With the Reichsarmee finally finished, I’m still sticking with the Seven Years War for the moment, but now moving back to the Western Theatre and the expansion of my embryonic French and Hanoverian-Allied armies. I started painting those armies in February 2021 with the ‘Frogruary Challenge‘ and by 2022 had enough to do some small games. However, they need some serious expansion before I can play some decent-sized historical refights and first on my ‘To Do’ list are light troops.
Both sides in the Western Theatre of the Seven Years War made great use of light troops; not just in the petit guerre of raiding and scouting behind enemy lines commonly associated with the period (particularly in America), but also in close support of the field armies in central Europe. We start to see the embryo of the light infantry tactics that would become commonplace during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the French army in particular using light infantry to screen the movement of columns of infantry.
At the start of the war, the French Army was fairly well-furnished with light troops when compared to its rivals; it had three regiments of hussars (Bercheny, Turpin and Polleresky), two battalions of ‘alpine’ light infantry (the Fusiliers de Montagne and Royal Cantabres Regiments) and five combined ‘legions’ or ‘free corps’ of light infantry and dragoons (the Volontaires Royaux, Volontaires de Flandre, Volontaires du Dauphiné, Volontaires de Geschray and Chasseurs de Fischer). All but one of these regiments had originally been raised during the War of Austrian Succession or shortly afterwards (the exception being the Bercheny Hussars, who were raised in 1721). Other such legions had been raised for the duration of that war, but disbanded immediately upon its conclusion. In addition to these were the 16 regular regiments of Dragoons, who at this stage of their evolution were still acting very much as mounted infantry, rather than the ‘second-line’ shock cavalry arm they had become in other armies.
Following the outbreak of the Seven Years War, France raised at least a further 17 volunteer units as ‘free corps’, with some later being absorbed into the regular French Army. Most of these were mixed legions of light infantry and cavalry, but some were pure infantry or pure cavalry. I covered one of these newly-raised regiments in Part 3: the Royal Nassau Hussars, (pictured above) who were initially raised as a free-corps (the ‘Volontaires de Nassau-Saarbruck’), before being absorbed into the regular army in 1760.
Above: The Volontaires Royaux were one of the oldest corps of light troops serving with the French army, dating back to 1745. At the start of the Seven Years War in 1755, the unit was established as twelve mixed companies, each with 6 officers, 40 fusiliers and 30 dragoons, plus two grenadier companies with 48 men apiece and a worker company with 22 men, plus regimental staff, for a total of 1,022 men.
In February 1758 the mixed companies were increased in strength to 54 fusiliers and 44 dragoons and the worker company to 32 men, for a total of 1,304 men.
In May 1758 the unit was renamed ‘Légion Royale’ and was again expanded. The two grenadier companies remained unchanged at 48 men apiece and the worker company of 32 men also remained unchanged. However, each of the twelve mixed companies were increased to 64 fusiliers and 44 dragoons. A new hussar company of 80 men was created, as was an artillery detachment of two ‘Swedish’ 4pdrs. The Legion now numbered 1,537 men.
In February 1759 the legion expanded once again. The two grenadier companies again remained unchanged at 48 men each. The artillery detachment also remained unchanged. However, the twelve mixed companies expanded again to 79 fusiliers and 54 dragoons apiece. The worker company doubled in size to 64 men. A second hussar company was created, with both hussar companies numbering 81 men. The legion now totalled 1,918 men. The organisation remained essentially unchanged until the end of the war.
The Volontaires Royaux/Légion Royale wore an unlaced blue coat with red cuffs, collar and tail-turnbacks and white metal buttons. Dragoons wore a white aiguillette on the right shoulder. The waistcoat was red. Breeches were white. Gaiters were black or white. The fusiliers and dragoons initially wore cocked hats with false silver lace and white cockades. The workers wore blue forage caps with red piping and a white fleur de lys badge. However, the fusiliers and workers apparently changed to bearskins sometime around 1757, white the dragoons retained their cocked hats. The grenadier companies wore bearskins from their inception, with a white metal grenade badge on the front. Drummers wore the Royal livery. Belts were white and cartridge boxes were natural leather. Dragoons’ horse furniture was red, bordered with white and with white fleur de lys decoration. There is no information on the hussar uniform.
Thus far, I’ve only done a pair of skirmisher stands for this unit, using Blue Moon French infantry figures. It’s the first time I’ve used their infantry figures and I like them. I still prefer the Eureka French figures, but these mix really well with them and they add variety. The artillery figures match so well that I’ve mixed them in the same crews, but the Blue Moon cavalry is markedly smaller than the Eureka cavalry, so I’ll stick with Eureka for my horse.
Above: The Volontaires de Flandre were another one of the old, pre-war corps, having been raised at the end of the War of Austrian Succession in 1749, by amalgamating three older units; the Arquebusiers de Grassin, the Fusiliers de Morlière and the Volontaires Bretons. At the start of the Seven Years War, the unit consisted of twelve mixed companies, each containing 43 fusiliers and 23 dragoons, for a total of 792 men.
In 1757, half the unit was split off to become the Volontaires du Hainaut (see below). However, the remaining six companies of the Volontaires de Flandre were each reinforced by 10 additional dragoons, for 43 fusiliers and 33 dragoons per company, totaling 462 men. By Christmas 1758 the unit had increased to eight companies of 43 fusiliers and 39 dragoons, for a total of 663 men.
By November 1759 there had been a major expansion and re-organisation. The formerly mixed companies were divided into eight fusilier companies, each of 74 men and eight dragoon companies of 44 men. In addition there was a grenadier company with 63 men and regimental staff of 7 men, for a total of 1,006 men. This organisation remained in place until 1762, when the unit was amalgamated with the Volontaires du Dauphiné and was renamed as the Légion de Flandre.
The uniform was recorded as a blue coat, lined blue, with red lapels and cuffs, decorated with white buttonhole lace and white metal buttons. Breeches were white and gaiters were black or white. Headgear was a cocked hat with false-silver lace and a white or black cockade. Belts were natural leather and the cartridge box was black. The unit’s dragoons wore essentially the same uniform with a ‘Schomberg’-style helmet and blue horse furniture, edged red.
Again, I only painted a couple of skirmish stands for this unit, using Blue Moon French infantry figures.
Above: As mentioned above, the Volontaires du Hainaut were formed in March 1757 from elements of the Volontaires de Flandre. The unit initially consisted of 462 men, organised into a small regimental staff and six mixed companies, each with 43 fusiliers and 33 dragoons. By February 1758 the unit’s strength had increased to 663 men, divided into eight mixed companies, each with 43 fusiliers and 39 dragoons, matching the organisational changes within the Volontaires de Flandre.
By November 1759 the unit had expanded to 1,006 men. Like the Volontaires de Flandre, the formerly mixed companies had been divided into eight fusilier companies with 73 men and eight dragoon companies with 44 men. A grenadier company of 63 men was also added.
Above: The 1759 organisation remained in place until December 1762, when the unit was amalgamated with the Volontaires d’Austrasie. The unit was then renamed in March 1763 as the Légion du Hainaut.
Above: The uniforms of the Volontaires du Hainaut were very similar to those of the Volontaires de Flandre, essentially just replacing the red facings with black. To recap, the coat and waistcoat were blue with white metal buttons. The coat had blue tail-turnbacks, black lapels and black cuffs. The lapels, cuffs and lower breast were decorated with white buttonhole lace. Headgear was a cocked hat with false silver lace and white or black cockade. Breeches were white or black. Belts were natural leather and the cartridge pouch was black.
Above: When formed in 1757, the Volontaires du Hainaut were issued with the old colours of the Arquebusiers de Grassin. This famous unit had been one of the units amalgamated into the Volontaires de Flandre at the end of the War of Austrian Succession and so the colours were still held by the Volontaires de Flandre. New colours were eventually issued to the Volontaires du Hainaut during the course of the Seven Years War, but I’ve used the former colours of the Arquebusiers de Grassin, as I really like them.
These flags were designed by the supremely talented David Morfitt and can be downloaded from his Not By Appointment blog (linked), along with the latter version of the unit’s colours.
Above: The drummers’ livery for the Volontaires du Hainaut is unknown, so I’ve just used the standard Royal Livery. There’s no information regarding any specific items of dress for the grenadier company.
The unit’s dragoons wore slightly different uniform; the coat, waistcoat and breeches were all blue. The coat lacked lapels and instead had white lace down the front seams of the coat, which continued around the edges of the blue tail-turnbacks. The waistcoat was also edged in white lace. The coat had black pointed cuffs and a black collar, all edged in white lace. There was also a black, unlaced shoulder-strap. Horse furniture was blue, edged white. Headgear was a Schomberg-style helmet.
Above: In addition to the formed Volontaires du Hainaut, I again did a couple of skirmisher stands. Again, the Volontaires du Hainaut are all Blue Moon French infantry figures.
I haven’t yet painted any Volontaire dragoons, but I’ll probably do a base of six dragoons each for the Volontaires de Flandre and the Volontaires du Hainaut and field them as a combined 12-figure unit, using Old Glory 15s Schomberg Dragoon figures.
Above: Waaay back in February 2021, having been led astray by an erroneous Osprey illustration, I gave my French artillery red gun-carriages… However, I soon found out that this was incorrect and that the French began painting their gun-carriages light blue with the introduction of the Vallière artillery system in 1732.
Above: Rather than re-paint my existing gun-carriages red, I relegated the old guns to various Reichsarmee contingents and bought some new 12pdr and 4pdr guns from Eureka. The 12pdrs (seen here) are particularly impressive and barely fit on a 40mm square base! They also do a 24pdr model, which must be quite a beast, though I haven’t bought any of those (yet).
Above: My French artillery figures are all Eureka models and are depicted stripped down for work, just wearing their red sleeved waistcoats. In full dress they’d wear a blue coat with red facings and brass buttons. As discussed in 2021, I had to replace the shafts of the longer rammers with brass rod, as the cast versions are hopelessly floppy. Eureka uses a soft alloy that perfectly picks out the detail, but I think is far too flexible. I much preferred AB Figures (now made by Eureka) when we cast them here in Wales, using a pewter that was ‘grainier’, but MUCH tougher.
Above: Here are the French ‘Swedish’ 4pdrs. These models are excellent value, as they come two per pack. The barrels and trails are cast as one piece, which also means less sticking.
Above: Again, I’ve used Eureka artillery crewmen for the 4pdrs, giving them the men with shorter rammers. However, I do rather regret not replacing the shafts with brass rod, as I did with the longer rammers, as again, they’re very bendy.
Above: A last view of the French artillery.
Anyway, that’s it for now! Hanoverian light troops to follow…