Monday, August 4, 2014

One of the 'Guns of August': 28mm Great War in Greyscale French 75, Caisson and Crew (& Major LaBossiere)


August commemorates the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War. So to mark the occasion I thought I'd finish a set of models for my greyscale project that have been sitting in the wings for quite some time, something fitting for those first terrible weeks of the Great War - a French 75mm gun with its crew and caisson. 

The Matériel de 75mm Mle 1897, or simply 'the 75', became legend amongst the French as it along with its crews carried a tremendous burden in slowing the German advance on Paris in 1914. 



The 75 was a relatively light gun, easy to maneuver and capable of keeping up with infantry in relatively difficult terrain. It was a weapon which embodied  the French cult of the attack which was prevalent at that time - the Attaque a Outrance ('attack to excess') demanded massive, high-tempo assaults and many officers at St-Cyr believed this was the perfect gun to accommodate this aggressive doctrine.  



The '75' also had a very quick rate of fire (approximately 15 rounds per minute, with a capable crew) which allowed it to lay down a deadly carpet of high explosive and shrapnel on exposed troops. 


Nonetheless, once hostilities began, many of the perceived strengths of the 75 proved to be double-edged. While the 75 could indeed put out a terrifying volume of fire in close support, the crews were prone to run out of ammunition quickly - especially in those early weeks of the war. This often left the gun vulnerable and many crews were found dead next to their guns, with their ammunition expended.  Also, while the 75 proved to be an excellent anti-personnel weapon, it did not have a heavy enough shell to be effective for trench bombardments so as the war progressed it became more and more evident that heavier guns were required  - so the 75 lost it pre-eminence in the French arsenal. Nonetheless the reputation (and mystique) of the gun lived on and it was used by several nations at the beginning of the Second World War.  


This model is from Scarab Miniatures. Not a bad kit but it was a bit fiddly to assemble. While I like the crew well enough, they are a bit doughy and muppet-like in some of their features (and their uniform is the later design). I really need to get the new(ish) early-war set offered from North Star as it better fits the rest of my collection.

On a lighter note, it must be mentioned that the French gun's fame was such that it even had a drink named after it, the "French 75" - or perhaps more correctly "Le Soixante-Quinze"!


Beware, like the 75mm Mle 1897, this cocktail may seem lightweight, but it actually packs a ferocious kick...


Finally, I include a French infantry officer of 1914, resplendent in his red jodhpurs, laced kepi and St. Etienne revolver. I've named him Major LaBossiere (one for you J). 


When I look at him I think of a grizzled veteran of 'The Debacle', perhaps wounded at Sedan as an officer Aspirant, leading his young troops from the front, furious that General Joffre would presume that his men lack in fighting spirit. 'Vous n'aurez pas l'Alsace et la Lorraine!'

This figure (a 28mm casting from Great War Miniatures) is for my friend Nick over at Moiterei's Bunt Welt, who kindly painted me a beautiful Viking warlord for my collection and wished a greyscale French Poilu in return. I decided to do a quasi 'Sin City' colour effect on him to add a bit of punch. Here you go Nick, I hope you enjoy him and thanks so much again!

38 comments:

  1. First comment for me (advantage to be on holidays...)!!!
    Your greyscale painting is really wonderful, and your models gain a lot of character with it. Fantastic painting work!

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    1. Thanks Juan! Enjoy your holidays and stay out of the heat!

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  2. Curt, they're outstanding! Well done with these figures and the guns. I know myself that they can be tricky to assemble. But you have done them more than justice. Fantastic (or formidable, I should say). Just out of curiosity, what's the diameter of the bases?

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    1. Cheers Sidney, very much appreciated. The base of the gun/crew is 100mm while the caisson is 80mm (both are 3mm thick).

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  3. Really stunning work using this technique.

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  4. W-O-W! This WWI project is amazing. These two last additions are outstading on their own merit too. And thanks for the coctel recepit... very appealing to fight the summer heat in Madrid

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    1. Haha! Just don't have too many of them Benito or you'll be sleeping through the day!

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  5. Superb work. I always look forward to the next item in this series. I think of it as an œuvres d'art, as opposed to wargaming figures.

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    1. Very kind of you Robert, thank you for your encouraging thumbs-up.

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  6. Excellent work on both the artillery piece and crew as well as on the generous gift for Nick.

    All the best
    Stefan

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    1. Cheers Stefan, much appreciated. I hope Nick likes the figure as well.

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  7. You can be pretty darn sure about this Mr. Curt! This french officer looks tres magnifique ... or so... french never was my strong point you know :-) Can't wait to place him in my cabinet.

    This 75mm gun and its crew look awesome too. I especially like the caisson as it's something not often seen on gaming tables. I really love your greyscale work and hope for many more additions to this amazing project.

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    1. Excellent, thank you Nick! I'm delighted you like Major LaBossiere. He'll be jetting to you soon.

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  8. You are such a talented chap Curt, I just adore this project and this is another fantastic addition.

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    1. That is very high praise coming from you Mr. Awdry - thank you. I look over to my painting cabinet, to the greyscale samurai you did for me two Challenges ago, and they 'keep me honest' to do better.

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  9. Hahn, glad this project is appearing again! Lovely.

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    1. Thanks Phil, I chugs along in fits and starts but I always enjoy getting a little more done.

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  10. Amazing work on these commemorative models

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  11. Excellent work, Curt, you have every reason to be proud of such an effort.

    My hat's off to you, sir!

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  12. As always truly excellent grey scale work Curt!

    Christopher

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  13. I do like your great war Greyscale figures. They are so evocative. Bringing back the black and white films and Very poignant this day of all days.

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    1. Thanks Clint, I was wanting to do something to mark the 4th and the stars (and brushes) aligned for this group.

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  14. Amazing stuff dude!!! Between you and Byron, I don't think I can stay out of WW1 any longer...just trying to figure out whether I want to do 15mm or 28mm...

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    1. Ooh, let's talk - perhaps I'lll piggyback with you on something in colour for a change. Thanks for thumbs up!

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  15. Very fine work, Curt. Col. Elton, author of Swords Around a Throne, wrote that he first learned about Napoleonic artillery and what it could do from training with horse-drawn French WW1 era 75s in the US Army of the 1930s, so those guns had a long career.
    The recipe for the "75" is intriguing. I may try it.
    Cheers,
    M

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    1. Thanks Mike! Col. Elting was a very wise chap - his scholarship and skills as an engaging writer are sorely missed.

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    2. That's right, it was Elting, not Elton. Mea culpa. A very fine writer indeed.

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  16. Superb painting and the attached history is the icing on the cake.

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    1. Thanks Pat, I'm delighted you enjoyed the post.

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