A new period, a stack of painting, something a bit weird so nobody makes what you want, you have to do it all yourself and once I move onto the next shiny thing, what do I do with my investment?….fear not, this post hopes to show that you might already have armies ready to go…you certainly will have armies to use again if you dive in and buy one.
When I was musing about this as an idea with the guys at the club the answers varied from “I’ve got NorthWest Frontier Indians”, “I’ve got Brits in Wolesley helmets for Palestine in the Great War”, another with “WW1 Australians in slouch hat”, yet another with “East African WW1 Kings African Rifles, and Abyssinians”. I had just finished up some WW2 Italians in sun helmets and had a good number of War in the Sudan era Baggarra cavalry from a previous project. Yet another said “I’ve got colonial French and Baggara cavalry too”…in the blink of an eye I realised that all these troops were ready to go for gaming in The Abyssinian Crisis.
Maybe your group has similar interests or collection, if so, then what do I need or what can I already use, for some repurposed miniatures for some Interwar era action…read on…
The interesting thing about the armies in The Abyssinian Crisis is that the Interwar period of 1935-36 still harks back to the First World War rather than looking ahead to the Second. Most armies were not in the process of rearming due to budgetary restraints caused by the depression and generally being tight with their country’s purse strings. As a result equipment that was cutting edge twenty years earlier was not yet made redundant and still used. In addition, a lot of equipment was moved about and found its way to unusual benefactors that are involved in the Abyssinian War.
The Ethiopians looked to buy arms from anywhere and sourced equipment from unusual places. So, the following thumbnail sketches of the armies involved will give you an idea of how each force can be represented using what figures. I’ve only covered 28mm figures here, not other scales, but the types of troops indicated will give an indication of what forces you’d need to field in those other scales. Also, not every figure manufacturer is covered nor every troop type either but the bulk of what you’d need and the obvious place to look for them is more or less covered in this post. Surprisingly, your WW2 figures are probably not necessarily the ones to use, so some obvious ‘can I use those’ type questions will hopefully be answered as well.
The Italians are comprehensively covered by Empress Miniatures in their Italy in Abyssinia range. Unfortunately when this range was being developed by Anglian miniatures it never really expanded as was planned when it was acquired by Empress, but nevertheless they do provide the best miniatures for this period in my opinion – hopefully we will see some more miniatures to support this line of Paul Hicks sculpts. The Eritrean Askari’s are lovely figures and really add that colonial feel to the Italian army.
Askari Miniatures do a number of Italian figures that are spot on for Abyssinia. They do Bersaglieri which Empress do not do and they’re decked out in shorts they very much look the part. They also have a number of useful Eritrean Askaris, the Artillery crews being particularly good and the nicest available anywhere in my opinion. The Askari Miniatures italians also have shorts so have a distinct desert colonial feel too their minis. Miniatures from both these manufacturers are recommended and each range complements the other which further adds variety to the figures available.
Castaway Arts, an Australian company, do a range that has some very useful mounted figures which aren’t really covered by anyone else. There are some real gems in the Castaway range and they add some further variation to the other two ‘big’ manufacturers for this period.
Perry miniatures in their WW2 Italian range have a nice selection of figures in sun helmet. Sculpted in the typical Perry multi pose style they very much look the part with the one proviso that they have puttees instead of long pants or shorts, which was the more typical dress for the Italian troops. This is a relatively minor point but worth thinking on if such things are important for a more ‘typical’ look of the Fucilieri or Camice Nere in Abyssinia if that is what you are after.
Brigade games also do a nice set of Askari’s that can do for local Dubat type Askaris or more generally any type of African local support troops.
All three manufacturers look great on-table and blend well. The Italians being a highly regular army are pretty much covered for this period.
Ethiopians, or Abyssinians, are remarkably well catered for. Three manufacturers specifically make figures for this period. Empress Miniatures produce a line of figure in the Italy in Abyssinia range, covering the Regular army troops of the Mehal Sefari as well as tribal troops, each with command packs. They don’t do a machine gun set but a usable substitute, suitably painted, can be the BEF Vickers MG pack BEF8 in the Mutton Chop range, sold by Empress. All figures sculpted by Paul Hicks…an excellent set of minis.
Askari Miniatures do an eclectic range of figures that complement the Empress minis with a good selection of troops or provide enough troops in their range for a stand alone army. In fact, they are the only manufacturer who do Ethiopian Imperial Guard figures with the poses available giving a somewhat ‘ordered’ look befitting their drilled and organised status. Mixed with some of the militia Ethiopian troops in the range, additional variation and troop representation can be achieved, so there is much to choose from in the Askari range that other manufacturers do not make.
Probably their biggest limitation is the variation in poses of their regular forces – two packs per code would have been ideal, instead of the one, though the Irregular Abyssinians come with a separate arm that can be positioned a number of ways to create variation. Askari also do a good number of excellent ‘tricky bits’ such as mule transport with artillery or as a field ambulance, artillery pieces, character figures, etc. These are nice crisp castings that complement the Empress range well.
The last ‘specific’ manufacturer of Ethiopian figures is Castaway Arts.This range has a number of useful items with the cavalry being particularly ‘on topic’ and not really made by anyone else. Miniatures can be purchased singly which is very useful when making up units to add those ‘extra few figures’ that are sometimes needed to make up unit numbers.
Other manufacturers that don’t specifically make ranges that cover the Abyssinian War are many. One of the most useful is the venerable Perry brothers Sudan range. The Mahdists are entirely usable for some tribes in the Abyssinian War. The Sudan Baggara horse and Beja camelry are perfect for this period as well as the Beja and Kordofan foot, both with spear and rifle. They are in fact the actual men and their sons that fought Kitchener’s men only a few decades before! – not much changes in the southern Sudan in a fashion sense back then.
The Perry Beja or Kordofan infantry can be made from their plastics box sets or they have a good selection of metals to choose from. The great advantage to the Perry’s is you get double, even triple, duty out of them for any Sudan based games in the 19th century, and one might even suggest those could be used for the war against colonial Italy in the Adowa campaign. So these figures can see action in a number of conflicts. Whilst not quintessential Abyssinian in look, they do reflect the appearance of some of the tribes involved, most notably those in the north near the Sudanese border….lovely miniatures too!
Heading down this path it can be seen that a lot of other manufacturers that can also potentially be used for Irregular Abyssinians if you are not too fussed by details, so that means any Mahdist plain cloth type infantry and cavalry types can be pressed into service. This is convenient as often you need a lot of them and most collections reflect this need.
For the British you are essentially looking at WW1 British infantry – shorts and Wolesley Helmet – that’s your bread and butter. These guys will be any troops from WW1 in the Mid-East so that’s Palestine, Mesopotamia, etc. In 1936 you can’t use World War Two Brits, or any other British figures with ’37 pattern webbing (also no AT rifles, fewer Brens etc); the fun police will be all over that one… however the excellent Woodbine WW1 Brits and for Highlanders Empress’s Jazz Age stuff works. Woodbine are particularly useful as they allow for ‘head swap’ variations and thus Indian troops can be modelled from the same range.
There are a number of other manufacturers of WW1 Palestine minis to choose from, with Brigade Games offering up some excellent figures along with a lot of other potential minis in their extensive WW1 range – definitely worth a look. Their King’s African Rifles are in the right uniform for this period so those WW1 KAR who fought in East Africa can get at it again! Great War Miniatures do a superb range of figures that has many character figures that add that unique look to an army – this is an excellent ‘mature’ line of minis.
Copplestone Castings also do a range of Brits, a little more ‘pulpy’ and certainly bigger too, so choosing figures from this manufacturer will mean that size may vary with other more ‘mid range’ sized figures. They do Indian troops as well so they are a usable stand alone range for The Abyssinian Crisis. They are lovely sculpts, a joy to paint and offer a distinct look perhaps quite in keeping with the subject matter, so they are worthy of consideration if starting anew.
Copplestone also do the Interwar British vehicles required for The Abyssinian Crisis, allowing them to see the service they never got in the Second World War. You can find the Vickers suite of tanks that add that finishing touch to any British Interwar force to make it truly unique. The castings are amongst the best in quality and will be the finishing touch to make your army feel that little bit different – if you already have WW1 British infantry ready to go then adding these vehicles might the all that is required. We’ll be covering Interwar vehicles to use in another post, but note for now, Copplestone is a good place to start for the British player who is looking for armour.
A point to remember for players organising forces is that British platoons are different in 1935. There are four sections, two of which have lewis guns and two with just rifles. Mortars and Vickers Guns are attached at battalion level, and the plan was for 2pdrs to be added too, but that’s not available either. For the erstwhile British player in The Abyssinian Crisis he is literally swamped with top quality figures to choose from and will be at no loss to find everything he needs for his army.
French infantry are a little harder to nail down. The types of infantry are different as the troops available to the French forces include French Foreign Legion, Senegalese Tirraileurs, Algerian Tirraileurs, Goumiers, Mid-East theatre garrisons and Metropolitan troops…quite a spread, arguably the most diverse in troop types in The Abyssinian Crisis.
Artizan do excellent Foreign legion figures that are spot on. Perry Miniatures also do lovely Foreign Legion from WW2, though these are in British gaiters , which were not in use at that time. If your not to picky you could use the Perry figures and ignore this slight unhistorical ‘irritant’, though the Artizan minis have a lot of character, multi posing and are correct, so they are the best bet if you are a stickler for such things. Askari Miniatures also do FFL in Interwar garb. These figures are a bit smaller than Artizan so probably best not to mix them in the same unit, not that your really need to. As you would expect of this famous unit, there is a lot of choice.
Goumiers can be made by using Artizan Goumiers and Empress head swaps (H9 &H10), though the sculpting style might make it a bit tricky on a few figures. Senegalese Tirraileurs are not as easy to find. Woodbine figures have a Senegalese option and they sell separate heads you can use, so that will fit the bill even though they do have the ‘full’ French coat look more akin to European theatres.
Perry Miniatures have recently released their Senegalese and Vichy in shorts with a distinctly desert feel to them. With the ability for head swaps these Perry offerings give a very complete Mid east campaign looking French force and lovely to boot! This range is fleshing out very nicely and with the all the extras the Perry’s often have this is shaping up to be a superb range for building a French force for The Abyssinian Crisis.
Some Examples of figures to use for various troop types.
The following lists gives you some indication of the types of figures that can substitute or be used to represent the forces at the time of The Abyssinian Crisis. Not all types are shown but you will get the idea from the lists what is likely to be ‘in’ or not. Manufacturers are not noted, it being assumed each player will use the figures he has or choose from his favorite supplier.
There can be variation on the type shown if players are not to fussy and in reality variations would occur so players can be fairly liberal in their interpretation of troop type’s appearance as long as it has a distinct interwar colonial appearance. Looking at lots of online pictures gives a good indication of what troops looked like.
|British/ Indian Infantry||
So there you have it, not all, but a good selection of figures for the various armies for The Abyssinian Crisis. Essentially you can use WW2 Italians in sun helmet, British WW1 infantry, Ethiopian or Sudan style Mahdists (at a pinch) and French Interwar or WW2 campaign style dress. A lot of these forces may already be in your army and thus you will have forces ready to go.
In a related post we’ll talk about some of the vehicles that can be used and where to get them.
I forgot to to mention one figure you must get..Emperor Haile Selassie himself! Grab him from 1st Corps…he is a must have!!!…and here he is…
Note – the above post uses lots of pics from all over the internet to show off the minis in this post – kudos to those who have produced or painted the above…hope you don’t mind your work being shown off!