So there it was, I had a full force of French, only half a force of Brits, and a painted WW1 German army waiting for an opponent to get into action. So it seemed like a good plan to crack on with the French.
The French began the war with a bright uniform of blue coat and red trousers and kepi, but like all the armies in this war switched to more modern 'drab' uniforms and metal helmets during the course of the war. The French were the first to do this, and adopted the paler, drabber 'Horizon Blue' and the Adrian helmet by early 1915 and continued to wear this uniform throughout the war.
I mix all my our colours and getting the right shade for the 'Horizon Blue' uniform proved tricky. I thought I had the perfect match with an actual coat pictured on the internet, but when applied to a 20mm figure it looked too 'blue', especially after I'd applied a wash for shading. So I went over and dry brushed them with a grey shade. I kept looking at reference works and uniform websites for guidance, but it was pretty clear that there was so variation in the degree of 'fade' that you'd expect. So I think I didn't do too badly in getting a compromise.
The Adrian helmet was initially issued in a shiny light blue, which proved a liability to snipers, which led many soldiers to cover them with sandbag cloth covers. These in turn proved a liability as they got dirty and a source of infection when soldiers suffered head wounds, so they were discouraged and a darker blue dull helmet was issued later in the war. I thought this offered a good chance to work in a bit of subtle unit identification, so painted my figures in all three styles.
The French also replaced their backpacks during the course of the war. I painted most with this khaki canvass issue backpack. ...but I also did some with the earlier issue brown leather backpack which originally went with the dark blue uniforms but some units retained, again to help with a bit of subtle unit identification. WW1 saw huge mass actions, so you want to put a fair number of figures on the table, so far I've painted up 140 figures based as my later war Germans on 2p coins which I think looks much better than the 1p coins I started using for this period. For either a Contemptible Little Armies game -where this would give me close to 10 'units (units can represent anything you want from a platoon through to a bridgade in those rules)-or GW's Great War, where I would easily have a battalion (for these rules deploy 12 odd figures for a 'platoon'), this is plenty.
Shots above and below show they do a reasonably good job of filling a table with a couple of 'waves', and would obviously fill an even longer 'trenchline'. I suppose I could do more, but you have to draw the line somewhere as ultimately things like having time to paint other things and space to store them comes into play!For now I've got them snuggly fitting in two of my plastic A4 storage boxes. I still have a few figures to finish off, including a Hat set of French artillery to start, but all the basics are done.
The Hat/Airfix set has loads of special figures in it, buglers, flag bearers, dead figures, wounded figures, figures on bicycles, figures with spades, figures carrying sacks, figures with telescopes, a figure with a basket and a carrier pidgeon! All great to have, and the figures with a telescope and carrier pidgeons handy for HQ stands. It does cut into the number of straight riflemen, so I needed the four boxes. There are no figures much use for high ranking officers, so I'm still pondering if I should convert an officer figure from the Airfix German set. The biggest weakness though is that THERE ARE NO MACHINE GUNS!!!! For WW1?
This would be a major pain but as luck would have it, Pegasus has just released a WW1 French set which is packed with machine guns. So next time I send in my order to Model Hobbies, I guess I will be adding a pack of these.