Presenting the famous “Red Lancers” or to give them their full title 2e régiment de chevau-légers lanciers de la Garde Impériale. They are the 5th regiment in this year’s Suburban Militarism Nappy Cavalry project.
This is the first set I’ve attempted by Zvezda and the figures are wonderful. I’ve had problems getting the troopers to mount the horses, but developed a technique that worked eventually. One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered is the inexplicable flaking off of paint from the figures. My usual preparation techniques just didn’t work with these figures and I’m not sure why. With future Zvezda figures I may prime with some PVA glue, just in case the same happens. This set has taken me a long time to do with all that detail, colour and the occasional paint flaking, so I’m glad to finally get this one finished. That said, they are lovely figures.
For tactical reasons, only a minority of lancers in a regiment carried the lance into battle, the remainder relying on the sabre, and this set rightly presented only some of the figures with a lance. Being the first lancer regiment I’ve attempted for the project, I wanted the maximum number of figures carrying lancers for a more pleasing visual effect. The Red Lancers blue trumpeter required me to mix paints to attain the required shade of light blue.
Having taken weeks to do these figures, and having just returned from a timely trip to a lancer museum, I’m now about to embark at last on a refreshing change to a different form of cavalry. So far in the project I’ve tackled the aforementioned lancers as well as hussars, light dragoons and chassuers a cheval. The next set I can announce will be… dragoons!
Biography: 2e régiment de chevau-légers lanciers de la Garde Impériale
This prestigious regiment had their origins as hussars in the Dutch royal guard. Holland was annexed by Napoleon and his brother Louis placed on the throne in 1806. Unsurprisingly, the Dutch royal guard was made available to Napoleon who merged them into his Imperial Guard’s cavalry. They were converted to lancers and given a red version of the Polish Lancers uniform. Their new leader was Col. Baron Pierre David de Colbert-Chabanais. Having initially had a reputation for unruly behaviour, as well as great bravery, Baron Colbert’s inspiring leadership transformed them into a regiment worthy of the ranks of elite European cavalry.
Their bravery and discipline during the brutal Russian campaign of 1812 cemented their legend but resulted in catastrophic losses to the regiment. The Red Lancers survived to continue their duties during the 1813-14 campaigns and formed a part of Napoleon’s army during the Waterloo campaign. At Quatre Bras they were frequently engaged, skirmishing with some Prussian hussars, until Allied artillery drove the lancers back.
On the 18th June, it seems from some accounts that their unusual red jackets caused confusion amongst both friend and foe. With the rest of the guard cavalry, they joined in Ney’s charge of the Allied squares and suffered heavy casualties accordingly.
After Waterloo, significantly it was the Red Lancers who finally escorted Napoleon away from his final battle.
The effectiveness of the lance was noted by the victors, however, and subsequently the British converted their first light cavalry regiment to lancers in 1816. The 16th Light Dragoons became the 16th Lancers. Their uniforms were based on those of the Imperial Guard lancers. Unusually for British lancers, they adopted a red coat and in a curious echo of the Dutch Red Lancers were nicknamed the ‘Scarlet Lancers’.
Notable battles: Bérézina, Reichenbach, Leipzig, Craonne, Waterloo.