Saturday, 9 July 2016

And now for something completely different ! - Part 3

I had no intention of having a part 3 regarding the expedition to Oamaru, but somehow the photo of the fantastic estate barn disappeared when I published part 2. Never mind, I'll put that down to driver error on my part.

The barn at Kuriheka, with the 32-room homestead on the hill in the distance. I reckon this medieval-looking barn would be unique in New Zealand and has the look of a 13th century manor house with its Gothic windows.

Next up will be photos of the latest elements of James ll's army in Ireland to come off the painting table.

Until next time!  

And now for something completely different ! - Part 2

Apologies, but until now, real life has got in the way of posting the second part of my expedition to the Oamaru Steampunk Festival last Queen's Birthday weekend. Apart from the fun of exploring the historical Victorian quarter of Oamaru, while admiring the imagination of those who put together some incredible Steampunk costumes, my final day there also provided a bit of a lesson in New Zealand colonial history.

The ornate architecture of the limestone-facade Victorian buildings with their Etruscan columns along the main street of the town, as well as the warehouses near the port, remain proof of the wealth and opulence within Otago society during the colonial era of the 19th century. This wealth initially came through the Otago gold rushes of the 1860s, but was cemented through the development of pastoral agriculture based on sheep. There were a number of large sheep stations surrounding Oamaru, where the run-holders became rich on wool production, and later by the refrigerated export of sheep meat to Britain.

One such rich run-holder was Joseph Cowie Nichols (a.k.a. Cowie Nichols CBE), who in 1885 bought the 12,545 hectare Kuriheka Station inland from Maheno, just south of Oamaru. Although born in the colonies, like many New Zealanders of the landed-gentry class at the time, Nichols was sent to England for his formal education where he studied at Oxford.

On his return he settled into the life of a gentleman farmer and community leader, which saw him serve as an officer in the NZ Volunteer Force. By 1914 he was lieutenant-colonel in command of the 5th (Otago Hussars) Mounted Rifles. The badge that this regiment adopted and wore overseas during the First World War includes a shield of the Nichols family coat-of-arms in the centre. However, Nichols was considered too old for overseas service at the time and he remained in New Zealand in command of the Territorial troops of the Otago province.

After the war Nichols built a substantial memorial to the 83 'servants' from the Kuriheka estate who served overseas during the Great War, which included 21 who were either killed or died during the conflict. Nichols' own son (with the same name) was killed while serving as a rifleman in the Canterbury Infantry Regiment on the Western Front in October 1916 and is included on the memorial. The memorial is surrounded by a number of field artillery pieces from the colonial era and the First World, including captured German Krupp field guns and trench mortars. Somewhere along the way Nichols also acquired two 64-pounder rifled muzzle loading coastal defence guns that had previously been part of the Taiaroa Head defences. These guns have been placed in an open field at the entrance of the estate, which is open to the public.

Although located in the back-blocks on rural New Zealand, I almost felt that I could have been visiting a manor house estate in England or Scotland from the style of the buildings. These were all built from limestone blocks in the neo-baronial style, including a substantial barn that has Gothic windows. Very impressive and a statement of wealth and achievement, which I'm sure was the intention when first built.

We couldn't travel to Oamaru without a visit to this iconic location, only a 20 minute ride in the car from the seaside port town. Hence, the New Munster Steam Fusiliers took the photographic opportunity to record our visit for prosperity. I highly recommend a visiting Kuriheka if you get a chance.  
Major Reginald Ogilvie VC and his memsahib astride one of the 64 pounder RML guns at Kuriheka. 

Ogilvie of the New Munster Steam Fusiliers sighting the enemy target.

Major Sherlock-Brown adopting a martial pose.

Attempting to look like a pair of  colonial officers of the NZ Volunteers

Ogilvie looking for fuzzy wuzzies to shoot with the breech loading field gun behind, but I tried to tell him they only had a few drunken & rebellious gold miners to deal with in this neck of the woods. 

A captured WW1 German mortar in front of the estate's memorial
The memorial with captured German field guns and mortars. Nichols was an avid collector of all things military, including a collection of 624 military service medals - believed to be the largest private collection in NZ. 
One of the historic out-buildings of the estate

The New Munster Steam Fusiliers on their walk-about in the Victorian quarter of Oamaru

Ogilvie and Sherlock-Brown looking a bit sepia outside the old whisky distillery in the Victorian quarter 
Nothing like a whisky or two to put a bit of colour back into your life. I couldn't help myself from having a fiddle with Photoshop with this image. 

Normal wargaming service will now resume.
Until next time! 

Sunday, 12 June 2016

And now for something completely different! - Part 1

Turning 50 can make people do some strange and unusual things. When I reached a half century earlier this year I promised myself, that instead of just celebrating on my birthday, that I would make it a year of celebration by doing out-of-the-ordinary things. To this end I committed myself to attending the annual Queen's Birthday Weekend Steampunk Festival in Oamaru. Fellow Southern Strategist, Gavin Bowden (a.k.a Ogilvie VC in wargaming blogging circles), had taken part in this event on several occasions and convinced me that we could have a great weekend at the event dressed as Victorian era officers while also taking in the military sites of interest in Otago . To be honest, at the time I knew nothing about Steampunk and was only interested in the historical side of the trip. For the multitudes of those who know nothing of Steampunk, it's kind of like living history Victorian Science Fiction....inspired by the writings of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle and all those other Edwardian types who never lost their childhood imaginations.

I already had a collection of New Zealand militaria items that I could use, which included a white Foreign Service helmet sporting an original NZ Volunteers helmet plate and spike from the 1890s (purchased way back in my youth when I had no mortgage, wife or kids). What I lacked was a red tunic that fitted me. I had acquired a NZ Army Band tunic about 15 years ago, but for some strange reason it appeared to have shrunk over that time. Gavin came to the rescue when he discovered two large fitting Chelsea Pensioner coats at a local army surplus store. So, a few hundred dollars later and with some alterations from Jane, our very talented regimental seamstress, we were able to achieve the look we wanted.

One aspect of Steampunk is that you are encouraged to create a character to go along with the costume. Gavin had already established himself as Captain Reginald Ogilvie VC (with associated blog). With the Victorian theme in mind I came up with Major Septimus Sherlock-Brown of the New Munster Steam Fusiliers, late of the Kawatiri Field Force and mentioned in dispatches for lack of action in the Upper Buller Gorge. I got the name Septimus from a character from a Sharpe movie, while the double-barrel surname came from my maternal grandparents family names. I suggested to Gavin that we use 'New Munster' as a regimental name as this was the original name given to the South Island of New Zealand, while he came up with 'Steam Fusiliers'. Kawatiri is the Maori name for the Buller district where I originally hail from,while the use of the Buller Gorge added a hint of North West Frontier-type action celebrated in British Army history.
Major Septimus Sherlock-Brown, New Munster Steam Fusiliers, in parade dress. The only steampunk item is the goggles on the helmet.
Walking out dress and more suitable for visiting local hostelries. The swagger stick is adorned with a 50 mm shell and bullet. I even ignored the protests from my wife to re-grow my police-issue moustache to ensure the period look.  

 The weekend began with a 4.5 hour drive south to Dunedin to visit the fully restored gun emplacement at Taiaroa Head. Built in the 1880s at the height of the Russian invasion scare, the crowning jewel in the defensive position at the entrance to the Otago harbour mouth is the 6 inch breech-loading Armstrong disappearing gun, concealed within a earth parapet on an old Maori pa site on a hill. Cutting edge technology at the time it was installed in 1889, the gun was able to fire and disappear back into the gun pit below the surface so that the enemy ships had difficulty in destroying it. The gun had a range of 5 miles and a rate of fire of 1 round per minute. The barrel weighs 5 tonne and has a length of 17 feet 6 inches. The gun was raised through a pumped water and air ram system. On firing, the ram system was re-compressed as the gun recoiled into the gun pit for reloading. Advances in technology made the gun virtually obsolete by 1912 but it was still in operation until after the Second World War. It had a crew of 10 personnel and was fed from an ammunition magazine bunker below the gun. A very impressive piece of kit and well worth a visit if you find yourself in Dunedin with a couple of hours to spare.          

A model of the 6 inch Armstrong Breech-loading Disappearing Gun at Fort Taiaroa, Dunedin. 

The fully restored gun mounted below the top of the headland on the Otago Peninsula at the mouth of the Otago  harbour.

Note the measurements around the wall to assist the gunners in sighting the gun and the holes in the wall to allow the breech to be loaded.

The Mess diner of the New Munster Steam Fusiliers at the Criterion Hotel in the old Victorian quarter of Oamaru. We had booked a private room with a fire and rolled leather couches, which just added to the Victorian feel of the event. Of course, the evening was finished with rounds of Port and pipe smoking.    

Sherlock-Brown and Ogilvie VC outside the Criterion Hotel accompanied by Peter, dressed as the under-cover intelligence officer of the regiment.
Sherlock-Brown and Ogilvie sampling the local ale on the first night of our expedition to Oamaru. Hardly a hint of Steampunk-like dress on this occasion.

Part 2 to follow later.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Making woodland terrain pieces

Inspired by some terrain pieces made by local gamers here in Christchurch, I decided to have a crack at improving on the woodland terrain pieces I made earlier in the year. My first go at doing this involved using Woodland Scenics trees purchased from a local model shop. These turned out ok, but I ended up having to use super glue to permanently attach the foliage. One of the other Southern Strategists (Geoff Martin) suggested a cheaper and less messy option which involved buying bulk bags of ready-made trees from our local Christmas shop. These trees came in various sizes and were perfect for what I had in mind.
As you can see, I cut out three 6 mm mdf pieces and glued on the ready-made trees and pieces of bark from our garden to represent rocks. 

Geoff and I had previously dipped the trees in watered-down PVA glue and sprinkled fine flock over them to get a more realistic look.

Using a variety of sizes on each stand also gives a more realistic look. At this point I applied filler around the base of the trees.

The next step was to add sand to the bases to provide texture to the ground.

This was followed by a base coat of dark brown 'tester pot' paint which cost only $5 NZ.

I then dry brushed the bases. At this stage I gave the pieces of bark a dark, then light coats of grey paint to give the rock affect. 

Finally I used a brush to apply PVA glue over the bases, followed by sprinkling hobby grass to add realism. Note that I left some areas exposed. 

I also added some  rushes and flower foliage to add a little extra to the terrain.

This proved a cheap and easy way to make versatile terrain for my gaming table. The only problem is that other gamers in the city had the same idea and bought up the last stock the shop had of the trees. Never mind, I'll be making more of these once they have more in stock...I just hope I don't have to wait until next Christmas!

Until next time.    

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

AWI 28mm British Legion Infantry

Tarleton's British Legion of the American War of Independence has always been tagged with notoriety, primarily for actions in the battle of Waxhaws in the southern campaign. It was here that the Legion, and Tarleton himself, were criticized for slaughtering rebel soldiers after they had surrendered. The villainous British Loyalist cavalry officer in the movie The Patriot  (2000), superbly played by Jason Isaacs, was loosely based on Tarleton and I suspect this movie has reinforced the myth surrounding Tarleton and his troops.

Those interested in a more balanced view of the topic should  read Brutal Virtue: The Myth and Reality of Banastre Tarleton (2002) by American, Anthony J. Scotti Jnr.

I've had the mounted corps of the Legion painted up for a number of years and have only recently painted the Legion infantry. Information regarding the infantry uniform is minimal. I decided to base my troops on information found in records in the National Archives at Kew which have the troops wearing white trousers and waistcoats, along with light infantry caps. It's generally accepted that they wore green coats, in keeping with loyalist light infantry units, although some historians argue there is evidence to suggest they may have worn red coats at the battle of Cowpens (where the infantry element of the Legion was destroyed).    

I've used Front Rank British Light Infantry figures to depict my Legion infantry. However, I removed the feather tufts from the caps (except for the officer) to give a more common look. I used Vallejo 'Black Green' for the base of the coat, then dry brushed them with 'Flat Green.'

I also decided to add white shoulder lace, as opposed to black shoulder lace that I've seen others use on their Legion infantry. I think this has worked in providing a nice contrast to the dark green and black parts of the uniform, even if it may not be historically correct. Contemporary portraits prove that the officers of the Legion wore gold lace.

I now only have to paint up a Loyalist infantry battalion (in red coats) and two Hessian infantry units to finally complete my British force....14 years after I started it!

Until next time!

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Jacobite Dragoons - Lord Dongan's Regiment (mounted) in Ireland

It took a bit longer than anticipated, but I've finally finished off the mounted stands for Lord Dongan's Jacobite dragoons. These complement the dismounted stands for the same regiment from an earlier dispatch. The figures are Front Rank 28mm and, as usual, the foliage is from Rodger Wood Wargaming Enterprises. The flag is from the Warfare Miniatures range. I'll now concentrate on painting up four regiments of foot over the next few months so that I'll have the basis of a playable Jacobite force for the Southern Strategists demo game at Conquest in Christchurch in early November. One of the other blokes from our group is also painting up some units that will bolster the Jacobite force, which takes a bit of pressure off me.  

The next unit due off the painting table is the AWI British Legion infantry in 28mm.

Until next time!  

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Napoleonic French Division/ Corps Commander

The last pieces of wargaming work I finished in 2015 consisted of a mounted Divisional/ Corps command stand and a couple of terrain pieces. I was short of a proper senior command stand for my 28mm French Peninsula army so I thought it wouldn't take me long to paint one up. How wrong I was. I had the Front Rank and Brigade Games figures undercoated for months before I got around to finishing them off. However, I'm happy with the final result which is loosely based on Soult and his ADCs. Apparently Marshal Soult had an ADC who wore a yellow coat that would have made him stand out on the battlefield. The terrain pieces consist of a scratch-built fenced field and a cemetery using headstones from 4Ground. I'm not totally happy with the look of the headstones which might need a bit more dry brushing in 'Stone wall grey' to get the desired look.
A French general and his staff observing a battle 

The yellow-coated ADC and the gemeral are from Front Rank, while the two ADCs to the right are from Brigade Games

A scratch-built fenced field intended for my AWI and ACW games

The new versatile cemetery using 4Ground headstones 

Until next time!