Sunday, December 09, 2007

Royal Marines Light infantry Officer

Despite a trip to the US last week I managed to finish the officer and two more men for the RLMI; so that is a third of them done.

Although the RLMI had white leather equipment in the Sudan the officer's revolvers holsters and belts were brown.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Gordons Arrived!!

I ordered these just before I left for California last week and they arrived whilst I was away.

There do seem to be an awful lot of them! I liked the NCO figures so much that I cut a stripe off one and made him into a lance corporal, just so I could put him in the unit. You are only allowed one NCO in TSATF but I didn't want to leave him out so, for gaming purposes, I will only count the sergeant.

There was quite a bit of flash on one set (well, a lot for the Perries, anyway) but I sat down and got them all filed and based whilst watching Strictly Come Dancing with the family (that Alesha Dixon is a fine looking woman, I must say).

Alesha Dixon: Even more attractive than a Perry Highlander!

And talking about gorgeous figures I love this officer holding up his helmet. This is the sort of figure the Perries do so well; oozing with character. I'm not going to put him in the unit, though, but am going to use him as a test figure for the tartan. I still need to finish the RMLI so mustn't start the Highlanders. I can start this one-off, however. And I am going to give him a red coat!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Another Sudan Wargames site

I've added a link to David Bickley's pages on his Sudan army. Nice to see another madman taking this on. I'm very jealous of his scenery!

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I can't avoid it any longer. There were two big Highland regiments at El Teb and Tamai so I have just put in an order from the Perries for the Gordon Highlanders which I will try and get painted up over Christmas. A big 22 figure unit. So now I will have to paint tartan. Giles Allison, on his AWI site, had a tutorial I think!

Not looking forward to it!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Royal Marines Light Infantry: Painted 1

Well, I got three painted rather than the six I was aiming for this week, but that's because I did some more Spartans and some GNW Swedes.

They look quite striking with their white equipment and helmets, I think. I'll try and get some more done this week but it looks like I may have to go back to America on Saturday so won't be able to paint next weekend.

Monday, November 19, 2007

John Wilcox: The Guns of El Kebir

So, having done the Zulu War, the first Boer War, the Bepedi war and the Afghan War, John Wilcox is sending his Sharpe-like hero, Simon Fonthill, to Egypt in 1882. Surely, in the next book he will be interacting with General Gordon?

This next book comes out on December 27th and I may even order the hardback in advance so I can read it over the extended Christmas holidays! If only the Perries made the slightly earlier British infantry! Perhaps it's just as well they don't!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Next unit: Royal Marines Light Infantry

The next unit I'm going to do is the Royal Marines Light Infantry. There is no disagreement on the numbers in this unit; all the sources agree on 478 which is 14 figures at 1:33.

Stuart Asquith in his recent War in the Sudan 1884-1898 describes the RMLI as being dressed in undress blue with white helmet and black or white leather equipment. I'm not convinced by this and suspect it refers back to the earlier Egyptian conflict in 1882. There is a watercolor sketch in the Victoria and Albert Museum that shows them wearing grey. Crucially, Count Gleichen in his book With the Camel Corps up the Nile, describes them as being in grey uniforms with white helmets and equipment so that is what I am going for.

Two very small illustrations I found on the net seem to confirm the grey uniform. Firstly, this illustration from the official Royal Marines website; you would assume that they would get it right.

Secondly, this photograph of a number of Royal Marines outside their medical tent in Suakin in 1884. This looks like a grey not a navy blue uniform to me.

Given that they are light infantry I wanted them in rather more active poses and looking a little less regimented. They need a lot of work so I would think that it will take three weeks to get them done. Right, that's enough typing now I better get the rest undercoated!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Painted: 2nd Battalion The Princess Victoria's Royal Irish Fusiliers

Here is the completed unit. It looks rather small but they were a small force, less than 350 men!

The Royal Irish Fusiliers landed at Trinkitat in late February 1884 and immediately began patrols with the Black Watch and the 19th Hussars into the surrounding country. There could be a few imaginary skirmish scenarios here! On 28th February they moved out, with the rest of the Expeditionary Force, to head towards El Teb, bivoucing overnight at Fort Baker. The RIF made up the forward section of the right hand side of the square with the KRRC next to them in the battle the next day.

At Tamai, in Buller's second brigade, they formed the front left hand corner of the square. The square, whilst heavily engaged, managed to drive off the Beja with rifle fire before they came into hand to hand combat, unlike their unfortunate comrades in the first square.

The Second Battalion (former 89th foot) returned to England in 1884 and were replaced by the First Battalion (former 87th foot) who joined the river column in the 1885 campaign, but that's a whole new army!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Egyptian Infantryman

I finished my first Egyptian and apart from the amount of white paint I had to slap on he was quite easy to paint. I will continue to do a few a week until I have my first unit to keep some variety.

Beja in Ambush

I finished four of the Perries nice Beja in ambush figures today. I am going to do a unit of twenty just because I like the look of them. Sometimes the Perries make figures which are almost more diorama than wargames figures and I find that these are often their best, like the recent "French cuirassiers at rest".
The Alexander Korda version of The Four Feathers (1939) had a great scene where the Fuzzy Wuzzies (played by real Beja) materialise out of the rocks at night and silently move up to the attack.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Walk like an Egyptian

Perry Sudan figures don't come up on eBay very often so I was pleased to pick up a bunch of Egyptian infantry at a (not very big) discount. Well I saved £7 or £8 I suppose. I got six command figures, 12 marching infantry and a field gun.

I have undercoated one just to have a see how he goes. They will either be really quick to paint or a nightmare. Humbrol white often needs three coats, even over a pale grey undercoat and so it would be sensible to do the undercoat for the rest in white.

I work with Egyptians quite a bit and should be going back to Cairo in March. They vary in skin tone enormously but I think I will be going for caucasian looking skin for the Egyptian infantry, darker skin for the Bazingers and very dark for the Sudanese units. I will shade the Egyptians with darker colours and see how this looks.

2nd Battalion The Princess Victoria's Royal Irish Fusiliers

Depending on the sources there were between 334 (Asquith), 343 (Preziosi) and 350-400 (Featherstone) troops of the Royal Irish Fusiliers present before El Teb. At 1:33 this gives between 10 and 12 figures. I am going for the lower figure of 10. This is small for a TSATF unit as British units are supposed to be 20 figures but until I have played a game I won't know if this works or not.

The Royal Irish Fusiliers had been formed in 1881 from the 87th and 89th Foot and some local militia forces from Armagh, Cavan and Monaghan. Both regiments had been formed in 1793 as a result of the war with France. The 87th served in the Peninsula where they became famous at the battle of Barossa on March 5th 1811 when the first French Imperial Eagle was taken by Sergeant Masterman (and not Richard Sharpe!).

The 1st Battalion were with Graham in Egypt in 1882 and saw action at Tel-el-Kebir.

There are several sources which describe them as wearing the new grey uniforms and they are illustrated like this in the picture in the Royal Engineers museum in Chatham. I have already painted four figures in this uniform so only need to do another six which I will try to get done next weekend.

3rd Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps

Here is the completed battalion. Figures given for the KRRC for EL Teb vary from 630 (Featherstone), 610 (Asquith) to 546 men and 19 officers (Preziosi). At 1:33 this would give 19, 18 or 17 figures. I have gone for the middle one mainly on the basis it would give two equal ranks.

The KRRC were at El Teb and Tamai comanded by Lt Colonel (brevet Colonel) Sir Cromer Ashburnham (1831-1917) his ADC was Lt Colonel William Lewis Kinlock Ogilvy (1840-1900). At El Teb four companies formed the rear of the right hand side of the square with the rest of the battalion inside the square. As a result of EL Teb and finding this formation rather unweildy for a force of over 2,500 men Graham, at Tamai formed two squares, one for each brigade which advanced in echelon. The KRRC formed the rear of the 1st Brigade Square.

Here is a single rifleman showing the KRRC's red piping on the front of the jacket, the cuffs and the collar.

This is my second completed British unit and I really enjoyed painting them. They were certainly much quicker to paint than the Naval Brigade; I got the whole lot done in three weeks. Next up is another 1st Brigade unit the 2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

King's Royal Rifle Corps: second batch

I finished the second half dozen figures today so only have six more to finish the unit. Hopefully, I will get them done this week. This batch includes the bugler and the last one will contain the officer.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

King's Royal Rifle Corps: first batch

I finished half a dozen of these today. They are the first Sudan figures I have completed for nearly two months. Now they are done I am glad I went for the green jackets as they look different. I used to have an Osprey on the Zulu war which had a picture of the 1879 KRRC uniform in it but I sold it on eBay earlier in the year so I based the uniform on a cigarette card illustration of the uniform of the 1880's.

THE KRRC had 610 men in the 1st Brigade, under Buller, so, at my 1:33 scale, that would make 18 figures, one of the bigger British units. This batch includes a sergeant and the the next group, which is under way, includes a bugler. TSATF rules make no use of musicians but the Perry figures are too good to ignore.

The unit which fought in the Sudan was the 3rd Battalion which had been moved from South Africa to Malta. It was from here that it was called up to fight in Egypt in 1882. In South Africa during the Zulu War it saw action at Ginghilovo, Hlobane (where Buller won his VC), Kambula and Ulundi (where it was also under the overall command of Garnet Wolseley). It stayed on in Africa for the 1st Boer War, now under the command of its CO in the later Egyptian and Sudan campaigns, Lt Col Cromer Ashburnham. It was engaged at Laing's Nek, Ingogo and Majuba Hill.

For an enjoyable novel about this, not very well remembered, conflict with the Boers read John Wilcox's Last Stand at Majuba Hill.
Let's hope Wilcox manages to get his hero, Simon Fonthill, into the Sudan!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Green or Grey?: The King's Royal Rifle Corps in the Sudan

The reason that I haven't painted anything for the Sudan for a bit is that I had intended that my next British Unit, after the Naval Brigade, would be the King's Royal Rifle Corps (formerly the 60th foot: the Royal Americans of Napoleonic wars fame). However, I have run into a problem as regards their uniform.

The recent Perry uniform guide in Wargames Illustrated showed them as wearing the same grey uniform as the other troops, except with their usual black leather equipment. I started to paint the 18 figures I needed in this way. Then I picked up the Mahdist Wars Source Book from TVAG and there it said "Marling mentions that while in Egypt after Tel-el Kebir the 60th rifles wore green serge jackets". Then it mentions a print of the Battle of El Teb at the Royal Engineers Museum at Chatham which shows them wearing green jackets with red collars, Black trousers and white helmets. The Donald Featherstone Osprey, Khartoum 1885 says the same thing.

Now "Marling" is Lieutenant (later, Colonel Sir) Percy Scrope Marling VC of the KRRC who served with the mounted infantry (why don't the Perries make a mounted infantry pack?), won his VC at Tamai and published his memoirs Rifleman and Hussar (London: John Murray, 1931).

Here is his grave in All Saint's Church, Selsley. He died in 1936.

Now my thinking has gone as follows: both the Osprey and the Savage and Soldier article reprinted in the Mahdist Source book are fairly old items (around ten years). Also, the uniforms worn in Egypt in 1882 were different from those worn in 1884 (line troops wore red in the Egyptian campaign, for example). If new uniforms were going to be issued specifically for this campaign then surely they would have been issued to everyone? I would also have thought that the Perries research would have been more up to date.

Yet, there is a quote that says that when the KRRC arrived in Suakin from Egypt they wore "stained and tattered fighting kits" which indicates that they were not, in fact wearing the new uniforms (introduced in January 1884).

So, on balance, given the existence of the coloured print in Chatham (I am going to try to get hold of a reproduction of the print from the Royal Engineers Museum) which, interestingly shows all the other troops, accurately, with grey coats (as opposed to most contemporary paintings which show the red home service uniforms in a bit of artistic licence) then I think I will go for the dark green uniform.

The black, rather than green, trousers are, again, a bit of an oddity. Whilst during the Napoleonic Wars the 60th foot wore grey trousers (as opposed to the 95th's green) I can see no evidence that their trousers would have been a different colour from their jackets and indeed, later photographs of the KRRC in the Boer War show them wearing jackets and trousers of the same colour (even though it is well know that the green of their jackets was so dark as to almost look black).

The white helmet is odd but not unknown (the Royal Marines had white helmets in the Sudan) although earlier in the Zulu War the Rifles helmets were dyed khaki (with tea, usually).

I think the final decision was made for me this evening when I painted up the base colour of one of my riflemen as green. He just looks better! Of course it will be a fiddle painting the other five figures green when I have already done their black belts but the rest will just need a quick coat over the top.

Maybe now I will actually get going again.

Finally, here is my grandfather, Hadden Perceval Bowen Harris, in his King's Royal Rifle Corps uniform thirty years later. He soon got bored with all that infantry rubbish and joined the Royal Flying Corps where he learned to fly and ended up working for AVRO, after the war.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A little work on the blog..

Nothing new painted up but that doesn't mean I am not doing anything. I am currently working on the Kings Royal Rifle Corps and the last part of the Naval Brigade: the Gardner Gun. I visited Colours at Newbury and picked up enough figures to build the Royal Marines Light Infantry unit as well.

I also bought a few more Beja to be going along with. The problem is that I have had four weeks of the last five out of the country and it looks like I am off to Los Angeles on Friday. Added to this is the fact that the days are getting less light and I seem to be distracted by Early Saxons and Great Northern Wars at present.

Finally, I have updated the links on the blog to serve as an index.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Gardner Gun: Part 1

Having finished the Gatling Gun, it's time to do the Gardner. I made the mistake of assembling the Gatling before painting it but I'm not going to do that this time!

Firstly, I decided I had better clean all the parts and check them carefully. With the Gatling I threw away a small piece thinking it was just spare metal from the moulding. I still haven't replaced this bit, which is a lever of some sort, but I can make it with a bit of spare Gripping Beast spear.

So here are all the pieces. I needed to check the picture on the Perry website to see where all the bits fit. In particular, the small piece on the top right wasn't easy to place but looking at the unpainted picture of the gun I could see that it fits underneath the breech section at an angle (circled).

It's not quite as clear as the Gatling Gun. I will undercoat it tonight but I am off to Mexico for a week tomorrow so won't get any more done for a bit. It also looks like several of the crew are designed to stand with their hands on the gun so I will have to break my usual rule of separate bases.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More Beja Camels

I haven't just been painting Royal Navy troops but have been getting on with some of the eighteen Beja camel mounted cavalry I will need. A mix of sword, rifle and spear armed troops.

The Beja cavalry were virtually all camel mounted.

I love painting these Perry camels for some reason; much more than horses, which I hate painting.

The Beja (especially the Bisharyyin, Ammar'ar and Haddendowa tribes) were great camel breeders (as they are now) and their off white Bishari camels, bred in Kassala and the Red Sea Hills are quite distinctive. When the reconquest of the Sudan took place in 1898 the British made sure that they had Bishari camels rather than the motley cocktail Redvers Buller pulled together to populate the Desert Column.

They are comparitively small and strong and today these camels are highly prized for racing.

Here are some camels in Suakin. Note the distinctive mud brick buildings.

Royal Naval Brigade: Uniforms: Officers

RN officers wore dark blue double breasted jackets with gilt buttons. Some wore white single breasted jackets. They wore white shirts with black ties. Trousers were white or blue. All leatherwork was black or brown, including shoes, although boots were worn as well.

Helmets were white with blue pugarees (or puggaree, pugree or pagri depending on how you spell it. From the Hindi for turban, anyway, derived from the Sanskrit parikarah).

Rank insignia were in gold on sleeves and were as shown:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Royal Naval Brigade: Uniforms: Ratings

I have completed my unit of Naval Brigade sailors. I have painted 14 figures, which is more than I need: five or six would be more accurate at a ratio of 1/33. But I felt that I needed a few extra for smaller skirmish and non-historical actions.


The information about uniforms for the sailors of the Naval Brigade is probably more unclear than for any other British unit in the Sudan. Partly this is because they are not a homogenous unit but consisted of sailors from a number of different ships. Even working out which ships they came from is not easy as these changed over the course of the campaign. Also artists of the time have shown them in different uniforms. I suspect they would not have displayed such a heterogenous look as I have depicted them in.


White covered (or blue, i.e. without the cover) round caps with black headbands, black ribbons and the name of the sailor's vessel in gilt wire on the headband.

An alternative was the wide-brimmed straw Sennet hat. Sennet was a particular type of straw much used in the Orient. Naval slang for this hat was a Benjy. They were abolished by the Royal Navy in 1921.

This is a Canadian version from the early Twentieth Century.

Perry Miniatures do not offer a figure in a Sennet hat, even though Michael Perry mentions and illustrates the hats on his useful uniform guide on the Perry miniatures website.

(go to The Sudan-Extras).

Copplestone Castings used to do RN sailors in Sennet Hats but they have withdrawn them.

Redoubt do some but the figures are crude and I suspect that they are far too large to use with the Perry figures.

There is a picture from the time illustrating sailors in Sennet Hats and white trousers.


These are mainly illustrated as dark blue serge blouses worn over a white shirt with a black neckerchief. White blouses are illustrated too. With the dark blue blouse the collar could be light blue with three white stripes (as I have done them) or plain dark blue (no stripes) to match the blouse. With white blouses the collar was, again, light blue with white stripes or plain white. No buttons of course.


Dark blue or white.

Leather belts and equipment

I have seen these described as black or brown with brass buckles.


Everyone seems to agree that these were black.


Brown or drill canvas or black leather.

Water Bottle

I have seen this described as having a grey felt cover.

So, it seems that you can use pretty any combination of these and probably be right!

Tomorrow I will look at the officers' uniform.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Royal Naval Brigade Gatling Gun and crew

I finished the Gatling Gun and crew during my holiday last week. Nothing sums up the Colonial period like a Gatling Gun and they are often used as a symbol of appalling British Colonial tyranny by apologists when speaking about the British Empire.

The Gatling Gun was invented by Richard Jordan Gatling in 1861. It had 6 barrels originally and an effective range of 1200 yards. Despite the date they only saw limited service in the American Civil War.

The British adopted it for Colonial service in the 1870s and the RN mounted them on board ships as a deck-clearing (prior to boarding) weapon. It never saw action in this capacity, combat by boarding having long finished.

The RN Gatlings were made under licence in Britain and had ten .65 calibre barrels (not the more usual .45 calibre), and with the side cranked mechanism used had a rate of fire of 800 rounds per minute (in theory).

It's first use by the British in action (by Naval Brigade troops) was at the battle of Gingindlovu on 2nd April in the Zulu War of 1879. The model used in the Sudan (as in South Africa) was probably the 1871 model. It was deployed in the Ashanti war but didn't see action (other than a demonstration to impress some Ashanti envoys!).

The cylindrical magazine was called a Broadwell drum after L. W. Broadwell, an agent for Gatling's company. Inside were 20 stick magazines arranged around the central axis, each holding 20 cartridges with the bullet noses oriented toward the centre. As each magazine emptied, the drum was manually rotated to bring a new magazine into use until all 400 rounds had been fired.

Valentine Baker had (and lost!) two Gatlings at first El Teb. The Mahdists had one of these Gatlings available in their battery at Second El Teb (recaptured by the British at the battle) although I haven't seen any accounts that they actually used it during the battle (unlike the Krupp Guns). Graham had three Gatlings (all with naval crews)which saw action at second El Teb and Tamai. Unlike the other artillery which was transported in pieces by mule or camel the Gatlings and Gardeners were moved purely by the muscle power of their bluejacket crews.

I only need one for my force and one Gardner, which I have bought but not built. I made the mistake of building the Gatling gun before painting it and the whole operation was a lot more difficult as a result. The Gardner will be painted and then assembled! These sailors have the grey felt covers for their water bottles that were issued at the time for naval personnel.

I have a particular affection for the Gatling gun (horrible thing though it must have been, particularly if you were a tribesman armed only with a spear and hide shield) as my father bought me a model one when I was a little boy. It was grey plastic and mounted on wheels. You dropped those little silver balls that you decorate trifles with into a hopper on the top, turned the handle and they spat out the barrel and mowed down my Timpo soldiers very effectively. I would pay quite a lot of money to find one of those models again!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

First Rub completed

Here is my first completed Rub of 3 "bands" which, with the addition of a mounted emir, make a "tribe" in TSATF rules. Using a 1/33 ratio this would actually be more like two Rubs, as they numbered between 1,000 and 1,200 troops each. You'd have to drop to a 1/20 ratio to get a Rub to equals "tribe" in TSATF. That would mean Mahdist armies of 500 which is pushing it for individually based figures! I'll just have to live with the disconnect!

I painted the first figures last August so it has taken a year to paint them, althought I have painted a lot else in the mean time. More relevantly I have painted more than thirty figures since the beginning of May.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Nile Arabs and Flags

I haven't posted anything for a while but that doesn't mean I haven't been painting anything!

Here are my first Nile Arabs; a box of standing troops plus half a command set. I don't really need them for the first couple of battles I am looking at as they were Beja only forces but will need some for the future. In this early period the patches on the clothing were small and by no means universal.

It may just be me but they seemed a bit more solid than the Beja, with fatter legs. I'm not going mad on painting these to a high standard as I just have too many to do.

The flag is from the new ones made by The Virtual Armchair General and designed by Eric Cox and these were well worth getting.

They are a mixture of historical flags (most from the later Sudan conflict, actually) and a number of speculative but historically informed ones. They come in sets of four smaller flags and then a larger flag for the Emir. (I ordered the complete collection and there are well over 150 scale flags - enough for even the biggest army (plus a sheet for the Egyptian Army which will also be useful). They come printed on thin but strong paper and are quite splendid. The dimensions are historically accurate and make me realise that the flags I have done for my two completed units of Beja are too large so I will have to replace them with the smaller ones.

The Sword and the Flame Rules do not make any allowance for standards but these were pretty defining features of Mahdist armies. I want each Emir to have a standard so I am contemplating doing something I never do and making a multiple figure command base of an Emir, a Standard bearer and maybe even another figure on foot. With the camel mounted Beja this will need to be a pretty hefty base!