Friday, 13 May 2011

NZ Wars - 58th Foot

Hone Heke's attack on Kororareka/Russell prompted an evacuation of its inhabitants to Auckland. While the Maoris sacked the town, the Royal Navy sloop HMS Hazard commenced a bombardment, which destroyed many of the town's buildings. Hone Heke realised that the British were likely to return in force and so began work on a new fortified pa, called Puketutu, on the shore of Lake Omapere, about 15 miles inland. Soon after the evacuation of Russell a punitive force of British regulars and seamen was landed in the Bay of Islands under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Hulme of the 96th Foot. Hulme had about 400 men, including 100 sailors, a naval rocket battery, elements of the 96th and some 200 soldiers from the 58th Foot. The 58th had recently arrived in New Zealand, having spent the previous 2 years on garrison duty in New South Wales. The force marched from the coast to Puketutu, through difficult terrain and heavy rain. The new pa had strong defences, with double and triple palisading in place on three sides. However, the rear of the pa was not completed and so was vulnerable to attack.

The British troops attacked on 8 May 1845. Colonel Hulme sent a main assault party of 216 men against the uncompleted rear of the pa and a skirmish line against the front. The main assault party took heavy fire not just from the pa itself but also from the bush. The British realised that an ambush had been set to protect the vulnerable side. 100 warriors charged out of the bush to attack the British assault from the rear. More Maori sallied out of the pa and fierce hand-to-hand fighting ensued. Eventually the Maori were all forced back inside the pa, but Hulme realised that he had to withdraw. The heavily fortified pa was easily able to withstand musket balls and the rocket battery had made little impact on its walls. Without heavier artillery Colonel Hulme had no choice but to retreat. Lessons had been learnt on both sides. The British appreciated the risks of frontal assault on fortified positions. The Maori realised that in a fire-fight in open ground the British regulars would most likely prevail. British casualties were 52 dead and wounded, with Maori losses thought to be about the same. Above is a watercolour of the battle that was painted by Major Cyprian Bridge of the 58th.

The figures here consist of two complete packs of rank-and-file and then an officer and a NCO from the command pack there are 2 other figures from the command pack which I have not yet painted, as I may transfer them to Carlist War duty. I can't immediately see any reason why these figures should not be used for the British Auxiliary Legion in the First Carlist War. There are slight differences in uniform between these and the Perry figures that also wear forage caps - the Empress figures don't wear backpacks and the shoulder tabs are different, but otherwise pretty much look the same. A problem which arises if you intend to paint up the figures for service in both conflicts is that the facing colours don't quite match up. For example, there is no BAL unit that wears the black facings of the 58th. When painting these figures I followed the illustration of a 58th Foot officer in the Osprey MAA "The British Army on Campaign (1)", which shows red shell-jacket and "Oxford mixture grey" trousers, which I've always regarded as a kind of dark blue-black. So for the trousers I used the Foundry palette "British Royal Blue 74" with an extra highlight of "Deep Blue 20B".

10 figures. Painted April 2011.


Christopher(aka Axebreaker) said...

They look just wonderful Giles and I found the back story fascinating.


Bedford said...

Fascinating stuff and great painting to boot!