French Explorers

When I created my generic European Exploring expedition for TMWWBKs I painted up a number of Europeans and a flag bearer for each of the major nationalities who explored Africa to lead the expedition. All except for the French who only got a standard as I couldn’t find some miniatures that felt right for the Europeans. I finally found some French I liked in the Artizan miniatures French foreign legion range in their Senegalese Tirailleurs command pack. The miniatures have sat in my lead pile for some time but the other day I painted them up on a whim just for something a little different.

Unlike most of the other Europeans French explorers were rare in east and southern Africa and mostly stuck to west and central Africa places like the western Sudan, Chad, French Congo and Gabon. Some French explorers included Paul Du Chaillu an early explorer of Gabon in the 1860s. Pierre de Brazza (actually an Italian in the French navy) who explored the Ogouwe River and lower Congo River in two expeditions. Crampel and Dybowski both lead expeditions up the Ubangui River in the 1890s towards Lake Chad. One of the more famous French expeditions was the Fashoda Expedition because it caused an international incident with Britian. Captain Jean- Baptiste Marchand marched in 1897, with a force of less than two hundred men, from French Gabon to Fashoda in the Sudan (at the time under the rule of the Mahdists) with the aim of claiming the Sudan for France. The journey took two years across a vast swath of Africa that hadn’t yet been explored by Europeans.

Du Chaillu’s expedition was privately funded but he took 250 muskets, 12 better muzzle loaders and a breech loading double barrelled gun and revolvers for himself and recruited locals from the Commi river area as porters and bodyguards. De Brazza’s first expedition in 1876 consisted of 4 Europeans, 10 Senegalese laptots and 150 local boatmen in 10 canoes armament wise they only had 14 shotguns, several revolvers and some Winchester repeater rifles. For his second expedition into the Congo in 1879, he managed to con King Leopold of Belgium into funding it but planned to claim the territory for France. De Brazza took 87 Europeans and 291 Africans including European officers and NCOs, soldiers and sailors 27 Algerian volunteers with two French officers and the rest made up of newly recruited Senegalese laptots all armed with Remmington rolling block rifles. the Laptots wore an interesting uniform which Chris Peers in his Central African book shows as a version of French naval uniform complete with pompom beret. Marchand’s Fashoda expedition consisted of a 154 regular Senegalese tirailleurs with 12 French officers and were armed with 1892 French Berthier Artillery Musketoon which was a three round magazine carbine. Marchands porters were often just press ganged at the point of the gun rather than being paid workers like earlier explorers to the point that when left the French Congo he left the territory to deal with a number of rebellions caused by his actions.

The last two expeditions show how blurred the lines between exploring expeditions and military conquest became towards the end of the 19th century. On a wargaming note I would use my African explorer list for TMMWBKs here for Du Chaillu’s or De Brazza’s 1st expedition with no problem. The latter expeditions would probably need a new list given their military nature and large numbers of regular troops used. Any way time for the pictures.

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