Above is a pic of Lt. Colonel James Galbraith, Regimental Colour in hand, alongside Bobbie the regimental dog and some of the other "Last Eleven" survivors of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment, making their last stand in one of the walled gardens just South of Khig village, a few miles West of the Afghan town of Maiwand.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The 66th Regt, helmet covers, chin-straps & THE HUMAN ELEMENT

For followers and repeat visitors to this humble blog it will come as no surprise that I am somewhat obsessed with the uniforms, equipment & weapons used by the Afghan, British, Indian troops present at the 1880 battle of Maiwand.

Over the past months I've discussed how I converted miniature units of Bombay infantry, Bombay cavalry, and British artillery, in order to make them more accurately reflect what those units are said to have looked like at the battle. The last such conversion needed in order to complete my miniature version of General Burrows' army at Maiwand, is the 66th (berkshire) Regiment of British line infantry.

I had used the same unit of miniatures as the 66th for all 3 of the Maiwand games I have played (a few are on view in the masthead photo above). They are beautifully sculpted minis from the Perry Sudan range, beautifully painted by a professional painter in Australia (on another front, I only wish I knew his exact identity and how to contact him to commission some work!). But, aside from wearing khaki and carrying Martini-Henry rifles, they are not very historically accurate. To wit:

(1) their helmets have puggarees rather than smooth cloth covers with leather chin-straps hooked up to the top;

(2) their pants legs hang loose at the ankles rather than wrapped in puttees;

(3) their "Valise" pattern ammunition pouches are painted white, matching the rest of their leather equipment, rather than black.

Painting pouches black instead of white is no big deal, but puttees, helmet covers and hooked-up flat leather chin-straps are another story.

It took awhile but I finally tracked down British infantry figures wearing puttees, carrying Martini-Henrys (rather than the later magazine-fed Lee-Metford ), and wearing Valise pattern equipment (rather than the earlier "pouch-belt" style with rolled greatcoats worn across the shoulder en-banderole).

British Infantry Mustache Advancing (4)

The figures are from the Pontoonier Miniatures Third Burma War range, available from Newline Designs in the UK: LINK TO PONTOONIER THIRD BURMA WAR BRITISH

There's only one thing on them that doesn't fit: their helmets also have puggarees wrapped around them.

The labor-intensive-but-still-relatively-easy part of the fix was slicing, filing and sanding off the puggarees, but the much harder part for me was finding a way to add a perfectly uniform size chin-strap to each of 20+ helmets.

I started out thinking I'd use 2-part epoxy modeling clay, like "green-stuff" and did 2 samples. Problem was, after a great deal of work, I wound up with long, thin, CURVED straps, rather than flat ones. So... in hopes of finding something like a spool of thin FLATTENED wire, I visited my local hobby store. Lucky for me, working that day was a very knowledgeable and helpful guy I've known for a few years. I had brought one of my figures and explained in excruciating detail what I was looking for. It took him a few minutes but he FOUND EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED:

...teeny-tiny strip styrene. Small enough AND flat enough to work as leather chin-straps for my 28mm figures (as opposed to rounded chain-link straps).

If not for the HUMAN ELEMENT, I would have failed. I've bought other -- much larger -- pieces of Evergreen Scale Models merchandise (big flat pieces of plastic to use as bases for terrain), but I had no idea they made such minuscule items.

Needless to say, if it hadn't been for the presence of that trusty fellow at the hobby shop, I would never have found the solution to my problem. Like what I assume to be a very large number of my fellow hobbyists, these days I spend most of my hobby dollars via the internet, rather than at my local "brick-&-mortar" hobby shop. There's nothing wrong with that and I would guess it is not going to change, other than becoming an even more common practice. Nonetheless, this has reminded me that there will always be times when the key ingredient is the HUMAN ELEMENT -- when you need an actual STORE complete with a living, breathing HUMAN BEING knowledgeable enough to help you out.

Here's some pics of the first two chin-straps I added -- actually the only two I've done so far --using small amounts of long-acting "slo-zap" super-glue. I need to do a bunch more, but I'm happily convinced this is the right way to go, as it results in perfectly uniform dimensions for the added straps, as is appropriate for a piece of industrial-age military equipment.

***PS To be brutally honest, even these figures are not ABSOLUTELY PERFECT, since they wear full Valise equipment, rather than the stripped down "belt-order" version usually worn on campaign in Afghanistan, where the greatcoat/blanket and mess tin would usually be carried by the baggage train, but it's still pretty dang close, and I'm sure there were occasions when such full equipment was worn.


  1. What a great idea and looking good, can't wait to see how they paint up.

  2. Thanks, Michael! It's been a while since anyone has left a comment around these parts, and you have my sincere gratitude for having taken the time to do so. I'm also looking forward to seeing them painted, but unfortunately I have to finish converting the helmets on another 20+ members of the same unit first. Rest assured I will keep you updated with my progress...

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