Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Battle in the Sudan-Part 2: Gunboats!

The British relief force steams up the Nile towards Atbara. The small gunboat Merak in the lead, with the Safeih and the large steamer Mizar following.

The debut of the gunboats today! I've been steadily working on a small fleet of Nile gunboats over the past few months in between new baby, teaching and a trip to Europe. I decided to scratchbuild the gunboats since I really enjoyed ship modeling in my younger days so it gave me a chance to try my hand at some simple sturdy gaming models to ferry the Royal Marines and the stalwart Sudanese to the battlefield. A little research on the internet reaped some great examples from other gamers as well as a few historical images that I could work from. (for example the nice Wasatch Front Historical Gaming Society site)

The converted river steamer Mizar armed with a formidable 4.5 inch deck gun, packed to the railings with Royal Marines and a party of '"bluejackets"...and those nutty-but-effective dried bean sandbags!

All three of these models are constructed by laying out a hull profile on two 1/4" layers of foamcore, and then building op a superstructure with white Strathmore board (from an art shop). Strathmore is great for this kind of modeling because it cuts very cleanly and can take a color wash of acrylic to get a good deck color windows and such without warping. The sheet of Strathmore is the most expensive part of the model but one sheet (about 5.00 USD) does the whole fleet with lots of leftover for future projects. Here are a few pics of the construction just to give you a sense of how they were constructed. The only factory produced part on the boats were some lengths of HO scale plastic stairs that I had bought a while ago at a model railroad shop. Smoke stacks are plastic tubing from Evergreen except for the small boat which is part of a ballpoint pen barrel.

The decking is drawn on Strathmore board in pencil and then stained a light tan with thinned acrylic. The pencil shows through the wash and looks like a ship deck to me ;)

Wheel houses constructed of Strathmore with window detail drawn on...

Small gunboat with sidewheel housing made of cut down cardboard boxes.

Small sidewheeler gunboat with a single Maxim mounted in the bow.

All of the guncastings mounted on the steamers are from Houston's Ships (sold by Old Glory) and are mounted on washer bases and placed on the decks loose so the ships can be armed differently for each battle.

This gunboat is loosely based on existing images of the gunboat Safeih and carries a party of bluejackets and a company of Sudanese. The boat is armed with a Maxim crewed by RN bluejackets in the bow.

The gunboats were all sized to hold a standard unit (10-20 figures) or a half unit so the boats are exaggerated in their width to accomidate the bases. The bases of all the Naval Landing party are sized small to allow the units to fit on the decks. You can see the difference between sizes in this shot of the Sudanese and the bluejackets.

4.5 inch main gun of the converted steamer Mizar ( a fictitious name after the star in the handle of the Big Dipper that traditionally was used by Arab tribes to test the eyesight of their sons...Mizar is a double star faintly visible to a good pair of eyes on a dark night)

Sudanese on deck prepared to land.

The gunboat Merak closes in to clear the landing point...and the battle begins!

The Mahdists at the landing frantically try to get their supply dhow underway to head up river to safety...


jmilesr said...

I like the look of your boats - it's a nice combination of functionality and a bit cartoonish - they really came out well. My son is using your box fort technique to build a fort for his Space marines over the Christmas break.

Have a Merry Christmas / happy holidaies

Fitz-Badger said...

Great pics of the boats in action and under construction! I love these boats. Great idea to mount the guns on washers, too.

Happy Holidays!

Bluebear Jeff said...

Bravo, sir! These all three look GREAT!

Would it be too much to ask you for the dimensions of the various ships?

They really look superb! I know that I'd love to see something like them on my table.

-- Jeff

Mad Carew said...

Oh those boats are superb! Great work.

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

I find all possible comments have already been uttered, but I'll say t anyway... these are excellent, just excellent...

I must get the Sudanese out over the Christmas period!!

tidders said...

Superb boats !

-- Allan