Tirailleurs Sénégalais for my WW2 colonial French army

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The Foreign Legion is well known as a force for foreigners fighting for France. But in addition to the legionnaires, the French also made use of ‘tirailleurs’—units made up of troops recruited from their colonies in Africa and Asia.

Tirailleur translates as ‘skirmisher’, ‘rifleman’, or ‘sharpshooter’, and was a designation given to indigenous infantry recruited in the various colonies and overseas possessions of the French Empire during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The first unit of Tirailleurs Sénégalais was raised in 1857. Despite their name, the Senegalese Tirailleurs drew in troops not just from Senegal, but from across West Africa.

The Senegalese Tirailleurs served France in many wars, including World War 2, when 179,000 men were recruited for service both in Africa and Europe. 

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I decided that my WW2 colonial French army needed some of these stalwart soldiers. So when it came to equipping my army with support weapons, I chose tirailleur machine gun and mortar crews from Perry Miniatures’ excellent WW2 French range.

I painted them with their ubiquitous red chechia hats. Yes, I know these colourful hats were more for parade than combat, but, hey, it’s my wargames army, so I can do as I want! 

The Senegalese Tirailleurs saw extensive service during the war, but after the liberation of France, they  were replaced with newly recruited French volunteers in a process known as blanchiment, or ‘bleaching’. This led to several incidents of violence, most notably the Thiaroye massacre in 1944, where French troops killed dozens of tirailleurs after they mutinied against poor conditions and revocation of pay.

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Colonial NZ Wars table at The Winterdale Tavern

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At yesterday’s open day at New Zealand’s newest wargaming venue – The Winterdale Tavern on the Kāpiti Coast – I put on a colonial New Zealand Wars game.

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Well, I say ‘game’, but in fact because of it’s location right by the front door, we decided to make it an eye-catcher for visitors, so it was really just a static display. I actually love doing static displays, as it lets my imagination run wild in setting up a feast of lovely terrain, as well as providing an excuse to jam-pack the table with as many of my models as I can!

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Working from the back of the table, the first thing to capture the eye was a Māori pā, which was 3D-printed for me by Printable Scenery  

A pā was a fortified settlement or position with palisades and defensive terraces. The pā was constructed of rows of strong log palisades. Behind the palisades there was usually a trench, so that the defending warriors were fully protected as they fired through loopholes at ground level. 

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Inside the pā is a captured carronade with which the warriors fire on the British, using any old iron as ammunition. The gun is mounted on a wooden slide, secured with blocks and tackle to a couple of handy tree stumps.

In the background is an impressive Māori meeting house and two accompanying huts, all products of Printable Scenery.

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Up the mighty Waikato River (truncated to just a little stream on my small table!) chugs the paddle steamer ‘Avon’. This model is based on a real gunboat that started life as a pleasure boat on the River Avon in Christchurch, but was later fitted with sheet metal armour to become one of New Zealand’s earliest warships.

‘Avon’ mounted a 12-pounder Armstrong breech-loading gun on her bow. At the stern was a wooden shed-like structure with loopholes from which troops could fire.

The ‘Avon’ also had a novel self-defence system, with her boiler connected to a pipe running right around the hull, so that scalding water could be sprayed upon anyone attempting to board.

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Moving to the middle of the tale, the first thing viewers cud see was this huge naval 32- trying to pound the Māori pā into submission.

Naval guns were really used during the early New Zealand Wars, dragged miles through the rugged bush, for example at the Battle of Ruapekapeka. The crews would then build wooden platforms from which to fire these great guns.

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Beside the gun, you can see the commander and his two mounted aides. This photo makes the blue of these rather plain uniforms look lighter than it actually is – in fact, my paint job is almost black, which I’ve achieved by washing the finished figures with black ink.

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Emerging from the bush is a ‘taua’, or war-party, of warriors. Half of them are armed with muskets, whilst the others have the double-barreled shotguns that were very popular with Māori warriors. They called the shotguns ‘tupara’, based on the Māori pronunciation of the English words  ‘two-barrel’.

I don’t try to paint the intricate tattoos with which Māori warriors customarily adorned their faces and other parts of their bodies. I did try once, but the results looked too clunky and crude. So I think it is better to ignore them, as the skin is quite dark anyway.

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The warriors are skirmishing with a firing line of British infantry. The soldiers aren’t in their traditional red coats, but are  dressed in the distinctive blue uniforms worn by the British in New Zealand during the 1860s. The officer running out front is wearing a patrol jacket with ornate black braiding. 

The unit is being led by a man carrying a flag, even though standards weren’t as a rule carried during the colonial NZ Wars. But there is some evidence that occasionally a plain Union Jack was used.

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Right at the front of the table is another line of infantry running forward in support. They’re the grenadier company, as distinguished by the white touries on their caps.

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Cavalry didn’t play such a significant part in the larger battles of the New Zealand Wars, but they did take part in a lot of minor engagements. I’ve painted these horsemen as members of the Military Train (i.e. the supply column), who sometimes had to fight as cavalry because the British never brought any actual cavalry units to New Zealand.

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Here’s a colonial militia unit dressed in a rag-tag collection of civilian clothes and part uniforms. They represent a hastily-recruited militia or Civic Guard unit.

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One little vignette that attracted a lot of attention was this civilian group defending their cottage. Mr Atkinson is still bandaged from a wound in an earlier clash, Mrs Atkinson doles out the gunpowder from a small barrel, daughter Amelia flinches as she fires her father’s pistol, and little Annie brings up a haversack of  spare ammunition.

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In the field on the right you can see a small Royal Navy shore party. Sailors took a major role in many of the battles of the colonial New Zealand Wars.

Overall, the table attracted a lot of attention, with many people surprised that there are  figures and terrain commercially available to recreate the wars that took place on our own doorstep.

 

 

A Kiwi at Partizan

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As I mentioned in my last posting, during my recent trip with my wife to the UK and Europe, I was able to fit in a day at the Partizan Wargames Show in Newark.

This was actually the second British wargaming show I’ve visited, as back in 2013  I was lucky enough to attend SELWG in London. Based on that previous experience, I had some idea of what to expect. But despite this fore-knowledge, the sight of so many incredibly impressive games at Partizan was a real eye-opener to this colonial boy!

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The show was held in a very roomy and light venue at the Newark Showgrounds. I arrived just before opening time, and there was already a queue at the door. At 10.00 exactly the doors opened and the line moved quickly as the entry formalities were carried our efficiently by the organisers (including giving the first 500 visitors – including yours truly – a specially commissioned 28mm figure of the famous inter-war revolutionary, Rosa Luxembourg).

I spent the next six hours happily wandering round the hall, feasting my eyes on loads of beautiful games, and occasionally taking out my wallet to add to a burgeoning carrier bag full of purchases.

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I was asked several times how Partizan compared to wargaming shows in New Zealand. Now, truth to tell I have only attended a few shows in New Zealand, mainly Wellington’s Call To Arms. Therefore my answer to this question could only be based on my relatively small experience of the New Zealand show scene.

The main difference I noted was that the New Zealand shows I’ve attended have mainly revolved around competition tournaments, in which players fight a series of bouts throughout the day. This means that the main emphasis of these shows are on game-play. Almost all the show attendees are there to play in the competition games, and very few people attend purely as spectators. 

There are also usually a few demonstration games, but these tend to play second fiddle to the competition games. And because most of the competition gamers have to play to a strict timetable, they can usually snatch only a few brief moments between bouts to look at the demonstration games.

At Partizan, however, there were no competitions. Instead, the show was split into two main groups – demonstration games and participation games. And there were spectators aplenty. A large portion of the crowd of over 1,000 attendees weren’t there to play at all, but had come to look at some top-notch games, buy from the many traders, and network with other gamers. With so many non-playing spectators, and without the constraint of  a busy competition timetable, every demonstration table was always crowded with viewers. 

All in all, Partizan was an entirely different show to what I was used to back home. And as someone for whom the look of the game is far more important than the game-play, Partizan suited my tastes very well!

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The games

Now, on to the games. There were so many games that I never got to photograph them all. I’ll only show some of the tables that particularly impressed me. But there were many other fabulous games too. From looking at other people’s photos of Partizan, I think I might have actually missed seeing some tables altogether … so many great games, so little time!

There’ a lot to see in some of these photos, so don’t forget that you can enlarge the pics by clicking on them.

Siege of Oosterbeek, 1944

I had several favourite games, but this one particularly rocked my boat. The Old Pikeys gaming group had chosen to depict the siege of Oosterbeek during the Arnhem operation.

What initially struck me, having just come from spending eight days with my relatives in the Netherlands, was how the terrain actually looked Dutch, in particular the architectural style of the buildings. So often Arnhem games use generic European buildings, but in this case the players had spent a lot of effort to replicate the typical Dutch style of buildings.

Another eye-catching feature of this game was the use of well-modelled aircraft flying overhead. There were even paratroopers jumping out of the Dakotas (unfortunately my camera overlooked capturing them, as I took no photos of the door side of the planes!).

Now, I know someone is going to ask me what rules they were using. Well, you’ll recall I mentioned above that I am more a ‘look of the game’ guy than a game-player. So I never thought to ask the presenters about the rules – and, truth to tell, I didn’t even notice if it was a game being played, or a static display!

The Old Pikeys deservedly won the best demo award.

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Battle of Assaye, 1803

This ‘Wellington in India’ game really took my fancy, not only for the colourful period, the lovely Indian castle, the beautifully rendered smoke-trails from the rockets – but also for the stylish way that the Boondock Sayntes gaming group played their game, complete with uniforms and wine.

The Battle of Assaye in 1803 pitted a standard Napoleonic period army (albeit with sepoys) against the wildly exotic Maratha army, a juxtaposition that makes this period one I’ve always fancied doing (though I probably never will, as I am no longer keen to start two large armies from scratch!).

You can see that the Sayntes included some playful touches in the castle interior, including a multi-armed deity and a magic rope climber.

If I recall correctly, the Sayntes were using ‘The Men Who Would be Kings’ rules.

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The Battle of Mandara, 1801

My pals the Perry twins never disappoint,and this wonderful recreation of a battle in Egypt was no exception. Like the above Indian game, Napoleon’s Egyptian adventure provides an opportunity to add a touch of the mystical East to your more standard Napoleonic game.

This game featured some of the latest offerings from the Perry Miniatures range, and beautiful they are too. I especially loved the cameleers, and of course those impressive British landing craft.

The terrain looked suitably hot and dusty. The ruined temple really set the scene. It was cleverly made from wine bottle corks!

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Invasion of the Sugar Islands, 1759

Graham Cummings of Crann Tara Miniatures put on this game based on Stuart Insch’s booklet  ‘A Guide to the British Expedition to Martinique and Guadeloupe in 1759’.

Most of the figures are from the exquisite Crann Tara range, or conversions of these figures. Graham and his friends used the ‘Musket and Tomahawks’ rules.

As a side note, I got excited speaking to Graham when he told me that he is finally going to produce some Gardes Françaises officers wearing stockings, something I’ve long tried to convince him to produce. At last I’ll be able to do a unit of Gardes Françaises exactly as per the famous painting by Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux.

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Attack on the Abbey, 1918

This World War One game put on by the Earlswood Wargames Group was the overall winner of the ‘best of show’ award, and you can see why.

The terrain is what made this game. And it went to show that modelling an effective trench system doesn’t necessarily mean having to cut trenches into a custom board. Instead, this group used individual bases with the trench system raised above the tabletop. They then simply scattered a large amount of flock (homemade, I think) between the individual bases to merge them together. A simple but very effective approach to represent the trench-scarred and crater-spotted earth.

Each of the individual terrain features was a work of art in itself, with puddled craters, duckboards, bits of ravaged trenches, shattered trees, shell bursts, and of course the ruined abbey. There was even a dogfight taking place overhead.

I believe that the trenches were made using Kallistra’s modular Hexon trench system.

The rules being used were Chain of Command.

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Russo-Turkish battle, late 17th century

I’ve admired the work of the League of Augsburg from the very first days I began following wargaming pages on the internet. This was the first time I had seen one of their games in real life, and boy did it live up to my expectations!

The modelling work on the wagons, buildings, figures and flags was fantastic. And the teddy-bear terrain was beautifully done.

One feature that caught everyone’s eye was the mortar being fired from inside the encircled wagons, with the shell visible flying out of the plume of smoke – you can see it in all three of my photos below.

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Malaya, 1942

During the course of day I was fortunate enough to meet and chat to several well-known faces of the wargaming hobby. Most I had never met in real life before, knowing them only through our online contact via blogs and forums. It was great to finally meet Richard Clarke from Too Fat Lardies in real life rather than ‘virtually’, and for him to treat me like a long-lost friend!

Richard and his team were doing a WW2 participation game set in Malaya. This was another fantastic-looking game, with some great buildings and very effective jungle.

I was so entranced at meeting Richard that I unfortunately neglected my photo-taking duties, and only ended up with these few photos! There was just so much more to this terrain that I should’ve captured. But from these photos, you can at least get an impression of the quality that you’re not seeing!

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Blood and Plunder

The Leicester Phat Cats hosted a large ‘Blood and Plunder’ game. The model ships really caught my eye, as this was the first time I had seen these beauties in real life. Although some concessions have been made to make these models workable with wargaming figures, the producers have done their homework and they really look like actual ships.

I didn’t catch the gaming action, but it appears that battles were taking place both on land and sea.

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Test of Honour

This was the first game I spotted when I entered the venue, and it immediately attracted my attention because I too am into the Samurai period.

Terry Broomhal had some very impressive buildings and colourful vignettes on his board, as you can see from the pictures.

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Discworld Witch Racing

Having travelled halfway round the world to visit Partizan, but with only six hours to take it all in, I didn’t want to lock myself into participating in any games. But as a lover of the Discworld series of books, I just couldn’t resist this ‘witch broomstick racing’ game put on by the Grantham Strategy Club. Luckily it took only about half an hour to complete. Needless to say, I lost the race!

The model figures accurately captured various of Terry Pratchett’s well-loved characters. And the model of Unseen University (made from a cut-out book) was very impressive.

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Riot: the Brexit Years

Finally, I’ve got to mention this timely little game put on by the Doncaster Wargames Society. Everyone was talking about Brexit during our trip, so it was interesting to see it represented as a game.

I don’t really know the details of how the game was played, other than I think the vehicles had to negotiate their way from the Houses of Parliament (right) to deliver a message to Buckingham Palace (left), all the time being beset by angry mobs along the the way.

I wish I’d returned to this table to watch the game being played, as I’m sure there would’ve been some very interesting discussions between the players, depending what their views on Brexit were!

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On parade: 40mm Napoleonic French

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This is the second of two ‘On Parade’ articles featuring my 40mm Napoleonic figures.  This time we look at the French. These are a mixture of Perry Miniatures and Sash and Sabre figures.

The shako numbers indicate that these men are from the 85ème Régiment d’Infanterie de Ligne. I picked this particular regiment because back in 2005 my son and I were invited to participate with the recreated 85ème in a reenactment of the Battle of Waterloo.

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Here’s my entire French contingent – a unit of grenadiers, and another of volitguers.

Grenadiers

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Voltiguers

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This is the last of the Napoleonic postings for ‘On Parade’. Next time I’ll be featuring  something completely different from my wargaming collection. See you soon!

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On Parade: 40mm British & Spanish Napoleonics

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In my last ‘On Parade’ article I mentioned that the next posting would still be Napoleonic, but a little bit different. Well, here we are, and the difference is that these aren’t my usual 28mm figures.

Back in June 2008 I bought a few of what was then a relatively new line from the Perry Miniatures – 40mm tall Napoleonic figures.

I was impressed at the excellent sculpting, realistic posing and fine detail of these lovely models. Each figure seemed to have a character and personality of its own.

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I eventually added a more figures by other makers (including some rather Sharpe-ish figures). These ranges included the Honourable Lead Boilersuit Company, Sash and Saber, and Trident Miniatures.

Sad to say, I never progressed any further in actually playing with these 40mm figures than in one test skirmish game. But truth to tell, many of my other wargaming units seldom get to face battle on the tabletop either, as I game so infrequently!

One issue that did emerge during our sole play-test with the 40mm figures was that they could only be used on a flat battleground. I had made the mistake of glueing them onto such light plastic bases that their height and weight caused them to become top-heavy, and they continually fell over at the drop of a hat.

But even though they haven’t been gamed with much, I really enjoy the look of these figures, and they form a treasured part of my overall model soldier collection.

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In this first of two ‘On Parade’ articles about my 40mm collection, let’s look at the British and their Spanish allies.

By the way, the windmill in the background of many of these photos is a resin Grand Manner piece that really sets the scene for any Peninsular War game. The walls and fences are by Games Workshop (Warhammer). All these scenic items are actually designed for 28mm figures, but as you can see they work well enough for 40mm as well.

As usual, click on the pictures if you want to examine them more closely – but prepare to be shocked by my rather impressionistic painting style that looks good from a few feet away, but very messy when seen close up!

British light infantry

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British 95th Rifles

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Royal Navy

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Spanish guerillas

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The next ‘On Parade’ will feature my 40mm French collection. See you soon!

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On Parade: Napoleonic French carts, camps and cantinières

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A French army on the march always had a long tail of camp followers. There were the wives and children of soldiers following their spouse or parent’s army from place to place. You would also find the many informal army service providers, selling goods or services that the military did not supply—cooking, laundering, liquor, nursing, sexual services and sutlery. And of course there were the ne’er-do-well soldiers, stragglers and walking wounded.

This latest instalment in my ‘On Parade‘ series shows the mini-dioramas that represent the camp followers of my French army. These are intended to add visual interest to the miniature battlefield, and would seldom take part in anything other than scenario-driven skirmish games.

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A well-laden supply wagon trails the French army on the march. This is the Perry Miniatures model, sculpted full of baggage and even including an overflowing rack at the rear. The model can be assembled either with or without the canvas tilt cover. I’ve just left it unglued, so I can choose whether the wagon will be covered or not.

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The wagon is driven by a soldier wearing a shako and greatcoat. He is giving a lift to a cantinière in the passenger seat. I’ve just blu-tacked these figures on so that I can remove them if I want to use the wagon for other periods. In this picture you can also see some of the Perry Miniatures civilians set.

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Speaking of cantinières, besides the one hitching a ride on the wagon, I’ve got another two. The one on the left is from Foundry, whilst Warlord Games make the running cantinière. The latter’s donkey is tied to a convenient rail, and is even carrying a bunch of daffodils in its pannier!

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This French campsite scene looks great placed as a decorative vignette on the table-top. The chap in a brown greatcoat looks like he’s returning to his campfire after finishing his turn of sentry duty. These figures all come from a set by Wargames Foundry.

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The New Zealand company Wildly Inspired make a nice line of pack horses and donkeys. In this vignette two horses are being led by a Redoubt Miniatures recruit, or ‘Marie-Louise’ as the recruits were nick-named. He wears an over-large greatcoat with a rope belt, patched trousers, fatigue cap, and wooden clogs. His musket strap is made out of string.

At the right is a rather relaxed looking Foundry infantryman with two pack donkeys. One of the donkeys is carrying a body in a bag—there must be a great story lurking behind this model to drive a scenario-based skirmish game!

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On parade! Napoleonic French generals and staff

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My series of ‘On Parade‘ postings continues, as I inspect all the wargames figures I’ve painted over the last 20 years.

Just like a real army, a wargaming army needs generals and staff. Most wargames rules  incorporate rules for commanding officers to lead and rally their men. Though that’s  a moot point for me, because my French army has only actually played a couple or so times since I painted these figures in the early 2000s – I’m more of a painter than an actual gamer!

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Here’s Marshal Berthier, along with his ADC, Baron Lejeune. These are both Front Rank figures. Berthier (left) is a standard personality figure from their range. But his ADC started life as a model of a Chasseur à Cheval of the Imperial Guard, which I  painted in the highly individualistic uniform of Berthier’s aides. It is said that Berthier would allow only his aides to wear red trousers, and got very angry if he saw anyone else wearing this colour.

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Berthier must’ve sometimes got angry with Marshal Grouchy though, as he clearly wore red trousers, as seen here! Grouchy is accompanied by a general in chasseur uniform. I particularly like these figures, as their colourful uniforms make a change from the more usual blue uniforms of the French staff. These are lovely 28mm Front Rank castings from their range of personality figures.

Behind them is a Perry Miniatures figure of an ADC in the act of mounting his horse – a rather unusual pose.

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Here are some more of Front Rank’s range of wonderful personality figures.  On the left is Marshal Soult, wearing a cloak slung over his left shoulder. On the right is a general wearing his greatcoat, along with his ADC.

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The group on the left in the above picture contains two figures by Essex Miniatures (one at the far left, the other obscured in the centre) and two by Wargames Foundry. The difference in style between these two manufacturers is obvious from close up, but is fine from the arms-distance at which you normally view wargaming figures.

On the right is a group of Perry Miniatures’ command figures. Marshal Ney is leaning on the map-covered table, with Soult and Drouot on either side.

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This mounted general wearing a cuirass is produced by Wargames Foundry. I like the pose of this figure, and also of his horse – they go well together. The small road-sign at the back of the base is an out-of-production scenic item that used to be produced by New Zealander, Mark Strachan.

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This is one of my favourite command stands. At the right is General de Brigade Chouard of the 2nd Brigade of Carabiniers. He is accompanied by an aide on the rearing horse. These are both Front Rank figures.

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Generals of this period always need ADCs to gallop their orders round the field of battle. This nice mounted ADC came as part of Wargames Foundry’s French campsite set. His light blue arm-band indicates that he is the ADC to a General of Brigade. I based him as if he was asking directions from a couple of infantrymen.

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The above-mentioned ADC also features in this picture of a busy French campsite.  There’s also another ADC galloping over the bridge on his important mission, and yet one more introducing himself to a pair of light infantry musicians.

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Here’s the top man himself – the Emperor! OK, yes, I know, my army is far too small to be commanded by Napoleon himself. But there are just so many tempting models of him available, they’re impossible to resist!

For instance, this Foundry special set depicts Napoleon and his staff (many of the figures based on the famous painting by Vasily Vereshchagin of Napoleon at Borodino). You can see the Emperor sitting on a chair with his foot up on a drum. Behind him are clustered some of his marshals, including Berthier and his ADC in hussar uniform, Mortier, Grouchy, Victor and Ney (with his red hair).

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Also depicted on this large command stand are Napoleon’s personal Mameluke aide Roustam Raza, various ADCs, and (obscured) a Chasseur a Cheval standing guard.

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Here’s another of my Foundry Napoleons, this time based on the famous painting by David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps. As the setting is in the mountains, I have made a snowy base instead of my more usual grass and sand texturing. I used baking powder for the snow. I was worried this might cause cause unforeseen chemical reactions with my lead figure in years to come – but a couple of decades later it is holding out well!

The David painting is actually a strongly idealised view of the real crossing that Napoleon and his army made across the Alps. Napoleon actually made the crossing a few days after his troops, led by a local guide and mounted on a mule. However, as this painting was first and foremost propaganda, Bonaparte asked David to portray him mounted calmly on a fiery steed. Sort of a Tinder profile vs reality!

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