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.