltd.

I think I was given these models by a friend (Paul Crouch was it you?) back in the early 2000s. But for years I could never really see the need for these particular models, as where would two obviously inner-city building sit when I had no other urban terrain to speak of? So they remained unpainted.

However, having come (for now) to the bottom of my lead pile, I decided it could be fun to paint these models for – well – just for fun.

This was spurred by reading a posting by my wargaming mate Scott Bowman of a simple technique for painting brickwork, which I was keen to try out.

I started by spraypainting them black, then blocking in the main brick colour with various shades of red. Once this was thoroughly dry, I painted the whole model with Army Painter shade in  order to seal the red colour.

Then came the magic ingredient: pre-mixed interior decorating filler. I smeared this over the brickwork with my fingers, then carefully wiped it off with a damp cloth. The filler remained stuck in the gaps between the bricks, nicely recreating the look of mortar.

Despite the coat of Army Painter shade, some of the red paint did leach through into areas of the filler. However, this has given a nice patchy look that I think adds a patina of age to the brickwork.

The final touch was to paint all the details (doors, windows, roofs, etc) in the usual manner.

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One of the buildings had a broken gable. I had thought to try to repair it, but lazily decided this breakage could remain as though it had been knocked off by an errant cannonball or shell-burst.

And there we have it – two buildings that were fun to paint, albeit will probably never be seen on my tabletop unless I get my hands on many other such buildings to make up a townscape!

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On Parade! WW2 French colonial army

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This posting from my On Parade! series, in which I’m slowly reviewing every figure in my wargaming collection, features my WW2 colonial French army. 

When I began researching which army to choose in my first foray into WW2 wargaming with 28mm figures, I was surprised to read about the amount of fighting that took place between the Allies and the Vichy French in North Africa and the Middle East. Often French were even  fighting French. Zut alors, there was my army choice – French who could fight on either side!

And what exotic troops I could take: the Foreign Legion, Moroccan Spahis, Senegalese Tirailleurs … along with weird and wonderful transports and armour.

So let’s review what I have in my colonial French army.

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Starting with my infantry, here we see a squad of Foreign Legionnaires, made up of figures by Perry Miniatures. They more likely would have worn helmets in battle, but I couldn’t resist the famous white kepi! Another uniform feature of the legionnaires was the ‘cheche’ neck-scarf that my troops are all wearing.

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Here’s another squad, including a prone machine gun crew. On the roof of the building are an officer and an artillery spotter.

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The infantry are supported by a mortar and machine gun manned by Tirailleurs recruited from the French colony of Senegal.

On the right is the famous ‘Soixante-Quinze’, the nickname given to France’s 75mm quick-firing field artillery pieces.

All these figures and the gun are by Perry Miniatures.

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To transport carry my legionnaires, I have two Berliet VUDB armoured personnel carriers by Mad Bob Miniatures.

As described by Martin Windrow in Military Modelling March 1981 (see, saving old those old MM magazines from my teenage years has paid off!), the VUDB  was ‘a four-wheel drive car bearing a strong resemblance to a hearse … guns could be mounted in any of four ports at front, back and sides. With a crew of three and a box of grenades, these underpowered but reliable old buses proved their worth many times over’.

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Here’s the distinctive boxy shape of a White-Laffly AMD50 armoured car, in this model by Mad Bob Miniatures.

The turret had two guns, a 37mm gun at the front, and a machine gun at the rear.

These armoured cars were predominantly relegated to France’s overseas territories from 1937.

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A Dodge Tanake by Perry Miniatures. These strange vehicles were converted Dodge 3-ton trucks with added armour.

They were armed with a 37mm gun, along with a coaxial light machine gun, as well as a second machine gun on an anti-aircraft stand at the rear left of the gun pit.

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This Heath Robinson-ish contraption is a Conus auto-canon. I’ve manned it with a crew of Moroccan Spahis, recognisable by their distinctive red side-caps. The model is by Perry Miniatures.

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The only tank in my force is this diminutive Renault R35 light tank, a resin model by Neucraft Models.

This was a relatively well-armoured infantry support tank, but slow (only 12mph) and lacking in good antitank-capacity, being fitted with only a low velocity short-barrelled 37mm gun.

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Neucraft also supplied a second turret with this kit, so I can also use this model as a later type R35 with the long-barrelled SA38 37mm gun.

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So that’s my colonial French force for WW2 (or inter-war) battles set in North Africa and the Middle East.

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.

On Parade! Victorian Science Fiction – Foreign Legion

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This posting from my On Parade! series, in which I’m slowly reviewing every figure in my wargaming collection, features my small Victorian Science Fiction French Foreign Legion force.

Have you ever started a club project in a rush of enthusiasm, only to peter out a few weeks later with only some dribs and drabs of painted forces completed? Well, this force is one of those.

The idea had been to build up a French force to do battle in a Victorian Science Fiction campaign against Colonel O’Truth’s British and Scott’s Prussians/Zendarians.

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I couldn’t find a range of 28mm late-19th century French who conveyed that particular Gallic look I was after. So I settled on the French Foreign Legionaries in Foundry’s range of Western figures.  While they didn’t quite capture the exact look either, they were so character-filled in other ways that I couldn’t resist them.

One thing I really liked about these figures was their comic-book style. They are nice and hefty figures, with wonderfully chunky features and exaggerated expressions. I know some wargamers look down on such non-anatomically correct figures – but I think they have a charm of their own.  

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For some VSF mechanical weirdness with which to arm my legionnaires, I bought a box of toys made by Bandai in Japan, based on the anime movie Steamboy. Although they were all differing scales, and not designed for 28mm figures, I thought that I could convert them to fit.

For example, the above armed steam tractor is in fact scaled for about 15mm figures. But as demonstrated by temporarily placing a 28mm figure behind it, it could possibly work as a smaller vehicle. As there is no room for a 28mm crew behind the gun shield at the front, I planned to convert the cannon into a gatling gun, connected to the driver’s position by guitar string conduits with which he could fire remotely.

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Here’s a rather weird contraption to say the least. At the front is a peculiar bogie with road/rail wheels surmounted by the driver’s chair, behind which is a robot-like vertical boiler with arms. A raked horizontal boiler leads to the stoker’s cab perched just in front of the huge single driving wheel.

Again, it’s miles too small for 28mm (probably more about 10mm in this case). But with some work it could change from being a large road train to a much smaller sort of train-car-motorcycle thingumabob, with the driver sitting in the cab at the rear.

How long these models have been sitting ‘on the shelf’ can be gauged by the cobwebs and dust they are still covered in!

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This walker is pretty good just as. I think in the movie it is actually a kind of diving suit. But here it could be a menacing armoured war-machine.

But how this tin-can could ever keep its balance in battle on those tiny trotters, I don’t know! It’s just asking for its legs to be lassoed and pulled over!

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But in the end, as I’ve said, the project petered out, and here are the only figures I ended up painting for it. However, they are still very nice and characterful figures in wonderfully flamboyant uniforms, and so I rather like this little force. Maybe one day I’ll add its VSF equipment.

But in the meantime it is perfectly suitable for the period these figures were actually made for: the ill-fated ‘Maximilian Adventure’ to place a Hapsburg emperor on the Mexican throne during the 1860s, the scene of one of the Foreign Legion’s finest hours—the last stand at Camarone. I just need some Mexicans …

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.