Osprey’s new colonial New Zealand Wars book

Osprey NZ Wars

Excitement in La Casa Arteis today, as the first pic arrives of the cover of the forthcoming new Osprey publication The New Zealand Wars, 1820-72 by Ian Knight, and illustrated by Raffaele Ruggeri. This picture was published today on the Lead Adventure forum (click on the above picture for the fullsize effect).

Frequent visitors to my blog will know of my interest in the colonial New Zealand Wars, and can therefore understand my breathless excitement.

I really like the picture of the Armed Constabulary man on the right of the cover pic. He is in the famous “shawl order” worn by many colonial troops during the latter wars for ease of movement in the rugged bush. Illustrator Raffaele Ruggeri has even depicted him carrying a weapon with Maori carving on the stock.


Ruggeri’s constable is of course from a later 1860s/70s period than my miniature army from the earlier wars of the 1840s, made up of the recent range of 28mm Empress figures (as in the pic above).

But I do have a handful of older 28mm Eureka armed constabulary (see below). They are quite crudely painted, though, and not a patch on the recent Empress figures of the earlier period. I really do hope one day Empress might add these very different later-period soldiers to their range.


The Maori figures in Ruggeri’s cover illustration are also wonderfully painted. He has also really caught the different textures and colouring of the Maori clothing and weaponry.

The facial features look just right for Maori, as does the skin colouring and the tattooed moko on their faces.  The expression of the kneeling toa (warrior) is priceless – how often I’ve seen his modern descendants with exactly the same staunch look.  Ironically, the chieftain behind him reminds my of one of my old sergeants in the New Zealand Police!

I’ve already got this book on pre-order. I gather it is out early next year.

Here is Osprey’s official blurb:

Between 1845 and 1872, various groups of Maori were involved in a series of wars of resistance against British settlers. The Maori had a fierce and long-established warrior tradition and subduing them took a lengthy British Army commitment, only surpassed in the Victorian period by that on the North-West Frontier of India.

Warfare had been endemic in pre-colonial New Zealand and Maori groups maintained fortified villages or pas. The small early British coastal settlements were tolerated, and in the 1820s a chief named Hongi Hika travelled to Britain with a missionary and returned laden with gifts. He promptly exchanged these for muskets, and began an aggressive 15-year expansion.

By the 1860s many Maori had acquired firearms and had perfected their bush-warfare tactics. In the last phase of the wars a religious movement, Pai Maarire (‘Hau Hau’), inspired remarkable guerrilla leaders such as Te Kooti Arikirangi to renewed resistance. This final phase saw a reduction in British Army forces. European victory was not total, but led to a negotiated peace that preserved some of the Maori people’s territories and freedoms.

Puke Ariki Library, PHO2002-405
Puke Ariki Library, PHO2002-405

7 thoughts on “Osprey’s new colonial New Zealand Wars book

      1. No significance at all, Michael. They used standard blankets as shawls, instead of wearing trousers. It was a convenience thing, not of any uniform significance at all, and followed typical Maori clothing – obviously ideal for the rugged bush.

  1. Very excited about this too, thank you for bringing it to my attention. Another title for the Christmas list, just wished I had it a little sooner when I was painting my Maoris. Come on Empress give us some Armed Constabulary in “shawl order”, a superb addition to any collection!

  2. It was the colonial troops who often wore these blanket shawls, Scott, not British (the British troops had left New Zealand by this time). And the shawls would’ve been all sorts of colours, as they were made out of blankets!

    Shawl order was typically worn by the NZ Armed Constabulary (the fore-runner of the current NZ Army and NZ Police) and militia in the later 1860s/1870s wars.

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