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

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.

Thursday 1 September 2011

Zambezi Campaign 16: Amelie Croissant

This young lady isn't in the Gary Chalk scenarios but I have had her on the workbench for some time so feel I can put her in somewhere.

I was looking for an annoying lady reporter to join the steamboat transported reinforcements but decided what could be more annoying than a lady reporter who is French?  Hence she has become Amelie rather than Amelia.  Sent by her publication in France (probably something like La Vie Parisienne) in the hope of seeing the British make a mess of things and also follow up rumours of a tribe of warrior women led by a white woman.  She will, of course, be a total liablity!

Incidentally, this figure demonstrates how Mr Copplestone is one of the very few who can sculpt attractive female faces.  Lots of sculptors can do bodies but very few can do pretty faces!

Sunday 17 July 2011

Zambezi Campaign 15: Arab Cannon

Well, at last I have finished another unit for the Arab force.  For the scenarios I am using I need two cannon like this.  The first one I bought from Foundry didn't have a barrel but when I reported this to them they sent me another pack by return.  So I have two crews but only one cannon.  I think I will use the cannon from my Force Publique army to give a slightly different field piece.  The crews are identical but I will paint the other one up differently.

Monday 16 May 2011

Zambezi Campaign 14: First unit of Wangwana

Having now finished the British force (except for the gunboat) I have moved on to the Arabs, who are the most numerically large of the various forces needed.  The first unit I have finished is of 14 Wangwana: the freed-men of Zanzibar. 

These Swahili of the East coast of Africa supplied most of the troops for the Arabs from Zanzibar and, indeed, those who had settled further into the interior, like our theoretical slavers in these scenarios.  They also worked for European explorers and this picture of Speke's "faithfulls" gives a good idea of their apperance.

In most pictures I have seen they are shown as wearing white, although they did wear blue and red tradecloth and even some striped material in the later period.  There seems to be a suggestion that they may have saved these brightly coloured clothes for best so, on the whole, I am going to keep them dressed in white.

I need to paint three units of fourteen of these and have already got the second unit based and undercoated and the third unit based.  I will alternate painting them with other figures I have part-painted on the workbench, so I think I will take a break from these for a bit and finish some Zulus that have been sitting around for far too long.

Leading the unit is an Arab from Zanzibar.  In fact many of the "Arabs" at this time had interbred with Africans and, indeed, it was said that they were successful at settling in the interior as they had inherited some resistance to malaria from their African forbears.

These will be useful figures I can use in explorers' forces as well.  I thought they might be a bit boring to paint but found the simple colour scheme quite relaxing!

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Zambezi Campaign 13: British force completed and two more characters

Well, it's taken four months but I have now fininished my British force for the Zambezi campaign.  A unit of Sikhs, two units of regular askaris, a unit of irregular askaris, two units of Naval brigade plus command and baggage.   61 figures altogether but I painted some extras too so altogether it's 74 figures.

I have also painted two more characters, for the McKenzie's trading post scenario.  This requires a trader, McKenzie, and three clerks. My trader is called Jones, after the character in the underrated and quite brilliant animated children's TV series Charlie Chalk.  Here he is (right) with one of his clerks Portuguese Paulo (left).  I need to find another clerk for him, who will probably be a native and for the fourth character I think I will give him a wife.  Hopefully I will get these two done in the next week.

Trader Jones is sick of his bossy wife and wishes he hadn't persuaded her to go up the Zambezi with him as he quite likes the look of the native girls who would be very happy to look after him in exchange for beads, cloth and whisky.  He wishes he had followed the example of his brother, Vic, who had the sense to travel to the South Seas instead to set up his trading post.

In fact the British force is not quite complete as I have to finish my gunboat, which means finding a suitable artillery piece and naval crew for it.  Mutineer Miniatures have just released a naval gun crew which, although from forty years earlier, will probably do.  Their figures will certainly look better with the Copplestone and Foundry ones than the rather lumpy Zulu War naval crew from Foundry.

I have now also started work on my first Arab unit and hope to have these finished by the end of this weekend.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Zambezi Campagn 12: Major Hadden Bowen

Major Bowen, commander of the land expeditionary force

I had already painted two figures for the British officers but decided that one of them looked to old to go gallivanting about up river so he has been promoted to Colonel and will remain at the base further down the Zambezi.  I may put him, Colonel Perceval Hedley, on the paddle boat with the naval reinforcements.

Colonel Hedley

So I needed a new commander for the force, Major Hadden  Bowen.  I've decided that he is a tough, no nonsense man who learnt his trade in Afghanistan and would be likely, unlike his stuffy Lieutenant, William Baker-House, to dress down in the field.

He also wears one of the wider brimmed Wolseley helmets; named after Sir Garnet Wolsely who sported one in the Sudan War of the 1880s. Also called the Solar Topi, this helmet was not yet official issue for officers (it would be by the Boer War) but was very popular with British officers serving in this part of Africa in the 1890s. They would probably have bought theirs at Cearn & Company, Government Road, Nairobi.

Monday 18 April 2011

Zambezi Campaign 11: British bearers

Here is the final unit for the British forces for my Zambezi campaign: the British baggage element.  Technically you only need 4 elements but I feel that only four bearers look a bit thin so I have made each element two figures to give a better looking group.

Burton and Speke's original expedition to the Mountains of the Moon, for example, started with around 100 askaris and 100 bearers and that was, essentially a two man expedition.  Probably there should be a bearer for every combatant!  Some of Stanley's expeditions had over a thousand bearers.

Foundry make two packs of bearers so I have managed to avoid any duplication and still have some left over for the Arab force.

Monday 4 April 2011

Zambezi Campaign 10: Levy Askaris

What with being in Asia for most of March it rather hit my painting schedule but I did just finish my final fighting unit for the British force for my Zambezi campaign.

These are levy askaris of which you need a unit of fourteen.  I painted thirteen and added a Sikh NCO.  This unit uses the Foundry "almost uniformed askaris" and "askaris in European hats and coats" packs.  On the basis that it is the eighteen nineties I have put them in rather more clothes than these levy units often wore; often just being dressed in a loincloth or long kilt with a musket.  Their commander won't be doing with his native johnnies going into the bush looking like a complete shower, however, so they have picked up discarded bits of unifom from the regulars and added old coats and hats where they can find them.

Still, compared with the regular askari units they look appropriately scruffy.

Now the only figures I need to complete the British force are the eight bearers which are now well under way.  Once these are done I will photograph the entire force before moving on to the Arabs.

Saturday 26 February 2011

Zambezi Campaign 9: Sikh Unit

The pack of eight Foundry Sikhs

Here is the pack of Foundry Sikhs which I finished today.  I was delayed in finishing them as I found out that I had painted their turbans and belts the wrong colour so had to correct that this week. 

The force of six Sikhs needed for the scenario

In Nyasaland in 1891 Sikhs were recruited from the Indian Army along with Muslim cavalrymen and Zanzibaris under Sikh NCOs.  In 1893 another 200 Sikhs were recruited and were very active in the anti-slaver wars until 1895.  By 1898 when the Ngoni rebellion was being dealt with the only Sikhs remaining were the NCOs commanding African troops.  Still, there is a good solid historical background which makes their appearance in these scenarios quite justified.

Sikh NCO Nyasaland


I must say I thought that Mark Copplestone had severely exaggerated the appearance of the Sikhs' turbans (more than the usual 28mm exaggeration, anyway) until I found a photograph of a Sikh NCO from Nyasaland.  These were big turbans!

Sikh of the Indian Contingent in Nyasaland (c. 1893)

Their original uniform was very colourful, after the Zouave fashion, with a black turban, black jacket with yellow cuffs and piping, yellow trousers and white shirt and gaiters.  The uniform was designed by Johnson, the first commissioner for the British Central African Protectorate, and the three predominant colours of black, yellow and white were supposed to represent the three races involved in the force ( African, Asian and European).  By the time of our scenario the Sikhs were wearing standard khaki.

The total Sikh's painted

These were pretty good to paint although, unusually for Copplestone, there were a few vague bits of metal, particularly around the water bottle and some of the straps.

I now only have two more elements to paint for the British: the 14 irregular askaris, which I have now based and undercoated and the four  baggage elements which will comprise eight porters (as I think four look a bit silly).

I haven't painted any figures other than for this project this year and in two months have done 52 figures, which is my best yearly start for three years.

Tuesday 8 February 2011

African library 1: Sir Samuel Baker

An elephant hunt from Sir Samuel Baker's The Albert Nyanza

One of the things that keeps me focussed on a wargaming project is reading books about the subject.  Of course, the problem for me is that reading a book on a particular subject often then makes me want to start a wargaming project!  So I am going to write the occasional post about my Darkest Africa library, which is not that extensive, but provides enough source material to keep me occupied with potential projects.

I will start with Sir Samuel and Florence Baker as the two were, in every sense, inseperable.   I wrote about them in the blog previously so have nothing to add here about their lives.  I have three books relating to them.

The first one I read is Pat Shipman's To the Heart of the Nile (2004).  This is a wonderful introduction to the story of the Bakers and gives Florence a much greater part than is usual in accounts of their activities.  It is, however,  rather peculiarly full of invented dialogue between them which doesn't damage the narrative drive of the book but does impact on its credibility.  Still, very enjoyable and it contains a good number of (small) illustrations.

Lovers on the Nile (1980) by Richard Hall tells the same tale but in a more economical and spare manner.  I can't help feeling that the titles of the two books should be swapped to better reflect their contents!  It has eight pages of illustrations in the centre.

My third book is Baker's The Albert Nyanza Great Basin of the Nile and Exploration of the Nile sources (1866).  Based on his diaries it is a fascinating insight into the experience of a Victorian explorer cut off from all but his own (and his redoubtable wife's) devices.  My copy is the 1913 edition and, somehow, these older books add to the sense of adventure when reading them!  This book also contains many illustrations of engravings based on Baker's own sketches.

Zambezi Campaign 8: a few oddments.

Whilst doing the Naval Brigade I also painted a few other characters.  Firstly, and most importantly, I painted the British standard bearer because the scenario forces require one.  In fact, by this time,  British forces didn't carry standards in battle anymore so we have an unofficial standard bearer carrying the Union flag.

After I finished the British askaris I found, annoyingly, one more which I had missed so finished him up too.  I think I will use one of these uniformed askaris to command the group of 14 levy askaris required.  I found that I already had enough figures for this unit so they are now based and ready for undercoating once the Sikhs are done.

Finally, I bought some Darkest Africa odds and ends off eBay, mainly to get some more bearers but also included was this female villager.  She is an excellent piece of Copplestone characterisation and I thought that she would make a suitably combative wife for the chief of the Wasimba village which gets attacked by the Arabs in one of the scenarios.  She is resplendent in red tradecloth skirt and bronze bangles.

Along with the Sikhs I am also going to start work on the British baggage elements.  Some of these will be newly painted and some will be old, repainted figures.

Zambezi Campaign 7: Naval Brigade

I have, at last, finished the Naval Brigade for the Zambezi campaign.  In the scenario they are trying to repair their steamboat.  If they do, they reinforce the main infantry force with two small units of six men as well as more food and ammunition.  I have gone for the all white tropical uniforms with sennett hats.  I am contemplating adding one or two annoying civilians to the steamer's passenger list; probably a female reporter, loosely based on the faintly unbelievable character in the John Wilcox novels.  This is merely so I have an excuse to paint a few more character figures, which is helping me not get bored with the unit painting.

Here is the first Naval Brigade unit commanded by a junior lieutenant.  I wasn't sure about painting black edging around the brim of the seamen's hats.  Some pictures I have seen have them and some don't.  In the end I went for not, based on this, as it is an actual photograph rather than an illustration or a re-enactors recreation.

Below is the second unit of six, commanded by a midshipman.  These Copplestone Castings figures are on the large side but as the proportions are the same as his Foundry figures it is not too noticeable.

The scenario doesn't list one but I thought they needed a commanding officer so have painted up Lieut. Troutbridge here. 

He'll add a few points to the Naval side but a few more troops on the Arab side will balance him out.  Finally, I felt that the gunboat would need a captain so here is Capt Rufus Copperfield.  Sidelined to the rusting heap that is the paddleboat Queen Charlotte, because of an unfortunate incident with an unmarried lady in a railway carriage, he is determined to take his revenge on the diabolical Arab slavers, or The Press, as he prefers to call them.  The rumours that a reporter is due to join his voyage upriver does not fill him with pleasure.

Next up are the Sikhs!

Monday 24 January 2011

Zambezi Campaign 6: Rev MacSporran

Apart from the larger units, the Gary Chalk scenarios require a number of characters as well.  Although I am proceeding well on the Naval Brigade I have to go to Turkey this week so won't get them finished until (hopefully) this weekend.  They are nearly done but the collars of the sailors require, in total, 90 very fine white lines and this is taking almost as long as the rest of the painting!

So, in the meantime, I painted the Scottish reverend I need for one of the scenarios.  Chalk calls him Rev McKenzie but I have named mine Angus MacSporran after someone I met once. You wouldn't have thought that such a name could possibly be real but it certainly is!

I think I might give him a wife, as there is a perfect Foundry figure in one of my boxes.  He is a non-combatant so it doesn't matter, from a scenario point of view, if there are two figures rather than one.

The next figures I have based and undercoated are the Sikhs.  You only need six but I got eight in my Foundry pack so will paint them all anyway.

I have also started work on the British standard bearer and I found an extra unpainted British askari who will be the leader of the unit of 14 local levy askaris.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Zambezi Campaign 5: Starting the Naval Brigade

The Naval Brigade under way as of this morning.  I have shaded their uniforms and blocked in the coloured collars, gaiters and rifles today.

I managed to do a few hours on my next unit, the Royal Baval Brigade, today.  Amazingly I have managed to stay focussed on this project for several weeks now!  I think the good thing is that the units are quite small and there is enough variety in troop types that if I get bored with one I can do a bit on another.

A Royal Navy silor in tropical uniform.  White tops were more common in Southern Africa

Naval troops were fairly active in Africa (outside of the main areas of action such as Egypt and the Sudan) towards the end of the nineteenth century particularly against the Somalis and Swahili towns in the eighteen nineties.  Troops involved were a mixture of armed ratings and Royal Marines but for this force I will be just using the sailors. 

A turn of the century Naval sennet hat.  The black trim seems not to have been worn in the earlier period.

As I start to paint the sailors I realise that these figures come from Copplestone Castings "big" period when some of his figures got really huge (something to do with the prescription for his glasses, apparently).  I'm usually bothered about this sort of thing but as they are in the same style, naturally, as the Foundry figures it doesn't look so bad and, after all, the Arabs and natives probably weren't so well fed!

Royal Navy sailors in Egypt in 1882

Uniforms of sailors at this time were blue but those in tropical climes also wore white with blue collars and black neckerchiefs.  I have already painted a Naval Brigade unit with the blue uniforms and round hats for the Sudan so wanted a different look for these. I am contemplating painting some of the officers with blue coats just for a bit of variety.

My Sudan Naval Brigade figures

Leather equipment was black, with khaki gaiters.  Sailors did wear the round hat in Africa but the broad brimmed sennet hat, known as a benjy, was far more common and was, looking at contemporary illustrations, worn with the brim turned up, exactly as Mr Copplestone has sculpted them.

Royal Navy sailors having a spot of bother in Africa in 1894

He has included the distinctive sword bayonets in their scabbards but I would probably have preferred the figures to have fixed bayonets.  Also, for some strange reason, he does not include water bottles; something of a neccessity in Africa, I would have thought.

Both types of uniforms as demonstrated on some Britains figures

I have quite a busy week this week but hope to get them finished next weekend.  Then its on to the Sikhs, who arrived from Foundry this week and who I have just filed and based.