Friday, May 14, 2010

Woods Northern Column Prepares

My first foray in to painted figures was some *ahem* years ago as a teenager. One of my favourite films as a kid was Zulu. A stirring tale of British grit, and a generally fair portrayal of the noble Zulu’s too. When ESCI released sets of Zulu war figures in 20mm I went and got as many as I could afford, and gathered the paints to brutalise them with my first clumsy attempts at art.

Thankfully no photo’s survive, but to be fair they weren’t too bad, the British seemed to take an eternity, and gave me an early aversion to uniforms which took a long time to get over. The Zulu’s were a complete cheat, as they were moulded in a dark brown plastic which allowed me to paint only the details!

Eventually they got sold on, but I always loved the period and it’s history, and it was one I wanted to return to. Around ten years ago I bought both sides in 15mm instead, focusing on Brevet Colonel Wood’s Northern column, rather than the doomed main column or rather passive Southern column. The models were Essex for the British and a mixture of Essex and Gallia for the Zulu’s.

Painting 200+ Zulu’s proved the easy part, though another hundred or so await attention. Black spray paint and an assortment of drybrushed brown skin tones left only loincloths weapons and shields to do. The issue was again the British; ten years ago uniforms still weren’t my strong point. I got through about 40 figures and stopped.

Another problem was rules, nothing really inspired me. The arrival of Black Powder has changed that, and particularly their sample battle set in the Zulu War.

Reading the rules I harked back to my collection of models languishing on a shelf and wondered how much I’d need to add to get a scenario going, it turned out to be not that much! I selected to add another unit of foot, two artillery pieces and two commanders

All painted from a black base, the new models were augmented by a combination of black lining, highlighting and layering techniques; which written down seems a bit much for 15mm figures; I guess I’ve painted too many 28mm models now, but the coats didn’t look right without three layered highlights in places!

The infantry unit itself is a company of the 13th Somerset Light Infantry. My modelling of the Northern Column transposes companies into units, so that a full field battalion (and the column was only of one and a half battalions in regular foot troops) is represented by 48 men. Below are a couple of the commanders for the 90th foot, the main infantry regiment in the column.

Some fine work in 15mm I think.
Here is the British force in full as it stands so far, about half of the final column strength, not including native troops. 3 companies of the 90th Foot, the 13th Light, two Royal Horse Artillery 7 pounders, Natal Light Horse and commanders.
Adequate to trial the Black Powder rules; especially when facing this lot:

Just over 200 Zulu’s, in four clans. The formations allow flexibility to represent standard units as 16 models, or my preference, 24. Large warbands of well disciplined warriors to charge down the thin red lines of those British ‘red shirts’.

Their first foray on the battlefield is scheduled for a few days from now. A return to a period I have long wanted to pursue.

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