In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Battle of Goatpakhora Station

The following was a thoroughly enjoyable game we had using the Black Powder rules. Peter brought over his 28mm Russian VSF army and we replaced the steamtech elements with Pathan auxiliaries from my collection. Peter, Mike and Dave ran the Tsarist hordes, while Pasha Dan, Robin and myself directed the forces of the Raj.

From the Memoirs of General Sir Pelham Gronville Wooster, VC, KBE:

There I was at the end of a beastly hot day of watching the Sikhs at drill and listening to Major Jeeves report on the boot inventory, relaxing under the punkah in the Mess and getting on the outside of a very tall G&T when my old school chum, Lionel Saint-John Chalmers-Price comes beetling in, looking decidedly worried. But Budgie is one of those Politcal-wallahs and they are always worried. Seeing dacoits in their chamber pot I shouldn't doubt.

"What-ho Budgie!" I say, being all hail-fellow-well-met-you-old-school-chum. "Fancy a drink?" I signal my batman, Radu, to fetch something soothing and he shimmers in a few moments later with a tumbler of very old scotch.

Budgie takes a long pull. "I say, Plum. That hits the spot, what?"

I give Budgie my best serious face. "What's up Budgie? It's not like you to sally forth from your closet of secret reports in the midafternoon."

Budgie folds his hands in his lap and looks at me like the old Pater did when he gave me the Talk on the night before I married Mrs. Wooster. "It's dashedly serious Plum. I've just gotten a cable from Calcutta. The Russians have invaded Pakhora."

I set my drink down. "Really? In the hot season? Dammed sneaky of them. But then what should you expect from a country that doesn't play cricket and flogs their peasants?"

"We need you to take a Field Force over there and sort them out."

"A whole column? Seems a bit thick doesn't it? Can't we just send that clever chap from the Guides to go tell the Russkies to turn about sharpish? Bribe the tribes to harry them in the passes and smote them hip and thigh and what not."

"I'm afraid it's already been tried old boy."

I signaled for Radu again. "Radu, be a good chap and get Major Jeeves. And get him some more lamp oil, he's going to need it I think."

In a few days Jeeves had it all sorted and a division of troops was marching along the dusty road to Pakhora again with, it seemed, two divisions worth of camels spitting and snorting in our train. But it never does to meddle with Jeeves' logistical arrangements or you find yourself short of tea and tinned kippers at the most inconvienent time.

Our objective, as explained in the staff briefing by Jeeves with the aide of maps and lots of coloured pins, was the train station at Goatpakhora. This node along the Bahawalpur to Pakhora line was important to both us and the Russkies. Scouts indicated that Ivan was marching there as well with unseemly haste.The train station at Goatpakhora, an O-Gauge model RR kit modified by the talented Pasha Dan.

As we hove to in sight of the station a very excited Guides trooper galloped up and flashed me a barra-salaam. "Sahib! The Russkilog are there in the distance! Guns too. And they have the clan of Usman Kahn marching with them!"

The Ivans were deploying in a long line. Tribesmen on foot opposite the train station. Long lines of white coated infantry in the middle and then some tribal cavalry on the other flank.The Russians advance. Russian infantry and guns by Peter with some additional tribal auxiliaries from my collection.

I sent the Guides cavalry and the Blackwatch to secure the train station. On my right were Hodson's Horse with a gun and supports from the Blandingshire Fusiliers and the Madras Sappers. In the center I had the Guides Infantry, the rest of the Madras Sappers, another RHA gun and one of those new fangled Maxim guns.The British deployment with the Guides Cavalry in the foreground.

I opted for a terribly clever oblique order of advance. The Guides and Highlanders set off with a great deal of dash to get the vital train station. I think after their previous poor showing the Jocks wanted to show the Old Man they could soldier after all. The center followed and then when the time was ripe the right wing swung into action to deliver the fatal blow to the Tsarist viper. [Major Jeeves comments: it was actually some improperly framed orders from HQ that delayed the advance of the center and right brigades.]

The Pathans advanced towards the train station, supported by a Russkie gun. On the right Usman Khan lead his mounted tribesmen forward to skulk behind a mountain. In the center, the Ivan infantry advanced a bit to post their gatling guns on a small hill. Russians advance with a great deal of flag waving. Peter gets his flags at Fall-In from someone named 'the Flag Dude' or something.

The Blackwatch set off with a great huzzah! but the lead company attracted the fire of most of the Russian line plus the two gatling guns, one of which inflicted a rather appalling 7 hits! It was broken in a bloody ruin. The second company managed to beat the Pathans into the train station however, and set about knocking holes in walls to defend the objective. The Guides Cavalry swept around the other side of the station.

On the right, one squadron of lancers busied themselves frolicking about with the tribal horse, but without much effect.

The advance in the center:
That young Kipling fellow records the events for the Bombay Times:

On the left things were going swimmingly; the Blackwatch were snugly ensconced in the station and the Guides Cavalry had a smashing charge at the Pathans sabering about them like a maiden Aunt at a Parish jumble sale and then following into a company of Russians who had advanced to attack the station.The Russian right flank hangs open.

This left the Russian flank hanging open like Stinky Smythe's mouth when the Latin Master asked him a not-particularly taxing question at school, and it worried the Russian High Command:Peter's Russian High Command including the Tsar and the Prince Imperial with teddybear.

In the center things were going not-so-swimmingly. I advanced the Guides to support the Jocks while Johnny Sepoy and the Ivans banged away at each other alarmingly.
The Russkie gatlings both jammed, but not before the RHA section and the Maxim were forced to retire and two companies of the Madras Sappers were rendered hors d'combat. This left the ammunitionn column and a baggage camel holding the middle.

Over on the right things were looking better though. After a bit of hemming and hawing the brigade finally advanced to engage the Russian left. The second squadron of lancers put in a wonderful charge that swept Usman Khan from the field. Supported by rifle and artillery fire from the rest of the brigade, the squadron then swung about to attack the Russian left. A company of sailors delivered a volley but it wasn't enough and the sailors were sent packing back to St. Petersburg.The Russian left flank hangs open as well.

The lancers were pretty done in by now, having delivered two charges worthy of an engraving and write up in the Illustrated News. But the rest of the brigade was coming up to threaten the Russian Bear, who now had both flanks exposed like a nautch dancer's.

I watched the Russians begin their withdrawal through my field glasses with a certain satisfaction.
"Well Jeeves. Jolly good, what? Bit of a hard go, but all's well that end's well and all that, eh?"

"Indeed sir."

"I think the lads have done quite well today. Say something nice in tomorrow's Order of the Day and issue some extra kippers for dinner."

"I've already taken the liberty of doing so, sir."

"Thank you, Jeeves."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Soldiers of the Queen-Empress Part 5

The Pathans

I suppose my Pathan tribesmen aren't really soldiers of the Raj, but it wold be silly to change the title of the series with the 5th installment. Half of them have probably served in the Guides anyway.

I didn't really give the defenders of the Faithful much thought though. I started with about 100 second hand figures; a mix of Old Glory Pathans with rifles and OG Pathan Command and some Foundry Darkest Africa Zanzibaris. I've since added about 20 Bicorne kneeling and prone tribesmen armed with jezzails.

For cavalry I have a bag of 10 Old Glory mounted tribesmen. Another 10 Bicorne mounted tribesmen armed with lances and rifles have made it to the undercoating stage.

For the ghazis, the wild sword waving religious fanatics who gave the British so much worry, I have co-opted about a dozen Old Glory sword armed infantry from my Medieval Saracen army. I also have another dozen or so Bicorne ghazis I haven't painted yet.

To lead them I got the Essex Khitan Lio warlord with the falcon. But as I was base coating him I realized He's got no beard! No self-respecting Pathan khan is going beardless! Plus he was wearing a fur trimmed cap instead of a turban. Green stuff to the rescue and I added a beard and a turban to him.

To inspire the warriors I have co-opted this Gripping Beast sword-waving, fire-breathing imam from my Medieval Saracen army. He's definitely preaching a jihad.

The Pathans and British both built sangars in defensive positions. These are roughly semi-circular low walls built of loose rock. I got the idea to make them from "John the OFM" on The Miniatures Page. The base is an obsolete computer CD cut in half. Around the curved edge I lay a bead of Gorrilla Glue (tm) and cover with damp fish tank gravel (bought in the black colour). Gorrilla Glue is interesting stuff. It reacts with water and expands as it sets. The more water the more expansion. Give it 24 hours and then shake off the loose gravel. Repeat to make another layer. Repeat as many times as you want until you get the height desired. I then spread a thin layer of epoxy on the rest of the CD and cover in sand. Some quick painting and drybrushing and there you have it. I use the same technique to make my WW2 shell craters and rubble.
The Pathans didn't generally have artillery but I allow Usman Khan to have two. They're obviously old captured 7 pounder mountain guns (from Bicorne). Crewing them are some Bicorne Mahdist artillery crew. The sponge is ridiculously big, but what can you do? When defending something like a fort they might get to use a Napoleonic era 12 or 24 pounder.

Not to be outdone, the Pathans have their own rear-echelon elements. A flock of sheep and shepherd (from Bicorne):

And a bazaar. The civilians and stalls are all Bicorne. The Bicorne stalls have nice tops full of goods but the bottoms are these awkward boxes that would be a pain to assemble. So I made the wooden stall frame works out of match sticks and used tea-dyed cotton for the awnings and then inserted the Bicorne cast table tops between the legs of the frame work. Somewhere, I think on the Red Shadow wargames website I saw a rug merchant that used printed out and rolled up rugs. I've dutifully printed off the sheet of rug graphics and have some interesting beads to make more pots, but I still have to assemble the stalls.

I like the idea of using markers in my games, but they do take money and effort. I had an extra Bicorne moutain gun with badly cast wheels so I made a wrecked gun marker. Beside it is one of several Bicorne ammo boxes for indicating 'low ammo' status.

I also got a bunch of casualties from Bicorne and added some extra rifles from RAFM. I'm debating either rebasing them on round bases with numbers from 1 to 8 or just adding numbers around the current bases to indicate the number of hits on a unit.

I've got casualty figures for the British and Indian troops too, but I haven't painted them up yet. I probably should move that to the top of the 'to-do' list, then I can stop using the rubber casualty caps for my Colonial games.

New Frontiers

This has perhaps been my most versatile army. Units of course show up in Pulp adventure games set in the subcontinent and sometimes they’ve been used for World War One in Palestine scenarios. In a stranger twist, they once traded in their screw guns for lasguns and joined into a play-by-email Warhammer 40K campaign as an Imperial Guard force. Writing the back ground fluff was a lot of fun. I was reading P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories, so the character of my commanding officer; Brigadier General Pelham Gronville Wooster V.C., with his chief of staff, Major Jeeves and faithful batman Radu became well established. But the campaign fell apart just as I moved to engage some Chaos forces and signaled a “Tally-ho!” to my allies. Probably for the best. I find 40K a very unsatisfying game if one plays anything other than Marines.
Lately another friend has got us all drawn into a Victorian Science Fiction campaign of the Great War of 1885 featuring diabolical steam contraptions and the Prussians invading England. My friend Peter has now sent his Tsarist legions (complete with Cossacks riding clockwork scorpions!) forth to invade Afghanistan with the ultimate goal of seizing the Jewel in the Crown, India. A few steam tanks don’t bother me quite so much as Space Marines and the scratch building challenges of converting something into something else is quite enjoyable. So a 1/35th scale PzII model donated by a friend has had a card board casemate built over top with a gun sticking out the front and a smoke stack on top to make the “Armoured Steam Traction Engine Mk I (India pattern).” An ASTE MkII is in the works using a 1/72nd scale self-propelled gun chassis. It will be smaller and perhaps mount a 1 pounder pompom gun.
Now that I have assembled a varied and balanced force, capable of providing troops for any number of scenarios on the savage North-West Frontier, it only remains to expand my British battalions. These will enable me to expand my campaigning to the Sudan and building up my embryonic Boer forces will enable me to also fight battles in South Africa. Rumor has it that the pirates which infest the mouth of the Kachumbar River have increased their depredations, so a flotilla of gunboats and a small Naval Brigade are in the works as well.
That brings us to the end of the tour through my large and still growing Colonial collection. I really don’t know how I decided to build an Indian Army. I wasn’t even aware that there was a separate “Indian Army” when I started. Maybe it was my fondness for curry; although my appreciation of Indian cuisine has expanded since starting this project. So maybe building the army actually encouraged my appreciation of new culture? Or perhaps it was an infatuation with Bollywood dancing girls? After Gunga Din, Lives of a Bengal Lancer, Kipling and Flashman, I knew I wanted the dusty, rocky hills of the North West Frontier. Whatever the reason, it’s been a lot of fun, many samosas have been consumed and lots of miniatures painted.

Books I Found Useful
Barthorp, Micheal. Indian Infantry Regiments 1860-1914, Osprey Publishing, 1979.
Barthorp, Micheal. Queen Victoria’s Commanders. Osprey Publishing, 2000.
Barthorp, Micheal. The British Army on Campaign (3):1856-1881. Osprey Publishing, 1988.
Barthorp, Micheal. The British Army on Campaign (4):1882-1902. Osprey Publishing, 1988.
Bond, Brian ed. Victorian Military Campaigns. Praeger, New York, 1967.
Churchill, Winston S. Frontiers and Wars. Konecky & Konecky, New York, 1962.
Farwell, Byron. The Gurkhas. W.W.Norton & Co. New York, 1984.
Farwell, Byron. Queen Victoria’s Little Wars. Harper & Row, New York, 1972.
Farwell, Byron. Mr. Kipling’s Army. W.W.Norton & Co., New York, 1981.
Harris, R.G. Bengal Cavalry Regiments 1857-1914. Osprey Publishing, 1979.
Holmes, Richard. Sahib, the British Soldier in India. Harper Collins, 2005.
Hutchinson, Col. H.D. The Campaign in Tirah 1897-1898. The Nafziger Collection, Inc., 2008.
Masters, John. Bugles and a Tiger. Cassell & Co., 2002.
Richards, D.S. The Savage Frontier. Macmillan Ltd., London, 1990.
Wilkinson-Latham, Robert. North-West Frontier 1837-1947. Osprey Publishing, 1977.

To see part 1- cavalry go to this previous posting.

To see part 2- infantry go to this previous posting.

To see part 3- artillery go to this previous posting.

To see part 4-baggage go to this previous posting.

To see this army in action go here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Soldiers of the Queen-Empress Part 4

"An Extraordinary Assemblage:" The Baggage Train

One contemporary observer commented that an army in India on the march was like "Smithfield market" for it's combination of people, animals, colours and sounds. The troops were followed by an enormous train of bullock carts, elephants, camels and civilians. I always enjoy modeling the rear echelon elements in an army and I like seeing it in others too. A notable example is Der Alte Fritz's Seven Years War collection complete with a field bakery and forge. I think these vignettes give a great opportunity to the modeller to put some humour and humanity on the tabletop, provide more visual interest to the display and they make for potentially attractive objectives in games.

In keeping with this theme I've endeavoured to assemble a suitably large and eclectic collection of baggage for my Anglo-Indian army. The bullock cart to the left is a "Houston's Colonial Wagon" model from Old Glory. The driver is from the "Chaos in Cairo" range. I found another pair of oxen in my extras box plus some wheels so I think I need to make a second. Plus paint up loads for them. The bhisti (pronounced 'beastie') above is a Foundry figure. Old Glory also makes one but like Foundry he's buried in a pack with a bunch of other figures. Really one needs whole packs of bhistis. Every unit should be accompanied by one or two. I'm trying to convince Askari miniatures to make and release a pack of 8 bhistis.

The 'centre piece' of my baggage train is the pack elephant.
He's a RAFM elephant. I used a Ral Partha Mahdist camel rider for the mahout. I had to separate his crossed-at-the-ankles legs and then bend them back to fit him behind the ears of the elephant. The bundles were made with green stuff and tied up with some embroidery floss donated by my wife. The Ral Partha camel was then given some big bundles of green stuff as well, but he didn't seem to get in front of the camera. Which is too bad, realy. I find the contrast of the very slightly built Ral Partha camel under these enormous bales contrasted with the more robust pack camel pictured above and it's smaller load rather amusing.

In the picture above the title you can see a few other pack camels, 'Chaos in Cairo' drivers and a pack mule. As Howard Whitehouse once said to me: You can never have too many pack camels.

To care for the wounded I've added the Perry Field Hospital set from their excellent Sudan line.And a Bicorne vignette of native stretcher bearers not-to-gently picking up a wounded soldier. This might make a good 'shaken' marker for Black Powder games except I think I may need more than just the one!

For the General's HQ I have an Old Glory heliograph team. The pack comes with two teams, but I couldn't see the point of having two on the same table, so I gave the extra one to Rico.This will make another fine objective for a game. The Imperial detachment having to defend the signal outpost on the hill. I also have an idea that it could be used to extend my CiC's command radius to any Imperial unit within line of sight.

For the spiritual care of my troops I've added a Padre. On the left is the original RAFM figure; a cavalry officer in undress forge cap. On the right is my conversion. I removed his sabre and using metal foil I made a prayer book that I tucked into his arm. The clerical collar was ajust achieved with a daub of paint.
Here's a fuzzy close up:
One of my gaming friends is a Canadian Forces Chaplain (see his blog). During a game he, of course took this figure as his on-table avatar. The rules in use involved wounded which were removed to the wagons at the baggage train. As our column pushed up the valley a force of tribal cavalry appeared on our rear flank. The Padre was the nearest 'command' figure and rallied the lightly wounded, forming them into a firing line which delivered a few well-aimed vollies to drive off the enemy cavalry and save the critically wounded. Thus the legend of the Reverend Capt. Peterson, VC was born. I should probably paint a small VC on the figure. Even though Mike has been posted away, a chaplain, priest or religious figure of some kind now seems to find it's way into all of our armies.

For the ammunition train I got a second bag of the Old Glory artillery mules and added small ammo boxes from RAFM instead of the gun pieces.

Here is another fun little piece. The Bicorne War Correspondent (is it Melton Prior or Rudyard Kipling?) sitting on a box sketching or writing an article. You can't see it well, but there's a gin bottle on the ground beside him. Beside him is another Foundry bhisti obviously inspiring the poem Gunga Din.
Here are some larger pics of each:

And to entertain the troops for a well-deserved victory celebration, the nautch dancer. She's a Reaper mini. She might also be a spy.

Coming up next: Part 5- the Pathans!

To see part 1- cavalry go to this previous posting.

To see part 2- infantry go to this previous posting.

To see part 3- artillery go to this previous posting.

To see this army in action go here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Soldiers of the Queen-Empress part 3


When you consider how important artillery was to the Imperial armies, it is rather hard to find good guns and gunners.

The Perry's make a lovely 'screw gun' with British crew for the Sudan campaign and Empress Miniatures are releasing field guns for the Zulu War. But for those of us who want the 12 and 15 pdr Breech Loading Rifles and standing gunners in uniforms suitable for the NWF or South Africa, well there's a lot of having to make do.

That being said, I've amassed a ridiculously large artillery park for the British.

I started with the ubiquitous mountain artillery. After the Mutiny, most native batteries were disbanded and replaced by British, but one battery of Mountain Artillery still had native gunners. I opted for the iconic 2.5 inch Rifled Muzzle Loading (RML) "screw gun" used in the later part of the century. It was called a "screw gun" because it had a longer barrel which came in two pieces to make it easier for the mules to carry, and the barrel screwed into the breech. Old Glory do these quite well. A pack of screw guns gets you four guns. A pack of gunners gets you five 4 man crews plus an officer (I gave my extra crew to my Colonial gaming munshi Rico). Then the pack of artillery mules gives you 6 mules and enough loads to do either a screw gun or the older 7 pdr mountain gun. One should have one team of six mules for each gun, but that would be rather expensive. So I divide my 6 mules between however many guns I'm using that game to show the section moving.

When facing hordes of angry natives who object to your presence in their valley, it is a really good idea to increase your firepower with some machine guns.

As Hillaire Belloc put it:
Whatever happens, we have got
The Maxim gun, and they have not.

Again I have an assortment. I have the Old Glory Maxim gun on cavalry carriage and the RAFM Gatling gun. To transport the gatling gun I have the RAFM elephant set. This is actually one of the protoypes kit-bashed by my other Colonial gaming munshi, Pasha Dan. He's friends with the owners of RAFM and figured out the kit for them by sitting down with a big box of spare parts and the film Gunga Din.

To get some heavier firepower up into the roadless mountains I thought an elephant battery would be pretty cool. The only reference I could find of what I wanted was a picture in the Osprey MAA #201 British Army on Campaign 4 1882-1902. Page 18 has a not terribly clear picture of an elephant battery formed up in 1897. I had a couple of spare elephants and some green stuff and set to work. One elephant transports the barrel of the breech loading rifle and the other carries the gun carriage. The poles are to help get the pieces of the gun off and back on to the animal's back. I use extra muleskinners from the mountain artillery to lead the elephants. I left the pieces of the gun loose so I can remove them and set the gun up, rather than having two separate gun models.

The gun moving:

Deployed and ready to fire:

For plain old field artillery I started with the Old Glory 9 pdr. But I don't really like the crew. They seem to be all over the place. I prefer the way the Perry's sculpt gun crews; the whole crew will be performing the actions appropriate to one part of the drill, loading, firing etc. But these fellows will do. I don't like the look of other Colonial British gun crews I've found and I can't afford Foundry.

Moving the field artillery is another issue. Foundry are the only manufacturers that I've found of Colonial British artillery limbers and teams. The price is suitably horrendous. But after consulting Dan and Rico I hit on getting some RAFM ACW era limbers and converting the riders and drivers.

The gunners riding on the ammo box are just the ACW figures with the ACW kepi heads replaced by British pith helmet heads. Rico gave me the idea to use RAFM's Northwest Mounted Police figures for the drivers. I cut off their carbine hands and replaced them with the whip hand from the ACW drivers. Their kit isn't exactly right, but as the Yorkshireman says better than nowt.

To complete the battery I also have an ammunition caisson. Now if I'm ever faced with rules that have 'out of ammo' rolls, I'm all set. It's also just nice to be able to include the B-echelon stuff that is so essential to keeping the fighting units in the field.

Here's the complete RHA battery on the move. 2 guns plus caisson. The guns are RAFM ACW breech loading rifles. The OG 9 pdr looks a bit big hooked up to the RAFM limbers plus by the time of the Boer War the British had switched over to BLRs for their field artillery. Unfortunately the ACW guns don't have seats on the carriages for the gunners. Perhaps I should ponder modifying the breech on the OG muzzle loaders?

The limbered RHA battery isn't really needed at all for the North West Frontier games. In The Campaign in Tirah the authour, Col. Hutchinson, noted how by the time the road was cleared and the 'big guns' could be brought up the tribes were ready to settle. The Pathans found the fire of the little screw guns deadly enough, so the arrival of the bigger RHA battery helped make up the mind of the last few hold outs. But I do want to stretch my games to the Second Boer War in which Indian Mountain guns and elephant batteries really don't play a part. We also indulge in some occassional VSF silliness and the RHA battery makes a nice support for my cavalry brigade when going up against Peter's Russian army.

The only thing I'm missing really are rockets. Empress does a lovely little set which are on my shopping list. Although whenever I use Barry's Naval Brigade rocket battery the damn thing blows up on me! So maybe I should leave well enough alone?

Since we've been talking about Gatling guns, I'll close with this except from Sir Henry Newbolt's Vitai Lampada:
The sand of the desert is sodden red, --
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; --
The Gatling's jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of schoolboy rallies the ranks,
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

Coming up next: Part 4- the Rear Echelon!

To see part 1- cavalry go to this previous posting.

To see part 2- infantry go to this previous posting.

To see this army in action go here.