One of the pages in some original Boer War era magazines that I have.
Kipling-esque poem but not quite Kipling’s The Absent Minded Beggar or Hardy’s Drummer Hodge.
The Boer War is not widely Wargamed, partly due to the mobile nature of the conflict – mounted infantry, railways – and the long range rifle fire, as well as the static nature of sieges of Mafeking and blockhouses.
I wonder if this era is not widely gamed partly because Britain lost the war but it has some unpleasant elements such as Emily Hobhouse’s campaigning / press exposure about the concentration camps for Boer Civilians?
There are some interesting challenges or lessons learnt the hard way for the military in the period shortly before the First World War.
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:
Some unprepossessing modern pound store plastic ‘penny’ figures (£1 for a tub of 100 or more recently 80 figures from Poundland) have proved great conversion potential for my skirmish games, at the slightly odd size of roughly 36mm.
Over the last few months I have been busy creating small skirmish forces of 25 to 30 figures a side for my portable hex game boards.
Strange modern Rambo-ish machine gunner figures become a set of Desert Warrior Spearman, to join my previous Desert Warrior riflemen shown here:
Some kilted Colonial Highlanders conversions to join my Redcoats, straight out of my favourite Carry On film, Carry On Up The Khyber with Private Jimmy Widdle of the 3rd Foot and Mouth, the ‘Devils in Skirts’ no less!
Pound store plastic warriors on my painting table and conversions in progress, along with some unlikely uniform inspiration, all an ongoing project crossposted from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors sister blog:
Amongst the proliferation of so many plastic gaming figures today , I sometimes wonder what would have happened if the gaming clock was a reset to 1962, the year of first publication of Donald Featherstone’s War Games book.
Imagine, Groundhog Day style, that all you had available (going back in an “it’s 1962 again” time loop) were conversions of these figures:
Airfix S1 Guards band 1959
Airfix S2 Guards Colour party 1959
Airfix S3 Combat Infantry Group 1960
Airfix S4 Farm Stock 1960
Airfix S5 WW2 German Infantry 1960
Airfix S6 Civilians 1960
Airfix S7 Cowboys 1961
Airfix S8 Indians 1961
Donald Featherstone in his WW2 example game used Airfix figures and tank kits, featuring Set S3 Combat Infantry and Set S5 WW2 German Infantry. These gave me much pleasure as a gaming child as they were the same as figures that I recognised and had in our family collection.
By 1962 when Donald Featherstone’s War Games went to press and was published, the following lovely Airfix sets were issued, expanding the conversion possibilities:
Airfix S9 8th Army 1962
Airfix S10 Foreign Legion 1962
Airfix S11 Afrika Korps 1962
Airfix S12 American Civil War Union Infantry 1962
Airfix S13 American Civil War Confederate Infantry 1962
Airfix S14 American Civil War Artillery 1962
Airfix S15 Wagon Train 1962
So circa 1960-62, what were the paint and conversion possibilities available to gamers then or vintage gamers today?
From sketch book to first draft painting or repaint, I’m happy with the results so far with these Victorian British redcoat paint conversions of Airfix 1960 Infantry Combat Group:
Still a few final details to add to these figures, along with some natives or opposition.
The opposition could be these blue coated Danish style guardsmen, still unfinished in fine detailing.
I hope the late Donald Featherstone would have liked these simple redcoat figures c. Airfix 1960/2.
Several years later, many of the conversion ideas of his and others featured in his book Military Modelling were made easier by production of WW1 figures, the American War of Independence figures and the Waterloo range.
Colonial redcoats could by 1966 be made from Airfix WW1 German Infantry:
These are part-painted, first draft Victorian Redcoats formed from some spare Airfix WW1 German Infantry, a suggestion made in books at the time.
And if these redcoats on land required any naval back up, Airfix Cowboys could make a passable Royal Naval landing party …
turning these Cowboys (top right) from American Civil War infantry conversions into Victorian sailors something like these Fimo cake mould conversions sailors.
More paint conversions and retro / vintage Airfix c. 1962 to share with you in future blogposts.
Back, back, back into the past in our Airfix time machine …