Tuesday 25 January 2011

Colonial French in Morocco Photos: Part 1 Native Troops

I thought I'd begin introducing the Colonial French project by sharing some of the Postcard photographic views that I have been acquiring as part of the background.
Having got bitten by the collecting bug whilst looking around for images of original colour schemes for Pre-Dreadnought shipping, I have in a similar way started to gather original
postcard views of the French in Morocco between 1907 to 1914 or so, mining a rich seam of contemporary postcards that acted almost as reportage at the time, lionising the efforts of the Colonisers as they sought to devour a further slice of North Africa.

Just a note, similar to the Pre-Dread pics seen elsewhere on the Blog, about copyright; Most of these views were taken a century or so ago, and in some cases it would be difficult to assert the rights of the original publishers or photographers - it is not my intention, however, to subvert or ignore such rights by posting them here.
I would ask anyone who wishes to view them to use the images for private research only, and not seek to disseminate them for commercial purposes, etc - I will try and give the photographer or publisher's information where possible - although I own the postcards, I in no way own the images themselves....

So, at the top, we see a long line of Tirailleurs Algeriens in this postcard view dated 1910, trudging across the desert at Taghit - a close inspection will reveal some French officers on foot and on horses in the middle distance in summer dress.
The Tirailleurs, light infantry by name, but effectively used as regular Native infantry by the Armee d'Afrique, were in battalion strength in Morocco, but seem to have been mainly deployed in detachments to support other units.
Their distinctive Zouave-like uniform consisted of a red 'Chechia': a low, fez-like hat with a yellow tassel, often wound around with a white turban at the base. The jacket originally had been a short waist length pale sky blue one, but by 1907 I have seen indications that khaki ones were in use, (the French themselves adopted this gradually from 1903) although it can be difficult to tell from B&W photos - certainly summer uniforms of white cotton were also to be seen, the trousers surmounted by a red wound cummerbund or sash.

Below we have a view of a Mountain Artillery Column at M'Kirt, probably from a later period, perhaps 1914 or so - a mixture of dress is apparent, particularly in the single file of figures at the rear, and note the French officer mounted on the white horse at the front, probably wearing the puttees that had begun to appear in the French army as 'patrol dress' from about 1905:

Next up, a platoon moves off at Djebel-Nser, a view by Maillet photo of Casablanca. I think it is likely these are Tirailleurs Senegalais, similar to their Algerian counterparts, but with a characteristically dark blue jacket and lighter blue trousers, that again by 1910 or so would have seen khaki bottoms appearing. It's interesting to note the figures amidst the file likely wearing the M1890 helmet, made in a khaki material:

Moving swiftly along, we have an image by Boussuge of Casablanca of a parade of 'Police Infantry' from 1909, no doubt a unit that came about as part of the efforts of the French Military Mission to create more modern and viable forces to support their candidate as sultan, rather than the traditional mob of supporters that formed the 'Askar' - more a sort of rampaging feudal militia than an army. The native officer out front wears Zouave-like garb, whilst the French military instructor can be glimpsed at left:

Arriving at Casablanca, a unit of Tirailleurs Senegalais and their officers, in a card view dated 1907, again by Boussouge. The Senegalais were officially part of the Troupes de la Marine, so overseen by the Ministry de la Marine, as most Colonial French forces were, so were not part of the Armee d'Afrique - I suppose that's why their original uniforms were the dark blue seen here:

Their uniforms, however, began to change over to khaki in the early part of the twentieth century, and that is what we see here in another view of a similar unit - interesting to note that the officers seem to have retained the blue uniform - or perhaps this is merely for a dress parade - their helmets are the white rather than the khaki here:

Next up, we have a unit of Moroccan Goumiers, native cavalry raised to support the French forces, more in the sense of an irregular gendarmerie than an official military unit, but they were accompanied by a cadre of French officers and NCOs.
This view is by Levy & Neurdein Reunis of Paris, and is interesting in that whilst most sources state that the Goums were mostly without uniform, wearing their own native dress, it appears that as time went on, uniforms were introduced to some - although this photo might date from a later period, perhaps just post WWI; certainly they have at least retained the traditional camel hair cloak, or 'haik':

Finally, another unit of locally raised cavalry, this time some Spahis Algeriens, which were a more formal military force of which there were four regiments of approximately 500 men each. They wore a rather 'Arabian Nights' uniform of bright red jacket over pale blue trousers and a red sash, topped off by a bright red, white-lined cloak, although this was no doubt somewhat changed in the field when they took on a more rough and ready appearance.
This can be seen here in this view, again by Boussuge - they are also apparently defeating less formidable foes than the militant Moroccans, namely a herd of sheep - although the drawn sword of the officer points to that fact that they can also be slippery customers - his dress is interesting - obviously a form of patrol uniform made up of locally obtained clothing:

These units should give great flavour to any army of the period, and I'm looking to use the Spahis and Tirailleurs from Pendraken's Franco-Prussan War range to depict them - there's certainly plenty to contemplate as to exactly what shape this will all take, so stay tuned for more to come as the project develops....

Sunday 23 January 2011

New Project: 10mm Colonial French in Morocco

So, New Year, new project, right? Well, given the amount of half-formed and yet to be completed ones littering the pages of this Blog, probably not such a good idea..... oh well!
Putting this to one side then, I thought I'd introduce the strongest candidate for the title, and hope to make a calm and considered progress with it across the course of 2011 - to whit, the French Colonial Conquest of Morocco using 10mm figures from Pendraken.

Although they have yet to make a mark Blogwise, I've had wide experience with the 10mm of this excellent company, principally for Early Crusade armies, and have always fancied a go at some of their more modern figures, and in particular the small range of French Foreign Legionnaires - growing up with Beau Geste, and all those Hollywood movies about the Legion, this was always a unit I've longed to see grace the tabletop.

Rather than go for a strictly Arabs in bathrobes versus blue-coated soldiers type of thing, I thought I'd complicate matters and get far too ambitious, and try to anchor the project in a real historical setting.
Thanks to the fascinating Douglas Porch book, "The Conquest of Morroco", I'm looking to do units that would cover the turbulent period between say, 1905 and 1912, which featured all sort of actions and troop types, from Tirailleurs Algeriens and Senegalais to Chasseur's d'Afrique and beyond, with very much a skirmish framework in mind, hence the decision to go 'big' with 10mm.

In postings to come, I'll be looking at the figure choices for all of the different types, including, (thanks to the advice of Dave and the gang at Pendraken) a number of kidnap victims from the Franco-Prussian War, Sudan, North West Frontier and even WWI ranges.

I'll hope to introduce the whys and wherefores of each unit, and will be backing that up with some views from the SteelonSand postcard archive, with photos from the time.
Eventually, and with a following wind, I'll also chronicle the actual painting and basing of the little Legionnaires and their opponents, and draw on some readily available internet sources to support it all.

Rules wise, I'm looking at a couple of options, with TSATF at the top of the list, although I'm in no hurry to push ahead with gaming with these - in the spirit of a less butterfly-minded Blog, I want to try a slow build up and make this something that might serve as a backbone over an extended period..... that's the theory, anyway!

Monday 17 January 2011

Fleet Scale Sci-Fi: The Fleet limps along.....

Aplogies for the long New Year hiatus in posting here; I wish I could say that this time had been filled with much prep, painting and photography of miniatures, but unfortunately this has hardly been the case - the shameful neglect of the Blog down to 'Real Life' intruding and keeping me far too busy. Not that I am complaining - no real dramas, but definitely a dearth of Wargaming-related activity, I'm afraid....

What has left the workbench is very much in the way of some small progress with the BSG themed fleets, and the happy discovery of my rare-earth magnets has lead to a pulse of activity, including the fighters and various other craft. For what it's worth, I thought I'd share some pics of how this has been going, first up some civilian freighters and transports:

For reasons that will become evident later on, I decided to add the Brigade Models Bantu Destroyer in with the civvies rather than positing it as another military type, and also flipped the Irregular ship seen in the middle of the photo above onto its back - the sculpt is somewhat enigmatic, and I think this way up, it somewhat resembles the Gemini Freighter seen in the original series.
Colour schemes wise, I went for a quite dirty thrashing with various dry-brush colours, overlaid with some detailing of panels, running lights and so forth, hopefully going for a very 'lived-in' and well-used look for these old transports.

The Cylon flotilla is complete for now, with Baseship, two Heavy Cruisers that I am calling the 'Styx' Class, and those GZG fighters masquerading as the iconic Raiders:

The fighters are mounted on the Brigade trio fighter stands, with magnets stuck into the hollow space underneath, and then a corresponding magnet fixed atop the plastic flying base.
I found this was a very frustrating and tricky procedure, as whilst Brigade's own craft mostly have a small depression which matches the upright nubs at the end of each of the fighter stand's arms, those of GZG do not, so much fiddling and swearing with rapidly-drying super-glue was required. I eventually, in fact, filed down the mounting nubs and placed the fighters down flat to ensure a tougher bond.
I had envisioned hordes of Cylon Raiders to accompany the larger ships, but I will definitely need a rest before I attempt this procedure again in the near future..... these will be enough for now!

The magnets themselves I obtained from Dom's Decals, and they are good and strong, and being meant for 1/600th aircraft, are a nice tiny size - the only issue is trying not to mix up the polarity of each pair to be used - I got around this by having a marker pen to hand and colouring the top surface of each magnet as it came off the stack - those for the ships, went coloured side to hull, and then the paired flight stand would have its coloured side fixed upmost to match.

Moving on, we see the two non-canon Cruiser types which I added to beef up the respective fleets, on the left, the Colonial Heavy Cruiser, the 'Charybdis', and on the right the Cylon:

The lighting for these photos has been rather unkind to the finish on both types - the contrast is not really so stark in real life, but you get the idea as to how they match up. I think either craft might have some fighters on board, but to all intents and purposes they are gunships - to take out the opponent's Carrier with heavy weaponry - relatively slow, but very heavily armoured and armed....

Next up, the Cruisers 'Scylla' and Charybdis move forward accompanied by some Colonial Vipers:

These were mounted in the same way as the Cylon Raiders, and were even more fiddly, as the base of each craft is slightly convex, so more filing required. These are nifty little stand-in craft from GZG, perhaps only the downward tilt of the lower wings missing from the original - I quite like them, but those classic red stripes were very hard to do freehand, particularly in order to match up around the tail section - so again, I won't be rushing to do more!

The Galactica Battlegroup, then, in the final days before the Fall of Caprica:

Overall, I'm pleased with how things have gone so far, but am painfully aware as to how much all this has diverted me from my more long term projects, so these will probably go on the back burner from now, given that I haven't even thought about how they might be used game-wise, or even with what rules....

Then again, there are the scratch-built Agri-ship and the Colonial Movers to be done yet......oh well!