Wednesday, 22 January 2014

50th Anniversary of the premier of Zulu

Even if I haven't painted anything Zulu Wars for a while I can't let the 50th Anniversary of the release of Zulu (1964) pass me by.  This was, by a considerable margin, my father's favourite film and is probably one of my top three too. 

There is a 12 page feature on the making of the film in the current issue of Cinema Retro magazine by Sheldon Hall, author of the excellent Zulu: with some guts behind it - The Making of the Epic Movie and news that an expanded version of this book is being released later this year.

The film received its premier, on the 85th anniversary of the battle, at the Plaza cinema in Piccadilly Circus complete with the band of the Welsh Guards, soldiers in period uniform and three VC holders.

Not coincidentally, of course, today is also the anniversary of Isandlwana and the first day of Rorke's Drift.  Like many others, I will be spinning the really quite exceptional Blu-ray of the film later.   

"Front rank fire! Rear rank fire, reload!"

Friday, 6 April 2012

Some officers for the 24th Foot

I can't remember the last time I managed two posts in a week on this blog, but here are our first three officers for the 24th foot.  One is wearing the blue patrol jacket that was very popular in Zululand.  The central figure is a bugler.  What I need to do next is arrange the figures I have painted by pose to sort out some more regular looking units then I need to identify what figures I need to finish the units.  I have quite a few more figures to paint and some are even based so, provided I can find where I put them, I can start a few more.

Tonight I might also have a look at the Natal Native Contingent figures I bought the other week.  I haven't even opened the box yet.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Another (biggish) batch of 24th Foot

Well, as I struggle with my new ACW project I decided to take advantage of the good light here at present and finish another fourteen British today.  This brings my total number of British to around two dozen.  This means I probably should do another Zulu unit next.  However, I have just bought the box of the new Warlord Games Natal Native Contingent and so may have a crack at these instead.

For The Sword and the Flame you have units of 20 British but these are really just a jumble of figures at present so I need to pick the next ones out specifically so I can have tidier looking companies.  I also have a bugler and two officers under way so will try to get these done soon too.  It's very satisfying to finish what for me is a big batch!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Warlord/Empress plastic Zulu Warrior

I bought a box of Warlord Games new plastic Zulus last week and managed to get one painted over the weekend.  I will review the contents of the box another time but now I will just give my initial impressions.

Empress metal and Warlord/Empress plastic

Firstly, how compatible are they with my existing figures?  Most of my Zulus are Empress Minatures metals sculpted by Paul Hicks. Frankly, the latter are my least favourite of the four manufacturers  I own, although they are the most historically accurate as regards clothing; including, for example, the clay pipes that Zulu warriors often carried about their heads.  The anatomy of the Empress metals is rather odd but my real problem with them is their size: they just aren't big enough to be Zulus (European eyewitness accounts constantly refer to the large size of the Zulus).  The new plastics are much more imposing, however.

Wargames Factory and Warlord/Empress plastics

In size they are much closer to the Wargames Factory plastics but look less ungainly as Warlord have included the top half of the arm with the legs and torso sculpt.  The Wargames factory ones suffer from plastic figure zombie arms.  However, in order to achive a seamless fit of the forearms (which often include moulded on weapons and shields), they have added an armband on the figures.  These plain armbands do not appear on any pictures of Zulus I have ever seen and so historical accuracy has been sacrificed in favour of ease of construction.

L to R: Warlord/Empress plastic, Wargames Factory plastic, Empress metal, Foundry metal

The Foundry Zulus are based on Mark Copplestone's Darkest Africa sculpts and are the biggest of the four manufacturers figures but I think they have the micest anatomy and easily the most natural looking poses.

The Warlord figure was easy to paint although the armband on one arm didn't line up underneath.  I'm not sure about the textured shields either and I think I prefer the Wargames Factory ones which are also thinner.  The Warlord shields are as thick as a metal one.  I also found it difficult to position the shield in a way that the poor Zulu could actually see where he was going.  Also the bases are very wide which meant I had to place this first one diagonally across my 20mm square base.  Next time I will trim the base first.  The weapons for the Warlord figures are much better with the binding on the spears being modelled accurately (and uniquely for any of the figures I have).

I bought the married regiment with their headrings.  The unmarried figures are modelled in full dress which would have been most unusual for a group of warriors taking the field.  In their leaflet inside the box Warlord claim that younger warriors were more inclined to wear full regalia in action.  Frankly, this is nonsense and is typical of the GW-style marketing speak that we get from this otherwise estimable company.

I will try to get some more figures painted up and look at the full content of the box shortly.  All in all though, my response if favourable without them being, as I had hoped, perfect. Surprisingly I don't see myself abandoning the Wargames Factory ones I have (as I thought I would) but I won't be buying any more Empress metals, except for leaders and characters. 

Now all I have to do is decide which regiment this new figure is going to be the first of!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Isandlwana at Colours

I was most impressed by the one to one Isandlwana display at Colours at Newbury last week.  The figures weren't that brlliantly painted but the sheer number (around 3,000) gave an excellent idea of what a small (!) colonial engagement looked like.

It certainly gave me pause for thought as regards how many figures I needed to paint to to recreate this batttle.  I have been thinking about 1/10 but this set-up offered 1/1 as regards numbers.

Isandlwana, as a wargames refight, is really about recreating small segments of the battle at a company level, I think, and this vast version really gave me an overall view on how this might be broken down into individual elements.

In a way it was rather like the Gripping Beast/Grand Manner Gallipoli set up at Salute this year in that it made such a definitive statement as to be beyond the capability of the ordinary gamer to reproduce.  Nevertheless I will have a good go at producing some more figures.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Zulu War Meerkat

I saw this in a local garden centre last weekend and should have bought it; although he is carrying what looks like a Lee-Enfield rather than a Martini Henry.  The black facings come from the film Zulu, I think, where the recent digital remastering has turned what was a very dark green into black on the otherwise stunning looking blu ray.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

First unmarried Zulu regiment completed: the umCijo

The black shielded umCijo (the sharp pointed) regiment (also known as the oKhandempemvu) formed part of the central "chest" at Isandlwana. There were 2,500 of them at the battle and their unmarried regiment was made up of 28 year olds who were heavily involved in the central attack. Indeed, they were so keen they actually false started the attack and had to be brought back. The induna of the umCijo was Mkhosana kaMvundlana who was instrumental in getting the Zulu centre moving again after their initial attack was stalled by the volleys of the British, although he was killed in the resultant charge as the Zulus poured out of the dongas where they had been sheltering. Nevertheless, it was this action that drove the British line back to the camp.

They also formed the left horn at Khambula and formed part of the 12,000 warriors under Chief Somopho at Gingindlovu.

The Sword and the Flame units are twenty figures but the umCijo made up over 10% of the Zulu army at Isandlwana so I will probably paint another twenty figures to join them.  I also need a figure to represent the inspirational Mkhosana.

Most of these figures are Empress miniatures but there are a few of the new Foundry figures in there too.  The younger warriors tended to have the smaller shields so I have given them the smaller Zulu shields that Empress helpfully sell seperately.

Next I will paint a brown shield regiment but am not sure which one yet.  I have two more units of twenty based and ready for undercoating.  As with my Sudan force I am probably aiming at an army of around three hundred all together, which at the current rate will take about fifteen years!  The problem is that Zulus just aren't quick to paint!