Above is a pic of Lt. Colonel James Galbraith, Regimental Colour in hand, alongside Bobbie the regimental dog and some of the other "Last Eleven" survivors of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment, making their last stand in one of the walled gardens just South of Khig village, a few miles West of the Afghan town of Maiwand.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Kabul Cantonment c.1840 completed - FINALLY!!!

I think I started building this model in very late January or early February, and I put up my previous blog post -- detailing construction of the first 3 pieces -- on March 11th, about a month-and-a-half ago.  In a way this terrain piece feels like it has taken me forever to build, but I've been pretty busy with work, and my family took a brief vacation over Spring Break, so maybe it didn't take all that long after all.  The nature of the detailing of the "duckboard" walkways and support planks lining the interior of the earthworks made this a rather time-consuming project, but when I look back on what it took to build my "garden wood-chip" rocky hills, this was not really too bad.  I think the difference is that those hills are all pretty big, and cut a somewhat impressive and imposing figure, while these entrenchments are much slighter in appearance.  Still, even if they're relatively small, I'm happy to say I think they turned out rather nicely.  They could easily have been built in much less time, using a less detailed approach, and still have looked nice, but needless to say, for better and worse, that's just not really my style.

I've had some computer and iPhone photo issues, which helped keep me from posting more timely "WIP" updates as I was making progress.  For this post I am just showing pics of the finished product, but some day soon I will return with one of my over-wrought step-by-step posts, showing way too much of the building process!  The working hinged gates were a challenge, but I think they turned out pretty well in the end, and at least so far are standing up well to use.  I hit some other bumps in the road as well, but I'll save those for the illustrated "How To" post in the future.

Now I'm really itching to get some c.1840s British troops, whether converted or factory-made, painted up, so I can see what this thing looks like occupied by historically appropriate figures.  Towards that end I made a purchase on TMP of a collection of 48 unpainted Perry French "Retreat From Moscow" Infantry and dismounted Cavalry, which I plan to convert and paint up as British Infantry and dismounted Bengal Horse Artillery for the, "Retreat From Kabul" -- only in this scenario, rather than retreat, they will be attempting to fight their way to the Bala Hissar.  The Perry figures are quite splended, and I think by making a few head-swap conversions using Carlist BAL heads, they will turn out really great.

All of which will still leave me struggling with the last big challenge for this project: WINTER!

Will I permanently Winterize... or just sprinkle model snow over everything?  At the very least I'm certain I will use snow effects when I base those British figures.  Since they are all wearing greatcoats and wrapped up in blankets, it would be pointless not to.  But beyond that I still don't know.

Anyway, that's more than enough meandering, so without further ado, on to some pics of the completed British Kabul Cantonments, c.1840-1842...


View of the completed entrenched encampment, seen from the East...


(NOTE: the road to Kohistan was in reality on the opposite, Western, side of the Cantonments, but it worked better on this side for the layout.  There was however a second Gate on the Eastern side of the Camp -- same as in the model above -- which is the gate the British exited from en route to their doomed march South.)


Reverse view, from the West...


(I may build another 2 round corner Bastions, another pair of short straight pieces and another gate, so I'll have a truly "complete" Cantonment to use for various other scenarios.  I've been encouraged to do so by a close gaming friend, and I agree it would make a lot of sense, but... it's a lot of work!)

I made a point of making the gate high enough for camels and elephants, both of which were present with the Anglo-Indian army stationed outside Kabul during the First Afghan War... 



(NOTE: As I said above, I'll post again with all the details
on the build, but in case anyone is dying to know, I used
dollhouse hinges, bought at my local hobby shop)

A Union Jack and c.1840 version of the HEIC flag, courtesy of Rick O'Brien, aka: "FLAG DUDE"...




The Cantonments were really filled with barracks buildings constructed by the British, not tents, but I don't have any "Indian Bungalow" style buildings to use for that purpose.  I may buy or attempt to build a few.  It is howver possible, maybe even probable, that when the walls were first completed, but before the barracks were built, tents were used to house the troops.  Anyway, as temporary model housing goes, they pass muster in my book...





Flanking the guard posts on both sides of the gate are lined with mud-brick walls...





(NOTE: I may paint over the hinges with BLACK
and then GUNMETAL or STEEL or even BRASS.)






North-East corner Bastion...


South-East corner Bastion...


A benefit of designing and building this project in component parts rather than one big permanently modelled piece is that in the future it will be possible to rearrange the pieces in different ways for other scenarios, a sloppy version of which can be glimpsed here...



Back to the front gate...



And one last view rearranged for the scenario...


Last thing to say is that these past few months I've mentioned to my gaming friends several times that when I was done building this things, we'd get together again to refight the "Bala Hissar or Bust!" game -- which makes me even happier for having finished it!





Friday, March 11, 2016

Halfway to the Kabul Cantonment (c.1840)

A while back when I set up the terrain for my "Bala Hissar or Bust!" scenario, I wasn't paying much attention to the British Cantonment located outside the walls of Kabul.  I looked for some 18th Century earthworks I added to my collection years ago, to use for the walls.  I didn't know if I had enough to cover the entire perimeter, but I wasn't able to find them anyway (I think they are with some hobby stuff in storage), so I looked for some walls, which I had a large collection of.  They wouldn't have been perfect but would have worked for the game... except I couldn't find them either.  ARGHHH!!!  So I ended up using a set of Rorke's Drift style mealie bags -- which I had just enough of, thank goodness -- to lay out the perimeter of the Cantonments.  It worked for the game but obviously was not even close to an accurate representation of the earthwork walls with round bastions at the corners of the real British Cantonments erected in 1840 and abandoned by the ill-fated British and Indian army and its many civilian camp-followers in January 1842.

Needless to say, when that first play-test game -- which was a lot of fun and which I hope to refight multiple times -- ended, it didn't take long for me to start obsessing over how best to provide a more historically accurate version of the British "start-point" for the game.

I poured over the various First Afghan War history books in my collection, and the First Afghan War chapters in other books, employed my Google-Fu, and even posted a question to the Victorian Wars Forum -- which happily garnered several responses, including one by noted author  Colonel Mike Snook.

I got some new info on the environs of Kabul, but sadly no new info regarding the Cantonments themselves.  Still, I already had enough to start trying to source an appropriate commercially made model...

I found one strong contender on eBay -- a series of very nice looking generic earthwork entrenchments made by Red Dragon Gaming in the UK (visit their well-designed and easy to navigate website by clicking HERE), usable for games from Medieval to Modern times...

But  unfortunately the details on some of the individual component pieces and how they fit together didn't work that well for my purposes, and though fairly priced they were not inexpensive... it seemed a bit silly to spend so much on something that in the end would not be quite right.  I found some other commercial terrain choices also, but none were really as good as that first choice from Red Dragon, so... I decided to build it myself.

I hadn't planned on and really did not particularly want to build it for myself, but for whatever reason, that's what I decided to do.

It's been about 3 weeks since I started the building process, and I'm about halfway done, having completed 3 out of 6 earthwork entrenchment sections needed.  When that's all done I'll build a section for the wooden entryway, which I managed to find a real world prototype for during my online search, which I think may turn out pretty well.

Here's the camp entranceway reference photo I found:


It shows a reconstructed gate of FORT WARD, built by the Union Army in Alexandria, Virginia, early in the American Civil War.  The gates will be higher to allow for entry and exit by camel and elephant, as well as lower-to-the-ground men and horses.

When I'm done with the 28mm scale version of that gate, I may push on and build another 2 round corner bastions and another pair of entrenchments for the Cantonment's Western wall, which is left off the table in the current layout, for use in future games.  Having at that point finished the other two-thirds or so of the entire fortification, it would be nice to finish the rest, as I think it could be useful for some other early to mid-19th Century conflicts, including battles such as Puebla from the French Intervention in Mexico.

The last big question will be how to paint and finish these pieces, as I'm building them for a game set in the depth of a harsh Afghan Winter.  A big part of me will want to add snow to the whole deal... but a more farsighted part will want to keep it consistent with the rest of my Afghan/Arid terrain, and just dust it with some temporary model snow like the rest of the table probably will be.  But I'll cross that bridge over the snow -- or no snow -- when I come to it, which won't be for at least a little while yet.

I took a couple of wrong turns in the road during the course of this build, from which I had to double back.  At least one is explicitly on view below, where I created what I came to see as TOO WIDE an entryway to the corner bastion.  Luckily for me the materials in use -- styrofoam and balsa wood -- allow for some recalibration!

NOTE: the bases for the terrain pieces below are all cut with scissors from inexpensive self-adhesive vinyl floor tile.

Like MacArthur, I shall return -- not to the Phillipine Islands, but with a follow-up post when I'm done with the second half of the Kabul Cantonment, hopefully in the near future!

FAIR WARNING: there are A LOT OF PICS below...