The Navy’s Here!

Part of this month’s painting challenge over at Azazel’s Bitz Box is “Squad! March!” and this involves finishing off a wargames unit.  In a stroke of extremely good planning, I started the last figures in this unit in February, since they’d been sadly neglected and fitted into that month’s Neglected Model challenge, but since I didn’t finish them until this month they fall nicely into the current challenge!  If only Brexit had been planned that well!


These are sailors from a Royal Navy Naval Brigade, those ad hoc formations that were used to enforce Britain’s will in the 19th Century in foreign parts at short notice.  I use them as part of my Allied forces operating in China in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion.  I’ve had this unit on the go for years, but these are the last four figures and they’ve waited around a while to get finished.  They’re 20mm British sailors in landing rig from Newline Designs and are from their Zulu War range.  The jerseys and trousers are painted in Humbrol enamels, something rare for my figures these days – this is because the Humbrol Oxford Blue seems well suited to navy blue in this scale, whereas the Vallejo shade appears slightly purple.


My Naval Brigade is only a small unit of 15 sailors fighting as riflemen, plus an officer, a Maxim machine gun crew and a 4.7″ naval gun crew.  The figures are a mixed bunch, with most of them being plastic figures by HäT (from their Gardner Gun set) plus a couple of SHQ Austrian sailors from their Boxer Rebellion range.


The Maxim gun crew are from the HäT set, while the gun is a Newling Gatling carriage with a Maxim gun mounted on it.  The 4.7″ gun and crew are by Spencer Smith miniatures and are relatively old figures that have remained in production.


Naval 4.7″ guns were mounted on improvised carriages during the Boer War but in China the smaller 12-pounder gun was used (pulled by horse/mule teams using limbers built by ship’s crews I think I’ve read somewhere), although a single Royal Navy 4.7″ gun was landed.  It apparently never saw action but I wasn’t going to let that stop me, particularly since the 4.7″ gun has a definite “nobody messes with me” look about it!  The limber is a Newline American Civil War item – I use representative two-horse teams for limbers, but there’s no way they could pull a gun that size.  I’ve got a diecast traction engine stashed away somewhere that I could use to provide a more capable and “modern” prime mover for this gun.

The traction engine provides a clue as to why I wanted to get these sailors finished.  I want to also use them in a Victorian Science Fiction setting, where they can act as marines landing from airships or as crews for steam tanks.  My VSF project has been long-planned but still needs to get off the ground, so I’m hoping a Naval Brigade is the force to do that!


  1. Nice work John – I particularly like the limber with the extended base for the gun. Makes sense you can just pop the gun on there when he limbers up. I am always building double guns – one limbered and one with crew. I should look at such an alternative.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Will! I tend to make most limbers like that now since it makes it easy to move the team round. I had originally intended to make different riders to sit on the limbers as well, so that one limber can be used for a couple of armies at least, but that never seems to have happened. I tend to size the base for the largest gun that will get towed as well, so the one shown just takes the 4.7″ gun but is spot on for a Japanese 105mm howitzer in WW2.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. As an Army guy, I was very impressed with these Navy guys. The Humbrol blue really worked well on the uniforms and I echo the above comments on the piece and limber. These obviously waited for you to finish them well!

    Liked by 1 person

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