Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Quebec 1759 in 2mm: Part 1

This, like most small scale projects, started off as a paper exercise, with a long time spent working out exactly what, and how many of Irregular Miniatures' 2mm blocks would be required. This process took place alongside some research into the battle and campaign itself, for which no better primer can be found than the works of Renee Chartrand, particularly his Osprey 'Order of Battle' Series book, Quebec 1759.
In typical fashion, I started off by thinking about the figure to man ratio, hoping to portray the engagement in as large a scale as possible, which is of course the great strength of using such small miniatures. An average of perhaps between 450 and 750 men per historical battalion meant that at 1 figure to 3 men, we would see a base of around 220 figures fitting the bill.

This starting point, and the sudden realisation that the task ahead would be quite large, luckily coincided with the birth of Tony Hughes' business arm, or more correctly, his painting service at Tiny Tin Troops. Couching my missive describing thousands of blocks requiring painting in as reasonable terms as possible, I fired off an e-mail and was soon co-operating with the man himself. As most of you will no doubt know, it is no exaggeration that as far as the Web is concerned, he has done most to fly the flag on behalf of 2mm miniatures, sometimes in the face of cynicism and ridicule, with his detailed resource site over at Gildas Facit. Quite frankly, I couldn't have found a better person to guide me through the project and paint and base the minis; my crazy and constant demands never seemed to faze him!

Our opening was to choose how to depict the Line battalions of the two armies, especially with reference to the well-known deployment in 2 ranks ordered by Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham. Debate still rages about this; but in an Era where three or even six ranks might be the norm, this formation was certainly significant, and allowed maximum employment of firepower along the widest front. I do not believe that Montcalm's French would also not be capable of similar organisation, should the tactical situation warrant it, so it was decided that it would be a pair of Irregular's 52 man block in two ranks (BG33), that would be the place to begin.

Two of these, mounted side by side, would give one continuous 2 deep line of 104 'figures', but would only represent half of the troops needed at a 1:3 scale. Some compromise was needed therefore, in that these measured up at nearly 80mm wide, and even my grand plans could not countenance two bases, for a total of 160mm wide, per battalion! I took the decision to empower the figure scale somewhat in advance of the visual correctness, and decided on four such blocks, along with ancillaries, to form the whole, on a 80x40mm base.
Concerns about the thickness of these (I am not a fan of tiny troops on thick bases), were quickly allayed by Tony at Tiny Tin, who could provide 1.6mm thick artist's card, backed with magnetic sheeting, which would be suitably painted and flocked.

With nine English regular battalions, and a further five French, in addition to Militia, Native American Allies, Rangers and Artillery bases, this was shaping up to be quite a monster!
Small Scale needn't be small in scale.....

I needn't have worried, however, as Tony provided detailed PDF plans of just what each base would contain, the painting scheme for each, as well as suggestions for the various formations.

The next major issue for me was the pre-cast flags that are intrinsic to the majority of Irregular's blocks, in that not only were they rather small, but also would not best represent the pair of colours carried by units of the time. Here again, Tiny Tin came to the rescue, in that Tony agreed to replace all the necessary flags with paper, printed, historically accurate ones, although I did muddy the waters somewhat here by insisting that they be out-sized for better visual impact, as well as asking for a Canadian blue and gold Fleur-de-Lys flag to appear amongst the French ranks.
This was again for visual reasons, in that the white cross on white field that formed the Colonel's colour was rather bland at this scale, and furthermore, as most of the French regiments had sent their second battalions to New France, it meant that they would carry two identical coloured Drapeau d'Ordonnance, which somehow looked a bit odd to my eyes.

The general basing idea set, then, a framework of four BG33 blocks, backed up by a single 16 man BG17, forming the colour party, with a BG7 group of three mounted officers ably assisted by the masterstroke of adding single file-closer type NCO figures cut from RBG11 dismounted Dragoon blocks, formed the whole:

Next, we turned to the issue of representing the Light and Militia battalions that were present during the campaign, and we see below Gage's 80th, closely followed by the combined regulars brigaded to form Howe's Light Infantry at Quebec.

These bases would give some weight to the idea that light troops at this time were not strictly 'irregular' in their employment in the way that Rangers might be, rather they could be formed in the line of battle as well as providing platoons for skirmishing type actions. Four BG23, 10 skirmish infantry, therefore, front the more ordered three BG14 26 infantry in 2 ranks, topped off either by the BG7 mounted officers, or a trio cut from a RBG11 strip again:

The ranks of the Canadian Militia, which supported the French regulars on the Plains, were similarly construed, with some more varied colour schemes, reminiscent of civilian clothing, led by appropriately 'Gris-Blanc' coated mounted officers:

Things were going along swimmingly, then, when further research, particularly touching on the first hand written accounts of Brigadier Townsend and Lieutenant Knox of the 43rd Foot, revealed the likelihood that the French centre, at least, were seen to come on 'six deep', and were probably deployed in the columnar 'l'Ordre Profond', so beloved of continental generals of the time. No doubt Montcalm wished to use shock tactics to break the English line before more troops crossed over the St. Lawrence and scaled the Heights above Quebec; he may also have wanted to encourage the men of the Militia and Compagnie Franche de la Marine that had been drafted into the ranks of the Regular battalions to bolster their numbers. In any event, this saw a further order for Tiny Tin to provide a suitably menacing looking column.

Some more fudging of numbers had to go on here, in that for me, the only blocks to use would be the BG16 39 men in three ranks, as these looked 'densest', so six of these crowded onto the 80x40mm base, again with the ancillaries as above.

The basic building blocks then for the majority of units where set, and with Tony Hughes filing, painting, printing and flocking away like a madman, I could turn my attention to the other formations, and also order up some suitable terrain.

Next post: Rangers, Natives, Artillery and Command figures.....

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