Légionnaires et Dromadaires

Sulky, stupid as a sheep, vicious as a mule, with the roar of a mad lion, the camel is not an animal from which to expect perfection in military evolutions...

The Demon Caravan by George Surdez

The second instalment of Strelets French Foreign Legion Desert Patrol set (see my Strelets marching legionnaires here). I shared the camels in a previous post. The six riders are dressed in the usual legionary uniform but without their packs.

There are stirrups which are unnecessary when riding camels, so I’ve simply painted over them. One of the mounted legionnaires you will notice holds a pair of binoculars, an essential item for any patrol.

Now, I’ve said it before. I really don’t like pegs on figures. Even when expertly made, I don’t like the concept – tiny plastic pegs in tiny holes do not a secure connection make.

Being camels intended for a number of other Strelets sets, needless to say these Foreign Legion pegs did not connect with the camel’s holes at all well and when they did it unseated the rider in an awkward way. What’s more, the legs of the riders were far too narrow for the camel also so I was left wrestling, bending and gluing for an unconvincing sit. The end result is just about convincing, I think.

The concept of camel-mounted legionnaires is fanciful, owing more to the romance of cinema than to reality. However, as my miniature camel train lopes off across the rolling Saharan dunes into the sunset, I’m still not quite done with the Foreign Legion. I’ve opened another box of French Foreign Legion also recently issued by Strelets, but this time I’ll be applying my own twist to it…


And now the men of the mounted company were very pleased with themselves. They had not to march, the morning was reasonably cool and… added to this, they were getting away from the detested garrison duty, and after a little time voices began to rise in the marching song of the Legion, Le Boudin, the whole column taking up the chorus:
Tiens, voila du boudin
voila du boudin
voila du boudin…

Lost Sheep by Vere Dawson Shortt

Strelets French Foreign Legion on the March

The Legionary on the march is a cheerful person, even when encumbered with from sixty to eighty pounds of kit, besides a rifle and ammunition, and marching on his own feet under a temperature of 100 degrees in the shade…

Lost Sheep by Vere Dawson Shortt

Well, I don’t know about being cheerful on a forced desert march, but it has been fun returning to the Foreign Legion with my brush again. One of the earliest 1/72 sets I painted was a few figures from Esci’s iconic 1987 set, one of which became the face of this blog’s avatar. A few years ago, I tackled 28mm metal versions from Avatar Designs, purchasing their “March or Die” set.

Strelets new “French Foreign Legion: Desert Patrol” box includes 6 camel-mounted legionnaires and 8 marching figures. I’m sharing the latter in this post and will follow up with the camel riders in a following post.

Each of the eight marching men is in a unique pose:

1
2
3
4
5
6
7

This next figure is carrying a Lewis machine gun. Not manufactured until just before WWI, this is something of an anachronism with this uniform which, according to Plastic Soldier Review, can be best dated to no later than 1912. As they concede however, “you can find the Legion using this weapon in films”, and so fits the cinematic vibe of this set.

8

All in all, a lovely set of figures by Strelets. My criticism as a figure painter would be that the detail is very subtle in parts and I like crisper detail. My other criticism is that for a force well known for its brutal marches through hostile desert (march or die!), 8 isn’t enough – I want more!

The remaining 6 camel-mounted legionnaires will follow in my next post, until then here’s Laurel and Hardy on the march to ‘Fort Arid’ in their classic Foreign Legion spoof Beau Hunks.


In one way, the Legionary is like an animal of the jungle. Put him in barracks with their monotony and he becomes surly and dangerous to himself and others, place him in his proper surrounding – the march, or battlefield – and he becomes what he is by nature, the soldier par excellence.

Lost Sheep by Vere Dawson Shortt

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.