August 6th 1870 (150 years ago today) saw the first two large scale actions of the Franco-Prussian War, at Spicheren and Wörth (hence the title), both ending in defeat for the French. My intention was to have staged a wargame to mark this anniversary, but COVID-19 restrictions have prevented that from taking place, although I stuck to my aim of having all of the troops ready that I’d need for the game. To put this in some context, I’ve been working on my Franco-Prussian War project for over 30 years and have still to have my first game! But, at least I’m ready for it! This post will basically fall into two parts – the first part shows the latest figures I’ve finished and the second part will be the waffly bit describing why it’s taken me so bloody long to get this far!
Back at the start of the year, I worked on preparing the figures I still needed to complete this project and they are now finished. I’ve already posted pictures of my French and Prussian infantry and artillery painted earlier in the year, which just left the cavalry to finish (my aversity to painting cavalry is well known)!
First of the recently finished cavalry was a French dragoon unit (shown above). These are Irregular Miniatures 20mm figures and very nicely sculpted. Irregular’s 20mm figures are on the smaller side, so a challenge to paint, but they always come out well I think!
Since I use movement trays for all my FPW units, they’re shown above on their unit base as well. French Dragoon uniforms in 1870 were in a state of transition, the jacket changing from a short green one to a longer blue tunic – the Irregular figures wear the latter, which is the one I prefer. The helmet was brass with a leopard skin band around it, although the latter is quite small on these figures.
Next figures are Prussian hussars (shown above). These represent Brandenburg Hussar Regiment Number 3.
Once again, they’ve got a unit base as well! Now, I have a big admission to make about these – they’re actually not FPW figures, but German WW1 hussars from Britannia Miniatures! Despite their huge range of figures, Irregular Miniatures only make Prussian dragoons for 1870 (which I’ve already got) and I didn’t want another dragoon unit. B&B Miniatures have a very good range of FPW 20mm figures that includes Prussian hussars, but I didn’t want to use them (they are wearing the pelisse, a fur-trimmed over-jacket worn fastened only around the neck, but in 1870 only the Prussian Guard Hussars wore the pelisse). So I bought five Britannia WW1 German hussar officers and a single trumpeter to make up the unit. I had to add the busby bag from milliput but otherwise the figures look the part, overlooking some other details with the equipment and horse blankets. I opted for the Brandenburg regiment because of its red jackets and busby bags, which make a change to the bulk of my units which are dressed in blue. It’s not really evident from the pictures, but the officer has silver uniform distinctions compared to the white decorations of his men, but he also has white gloves, a black horse and a clump of white flowers on his base to distinguish him (his busby is also brown, whereas the men where black busbies, but it doesn’t show up in these pictures)!
So, I’m pleased to get these units finished, both because they’re cavalry and the last of the units I’d wanted to complete. As far as further FPW units are concerned, I’ve only got some French infantry and dismounted dragoons planned, so the armies are probably near enough finished!
OK, now the more boring, waffly bit (mentioned for those that might not be able to tell the difference)! When I got engaged in 1988 (yep, last century) I realised I wasn’t going to be able to continue to play room-size WW2 games across entire floors on green-dyed sheets placed over piles of clothing representing hills! A reduction in scale was going to be needed to accompany a move to playing on a dining room table! A series of articles back in the 1970s (maybe ’80s even) Airfix magazine had covered the Franco-Prussian War, so I though I might like to give that a try. To that end, I bought some Minifigs 15mm French and Prussian figures that came with a quick play ruleset and was ready to get started!
Now those of you that have followed my blog for a while know that, as far as figures go, I stick to 20mm scale. But 15mm was all part of the scaling down games exercise, so I just had to get on with it. Over a few years, I painted up a small French force based around 14-man infantry battalions, finishing six of the latter, a twelve-man dragoon regiment and an artillery battery. Some of these figures were also painted while I was away on business, since I placed a higher priority on painting my wargames figures in the evening than sitting in a bar with my colleagues drinking beer and watching football! Having finished the French starter force, I moved onto the Prussians, and . . . disaster struck; the first Prussian infantry unit finished turned white after varnishing with a matt acrylic varnish spray! This coincided with the realisation that I still had no 15mm scenery for games either and that, combined with the varnish issue sealed the fate of 15mm FPW gaming for me! The French went to a bring-and-buy sale at a wargames show and that was that!
At some point after this, 20mm FPW figures appeared on the market, first in plastic from Emhar, then in metal from B&B Miniatures. This tempted me to make a new start, so I bought the Emhar figures and stashed them away for a rainy day! What continued to put me off was the fact that I needed to paint 20-man Prussian infantry battalions and that was going to be a chore! But in 2014 I painted up some early-WW1 French and Germans quickly for a Battle of The Marne centenary wargame and to get things done quickly I used 10-man units. This worked quite well, so I thought why not try the same approach with FPW figures. Another plus was that I’d already painted French Turcos for Boxer Rebellion wargames and they could be used for FPW games (in addition, early-WW1 French infantry can pass for later war-FPW French infantry, so I already had the basis of a French force under way).
So, freshly motivated after painting my WW1 figures, in 2015 I made a start with FPW Prussians and in that year got a reasonable army assembled, using black washes (badly) for the first time to speed things up. I then got side-tracked by the 1866 Seven Weeks’ War and, leading up to the 150th anniversary of that in 2016, painted an Austrian force to fight the newly-painted Prussians! A spin off of that was that the Austrians could also be used to fight the French in the 1859 Second War of Italian Independence – three armies, fighting in three wars (ignoring small uniform changes that occurred)!
At this point, I could see the plan for painting FPW armies all coming together, which is no doubt why I then diverted off on my Paraguayan War project! But I also thought that I didn’t really have that far to go with FPW armies and that getting them ready for 2020, the 150th anniversary of the start of the war, was achievable. I was right! I now have French and Prussian armies for a project that has been on the go for over 30 years, but I still haven’t had my first game with them!
If you’ve read this far, well done and thank you for sticking with it! At some point I should probably try and get some pictures together of these armies, but that will have to wait for now! Having waited this long, a few more years aren’t going to matter!