Friday 9 November 2018

Marines of the Guard

The Marines of the Guard

I know, you're meant to call them Sailors of the Guard - Marins aren't Marines, they are sailors.  But then what is a Marine if not Naval Infantry?  And the Marines of the Guard are just that.  Anyway, whatever their name, there is something iconic about their uniform that deserves attention.  Of course, the Marines at Waterloo probably wore a fairly simple uniform not dissimilar to line engineers, but I've gone with the full dress uniform.  And what a uniform:

The Marines of the Consular Guard didn't have a peak to their shako but in most other respects the uniform was the same.

The classic uniform - frogged dolman, black belts and loose naval style trousers.

The Historex plate shows the full and undress uniforms as well as the sky blue of the trumpeters and drummers

This dolman is tighter fitting at the bottom

The red Gilet with the dolman worn open

The frogging in this picture is more 'Aurore'.  One doesn't normally see the Marines with a cockade at the front - they were worn at the side.

Some officers are shown with a white waistcoat in undress

The only portrait I can find of a Marine, showing the unusual brass scale epaulettes

This flag seems more conventional than the one below.

Just a Fanion, or that used on Elba?

The frogging is too close together and suggests a  2nd Empire artist, but the Aurore is right.

A good impression of the frogging

A senior officer

The white waistcoat often seen in the undress uniform.

Here the position of the cockade on the side of the shako can be clearly seen.

The Marine battalion of the Consular Guard consisted of 820 officers, non-commissioned officers and ratings. Napoleon integrated that battalion into the Imperial Guard in 5 crews totalling 818 officers and men. Its ranks were those of the navy not the army and each crew was commanded by a 'capitaine de frégate' or 'capitaine de vaisseau' and four other officers, with 15 non-commissioned officers and 125 ratings.

The new unit's first task to form part of the force at Boulogne. They not only built boats for the force, but also served in their primary role as an elite unit to bolster naval crews, which often had little training or experience. When the invasion was called off, part of the unit fought in the 1805 Austrian campaign, fighting at Ulm and Austerlitz. In 1806, 102 men from the unit took part in the Prussian campaign, fighting at Jena and the siege of Danzig, where they fought as engineers. They followed the Grande Armée into Poland, where they were rejoined by the crews who had remained in France. Together they then fought at Eylau and Friedland.

After Tilsit, the unit was sent back to France, but left for Spain soon afterwards. The Marines suffered a severe reverse at Bailen, where they suffered heavy losses. The survivors were taken prisoner and sent to Cadiz on barges, where some of them remained until 1814. The unit had to be re-formed from scratch in March 1809, but was now only a single crew of 150 officers and men, which at Wagram fought under the command of Capitaine de Vaisseau Baste, mainly as gunners.

In September 1810 8 more crews were added, raising the unit's strength to 1,136 officers, NCOs and ratings. It suffered badly in Russia, fighting in several battles and decimated by cold, hunger and disease - only 85 of its officers and men were still alive when the army crossed back into Germany. Reorganised and brought up to strength with new recruits, the unit fought at Leipzig as part of the infantry component of the Young Guard.

In 1814 the unit took part in the French campaign, notably the defence of Paris. A small detachment of 21 marines from the unit accompanied Napoleon into exile on Elba. During the Hundred Days one crew was re-formed, which fought at Ligny and Waterloo - at the latter they covered the retreat of the 1st Grenadier Regiment and 1st Foot Chasseurs of the Old Guard. They were finally disbanded on 15 August 1815.

Here are my Marines.  They are mostly Franznap, Hinton Hunt and Hat conversions.  

Franznap officers

Many of these are Brunswickers converted with an added plume

Franznap bugler

Franznap drummer

Hinton Hunt in the first two ranks, Hat in the rear

Hinton Hunt officer


  1. Very smart - especially the Hinton Hunt (of course!).

  2. Thanks Stryker, thought you might be partial to the Hintons! They were fun to paint.

  3. Brilliant once again, how on Earth do you manage to paint so many figures and so well!!

  4. Splendid and informative.

    All the best Aly

  5. Despite quite complicated uniforms, I seem to get through this lot quite quickly. Among the Hintons are some Kriegspeilers. Most the Hintons are originals, but some came from John Cunningham. The Hat Brunswick conversion was a brainwave: the short frogged jackets are a perfect match so all that needed to be done was to remove the horsehair plume and put in French ones. The Franznap figures are beautifully made and are 'front of house'.

  6. excellent article as always - great illustrations and figures. I have been struggling to find out what the marines and engineers did at Waterloo - I know about their actions at Charleroi but cannot find anything about their fighting on the 18th.