Monday, October 27, 2008

Music to paint by

I am totally unable to paint without music and usually, when painting Sudan British happily listen to the Complete Marches of Kenneth Alford (alright Alford, real name Fredrick Joseph Ricketts, wasn't born until 1882 but it sounds right) on my computer. Whilst painting Highlanders I also have some Scottish military music but, honestly, there is only so much bagpipe music I can bear. I was very pleased, therefore, to acquire this weekend a cd of the soundtrack for the film Khartoum (1966) with music by Frank Cordell (1918-1980). The score is a mix of cod Walton and Elgar and Islamic (well, "Egyptian") sounding music. John Williams, when writing about the music for the throne room scene of Star Wars (1977) said that he wanted an English feel like Elgar. Frankly, he must have been thinking of Cordell's overture to Khartoum; the similarities are, er, remarkable. As to the "Egyptian" sound, the whole exotic "Egyptian" scale, with its flattened supertonic was invented by Verdi for Aida (it's about as authentic as Sir Walter Scott's version of Scotland) but everyone since has used it from Maurice Jarre in Lawrence of Arabia to Jerry Goldsmith in The Mummy.

Anyway it makes a change from all those wailing bagpipes (it does quote Highland Laddie)!

Painting Tartan

The uniform illustration by Michael Perry

The site which really helped me on this was:

I used quite dark colours: Humbrol 104 (Oxford blue -appropriately!) and 91 (black green). 104 is my generic dark blue for the likes of French Napoleonic infantry and ACW Union troops. 91 is the colur I use for Napoleonic British riflemen (I see the new Sharpe is on this Sunday). I used a slightly lighter green (Humbrol 30, Dark green) for the small squares and 81 (pale yellow) for the yellow lines. Normal Humbrol yellow (24 trainer yellow) was too bright.

I drew on the squares with a soft pencil, having used the Perry Uniform guide to get the scale of the squares on the kilt, and then painted with a 000 Windsor & Newton Series 7 sable brush. It needed quite alot of touching up and the rear of the kilt, with the pleats, was a nightmare as I tried to estimate where the patterns would fall.

Never mind, I will do some more on the next batch tomorrow morning now we have light evenings for a while.

First Gordon Highlanders painted

Well, I have, at last finished four Gordon Highlanders (only 18 more to do). I don't think I have ever found figures so stressful to paint but now that I have done them I do feel more relaxed about the others and have even started on the next four (I don't think that I can face more than four at a time!). The tartan looks OK (from a distance) and now that I have a technique for doing it it's not such a worry. I need to work at the hose as I used colours without enough contrast so the diagonal check doesn't show at all in the pictures.
Here is the corporal; lots of character as you would expect from the Perry twins.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sudan War Correspondents and general update

I was just looking at the on the workbench section of the Perry Miniatures site and noticed these Sudan War correspondents. An unusual choice to say the least but I will have to get them!
Apart from the horse holder I will be able to use them for the Zulu war as well.

I have been banging on for some time about the lack of British Mounted Infantry in the range. At 1/33 I would only need 4 figures to represent the 120 or so troops so maybe that's why they haven't bothered. What I have done, though, is bought a pack each of Camel Regiment and some cavalry figures and have put the camel riders on the horses. It looks pretty good and so I will paint them up when I get back from the Gulf.

The real shock is that I have started painting four Gordon Highlanders and I have actually finished the first kilt and it looks OK! In fact I am well on the way with them and hope to finish them if not this coming weekend (I don't return from Dubai until Sunday pm) then next weekend. I am so pleased and relieved I have even based up and undercoated the next four figures! They do take ages, each kilt needs six stages of painting, so I can only face four at a time!

Friday, September 05, 2008

New novel about the Sudan War coming out

I don't like the new cover style. I preferred the older ones which featured Victorian paintings!

I enjoy John Wilcox' novels about the colonial period even if they are far from great literature (or even great historical novels) but they have certainly improved a lot since his first (really not bad anyway) novel The Horns of the Buffalo set in the Zulu war of 1879. The second (and much better) novel The Road to Kandahar took our hero, Simon Fonthill, to the North West Frontier. In the third book, The Diamond Frontier, he was participating in the bePedi war and then moved straight to the First Boer War for amother of the better books, Last Stand at Majuba Hill. During my holiday last month I read his most recent, The Guns of El Kebir which deals with the British invasion of Egypt in 1882, very much a precursor to the Sudan conflict and involving many of the same leaders (Wolseley and Graham) and units.

Now I notice that his next novel, due in January, will feature the Sudan War. Entitled The Siege of Khartoum it will take "Simon Fonthill, one time subaltern and ex-Captain in the North West Frontier's Royal Corps of Guides, together with 352 Jenkins, ex-batman and servantto Khartoum. They're on an urgent mission from Sir Garnet Wolseley to reach General Gordon, England's hero, who is being besieged by followers of Mahdi, the infamous religious leader who has declared a jihad against Egyptian authority in the Sudan. Their journey on camel-back through the Sudanese desert is treacherous. When they finally reach the General, an unexpected attack makes them realise that they have little time to make contact with Wolseley, who can dispatch troops to rescue General Gordon. As they leave in darkness to cross the Nile, they're set upon by a brutal Dervish patrol. Can Simon and Jenkins survive a Dervish interrogation and make it back to the General before Khartoum falls from British hands?"

I can't wait! There are very few novels about the first Sudan War (in fact I can only think of Wilbur Smith's The Triumph of the Sun) so this will be a very welcome addition. All of Wilcox's books are full of wargaming possibilities, whether big battles or skirmishes. It will be interesting to see if he covers any of the big battles, such as El Teb or Tamai as well (ideally another book covering the period up to Ginnis would be welcome!)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Major General Sir Gerald Graham VC

This is the commanding officer of my Sudan Expeditionary Force, Major General Sir Gerald Graham VC.

Graham was the only son of a Northumbrian doctor and was born on June 27 1831 in Acton, Middlesex. He was educated in Wimbledon and Dresden (he spoke and wrote fluent German and even translated some German technical texts relating to the Franco Prussian War).

Graham was a huge man, six foot six inches tall and broad shouldered and the ultimate fighting Victorian soldier.

The RMA at Woolwich in the mid-nineteenth century

He attended the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich from 1847 and then went on to the School of Military Engineering at Chatham. The Royal Military Academy at Woolwich trained officers for the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers from 1741 until 1939. In 1947 it was amalgamated with Sandhurst (which had trained infantry and cavalry officers).

The buildings at Woolwich today. It is currently being turned into luxury apartments.

Graham was commisioned as a Lieutenant into the Royal Engineers in 1850 and found himself in action in the Crimea; taking part in the battles of Alma, Inkerman and Sebastopol. It was at Sebastopol that he won his Victoria Cross, leading a ladder party during the assault on the Redan on June 18th 1855.

Graham as a new VC holder

A very brave man (Wolsey called him "the bravest man I have ever met") he was also made a Knight of the French Legion d’Honneur, received the Crimea medal with three clasps, the Turkish Crimea medal and the 5th Class of the Order of the Medjidie.

The Taku forts. Graham was hit by a ball from a jingal fired from the ramparts.

In the Second (or third, depending on how you classify it) China War he was seriously wounded in 1860 during the taking of the Taku forts but recovered to enter Peking with the victorious British Army. As a result of his services in this campaign he was made a Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel and a Commander of the Bath and received the China medal with two clasps.

He returned to England in 1861 and for the next 16 years he was Commanding Engineer successively at Brighton, Aldershot, Montreal, Chatham, Manchester, and York. In 1877 he was appointed Assistant Director of Works for Barracks at the War Office.

In 1882 he was, to all intents and purposes, unemployed when the call came to accompany his old friend Sir Garnet Wolseley to Egypt as a Brigadier General commanding the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division thoughout the campaign. He was present at El Magfar, Kassassin and Tel-el-Kebir where he was in the thick of the action as usual. He was made a K.C.B. and received the thanks of both houses of Parliament, the Egypt medal with clasp, the 2nd Class Order of the Medjidie and the Khedive’s Star.

Graham and his staff at Suakin.

Following the Sudan campaign he was again officially thanked by both Houses of Parliament, promoted to Lieutenant-General for services in the field, granted the 1st Class Order of the Medjidie and awarded two clasps to the Egypt medal. He commanded the Suakin Field Force in 1885 for which he was thanked by both houses of Parliament for the third time, made a G.C.B. and received another clasp to the Egypt medal.

General Graham was placed on the retired list in 1890. He was made a G.C.M.G. in 1896 and awarded the ceremonial post of Colonel Commandant of the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1899. Lieutenant-General Sir Gerald Graham, V.C., G.C.B., G.C.M.G., died of pneumonia at Bideford on the 17th of December, 1899, and is buried at East-the-Water Cemetery, Bideford, Devon.

Graham's grave in Bideford

His Victoria Cross is currently owned by his Great, Great, Great Grandson, Oliver Brooks, and is on display at the Royal Engineers Museum at Gillingham, England.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sudanese Throwing Sticks

Some of the Perry Beja figures are shown with throwing sticks. These don't look that threatening but a throwing stick is one of the oldest weapons known to man. The oldest known throwing stick was dug up in Poland and was 20,000 years old.


Developed for hunting, (Egyptian nobles have been depicted hunting birds with throwing sticks) they evolved into a weapon and then dropped out of use in most cultures to be replaced by other missile weapons such as spears, slingshots and arrows. However they persisted in the Sudan where they were first seen in neolithic times (6,000 BC) and were used by the local steppe hunters.

Sudanese throwing stick with leather grip (1850)

The Sudanese throwing stick, the Trombash (Bang in the South), had a curved end and was used to bring down camels and horses. Made of hard wood it would turn end over end in flight.

Beja throwing stick (3rd quarter nineteenth century)

Infantrymen from the New South Wales contingent to the Sudan describe a "throwing stick shaped something like a boomerang", the boomerang being, of course the most sophisticated throwing stick. The Australians refer to a non-returning hunting boomerang as a Kylie.

A Kylie. It's Australian, you chuck it but it doesn't come back. As Olivier Martinez has discovered!

In some parts of the Sudan the sticks, which were carved from branches or, sometimes, tree roots, were used as a defensive weapon to hook spears or swords away from the body.

Throwing sticks can have a range of 100-150 yards so are quite effective, although not as accurate or deadly as a slingshot, but are better against small multiple targets like birds or animal legs.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Back painting Sudan again..

I have been painting all sorts of other stuff lately, especially a lot of Darkest Africa stuff, but my recent visit to Egypt has got me preparing some more Sudan figures again.

I currently have about 10 more Beja undercoated and ready to go and hope to get them done in the next two weeks. I have actually put the first paint on my initial four Highlanders and I have based another three Beja on camels.

I put in another order to the Perry brothers today (and resisted buying any plastic ACW!). I've ordered some more Beja on camels, which I want to convert to standard bearers. The ones with rifles look to be in the right sort of pose. I've also ordered another three packs of ordinary Beja to enable me to finish my next two units.

For the British, I have ordered the high command pack, as I think it is about time my army had a commander, and the screw gun set, to be the Scottish Royal Artillery contingent.
I'm quite enthused about getting on with them again!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

First Egyptian Regiment

I have finished the Egyptians I bought on eBay the other month. They are going to represent the Cairo Gendarme Battalion which formed part of Sir Valentine Baker's 1st Brigade at first El Teb on February 4th 1884. No doubt they will be used as other Egyptian units as I need them too!

At this time Egyptian forces (the Gendarmes dressed in the same uniforms as the regulars) still wore white with the officers wearing blue. By 1885 the Egyptians were wearing khaki and puttees rather than gaiters.

The Turkish (which was the flag of Egypt at the time) flag is a slightly tarted up version of one of The Virtual Armchair General's from the Mahdist Wars Flags Collection.

I need to paint about another thirty of these to finish the Ist Brigade. They are pretty quick to do, though.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The British Ambassador's Residence in Cairo

Lord Cromer's Room

I spent a few days in Cairo the other week running a meeting with the Egyptian Government in the British Ambassador's Residence. This desk was used by Lord Kitchener and is now the Ambassador's. I hope the Ambassador didn't mind me sitting in it for a few minutes! It certainly made me want to send expeditions up the Nile to give the Fuzzy-Wuzzies a good thrashing!

This room was where Kitchener planned the reconquest of the Sudan. I had a jolly good breakfast there!

The Residence was completed in 1894 during the time when the first Earl of Cromer was Consul General in Egypt. Lord Cromer had arrived in Cairo as Sir Evelyn Baring in 1883 to become HM Agent, Minister Plenipotentiary and Consul General. He moved into the Consulate, a large rambling house in poor condition, on the Rue Maghrabi. By 1885 Baring was looking for a plot of land on which to build more functional offices and accommodation. He first considered surplus land adjacent to The English Church, which was bordered by busy roads. But there was a considerably more attractive plot adjacent to the Nile in what became known as Garden City.

The lobby of the Residence.

The original plot of land covered the area which is now the Residence and garden and used to run down to the Nile until the construction of the Corniche which cut off the house from the river. The plot was purchased in 1890 for a total sum of £2,580 and work began on the Residence, which housed both the offices and living accommodation. Work was completed in 1894.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Royal Naval Brigade Completed

In finishing the Gardner Gun today I have finished the Naval Brigade. At the ratio of 1/33 I am using I should really only have 5 figures to represent the Brigade but with two guns with crews of four I am obviously going to be well over this. I have decided that as a wargaming unit I will add four sailors as well. So here is the complete Brigade ready for action.

The Bluejackets of the Naval Brigade were the first British Troops to land at Suakin in February 1884. At El Teb the 125 men, three Gatling Guns and three Gardner Guns were attached to the 1st Brigade and formed the front two corners of the square. When the Beja first charged it was three of the machine guns, that had been run out in front of the square, that fired first. Later Admiral Hewett led a charge of the sailors with fixed bayonets.

At Tamai the force was slightly larger at 163 men. They were in the 2nd Brigade in the left hand top corner of the square. When the Black Watch charged they left the Gatling and Gardner guns stranded outside the square. When the Beja charged some of the guns had to be abandoned and the Beja subsequently threw one of them down a ravine, although the sailors managed to pull it out later. Ten of the naval crew were killed and seven wounded but not before they had disabled the guns. It was whilst defending one of these guns that Private Tom Edwards of the Black Watch won the Victoria Cross.

Later about half of the Naval Brigade served with the desert column. But that is another story and another army!

Right, there is no excuse now, I have to start some Highlanders!

Royal Naval Brigade: Gardner Gun

The success of the Gatling Gun soon encouraged others into the market The Gardner Gun was invented in 1874 by a former Civil War Captain in the Union army William Gardner of Ohio.

Origninally it had only two barrels and a crank loaded and fired each barrel in turn.

Francis Pratt

He needed finance to produce it, however, so went to the newly formed Pratt and Whitney Company. Francis Pratt had worked for Colt and had a reputation for being one of the top gun designers working.

Mechanism of the original two-barrelled version.

It was developed in conjunction with Pratt and Whitney but despite successful trials from 1875 until 1879 the US Army declined to buy the gun, as they felt it was not an appropriate weapon for their only military activity at the time, against the plains Indians.

Inside the crank case for the five-barrelled version.

The Royal Navy, having already bought the Gatling Gun, were more interested, however and Gardner was invited to England to demonstrate the gun, which by now had a five barrel version as well.

The two-barreled version on board ship.

The Admiralty were impressed enough that they not only adopted the weapon but bought the rights to produce it. Gardner stayed in England to supervise the construction of the weapons in Leeds and lived there for the rest of his life, dying in 1886. The British Army bought the gun in 1880 but its actual introduction by them was delayed because of opposition by the Royal Artillery.

The gun was light, reliable and could fire over 800 rounds a minute.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A few more Beja

I've not been feeling very well this week and have hardly got any painting done. Added to that the weather has been horrible and it's been dark. Also I have suddently developed a great urge to paint some gladiators so have been trawling through the lead pile to see if I had got any (I had).

Nevertheless, I have managed to finish six more Beja, so not a total write off. Perry Miniatures are closing down for three weeks next month but I still have plenty of figures to paint. I want to finish the Gardner Gun and get started on the Highlanders.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Royal Marines Light Infantry: Completed

The Royal Marines, along with a force of sailors, were the first British troops landed at Suakin. The 464 men and 14 officers of the RMLI were commanded by Lt Colonel (brevet Colonel) Henry Brasnell Tuson, Royal Marine Artillery.

At El Teb the Marines formed the rear of the left hand flank of the square as it advanced, behind the York and Lancaster Regiment. As they approached and skirted the hill where the Beja were located they became the closest British to the Ansar lines. The men in the square were ordered to turn 90 degrees which put the RMLI in the front as they advanced on the dug-in Beja. The first Ansar charge of the battle caused the Yorks and Lancs, who had outdistanced the Marines as they moved forward, to fall back about 40 yards. The RMLI rushed up to close the gap and oust the Beja who had entered this gap in the formation. The Marines, along with the Naval Brigade and the Yorks and Lancs, were involved in bitter hand to hand fighting as they pushed the Beja out of their first position. The Marines had 2 officers wounded and 3 men killed.

At Tamai the RMLI formed the rear of the 2nd Brigade Square under Major General John Davis and accompanied by Graham himself. When the Black Watch charge opened up the square and the Beja flooded in, the whole British battalion was forced back onto the RMLI completely disrupting their formation. As the Second Brigade began its fighting retreat the Marines were a key element in keeping the steady discipline needed as troops from all the units in the Brigade became hopelessly intermingled. The Marines lost 3 men and 15 wounded at Tamai.

100 RMLI later served with the Guards Camel Regiment in the Desert Column but that is another Army (about 2010)!