Monday, 9 September 2013

The Verdun Project: Gas-masked Veteran French Infantry

Just a quick update regarding the French veteran infantry I've been putting together. I had a good deal of fun on the first couple of sections, and I decided this weekend to add another two sections to make a full platoon. To make things a little more interesting, I decided to convert the two new sections to wearing the M2 gas mask. This was one of those "good ideas at the time", although hopefully I have not done too much damage to the figures concerned.


You'll remember that at the start of the year I grumbled a little that no manufacturer brought out late War French infantry wearing the M2 gas mask except Old Glory. Sadly, even the resourceful folk over at Gripping Beat and Forgotten & Glorious Company of Art haven't got around to making head swaps wearing the M2 gas mask. 

N'import, mes braves!  The French M2 gas mask is pretty easy to replicate in miniature (at least at a very basic level - which is, yes, my level!). It consisted of a single piece of material covering the whole of the face completely. The material had the same function as the filter cartridge on other masks, effectively neutralising the effects of gas. The M2 was used by French troops from April 1916 until August 1918, making it perfect for the forces I've been building up for Verdun. It seems that the M2 was effective for longer periods of time, even up to five hours, probably owing to the full-facial covering being slightly more comfortable and effective than some other masks during 1916.




Making the M2 mask on a model is simplicity itself. First, file down, or cut away the facial features on the model. It goes without saying that some care is needed here as you want to try to avoid damaging the remainder of the model. It helps if the face is left rough and not sanded down too fine, as the putty mask can adhere better.  Cutting, filing and sanding away to the edge of the helmet strap (if possible and if worn) seemed to me to be a good compromise. What seems like a fun procedure on one figure rapidly becomes a bit of a chore when you're doing 22 of them.  Your fingers will not be thanking you once you've done a couple of sections!



Next, mix the modelling putty of your choice and apply a flattened blob to the face of the model. I used "grey-stuff" and "brown-stuff" putties on the figures here - but "green stuff" should be fine as well. Manipulate the putty into place and sculpt to taste - that's the mask done.


The eyepieces are formed using a very small blob of putty. I found this easiest to cut from a blob on a flat surface, so you can be sure of taking a similar amount each time. Roll the tiny amount of putty into a ball, and add to the mask surface, then flatten and press the glass eyepieces with the blunt end of a modelling drill bit.  Keeping the modelling tool you're using wet helps the putty not sticking to the blade.






 
And yes, you do that 44 times - one for each eyepiece. It gets a bit boring by the end. However, after 44 eyepieces….you're done! That's it! You've now got a couple more hardened or veteran infantry sections with M2 gas masks. I also added a casualty figure in a gas mask for an additional, slightly grim, touch.




Leading on from my last post on the veteran infantry, I've also added a couple of photos of head conversions, trying to show the process for removing a figure's Adrian helmet before removing the figure's head. That way you get ahead swap, and also a spare helmet to fix to the back of the field packs of your other troops. Simple, but I think it looks quite nice.


Of course, all this could have been avoided by some enterprising manufacturer bringing out a more "campaign look" set of French figures wearing M2 gas masks.  But where's the fun in that?

63 comments:

  1. Damned fine work sir, they look absolutely spot on. A bugger to wear though.

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    1. Thanks Kieran - they must be horrific to wear for long periods. One of the sources I checked out mentioned that when the American Expeditionary force were equipped with gas masks on reaching France, some units had both the British respirators and the French M2 masks, using the British mask for short periods and the French for longer periods of about 5 hours or more. The source mentioned casualties being suffered on the change over of the masks. Grim stuff indeed.

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  2. Sidney you did a superb job on modelling those gas masks!

    Christopher

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  3. Super conversion work, absolutely nothing wrong with the elegant simplicity of this work.

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    1. Loki....very kind. It didn't feel much like elegant simplicity on Saturday morning as I was hacking through bits of white metal, but thanks all the same!

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  4. Smart work, a great effect. I sympathise with having to go through the chore to make them.

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    1. Thanks AJ....my fingers have just about recovered!

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  5. Good fecking grief.......dedication and skill in buckets my friend!

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    1. "Fecking" was a word I was saying a LOT over the weekend, Fran!

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  6. Excellent work Sydney, you are a clever chap!

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    1. Clever? I think my wife and kids would think "deranged" was nearer the mark....!

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  7. Very nice "how to".

    Are you my mummy? ;-)

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    1. Hahaha! Our secret's out at last....shhhhh!

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  9. A very, very effective conversion - bravo. As you say, doing one or two is a doodle but 22? Yikes, your poor fingers! The photos of the gasmasks are excellent as well. I just can't imagine wearing one of those things for hours much less having to worry about fighting in one. It must have been absolutely hideous.

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    1. 22 was pushing it slightly, Curt! I cowardly chickened out of doing a full platoon in gas masks. Although I have another nine Poilu left over at the end of the Project, they have masks "at rest" cast on.....removing the cast off masks, filing down the faces and then building new masks and repairing the damage on the figure was just too much to contemplate!!

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  10. Great stuff, they look really good. Love that casualty piece too :)

    Dave

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    1. Thanks Dave. Glad you liked the casualty. He needs a bit more work, so he'll have some stuff added I think.

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  11. Great work they look fantastic you are a far braver man than me
    Peace James

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  12. Man, you're crazy... but what a wonderful job at the end!

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    1. Thanks Benito! I'll be suicidal if they don't paint up nicely!

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  13. Excellent tutorial on your conversions with the gasmasks. Well worth reading.

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  14. wow. that is impressive. I don't think I am brave enough to try that.

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    1. Chris, you'd manage no problem. I'd not have the fingers to do it in 15mm though!

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  15. Greate build !!!

    Best regards Michael

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    1. Thanks Michael....just need to paint them all now!

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  16. Fantastic!! Great idea Sidney!

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  17. Brilliant work as ever Sidney, your posts are always an inspiration to me. The faceless troops looked grim... :)

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    1. Alex, thanks so much! If anything, the faceless troops looked even more scary than the gas masked ones! They had the touch of surrealism about them....maybe not that inappropriate for an early 20th Century French army, I guess!

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  18. You've got to love this level of dedication.

    FMB

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    1. Thanks FMB....dedication or insanity? !! :)

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  19. Bookmarked for later use - a great tutorial.

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    1. Thanks Ed! Expect to see these chaps in a trench very soon!

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  20. 'at least at a very basic level - which is, yes, my level!' Mr Roundwood I do not believe I have seen anything done on by you on a basic level!! Excellent work once again.

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    1. That's very kind. However, I have made a complete and appalling mess this weekend of a British 8" Howitzer, as well as having a terrain disaster at the same time with some attempts at modelling air-burst explosions. I should blog more of my failures, and then you'll see the true picture!!

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  21. Simple and clever conversion. Curious what they'll look like when painted!

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    1. They're undercoated, Benno. I'm going to try and get them finished by the end of the month (finegrs crossed).

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  22. A very nice conversion Sir! I suspect my patience might have expired somewhere before yours - so jolly well done! I am surprised someone doesn't do them - it would probably be easiest for Woodbine Design with their existing separate head system.

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    1. Thanks Al !! It is a surprise the Gripping Beast / Woodbine Design don't do them. Their French figures are very nice indeed and match the Brigade Miniatures figures perfectly. Just my luck if they bring out some gas-masked Poilu heads now I have filed down my fingers!!

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    2. You're probably right - that's the way of things! My Poilus are mostly Brigade with a few Scarab bombers mixed in - I was toying with the idea of getting some Woodbine ones so it's good to know they mix - thanks for the tip!

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