The Canon d’Infanterie de 37 Modele 1916 TRP was an infantry support weapon (TRP stands for ‘tir rapide, Puteaux’, basically ‘quick-firing’). It was intended to destroy machine gun nests on the western front, but because the gun’s trajectory was very flat it could only be used in direct fire, and the role was largely taken over by mortars. Nevertheless it remained in service through the rest of the war, particularly at the very end when movement was restored to the front line, and it was also widely issued to US forces when they came over. Naturally with the end of the war such guns were available for use in the colonies, and here they would see further service right into the 1940s.
Each sprue has two complete guns as we have pictured. Both are on their normal carriage, but the first has been brought into action by folding out a third, front leg to form a sort of tripod. One of the advantages of the gun was it was quite light, and so relatively easy to move as it could be broken down and carried by three men, but there was also an option to attach wheels to the carriage, when it could be pulled by men or mules. This transit configuration is what we see in the second model. The gun is about 10mm long (72cm), so is the correct size, and although somewhat simplified (it has no sight for a start), it is reasonably accurate. The same goes for the carriage, so a fair if simplified model. Assembly is very easy and everything fits together quite nicely.
The crew gave us some problems with identification. The men all wear the kepi with the cover and sunscreen, a sort of pullover shirt with a two-button opening at the top, trousers and boots with short gaiters. The closest we could find to this uniform is the white/pale khaki fatigues worn since before the war, since the bourgeron shirt came in several styles including this one, with a standing collar and small opening at the top. Where visible the men are all wearing their blue sash round the waist, which also did happen. Normal campaign wear for the Legion was the greatcoat, but only the mounted companies, and later on the cavalry, wore the cloth sunscreen after 1918, and these units also had more freedom in terms of what they wore in the field, so these men are in a mounted unit. They wear a pair of ammunition pouches on the front of the waist belt, but little else – a few have a circular water bottle (not the correct bidon), but most have nothing. Two men have rifles slung, but the rest are unarmed. So this all makes us think these men are probably most suited to the campaign in Syria in the 1920s, and to a much lesser extent perhaps North Africa too. They may well be in training – hence the lack of essential kit – which is what this weapon was often used for by this time.
The sculpting is reasonably good, but not the best this company has produced lately. There is little requirement for detail on such fatigue uniforms, but the finer points of the faces, hands and clothing creases are adequate rather than great. The poses too are reasonable, and having eight men to serve the gun in action is quite good, though we were not sure what a couple of them are doing. Some of the poses are a bit stiff, but nothing particularly poor, and there are several handling ammunition, which is always good. There is some flash on all seams, and this is rather rough in appearance, making it more necessary than normal to trim it off before painting we would think.
This weapon played its part in France’s post-war colonial story, so is a useful addition, and it can be used for the Great War too. Giving it a crew from the Legion's mounted companies does limit its use, although of course crew from other sets can be mixed with it to expand the possibilities. It is not a particularly attractive set, but the figures do add to an era that has not been particularly well covered in the past.