French Guard Horse Artillery, 1806–1814

Italeri 1:72 Scale Figure Review

French Napoleonic Guard Horse Artillery, 1806–1814, 1:72 Miniatures Italeri 6018

The Guard Horse Artillery was formed as a regiment of four mounted batteries and one squadron of velites in 1806. During the course of the Napoleonic Wars the regiment temporarily consisted of six batteries, until it was reduced to four batteries again following the costly campaigns of 1812 and 1813. Each battery consisted of 100 gunners serving four medium guns (8-pounders) and two medium howitzers (6 inch). In 1807 the Guard Horse Artillery received lighter 6-pounder guns. Horse artillery gunners were fully mounted, either on spare horses, limbers or ammunition wagons, in order to keep up with cavalry formations they were supporting in battle. Draft horses, limbers, supply and ammunition wagons were handled by artillery train soldiers attached to the horse artillery.

Contents

  • 5 dismounted gunners in 5 Poses – 24 mm equal 173 cm height
    • Gun in battery (8-pounder)
    • Ammunition chest with ready ammunition
    • 20 canonballs stacked in four pyramids
    • Battery officer with telescope
    • Gunner with sponge and water bucket (No. 2)
    • Gunner with sponge (No. 2)
    • Loader (No. 4)
    • Gun captain (No. 5)
  • 6 mounted soldiers in 4 Poses – 24 mm equal 173 cm height
    • Limbered gun (8-pounder)
    • Ammunition chest with ready ammunition
    • Limber and two limber riders
    • Beam and extension
    • Harness straps (12)
    • Mounted train soldier (2)
    • Mounted gunner (2)
  • 2 horses - 21 mm equal 151 cm height
  • 6 draft horses in two Poses – 21 mm equal 151 cm height

Evaluation

Good choice of subject, the guard horse artillery is unique in this scale.

Excellent detail on figures and horses. Facial features, uniform parts, buttons, lace, belts, buckles, and horse furnishing are clearly visible.

Suitable historic poses. The battery officer holds his telescope correctly with both hand. Unfortunately, two of five gun crew members are missing, namely No. 1, the gun layer, and No. 3, the ventsman.

Noticeable flash on figures and horses needs to be removed prior to painting.

Gunner No. 2, the spongeman, is available in two poses, but No. 1, the gun layer, and No. 3, the ventsman, are not included in the set. A gun in battery needs all five trained gunners and up to ten artillery or infantry helpers to be operated safely.

The gun captain should not be wielding the portfire stick the way he does while the gun is still being served by the other members of his crew. Once the gun is ready to be fired, the crew stands at attention well out of the way of the gun carriage, and only then will the gun captain touch the portfire stick to the vent to fire the gun. Clearly, the designers and sculptors of this set did not consider which of the several stages of the loading and firing process they wanted to portray. The result is an incomplete and incompatible mix of poses.

The three leather straps holding the sabretache are painted correctly on the box cover, but the actual models display only the two outer straps. Such errors could easily be avoided if sculptores referred to accurate drawings of the uniform.

Three of the five dismounted gunners have discarded the sabre and sabretache. It is very unlikely, that horse artillery would take off the sabre during battle, considering that they are usually operating well away from friendly infantry and they may have to defend themselves against enemy cavalry or light troops at any moment. Horse artillery was expected to move fast and change firing positions quickly, another reason why horse artillery gunners are well advised to keep vital equipment on at all times. Military formations, and elite units like the Guard Horse Artillery in particular, take great pride in a meticulous and uniform appearance. If any item of dress or personal equipment is taken off, the entire formation will be ordered to do so. It's a mistery why plastic figure designers consider the men in a military figure set to be individuals who decides for themselves how to dress in the morning. Not so!

Four of the nine gunners have braid on the seat of their trousers. Here, too, the sculptor has shown incredible creativity when uniformity and plain common sense was required. Braid is thick cord or cloth which would cause the mounted artilleryman considerable discomfort in the saddle. The Braid should actually follow the outside seem of the trousers all the way up to the waist.

The gun barrels are not detailed enough. The vent is missing, the dolphins are too small, and they are rectangular when they should be round. The mouth of the gun bulges out. The peg on the underside of the barrel is too thin to attach the barrel to the carriage. If the peg worked, the gun barrel would rest at maximum elevation. This is a typical appearance of toy guns, but it looks out of place on the battlefield where ricochet shots at or near level elevation were far more effective against massed targets. Only mortars and howitzers used high trajectory fire to throw explosive and incendiary shells behind linear obstacles. Plunging fire was not very effective against moving targets, because the required fuses were rather unreliable.

The gun elevation mechanism is missing. Serious modellers may want to scratchbuild the elevation mechanism using pianowire and a screw made from thin brass or copper wire.

There is no howitzer barrel in the kit. Horse artillery batteries consisted of four guns and two howitzers, using the same Gribeauval type gun carriage with different barrels. The popular ESCI Guard Foot Artillery set had optional gun and howitzer barrels. It's amazing that manufacturers so often miss the opportunity to add simple optional parts which tremendously increase the value of a particular kit without raising the cost noticeably.

The two ammunitions chests are incorrect. One is to wide and does not fit in the trail of the gun carriage, and the other is modelled without the handles. The Gribeauval artillery system was known for its standardized and interchangeable components, and Italeri should have recreated this feature more accurately in miniature.

The limber is much too wide, its track width is noticeably different from that of the two guns. The overall appearance is wrong. The limber box would need to be separated from the carriage, shortened by 5 mm, and glued back together again. This is a difficult repair job and it might be cheaper and easier to use a more accurate pewter model of the horse artillery limber.

The box art does not include painting instructions for the gun and limber. French artillery pieces were painted olive green. The colour was mixed from 2500 g of yellow ochre and 30 g of black, approximately 80:1 in proportion. Metal parts were painted black, and the brass gun barrels were polished.

The draft horses are unusually small at 151 cm. The harness straps are not to scale, they are too thick. As a result, the riders will not fit on the limber horses. The mistake may be corrected by replacing the plastic parts with similar straps cut from paper or aluminium foil. The portemanteau behind the saddle should be round, not rectangular. The error may be corrected by mounting the artilleryman on a hussar horse.

Possible Conversions

French Guard Horse Artillery 1815
Supply shortages during the Waterloo campaign had a noticeable impact on the appearance of the Guard Horse Artillery. Some gunners wore overalls instead of hussar trousers, and the fur busbies were worn without plumes. The miniatures may be converted to represent this form of campaign dress.

French Line Horse Artillery 1804–1812
The conical shako with red plume and cords was introduced in 1804. In 1812 the spencer replaced the hussar tunic in the line horse artillery.

The spongeman who holds the sponge in both hands may be converted to a gun layer (No. 1) by shortening the sponge and bending the remaining pole into shape.

The mounted gunner may be converted to a trumpeter, using an instrument taken from a hussar or chasseur à cheval. The mounted gunner may be painted as an elite hussar trooper, in which case a hussar horse with a round portemanteau should be used.

These Guard Horse Artillery figures are suitable for collectors and wargamers. Diorama builders may want to convert the missing figure poses and use more realistic limber models.

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