Foot Soldiers on Horseback

Sorting through my piles of unpainted plastic men in the loft, I came across a box of figures which I’d forgotten about completely. These were amongst the very earliest figures I’d bought when I first decided to attempt painting 1:72 scale plastic figures back in 2011/12.

It was a box of HaT’s British Mounted Infantry of the Zulu Wars. I’d clearly had a little go at putting some paint on some of them but had abandoned progress at some point, possibly when I moved house. Some paint was more or less in the right place but there was none of the painting techniques which I’d gradually developed since then – no black lining, no shading and no highlighting either.

I’d also been a bit lazy with the colour of my facings, opting solely for the 24th Regiment’s green. In reality, the Mounted Infantry drew its men from across many different regiments and the troops retained the tunics and buttons of each meaning their individual regimental facings could be any colour.

Mindful of the April challenge by Ann’s Immaterium, I thought it might be about time to have a proper go at this neglected box. Whether I’ll get them painted by the end of the month is now very debatable but at least I’ll be making a start on them. I seem to be missing a horse from the set, but otherwise it’s all there.

Coincidentally, I had been re-reading some of my many books on the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879:

  • “Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift” by Ian Knight
  • “Blood on the Painted Mountain” by Ron Lock (about the battles of Intombi, Hlobane and Khambula)

From these books, I had been refreshing my knowledge of the Imperial Mounted Infantry before I’d even discovered these HaT figures. The formation had a tough time of it during the Anglo-Zulu War. With a chronic lack of regular cavalry available in South Africa, they were much in demand, being active in many encounters with the Zulu all over the country. 1st Squadron suffered particularly badly at the disaster of iSandlwana.

First off, I needed to prime them. For years I’ve painted with Vallejo Acrylics but with these figures I was still using the old Humbrol enamel tinlets. So, I attempted to remove any loose enamel paint (which by and large seemed very well attached to the figures). I then painted them in PVA white glue to a) act as a primer and, b) cover over the enamel. I’ve heard that acrylic paint can react badly to enamels. I’m not sure of this at all but I thought that the PVA would also at least form some sort of a barrier between them.

After that, it was on with the black primer paint and I’m ready to finally finish off what I’d started nearly a decade ago! I’ve made some real progress over the weekend so a report will follow…


For those who may be interested, here are some of my other favourite books on the Zulu War which I’ve collected over the years and which I’d recommend:

  • “The Washing of the Spears” by Donald R. Morris. The seminal work on the conflict which brought it to 20th Century popularity. Never intended to be an academic work, it has been eclipsed now by modern research but is still an astonishingly rip-roaring read throughout all its hefty 672 pages.
  • “Zulu Rising” by Ian Knight– Ian Knight’s most recent book on Isandlwana/Rorke’s Drift and packed with the detailed knowledge and passion of many years research. It is particularly strong in its understanding of both Zulu and Natal’s black history and culture.
  • “Fearful Hard Times” by Ian Knight. Focusing on the less well known actions of Number 1 Column including the battles of Nyezane and Gingindlovu, and the siege of Eshowe.
  • “The Zulu War: A Pictorial History” by Michael Barthorp. The first book I read on the conflict including many great contemporary photographs. I met Major Barthorp a few times – a wonderfully kind and very generous man to this teenage history geek.
  • “They Fell Like Stones” by John Young. Detailed lists and information on units and casualties for each battle. Great for data nerds like yours truly!
  • “Black Soldiers of the Queen” by P.S. Thompson. About the Natal Native Contingent in the conflict, providing a great understanding of these seriously undervalued and overlooked African soldiers who fought and died for the British cause.

9 thoughts on “Foot Soldiers on Horseback

  1. Nice to see these Marvin, and an interesting read! 🙂 I’ve never found a problem with priming in Humbrol enamel, painting in acrylic and then varnishing in Humbrol or Railmatch spray enamel matt varnish. The varnish might yellow slightly over a lot of years, but at least enamel matt varnishspray does not go white/frosty like acrylic varnish spray (which is why I gave up on the latter). Some of the early, very soft HaT figures feel tacky after an enamel primer coat, but an acrylic coat over that seemed to solve the problem for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting comment from John that , It must be snap week as now I’m in limbo I decided to paint some old Esci Red lancers I had started back in 13 and not like yourself just getting started, I think it was the horses that put me off back then ,but now I have mastered that fear thanks to you I’ll have them up for show pretty soon. It is interesting that you paint yours still attached to the sprue !

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Looking forward to seeing them – loved the old Esci cavalry.

      Paint on the sprue? Ah, that was then – I had no idea what I was doing… I’ve long since put them on to bottle tops instead.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Right ! That was better than holding the removed figure in ones fingers like I did before seeing the bottle cap trick 🤪! I When I have done these guys it’s the Cuirassier and Carabiniers !

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I was thinking of you and your Rorke’s Drift project. Reckon it was really that which inspired to go back to my Zulu interest! 😀

      Washing of the spears, I remember as a great read. Especially the early Zulu kings and the Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift parts. First really long adult book I’d read!

      Liked by 1 person

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