Wednesday, 29 June 2022
Sunday, 26 June 2022
Tuesday, 21 June 2022
Sunday, 19 June 2022
Sunday, 12 June 2022
Wednesday, 8 June 2022
Hollywood meets History
Fascination with the French Foreign Legion started long before Percival Christopher Wren’s novel Beau Geste was published in 1924. French troops in faraway exotic cities like Algiers & Oran to the almost semi-mythical Timbuktu could hardly fail to excite the imagination. But Wren's story of high adventure - set in pre-1914 French Algeria - took the romantic image to a new level, and it wasn’t long before the first screen adaption of his book was made in 1926 starring Ronald Coleman. Part of the success of the book was due to the detail of military life that Wren wove into his story, prompting unproven claims that he himself served in the Legion. A second adaptation of the story, starring Gary Cooper, was released in 1939 and this cemented the romantic image of the Foreign Legion in popular culture. However, the real story of this period of French Colonial history is much more interesting.
For much of the 19th Century, the government in Paris had been divided between liberals who saw no real need for expansion into North Africa and a conservative pro-colonization party that wanted land, no matter the cost. After the humiliation of the Franco-Prussian War, military adventurism in Europe was (for the time being at least) held in check and ambitious politicians and eager young officers looked outward for glory and career advancement opportunities.
French control of Algeria was maintained by the Armée d’Afrique. This consisted mostly of indigenous Arab or Berber volunteers as Mounted Spahis, Goumiers and Irregular infantry or Tirailleurs. These were supported by regiments of French settlers doing their military service (Zouaves and Chasseurs d'Afrique) and the non-French volunteers of the French Foreign Legion (Légion étrangère). It was not uncommon for officers in remote postings to overreact to minor incidents as a pretext for glory and the chance of promotion. And once these ‘French’ troops had taken a region, the government in Paris couldn’t abandon conquered territory without losing face. In this way, France acquired colonial conquests in a haphazard and unplanned fashion that has been described as an “orgy of military indiscipline”.
After the initial bloody occupation of the Touat, the tribes that had relied on trade with the region inevitably began to push back. The French occupiers had upset the delicate economics of the Sahara. To sustain their military forces the Armée d’Afrique was forced to transport vast amounts of supplies to a region that could barely support the local population, let alone their new European masters. This necessitated the acquisition of tens of thousands of camels, up to 40% of which died on the long treks south. For many Berbers, the majority of their personal wealth was invested in their camels. The requisitioning of animals lost to poor handling and often without adequate compensation, was a ruinous policy for many. In addition, the water of the Oasis chain could not sustain all the extra troops and camels, so the French sunk artesian wells which lowered the water table, simultaneously drying out the ground and creating stagnant disease-ridden pools on the surface. Little wonder that many of the indigenous population turned to raid as the only way to support their families.
Between 1904-7 BrigGen Lyautey was given increasing freedom of action with French military posts pushed further and further westwards, even across the debatable border into Morocco. On two occasions he reported the creation of recon outposts (soon to become permanent forts) using unmapped local names to conceal how far west he had pushed. Thus he ignored the official policy of the Foreign Ministry in Paris by shaping policy on the ground. Meanwhile, the rail line moved ever further south and west eventually, reaching Bechar in 1905. This supplied operations in the region for many years to come and solidified French control of this previously contested land.
With French incursions into Morocco, the Sultan began to face growing anti-french sentiment but was impotent to do anything about it. Corruption, lack of money and incompetence made the problem worse, eventually putting Europeans living in the major cities in danger. The French were eventually ‘forced’ to react, occupying Casablanca in 1907. This increased Arab anger both at the French and the Sultan, eventually resulting in a rival Sultan being proclaimed and a call for Jihad against the French. The Arabs were eventually defeated but by the end of 1908 the Sultan had abdicated, his wannabe usurper was dead, and Morocco was firmly on the road to becoming a French Protectorate.
The Beau Hunks Rules:
Whenever L&H end their movement in contact with an officer one of the players (or guest) around the table will draw 2 Chance Cards. There are three types of cards in the Chance deck:
- Jeanie-Weenie Cards - Pictures of the unfaithful heartbreaker, each dedicated to a different lover! Laurel & Hardy will gain Victory Points for each Jennie-Weenie card collected and if they get enough to win the game Hardy decides she wasn’t worth it after all and they get out of the Foreign Legion.
- Event Cards - Rare but significant events that affect all the units on the table.
Laurel and Hardy will gain Victory Points for each Jeanie-Weenie card found and could, potentially be declared the winners of the game, leaving the players to contest second and third place!
Recommended Historical Reading List:
Douglas Porch (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1984)
Our Friends Beneath the Sands
Martin Windrow (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2010)
Uniforms of the French Foreign Legion
Martin Windrow (Blandford Press 1981)
The French Foreign Legion 1872-1914 Men-at-Arms Series No.461
Martin Windrow (Osprey 2010)
French Foreign Legionnaire 1890-1914 Warrior Series No.157
Martin Windrow (Osprey 2011)
Files for download:
- Show Leaflet
- TMWWBK's Quick Reference Sheet
- Unit Block Labels
- Beau Hunks Card Deck
- Askari Miniatures Guide to North African Dress (pdf file)
- French Foreign Legion Uniform Guide by 1898 Miniatures
- How to Paint French Foreign Legion by 1898 Miniatures
- French Foreign Legion Organisation Charts 1900-1914
- The Tuareg-Wanderers of the Desert (from Swiss Air Gazzette 1984)
Sunday, 5 June 2022
Saturday, 4 June 2022
Sunday, 29 May 2022
Tuesday, 24 May 2022
Friday, 20 May 2022
Several members of the Rejects will be going and some of us will even be wearing our Rejects shirts with our names and the group logo on them, so please feel free to ambush us and say hello. I for one don't expect to get much shopping done as I am looking forward to a whole day of chin-wagging with friends new and old.
Sunday, 15 May 2022
Thursday, 12 May 2022
A few nights ago the Rejects gather online (rather than in the Shed-o-War) for an evening of WWII fighter combat. Richard (of My Wargaming Habit fame) hosted the game using Zoom as the medium for five of us to join and play. We played this very simple game a month ago and had such a good time Richard decided to do it again.
The result was unfortunately a German victory, but the real winners were all the participants as we had a really good time cheering each other on. I'm pretty sure my neighbours must have been wondering what all the noise was about, given that this was an evening game 😆.
Well done to Richard for hosting this fun little evening event.
Tuesday, 10 May 2022
I thought I would drop a sneak peek of a game the Rejects played over the weekend. For several years now we have run a Demonstration game at the Broadside Wargames Show (formerly in Sittingbourne, now in Gillingham, Kent). The last Broadside was in December 2021 and Richard ran an excellent French Revolution game using his own set of rules (see article and video HERE). Then the baton was passed to me to come up with a game for this year's Show, just six months later! Anyone that has followed this blog, or my YouTube Channel Miniature Adventures TV, will know that I have been working on French Foreign Legion in 15mm as my project for the show.
For the Demo Game, I will actually be running two sets of rules (yes folks, two for the price of one!). The main battle uses The Men Who Would Be Kings as the base ruleset with a handful of minor rules tweaks for this game. Overlaying this is an entirely silly (and deliberately comic) card-driven game featuring the legendary comedy duo, Laurel and Hardy. They must move around the table looking for evidence of the infidelity of Ollie's unfaithful heartbreaker, Jeenie-Weenie. Whenever they encounter a French Officer, someone will draw two cards from the Beau Hunks inspired deck of chance cards. Some of these cards affect one side or the other, some just affect Laurel and Hardy and a few a more general Event cards. All feature comic scenes from the film Beau Hunks and their other films. If you happen to be passing our demo game at the show, expect to be roped in to draw the cards, sing one of the Duo's theme songs or do a little dance!
So, back to the practice game.... A big thank you to Ray (of Don't Thow a One fame) for sharing these pictures. I was so busy running things I didn't take any pictures at all! The session on Sunday was really useful because it gave me some much-needed practice umpiring a game with a rowdy (but good-natured) bunch of gamers. It also revealed several small mistakes with the QRS I was using and threw up a useful to-do list of minor changes I want to make for the Demo game itself.
That's it for now, more will be revealed on the day. It goes without saying that we would love it if you could come along and see our efforts at Broadside on the 4th of June at the Medway Park Sports Centre, ME7 1HF.
Sunday, 8 May 2022
Sunday, 1 May 2022
Sunday, 24 April 2022
Sunday, 17 April 2022
Sunday, 10 April 2022
Sunday, 3 April 2022
Wednesday, 30 March 2022
Tuesday, 29 March 2022
The Setup & OOB
The British forces are a mix of Regulars, Light Infantry, provincials and civilians. They are dispersed across much of the table with the Line troops concentrated around the construction site for a new fort. They also have a unit of friendly Indians hiding in nearby woods. The French have a mixed force with Marines, Militia, Coureur de Bois and a sizable Indian contingent.
The British players (Myself, Ray and Mark) start the game not knowing where the French may attack from, and based on previous games, fully expecting to have to defend at various points around the table edge. I don't know if Stuart gave the French players (Steve & Surjit) much choice in deployment but they decided to attack with everything from one direction. The British had to wait a couple of turns to be absolutely sure that this was the only attack, before drawing reserves away from the other roads and this delay proved crucial for the outcome of the game.
|The setup (picture gratefully borrowed from Ray's blog, Don't Throw a 1)|
|French troops and Indians press forward sending British Militia and Civilians running for their lives.|
|The 44th start to form up and move towards the battle, but having waited for two turns to be certain of the French attack, maybe it is too late?|
|The French press quickly into the town, with British stragglers ruthlessly cut down. Casualties are mounting and as the victory points for this game are purely based on kills, this is already a one-sided game for the British.|
|The British now see the direction of the attack and try to concentrate their forces. The 44th have reached the rear of the defensive line and started to consolidate into a formed unit blocking the road.|
|Formed up like this both lines can fire and with a bonus for volley fire...but only if they can get close enough to fire on the invaiders.|
|The British have a strong looking defensive line, but the light is fading and the French decide their raid has been a success. The Victory points agree! British 62 pts to a massive 132 pts for the French|
|The winners. Steve and Surjit after a well-deserved win. Steve's ability to roll hits was so impressive he won Man-of-the-Match, hence the happy look on his face.|
An excellent game, with some beautiful terrain and figures from Posties collection. As a British player, I was of course hoping for a different result, but the points at the end showed this as a clear win for the French, not least because they won the Initiative in all but one turn of the game.
Sunday, 27 March 2022
Sunday, 20 March 2022
Thursday, 17 March 2022
So following on from the videos that I put on my Miniature Adventures Channel I decided my blog was long overdue for a bit of TLC. Some of the widgets down the sidebar had stopped working, the Pages needed updating, and a friend of mine pointed out there wasn't even a 'Follow this Blog' button on my site. Much of this seems to have stemmed from the Theme Template I have been using. It worked a treat years ago when I started using it, but over time it has got more buggy and less user-friendly.
Thankfully changing to a new theme is a doddle in Blogger and after a little bit of personalisation, I have settled on the 'new' look for the blog. All the old content is still available and I have been able to bring back some of the widgets that had stopped working, including a proper Blogroll. I've even managed to add a 'Contact Me' form as I have had several people try to make contact via the Comments which can be a bit hit-and-miss.
There may be a few small changes over the next week or so, as I start to update and refresh some of the Pages which have been a little neglected. Once upon a time, you could only have ten pages, but now the sky is the limit, so I will be adding a few more with themed galleries of periods I collect or specific projects. I hope you like the new look and please, get in touch and let me know what you think.
Sunday, 13 March 2022
Sunday, 6 March 2022
Tuesday, 1 March 2022
So I need to start this Battle Report with a huge apology. I was so invested in the game that I hardly shot any pictures and certainly didn't have time to make notes, so this is more like half of an AAR. That being said I did get a couple of cracking shots that I thought worth sharing and hopefully, Ray will have a fuller write up on his blog Don't Throw a One.
So this battle sees the action shift to the Lower Rhine (our earlier games took place in Italy) and the Austrian commander Archduke Charles has handled the Imperial army well, plays a careful game of manoeuvre with the French Army under General Moreau. The Austrians realise it is important to prevent a French breakthrough from the Rhine to the Danube and thus force an Austrian defeat. The French have however managed to bring about an engagement although the final position of the battle has yet to be determined (more on that in a moment).
The French meanwhile have been trying to fulfil the orders of the Directory and push the Austrians back to the Danube to link up with the Army of Italy. This would force the Austrian Emperor to make peace. Archduke Charles has been successfully avoiding a pitched engagement but now the French have finally brought him to battle.
The Pre Game Phase
Surjit and I took command of the French Army of the Rhine and for reasons completely unknown to myself, Surj trusted me with most of the troops in the centre of our line (I'm not known for my prowess with Napoleonic troops!). This effectively put me in charge as I would be taking on the bulk of the fighting and Surjits units had to coordinate with my attack. It has to be said we didn't necessarily know that when the game started because Richard introduced a clever mechanism for deployment and a chance to change the terrain, representing the two sides jockeying for position.
Both sides were given cards each representing a Brigade plus a couple of dummy cards. We then had to decide where to place these along our sector of the table edge. This done, both sides were then given another pack of cards with a range of options written on them. We each had to choose 12 cards from the deck and two sets were then shuffled into a 24 card deck. Three cards were then dealt with each side. Each turn of this 'probing phase' we drew an extra card from this deck and had to play one card from this set of four. The cards included things like: Placing a Farm or hill on the Tabke; Removing terrain items; moving terrain elements sideways or across the table; Moving units (we still didn't know which were real and which were blank at this stage). This continued until either one side had picked up two 'disadvantages', or both sides agreed to stop, or when the main deck had been used up. The result was that neither side had total control over the terrain or their own deployment.
With this phase over Richard then set up the Brigades where our unit cars indicated and both sides were then given a frantic ten minutes (and not a second longer!) to change formations or shift the orientation of units. The earlier phase meant that most of our units need up in a single 2ftx2ft square and it was so cramped it looked a bit like Picadilly Circus! We had a plan though, and so long as we didn't get our units muddled up, or hesitate with our moves, we were confident we could win the game.
The French Plan
So our plan was simple. Form as many units into Attack Columns as we could, with some regiments in skirmish formation to the front to shield the columns behind. Then we pointed ourselves at the enemy and marched as fast as our little french legs would carry us towards the Austrian line! Unfortunately where we were positioned necessitated a slight diagonal march to reach the part of the enemy line we wanted to hit but in the end, we only lost one turn of movement to get all our units aligned for a simultaneous attack.
My command was the main attack with five Regiments in attack column pointed at the centre of the Austrian line. Surjit was assigned to protect my right flank and I had some cavalry on my left that kept the Austrian flank sat in position for most of the game. Of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy and the Austrians were not idle in allowing us to do whatever we wanted. Initially, our plan worked, hitting the enemy in a coordinated attack that threw them back from their positions. The follow up was less well coordinated due to casualties and moral reductions...but I'm jumping ahead of myself a little.
The Austrian Plan
Well, it's hard to put words in their mouth but given the way they were deployed, I think it is fair to say they took a defensive posture from the start. Using a line of forest and hills (and some late-appearing wall) they lined up and dared the French to attack!
|By the end of the second turn, my brigades were in a position to smash into the Austrian line. My Skirmish units had done their job and the attack columns behind were largely unscathed.|
|Meanwhile, the Austrian Cavalry charge into Surjits Brigade. They sweep aside the skirmish screen and plough into a regiment of Grenadiers in a square... it doesn't end well for the Austrians, but it was a valiant effort and a sight to behold.|
|A narrow French Victory. The points for melee's fought and casualties taken are a testament to the intensity of the fight in the centre of the line.|
|Not sure if you can actually read this, but these are the Orders of Battle for both sides and the record of casualties taken.|