I’m imagining that some Sherlock Holmes fans have spotted this post and gone away disillusioned! This post has nothing to do with that great Victorian detective (although I’m a big fan of his) and instead refers to the Great Game! The Great Game is not a reference to football, or even wargaming, but instead refers to (according to Wikipedia) the “political and diplomatic confrontation that existed for most of the 19th century” between Great Britain and Russia over spheres of influence in Asia. As Russia extended her control over territory to her south east, including Afghanistan, Britain was concerned about encroachment towards, and the security of, British India.
Britain’s concerns for the security of her empire led to the two wars with Afghanistan in the 19th Century, both started by Great Britain and both accompanied by military setbacks for her (and in one instance, “setback” meant “disaster”). In my previous post I outlined how I’d started painting some Afghan forces in the late 1990s for the Second Afghan War that I subsequently gave up on but have now come back to! This post outlines the progress I made back then and where I think I’ll be going with this and my intention is to add posts as I feel like I’ve made progress, which doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll have painted much!
20mm wargaming has always tended to be a less popular scale except for the WW2 and modern periods, so back in the ’90s it was more difficult to get the figures I needed for this project compared to nowadays. By the outbreak of the Second Afghan War in 1878 the Afghan army contained regular uniformed infantry, cavalry and artillery units, backed up by irregular/tribal militias. It was easier to get irregular troops as ESCI produced a plastic 1/72 scale “Muslim Warriors” set and Raventhorpe Miniatures made a small range of North West Frontier tribesmen, a mixture of which I got painted (see below).
These were painted back in the ’90s and I’ll use them as they are (if I remember correctly three of them are Italian colonial infantry as well but they fit in well enough). Regular troops were more of an issue and had to be converted from what was available (see below).
Regular infantry in Turcoman fur caps (three left-hand figures in each row plus the officer in the centre – the back three are shaded but not yet layered) were converted from B & B Miniatures Russian Civil War infantry by adding hats from Milliput. Artillery crewmen (right-hand three figures in the rear row) were just Qualiticast Zulu War British gunners painted as Afghan regulars. The remaining five figures in “kilts” are Afghan Highland Guard and are shown in more detail below.
These were ESCI Zulu War British infantry upper bodies stuck onto some very old Airfix Waterloo Highland infantry lower bodies with some of their pouches moved to suit. I seem to remember the Airfix figures being on the brittle side so I mounted them on square card bases for lightness. There is a lot of uncertainty over the uniforms, but I opted to follow Ian Heath’s description of them in Wargames Illustrated and go with green jackets, although these are usually shown with black felt hats being worn. The “kilt” has also been described as more like a tablecloth and I think these figures look about right.
So I’ve dug out some old magazines and Men-At-Arms books and added a couple of Afghan Wars books for good measure (shown below). The magazines have quite a bit of detail in them so overall I’m quite well off for info.
So what’s to do next? Well I’ve planned out the units I want to do and bought the figures from Newline Designs. This will not be a big army and I’ve already got my old figures as a good starting point. I’m planning to have:
A two-man HQ
Three 10-man regular infantry battalions (seven figures already painted)
One 10-man Highland Guard battalion (five figures already painted). I reckon I can convert the remaining figures from Newline Designs Sudan War Scottish Highlanders.
One six-man regular cavalry regiment
One regular artillery battery (three figures already painted)
One regular camel gun unit (not sure if they were still in use in 1878 but couldn’t resist it – my armies are short on camels!)
Four five-man irregular skirmishing units (15 figures already painted)
I’ll probably add another cavalry unit as well, either regular or irregular, although I think my aversion to painting cavalry is well publicised!
At some point someone is going to ask the question “what about their opposition then?” and that’s where I come unstuck! My plan is to use my Boxer Rebellion British Empire troops against the Afghans in a historical context. Khaki uniforms had been introduced by the British to some degree before the Second Afghan War, so my later period Empire troops don’t look out of place (and I’m not too bothered about that). Otherwise, in another timeline, the Afghan army can fight off Martian invaders!