Confused by Zouaves – some Airfix ACW Paint Conversions

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Union Blue – and a bit bashed  – all that we had of our family’s American Civil War Airfix OO/ HO Union Infantry troops, a scarce set by the mid  1980s when I painted these.  Reinforcements were needed from unusual sources.

I am this weekend I confess – Confused by Zouaves.

I have recently rebased and flocked some of my original 1970s and 1980s paintings of Airfix OO/HO American Civil War infantry, along with some other Airfix WW2 figure conversions to other troop types.

We had very few American Civil War Airfix OO/ HO troops, as they were  a scarce set by the 1980s. Reinforcements were needed from unusual sources!

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US 1st Sharpshooters (Berdan’s Sharpshooters) a green repaint of a few Union Infantry figures with a couple of Atlantic US cavalry mixed in. Defending a branch halt of the AT&PR Railroad, with the swiftly repainted rolling stock and engine from a “Train Set in A Tin.”
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More Union Infantry reinforcements, paint conversions  from more easily available Airfix WW2 Japanese Infantry.

I  have liked for a long time  the Airfix WW2 OO/HO Japanese (and Russian) infantry for their slender build and possibilities for conversion to troops from other periods.

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The unusual figures of the Airfix WW2  Japanese infantry standard bearer and bugler make useful Union Infantry command figures. These are now quite fragile plastic  – the officer has lost his fragile sword. Painted c. 1983.

 

Sometimes I can tell looking back what (roughly) these reinforcement figures were supposed to be or were inspired by, helped by looking again at Kannik’s Military Uniforms of the World in Colour by Preben Kannik’s and the Blandford book Uniforms of The American Civil War  by Philip Haythornwaite. Both books were sporadically available in our local branch library.

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Another paint conversion of Airfix WW2 Japanese Infantry – but which Grey Zouaves are they and fighting on whose side?

This grey  Zouave unit with red kepis at first appear as probably meant to be Wallace’s Zouaves (the Eleventh Indiana Volunteers) nicknamed the “Union Greys”. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/11th_Indiana_Infantry_Regiment

They were  created or converted by repainting Airfix WW2 Japanese Infantry.

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I love(d) this page a lot in Preben Kannik’s Military Uniforms of the World  in Colour.

Wallace’s Zouaves featured in the few, the very few, ACW uniforms shown in Kannik’s Military Uniforms of the World in Colour,  as well as Philip Haythornwaite’s more extensive ACW Uniform book (Plate 25). Text notes reveal the unusual career of Lew(is) Wallace,  their commanding officer, who went on to write Ben Hur, amongst other things! https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lew_Wallace

But are these 1983 Airfix conversions really  Wallace Zouaves?

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Union Grey Wallace’s Zouaves from Indiana or Confederate McClellan’s Zouaves from South Carolina? The flag suggests the latter. 1983 conversions from Airfix WW2 Japanese Infantry.

I  painted these grey coated Zouaves with a  “first National Flag” of the Confederacy  with the grey coated Zouaves, suggesting they may be instead Confederate McClellan’s Zouaves or Chichester Zouaves Cadets, both from Charlestown South Carolina.

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Kannik notes that these “Union Grey” uniforms faded out quickly early in the American Civil War, no doubt to avoid confusion with such Confederate Grey or Zouave regiments.

No doubt also that many of these fine colourful uniforms would have quickly been adapted to the rigours of whatever could be found or repaired on campaign.

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More Louisiana Tiger Zouaves from Airfix WW2 Commandos and Japanese Officer – some of these figures look a bit rough or roughed up, the bottom of the spares box maybe in about 1983?

I am not entirely sure of all the intended regiments of the Zouave figure conversions  35 years on, even looking through the original uniform books I had available.

Why so many Zouave regiments? I wondered.

“In the United States, zouaves were brought to public attention by Elmer E. Ellsworth. Inspired by his French friend Charles De Villers, who had been a surgeon in the North African zouaves, he obtained a zouave drill manual. In 1859, Ellsworth took over a drill company and renamed them the “Zouave Cadets”. The drill company toured nationally, performing the light infantry drill of the north African zouaves with many theatrical additions. “Zouave” units were then raised on both sides of the American Civil War of 1861-5, including a regiment under Ellsworth’s command, the New York “Fire Zouaves” …”

Source: Wikipedia Zouave article  entry https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zouave

None of the Airfix boxes with their uniform pictures had survived in my family by then, so further uniform notes could only be glimpsed in the pages of the old  Airfix Catalogues or Military Modelling magazine and the eye-candy illustrations of Miniature Wargames.

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A few more Union Zouaves converted  c. 1983 from Airfix WW2 British commandos with WW1 French infantry officer and Confederate Bugler. Rifle butts (becoming or always ) somewhat flimsy.

Converting easily available first version  WW2 British Commandos to Zouaves worked surprisingly well, on account of the puttees, soft caps, straps and spindly rifles.

The Zouaves with red caps and red trousers with white spats or puttees probably represent the Union’s  14th New York Volunteers (or 84th New York Infantry Regiment) known as the “Brooklyn Chasseurs”, pictured in Haythornwaite’s Uniforms of the American Civil War Plate 24a.

Equally they could be the red trousered, red capped 1st Battalion Louisiana Zouaves fighting  for the Confederacy, shown on Plate 55. Confusing in battle!

You will also notice that the Louisiana Zouaves in the Kannik book look different to the Haythornwaite book – confusing for a young boy with his paints. I needed Confederates more than Union troops as I had few of the original Airfix Confederate Infantry.

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Michael Chappell’s colour illustration plates to Philip Haythornwaite’s Uniforms of the American Civil War (Blandford, 1975/85)

Converting WW2 infantry into 19th Century troops? 

Such strange figure conversions did not seem odd at the time in the early to late 1980s as these original ACW Or other Airfix historical figures were much sought after second hand. I remember a dealer called “Andy Peddle, Sunnymead …” regularly advertising in the small ads of Miniature Wargames each month for further stock of such loose figures. The price quoted by dealers alway seemed too high on my pocket money or paper round budget at the time – ” I will pay 3p per foot figure, 6p per cavalry figure, 12p per cannon, waggon or limber” advertised one Mr. S.  Russel  of Wingham. No doubt they were resold for more.

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Send no SAEs or payment, this small ad was just one of the Airfix second hand dealers from one issue of my Military  Modelling magazines (July 1983). Old lead met scarce plastic on the same page.

To give a comparison, in the same 1983 magazine (cover price 80p) the new Esci 1/72 figures were being advertised for a £1 per box of 50 Esci figures. Soon Esci would have their own range of ACW and Colonial or historic figures but too late for me. I was moving on to Peter Laing metal 15mm at 7p a foot figure.

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Atlantic Wild West cowboys painted up as Confederate infantry or Dismounted Texas Cavalry  and an Airfix Confederate infantryman for comparison, painted 1983.

In the absence of Airfix ACW, I generally made do with whatever bizarre tiny Atlantic Wild West packs turned up, sometimes cheaply in model shops like Beatties, although these seemed more like diorama sets than gaming figures. The Atlantic Wild West range  provided a few scruffy Confederates and 7th cavalry on horses with bases unlike the irritating Airfix horses. I  also painted up whatever American Civil War looking figures I could make from leftover WW2 infantry or Cowboys.

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A few vintage Airfix Confederates and some running Airfix Cowboy conversion Confederate figures in my handy “Just In Case” portable fishing tackle box set of figures for holidays and working away from home (see blogposts c. April 2016) 

I was always puzzled that no flag or standard bearer figure was produced by Airfix with their ACW infantry sets but I checked here on Plastic Soldier Review and there is no sign of one:

http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/review.aspx?id=30

http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=402

Again in 2017, these Airfix ACW figures have disappeared and I don’t think that HAT  did a reissue a few years ago. They don’t seem to have been in production since early 1980. No fort or playset reissue ever featured them. Some boxes and loose figures lurk on E-Bay and online shops, becoming increasingly pricy and, for the old 70s stock, increasingly brittle.

Will they ever be reissued again? The 150th anniversary of the American Civil War has now gone by.

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A good volley line of Airfix Union infantry enough for a skirmish against the Confederates.

Good to see on many people’s blogs that these charming ACW figures have retained their nostalgic appeal.

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My few Airfix Confederate infantry so Reinforcements are on the way!

2017 – More reinforcements!

Recently a retired work colleague kindly gave me an old biscuit tin of 1970s Airfix figures, a jumble of loose figures and some on sprues, predominantly ACW and AWI figures with a few British Paras mixed in. A relic of his 1960s and 70s flirtation with wargames  before American railroad modelling took over, I shall unpack this Airfix owl pellet in a future blogpost. There look to be some Confederates and ACW artillery lurking!

I also chanced upon two half price “Red boxes” of recently produced Airfix WW2 Japanese Infantry from a shop closing down its models section (mostly it was all Airfix USAAF aircrew boxes) so I should be able to produce some more reinforcements in the future. USCT US Coloured Troops are one thought, and finally some more unconfused Zouave regiments?

Zouaves troops also turn up in my  Bronte gaming scenarios, based on troop descriptions in the Bronte family Angria and Glass Town scenarios – I’m sure all these vintage Airfix figures will find a role in these Imagi-Nations, just with a new standard bearer or two.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/pretty-in-gingham-the-brontes-bloodhound-regiment-of-angria-1839/

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Gingham shirts and ticking trousers – the colourful clothes that match the description of some Imagi-nations Bronte fiction Zouave troops c. 1830s -1840s (Hawthornwaite, Uniforms of the American Civil War Plate 18 )

I shall end here, slightly less confused by Zouaves but not much ….

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 16 July 2017