Ann’s Immaterium has issued forth a challenge for the month of April – “Paint the Crap You Already Own!” The aim is to pitch into some of our collectively large pile of unpainted crap (aka our precious collections) and the restrictions of national lockdown are providing the perfect conditions to do just that.
Rifling through my excessive mountain of unpainted kits, I randomly picked up one of a number of the Napoleonic ‘standing’ sets by Strelets that I own. There’s lots of these type of sets available from Strelets. They feature anything from Highlanders to Prussian Landwehr, all in poses which range between ‘order arms’, ‘shoulder arms’, ‘at ease’, ‘at attention’ or ‘on the march’.
Painting figures which are just standing around waiting seems a strangely appropriate choice in while in ‘lockdown’…
So, I’ve picked up my “Old Guard at Attention” box which I bought in 2018/19.
So here they are, les Grognards – about 30 ‘grumblers’ – currently all standing to attention and stoically awaiting some paint.
I notice that Old ‘Boney’ himself is included in the box, so perhaps i will include him also? I think the aim was to provide the painter with the means of recreating the scene where Napoleon takes his leave of the Old Guard prior to going into exile for the first time on the island of Elba.
Soldiers of my Old Guard, I bid you farewell. For twenty years you have been my constant companions on the road to honour and glory!
I have already presented the painted horses for the latest regiment in my Napoleonic Cavalry Project, so now it’s time to show them with their riders in-situ. I can announce that the 33rd regiment is Napoleon’s Chasseurs à Cheval of the Imperial Guard.
Wait a minute! That regiment has already appeared in the project, so I’ve got some explaining to do. I felt it was worth attempting this set for a number of reasons;
When they first appeared it was as a mere 5 mounted figures, (certainly not a full ‘regiment’) and were acting simply as an escort to Napoleon himself.
Those figures were by a different manufacturer; Italeri, not Revell.
Italeri’s figures had the men wearing full dress uniform with a pelisse and a plume and bag on their kolpaks. Revell’s men appear in plainer service dress.
Finally, both figures were of sufficient quality as to demand inclusion, these Revell ones being just too good not to attempt.
Unlike the 5 mounted and 2 unmounted figures in the Italeri French Imperial General Staff set, there are plenty of figure in Revell’s Mounted Guard Chasseurs set – a whopping 18 in total which includes a single standing figure.
Did I say they were of ‘sufficient quality’? That undersells it a bit as these Revell figures are very good. My only observation is that the detail is just so finely produced that it makes the painter’s task very tricky. Larger, crisper details may not be reproducing details accurately to scale but it makes the details pop out better to the eye. I’ve matched the basing to my original Italeri versions from 2015. They go together pretty well, I think, the difference between the styles of dress and sculpting can be seen when comparing them to the crisper Italeri versions I painted.
I was particularly impressed with Revell’s officer figure. The pose of his rearing horse with it’s leopard-skin shabraque is an audacious piece of sculpting and works well, I think, with the officer mounted. It’s a piece of dramatic hero posing that’s really memorable.
Other unique figures included in the box was this chasseur below standing on guard with musket and fixed bayonet. The trumpeter meanwhile is unmistakable with his dramatic white colpak and sky blue uniform.
It’s been a pleasure to work with these figures. What a shame that Revell aren’t producing any more Napoleonic cavalry – these guys are over 26 years old now! They didn’t make many Nappy cavalry sets, (aside from reissuing Italeri figures, their only other original set being the excellent British Life Guards), but what they did produce was a real boon to the hobby.
In time-honoured tradition, that just leaves me to share more of the finished figures with a regimental biography to follow:
Biography: Chasseurs à Cheval of the Imperial Guard [France]
The Chasseurs à Cheval of the Imperial Guard originally began life as a part of a regiment of Guides raised by Napoleon when just a general in the Revolutionary Wars in 1796. They would go on to become one of the most prestigious regiments in the army, providing the personal guard to the Emperor and nicknamed by some ‘The Pet Children’!
In 1800, a single company was raised of Chasseurs, commanded by the emperor’s stepson, which formed a part of the prestigious Consular Guides. This company took part in the narrow victory at the battle of Marengo. By 1802, they finally became a full regiment consisting of around 1000 men with a single company of Egyptian Mamelukes joining them as a part of the regiment later.
They performed a distinguished role at the battle of Austerlitz, badly mauling the Russian Imperial Guard. Missing the battle of Jena in 1806, the 1st Hussars (a regiment painted earlier in this project) had the privilege of escorting Napoleon on that occasion. They would return to personal escort duties in time for the triumphal entry into Berlin. They later took part in the great charge of Murat’s cavalry at the battle of Eylau in 1807.
During the Spanish campaign, this regiment performed well but was surprised, outflanked and badly cut up by British cavalry, their commander, Général de Brigade Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes, being wounded and captured.
In the war of 1812, once more under the command of the returned General Lefebvre-Desnouettes, the regiment (as with the rest of the army) lost heavily over the course of the campaign, though distinguished themselves protecting their emperor from a particularly threatening attack by Cossacks.
During the final campaign that led to Waterloo, they formed part of the Light Cavalry Division of the Imperial Guard, numbering some 1200 sabres. Though leading the initial advance on Quatre Bras, they were not seriously engaged and suffered light losses. At Waterloo, they were deployed as part of the cavalry reserve. The Guard Chasseurs were sent in leading the 2nd wave of fruitless attacks against the Allied squares in the afternoon and thus their proud history as Napoleon’s favoured cavalry regiment would finally come to an end.
Notable Battles: Marengo, Austerlitz, Wagram, Eylau, Somosierra, La Moskowa, Quatre Bras, Waterloo.
Italeri have produced a number of very impressive Napoleonic cavalry kits and I’m pleased to have finally tackled their Mamelukes set; possibly one of their best.
It has involved painting a lot of detail in a large range of colours, which in turn has meant a much larger investment in time to produce them. Was it worth it? I like to think so, they are unique in my collection and looks pleasingly colourful.
Whilst it’s taken quite a while to get them painted, but the sheer exotic value of their turbans, scimitars, etc, etc, has kept me going.
The Mamelukes made up a very small force in Napoleon’s cavalry, but the impact of their fame gave them an importance far beyond their limited numbers, and it’s no surprise that Italeri and HaT (amongst other manufacturers) have featured them in their range.
Well, I can now place these figures into the cabinet with the other Nappy Cavalry Project regiments. And that means I can finally get on with packing for my much-needed summer holiday! Until I return, I send my very best wishes to all readers of this humble blog and leave you with the usual regimental biography and photos!
Now, I wonder if there are any regimental museums where I’m going…
Biography: Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard [France]
The word “Mameluke” is an Arabic term meaning ‘property’, indicating the status of Mamelukes as being slaves. Since the 9th Century, the Mamelukes were an influential military caste of slaves which rose to become a power in Egypt eventually ruling as the independent Mameluke Sultanate until 1517, and thereafter ruling as vassals of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte led his French ‘Army of the Orient’ to invade Egypt to both protect French trade and threaten Britain’s own. The most formidable force in the Egyptian army was undoubtedly the Mameluke cavalry. Equipped in an almost medieval fashion, sometimes including chain mail and iron helmets, they were expert horsemen and swordsmen. Armed with curved sabres of very high quality, they could out-fence most conventional cavalry and were observed to have actually sliced through French muskets.
Napoleon soundly defeated the Mameluke army at the Battle of the Pyramids where he repelled their massed cavalry attacks. The formidable Mameluke cavalry had impressed him, however, as the only effective arm of the Egyptian army. Consequently, on the 14th September 1799, French General Kléber established a mounted company of Mameluke auxiliaries which were soon reorganised into 3 companies of 100 men each known as the “Mamluks de la République”. In 1803, they were again organised into a single company attached to the Chasseurs-à-Cheval of the Imperial Guard.
Whilst the officers were occasionally French, the rest of the force were at various times made up of Greeks, Egyptians, Circassians, Albanians, Maltese, Hungarians, Georgians and Turks (amongst others. All were armed with a brace of pistols; a long dagger tucked into their waist sash; a mace; and later even a battle-axe.
The Mamelukes served in Poland, Spain and in Russia, fighting at the Battle of Wagram and most notably at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 where the regiment was granted an eagle and its roster increased to accommodate a standard-bearer and a trumpeter. Service in Spain led to a famous painting by Francisco Goya depicting their charge against the uprising of the citizens of Madrid on 2 May 1808, a massacre which in part led up to the Peninsular War.
In 1813, losses accrued over many campaigns meant that the Mamelukes were inevitably reinforced with Frenchmen who were designated as ‘2nd Mamelukes’. Of the 2 companies of Mamelukes, the 1st was ranked as Old Guard and the 2nd as Young Guard.
On his return to power in 1815, Napoleon issued a decree stating that the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard would include a squadron of Mamelukes. It is not known whether they formed a complete squadron at Waterloo, or simply attached themselves as individuals to various units; Mamelukes were almost undoubtedly present, however.
Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1815, there were widespread reprisals against individuals or groups identified with the defeated Napoleonic regime. These included the small number of Mamelukes who were still in the army. Eighteen of them were massacred in Marseilles by vengeful Royalists while awaiting transportation back to Egypt.
The brightly coloured Oriental dress and exotic weaponry of the Mamelukes gave them an influence far beyond the small size of their regiment; an influence felt beyond the battlefield into fashionable society! The Mamelukes loyalty to Napoleon was never questioned and they, fatally for some, became synonymous with him and his empire.