Thursday 21 April 2011

"Jingal all the way" - more Pontoonier Miniatures

Hold it steady!
My apologies for the title of this entry, it was just too hard to resist!   As part of my recent foray into the Third Anglo-Burma War of 1885 I recently completed this two man Jingal team from Pontoonier Miniatures.  Try as I might I found it very difficult to find any real reference other than that a Jingal was a 19th century Indian or Chinese large weapon.  ‘Foundry’ produces a Chinese team but other than this Burmese version by Pontoonier there seems to be very little else out there. 

Fortunately Ian Heath’s excellent, ‘Armies of the Nineteenth Century: Asia. 4: Burma and Indo-China’ was able to shed a little more light on the subject.

A Jingal, its British nickname, was a large calibre matchlock called pun lang chan by the Burmese.  It was, in effect, an ultra-light field piece capable of firing a single shot or, when packed with small jagged pieces of lead or iron, withering grapeshot.

 I suppose that would allow me to classify this unit as artillery.

Another, more sombre reference to this weapon can be found in Kipling’s 1888 poem,

The Grave of the Hundred Head

There's a widow in sleepy Chester
  Who weeps for her only son;
There's a grave on the Pabeng River,
  A grave that the Burmans shun;
And there's Subadar Prag Tewarri
  Who tells how the work was done.

A Snider squibbed in the jungle,
  Somebody laughed and fled,
And the men of the First Shikaris
  Picked up their Subaltern dead,
With a big blue mark in his forehead
  And the back blown out of his head.

Subadar Prag Tewarri,
  Jemadar Hira Lal,
Took command of the party,
  Twenty rifles in all,
Marched them down to the river
  As the day was beginning to fall.

They buried the boy by the river,
  A blanket over his face --
They wept for their dead Lieutenant,
  The men of an alien race --
They made a samadh in his honor,
  A mark for his resting-place.

For they swore by the Holy Water,
  They swore by the salt they ate,
That the soul of Lieutenant Eshmitt Sahib
  Should go to his God in state,
With fifty file of Burmans
  To open him Heaven's gate.

The men of the First Shikaris
  Marched till the break of day,
Till they came to the rebel village,
  The village of Pabengmay --
A jingal covered the clearing,
  Calthrops hampered the way.

Subadar Prag Tewarri,
  Bidding them load with ball,
Halted a dozen rifles
  Under the village wall;
Sent out a flanking-party
  With Jemadar Hira Lal.

The men of the First Shikaris
  Shouted and smote and slew,
Turning the grinning jingal
  On to the howling crew.
The Jemadar's flanking-party
  Butchered the folk who flew.

Long was the morn of slaughter,
  Long was the list of slain,
Five score heads were taken,
  Five score heads and twain;
And the men of the First Shikaris
  Went back to their grave again,

Each man bearing a basket
  Red as his palms that day,
Red as the blazing village --
  The village of Pabengmay,
And the "drip-drip-drip" from the baskets
  Reddened the grass by the way.

They made a pile of their trophies
  High as a tall man's chin,
Head upon head distorted,
  Set in a sightless grin,
Anger and pain and terror
  Stamped on the smoke-scorched skin.

Subadar Prag Tewarri
  Put the head of the Boh
On the top of the mound of triumph,
  The head of his son below --
With the sword and the peacock-banner
  That the world might behold and know.

Thus the samadh was perfect,
  Thus was the lesson plain
Of the wrath of the First Shikaris --
  The price of a white man slain;
And the men of the First Shikaris
  Went back into camp again.

Then a silence came to the river,
  A hush fell over the shore,
And Bohs that were brave departed,
  And Sniders squibbed no more;
    For the Burmans said
    That a white man's head
Must be paid for with heads five-score.

There's a widow in sleepy Chester
  Who weeps for her only son;
There's a grave on the Pabeng River,
  A grave that the Burmans shun;
And there's Subadar Prag Tewarri
  Who tells how the work was done.

 Rudyard Kipling

It is difficult to know for sure whether Kipling is being overtly jingoistic with this work or simply realistic.   He is clearly aware as to the level of violence that perpetuated from this guerilla war; the Burmese forces simply melted into the jungle and harried the British troops for several years. The resistance was finally crushed by an intensified level of retribution directed at those suspected of assisting the insurgents.  Villages were burned to the ground and the property of the inhabitants simple destroyed or confiscated.  Parallels can be easily drawn between the nature of this conflict and that of Vietnam War; the poem also evokes passages from Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’-1902:

"We called at some more places with farcical names, where the merry dance of death and trade goes on in a still and earthy atmosphere as of an overheated catacomb; all along the formless coast bordered by dangerous surf, as if Nature herself had tried to ward off intruders; in and out of rivers, streams of death in life, whose banks were rotting into mud, whose waters, thickened into slime, invaded the contorted mangroves, that seemed to writhe at us in the extremity of an impotent despair."

and ultimately Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’ -1979:

Kurtz: We must kill them. We must incinerate them. Pig after pig. Cow after cow. Village after village. Army after army. And they call me an assassin. What do you call it when the assassins accuse the assassin? They lie. They lie, and we have to be merciful, for those who lie. Those nabobs. I hate them. I do hate them.

Finally I just need to extend a huge vote of thanks to Malcolm Johnston of Grimsby Wargames Society for editing some of the photos and giving them a much needed bit of drama; Thank you, Malcolm.  More examples of his work can be found on their website -


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