Wednesday 24 August 2022

The Emperor's Service Squadrons


Napoleon's Imperial Headquarters could not be complete without the four service squadrons of Old Guard cavalry that routinely protected the Emperor on campaign.  Currently, the headquarters is shown with Napoleon and his mounted and dismounted staff around La Belle Alliance as Old Guard infantry march up the chaussee.

To the rear, two of Napoleon's carriages have come off the paved road to shelter from the artillery fire behind the Inn.

I want now to enhance this scene by the addition of the four service squadrons and more of the eleven carriages that accompanied the imperial retinue.

To that end, we are working on the four squadrons but it is hard to find appropriate figures at rest, given the proclivity of most manufacturers (other than Strelets) to show cavalry charging around the place waving their swords, rather than standing.  Moreover, it's almost impossible to find a good 20mm/1/72 Horse Grenadier in any pose.

Luckily, we have received a donation of Qualicast figures, including two hundred at rest Empress Dragoons.  Regrettably, these came without horses so we had to improvise.  The first step was to gather enough horses, first by utilising the new found magic of 3D printing and secondly by gathering up enough French officers' horses which have the same saddle furniture.

Chopping the heads of 100 metal Qualicast dragoons and attaching Airfix Old Guard heads with the front plate covered over was quite a chore, but seems to have worked out.  Here are the results:

In this picture, set up temporarily before transfer to the actual diorama, the Horse Grenadier squadron is shown with the band of the Empress Dragoons behind. Whether these were at Waterloo must be highly doubtful, but who can resist figures this colourful?!

Horse Grenadier trumpeters, with their very own kettle drummer.  The officer in front is wearing a rather fancy Murat fur-edged coat.

In front of the Horse Grenadiers are the beginnings of the Chasseur Squadron, along with two carriages kindly painted by Liam and in the case of one carriage, scratch built.

.And now for some pictures by Liam and Graham, showing their contributions.  To start us off, Liam's two carriages. The first is by Franznap:

The second is scratch built and is genuinely extraordinary:

Secondly, some close ups of Art Miniaturen Chasseurs, with pelisses added:

In addition to the metal ones, Liam is working on converting plastic figures.  he has done wonders with those colpacks:

And finally, some of Graham's standing Qualicast Empress Dragoons mounted on spare plastic horses.  There will eventually be 100:

The fourth and final squadron will be from the 2nd Lancers (the 1st Polish Lancers taking part in the charge) and will be undertaken by Liam who has some tremendous ideas for this; more to follow!

Finally there is some dispute about whether Horse Grenadier Trumpeters wore white bearskins.  The argument goes that this was a late Victorian invention, perhaps mimicking the white bearskin of the Scots Greys Kettle Drummer.

Among the late Victorian romantic stereotypes, there are however some pictures that to my eye look much earlier.


  1. Very impressed sir. I miss chatting with Liam on TMP (my fault, I left because it was too toxic a site and his email went when I left work). Do please pass on my best wishes to him - it’s so good to see him working with 1/72 at last.

    And I agree. The colpacks now look suitable for the Imperial Guard.

    If I had one comment though - white bearskins for the trumpeters! Mr Dawson will be having words with you no doubt…

  2. Ha! it has to be white bearskins...

  3. Are the Guard dragoon musicians conversions or old metals?

  4. Hello Uwe, the trumpeters are Les Higgins. The kettle drummer is the Art Miniaturen 'Roustam' with drums and drum sticks attached. The musicians are S Range with different heads on a range of horses.