Chunuk Bair diorama to mark Anzac Day

This Sunday marks Anzac Day, celebrated in Australia and New Zealand on 25th April every year. I was approached recently by my local library here in Paraparaumu, New Zealand if I had any model soldiers I could put into their Anzac Day display.

I didn’t have any WW1 figures myself. But a few years ago the Kapiti Wargames Club (of which I have been an itinerant member) played a leading role in painting figures for a massive diorama in Sir Peter Jackson’s Great War Exhibition in Wellington that ran from 2015 to 2019. Over 5,000 of these specially commissioned 54mm Perry Miniatures figurines were painted by 100 volunteers from wargaming clubs all over New Zealand.

Although the Great War Exhibition is now closed down and its diorama in storage, I knew that the club had a number of left-over and reject figures on loan. I managed to borrow a couple of dozen of these miniatures, and decided to build a small diorama to show them off.

My diorama takes centre-stage in the library’s lobby. A wall hanging of scarlet knitted poppies makes the perfect backdrop.

My diorama loosely represents one of the Turkish counter-attacks during the Battle of Chunuk Bair. Before dawn on 8 August 1915 the Wellington Infantry Battalion took the crest of a hill called Chunuk Bair at Gallipoli, the Turkish defenders having retired during an artillery bombardment. 

Hundreds of the Wellingtons would be killed during the next few hours in a gallant but forlorn attempt to hold the crest against determined Turkish counter-attacks. Of the 760 New Zealand soldiers who had made it to the summit, only 70 were still standing by the end of the day when they were relieved by other units.

Their victory was short-lived though, as two days later the Turks recaptured Chunuk Bair for good.

Now, I’m no Weta Workshop (the famous film effects company that constructed the terrain for the Great War Exhibition). My diorama is just a simple piece of polystyrene foam shaped to depict a trench.

My ground-cover isn’t any fancy scenic product either. It is just dirt and stones scrapped up from a paddock outside my house! The plants are plastic Christmas wreath decorations, given a dusting of light beige spray-paint. The sandbags were part of the Great War Exhibition stuff that I was loaned.

The figures were in a bit of a state when I got them, and many needed some touching up. They are on the whole not the best-painted of the figures from the crowd-painting project, but they look adequate enough from a distance.

I had quite a few Turkish casualties, but no firearms for them. So a friend from the club, Fern Campbell, 3D-printed some rifles for me to scatter about on the ground. She made an excellent job of these.

Here’s an overhead view of the entire diorama. I quite like the way the trench cuts through on a diagonal, which makes the composition more interesting than if it had been parallel to the edge of the diorama.

The diorama will remain in the Paraparaumu Public Library for the next week or so. After that I will have to disassemble it and return the figures. Maybe one day they will take their place in a restored version of the entire 5,000-figure Great War Exhibition diorama!

The most amazing New Zealand Wars dioramas you’ll ever see!

Many many years ago, before I was into wargaming as a hobby, I visited the Tawhiti Museum. Since then, I have always wanted to return, but never got around to it, despite it being only three hours drive away.

But that was fixed last weekend when I finally made my return visit. And what an amazing experience it was, especially now that I am wargamer, and even more so because I have a particular interest in the colonial New Zealand Wars.

The museum is the creation of one man, ex-art teacher Nigel Ogle. In 1975 he and his wife Teresa bought the 70 year old Tawhiti Cheese factory near Hawera, on the North Island of New Zealand.

As a child, Nigel had delivered milk to the factory with his father in their farm truck, but he could never have imagined that he would one day convert that same building into a museum.

Nigel started out as a wargamer, but the model-making side quickly became his passion. What started out as a hobby and a small private collection, grew rapidly with public demand to become the focus of an impressive visual history of the South Taranaki region.

The museum uses life-size exhibits and scale models to capture the past in a series of super-realistic displays. All the displays – including the life size figures created from moulds cast from real people – are designed and built on the premises.

The thing I was most looking forward to seeing were the many dioramas depicting New Zealand’s history, including the inter-tribal Musket Wars and the later Colonial Wars. Here’s an example of one of these huge dioramas, which we will look at more closely in the following pictures.

By the way, most of the photos in this posting are 2000 pixels wide so make sure you click on the pictures to enlarge them so you can pore over the amazing detail. I can promise you it is well worth it!

A British artillery battery and a bullock cart of supplies splash through a creek and along a rough road. These figures appear to be around 54mms tall. They are not commercial products, but have all been created by Nigel in his workshop.

Apologies for the reflection in some of these pictures. It is difficult photographing displays behind glass without getting such reflection. You’ll occasionally spot parts of the chequered shirt I was wearing, for example in the rock formation below the ox-cart in the above pic!

Further along, the artillery column has been held up by a rockfall onto the roadway, which a team of sappers are busy clearing.

And my chequered shirt strikes again!

The column’s destination is this busy camp on the cliffs above the sea. There’s so much to see in this picture – unloading carts, men relaxing, a cooking fire. Note the Coehorn mortar stored beside the tent on the left.

Nigel makes extensive use of a technique known as forced perspective, where he uses smaller scaled figures in the background to give the impression of distance.

Further along, a detail of soldiers is gathering water from a creek, and passing it up the cliff in a bucket chain.

In the background is a small blockhouse and a moored paddle steamer.

I think that camp kitchen is worth another closer look. The detail is simply amazing, with every soldier posed actually doing something.

I love how the tents even have guy-ropes that are properly cinched, and how there is so much clutter on the ground around them.

This pic also gives you another look at Nigel’s use of forced perspective.

All of the above pictures are pieces of a long diorama based on the paintings of Lt Col Edward Arthur Williams, an artillery officer in the British Army. In 1865 he took part in General Cameron’s three-month march from Whanganui to the Waingonogoro River. His paintings depict the day-to-day life of the soldiers on the march.

If you are wondering why you haven’t seen any red-coated soldiers up till now, it is because in 1860s New Zealand the British Army wore blue serge jumpers instead of their scarlet coats.

However, the diorama in this picture portrays an earlier incident from 1834 that involved Redcoats, the first action by British troops on New Zealand soil.

The family of the whaler Jacky Guard were among a group of Pākehā (Europeans) captured by Māori after the barque Harriet ran aground on the Taranaki coast.

Jacky Guard and other men were released when they promised to return with gunpowder to ransom the captives. Instead, he secured the support of the New South Wales Governor for a rescue mission. Meanwhile, Betty Guard lived under the protection of the chief Oaoiti.

When HMS Alligator arrived in Taranaki with soldiers of the 50th Regiment, the Māori assumed they had come to negotiate. Instead, Oaoiti was bayoneted and captured on 21 September.

Four days later, Betty and her baby daughter were located at Te Namu pā, which was attacked and burnt. Betty and Louisa were exchanged for Oaoiti. On 8 October, John Guard junior was freed at nearby Waimate. Fighting continued for several days.

In 1835 a committee of Britain’s House of Commons condemned the level of force used during the rescue mission. Humanitarian groups such as the Church Missionary Society argued that unrestrained colonisation must be avoided to protect Māori.

The New Zealand Armed Constabulary was formed in1867, with constables used as both soldiers and sworn police. The Constabulary was paramilitary in nature, with many serving in the New Zealand Wars.

These large-scale models show how the men of the Armed Constabulary looked on campaign. That’s not kilts they’re wearing, but blankets or shawls, which were more comfortable to wear in the bush than the uniform trousers when tramping through the rugged bush.

Paradoxically, many members of the Armed Constabulary were Māori. Here are some more Armed Constabulary, including several Māori constables.

In a much smaller scale than the above pictures, this is a 1:75 model of the earth-sod redoubt at Turuturu-mokai in 1868. The scene is busy with Armed Constabulary soldiers, supply wagons arriving from the Waihi Stockade three miles away, and sheep grazing among the logs of recently felled bush.

The redoubt was small, about 20 metres square with two circular bastions, built on low ground and was protected by parapets only 1.5 metres high and a trench 1.8m deep.

On 12 July 1868, sixty Māori warriors from the Ngaruahine hapu (sub-tribe), along with Imperial Army deserter Charles Kane, launched a pre-dawn raid on this redoubt, killing 10 and wounding six of the 25 Armed Constabulary garrisoned there.

In the final years of Imperial Army operations in New Zealand, General Chute undertook a route-march around Mount Taranaki (the volcano in the background of this diorama), first striking inland and returning down the coast.

The purpose of Chute’s march was to destroy the capacity of Taranaki Māori to wage war, by burning villages and destroying livestock. By 26 January 1866 Chute’s force had reached New Plymouth and on 9 February his ragged and exhausted troops returned to Whanganui.

Note how some of the soldiers are wearing havelock covers on their hats.

Troops were heavily involved in building roads through the bush during the wars, so they could move around quickly. Many of these soldier-built roads are still the basis of today’s highways.

Here you can see men making wicker gabions, filling them with rocks, and emplacing them as abutments for a river crossing.

This large scale vignette portrays Gustavus Ferdinand von Tempsky (left), who had a reputation as an intrepid leader during the New Zealand Wars. He was a flamboyant and apparently fearless soldier, and a strong disciplinarian who was nevertheless popular with his men.

Von Tempsky was born into a Prussian military family in Königsberg (Kaliningrad) in 1828, and trained at a cadet school in Berlin. He abandoned his military career shortly after graduating to seek his fortune on frontier goldfields in California, Victoria, and from 1862 on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula.

The outbreak of hostilities in Waikato in 1863 led to the formation of volunteer units to supplement British regiments. Once von Tempsky had taken out British citizenship, he was granted a commission in the Forest Rangers, an irregular colonial force which the authorities believed could match the bush fighting skills of the Māori.

In January 1868 von Tempsky was appointed to command a unit of the Armed Constabulary.

Von Tempsky met his end during the Taranaki campaign against Tītokowaru and his followers. He was fatally shot in the head while attacking a position at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu on 7 September 1868.

You’ve probably already noticed this in some of the previous pictures, but one of Nigel’s real skills is recreating the lush New Zealand landscape. This diorama of the Battle of Te Ngutu-o-te-manu is a particularly good example of this.

Māori toa (warriors) perform a haka (war dance). In the background is Mount Taranaki, the conical volcano that overshadows the Taranaki region.

To the left is a beautifully carved storehouse built on a pole to prevent rodents from getting in.

The Māori developed complex fortifications called pā.

This model depicts a typical Māori pā . Wherever possible a pā would take advantage of natural defences such as gullys and cliffs. These defences were improved with lines of palisades and deep ditches.

This cross-section shows a pā from the early period before muskets were introduced to New Zealand. Massive defensive ditches and palisades protected the inhabitants and food/water supplies, as the most common way of taking a pā was by laying siege and starving out the defenders.

Once muskets became commonplace, the Māori quickly adapted their pā construction to smaller fighting pā’s with zig-zag trenches, double palisading, loop-holed interior buildings, screened divisions within the pā, and observation towers. Later, when facing British artillery, bomb-proof underground bunkers and passages were added.

Thousands of Māori died in the intertribal Musket Wars of the 1810s, 1820s and 1830s. Many more were enslaved or became refugees. Northern rivals Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Whātua led the way, but all the tribes were soon trading for muskets.

The crew of a trading vessel carefully lower muskets and ammunition to a large ornately-carved waka (canoe).

In 1831 the Te Atiawa tribe were besieged in Otaka Pā by rival Waikato seeking utu (revenge). With about 250-350 defenders against about 1,600 attackers, their chances weren’t good. But with muskets and three ship’s cannons contributed by the crew of the trading vessel Adventure, they managed after three gruelling weeks to inflict enough damage to send the attackers packing.

The three cannons were emplaced in bunkers built in the brow of the hill underneath the pā.

During the mid-1860s Pai Mārire (Hauhau) supporters believed that rituals would protect them against bullets. A ‘Niu pole’ with flags was a feature of Hauhau ceremonies. The ‘Riki’ flag or pennant was a war flag, while the ‘Ruru’ flag represented peace. The relative positions of these flags on the Niu pole indicated whether the spirit behind the gathering was peaceful or hostile.

With the warriors marching around the Niu pole you can see a man in British soldier’s clothing. Bent was a British army deserter found by a local Māori chief of the Ngāti Ruanui people in South Taranaki and who eventually became accepted as a part of the tribe. He fell in with Titokowaru’s followers in 1867 and fought with them against the colonists in Titokowaru’s War until their eventual defeat in 1869.

The museum cafe features this painting of Nigel at work. One thing I noticed in the picture is that he obviously favours Humbrol enamels over the acrylic paints that most of us wargamers tend to use!

Nigel was manning the front desk when I visited the museum. I asked him how many staff he had to help him create the amazing displays. He pointed to himself and said, ‘Meet the staff’!

I hope this selection of photographs whets the appetite of any readers who live in New Zealand (or who, COVID permitting, visit here!) to make a point of seeing this amazing museum. I have only portrayed a small sample of what the museum contains. You can easily spend an entire day there.

May 1940: somewhere in the Netherlands

A German 38(t) tank crunches over a purple objective marker on a canal bridge. On the right, a tiddly Dutch Carden-Loyd tankette nervously awaits the oncoming menace.

This is a scene from my first game using Iron Fist Publishing’s Battlegroup rules, which I played recently. My Dutch forces had their first outing, and in true ‘newly-painted’ tradition, lost the battle against Scott’s Germans (who I think broke the tradition as they were also newly painted!).

Pride of my force was this Landsverk armoured car, a beautiful model made by Dutch company May ’40 Miniatures. Sadly, it blew up part-way through the battle. But now that it has had its baptism of fire, perhaps it will do better next time!

Here are my Dutch Marines in their distinctive dark blue tunics man the hedge-line. They didn’t play a huge part in the battle, other than their support fire keeping the Germans’ heads down.

In the foreground sits a Böhler 47mm anti-tank gun. This performed quite well during the game, scoring a direct hit on Scott’s Sd Kfz 222 armoured car.

The game stats for this gun and other oddities in my Dutch force aren’t in the core Battlegroup rules. But fortunately an article in Dispatches magazine features everything you need to know to field this less well-known army.

Here’s my opponent Scott discussing a point of the rules with our mate Herman, who popped in for a look-see. This pic also gives you another good look at the Landsverk and some of my Dutch infantry.

Scott made the fantastic terrain board with its realistic canal in a week. He also 3D-printed two of the bridges, and provided many of the buildings, which I supplemented with my windmill, brick roads and cardboard Dutch village.

I also provided the third bridge. But as you can see, I need to make some abutments for it to sit properly instead of the brickwork hanging out over the water!

Unfortunately I didn’t get many photos of Scott’s German forces, nor did I capture the most ‘fun’ pieces on the board, our two mortars. One of Scott’s mortar’s wilder shots actually took out some of his own troops.

Overall, it was a fun game and a great evening out. Hopefully it marks the start of some more regular gaming in the future.

Miniature miniatures – the American Civil War in 13.5mm

A recent issue of Wargames Illustrated came with a free sprue of Warlord Games’ new range of 13.5mm plastic American Civil War figures. I couldn’t resist painting them up as an experiment, as I had never before tried working with miniatures this small.

The free sprue contains 100 (yes, 100!) tiny infantry figures, a mounted officer and an artillery piece with four crew. The infantry come attached in ranks of ten.

I painted the figures with Games Workshop Contrast paints. This made the job pretty fast, as the shading and highlighting happens by itself. But the fine details were still a little finnicky at times. I also had to be careful that I painted the rear of each figure the same colour as the front!

Just to give you an impression if the diminutive size of these little figures, here they are posed alongside a base of 28mm Redoubt infantry.

After removing the supplied bases from the sprue, I textured them with sand and static grass. The flags came from an image I found on the web. The whole regiment looks splendid with all five bases lined up.

The artillery piece is quite cleverly designed. It consists of three pieces: the carriage complete with its barrel, and the two wheels, each with two figures attached.

Just for fun, I tried a little forced perspective. I photographed the line of Warlord figures butted up against some stands of 28mm Redoubt figures. Then I used my graphics program to merge the bases. The four-inches deep set-up now looks like a wide battlefield!

Overall, these are really nice little figures. Whilst I don’t think I will turn this into an actual project for myself, if you are after an army or two of some very nice 13.5mm figures, I believe this Warlord Games range will indeed do the job.

Irish contingent joins the Barryat of Lyndonia’s army

Meet the Regiment di Balibari, the latest foreign unit to join the forces of my 18th century ‘imagi-nation’, the Barryat of Lyndonia.

Back when I was a schoolboy, one of the first wargaming books I ever read was ‘Charge! Or How to Play Wargames’ by Brigadier Peter Young and Lieutenant-Colonel J Lawford.

I still vividly remember being entranced by the picture on the back cover showing a close-up view of a line of red-coated soldiers. Behind them stood an elegant officer carrying what appeared to my untutored eye to be a green Union Jack. To one side waited a drummer, resplendent in his green and gold coat.

Ever since, this little group has represented to me the ultimate in 18th century sartorial military fashion. It is only a wonder that it has taken me nigh on half a century to finally replicate these childhood heroes in miniature!

Crann Tara Miniatures do a beautiful range of charging French infantry. I thought their action pose would be great to represent the fighting élan of an Irish regiment. So in went my order, which arrived in New Zealand from the UK quite quickly despite COVID.

This shot of the first few figures I painted shows the incredible detail, anatomy and posing of this range. Even un-based, they look amazing.

As with most of my more recent units, I used Games Workshop’s Contrast paints for this project. I love the way these paints flow, and the automatic shadows and highlights they provide.

In my previous style of painting, I would have started with the basic uniform colour first, and then built up the detail and clothing. However, I have now reversed this, and after a undercoat of Wraithbone, I now paint all the equipment in first, as you can see with the two figures on the left of the picture above. I leave the main uniform colour (in this case, red) till almost the last step. The Contrast paint flows into the gaps beautifully, and disguises any overflows from painting the equipment.

The flag that I thought was a green Union Jack was actually the flag of a real Irish regiment in French service, the Regiment de Berwick. However, instead of the straight lines of the diagonal St Andrew’s cross depicted on the book cover, most versions I have seen of this regiment’s flag have a wavy cross.

Also, the real Berwick had black cuffs and facings, whereas the figures in the picture appeared to have green.

So in true imagi-nation style, I decided my regiment would be fictional. And thus was born the Regiment di Balibari. This name comes from the Chevalier de Balibari, who in the novel and movie ‘Barry Lyndon’ is an itinerant professional gambler whom the Prussians suspect is an Irish spy in the service of the Austrians. He uses the Italian name ‘Balibari’ instead of his true Irish family name ‘Ballybarry’.

To represent that all-important ‘green Union Jack’, I bought a set of paper Berwick flags from Flags of War. I did think about trying to amend the St Andrews cross to match the cover photo from ‘Charge!’, but in the end I decided this was too difficult and stuck with the wavy cross on the Flags of War products.

I painted the drummers in green coats with gold trim, as per the book cover image. I think in the real Irish regiments in French service the drummers actually wore red like the men. But this is an imaginary unit, so I can follow my own rules!

Here’s a back-view of the regiment. You can see two of my four NCOs following the line to make sure no-one falls behind.

I really like the simple style of coats that haven’t been turned back. And they make painting so much easier too!

The regiment consists of 54 rank-and-file, divided into three companies of 18 figures, each company having two ranks of 9. This is fewer companies than a real regiment would have had, but matches the organisation in ‘Charge!’.

Each company has a frontage of 12cms. This does mean the figures are packed in quite tightly, almost shoulder-to-shoulder. But I think this looks more realistic than widely-spaced figures.

Click on the image above to get an impression of what the regiment’s full 36cms of frontage looks like – and that isn’t even counting the three drummers to the side!

So, what’s next for the Barryat of Lyndonia? Well, surely any imagi-nation gamer worth their salt would want to have the unit on the front cover of Charge! – the Erbprinz Regiment in their Prussian grenadier-style mitres, resplendent in light-blue and scarlet uniforms. Watch this space!

My latest article in Wargames Illustrated

I’ve been lucky enough to have another article published in ‘Wargames Illustrated’. I submitted a piece for their ‘Quick Fire’ series, and was chuffed to see it appear in Issue 397 (January 2021).

In the short article I describe how when photographing miniatures, there’s a real thrill when every now and then one of the pictures unexpectedly stands out from the rest.

The article is accompanied by some examples of what I call my ‘serendipitous photographs’ – pictures that I think came out particularly well, despite no extra effort on my part.

The limitations of a hard-copy magazine mean the published pictures are quite small. So, for anyone who may be interested, here they are full-size (click on the pics to expand).

I liked the way that the trees in my garden accidently came out looking like a castle on a hill overshadowing this unit of Landsknechts. (Warlord Games)

There’s more info on this unit in my old posting: https://arteis.wordpress.com/2020/06/02/lockdown-landsknechts/

This is probably my favourite photo – a recreation of Philippoteaux’s famous painting of the Battle of Fontenoy. (Crann Tara and Minden Miniatures)

There’s more info on the original painting and my diorama version in this posting on my blog: https://arteis.wordpress.com/2020/01/31/at-last-my-favourite-painting-in-miniature/

British and French third-rate ships-of-the-line battle it out, as a Spanish brig circles warily. This photo was taken with a simple hand-painted sky background, and sitting on the paper sea that comes with the Warlord ‘Black Seas’ starter set. (Warlord Games)

You can find out more about these models in this old posting: https://arteis.wordpress.com/2019/11/08/black-seas-fleets-finished/

A battalion of French light infantry marches forward in the moonlight. (Front Rank)

This is a really old picture. I recall I added in the ‘moon’ using a graphics programme, as the lighting of this photo came out by chance looking just like moonlight (well, I thought so anyway!).

There’s more info on this unit in this old posting: https://arteis.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/tartanish-and-thunderbirdish-napoleonics/

Māori warriors from the colonial New Zealand Wars perform a fierce haka (war-dance) in the face of the enemy. (Empress Miniatures)

There’s more info on this unit here: https://arteis.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/photos-of-finished-colonial-new-zealand-wars-figures-and-terrain/

A pre-war colonial French column of Panhard armoured cars arrives in an oasis village. (Mad Bob Miniatures)

Below is the same picture, but with some special effects to make it into an old-fashioned snapshot. 

You can read more about these models here: https://arteis.wordpress.com/2020/02/15/motorised-foreign-legion-security-patrol-in-1930s-morocco/

May ’40 Fallschirmjäger in Holland

For my latest painting project I have returned to World War 2, or the 1940 invasion of the Netherlands to be exact. I have previously built up a Dutch force, which is significant to me because my Dad served in the Dutch army in 1940.

May ’40 Miniatures have recently completed a Kickstarter range of 28mm metal Fallschirmjäger (paratrooper) figures. These are specifically designed to be the foe for their existing WW2 Dutch range.

The sculpting and animation of these figures is simply superb. For example, just look at those men running their machine-guns forward!

I don’t intend to build a full German wargaming force. But I thought I would still get some of these figures, mainly so so that the Dutch arrayed in my display cabinet have an enemy to look as though they are fighting.

Painting these paratroops was one of those jobs where you have t start from scratch so far as your own knowledge of their uniforms and equipment goes. I had never painted WW2 Germans before, and knew next to nothing about them. So off I went to my library and the internet.

I must say I was quite amazed at how difficult this research was, considering how recently WW2 took place. There are many conflicting sources on topics as basic as the colours of the helmets and smocks. Even Napoleonic uniforms seems to be easier to research!

Anyway, as I had heard the German paratroops were nick-named the ‘Green Devils’, I decided that my figures’ helmets and smocks would be done in shades of grey-green, with Luftwaffe blue trousers.

As an aside, why do so many armies include ‘devils’ in their midst – Green Devils, Black Devils, Red Devils, etc … and were these nicknames really bestowed by their enemies, or were they actually self-generated in a sense of hubris?!

Over the last year I have really taken to using Citadel Contrast paints. These give an automatic shade and highlight in a single coat, which results in figures that look great from wargaming distance.

As you can see from the photos (especially if you enlarge them), they can look a bit blotchy from close-up compared to the fine finish of more traditional painting methods. But I really like the overall effect. And it is so quick!

And for those who want the exact recipe for my painting:

Undercoat: Wraithbone spray.

Smock: Basilicanum grey with hint of Militarum green.

Trousers: Space Wolves grey with hint of Basilicanum grey.

Helmet: GW arctic grey ( the only non-Contrast paint I used) with a hint of Militarum green.

Weapons: Basilicanum grey with Gore Grunta Fur wooden parts.

Straps and belts: Wyldwood.

Boots: Black Templar.

Flesh: Guilliman Flesh (this really has to be my favourite Contrast paint – it is almost miraculous what it does to faces and hands!)

I finished everything off with a coat of Army Painter’s Quick Shade (strong tone), followed by a Vallejo matt varnish.

Simple display case lighting

My main model display case is situated in our hallway, where it doesn’t get much natural light. So I have always had my eye out for a way of lighting the display to better show off my models!

The display case itself is an old piece of furniture with no fitting for lights. In addition, there is no wall socket nearby so any wired-in lighting would be complicated and require the expensive services of an electrician.

So I was really pleased when this week I spotted a range of Nouveau LED Strip Lights at my local Mitre 10 store (a New Zealand big-box hardware store – you’ll probably find similar products in overseas stores). I snapped up three of them to see if they would do the trick.

Each strip is one metre long, and contains a line of tiny LEDs. The strip has a self adhesive backing so that you can just stick it above the shelf.

Power for each strip comes from a battery pack that contains four AAA batteries. These packs have both a manual on-off button and a motion-sensor – though the sensor only works when it is dark.

I stuck the three battery packs just inside the sliding door of my display case, as you can see above. This way I can easily access the on/off buttons just inside the door. I may later paint the battery packs black to make them a little less obtrusive.

The effect when the three light strips are switched on is incredible. They produce a lot of light, so the miniatures look as if they are in a museum display.

Here are a few pictures showing some of the units in the display case, demonstrating how well they come up under the lighting. First are some 18th century British. The lighting shows off their red coats extremely well, giving the figures a jewel-like quality.

My landsknechts look really brilliant under the lights. The multiple hues of their clothing just pops out! All that colour would be wasted without proper lighting!

Even the dull camouflage colours of World War Two come to life under effective lighting, as you can see here with my 1940 Dutch forces.

And my miniature navies look better under lighting, too. As a serendipitous side-effect, the light from the shelf below gleams up through the translucent blue plastic to make the sea sparkle.

I also bought some LED lights for my other display case. This time I didn’t use strip lights, but individual LED lights. The effect isn’t nearly as spectacular, but still much better than no lighting at all (see the unlit case below).

One neat feature these lights have that the strip lights don’t is a remote on/off switch. So you don’t have to open the doors to turn the lights on. Just like magic!

All in all, I am really pleased with the massive improvement that some cheap battery-powered lighting has made to my display cases.

I can now sit and gaze at my miniatures for hours. And every visitor to our house who wants to use the loo must pass by the display case, so the lighting should attract some attention!

Going Dutch with Printable Scenery

I’ve just finished painting a couple of houses from Printable Scenery, who are based just around the corner from me in Paraparaumu, New Zealand.

These models are normally supplied as STL files, but not having a 3D-printer myself, I got them pre-printed. They’re sized to fit with my 28mm figures.

The buildings both come apart so that you can gain access to each story. They fit securely back together again, with a lug on each corner to line up.

Although these particular models were designed with Normandy in mind (I think), I decided to give them a Dutch look to go with my WW2 Dutch army and my 17th century Dutch pirates.

My efforts wouldn’t fool any student of Dutch architecture. But to my mind they convey the general look, especially when combined with some of my other (Hovels) buildings that are definitely Dutch.

So here we have Landsverk armoured car (made by May ’40 Miniatures) trundling down a city street somewhere in the Netherlands during WW2.

And here we have a couple of Dutch privateers from a few centuries earlier having a discussion outside one of the houses.

The two things I did to give a Dutch look to this building were to paint the walls as rough brickwork, and to add a typical Dutch design to the window shutters and door. The brickwork wasn’t entirely successful, as the house is actually modelled with stone walls. But from tabletop distance, they look enough like bricks.

The interiors are filled with lots of detail, including stairs, rugs, paintings and furniture.

I painted the interior walls with several different shades of dry-brushing, which added to the modelled-in shabby look of the peeling plaster. Easy-peasy to do!

The second building shows its brickwork where the plaster is peeling away. Again, my painting of the bricks is not too realistic close-up, but the effect comes together from a distance.

This atmospheric shot shows a bit more of the wonderful interior detail of these models.

As you can see, I have used a fairly slap-dash approach to my paining, which I think gives a nice shabby-chic impression.

And this time the fireplace was actually modelled as bricks, so it looks right even from close-up!