Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sudan Officer Material

The paintbrushes have been flashing in Steve-the-Wargamers wargames room (which in my house is also known as the loft...), as I apply paint to some figures that have been found to be seriously missing in my recent Sudan games... Imperial command figures.

My Sudan rules allow for three levels of command, but happily only two of which need to be represented on the table, namely senior commanders (second level) and brigadier commanders (top level); the other level of command is assumed to be present within the unit as represented. Up until now I haven't had any officer figures, but the brief flurry of activity has gone a little way towards remedying this...

In my rules brigadier commanders control small groups of units (up to five usually), senior commanders command the force in its entirety. The following figures are painted to represent those officers from the British army seconded to the Egyptian army from 1883 onwards to oversee it's training, so will probably command groups of Egyptian or Sudanese troops..
..having said that, officers in the Sudan seemed to have a fair amount of leeway in the uniform stakes, so I might very well press them into service to command British troops as well.

Together with a hard core of veteran British NCO's, these officers were so successful that they brought the Egyptian and Sudanese battalions up to the point where they could stand in the firing line and hold their own with the best of any of the British regiments.

Many of these officers were unknown, working hard behind the scenes with little recognition, but there are a few stand out names; Hunter (who commanded the Egyptian Division at Omdurman), Lewis, Collinson and perhaps the best known of them "Fighting Mac" MacDonald...

MacDonald was an amazing character - and that in the Sudan where "characters" seem to have been two a penny! Not surprisingly with that name, he was a Scotsman, and had joined the Gordon Highlanders in 1870 at the age of 17. His rise through the ranks was rapid to say the least, and during the Afghan War of 1879 (when he had already been a colour sergeant for 4 years!) he distinguished himself so much that he was given an officer's commission. He served as a subaltern in the First Boer War (and was captured at Majuba, but his bravery was such that the Boer commander gave him back his sword and freed him), and in 1885 he served under Sir Evelyn Wood in the reorganization of the Egyptian army, and took part in the Nile Expedition of that year. In 1888, he became a regimental captain in the British service (after 18 years service), but continued to serve in the Egyptian army concentrating on training Sudanese troops. In 1889, he received the DSO for his conduct at the Battle of Toski and in 1891, after the action at Tokar, he was promoted major. In 1896, he commanded a brigade of the Egyptian army in the Dongola Expedition, and during the following campaigns he distinguished himself in every engagement, especially in the final Battle of Omdurman (1898) where his Sudanese brigade repulsed a determined attack from the Mahdists. The actions of the brigade "manoeuvring as a unit with the coolness and precision of the parade ground" were witnessed and reported by Winston Churchill. Kitchener acclaimed MacDonald as "the real hero of Omdurman". After the Sudan he went on to serve further, but died tragically, and in somewhat sad circumstances...

Whew... these guys have a job to do to stand up to a reputation like that!
At the same time I also painted up two stands of infantry, as I'd found myself with a half company of Sudanese, and a half company of British left over after my last reorganisation.

First off the Sudanese:
According to my copy of "The Mhadist Wars Source Book" (click here) the Sudanese battalions were recruited from the Southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains. Many of them were already veterans of the old Egyptian Army who had fought in Mexico and Turkey. Some later served with the Mahdists in the Jihadiyya (the riflemen) under Hamdan Abu Anja, the greatest tactician and general of the Mahdist army.

The first Sudanese battalion, the IXth, was raised from ex-soldiers still in Egypt. The next two, the Xth and XIIIth, were drawn mostly from the survivors of three Sudanese battalions in the Eastern Sudan who had escaped, en masse, from the Mahdists in 1885.

Mine are painted to nominally represent units of the 10th, but the uniform for all the Sudanese battalions were the same so they are interchangeable... figures are 15mm Essex.

Last, and probably least in terms of the picture (they look considerably better on the tabletop) a half company of British regulars to join the ranks of the mythical North Middlesex regiment:
A close up of the paint job doesn't do them any favours - I'm also not a huge fan of the figure either as the pose seems a little stiff and they also have thin ankles...! Figures are 15mm Lancashire.


  1. Steve - as always a realy interesting and informative post. The painting's great too!


  2. Stryker - I might give you the benefit of the doubt for the figures other than the British... :o))

  3. Come on, Steve, you can't just leave us with that 'tease'.

    What was MacDonald's Tragic death in somewhat sad circumstances?

    -- Jeff

  4. Hi Jeff - I think this gives the most balanced view:


  5. I don't like multiple figure bases for my own troops but your command bases have got me thinking that I might do a few for my Sudan force as well.

  6. Hi
    Is it possible to perhaps pick up a copy of the rules you use ?



  7. Dazza - check out my Sudan project page (link from my main blog page) and I've put the necessary bits and pieces there that would allow you to see how my rules are put together.. apologies - a big part of the rules are re-used from a set called "Pony Wars" which are still in print so I'm a little hesitant to put them on my web page..