Friday, 4 October 2013

The Verdun Project: Tirailleurs Marocains and Artillerie Speciale


One of the things I promised myself when starting a Late Great War French army is to make sure that I didn’t have a lot of random figures left at the end of the project. I turned out to be more than slightly over-optimistic in this regard. When I ordered the figures for the French infantry at the start of the year from Brigade Games, I over-ordered. Partly this was the usual rush of enthusiasm, and partly this was because I wasn’t quite sure how many formations I was going to build and I wanted to combine the orders into as few parcels as possible to save shipping.

I was left with a couple of dozen figures at the end of the project. Rather than file these I a drawer and forget about them, I cast around for a way to use them which didn’t involve painting them as basic infantrymen. Here’s where I got to.

Three have been enlisted into the ranks of French tank crews from the Artillerie Spéciale – more of this to come later this year, but suffice to say that I’ve purchased enough French tanks to form a small force from the Nivelle Offensive at Berry-au-Bac in April 1917. I’m hoping to paint these up in November and December, so watch this space. Sadly, only one manufacturer makes French tank crew – which are the Old Glory figures featured here. This is a great shame as the heroics of the French Artillerie Spéciale are inspiring and very interesting material for any game. Anyone wanting French tank crewmen with British Tank-Corps style face masks (such as the one shown in the Osprey French tanks of World War One volume), has to resort to green- or brown-stuff versions.



The wounded/ shock markers are from generic casualty figures I bought a while back from Silent Invader at the Lead Adventure Forum. Regular visitors to this blog might remember these from British and German casualty projects in the past.


The remaining figures eleven figures I converted as Tirailleurs Marocains, using the Woodbine miniatures’ Zouave heads. I was really pleased how easy these were to use. Simply saw off the head of the figure, drill a hole and insert the new head. I added a collar of brown-stuff on most of the figures to disguise the join. I sawed off the helmets as well and added these to the Zouaves’ field packs to try and give the figures a Late War “feel”. I’m very much aware that any sensible Tirailleur would have worn his Adrien helmet in action, and depicting the Zouaves in their dress caps is probably viewed by many as a crazy affectation. I admit it – you’re right. It’s unhistorical, but I liked the appearance. And since I’m unlikely to do an Early War French army any time soon, this was my only chance. So, confession over, here’s how they lined up post-conversion:





You may be wondering what on earth I am going to do with just eleven Tirailleurs Marocains!!

It’s a fair question, mes braves, but I’m sure there’s a scenario they can fit into. Perhaps as a group of Tirailleurs pinned down in No Man’s Land, or as a bunch of stragglers, or as a scouting patrol. I’d not be surprised if they end up being used more than the typical Pinard-drinking Poilu!

And why the Tirailleurs Marocains in particular?  Almost entirely because some of the Moroccan regiments seems to have been equipped with Horizon Bleu uniforms throughout the war, as opposed to being equipped with khaki uniforms (as were more common for the French African regiments). That, and they offer just a glimpse of the huge contribution to the French war effort made by African soldiers in the Great War. With that in mind, it was very hard to resist their allure for the wargames table....






I’ve still got a platoon of Tirailleurs Sénégalaise to paint, but they’ll be lucky to get painted this side of Christmas.

Next up will be the next instalment In our Chain of Command Campaign, so here’s hoping you can join me for that. Have a great weekend!

30 comments:

  1. Looking forward to seeing these come to life

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    1. They're definitely coming, Andrew. Bases done this weekend and hopefully doing the faces this weekend for some of the back-logged French infantry....

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  2. Nice conversions. I like the look of the Zouaves carrying their helmets.

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    1. I thought the helmets would be fun. A bit fiddly to cut off, but they should (fingers crossed) look good.

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  3. Looking forward to how these are painted up. I spent some time up in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and I can confirm that the Moroccans (Berbers in the Atlas) are a fairly tenacious bunch. They had a well deserved reputation in both World Wars.

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    1. Mark, thanks for the excellent comment. Tenacious Moroccans and Berbers was EXACTLY what I was thinking of!

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  4. The conversions look fantastic. Can't wait to see them finished.

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  5. Excellent conversions, you are quite right to do the headswaps, which give them a lot of character!

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  6. This will de realy nice with some paint on:)

    Please tell me about the base size you use.

    Best regards Michael

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    1. Michael, your wish will be answered in my next post!

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  7. Another hugely inspiring post and I had to chuckle at the, "didn’t have a lot of random figures left at the end of the project" line because I've certainly been there! I do need to know about brown stuff, is this simply green stuff in another hue or does it have slightly different qualities?

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    1. I'm no expert, but my understanding is that Brown Stuff is similar to green stuff. It is usually supplied in similar ribbons. It is perhaps a touch less sculptable but makes up for it by being much more easily sanded or filed.

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    2. Thanks Michael and David!!!

      Brown stuff is indeed a two part epoxy putty. It is as simple to use as green stuff and grey stuff but each putty has their own character.

      Green-stuff is....well, you know all about it!! It's cheap, easy to find and just about perfect for almost all wargaming jobs. It also works as an excellent adhesive, especially if reinforced by super-glue of epoxy resin. Green-stuff's only drawback is that its not perfect for fine sculpting, it being difficult to carve or sand fine edges for fabric or swords.

      Grey-stuff is more of a sculpting medium, and is perfect for figures and bases. It's easier to sculpt than green-stuff and can be carved and sanded.

      Brown-stuff is even more sculpting friendly. It's very easy to form fine, sharp points with teh brown-stuff putty because of the fineness of the resin. Its perfect for fiddly masks, collars and fabric, but too expensive to use for terrain or bases.

      I also love using Milliput as well, especially for terrain. It's cheap, coarse and dries rock hard - a perfect terrain putty, although a really miserable putty to mix because it makes a real mess, especially when worked with water.

      Hope that helps!!

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    3. Thank you so much, very enlightening. I'd not come across it before, but will certainly be on the look out now.

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  8. Well thought out and presented as always. I admire your project in so many ways.

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    1. Thanks Paul, that's really kind. Rest assured that I have always taken a lot of inspiration from what the Grimsby Clubs have done over the years, so my thanks right back to you!

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  9. Excellent work as ever Sidney! It's always a pleasure to read your posts!

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    1. Thanks Alex. Hopefully you'll like what's coming!

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  10. Looking forward to seeing them all painted up Sidney!

    Christopher

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    1. As am I Christopher. More relief, for me, perhaps once they're all painted :)

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  11. Excellent idea for those 'leftover' figures... I notice you have two figures to a 40 or 50mm round base, what role are these figures portraying? have you gone away from using 50x25mm 'pill' shaped bases for two man weapons teams? Although ive been busy at work lately im still Mud & Blooding and slowly building up my platoons, im an avid reader of your blog which is a constant source of information & inspiration to me! Cheers!

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    1. Thanks Bad Dog. The next post (tomorrow or Wednesday) will give you all the information you need about base sizes and "harder working bases"!! Stay tuned for that! And thanks for dropping by!!

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  12. Wonderful conversions Sidney! I'm glad you kept the Moroccans in their soft caps - it just has to be done (and I like the addition of their slung helmets). There photos are brilliant as well.

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    1. Thanks Curt. Should be finished by November.....(fingers crossed)

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  13. Can't believe that I missed these. I can't wait to see what these look like once you've worked your magic on them. The saga of the troops of l'armée d'afrique during the great war is fascinating. Any plans for some tirailleurs algeriens or spahis to join the marocains?
    Ben

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    1. Hi Ben - I'm really pleased you like them. I really only did the Tirailleurs Marocains because: (i) I had some spare figures; and (ii) I liked the hats! I've a platoon of Tirailleurs Sénégalaise, but I don't think I'll do the Spahis. Hopefully there'll be enough mobility with les chars! I did, however, pick up a couple of bags of Tirailleurs Marocains/ Algeriens at "Colours" last month for a Late War French 10mm force, so you'll be seeing the same figures in a smaller force in the New Year.

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