By JACK SCRUBY
The following article is re-printed from: Miniature Parade (Volume II Number I – August 1968) – with minor edits to remove outdated material concerning the castings.
I stood on the highest hill overlooking the valley. A hundred feet before me on the slope, the long, thin red lines stood calmly. Glancing to my left I spotted the green coats of the Rifles; the green facings on the red jackets of the 24th Foot; to my right stood the Gordons, in their white helmets and gay tartans. Each man was checking his rifle, polishing his bayonet, or just standing calmly in the morning sun watching the approach of the ZULUS!
In the valley below, advancing swiftly upon our position was a black sea of manpower, covered by great white and dark shields, with masses of colored feathers swaying to the rhythm of the advance. It was the Zulu Impi, and seeing it, my heart sank a little. Could we hold off this mass of humanity? Would bullets be enough to stop the great crescent advancing towards us? Could our Mounted Infantry, holding the extreme right flank, deal with the horn of the crescent? Could the Royal Marines on our left handle the attempt to outflank our line s? Should we be in square to meet this threat or in fire lines as our commander had ordered?
And then, to the rear of the great mass of natives, one could make out the dirt brown color of the mercenary German troops – and there on the left, the white uniforms of the Italians! You might well ask, “Are you talking about the Zulu War?”
My answer, of course, is “No”. ‘For this is no real battle, but a gigantic war game using miniature soldiers! I happened to be in command of the British forces, and my esteemed opponent has the natives and a hard core of mercenary white troops consisting of “renegade” German and Italian regulars. It’s all for fun; really no blood will be shed – but – as any war gamer knows, the sight of an advancing army upon your position – even if the soldiers are only 25mm in size – can freeze your blood!
This is the feeling I get when I play war games of the African Colonial Expansion period. I am THERE; faced with all the decisions Lord Chelmsford must have had in 1879 in Zululand when the small British army faced the terrible and bloodthirsty Zulu nation.
Those of you who have read of my “adventures” in the African wars will know that I am a nut for this period of military history. I have pretty complete war game armies in 40mm and 30mm scale, and a massive force in 25mm which I love the best. War games with this army are fought with as many as 800 model soldiers to a side on my 12ft by 6ft table top. Our rules are very satisfactory and are still based on the original rules laid down in “Table Top Talk” quite a few years back. And most of all, I love the work and research involved in designing new 25mm model soldier s of all the armies of this fascinating period.
Although I offer soldier s of the Zulu War of 1879 in 30mm scale, it was not until recently that I worked in 25mm scale, for, frankly, information on the Zulu army was sketchy, until an article by Donald Morris appeared in Number 23 of “Tradition” some time back. Mr. Morris, the author of the book “The Washing of the Spears”, at last had pretty definitive information on the uniforms of the Zulu regiments, which were included in the Tradition story.
My information for the British forces was obtained mainly from a copy of a booklet written by A. Newell Chamber1in, entitled “The Zulu War, 1879”, which I had long ago mimeographed and sent out with an issue of “War Game Digest”. It contained not only a very good history of the campaign, but includes complete color guide s for all the British forces, including the Colonial units who fought alongside them.
I really went to work with enthusiasm on the British troops, for to my way of thinking the uniform worn in the field in this war represents the finest tradition of the British army. I love the sun helmets, the red coats, the dark blue pants, the white belts and the Wellington boots the regulars wore. And what could be more colorful than the Highlanders, the Royal Scots Fusilier s or the 60th Rifles? And how about the Colonial troops; the Alexandria Mounted Rifles, the Natal Carbineers, the Frontier Light Horse? What a war game army!
The Zulus were a different story. Let’s face it; it’s tough to make a near naked figure in 25mm scale – especially when one also has to contend with a 4 foot shield! But, eventually, I got started…
SOME NOTES ON THE ZULU ARMY
Before he was twenty, a young male Zulu was drafted into a regiment of about a thousand boys of his same age and from his same district. Each regiment had its own kraal where all lived together, and they were linked together until death. Thus each regiment in the Zulu army consisted at all times of men of the same age; the older the men, the greater the status of the regiment.
Weapons were simple – one or two throwing spears (assegia), a short stabbing spear (much like a Roman sword) and the protective shield. Strategy was nihl, an impi being raised (composed of several regiments or more) for a specific fight, after which it broke up and returned home. Tactics were to move in a huge crescent so as to outflank the enemy with the “horns”, while the reserve (the loins) stayed behind the center. This formation was great against other native tribes, but was suicide against trained British squares. The Zulu warrior knew only hand to hand fighting, and their objective was to close with the enemy and use their deadly stabbing assegia against him.
Basically every regiment wore the same “uniform “, the identification of individual units being the color of the shields and the elaborate head dress. Most men wore coverings of white cow tails over chest and back and on their legs, and skins of small animals around their loins. The head piece, to which was attached the elaborate feather decorations, was generally a leopard or otter – skin band, set over a monkey skin cap which had neck and ear flaps.
In general then, each regiment could be distinguished by its shield color and pattern, by the age of the men, and the decorations upon the head.
25mm SCRUBV MINIATURES OF ZULU WARRIORS
Casting J -212: inDuna, 46 years, attacking with knob-kerrie.
An inDuna was actually a “leader” (sergeant, officer, etc.) and this casting can be used this way, or as a regular of an older mans regiment. His age is shown by the isiCoco (head ring worn by married men). The knob-kerrie was a stick with a heavy burl attached to the end, used to brain your enemy.
Casting J -213: inJobamakhosi Regiment warrior 25 years old. Attacking with stabbing assegia.
Wears a leopard skin head band, green monkey skin cap with white feathers; and a black and red spotted shield.
Casting J -214: inDlu-yengwe Warrior 29 years old. Charging on one leg with knobkerrie.
Leopard skin band, black ostrich feathers, green monkey skin cap, black shield with one white spot below center.
Casting J -215: uNokenke Regiment warrior 31 years old. Throwing assegia.
Wears a leopard skin headband, vari-colored feathers and a green monkey skin cap. He carries a black shield.
Casting J-216: uDududu Regiment warrior 36 years old. Firing musket.
The Zulus used muskets but were terrible marksmen. For war game purposes it seemed only fitting that some natives have missile weapons! This fellow is dressed with otter-skin head band, multi-colored feathers, green monkey skin cap, and the shield of this regiment was black with white spots.
In our native contingents in our war game army, the new Zulu regiments are considered to have “guard” status, for they knew no fear. With the Zulus joining the action in our miniature wars, you can be sure that when I stand upon my hill top, I will be watching for the Zulus, and it is at this point you’ll find old General Scruby massing his best troops and greatest firepower. I don’t want those babies to get into my ranks!