Monday, September 16, 2019

Dragoons!

My full brigade
I finished up a brigade of French Dragoons this week, figures I began work on a year or two ago with the 2nd Regiment and completed in the past weeks with the 9th and the 14th. These units weren't necessarily brigaded together but all fought in Spain, notably, for these three, within the 2nd Dragoon Division of Latour-Maubourg at the Battle of Talavera in 1809
These figures are mostly from the Italeri French Dragoon set, with the exception of three figures in the 9th which were from the Zvezda command set (with a few modifications so that the dress matched those of the Italeri - longer coats, lapels...)
I have also always wanted to have a dedicated General de Brigade for my dragoons, and although there is a good figure in the Italeri French Command set, he is standing beside his horse. I wanted one on horseback, a general that could ride around the battlefield in the company of his beloved dragoons. So, out with the knife!
The commander was a fairly simple conversion, grafting the top half of the standing figure (map removed but a bit left to suggest reigns) to the bottom half of another figure seated on a horse. The left arm had to be adjusted somewhat to make room for the sword hilt and the seam patched a bit, but that was all.
Here are some photos of the results, with the most recently painted first...
14th Regiment

14th Regiment
Commander and standard bearer of the 14th
14th trumpeter and lieutenant
14th trumpeter and lieutenant, rear view

9th Regiment (trumpeter, commander and one trooper Zvezda with minor conversions)
2nd Regiment

General de Brigade - a conversion made up of two Italeri command figures.




Saturday, August 24, 2019

2nd Nassau Regiment




I managed to lay my hands on HaT’s excellently sculpted Nassau infantry earlier this year and was eager to paint them up as one of my growing number of foreign ally units serving with the French in Spain. These were painted mostly straight out of the box, with a good variety of command, musician, fusilier, grenadier and voltigeur figures. The only exception was a simple conversion of the grenadier command figure to create the necessary standard bearer.
In 1808 the uniform went through some major changes, dispensing with distinctive facing colours for each battalion, and it is this later uniform that is depicted on these figures. For this unit I chose to base it on the uniform of 1808 and later (although the grenadiers’ colpaks probably didn’t appear until 1810, after the battles in Spain that these toy soldiers are destined to be fighting) opting for the earlier white waist coats and grey trousers with stripes.
Here are a few photos of my results.

The full battalion with voltigeurs off their magnetic base and deployed in front.
The command stand - sashes appear red here but are actually orange. The flag bearer was the only necessary conversion, a simple head swap with the grenadier captain seen below.
Grenadiers with colpaks. This headgear probably appeared in the ranks around 1810.



Voltigeurs

A Bit of History


Box art from the HaT Nassau Infantry set.


When the houses of Nassau joined Napoleon’s Confederation of the Rhine Friedrich August, Duke of Nassau, became responsible for the raising and organizing of the military establishments of these small united states.
In July, 1808, two Nassau infantry regiments of two battalions each were created, these composed of one grenadier and voltigeur and four fusilier companies each. On August 20, 1808 the 2nd Regiment, along with one squadron of the Nassau ‘Chausseurs à Cheval’ left for Spain, where it remained until the upsurge of German nationalism in 1813. This culminated in the 1st Regiment (also sent to Spain in 1810) being disarmed and interned by the French while the 2nd went over to the British and was repatriated to Nassau.
The 2nd Regiment fought in General Laval’s so-called "German Division" (2nd Division) where its battle honours included Mesa de Ibor (17 March, 1809), Medellin (27 March, 1809), and Talavera (27-28 July 1809).
In March of 1810 the 1st Regiment was sent to Catalonia where it became part of the garrison of Barcelona. It saw the remainder of the war in garrison duty of this city punctuated by brief forays into the Catalonian hills in pursuit of the elusive Spanish guerrilla army.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Two-wheeled French supply wagons

My two new scratch-built wagons with Italeri wagon in background.
I was inspired to tackle this two-wheeled wagon build last week. I had two extra draft horses from the Italeri Supply Convoy set that I had built last year along with a couple of seated figures in greatcoats left over from the same set, and had wanted to take a shot at scratch-building some more wagons for my French.
Full disclosure here - I honestly have no evidence wagons like these were ever used by the French in the Napoleonic Wars! These two are roughly fashioned on the four-wheeled Italeri wagon. Certainly two-wheeled wagons existed at the time and were used extensively by the Portuguese and Spanish (a while ago I took a crack at the primitive Portuguese carts which you can see here). Mostly my build was motivated by the fact that I only had large wheels in the extras box and imagined that a wagon with four large wheels would look rather awkward! And in my defence I can only imagine that if two-wheeled carts existed and, as indeed they did, negotiated the rough roads of the Peninsula better than a four-wheeled wagon, then surely they would have been employed. Sadly, convoy wagons aren't all that sexy a thing and don't figure too heavily in the visual or written historical record.
So, having said that, the build was still a lot of fun. I enjoyed the problem-solving as I went along and am pleased with the results. I've included a step by step of the build below if anyone is interested. These, along with my Portuguese ox carts and Italeri wagon now give me a nice bit of Peninsular transport and, with removable drivers, will doubtlessly see service in the Spanish and British armies as well.

Front view. The driver on the left took a bit of slicing to reposition the arm and leg.
Rear view.
Wagon 1 left side view.
Wagon 2 left side view. Foraging party?

And the build...


Bases were made from balsa and styrene and the armature for the canvas a sturdy bent wire. Wheels were from a Hat Prussian cannon.

Under assembly.

Four wires were bent to serve as the shaft armatures.

Shaft armatures attached.

Under view, shaft armatures attached.

For the canvas I used a thinnish handmade paper with lots of weave, soaked in white glue and draped over the wire hoops. The front was cut out and attached separately.

Rear view of canvas in place.

I gooped modelling paste onto the wire armatures and also applied it to the canvas for texture. The modelling paste was also used to smooth over the gaps in the styrene and balsa from my rough build and to texture the bench top. The shafts were a new experiment - once dry I hoped I would then be able to carve them down to the right shape and size without it flaking off - and I could!

Ready to prime.

Primed and ready to paint.

Postscript


After sharing this on Benno's forum, I received an avalanche of support for the existence of carts similar to these. Here is a bit of what came in...

I had seen the French ambulances previously...

And I think this was identified as Austrian.

But then one forum member identified it as possibly a vivindere's cart (right background), carts used by women who sold food and drink to the French army.

And then - ta da! - this beautiful Franznap model was offered.

And finally another scratchbuilt model from the forum member who first ID'd it, one that he had to dig out of the box.
Less helpfully but certainly relevant, someone contributed this Youtube video...
https://youtu.be/6SeZe1CKRv8








Saturday, July 27, 2019

42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot


Another project I completed early this summer were these 42nd Highlanders (Black Watch) as the newest addition to my British Peninsular army. I hope to add more Highlander regiments in the future, but I enjoyed painting this first set of Italeri figures. I was a bit daunted by the dreaded kilt but was happy with the result.
The full battalion.
For the most part the figures are straight out of the box, but a lack of command figures in this set had me getting my scalpel and modelling compound out. One of the ensigns is adapted from the drummer (with different legs, as the drummer in this kit is diminutive!) and with the second I got lazy, and decided the ensign has been replaced by one of the sergeants of the colour party, with a fairly easy conversion of a pike-bearing sergeant.
The officer was adapted from the officer in the uninspired Hat British Light Infantry set, receiving a bearskin, officer, sash and claymore, held in a more realistic manner.
All the sergeants received the proper sash, worn over the shoulder, and claymores were added to those in the colour party.
I think future Highlander Regiments may have to wait as the command conversions were fun but a bit time consuming and I have my eye on some of the very nice looking Strelets sets of Highlanders that are now available.

The command stand. The commander was adapted from the Hat light infantry set, the ensign hiding behind the officer started life as the drummer but given new legs and the second ensign simply an adapted pike-bearing sergeant.

The sergeants received their proper sashes but I ran out of steam and only gave claymores to the colour party.

Infantry stand
So a bit of history for this illustrious regiment...

The 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment

After the Jacobite rising of 1715 Highland militias were raised from clans loyal to the British crown to keep control of Scotland. These six companies of Highlanders, with companies drawn from different clans (one company each coming from Clan Munro, Clan Fraser of Lovat, and Clan Grant and three from Clan Campbell) eventually became known as the Black Watch, probably as a result of how they dressed. Four more were added in 1739 at which time they were officially formed into the 43rd Highland Regiment of Foot.


The first battalion embarked for Portugal in August, 1808 and was present at the battle of Corunna in January 1809. After the first battalion exited Portugal the second was sent to the Portugal under Wellington and fought at the Battle of Bussaco in September 1810. It also fought at the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro in May 1811, the Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo in January 1812 and the Siege of Badajoz in March 1812. Diminished by the bloody fighting at Badajoz the second battalion returned home to recruit and was replaced again by the first, which saw action at the Battle of Salamanca in July 1812, the Siege of Burgos in September 1812 and the Battle of Vitoria in June 1813. It was engaged in the pursuit of the French Army into France and fought at the Battle of the Pyrenees in July 1813, the Battle of Nivelle in November 1813 and the Battle of the Nive in December 1813. It closed the war with the Battle of Orthez in February 1814 and finally the Battle of Toulouse in April 1814, needlessly fought after peace had been declared in Paris!









Monday, July 22, 2019

Le Mesnil-Patry, June 11, 1944

We played our big summer game up at my friend Phong’s cottage this summer. It turned out to be the hottest, most humid day of the summer, but we still sweated it out around the gaming table for a day and a half, punctuated by good food and jumps in the lake to cool down!
When the fighting got too hot we had this lake to jump into.

As it is the 75th anniversary of the historic events in Normandy in WWII we dusted off our WWII toys to play this scenario, the ill-fated brigade attack on Le Mesnil-Patry on June 11, 1944  by the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade in support of the neighbouring forces of 30th Corps. It was a hastily planned attack with no recce and historically was a dismal failure, described by one British journalist as “ the charge of the Light Brigade”. This scenario, written by Paddy Green and Richard de Ferrars as part of their Blood and Honour series, was played in 1/72 scale on a 6’ X 9’ board using Battlefront WWII rules, with some home grown alterations. Toys were a combination of mine and Phong’s with four players - myself, Phong, our friend Ted and Phong’s son Dylan.

Scenario map showing German deployment areas and lines of the Canadian attack. Le Mesnil-Patry was the objective so the arrows, ending at the high water mark, tell it all!

The Battlefield

The battlefield as seen from the Canadian starting line. Norrey is in the foreground, Le Mesnil-Paltry on the high ground at top. Minefields sewn by the Regina Rifles along the Bretteville road (bottom right) block the planned starting line and force a bottleneck as the Canadians have to negotiate through Norrey's narrow streets.
The battlefield as seen from Le Mesnil-Patry (bottom). This town was the Canadian objective.

View from Norrey's railway station.



The chateau and Le Mesnil-Patry.

The chateau.

The Battle

First wave arrives

The 1st Hussars B Squadron with D Co. of the Queens Own Rifles of Canada mounted as tank riders arrive in Norrey. They find their supposed start line blocked by hastily sown minefields, placed there by the Regina Rifles currently in control of the Norrey salient and are forced to detour through the narrow streets of the town to launch their attack.

D Company dismounts

D Co. scrambles off the backs of the Shermans to make their way through Norrey on foot towards the Canadian right flank. 

A Company follows up

A Company in trucks move through the town bottleneck to move up on the left flank, with the Hussars’ C Squadron close behind.

B Squadron forges south out of Norrey and up the main road to Le Mesnil Patry


First Encounter

B Squadron’s lead Shermans encounter the first enemy troops, Panzergrenadiers of the 26th SS. The German company commander is quickly dealt with by the Sherman's machineguns, the last easy success of the battle!

Mortars arrive

Meanwhile, back in Norrey, more of the attacking force enters via the Bretteville road, following C Squadron into the town. The regiments’ mortars dismount from their carriers to emplace in an orchard west of the town while Lt. Col. Spragge takes up HQ’s in the Norrey church spire in an attempt to gain a view of the battlefield over the densely hedged fields. It’s a dangerous perch as it is also the target of continued German shelling as the Allies move through the town, and a direct hit soon leaves the QOR without their commander.

A Co. dismounts east of Norrey


Ambush!

B Squadron tanks on the main road suddenly find themselves the targets of a vicious crossfire by hidden Pak40’s either side of the road. The lead tank is hit and bursts into flames.

Second Pak40

A second Pak40 on the Canadian centre left ambushes tanks.


And a third on the German far right...


A Co. is spotted and shelled as they dismount on the Canadian left


Outflanking German guns

Things heat up as the Hussars engage dug in Paks, infantry guns and panzergrenadiers on the Canadian left. Two more tanks are KO’d before the German guns are silenced.

Linking up

B and C Squadrons continue to drive up the Canadian right, linking up with D Co. advancing on foot from Norrey.

A Co. advances

Meanwhile, on the Canadian left A Co. moves out from the covering hedges to test this flank and try to pin the enemy while the main event goes up the right.

Minefield!

A supporting tank is KO’d on a hidden minefield and German mg’s open up. Suspecting more mines A Co. falls back to their start position to regroup.

German armour arrives

Just as the Canadians start to make some small headway on the right, two German Panzer IV’s (SS Panzer Regiment 12 Hitlerjugend) advance on the Cristot road just north of Le Mesnil-Patry.

Taking on the Panzers

Under cover of smoke the Canadian armour maneuvers to try to dislodge the Panzer IV’s. As the enemy tanks are engaged by Fireflies on the Canadian right other Hussars storm up the main road to close assault. But they are met by enemy Panzershreks hidden in haystacks and behind hedges, and two more casualties are added to the flaming wreckage on the main road.

Panzershreks in every haystack and behind every hedgerow!


A Squadron arrives

Canadian armour continues to pour into Norrey, with A Squadron now moving through the town along with the Queens Own Rifles’ B Co.

Mortars in action

QOR's 3" mortars in action as tanks and B Co. pass by on their way through Norrey

Panzer IV's KO'd

The Hussars’ Fireflies finally find their mark as the two German tanks are KO’d. But the cost has been dear, with eight disabled and burning Shermans dotting the fields and the Canadians still less than halfway to their objective.

Breakthrough

A handful of Shermans manage to breakthrough the enemy lines in and around the chateau causing German mortars to scramble from their positions to escape the advancing tanks. There is now nothing between them and Le Mesnil-Patry but it is late in the game as more élite enemy armour emerges along the Cristot road.

Iron Cross candidate

A lone German Panzershrek holds up any advance by A Squadron out of Norrey along the main road as the Hussars attempt to blast him out of his position. German Panzershreks accounted for at least a half dozen kills in this fight!

Flushing out the enemy

With the Hussars forging ahead, D. Co. finally comes to grips with the bypassed German infantry still dug in north of the chateau.

Didn't see that coming!

One of the lead Shermans behind the chateau is KO’d by an unnoticed enemy tank as the Sherman pulls back seeking a better position. (Markers on board show the plethora of yet uncommitted German engineers of the 12th SS Pioneer battalion still dug in north of Le Mesnil Patry and east of the main road!)


Back where it started!

Tanks of A Squadron knocks out a German Pak before it can unlimber. Both Paks on this flank had been pulled off the line to support the German left, and were now being hurriedly brought back as the Canadian armour late to the battle appear on their eastern flank.

A Company resumes attack

With tanks of A Squadron now on the scene A Co. QOR again sallies out of the orchards east of Norrey. They are met be a devastating artillery strike but the remainder press on, giving close support to A Squadron’s Shermans, who have lost yet another tank to a panzershrek hidden in yet another haystack.

Carrier platoon moves through Norrey 

The QOR’s carriers along with supporting engineers pass through Norrey’s narrow streets but never make it to the fight. 

QOR’s B Co. shelled

In a Quixotic attempt to hustle B Co. (mounted in trucks) up the Canadian right in support of A Co., their transport is spotted by the German FOO. The lead truck is destroyed as its surviving occupants bail out disordered.

Slow going

D Co. trying to clear out the enemy troops north of the chateau as a half dozen shattered tanks burn in the background.

Two more Hussars KO’d 

A second Sherman is KO’d behind the chateau as the enemy tanks close in for the kill, losing one of their own in the process. In the background a Firefly, moving to support these tanks is hit in the flank by a hidden Panzershrek and bursts into flames.

Tank battle around the chateau 

Two Shermans are KO’d along with a Firefly (off photo, bottom left) as the Panzer IV’s move in.

Final Overview as seen from Norrey


With the Canadian tank breakthrough around the chateau snuffed and the way forward to Le Mesnil-Patry blocked by a burning Firefly (previous photo, but around chateau top right), A Squadron, although still relatively intact, (photo centre) is making slow headway up either side of the main road towards Le Mesnil-Patry. B and C Squadrons have both been reduced to less than 50% and are unable to effectively advance (centre right) with many tanks now in full retreat.
The leading Canadian infantry companies (D on the right and A on the left) are both at 50% casualties and B and C companies, along with the carrier platoon and combat engineers are still mired west and within Norrey or just south of their starting line.
With half his armour out of commission and half his infantry companies no longer capable of sustained action, Brigadier Wyman calls off the attack and orders his forces to fall back on the Regina Rifles’ positions around Norrey.

We called the game here but handed the Germans a major victory. There was no way, with almost all of their infantry (the engineer battalion was virtually untouched!) and most of their armour still intact, that the Germans would lose Le Mesnil-Patry, but we decided the Canadians still had enough forces to maintain control of Norrey. So a more or less historical result...