Paths of Glory- Stanley Kubrick (1957)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

And of course I need to think of artillery...

Ils sont ici!

I have been very much interested in gaming WW1 recently, and the only reasons I haven't been working on the French for a while was that I am working on a large terrain feature for games set in the Dolomites in the Italian campaign in 1917-18. Expect the 701st to be sent to Italy for service there!

The other reason is that I really like the Austro-Hungarians from
Scarab Miniatures, and when they announced that they intended to do the French as I mentioned in my previous post, I really wanted to wait and see what they were like before continued much further with my Poilus.

Well, they are
here, and I like what I see!

Most importantly, they do not have the khaki cover moulded on the helmets which is my biggest beef with the Brigade Games French. The cover was only worn for a short time during the Battle of Verdun where the shiny paint used on the early helmets was proving to be too visible. The khaki covers themselves were removed once new helmets with a non-reflective paint were issued, as the fabric was prone to cause infection in the event of any head wounds so the covers disappeared by 1917 at the very latest. Unfortunately, a large proportion of the Brigade Games models are wearing these so I was anxious to see if I could replace these particular figures with the Scarab offering.

I am scheduled to make another clandestine "raid" for gaming supplies sometime after the middle of April, and Scarab are high on the list of potential targets, as is a French MMG and grenadier pack from Brigade Games (modelled without the helmet covers, fortunately!).

A few words about terrain. What is a WW1 game without trenches and barbed wire? I recently received some modular trench pieces in plastic that I had ordered from
Kallistra, which you can see in my other blog post here.

Another future buy is this- a 30' pack of
barbed wire by Antenociti. I'll need a lot of this!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Horizon Blue on the Horizon!

Scarab Miniatures is a new company who have already released a very nice range of 1916-18 Austro-Hungarian infantry as reviewed by Henry Hyde in the latest issue (#16) of Battlegames magazine.

It was announced recently on TMP that Scarab would be releasing their opponents the Italians, but it was also mentioned that the first releases of late war French would be due to come out in the near future. I was on to this like a rat to an open tin of bully beef, and on checking their website I saw that Scarab was inviting comments on ideas for future releases.

Not being one to let such an opportunity go by, I duly sent a mail suggesting a number of support equipment and colonial troops, and Scarab were good enough to respond not only that they were planning what looks to be a pretty extensive range, but also sent me a photo of one of the castings that will make a release later this year, a French Chasseur d'Alpine infantryman. Nicely painted, if not quite finished, but it cleary shows the detail, equipment and "character" of the minis. I really like it.

I hope Scarab do not mind me reproducing it here, as it is an inspiring and very nice looking model. I can see that this spring and summer I'll be spending a lot of time in the trenches!

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Cpl. Jean-Nicholas le Ma├žon, of the 701 Regt. d'Infanterie, prepares to hurl les Boches from the sacred lands of La Belle France.

A completed mini! Here is the first of the
Poilus, based and ready. I was very happy with the weathering. A judicious wash of Delta Ceramcoat's mudstone gave me just the effect I was looking for, and I was careful not to overdo it.

It helped that the mini was varnished first, as the wash didn't stain the paint leaving ugly marks as had happened too often in the past when I used washes. After basing and weathering, I sealed the mini with a few quick coats of matte acrylic artists fixative, and I was done!

Now to get to work on finishing his #2 and on preparing some riflemen.

Base details...

(With apologies to Siegfried Sassoon.)

Click to enlarge if you want to see closer image, warts 'n all.

I came back late last night from a business trip, but managed to find the energy to work on a few of my poilus. The chauchat gun team is proceeding nicely. the "number two" needs only to have the leather equipment painted in along with his Lebel rifle, and he will be ready for varnishing and basing. The gunner himself is almost completely done; you can see here. I repainted his helmet a lighter shade of blue, given him a coat of varnish, and have started on the base.

Not as matte a finish as I would have liked; there remains a slight sheen. The best matte finish I know of is Testor's Dullcoat, but it is unavailable here in Japan, and aerosol cans cannot be sent overseas so there is no point fretting over the fact. I'll just assume it has been a rainy day along the Western Front. The finish I achieved is well within my comfort zone, though, and I remain pleased with the result.

I have been giving the bases some thought for a long time now, and I have settled on mounting them individually, using the small plastic bases designed to the Flames of War range of 15mm WW2 miniatures by Battlefront. I have a lot of these, and the 28mm models fit them nicely.

This morning I textured the base using acrylic carpenter's putty (a local Japanese brand). Once it has time to cure, the next step will be painting the base and "muddying up" the gunner's uniform slightly. I do not want to overdo this. While in reality a typical poilu was usually drenched in the stuff, working in this scale I don't want to obscure the detail and paintwork with chalky trench slime, but rather I want to suggest a muddy environment without turning him into the Creature from the Sludge Lagoon.

Another consideration is that I'm seriously considering 1919 scenarios set in the Rhineland, amongst the Reds and Freikorps, and in that kind of urban fighting it would look odd to see men who look like they had been recently wallowing in a pigsty.

Here's an actual early colour picture of French infantry in a trench near the Swiss border. Considering the pretty good state of their uniforms, it doesn't look like these fellows have been here too long. A pretty quiet sector of the front at the time this picture was taken, or perhaps a training/ support area in the rear. I certainly cannot imagine them wanting to bunch up too much like that when within spitting distance of the German trenches, and the photographer would seem to be exposing himself somewhat dangerously to take the shot. Or perhaps they had worked out a "live-and-let-live" informal truce with the enemy?

It also seems as if it hasn't been raining for a while which must have been a relief.

Without being sure of the chromatic veracity of the colour process here, it does provide evidence of how the the dye used for the horizon bleu uniforms tended to fade to more of a greyish-blue shade. I do like the contrasting dark blue kepi of the officer.

Finally, a sneak preview of my vehicle park, more of which in a future post.

Hardcore diecast collectors will cringe at what I'm planning to do with that Renault bus and with the Daimler!

Monday, February 23, 2009

First up...

A poilu with a Chauchat LMG. Brigade Models. I haven't yet added any weathering (i.e. trowelled on copious quantities of mud). I need to finish his #2 teammate first, and then I'll give them a coat of varnish before applying any mud. Helmet is far too dark, though. I intend to repaint it a much lighter shade of blue.

The Chauchat was in fact a forerunner of the assault rifle of later years, and fired the same ammunition as the Lebel rifle used by the rest of the infantry. Must have packed a wollop when fired! You can see- and hear- the Chauchat being used on the YouTube clip on the sidebar.

Monday, December 29, 2008

on se boit une bouteille de pinard?

Merci, and welcome to the blog. This project is one that I've had at the back of my mind for some time now, and is a result of:

1) Fond memories games on the kitchen table with hundreds of Airfix WW1 plastic figures many, many years ago.

2) The excellent 1957 film Paths of Glory, which still remains one of my all-time favourite war movies.

3) The passing of the last French Poilu (and veteran of the famed Foreign Legion), Lazare Ponticelli. This blog is dedicated to him and all of those who fought for France during those devastating years 1914-1918.

I have long had an interest in the First World War. My great-grandfather- an "Old Contemptible" who enlisted in the Royal Engineers in 1913- served both in Flanders (including Mons) and later in Italy. Beating the odds, he survived the war despite having been being gassed. Growing up in Canada, I was always aware of the contributions and sacrifices made by the Canadian Corps at places like Vimy Ridge, and the war remains a defining one in Canadian history. As a kid, I must have had models of just about every WW1 aircraft that was out there, and I still have shelves upon shelves of books on all things related to the conflict.

But thanks largely to watching Paths of Glory at an early age, I have always had a fascination for the French poilus. An image of bearded men looking old beyond their years, clad in their mud-soaked horizon bleu uniforms and elegant Adrian helmet, and fighting in the filth of the trenches at Artois, along the Chemins-des-Dames, and above all for the lunar landscape around Verdun. They struggled not only against the Germans, but also against their share of flawed leadership and endemic organizational chaos ("Systeme D"). By November 11th, 1918, the French army had suffered an appalling 1.3 million casualties.

In these circumstances, it is not the fact that the French mutinied that surprises me- the army, after all, being raised en masse from a nation with a tradition of revolution and direct action against perceived injustice- but the fact that by 1918 enough units were ready again to take the offensive and to carry on the war.

Needless to say I do not hold any truck with any "cheese-eating surrender monkey" hogwash that is out there; nonsense often repeated by people who really should know better.