I know some colonial history but I knew nothing about the barbarous practice of Blackbirding:
Blackbirding is the coercion of people through trickery and kidnapping to work as labourers …
In the 1870s, the blackbirding ship trade focused on supplying labourers to plantations, particularly the sugar cane plantations of Queensland and Fiji … between 1842 and 1904. Those “blackbirded” were recruited from the indigenous populations of nearby Pacific islands or northern Queensland.
So many ships entered the blackbirding trade (with adverse effects on islanders) that the British Navy sent ships from Australia Station into the Pacific to suppress the trade.
Islanders fought back and sometimes were able to resist those engaged in black-birding … Wikipedia article source
Disturbingly the Wikipedia article mentions that Blackbirding has continued to the present day sourcing plantation workers in developing countries such as Central America. All the more reason to support Fair Trade.
The causes of the American Civil War are complex, whether it was states rights or slavery or both that triggered the secession and conflict. The arguments, tensions and legacy continue to this day in America.
Blackbirding was new to me. I also knew nothing about the opposite of Harriet Tubman’s heroic Underground Railroad (to help free escaped slaves from the Southern USA to the freedom of the North around the time of the American Civil War), the opposite being now known as the Reverse Underground Railroad.
“The Reverse Underground Railroad was the pre-American Civil War practice of kidnapping free blacks and fugitive slaves from U.S. free states and slave states and transporting them into the Southern slave states for sale as slaves …
The Reverse Underground Railroad operated for 85 years, from 1780 to 1865.” Wikipedia article source
Solomon Northrup published Twelve Years A Slave in1853, a memoir of his kidnapping from New York and twelve years spent as a slave in Louisiana. This became the award-winning film, which I have not yet seen, nor yet read the book.
Some interesting alternative history and some sources of gaming scenarios, instead of Redcoats blasting away at rebellious natives, you can feature powerless or resisting islanders, a wicked blackbirding gang and the Royal Navy to the rescue, whether on this planet or on another VSF one!
Thanks Pat G!
Another interesting nugget of Colonial gaming history like the female warriors of Dahomey, featured on my blog in February:
In between planning airplane conversions, I have been repairing Broken Britain’s hollowcast 54mm Indians and casting more Prince August 40mm Cowboys and Indians ready for some garden skirmish games soon.
So adding a Western train set isn’t so surprising …
Vintage 54mm Pound Store Plastic Cowboys and Indians fight over the cargo and caboose of my new Wilko Western Express train.
A snip of a plastic battery operated railway set at £10. Read more at:
2017 has been a bit of a ‘jammy’ or lucky year for me for vintage Airfix, especially welcome now that I have restricted and almost stopped using a well-known online auction shopping website after being hacked.
2017 saw a charity shop haul of Airfix OO/HO blue boxes and figures which should help with future projects this coming year.
I could not believe my luck and bought them all on sight without any chance to check contents. Each box was only £3.99 and all the money to a good cause.
Thanks to the excellent box art shown in Jean-Christophe Carbonel’s Airfix’s Little Soldiers, I do not need to own lots of vintage cardboard Airfix packaging. I have no idea where many of my childhood Airfix boxes went but I was always interested by the early Airfix box art.
The accidental chance to own and enjoy some vintage boxes and figures was very welcome.
I noticed with many of the matched figure boxes – Union Infantry versus Confederate Infantry, Waterloo French Infantry versus British Infantry – that there is a bit of a left / right thing going on. The same with artillery and cavalry.
A game of two halves, the two boxes make up or suggest one scene. The Union figures are skirmishing and firing towards a barely glimpsed enemy and their officer on a wooded ridge to the right side of the box. On the Confederate box, the implied enemy troops are firing down from such a ridge to a Union enemy below and on their left.
Quite frequently the British or Allied troops are coming in on the left, the enemy troops from the right on a matched pair of boxes. At least opposing sets usually form two halves or sides of an illustration. Looking through Carbonel’s book, however, this “to the left = victorious, on the right = bad guys” theory does not hold true from a British or Allied point of view for all the Airfix sets.
Alternatively the enemy are glimpsed – French Cuirassiers appear along the ridge or skyline for the Waterloo British infantry, a Waterloo British Highlander in an implied square bristling with bayonets against the charging French Cuirassiers on this cavalry box.
This is in picture terms almost a “Dogfight Double” as Airfix would make for their matched fighter / bomber kits. In this figure case, it encourages you to buy the opposition figures inferred by the illustration.
There is more about the box art and artists in Arthur Ward’s excellent books on Airfix.
The Back of the Box
I have always admired the black pen and ink line illustrations of figures and the later coloured painting guide pictures of figures on the Airfix box backs. So at least I have some not very valuable Airfix packaging to enjoy, as well as the contents.
These box illustrations formed a simple and effective painting guide for the figures inside. One or two of these coloured figures would be included tantalisingly in Airfix catalogues.
Between first sight and returning to the shop a few minutes later with enough cash, two boxes had sold. The two boxes that sold before I bought the rest were Airfix Waterloo Highland Infantry and French Cavalry (Cuirassiers).
I’m not too sure what would have been in those ‘lost’ boxes, as some of these boxes were a curious mix.
They all obviously belonged to the same person as contents were sometimes scattered amongst different boxes.
Inside the Waterloo British Infantry box were not the usual custard yellow Wellington’s veterans. Instead there was an interesting red / brown figure mix of Airfix Indians, Wagon Train figures and wagon and a few Ancient Britons! Not unwelcome figures.
Even the odd one out old set of the Afrika Korps had a surprise – it had a fair number of the vintage series one Eighth Army figures included as well. I much prefer the vintage series one tinier Airfix figures to the larger and still available series two figures.
What to do with lots of lovely Airfix figures?
These are all very useful figures, some part painted, all for future Napoleonic and Civil War games or more generically painted or differently flagged, ready for Imagi-Nation skirmishes in the fictional Bronte kingdoms of Angria and Gondal.
I know that many of these Waterloo figures were made recently available again in 2015 for the bicentenary Airfix Waterloo gift set but I have enjoyed seeing all the old boxes again.
To speed the journey to the tabletop, some of these figures are part painted and surprisingly, the horses are stoutly glued. Fixing horses to bases and riders to horses was one thing about Airfix and Esci figures that I disliked, compared to Atlantic horses.
Apart from not being based, it looks as if some of these figures have been enjoyed and deployed on the games table. I hope they will have many more skirmishes to come.
I hope you have enjoyed a closer look at my lucky discovery!
Little shop hoards like this don’t happen often and it is a different more exciting experience from bidding or buying online. It makes up for all the days that you don’t see any figures at all in charity shops or market stalls.
A couple more lucky hoards for 2017 to share in future blogposts, so that you can share in my joy at a bit of a ‘jammy’ year for figures.
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 16 September 2017.
I managed to finish my American Civil War skirmish today with my rebased vintage Airfix figures – The Battle of Pine Ridge River crossing – fighting for a railway bridge over a rocky ravine cutting of the good old Hicksville River USA, sometime in 1861 whilst zouaves still had confusing uniforms.
Inspired in recent blogposts by the photography website Forgotten Georgia and also the rebasing of my childhood vintage Airfix American Civil War figures, I redeemed a couple of book tokens on a trip into town to fund my summer reading.
The Osprey Combat book is especially relevant with the comments John Patriquin made about my confusion with Zouave uniforms being mirrored in the First Battle of Bull Run / Manassas:
“Your post partially explains the confusion at the first battle of Bull Run. Shortly before the start of the Civil War, after Ellsworth’s tour, many individual militia companies started to stylize themselves as Zouaves. These companies designed their own uniforms. As the better organized states would place these companies into regiments of 10 companies, it is easy to imagine a regiment of militia!”
Of course, at the start of the war the states would provide uniforms to the regiments so they would be more “uniform” in appearance. However, each state would decide on the uniforms. Many northern units were provided grey uniforms. Confused? So were the commanders on the field of battle at Bull Run.”
On the same trip, I also found a recent red box of Airfix WW2 British Commandos reduced in price, another toy department sadly slimming their ranges. A chance to paint some more Zouaves to my vintage Airfix ACW troops.
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!
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.
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.
They were created or converted by repainting Airfix WW2 Japanese Infantry.
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?
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.
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.
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” …”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Good to see on many people’s blogs that these charming ACW figures have retained their nostalgic appeal.
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.
Thankfully this was online rather than on foot. (Maybe I should have sought sponsorship for charity for this pointless minor achievement?)
I’m not sure how many thousands of photographs that I have looked at of buildings, bridges, ruins and towns, barns, lots and lots of barns, but I worked through the Forgotten Georgia website County by County on the A to Z listings. Strangely there was no Hazzard County.
After looking at all these decaying or restored buildings in Georgia, I am quite tempted to order this winter some of the old Airfix OO railway building range of plastic kits, now manufactured by Dapol.
There were some innovative conversions to typical American Civil War / Wild West buildings using the basic Service Station, Signal Box and Booking Hall kits suggested by Terry Wise in the Airfix Magazines in the early 1970s (see the links to the Vintage Wargaming website)
These buildings would be a fine setting for my surviving OO/HO Airfix American Civil War troops. Flip open the pages of Donald Featherstone’s 1962 Wargames to the section of rules for Horse and Musket battles and then you’re away …