Sunday, June 16, 2019

A squadron of Bengal Lancers - almost

These stalwart chaps are by Irregular Miniatures, from their Wars in India range. I bought them many moons ago and they've been in a half-painted state ever since. Now I've brought them over to this side of the Atlantic it's high time they were finished so they can take their rightful place in the Imperial army.

These figures look as dark as this in real life.
They're basically undercoated. I intend to paint them a bit brighter than would be usual with larger scale figures, since wee chaps this size tend to look darker than they should when painted in historical colours. While they're drying I think I'll crack on with a few more Sudanese buildings. Perhaps in a couple of weeks or so I might be able to play out the next game in the campaign. What a concept!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Mass of Mahdist Matelots.

So, after a week of not being able to do very much hobby-wise, I took the opportunity this weekend to make the crew and passengers for the four feluccas I made earlier. They probably don't bear too close examination, but en-masse from a distance they look fine.

A bit out of focus - my camera is playing silly buggers - but it's enough to show the rows of figures made from Sculpy. For convenience I made them in rows of threes and fours.

A Mass of Mahdist Matelots push off from the shallows into the deeper waters of the Nile.
Follow the Nile. Deep to much deeper...* Sunrise over the Sudan sees an expedition afloat.
I glued the rows of figures onto the decks of the feluccas in a slightly random pattern, which kinda works. Although a bit fiddly the figures weren't too much of a problem to make, so I may make another batch to crew a Mahdist steamboat. The only things left to do before fighting out the next stage of the Nile campaign is to finish painting a squadron of Bengal Lancers and to make a few houses of a more urban nature for the Nile side town.

* A brownie point to whoever identifies the singer and song title the lyric comes from.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Felucca template

I was asked to share the template I used to create the feluccas in the previous post, so here it is. It can be scaled up if needed.

The feluccas I made are based on 3/8th inch foamcore cut to shape, with cereal packet card for the sides and stern. I used Aileen's glue for the curved lengths of card around the hull, tacking them in place using a hot glue gun to hold them while the stronger Aileen's glue dried. Card can be used for a deck if required. It might also help to use another deck-shape cutout to base the foamcore hull on for added strength. I used a mini-dowel for the mast. Note that with the felucca rig the mast is comparatively short and thick. The diagram shows its location in relation to the yard. The felucca sail is just a triangle with one point cut off. I made mine from stiff paper with the yard being a thin strip of cardboard glued along the upper edge of the sail. It's best to assemble the mast, yard and sail before mounting it on the hull. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Felucca the draw

I couldn't resist the pun. After the weekend I had, I might be excused.

Four feluccas sail by a Mahdist fort guarding the Nile.
One of the issues I have with modelling tends to be mission creep. I build one thing for a campaign or project and that leads to another - then another. In this case I built three steamboats, but then had to make a few of the felucca-rigged boats so characteristic of the Nile. Even now they're done, I'm not. I look at the photo above and think 'I need to add crew and passengers...'

I see Sculpey taking a prominent part in the near future.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Trio of Steamboats

Wet and windy weather has curtailed any gardening today, so I pressed on and completed the three Nile steamboats for the Sudan.

Steamboats pass a house by the Nile. They're steaming dangerously close to each other, so they must be in a hurry!
The bases are made of sections cut from clear plastic food packaging. It helps if this stuff is as thick as possible, because the hot glue used to form the bow waves and wakes tends to pull on the plastic, causing it to warp. I had a few issues with this during the basing, but on the whole they came out alright. Use the glue gun to create streaks of raised material to represent waves and troughs. It pays to wait until the glue sets before going over it again around the bows and the wheel boxes to build up the rush of water. Once the last application of glue set I highlighted it using white craft paint. This tends to dry flat, so I shined it up with gloss varnish.

As you can see from the photo the blue material under the steamboat bases shows through, giving the whole a sense of depth.With hindsight I would've made the tail end of the bases a little longer, as the wakes look a bit too truncated for my taste. The final touches will be to put flags on the boats. I'm thinking of using pins and cartridge paper so they can be swapped out to represent different owners.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Steamboats progress

A little more progress on the trio of Nile steamboats...

I think I've got the haphazard plank protection right. They look like scruffy, workaday steamboats that once plied the Nile for civilian purposes but were commandeered into the fight between the British Empire and the Mahdi.

My next move will be to mount them on clear plastic bases with a bit of froth around paddleboxes and waterline. At the moment I'm not sure how to do the flags, but may settle for making removable flags so the boats can change allegiance with little effort. Quite how much effort the contending sides will expend to do the job on the tabletop remains to be seen...

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

I'm a workin' on the steamboats

All the livelong day? Well, not quite, but progress is being made.

One coat of battleship grey undercoat later and perhaps they look a bit too much like pre-Dreadnoughts at anchor off Spithead. I think I've succeeded in getting the snaggletooth appearance of the ad hoc plank protection that made these Nile steamboats so distinctive. They're now ready for the main painting to begin. I'm aiming at a scruffy weathered appearance, so expect lots of dirty whites, faded browns and greys.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Palms, Steamboats and Forts

It's been a while since I posted here, but I 've made some progress in making terrain specific to the Nile theatre in 1885.

The steamboats are a little over halfway towards completion. They're a bit rough and ready, but functional. I need to add the wooden planks to armour them, and do something to represent the paddle wheels.

Reports from British officers and observers at the time of the Nile campaign mention Mahdist forts along the course of the river. Circular in shape with one entrance, they housed one or two Krupp artillery pieces captured from ill-fated Egyptian expeditions. I'd call them redoubts myself, but those on the spot called them forts, so forts they are. Being well protected they posed quite a challenge to the British/Egyptian steamboats passing upriver, so I needed to add those to the Mahdist arsenal. One is complete, the other half-built as was mentioned in some accounts.

And finally, what Nile scene would be complete without a few palm trees? These scratch-built versions are fresh off the painting board.

I may tweak their appearance a little to get a more feathery look, but they'll do for now. I'm not sure whether to leave them on the wooden splints and base them up likewise, or make a more random pattern on circular bases.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

A Batch of Boats

It's curious that, for a relatively modern major military operation along one of the great rivers of the world, little is known about the Nile gunboats used during the 1885 campaign. Some thirty or so steamboats were employed. Even the Mahdists had a few, either captured from the ill-fated Gordon's flotilla or commandeered from civilian operators. One of the former is mentioned as being armed with 'a brass howitzer,' which must've been an antique even then.

What few illustrations there are show gunboats armoured by a rather gimcrack arrangement of wooden beams and planks battened onto the sides and superstructure to give the crew some cover.

They bear little resemblance to the spiffy Nile gunboats used by General Kitchener eleven years later...

Nile gunboat Melik. She and her sisters Sheikh and Sultan were built in 1896 by the Thorneycroft yards at Chiswick, London and transported to Egypt in sections.
I already have a British gunboat, not too far removed from the Melik to look at...

...but now I need a couple of steamboats for troop transports and a Mahdist gunboat and riverboats to provide some opposition. I have the beginnings of three steamboats.

The riverboats will look something like these modern craft since the design hasn't changed for centuries.

Red sails in the sunset...
Along with these I need to make a load of palm trees since these are a feature of the Nile banks, so it'll be a while before I resume the campaign.

Friday, April 5, 2019

From Wadi Halfa to Abu Hamad

My take on this alternate-reality version of the 1885 Sudan campaign is that instead of faffing around with Canadian voyageurs and keel boats, Wolseley got his finger out. He's opted for the speediest approach to rescuing General Gordon - one column under his personal command heading up the Nile, taking short cuts where possible - the second column under General Graham heading for the Nile from the Red Sea Littoral province.

So far Graham has made reasonable progress. In the Battle of Haiya he inflicted over 7,500 casualties on Usman Digna's army for the loss of 3,275 Egyptian troops and 832 British. Although the Imperial casualty list is wince-inducing, Digna's Hadendowah army is a more or less spent force. Intelligence reports he's withdrawing what's left of his army out of reach of the Imperial column, thus ceding the province to Graham. It's suspected Digna may well link up with the main Mahdist army along the Nile, but Graham's in no position to interfere with Digna's plans. He'll rest his men for a day to water up and bury the dead before resuming his march to the town of Atbara on the Nile where, hopefully, he'll link up with the main army.

Now for a look at the main column itself. One glance at the map shows Wolseley has a lot of work ahead of him. It's roughly 175 miles as the vulture flies from his base at Wadi Halfa on the Egyptian frontier to the town of Abu Hamad on the Nile. The Nile itself forms a great bight to the west between the two. Historically this is the route Wolseley took, with his troops and hired voyageurs labouring mightily to shove the mass of boats over shallows and cataracts. In my campaign the gunboats will make the journey, carrying two companies of the Naval Brigade and a contingent of army troops. The main army will attempt to cut across the neck of the bight, but Wolseley decides to send a flying column composed mostly of cavalry and the Camel Corps ahead of him to Abu Hamad. Hopefully their approach will converge with that of the gunboats. Between them they'll attempt to seize the town in a coup de main.

A modern satellite photo of the area. Ignore the modern highways!
Of course, we all know the old adage about plans and reality...


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