“La Garde au Feu!”: My 15mm French Imperial Guard (Part 1 – The Old Guard)

I doubt that there’s a single Napoleonic wargamer who doesn’t have at least one Imperial Guard unit in their collection and I’m certainly no exception… And having recently painted my very LAST Imperial Guard infantryman (for the two Young Guard Corps at Leipzig in 1813), I thought I may as well post the pics here, starting with the Old Guard (which appropriately enough, are the oldest figures in my Imperial Guard infantry).

Back in the mists of time, I had a single unit of 16x 15mm Old Guard Grenadiers à Pied by Battle Honours.  They got a lot of mileage and by the mid-1990s were looking rather battered.  By then we’d started doing demo-games at wargames shows and I was wanting some new models, so asked Mike Hickling at AB Figures if they had any imminent plans for Old Guard infantry models.  By sheer luck, he had just cast the very first of the new AB Figures Old Guard and he put them straight in the post to me on approval!  I had it on good authority therefore that these AB Figures Old Guard figures were the first to appear anywhere – they were in our Bautzen 1813 game at ‘Warcon’ (1995 I think?) before they even appeared in the AB Figures catalogue! 🙂

(As an aside, Mike also sent me some never-released Empress’ Dragoons and a Napoleon figure that had originally been sculpted for the Battle Honours range and never released.  As far as he or I know, these figures are totally unique.  The Empress Dragoons have since passed on to my good friend Martin – replaced by newer AB Figures models – but I’ve still got the Napoleon figure and have never been able to bring myself to replace him with the newer AB Figures model.)

Above:  French 15mm Old Guard Grenadiers à Pied by AB Figures.  When I first saw these, I was totally blown away by the quality of sculpting and the accuracy of the depiction.  They look just as though they have stepped out of a Detaille or Gerard painting.  Even today, nearly 25 years later, I still think that they’re the best figures ever to have been produced in this scale (or indeed any scale).  They’ve even got their customary earrings sculpted on…

Above:  Regular readers of this blog will note that my painting was a fair bit better in those days… 🙁 Eyesight and cramping hands now get the better of me.  I also had a lot more patience and would routinely paint my own flags…

For the uninitiated, the distinguishing uniform features of the Grenadiers à Pied were the coat cut in ‘line infantry’ style, with square-ended white lapels (i.e. the bottom end of the lapel, where it meets the coat-tail), ‘Brandenburg’ cuffs with white cuff-flaps, plain red fringed epaulettes and a bearskin with brass front-plate, red plume, red ‘cul de singe’ (‘monkey’s arse’) on the back and white cords.  They continued to wear this uniform throughout the Napoleonic Wars, even when the rest of the infantry switched to the more modern ‘Bardin’ style after 1812.  However, the uniform would be modified on campaign by the addition of black gaiters, blue overall trousers and blue greatcoats.  The cap plumes and cords would also be removed and saved for best (‘Grande Tenue‘).

Above:  This photo will teach me to pay more attention to which figures I’m getting out of the box, as some Chasseur à Pied interlopers have joined the back of the column! 🙂

Above:  The next Old Guard regiment is the Chasseurs à Pied.  Once again, these are in very characterful ‘standing in reserve’ poses, often seen in Napoleonic battle paintings – standing around behind the Emperor, waiting for the order for the Guard to be committed.

Above:  The Chasseurs à Pied had some subtle uniform differences to the Grenadiers à Pied; their coat was cut in ‘light infantry’ style, with pointed lapels and pointed cuffs, edged in white piping.  Epaulettes were green with red fringes and crescents.  The bearskin this time had no front-plate and no cul de singe and plumes were now red-over-green.





Above:  I’m looking at the fine-lined piping on those cuffs while weeping into my turps-pot and wishing I could still paint like that… 🙁

Above:  My last regiment of the Old Guard is the regiment of Marins (which means ‘Seamen’, NOT ‘Marines’).  These are much more recent models and I painted these last year and wrote a blog-article about them at the time.

Above: The Old Guard on parade, with Général de Division Dorsenne, the Colonel-General of the Grenadiers à Pied at their head in full ceremonial uniform.

Above: Dorsenne and the Grenadiers à Pied under fire at Aspern-Essling 1809.

That’s it for now!  Middle Guard, Young Guard, Guard Artillery and Guard Cavalry to follow, but I’m now setting off on my hols. 🙂

This entry was posted in 15mm Figures, Napoleon's Battles (Rules), Napoleonic French Army, Napoleonic Wars, Painted Units. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.