Wargaming the Exploration and Colonisation of Tropical Africa by European powers from 1850 until 1918.





Thursday, 27 February 2014

Zambezi Campaign 26: Margot Muirhead




Although I haven't done anything for the Zambezi project for nearly a year, it is far from forgotten.  While looking for something else, in one of my boxes of unpainted figures, recently, I came across the lady who was always destined to be the wife of the Rev Angus MacSporran.  She didn't take long to do and can also serve as a bystander for In Her Majesty's Names games. 

Margot Muirhead is the daughter of a minister of the Kirk herself. She married the much older Rev MacSporran and now, stuck in a native village up the Zambesi, regrets the fact that if she had stayed at home she could have gone to Edinburgh University, as she had always wanted,  Scottish Universities agreed to accept women shortly after she accompanied MacSporran to Africa.  She consoles herself by preaching to the poor benighted heathens, playing her flute and collecting butterflies.  The latter activity always seems to involve crawling around in the bushes by the river when the young men of the village go there to bathe.  She returns from these aurelian sorties flushed and breathless and usually needs a cold bath herself, afterwards.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Zambezi Campaign 25: Heavily armed askaris




These are the 12 heavily armed askaris which I need for my Arab army.  I finished them today, so that gives me all four of the units of firearm-equipped Zanzibari troops I need for the Gary Chalk scenarios.  Wargames Foundry figures, of course.


The Arab force so far: perilously close to an army!


Now all I have to do are complete the sword armed Baluchis, another cannon, plus the leader of the force, and the Arab force will be complete.  Then I will have to move on to the three tribal forces I need which will total 140 figures.  I'm not sure if these are all armed with spears which means painting cursed shields so I will have to check back in the relevant issue of Wargames Illustrated.  A little bit of research has shown that tribesmen in this area would have had Zulu style shields so I will probably have to order them from somewhere.  Empress miniatures do them separately I know.

I'll probably take on the second cannon next.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Zambezi Campaign 24: Third unit of Wangwana



In a burst of activity last week I completed my third unit of 14 Wangwana freedmen for my Arab army.  The final unit of these Zanzibari soldiers will be 12 heavily armed askaris with more modern rifles (Winchesters and such like).  I have already started these.  After these I only have another cannon and crew to do (also started) and the Baluchis with swords which I have also started but which are going to take ages.  

I probably have enough figures now to do an initial skirmish which is not part of the Gary Chalk scenarios.  I'm thinking of sending the Sikhs into the bush to see if they can discover what the Arab slavers are up to.  A nasty discovery would mean the dispatch of the gunboat up river.

Other good news is that I managed to get another Copplestone elephant on eBay as these are far superior to the ones they used in the Gary Chalk article.  Now I can paint them both together.

I'm also contemplating two more forces: German and French.  I already have some of the Foundry Germans although they will need repainting and as for the French I am very tempted by some of Artizan's new French Foreign Legion (especially the ones in sun helmets) and some tirailleurs.  Hmm...

Friday, 15 June 2012

Zambezi Campaign 23: Arab standard bearer



Here is the standard bearer for the Arab force, carrying the red flag of Zanzibar.  Zanzibar was part of the Sultanate of Oman which had flown the red flag since 1698.  When the independent Sultanate of Zanzibar was declared in 1856 the red flag was retained and remained the flag of the island state until November 1963.


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Zambezi Campaign 22: Second unit of Wangwana



Today I finished my second unit of Wangwana for the Arab forces.  I now have one more unit of fourteen of these to paint.  I'm not sure if I actually have the figures available for this.  I found some today but need to have a look in some of my other file boxes.  Frankly, my unpainted figures are in a total mess at present so I need to have a sort out and a bit of an inventory.  I also need to paint a unit of 12 heavily armed askaris and am not sure if I have these either.


Baluchis ready for undercoating


One thing I do have is the 14 Baluchi swordsmen that are needed for one of the other Arab units.  Gary Chalk's scenario is set in 1882 and mine probably ten years later than that.  Baluchi swordsmen like this would probably have disappeared from Africa decades before this but perhaps our Arab warlord has held on to his in his isolated inland enclave.  One thing is for sure they are not going to be as quick to paint as the Wangwana!  I plan to paint them in brighter colours than the Wangwana to reflect their higher status and the saffron coloured clothes that many of them wore.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Zambezi Campaign 21: Amelie Croissant in travelling dress





This is another figure that I have had sat on the workbench for ages.  I had painted her (not very well) years ago but decided to freshen her up to depict her appearance on arrival at the Zambezi headquarters of the British force; ready to show her press credentials to Commissioner Sanders.




I am moving along with my second and final Arab cannon and the second unit of wangwana freedmen askaris as well.  I hope to have both these units finished by the end of April which will give me enough figures for an opening skirmish in the campaign.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Zambezi Campaign 20: Naval Brigade Gun and crew




So here is the last fighting unit of the British force: the Naval Brigade Gun and Crew.  It's taken me some time to work out how to handle this and it is something of a compromise solution but I must be getting old as I don't care about total historical accuracy so much, now.  After all, this campaign will have some definitely non-historical elements!




The crew are Mutineer Miniatures Indian Mutiny figures so they are from around forty years too early.  The basic uniform didn't change that much, other than the fact that the later troops would have worn gaiters but as the trousers are the same bell-bottoms maybe they just left their gaiters on board!  These chaps also have a collar, rather than the round collared shirt, but you can barely see that.  The main thing for me was that the size and bulk of the figures are very close to the Copplestone Naval Brigade infantry.  Foundry, for example, had a Zulu Wars period gun crew but they would have been very small in comparison, so I am happier with these.




The gun is also a compromise as it is a French 80mm De Bange (yes, really!) mountain gun, first produced in 1885, so fine for the period.   Our argument here is that either the Royal Navy won it in a game of cards from sailors from a visiting French warship or captured it off a group of slavers.  Whatever, this Askari Miniatures model comes in a pack of two, enabling me to set one up on a mule train, as they were carried in real life.


Colonel Charles Ragon de Bange


The De Bange 80mm mountain gun was one of a series of French artillery pieces designed by Charles Ragon de Bange (1833-1914).  De Bange's claim to fame is that he invented the first effective breech obturator which provided an absolute seal for artillery breech mechanisms for the first time: a system still in use today. The only disadvantage with his guns, as with previous artillery, was that the recoil meant that they had to be re-aimed after every shot, something that wasn't solved until the French 75 in 1898.  Still, this breach loading piece of ordnance, which could fire six kilo explosive shells or shrapnel, would be very effective against slaver compounds.  Firing shells it had a maximum range of 4,300  metres.  It was manufactured by the Societé anonyme des anciens établissements Cail, originally set up by the French engineeJean-François Cail in 1836.




All the examples I have seen pictures of have an all-over paint finish so I have done mine the same way using a British artillery grey.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Zambezi Campaign 19: Artillery problems solved (or not)!


Naval Brigade Gun crew under way


I only need to paint a Naval Brigade gun and crew to finish my British force but have been held up due to problems in how to do this.  What I need is a Royal Navy gun crew and gun for the paddle boat.  The only suitable Foundry figures came from their old Zulu Wars range and were rather small compared with the Copplestone Darkest Africa ones. Then I saw the new Mutineer Miniatures Naval Gun crew and they seemed just the right size.  Although they come from 1856 not the 1890's there doesn't seem to be much difference in the uniform other than the shirt collar; the later uniform had a collarless shirt.  I did think about trying to carve this off then decided that no-one will notice by the time they are on deck and around the gun.  Anyway maybe they find a shirt with a collar wards off bugs better!

I was then wondering about a gun for them.  An old style naval smoothbore cannon on small wheels wouldn't be right as I wanted to be able to take it off the boat and up country.  Something like the mountain gun fielded by the Arabs and my Force Publique force would be just the job.  It would mean buying a gun with  a redundant crew however.

Meanwhile, I also needed a second gun for my Arab force.  The first one I bought from Foundry was missing the gun barrel and although they replaced the pack very quickly this left me with a crew but no cannon.  I didn't want to have to buy another pack just for the gun barrel.

I thought that both these problems had been solved in one go by looking through the catalogue of a firm I hadn't really looked at before, Askari Miniatures.  They have a pack of two French mountain guns which would give one to the British and one to the Arabs.  However they also have a nice pack of four mules designed to carry one of the guns.  I couldn't resist this so have ordered the guns and the mules although this now leaves the Arabs without their second gun.  Maybe I can make a gun barrel!  I probably need another mule now but may have one somewhere.

I don't know how long the models will take to arrive from the US but at the rate I'm painting they will probably be here before I finish the crew, although I did get started on them today.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Zambezi Campaign 18: Veronique Croissant's gun






Ogilvie VC was postulating, in a comment on my last post, on what sort of gun Veronique Croissant was carrying and suggested a Purdey.  In fact, she is carrying a Joseph Lang 6-bore percussion elephant gun.



Hampshire-born Lang was originally a gun seller before moving into gun manufacture.  He was a contemporary of James Purdey, whose guns he sold, and married one of Purdey's daughters.  An excellent competition shot and innovator he exhibited his guns at the Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace in 1851 and then in 1855 at the Paris Exposition Universelle.  Veronique's father, Victor, was one of the more than 5 million people who attended the exhibition in Paris and it was here that he first saw Lang's guns.  He bought this weapon on a visit to Lang's Cockspur Street premises on a trip to London in 1857 ready for the South African safari he was planning the following year.




Ever since she was  a little girl Veronique had a passion for rowing on the River Sâone near the family home in Lyon.  As a result she built up very unladylike upper body strength so that she was the only one of the Croissant sisters able to use the gun.  Her father, therefore, had no problem with lending it to her when she declared that she was travelling to Africa with her older sister, the intrepid reporter, Amelie.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Zambezi Campaign 17: three more characters




I have very little time to paint at present and the light isn't very good anyway but I have managed to finish three more characters for the Zambezi capaign.  First up we have Commissioner Sanders Wallace.  Responsible for keeping the peace on the whole Upper Zambezi he has no compunction about calling in a heavy military response if the natives start getting uppity.  He is getting concerned about  Arab slavers upriver; especially as they appear to be in posession of some artillery which is having a very de-stabilising effect on the region.  He doesn't figure in the Gary Chalk scenarios but I liked the figure and am just reading Edgar Wallace's Sanders of the River which is a masterclass in conveying character and plot in the most economical and spare way possible.




Sean Sweeney is one of Trader Jones' "clerks" and is very much the hired muscle of the trading post.  When he's not drunk on Bushmills Whiskey he is a crack shot.  He features in the Trading Post scenario.




Finally, we have the French reporter Amelie Croissant's younger sister Veronique who has always been at the centre of whatever trouble is happening.  Amelie has told her to stay behind at the military post but hasn't counted upon her skill as a stowaway.