Thursday 26 April 2018

Punjabi Professionals

When it came to finding a suitable unit to represent professionally trained soldiers for my Congo campaign, I knew that I wanted something a little bit different.  I had already used 'Copplestone Castings' Askaris and deliberately kept the uniform simple to hint at the rank and file nature of the unit.  I also had a notion that whatever I did finally use might also find a place in one of my other collections and so a plan started to form.  The combination of a couple of hours of web based research and a good deal of luck turned up the following image from the 'National Army Museum' archives.
The watercolour and pencil sketch is credited to Major Alfred Crowdy Lovett, (c.1900) and shows six Sepoys from the 30th Regiment (Bombay) Native Infantry (3rd Belooch Battalion).  Now I am ashamed to say that I simply don't have the knowledge, or depth of understanding, when it comes to the Native Indian Regiments, but was heartened to discover that Mad Guru of the outstanding 'Maiwand Day' blog had produced a similarly striking unit to the ones in the sketch and so felt that this was a potentially legitimate line of enquiry.  I convinced myself that I could see a red Kullah in the central figure and so ordered up some of the splendid 'Artizan Designs' Punjabi infantry.
Using miniatures from their 2nd Afghan War range, namely the NCO and Infantry at Trail packs (pack numbers NWF0123 and NWF0121) I was able to create just the effect that I was looking for and with the distinct possibility that they might see service in another theatre of operations in due course.
The miniatures themselves are fabulous sculpts, although I did baulk at the prospect of attaching the trailing arm to a couple of them - I am not a fan of the multi-piece miniature!  I love the idea of these professional soldiers organising the Askari and keeping them in good order, protecting the expedition as it penetrates deeper into the dense jungle of the Congo.  I am, of course, worried that I may have committed some ghastly faux pas with regards to the uniforms, but hoping that if I have that I will be quietly corrected.

Saturday 21 April 2018

What a load of Bullocks!

This post originally formed my entry to the second of the bonus rounds for the 'VIII Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge'.  Rather amusingly titled, Big Freakin' Gun, this was one of those wonderful opportunities where the theme fell perfectly for the miniatures that I already had – well mostly!  I have always loved artillery on the table top, it just looks impressive and the Challenge has given me plenty of opportunities to indulge in this over the years, whether that be Russian Field Guns in the Crimea, the Naval Brigade seeing off the Mutiny or Māori Warriors with a captured Carronade. 
Returning to the theme of BFG and I was instantly reminded of a piece of antiquated artillery from ‘Redoubt Miniatures’ Wellington in India range.  I had picked it up a couple of years ago with an idea that it could have been pressed into service during the Mutiny by a particularly brave, but desperate group of mutineers; I mean, just look at it!  I loved the chunky, solid wooden wheels of the bullock cart and the sheer improbability of the piece and decided that this was perfect for the round.  The difficulties started when it came to crewing the beastie.  I had some ‘Mutineer Miniatures’ Irregular Indian artillery crew that looked suitable and based them on card whilst I scratched around for an idea as to how to bring everything together.
I believe it was at this point in the project that I fell afoul of what they call mission creep!  You see, I also remembered that I had picked up an ‘Indus Miniatures’ (available through Wargames Emporium) Indian artillery piece, resplendent with its lion’s head muzzle ornamentation and what could be better than a BFG?  Well two BFGs of course!  The Indus piece was bought for exactly the same purpose as the Redoubt one, it just looked so cool!  I now had two guns and one crew, what to do?  In the end I decided that the Indus piece looked ready for firing and so would have the crew whilst the Redoubt piece needed some form of assistance in transportation.  
A bullock cart needs bullocks and lo and behold the new ‘Iron Duke Miniatures’ range (available through Empress Miniatures) have a set of bullocks along with a couple of nicely sculpted Indian drivers.  So with bullocks in hand* and a bit of careful matching on the base widths, I was able to create a series of units that could, in theory, be interchanged.
*not an expression to say out loud in polite company.
Although pleased with my efforts. something wasn’t quite right, I needed a limber!  Back on to ‘Empress Miniatures’ and the missing item was ordered up, and what a fabulous piece of casting it was too.  The only down side was that I had already positioned the yoke spars on the original bullocks and didn’t have the heart to remove them so, for the time being, it will have to suffice until I am brave enough to do it properly.
Purely as an aside the ruined walls and doors are from ‘4Ground’ and purchased as a set in one of the ‘North Star Military Figures’ clearance sales.  They are very cleverly done as for what appears like random damaged brickwork can actually be slotted together in a number of different ways giving variety to your terrain building.  (16 pieces in total)

Sunday 15 April 2018

Salute 2018

You will be mightily relieved to hear that this isn't going to be one of those 'oh so serious' reviews about the state of our hobby, using Salute as a barometer for the turning tide of interests in this most wholesome of hobbies - I shall leave that for those who actually know what they are talking about.  Instead the briefest of reflections from me this year, which rather mirrors my time spent at the show.

I was flying solo with my wingman, The Provost Marshal, unavoidably detained performing all manner of important duties at home.  This was, in no small part, down to my own inability to commit to the event.  A combination of it falling at the end of the holiday and not having very much pocket money to spend had me in a bit of a dither; if the sun had not shone on Saturday morning I probably wouldn't have gone!

Now whilst far from being a decrepit shell of my former self, the inevitable passing of years has taken its toll.  I certainly seem to get tired more quickly and with that more grumpy and so had decided that this was going to be a whistle stop affair.  The problem with that is that I forget that it takes me two and three quarter hours travelling just to cross the threshold of the event.  That said, I arrived just before eleven, in time to snaffle the rather disappointingly sparse goodie bag and walk straight in - I really don't think I could have coped with the queueing system!

My first thought was how gloomy it was and the ambient lighting did cause me difficulty when I wanted to buy or read anything.  I hadn't realised just how dependent I had become on my reading glasses.  If I wanted to stop and look at anything closely then I needed to swap glasses, an awful faff, particularly if you were were in one of those tight passages - a glasses string for next year perhaps?

That said, I felt comfortable for most of my time there.  The likes of 4Ground taking advantage of the cavernous space to allow customers to pass through their aisles more easily.  This has really annoyed me in the past, to the point where I would simply walk away.  Unfortunately it was the smaller companies, the ones that I would have been more interested in, that were were penned in together and subsequently made it difficult to see what they were actually about.  Still a minor quibble given the logistics of the show.

With no real shopping list as such, I spent much more time looking at the games.  These are always inspirational and this year was no different.  From the smaller demonstration games to the larger participation ones it was clear that a huge amount of effort had gone into them and quite frankly worth the entry fee alone.  That said, the rise of the undead and post apocalyptic popularity was undoubtedly to the detriment of the historical game, examples of which seemed to be down in number.  I perhaps, naively, expected to see more in the way of First World War games, given the theme of the show, but alas not to be.
The annual Bloggers' meet up was rescheduled to the earlier time of 12.30pm and to be honest, I had had enough by then so it was a lovely way to round off my day.  My incurable shyness got the better of me again and I really only managed to chat to those that I have known for a long time, but it was good to see some new faces so one can assume that the Blogging Community still has something to offer the hobby.

Having not bought very much at all, I then went and treated myself to some very expensive trees from 4Ground.  This rather loosened my grip on the wallet and before I knew what was happening yet another rule set was being purchased, this time Saga with the Age of Crusades supplement.  Who knows were this will lead?  
At one point during the day, I caught myself muttering that this might be my last Salute for a while.  On reflection this seems to have been a rash thought and certainly wasn't due to anything that the event itself had done.  Salute remains a spectacular show, which is constantly evolving to fulfil the needs of those that attend.  No, my issue was with my grumpy bag of old bones that just wanted to get home without having to sit on a train surrounded by objectionable children whose parents were seemingly oblivious to their offspring's decibel output, but that is another story!

Sunday 8 April 2018

Hakuna Matata!

No worries!
My apologies to those of you that now have the somewhat annoying tune from Disney's The Lion King rattling around your head*.  For some reason the phrase just popped into my brain whilst painting a couple of Warthogs from 'North Star Military Figures'.  Using the Congo rules, the exploration of the Dangerous Terrain runs the distinct possibility that your intrepid explorers might come across some local fauna and so I went in search of various likely candidates to represent them, if such an occurrence were to happen.  
*For those not yet aware of said ear worm, I have placed a link for your enjoyment at the bottom of the page.
Along with the Warthogs, I needed a Leopard and fortunately North Star came to my rescue again, with a particularly nice sculpt from their Africa range.  Looking at the photographs, I don't seem to have managed to get just the right colour for the skin, it appears a little grey.  Fortunately it does look a little brighter in the flesh and so I am more than happy to live with it for the time being.
Finally a great snake was required.  I had considered heading to Poundland again in the hope that they might have some cheap plastic toys that I could use, but I was reminded of the Great Snake that I had painted from 'Otherworld Miniatures'.  My first attempt had been painted to represent a South American Anaconda and so wasn't really appropriate for the jungles of the Congo.  
I couldn't bring myself to repaint the original version and so in the end I decided to treat myself to a new model, this time painted to represent the mighty Royal Python, a nonvenomous, constrictor of sub Saharan Africa.
It's behind you! 
All that remains is to leave you in the capable of hands of Timon and Pumbaa,
Hakuna Matata!

Thursday 5 April 2018

Haven't I seen you somewhere before?

A silly post this one, but every so often I come across a miniature and think, “I’ve seen this before somewhere?” More often than not, it is because I have forgotten that I had bought it in the first place and have the joy of discovering it all over again, but sometimes there is that realisation that I have actually seen the very same sculpt on the printed page. I can’t explain it, but I love discovering the original inspiration for the sculptor’s art. I have had quite a spate of these recently and all from the same book, so thought I would share them here for fun. The title in question is Osprey Publishing’s ELITE 21 – The Zulus, written by Ian Knight and illustrated by the prolific Angus McBride. Mine is a well thumbed edition and an important reference for my Anglo-Zulu War collection. The first colour plate is titled, The Youth of Shaka and shows the young warrior about to head of to war, being bid farewell by his mother Nandi. It just so happens that you can get your very own Nandi in the 'Dixon Miniatures' pack Zulu Girls and Udibi Boys.
Miniatures from the same pack can be seen a little further on in the book, Plate H - Warriors Muster 1870s.
Finally miniatures from the ‘Copplestone Castings’ Ngoni Chiefs and Witchdoctors pack seen alongside an ‘Empress Miniatures’ Sangoma bear an uncanny likeness to those seen in plate J - An Impi is Doctored for War 1870s.
I have often wondered if I were ever in a position to commission a set of miniatures what they might be or where the inspiration might come from?  From this Osprey title alone, one might be tempted by a group of Zulu warriors in full regalia dancing at The Court of Mpande (Plate I).  I wonder though, if money were no object, whether I might find myself seduced by the work of Lady Butler.  'Studio Miniatures' already produce a miniature that is clearly inspired by her painting, the Remnants of an Army and which I have documented here, but what about a small vignette of her earlier works, Balaclava?  Mr. Hicks if you are reading this, then count me in for a set!  Any other suggestions?
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