Colonial New Zealand Wars of the 1860s


The main campaigns of the colonial New Zealand Wars took place from the 1840s to the 1870s. Over those 30 or more years, uniforms and weapons changed. My NZ Wars wargaming armies have so far primarily  represented the early campaigns of the 1840s, when the British still wore red coats. But I’ve recently painted some Perry Miniatures ‘British Intervention Force’ figures to complete a small  British and colonial army of the 1860s.


My army consists of two sections of British regular infantry, a group of colonial cavalry, and an artillery piece, along with some officers on foot and on horseback.


Overall command of my army is given over to these three mounted officers (probably of much too high a rank for such a small force!). The photo makes the blue of these rather plain uniforms look lighter than it actually is – in fact, my paint job is almost black, which I’ve achieved by washing the finished figures with black ink.


There are also a range of officers on foot, including these three doughty chaps. I don’t think such a dandy as the cavalryman in the middle every fought in New Zealand, but I like him as a figure anyway!


On the left is an officer busy writing notes, whilst a Maori scout waits patiently. The latter Perry Miniatures figure is actually a Canadian native figure, but I think he works well as a ‘friendly’ Maori as well.

Standards weren’t carried as a rule in the colonial NZ Wars. But there is some evidence that occasionally a plain Union Jack was used. You also probably wouldn’t have seen too many drummers during the bush fighting – but he is a nice figure, isn’t he!


I’ve painted these cavalry so they can either be used as colonial horse; or as mounted men from the Military Train used as cavalry (as there weren’t any formal British cavalry units in New Zealand).


Here’s one of the British regular infantry units. During the 1860s campaigns, the British soldier wore a blue serge ‘jumper’ instead of his traditional red coat.


Don’t ask me what rules I’ve based these figures for. I don’t base to any particular set of rules, but rather to ‘my eye’ – what looks good to me! Actually, with my busy life, my wargames armies seldom get to see action on the tabletop anyway!


If I ever need to reinforce my small army, these Empress Miniatures sailors from my 1840s army will fit the bill.  Their weapons might not be exactly right for the period, but they give the right look.


Likewise, my 1840s militia will probably do for a colonial unit of the 1860s.

Armed Constabulary

The most obviously missing figures for my army, however, are colonial militia wearing the famous ‘shawl-order’. Neither Perry nor Empress make any suitable figures to represent these men. At one stage it looked like Eureka might produce them, but they couldn’t gather enough pre-interest to make it worthwhile. This also seemed to scare off Empress, who had also said at one time they might produce such figures.

My only hope now is the Perry twins, who of course have a good connection with New Zealand through the work they’ve done for Sir Peter Jackson, and who sometimes go out onto a limb that other manufacturers would deem as unfeasible!

11 thoughts on “Colonial New Zealand Wars of the 1860s

  1. Great to see more of your work, Roly. For those interested in the period, the Osprey New Zealand Wars book is a good summary.

  2. Hey Roly, this is a fantastic blog and has re-kick my interest in the area over the last couple of years.
    I have something that I have been putting together and wondered if it would be possible to use some of the photos from our blog because they are amazing.
    Let me know, I filled out contact details and will share with you what I have been doing and it is related to the New Zealand Wars (wargaming) resources.

      1. Thanks Roly, Have alook at Wargames Vault I have created a set of war games rules and a new scenario campaign book;

        The New Zealand Wars; Skirmish & Campaign Rules for the Waikato War 1863-64
        (NEW) The New Zealand Wars; War in the East 1866 (Hawkes Bay – based around the Battles of Oamarunui and Petane)

        Hoping to add to the series with one that is close to finish and then another looking at my old home town – Wellington War 1846.

        Your pictures will be brillant for the above title and will give refernce to your self and link to your site. (I brought Empress Miniatures as well!)

        This is not to make money its more a labour of love and an enjoyment of first being introduced to something at the age of 15 by my uncle Ron Lambert (use to run Taranaki Museum) and James Belich book.

        The price is to recover costs or pay any costs getting pictures of maps, etc from New Zealand sources.
        If we do make anything over an above it will give it to as donation to the Battle of Te Porere (Te Kooti’s Taupo Campaign 1869) brillant place visited last year.
        Happy to give you a copy of each of our first two.

        Thank you again


          1. Hey Roly
            Talked with my Dad and he will ask next time he rings him, but he said that he has done a lot of work like that when he was running and in charge of Taranaki Museum and it is quite possible it was him.

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