Thursday, 16 April 2015

O'Donel's Frei-corps using 15mm AB Miniatures Part 1

One of the things I've always loved about the Napoleonic and Revolutionary periods is the great variety of uniforms and the obscurer the unit the better, so painting an Austrian army involves a lot of white uniforms and the occasional side-track into something a little less white.

I've been very conscious of the fact that I have moved away from the initial concept of this blog to build the Austrian army that fought at Marengo. Painting up a pile of French made sense, as did creating a Piedmontese allied army, but I found myself being tempted by the Seven Years War and then War of the Spanish Succession periods. So I had to get a focus back to the Austrians.

I still didn't feel like painting more white uniforms but was determined to do more Austrian troops and a unit that always interested me was O'Donel's Frei-corps.

I'd seen this unit in the Osprey Men-at-Arms book "Austrian Army of the Napoleonic Wars: Infantry", though the information is a little sparse. O'Donel's Frei-corps was raised in Galicia in 1790 and was named after its commander, Oberst Graf O'Donel. The red Hungarian trousers were so different from the usual blue, and the unusual shako with its double feather all gave the unit a very unique look.

There are no miniatures specific to this unit, and as it is so obscure, that I doubt there ever will be. The cost to manufacturers would not get a return on how many could be fielded in a game.

Luckily the uniform is close enough to the early revolutionary Grenz that AB's lovely figures could be used. The main differences were the AB miniatures had visible waistcoats and, of course, the Shako ornaments.

The choices were to either paint the figures as they were, or to do a bit of conversion. I've done both to compare - the conversion involved drilling a small hole, add a little plastic pin, and some green stuff to build the feather, cords and pom-poms. This took a bit over an hour for one miniature and I'm not sure I could do the full unit.

So the big choices, do a couple of conversions and mix them in the unit? Or do them all?

Here's the figures, and any feedback or opinions would be greatly appreciated...


carojon said...

Hi Colin, I am very familiar with this dilemma.

Given the amount of work spent doing one figure, which will reduce as you do more of them because you will get better at it, and that most units may well have removed feathers and chords from their bonnets on campaign, to keep them for best, I would suggest producing a few scratch builds to mix in with the standard unadorned.

That way you will make the unit more attractive by adding some variation and have the standard dress on show to confirm which regiment it is.

In the end it's your unit and you decide.


paulalba said...

Hi Colin,
I really like your conversion on this guy and the painted uniform looks ace!!!

How many figures are in the unit?

If it was myself I would definitely do the conversions, a one off unit and will look the business on the table and in your collection.

However as Jonathan says it's your troops so look forward to your decision.

Jonathan Freitag said...

Jonathan's suggestion above is a good one and practical too if you are fielding a large number of these.

I like your conversion work but the AB grenz wear their hair in the Hungarian style cadenettes while the illustration are sans braids. Do you plan to remove the cadenettes?

Dan said...

Excellent job, put the time in and do them right, you will be happier once they are done, I have taken short cuts in the past, and kicked myself later.

Anonymous said...

These Freikorps are a nightmare and the extent to which they were reuniformed as the LightInfantry battalions in 1799-1800 is impossible to be sure about. Consequently, there is plenty of scope for variation!
The original drawing (actually shown in MAA299) is from the official 1795 Schematis, but that double plume is probably a bit of wishful thinking. So, you are fine with a simple shako and some foliage as per the 1799 Zurich Strozzi picture.
The original uniform included a dark green jacket with the pre-98 flat collar and the red trousers. The plan in 1798 was to put the light infantry into hechtgrau uniforms with helmets adorned with FII rather than a full plate. I showed the 3rd battalion at Montebello in Campaign 70: Marengo, but that was to illustrate the planned uniform (and notably the drum belt). However, these troops were at the back of the queue for kit and so, all kinds of combinations probably arose. In Seele's illustration of infantry and grenadiers, thought to be sketched in southern Germany in 1799 (ie: contemporary with the Zurich pics) albeit painted in 1805, there is a figure in the background wearing a helmet, but still in an old Freikorps uniform (probably the 1794 Archduke Charles legion). Karger notes on p.151 that Strozzi was in German style kit, although half of the battalions were in Hungarian kit. The distinction was in the trousers in usual line styles. However, these Galician troops were of course wearing Hungarian style red trousers!
So, there is plenty of guesswork going on here and much depends on how much new kit they received. The confusion over the jacket colour is probably be down to an assumption (suggested by the left hand figure in Haythornthwaite's Osprey plate) that these Light Battalions received the hechtgrau jackets and helmets, but not the trousers in the Second Coalition.

Dave Hollins