My renaissance cavalry

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I have been building a renaissance-era landsknecht army. This despite the fact I know next to nothing about either the renaissance or landsknechts! So my accuracy is likely to be suspect, but the overall look of my army fits what I imagine for the period … and that is enough for me.

Anyway, I wanted some cavalry to support my pike blocks of landknechts. I had no real idea of what sort of cavalry would have taken this role, but had in mind knights with long skirts and lots of plumes, but not with the heraldic surcoats worn in earlier medieval times.

As this army is really just a kind of doodling project, lying outside my main interest areas, I also didn’t want to spend too much on my figures! So I settled on a box of Perry Miniatures plastic mounted men-at-arms.

The Perry figures are designed for the Wars of the Roses period, which is a little earlier than what I wanted. But with a little basic conversion, I thought they could be ‘updated’ sufficiently to achieve the look I was after.

The first thing was to do a few head-swaps. I had plenty of spare landsknecht heads from the Warlord Games sets I had previously assembled. Adding a few floppy hats and bearded faces amongst the Perry helmets quickly gave a more renaissance feel to the figures.

I wanted some of the figures to have the long full skirts that you often see in pictures of renaissance knights. So I got somewhat ambitious (for me) and tried a little Green Stuff conversion work.

I’ve never really worked much with Green Stuff modelling putty before. But I was quite pleased with the results of my ham-fisted sculpting efforts, some of which you can see in the above picture!

Painting my cavalrymen was fun, as each figure could be painted in a different way. The end result was a cavalcade of riotous colours – exactly what I was after!

Here are all twelves of the figures, with bases sanded and textured. The flag came with the Perry box.

I was thinking of maybe changing the plain wood colour of the lances (which, by the way, were a Deus Vult product) to painted ones. But looking through pictures of renaissance period battles, coloured lances didn’t appear to be too common in combat.

Perry figures are always beautifully sculpted and animated. There’s a real sense of movement in those horses, even with all the metal they are carrying.

Finally, here’s the last view a poor foot-soldier might have as my armoured cavalry gallop out of the sun and ride him down.

Merry Christmas! Mere Kirihimete!

I wish all my ‘Dressing The Lines’ visitors peace and goodwill for Christmas, or in Māori, Kirihimete.

It may seem ironic to wish ‘peace’ and ‘goodwill’ on a blog about a hobby that may seem warlike to the uninitiated.

But we are actually a gentle bunch who like nothing more than to be left in peace to paint our miniature armies, and to have good willing friends to face across the tabletop.

So from here in Paraparaumu, New Zealand, I wish you a merry Christmas, mere Kirihimete!

Vignettes of Napoleon and his staff

Continuing on with my recent Napoleonic mini-projects, I’ve painted a few figures I’ve had lying around for years. They depict Napoleon (centre) with some of his staff (left), a sentry and a courier (right). They’re pictured here standing in front of an old resin model of La Belle Alliance, the French command post during the Battle of Waterloo.

You would think a model of Napoleon himself would be very important for any Napoleonic wargamer, so would never have been left lying around unpainted! But for some reason this Perry figure (right) has sat round for a number of years, and has only now got to the painting table.

Perhaps this is because I already have another Napoleon or two in my French army. However, just as I have a number of Sharpe and Harpers in my collection, and also at least two Dukes of Wellington (here and here), I’m obviously not too worried about clones!

I actually painted the group around the table (left) many years ago. But all the other figures in this picture are from the set that has been languishing up till recently without paint.

Perhaps discernable in this picture are the two distinct painting styles I have used over the years:

  • I painted the table group on the left with my old method of a black undercoat followed by the Foundry paint system of layering three colours to build up the shades and highlights.
  • Whereas I painted all the other figures in this picture using my current style of a creamy-white undercoat, and then GW’s Contrast paints to automatically deliver the shades and highlights with just one coat.

In this closer look, we see Marshal Ney with his distinctive red hair, leaning on the map-covered table. Marshalls Soult and Drouot stand on either side.

Even if you knew nothing about the Napoleonic Wars, you would surely recognise the figure of Napoleon himself. This is no accident. Napoleon cultivated an easily recognisable image by keeping his wardrobe simple. In the midst of the finery around him, Napoleon stood out by dressing in the green and white uniform of a colonel of the Chasseurs à Cheval (light cavalry) of the Imperial Guard, topped by his famous bicorne hat, and often wearing a grey overcoat.

Napoleon is depicted here standing with his ordnance officer, Gaspard Gourgaud, wearing a light blue coat and grey overalls. Gourgaud held this position from 1811, and was to eventually accompany the Emperor to his final exile on St Helena.

On the left is a stalwart sentry from the Old Guard. Napoleon took great care of his Guard. The Grenadiers of the Old Guard were known to complain in the presence of the Emperor, giving them the nickname Les Grognards, the Grumblers. The Guard received better pay, rations, quarters, and equipment, and all guardsmen ranked one grade higher than all non-Imperial Guard soldiers.

To the right a courier salutes after dismounting his horse. I’m not 100% sure what unit he is from, as I merely copied the colours of the example on the Perry Miniatures website. But I have always liked the French penchant for red trousers (which became more evident in the later period of Napoleon III).

Well, that’s it with painting miniatures for the moment, because I have reached the very bottom of my ‘lead pile’. So I now have the enjoyable process of deciding what to purchase next. And now that the Perrys have started a brand new Franco-Prussian War range, maybe there is an opportunity for more of those madder red trousers!

A Napoleonic Portuguese telegraph station

Perry Miniatures produce this delightful set of model soldiers depicting a group of Portuguese signalers, complete with their semaphore pole.

In 1810 the Anglo-Portuguese army had a network of optical semaphore stations that ran in lines forming an inverted Y, from Lisbon to the frontier fortifications of Elvas and Almeida. Each station was manned by a small group of soldiers from the Corpo Telegraphico.

Signals were passed using a moveable 3-foot square panel that could indicate six numerals. Combinations of these numbers corresponded to hundreds of words or part-phrases in a code book.

The Perry models include a cross-legged engineer officer reading a message from next station in the line, his telescope supported on a stoic telegrapher’s shoulder. Another man notes down the code-numbers as the officer calls them out.

Behind them a fourth telegrapher is busy re-sending the message further down the line, using a rope to control the pivoting semaphore arm.

The above extreme close-up photos show my somewhat impressionistic painting style. They really do look better than this when held at arms-length!

But despite my untidy paintwork, the character that the Perry twins have instilled into the faces of these figures is undeniable.

I’ve based this set so they can be placed on top of a tower I converted many years ago from a plastic toy in the old ‘Weapons and Warriors’ pirate playset.

A British campsite during the Napoleonic Wars

Here’s a rather bucolic scene sometime during the Napoleonic Wars, with British infantry and cavalry relaxing in camp.

These are all Perry Miniatures figures from their 28mm metal Napoleonic British range. They come as separate sets depicting various scenes of camp life.

The fun with these sets is arranging them on a base to tell a story. Here a couple of soldiers and a female camp-follower tend their large cooking pot. Behind them another soldier chops wood for the fire, whilst his mate makes a welcome arrival carrying a goat he has caught to add to the broth (tastier than the rats on the crates!).

This bases tells the story of the changing of the guard. On the left a sergeant directs his men who have just come in from patrol duty to remove and stack their heavy packs.

Meanwhile a portly young officer inspects one of the relief party heading out on guard duty. This officer figure doesn’t actually come from this particular set, but I thought he added a nice touch to this scene.

In the background another of the incoming patrol wipes his brow tiredly whilst his mate stacks their muskets.

The last of my vignettes shows a group of dragoons playing a game of cards, surrounded by their discarded helmets and even a saddle.

In contrast to the dragoons’ campaign uniforms, the two hussars ambling into camp are very ornately dressed.

These figures exemplify the amazing talent that the Perry twins have for lifelike anatomy and naturalistic posing.

They are all painted in my usual rather impressionistic style – they don’t bear too close a look, as you can see if you expand these photos! I used GW Contrast paints exclusively for all these figures.

The bases are MDF coated with real sand and dotted with a few pumice stones, roughly sprinkled with static grass and clumps of long grass. I don’t paint my base terrain – it is all ‘au natural’, as I think why paint your sand when that is what real terrain is made of!

Whilst these figures won’t play much part in any wargame other than for decoration, they are still a welcome addition to my Napoleonic British army.

Chunuk Bair diorama to mark Anzac Day

This Sunday marks Anzac Day, celebrated in Australia and New Zealand on 25th April every year. I was approached recently by my local library here in Paraparaumu, New Zealand if I had any model soldiers I could put into their Anzac Day display.

I didn’t have any WW1 figures myself. But a few years ago the Kapiti Wargames Club (of which I have been an itinerant member) played a leading role in painting figures for a massive diorama in Sir Peter Jackson’s Great War Exhibition in Wellington that ran from 2015 to 2019. Over 5,000 of these specially commissioned 54mm Perry Miniatures figurines were painted by 100 volunteers from wargaming clubs all over New Zealand.

Although the Great War Exhibition is now closed down and its diorama in storage, I knew that the club had a number of left-over and reject figures on loan. I managed to borrow a couple of dozen of these miniatures, and decided to build a small diorama to show them off.

My diorama takes centre-stage in the library’s lobby. A wall hanging of scarlet knitted poppies makes the perfect backdrop.

My diorama loosely represents one of the Turkish counter-attacks during the Battle of Chunuk Bair. Before dawn on 8 August 1915 the Wellington Infantry Battalion took the crest of a hill called Chunuk Bair at Gallipoli, the Turkish defenders having retired during an artillery bombardment. 

Hundreds of the Wellingtons would be killed during the next few hours in a gallant but forlorn attempt to hold the crest against determined Turkish counter-attacks. Of the 760 New Zealand soldiers who had made it to the summit, only 70 were still standing by the end of the day when they were relieved by other units.

Their victory was short-lived though, as two days later the Turks recaptured Chunuk Bair for good.

Now, I’m no Weta Workshop (the famous film effects company that constructed the terrain for the Great War Exhibition). My diorama is just a simple piece of polystyrene foam shaped to depict a trench.

My ground-cover isn’t any fancy scenic product either. It is just dirt and stones scrapped up from a paddock outside my house! The plants are plastic Christmas wreath decorations, given a dusting of light beige spray-paint. The sandbags were part of the Great War Exhibition stuff that I was loaned.

The figures were in a bit of a state when I got them, and many needed some touching up. They are on the whole not the best-painted of the figures from the crowd-painting project, but they look adequate enough from a distance.

I had quite a few Turkish casualties, but no firearms for them. So a friend from the club, Fern Campbell, 3D-printed some rifles for me to scatter about on the ground. She made an excellent job of these.

Here’s an overhead view of the entire diorama. I quite like the way the trench cuts through on a diagonal, which makes the composition more interesting than if it had been parallel to the edge of the diorama.

The diorama will remain in the Paraparaumu Public Library for the next week or so. After that I will have to disassemble it and return the figures. Maybe one day they will take their place in a restored version of the entire 5,000-figure Great War Exhibition diorama!

One day in 1860s New Zealand …

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Today marks 100 days since New Zealand had its last community transmission of COVID-19. Life has now returned pretty much to normal here, other than our border protection and having to be more vigilant. This success means we are able to do things that still can’t be done in many other countries, such as taking part in mass gatherings. Thus it is that I can report on my part in such a gathering last weekend.

I was asked by my friend Herman van Kradenburg to help him put on a wargaming display at an antique arms fair in the nearby town of Palmerston North. This would expose the hobby to a crowd of people who, whilst obviously interested in arms and militaria, might not have come across wargaming before.

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For my display table, I chose to represent the colonial New Zealand Wars of the 1860s. This wasn’t to be an actual game, but rather a static display to show off a wide range of miniatures and terrain as an eye-catching conversation-starter to talk to the punters about our hobby. And so it proved to be!

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The attention of many of our visitors was first caught this Māori pa (fortification). This was 3D-printed for me by my friends at Printable Scenery. Whilst the design is actually from a period earlier than the 1860s, it placed the table firmly in a New Zealand setting.

My replication of the New Zealand bush also garnered a lot of attention. This was formed by throwing together every wargaming tree and bush that I own, no matter what sort, and then adding a few fern-leafs to give it more local character. It wouldn’t fool a botanist, but certainly from a distance creates enough of the look and feel of New Zealand.

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Out of the bush emerges this warband of Māori warriors. These are the exquisite 28mm figures produced by Empress Miniatures.

Many visitors to my table were flabbergasted that there even existed  a range of figures depicting our own history. I imagine there may now be some orders being sent to Empress, judging by the interest being shown by even non-wargamers!

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My favourite figure in the whole Empress range is the toa (warrior) standing at the very left of this picture, holding aloft his tewhatewha, the two-handed weapon used for both fighting and signalling during battle. Below its distinctive axe-blade-type head is a bunch of feathers, for confusing an opponent in battle or to help the user signal to his followers.

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Perry Miniatures buildings are perfect for the New Zealand Wars. Here we see a raid on a farmhouse.

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A group of the vaunted Forest Rangers encounters a war-party at a river ford. The rangers are made by Old Glory. They’re might not be sculpted to the same standard of Empress figures, but they’re all there is at the moment to recreate these iconic troops armed with carbines and Bowie knives.

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For my British troops in their typical blue jumpers, I have used the Perry ‘British Intervention Force‘ range.

Standards were not carried in New Zealand, but there are some contemporary pictures of military campsites that include union flags being flown,  so I thought it not unreasonable that maybe such a flag could have been informally carried. Anyway, it would’ve been a waste not to include this figure which was in the Perry pack! 

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A small detachment of cavalry come onto the scene.  These could be colonial militia, or perhaps soldiers of the Military Train, who were gathered together into make-shift cavalry units (no actual British cavalry regiments having fought in the New Zealand Wars) .

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The Royal Navy are represented on the table, both with artillery (including rockets) and a party of armed sailors.

Sailors were regarded as some of the most effectual fighters during the wars. However, their artillery was often somewhat less effectual against the cleverly designed pa defences of the Māori.

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I really like Perry Miniatures’ renditions of the mounted commanders, seen here conversing as a heavily-laden supply wagon trundles past, whilst some sappers are busy on road-work duties in the background.

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At headquarters, the general issues his orders to a subordinate, as another officer notes down his words.

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One of the army’s Māori scouts takes time out for a contemplative pull on his pipe. He’s also a Perry figure, who I think was supposed to represent a native American, but works just as well as a Māori scout wearing part-uniform.

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My table wasn’t the only one we had at the arms fair. My friend Herman put on this wonderful WW2 desert extravaganza.

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It basically represented Germans versus French, but with wildly mixed and matched various campaigns of the desert war so as to be able to show off as many models as possible.

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Our ethos of not being constrained by exactly which campaign and time period we were fighting gave the flexibility to add in some weird and wonderful units. My recently-painted Panhards even got to make their debut! 

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Unlike my New Zealand Wars display, we actually played this table as a game during the show. The idea was to demonstrate the structure of how a wargame worked, so we used Bolt Action, but stripped down to the barest possible rules.

We were pleasantly surprised how well such a simplified rule-set still performed! And the punters loved it, as they could easily see how a static diorama could become a living game through use of turns, measuring and dice.

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However, things didn’t work out too well for my Panhards!

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! 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.

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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