Have made good progress with figures lately, although some bits have been easier than others. And although we’re now in May (already!) the figures included in this post qualify for the monthly painting challenge over at Ann’s Immaterium (aptly titled the Paint The Crap You Already Own challenge)!
Following on from the Prussian artillery unit painted at the beginning of the month, my next unit has been some Franco-Prussian War marching Prussian infantry. I thought that an extra infantry unit would be a good idea to ensure I’ve got enough to outnumber their French opponents, and a marching unit is a bit different from the others I’ve painted.
The down side was that nine of the ten figures are identical, and that tied in with something I’d read about over at the Comrade’s Wargames blog recently! Since I thought painting them would drive me a bit mad (as if lock-down isn’t already contributing to that) I opted to paint one test figure to get the colours right, followed by three batches of three figures (also doing some bits on other things as well). To cut a long story short, it all went wrong from the beginning!
As I mentioned when I described the Prussian artillery unit, the Prussians I painted in 2015 had a black wash applied for the shading, whereas current figures are just being painted with a shade coat first and a light layer over the top (my usual style). Unfortunately, when I came to paint the greatcoat on the first figure, I realised I’d used too light a colour for the shading, so that there was little contrast between the colours. Plan B was to therefore paint the highlight in a lighter colour. Whereas it looks OK, it means the grey of the coats is too light, but I’ll have to live with that. Prussian coats are described as black-grey, but most illustrations show them lighter anyway and I always err on the light side anyway to offset the small size of the figures. Dress it up and justify it however I may, it means they’re basically wrong!
The marching figures are all from the Emhar plastic 1:72 FPW Prussian infantry set and are nice figures. Unlike the French infantry from the same manufacturer, the coats have less creases and folds in them and seem more realistic representations of heavier woollen coats. The officer in the top picture was painted along with the marching troops (he’s a metal figure from Hagen Miniatures) but I’ve switched him for an older B&B Miniatures Prussian officer to take charge of the marching unit (he’s in the second picture, clearly showing his darker coat and shading)!
Originally I was just going to feature the above guys in this post but, since they’re not particularly interesting, I thought I’d add in the last figures to get painted in April for some variation (and a bit more colour).
These are all 20mm B&B Miniatures FPW French – an HQ and a Mitrailleuse team.
The HQ unit shows a French senior officer conferring with one of his aides, the latter consulting his map of Germany and wondering why he hasn’t got a map of France (that happened apparently – the French were expecting to invade Germany so issued maps accordingly, which didn’t serve them too well when things went the other way. Conversely, the Prussians were well supplied with tourist maps of France). These figures are, significantly for me, the last of what I would describe as “essential” figures I need to wargame the conflict. The Mitrailleuse team, on the other hand, represent figures that are “desirable” i.e. nice to have for the variation, but not core troops.
In French, mitrailleuse is the term used to describe a machine gun. In English, Mitrailleuse is the name given to the first machine gun in French service in the Franco-Prussian War, the Reffye Mitrailleuse. For some reason, manufacturers of wargames Mitrailleuse crew seem to always have them wearing the shako with plume, rather than the more common (and practical) kepi. I’ve never found any references showing the shako actually being worn by artillery crews, although it was the prescribed headgear for the campaign. Consequently, I’ve had to apply a bit of guesswork to the shako, since it could be worn with or without a cover.
The Mitrailleuse was developed in secret and only entered service shortly before war. Consequently, its deployment and tactical use had not been thoroughly developed and it tended to be deployed in batteries as an artillery piece. Although the Mitrailleuse was a contemporary of the Gatling gun, the operation of the two pieces was significantly different and I recently came across an excellent video on Youtube showing its operation (it’s only four minutes, but worth watching the whole thing).
A clever piece of Victorian era engineering! I have a feeling that the B&B model more closely resembles the Montigny Mitrailleuse, a forerunner of the Reffye weapon according to Wikipedia, so another video seems appropriate (both use similar principles of operation).
Whichever one it is I’ve got, I’m happy with how the model’s turned out! We’ll just not mention those Prussian infantry!