My Pegasus WWI French Infantry figures have been inching forward this past month. Aside from their Horizon Blue uniforms, they have been painted wearing white trousers, a type more familiarly seen on the Salonica front during WWI. And much like the Salonica front itself during the First World War, progress with my figures has been slow, until my latest offensive with brush has created a sudden and rapid breakthrough.
I may have laboured the warfare analogies, but I admit at times this set has been something of a struggle. I’m not entirely certain why but I suspect it’s all the assembly required; those fiddly little arms, legs, heads and weaponry all requiring some glue, was partially to blame. The careful patience which I seem to be able to call upon when using the paintbrush simply evaporates once I have to start gluing little bits of plastic together!
I think another factor which made it all seem a trifle laborious was the sense that I wasn’t doing the figures much justice. Usually, there comes a point in my painting when I feel all the effort is being rewarded with some decent looking figures, but I didn’t really get that impression with these guys. The figures are superbly sculpted so maybe expectations as to what I could do with them were just too high?
All of which might suggest that I’m really unhappy with the end result, which ultimately I’m not. These figures still look alright, I think, and have been worth the effort. Having said that – they’re still not all done! Some work is still required on the standing figures and their basing. So, anyway, here are the first batch to present – four small vignettes featuring figures who are either operating the French army machine guns (the Hotchkiss mitrailleuse or Chauchat) or otherwise lying prone.
The two mitrailleuse teams remind me of the early war French figures by Caesar which I painted earlier this year.
During the course of my research for the Caesar figures, I discovered that those 1914 figures must have been operating the St. Etienne machine gun or Mitrailleuse Mle 1907T. By late 1917 however, my figures have ditched the unreliable and unloved St. Etienne and are instead using the superior Hotchkiss Mle 1914. This weapon is identifiable by the five pronounced rings on the barrel which have been faithfully included by the sculptor. These rings were a feature intended to resist overheating. Produced by French company Hotchkiss et Cie, the Hotchkiss Mle 1914 proved to be far more reliable than the St. Etienne and indeed was retained by the French army right up to the beginning of WWII.
I might say that I am rather pleased with the way their Adrian helmets turned out. It doesn’t look much to the camera, looking identical to their uniform, but to the naked eye I like their slightly metallic aspect which is also a slightly darker colour to the uniform’s Horizon Blue shade.
Like the St.Etienne, the Hotchkiss machine gun was fed by hand-inserted individual strips holding 24 rounds of 8mm Lebel ammunition. It was an easy though laborious process which led to a 250 round belt-fed alternative being developed. The Hotchkiss also shared the same metal tripod stand as the St. Etienne, known as the ‘Omnibus’ tripod. This added to what were seen as the gun’s major shortcomings; it’s heavy weight and excessive height (making it more easily seen and subject to counter-fire.
One of the figures is operating a weapon already familiar to Suburban Militarism (see my Serbian WWI Infantry); the hand-held Chauchat light machine gun.
The Chauchat figure lies on a small mound which was a piece of moulded plastic included on the sprue. A little modelling clay and it has hopefully been blended into the rest of the scene. The Chauchat was a weapon with a number of serious problems, even being called the ‘worst machine gun ever’, according to this film on YouTube.
I’ve included a figure behind the Chauchat wielding infantryman; a casualty who is lying lifeless on his rifle. I resisted the temptation to throw red paint all over it but on hindsight I may add a spot to the ground seeping out near his head.
Even ‘worst ever’ machine guns are pretty deadly in my opinion and I guess that my armed figure would still be a formidable opponent to anyone advancing over open ground. Speaking of which, the ground on my little displays I’ve tried to make look vaguely arid which I hope might be the sort of landscape found in the region of southern Greece.
One of my little scenes includes a small shell hole in which two men are taking cover. One of the duo bravely, or perhaps unwisely, is emerging from the hole to advance while his comrade covers him with his rifle.
So, that just leaves the standing figures still to come which, after some more painting and basing, I hope to finally present hopefully at the end of the week.
At which point I will happily be able to say – Finallement!