Empress Miniatures ‘New Zealand Wars’ naval landing party painted


Today I finished painting and basing the wonderful Empress Miniatures’ naval landing party from their 28mm New Zealand Wars range, and set up a photo shoot outside.  [Don’t forget to click on the photos to enlarge them to their full effect!]

These models represent the Royal Navy shore parties who took such a major role in many of the battles of the colonial New Zealand Wars. The uniforms of this group are those of the 1840s, so are perfect for fighting in wargames set during the Northern War (or so-called Flagstaff War), and also in the skirmishes that took place around Wellington.


As you can see, these figures have loads of life and animation. I especially like the officers (or petty officers, boatswain’s mates or whatever they are – I’m no expert on naval ranks). And the black sailor in shirt-sleeves brandishing his cutlass is terrific, too.


I’m not so happy with the blue I used for the uniforms on my figures. The Foundry three-pack ends up too light a blue. I may get some black wash and try darkening up their uniforms a little.

I ummed and ahhed a lot about whether or not the figures should have light blue collars.  This to me is really characteristic of a sailor’s uniform.  But I wondered if the 1840s were too early for this kind of uniformity in the Navy.  In the end I found the following print, which dates about 1849, and so they got their smart light blue collars!


Empress have also produced a nice chunky 32-pounder to go with this range. These guns were really used during the period, dragged miles through the rugged bush to pummel against the Maori pa fortifications, for example at the Battle of Ruapekapeka.

[And, yes, that’s a real horse in the background – meet our pony, Sammy!]


I couldn’t find any colour reference for the actual guns used in New Zealand, so went with the dark yellow of the guns on earlier ships like HMS Victory.  The Mark Adkin Trafalgar Companion book has a really good illustration of a 32-pounder.  It was this picture that also gave me the idea to draw some lines on the rims of the wheels to represent their two-piece structure.


In the picture below, you can see the second spongeman/rammer serving the sponge to the first spongeman/rammer standing near the muzzle. Meanwhile, the first loader is putting a ball down the spout, whilst the second loader walks back to receive another cartridge or cannon ball from the the shot & wad man at the rear. The gun captain stands behind the gun and prepares the firing mechanism.

During the Northern Wars, the crews built platforms in the muddy bush from which to fire these great guns. I’ve just indicated this platform by including some boarding on the base. I may later build a more accurate (and bigger) model gun position, complete with log palisading.


This photography session gave me an opportunity to make a couple more ‘Big Man’ cards to go with the Sharp Practice rules I use for New Zealand Wars gaming.

Brit naval big men

15 thoughts on “Empress Miniatures ‘New Zealand Wars’ naval landing party painted

  1. Imagine trying to lay that gun after it bucks off into the bush after firing. Great figures Roly. Can’t wait for a game:)

    1. Yep, that boarding on my base is merely indicative of a platform. If I do eventually make a proper model platform, it’ll need to be much bigger. And I guess there will have to be tackles attached to sturdy trees.

  2. Beautiful paint job on a fantastic set! Great to see the role of the RN getting some attention.

    Just this week I visited the grave of the men from the HMS Hazard that fell during the defense of Korarareka. Can just imagine your miniatures scrambling for cover in that churchyard as Kawiti’s men open fire. Great job!

    1. Thanks for that, Lemuel.

      I recall visiting that church and the graves when I used to go up to Russell on holiday in my youth. I must make my way up there again one day – it’s a beautiful part of the country..

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