Follow that Camel!

I know it’s ‘hump day’, but what’s this? Have I ditched horses for dromedaries?

Yes, I have! For the time being, anyway. This is my first attempt at painting camels and I’ve enjoyed it a lot. These ‘ships of the desert’ are courtesy of Strelets new “French Foreign Legion: Desert Patrol” release. I think Strelets’ camels are well sculpted, the proportions (so far as I my limited knowledge of dromedaries goes) seem perfectly good. Plastic Soldier Review, however, are – shall we say – less than impressed with their gait!

It features 8 walking legionnaires and 6 mounted camel riders dressed in the classic late 19th / early 20th century uniform familiar to us from the movies.

The concept of camel-mounted legionnaires from the 1890s/1900s is entirely fanciful according to Plastic Soldier Review who scoff that “no legionnaire ever patrolled while riding a camel until after 1945“, recommending that we find some mules for the riders and use the camels as baggage carriers, or even throw them away. Not me!

There are three different camel poses for the 6 riders to choose from:

France did later create companies of camel cavalry within their North African army (but not in the Legion). These were known as Compagnies Méharistes Sahariennes“, whose ranks were filled by local Arab and Berber tribesmen. These same camels turn up in other Strelets sets; the British, Turkish and Australian Camel Corps sets which each include 3 nice additional poses including a sitting camel. My three poses also reappear in another newly released set “Rif Rebellion“. Perhaps their Arabic riders might also pass for some Méharistes?

With nothing factual to go on, I’ve painted their tassled drapes in dark red rather than the blue I’ve seen used by Méharistes, just to give my figures a little extra colour. The saddle is a leather cover draped over a wooden seat.

Like me, PSR at least appreciate the theatricality and romance of the set stating that “if you want to recreate movies like Beau Geste (1939) or March or Die (1977) then this set is great” – and I say ‘who wouldn’t want to do that’? The legionnaire figures themselves are in progress and I’ll share the rest of my hot and thirsty ‘desert patrol’ when they’re finally done.

For all things French Foreign Legion related, you could do a lot worse than head on over to the fabulous Mon Legionnaire blog which has lots on La Legion in wargaming, in history, and it’s portrayal in art and popular culture.

15 thoughts on “Follow that Camel!

  1. They look pretty good to me Marvin! 🙂 I’ve only ever painted a handful of camels and not particularly well. How did you paint them?
    The Foreign Legion is one of my two favourite military subjects (the other one being flying boats) so I’m looking forward to seeing your Legionnaires as well! I have some of the old ESCI figures painted to use for the 1883-85 Sino-French War, so classic Legionnaires but in the jungle!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, I’m glad you think they’re decent. I started off painting them using Vallejo’s Brown Sand simply because it sounded appropriate. Once I’d given them a wash in dark brown and highlighted with more brown sand, they seemed to look pretty close to how I imagined they should. So if they are looking OK then it was a case of luck rather than trial and error. I dry-brushed some white/buff on to their faces and muzzles which seemed to work well. Last of all, a little burnt umber wash on the tail.

      Like you, I’m always partial to the FFL too. The legionnaires are coming on nicely. Have you posted on those Sino-French War figures?

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Well mate you are quick of the mark ,it seems just like last week that I was reading the review on the PSR regarding these fellows ,so it’s good to see them painted up while there review is fresh in my mind . You have done a good job on the camels I’ve only painted some once and looking at them I can see I failed miserably !

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Tiziano! I used Vallejo’s “Brown Sand”. There is a dark brown wash for shading and highlighted again with Brown Sand. I dry-brushed some white mixed with buff on their mouths and faces too, which I think looks OK. For the tail, I used a little wash of burnt umber.



      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! Thanks for the praise.

      Yes, you’re quite right. They’ve no place in any historical portrayal of the FFL but I did like the romantic appeal of this set and they were fun to paint. 🙂


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