The French Army through the ages

From the Gauls to de Gaulle

Year Model Make Photos Historical Notes Figure Notes
52BC Gaul Warrior Italeri The Gauls were a celtic people settled in a vast area bordering the Romans in Northern Italy and Spain and the Germans along the Rhine. Stock Italeri celt
52BC Roman Legionary Italeri Since Gaul was Roman for 500 years and provided manpower for the army, the Legions have their place on this page. This figure illustrates one of Caesar's finest, with mail armor and oval shield. Stock Italeri Roman late Republic, one of only two poses in the set!
100-250 Roman Legionary Esci/Italeri Classic Imperial Legionary with Rectangular shield and lorica segmentata armor Stock Esci Imperial Roman
350-480 Late Gallo-Roman Infantry, Mattiaci Iuniores Gallicani, Auxilum Palatinum Hat Mail armor, round shield, trousers and shoes, spatha sword. There is little difference between late Roman and early Dark Ages. The shield is painted to represent Mattiaci Iuniores Gallicani, Auxilium Palatinum, per the Noticia Dignitatum (Oxford copy color code) as described in Phil Barker's priceless WRG book on Armies of Imperial Rome. Stock Hat late Roman Heavy. The shield's main color is airbrushed. Auxilia did not typically wear armor but since this unit is elite Palatinum, they might have been better equipped.
800 Carolingian Warrior Strelets Frankish warrior from the age of Charlemagne. Strelets figure. The handle of his double handed sword is as long as the blade so I changed it to a spear. Strelets swords are pretty bad in general.
1415 French Knight Italeri Knight at Azincourt. Plate armor and couched lance: the classic knight. 5,000 English (mainly archers) defeated 25,000 French at Azincourt. Stock Italeri 100yr war French. The heraldics are bogus but the figures are nice.
1515 French Arquebusier Orion Dawn of the firearm. Pikemen and swordsmen are gradually supplemented by arquebusiers and later musketeers. Swordsmen disappear in the mid 16th century (the sword became a side arm). The Spanish reinvent phalanxes (tercios) and rediscover drill and discipline, lost for 1,000 years. Pikes, whose only role is to protect infantry against cavalry, disappear entirely with the invention of the bayonet in the late 17th century Stock Orion Landsknecht. The first set to cover the Renaissance. The costumes are wild.
1550 French Gendarme Dark Knight Studio (Orion) Twilight of the armored knight. Gendarmes were on the King's payroll and not fulfilling a feudal obligation, though they had the same noble bloodlines as their knightly forefathers. This man wears a white (plain) gothic harness. Stock DKS figure. The armor is airbrushed Alclad aluminum with a black wash. The lance is plastic rod, sanded to give it some taper, and mated to the rear part of the figure's original soft plastic lance. It is also airbrushed, red first, then masked with a strip of Tamiya tape and given a final coat of white. It should have been white first but I was initially intending to use blue as the second color.
I can't really date this figure. In the early part of the 16th century, gendarmes are depicted as wearing a brightly colored skirt (actually the bottom of the jacket worn under the armor) and a crown of feathers.Wide bear claw feet are also a mark of the early 16th century. In the latter part of the century gendarmes would abandon the lance and adopt pistols, becoming reiters. So by default I marked this figure as mid-century.
1648 Musketeer ACTA This musketeer wears civilian clothes and fights with a matchlock musket and a sword for backup. He could have fought on either side of the Fronde or against the Spanish in Picardie. He could also be straight out of Cyrano de Bergerac, the movie with Gerard Depardieu. It has several scenes depicting the siege of Arras in 1640. Stock ACTA ECW figure.
1781 Grenadier Italeri Soissonois Regiment at Yorktown in 1779 uniform Original head too big and hat too small, replaced with one from Revell AWI US militia
1792 Fusilier ESCI Early Revolution French Line in the king's white uniform. 1792 model "ancient style" leather helmet. Very unpopular, replaced by bicorne. The pros in the Royal Army wore their hair powdered in a queue Modified ESCI French Napoleonic with head from ESCI British Horse Artillery.
1792-1807 Fusilier Hat Basic French Uniform from 1793 to 1807. Coat is same as above but in indigo blue (the color of the national guard militia). After Napoleon becomes Emperor small N's would decorate the coat turnbacks. Hat 1805 French gnome with head from Hat Austrian artillery. The set is a great idea but the figures look like Easter Island statues
1804-1815 Imperial Guard Grenadier ESCI Guard Grenadiers in campaign uniform. White breeches and black gaiters for early campaigns and full dress. Breeches were being replaced by trousers over the years as a general fashion trend. Stock ESCI figure. Nice.
1812-1815 Grenadier NCO Hat 1812 Bardin uniform with short tails and closed front. Stock Hat Light Infantry 1812 painted as a Grenadier: white plastron and red facings on white trousers instead of all blue uniform. This is a great set. I wish the same sculptor had done the 1805 series.
1828-1845 Grenadier Imex In 1820 the Bardin uniform (white since 1815 with the return of the King)was replaced with a blue single breasted coat with long tails and blue trousers. In 1828 the trousers became madder red (garance), an orange-brownish red. The shako is midway through its morphing from the Napoleonic type (broader on top) to the kepi (broader on bottom and shorter). This one is cylindrical. If you have seen Les Miserables, this would be one of the soldiers repressing the rebellion. Imex Mexican cut down to size and fitted with equipment.
1854 Grenadier Strelets In 1845 the tailed coatee finally gives way to a knee-length tunic. The white shoulder belts are replaced with a modern black belt and suspender system. The pack is still huge. The eagle plate marks this figure as Imperial (1852-1859). A bit on the chunky side. Lengthened coat and raised shako.
1860-1867 Line Infantry Hat+Esci The 1860 uniform consisted of a very short blue tunic (lined in yellow with red and green epaulettes)and super baggy red trousers. The shako is shorter and is starting to look more like a kepi. This is what the French would look like on Cinco de Mayo (May 5, 1863) where the Mexicans would repulse a French assault on Puebla. Hat zouave legs, body from Esci Confederate. Equipment sculpted from wax.
1867-1870 French Line Infantry Airfix/Hat In 1867 the tunic was made longer and the trouser less baggy. Most wore the greatcoat on campaign. The muzzle loading rifle was replaced with the superlative breech-loading Chassepot. This did not prevent a whipping by the Germans in 1870. Airfix Foreign Legion shortened 1.5mm with head from a Civil War figure with kepi and goatee.
1914 French Line Infantry Airfix/Hat Multiple changes since 1870 but retaining the same general appearance. No epaulettes, black leggings, different pack and equipment, and a boxier kepi with a light blue cover. Airfix Foreign Legion with coat collar made standing. See the size difference with the 1870 guy.
1916-1918 French Line Infantry Airfix/Hat The red trousers did not survive machine guns and trench warfare. In 1915 the horizon blue uniform was introduced with brown equipment and puttees. The helmet came in 1916 Airfix WW1 French stock. I think this set has aged quite well. The pack is no good but I didn't change it.
1940 French Infantry Caesar, Matchbox, Pegasus 1940 soldiers with a mix of MAS36, Berthier rifle and one FM 24/29 gunner. The at-ease figure is from the Matchbox B1bis kit. Webbing in the back has been corrected from X to Y straps. The firing figure is from Caesar. Nice set but too many men in tunics, which were rarely used on campaign. 5 figures from the long awaited Pegasus set./
1945 French Infantry Revell, Caesar Mainly US uniform, sometimes with French Adrian helmet or beret (for marines). These are wearing stock US attire, with a mixture of 1941 and 1943 jackets. Stock figures with lead foil slings. 4 from Caesar, 3 from the first US infantry set, wearing Parsons jackets and gaiters, one from the second set, wearing mod.43 uniform. The last figure is from the Revell late war set, with a slightly larger helmet.
1954 French Infantry Imex French in Indochina with M1 carbine, perhaps a para. WW2 US Marine camo pattern. stock Korea US figure. M1 helmet not well done, will pass as French mod. 51, which is more flared on the back.
1978 French Infantry Esci French in the late 70's before the transition to the Clairon rifle and the 1978 helmet (which looks more like a ww2 Italian helmet). Stock ESCI Nato French with 1951 helmet and Mat49 SMG.
1991 French Infantry ADV Mini French soldier during Operation Daguet (first Gulf war) with the 1978 F1 helmet, Clairon rifle and desert camo. ADv Mini resin figure with reshaped helment and plastic rod barrel for the Clairon.
2005 French Infantry ADV Mini French in Afghanistan with Kevlar helmet and body armor Stock ADV Mini French with plastic rod barrel for the Clairon. All the barrels were broken in the set and had to be replaced. The thicker end of the barrel is a CA glue bubble gently filed to shape.

Filling the blanks

Year Model Make Photos Comments
400-600 Frankish Warrior Hat Country under new management. The Franks defeated the last Gallo-Roman Governor at Soissons in 486 and proceeded to conquer the whole of Gaul. Stock Hat Frank figure. Nice set
1710 Fusilier Strelets The age of Louis XIV. The late 17th century saw the adoption of uniforms (white for France) and the invention of the bayonet, which brought the disappearance of the remaining pikemen. More drill and maneuvers as strategists debate the virtues of line versus column Strelets Swede
1760 Fusilier ? 7 year war no figure identified yet
1808-1812 Fusilier Hat Same as figure in bicorne with a shako Hat figure with ESCI head. I just couldn't keep the huge original head.