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Copplestone Castings used to do RN sailors in Sennet Hats but they have withdrawn them.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


Unknown said...

Nice work! Just wanted to say thanks for publishing this blog - not enough people write about this era, and your posting of sources like the ILN cover is great. I'm building a Naval Brigade-inspired force for not-strictly-historical skirmish** (because if there's a single force you can just about justify turning up in any odd corner of the later 19th century in unlikely scenarios against whatever bizarre minis an opponent might have, it's got to be the British Navy!) and it's really inspiring to see what someone with more talent and historical accuracy than I have gets up to.

The Sennet hats don't look too hard to sculpt. I might try some on my second batch. (My sailors are Copplestone Castings ones, but not with that hat style.)

**And rabidly-not-historical VSF games, too. They're just so useful!

legatus hedlius said...

I was thinking about using my Naval Brigade for Darkest Africa bt had assumed the perry Figures would be too small against the Copplestone figures. But when I got some old DA figures out they didn't look too different at all, much to my surprise.

Unknown said...

I haven't any Perry figures of my own yet, but have seen some and they look very similar in size and proportion - which is good, as Perry's Gatling and Nordenfelt guns look so nice I just have to get some!

On the other hand, your lovely work on those Sudanese camels makes me want a British camel unit - even though I have no justification for them whatsoever. Excuses will have to be formulated.