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

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!