Spoilt for choice
Posted by Martin on February 5, 2012
Today I’ve got some more eye candy to share with pictures of Peter F’s own painting of several new packs for the Calpe Route March French infantry set. In no particular order these are the battalion command pack, a foot officers pack and a pack of head variants for the fusiliers.
Work is still under way on the painting notes to go with these figures, so Peter has mentioned a few useful pointers in relation to these packs that I’d like to pass on to you.
Firstly the pack of head variants for the fusiliers includes a couple of figures wearing the pokalem. This item of headwear replaced the bonnet de police with the introduction of the Bardin uniform regulations on 1812. For some reason, many modern observers think of it an an ugly item of kit (not an opinion I share personally) but it was popular with the soldiers for its comfort and warmth. My own additional comment on the pokalem is that it was made from blue cloth and the piping was almost always red. Note though, that one Knotel plate shows a “Marie Louise” voltigeur sporting a pokalem with yellow piping.
Peter has used the Rigo plates as the basis for the battalion command pack which consists of three NCOs, a drummer, a fanion bearer and an officer. The fanion bearer was always a senior NCO chosen by the regimental Colonel. Regulations stipulated a guard for the flag made up of the Fourier NCOs of the second and third companies of the battalion. These details are important as they determine the colours of the shako lentilles – you can pick the colour of the flag carrier but his guard has to have lentilles in light blue and aurora (a pinky orange). Rigo also points out that all flags (including the eagle) were carried within the second company of the battalion so that the flag would end up more or less in the middle of the battalion once it was arrayed in line. So this is something to bear in mind when basing your figures, especially if you tend to put the flag carriers in one of the company bases. If you do so, the rest of the company has to have light blue lentilles. The second senior NCO in this pack is one which Peter intends to use with other companies in the battalion just for a bit of extra variety. A final note from Peter on this pack is that the rank marking of a Fourier was a single diagonal golden stripe on the upper part of each arm. Since they were corporals, they should also have had two diagonal stripes in yellow or aurore on the lower arm, although this practice declined after 1808.
My own observation on this battalion command pack is that it provides some more welcome variation. The pose of the drummer is different to his fellow in the regimental command pack and there’s no reason why they couldn’t be swapped over. I’ve got a soft spot for drummers, so I’ll probably have several in each battalion! The officer in the battalion command pack also provides a variation from the one in the regimental command pack – not least because he wears on of my favourite French uniform items, the surtout. This blue jacket with a single row of buttons up the front and no lapels was very popular with officers for its unfussy practicality. In theory, the surtout should have been entirely blue but various illustrators have depicted it with red variations for cuffs, collar and turnbacks over the years. I’ve seen combinations of these items either entirely red or piped red, so don’t feel afraid of painting to suit your tastes.
Lastly, a few comments from Peter about the officers pack which contains two fusilier officers, one grenadier officer and one voltigeur officer. The fusilier officers are again dressed in the surtout with greatcoats worn “en bandolier” across their chests as protection against sword cuts. The voltigeur officer is perhaps the most interesting figure in the pack. He displays the full panoply of gear stipulated by the 1812 regulations – officer’s rucksack, carbine de Versailles, officer’s cartridge pouch for said carbine and sword. In writing to me about this figure, Peter reminded me that we saw an example of this carbine in the small museum at Le Caillou when we visited the Waterloo battlefield last year in the company of Paul Meganck. That weapon was displayed alongside a Vernet plate showing a voltigeur officer carrying an example of one. Carle Vernet was commissioned to produce a series of pictures to illustrate the Bardin regulations, so he’s as close as you can get to an official contemporary illustrator but even that didn’t insulate him from errors. The plate in question (which I’ve reproduced below) shows the voltigeur officer wearing a fusilier’s habit-veste! I have a photo I took of the carbine we saw at Le Caillou which I’ll include in one of my Belgian Campaign reports in due course.
The grenadier officer in the foot officer pack carries a pistol on his shoulder. Rousselot goes on at length about the regulation requiring that each officer have a brace of pistols in his kit but points out that he could only carry them (it seems) in the pockets of his turnbacks. Another point worth noting is that the officer’s rucksack proved so popular that it was one of the few Napoleonic innovations to survive the Bourbon restoration. The Rousselot illustration showing this pack is, in fact, one of his plates on the French army of the Restoration.
So I hope that whets your appetite. I’ll be adding these packs to the Calpe website imminently and soon you can expect news of the remaining packs that will complete the Route March set including mounted officer packs, more head variants and what Peter has termed a ” cherry on the icing” pack that will probably include a falling casualty, an enthusiastic figure and a voltigeur cornetist.