British Central African Protectorate Forces 1889-1901 Part 2

Here is the second part of look at the British Central Africa Protectorate having given you the background history in Part one here is a Field force list for using them in games of TMWWBKs plus some pictures of my freshly painted Central African Rifles. these miniatures are perfect for 1894/5 onwards if I need African soldiers for the earlier period the irregulars from my African Lakes Company army will fill in very nicely.

British Central African Field Force 1891-1901

Sikh soldiers.  The Sikh soldiers were the mainstay of the early British forces and continued to play an important part right until the end of the era.

 Regulars upgraded to elite 7pts per unit

African Askari.  It took some time for the local raised Africans to gain the training and experience to become good soldiers but the end of the era they were good enough to be sent to fight in Britain’s wars elsewhere in the world.

From 1891 irregular infantry, poor shots 3pts per unit

Upgrade any unit to well-armed +1pt

From 1895 Regulars 6pts per unit

0-1 Artillery. The British had a distinct advantage in artillery over their native opponents and few expeditions weren’t accompanied by a 7pdr mountain gun or two. Towards the end of the era maxim guns were also becoming common. There were no dedicated artillerymen African and Sikh riflemen were used to crew the weapons instead. Occasionally royal navy sailors were brought on land to crew artillery.

From 1891 poorly drilled field gun 4pts

From 1895 regular drilled field gun 6pts or poorly drilled machinegun (Nordenfelt) 4pts

From 1898 drilled machinegun (maxim gun) 6pts

Allies occasionally the British had local allies to assist them.

1892 Maseko Ngoni. Rather unreliable allies trust them at your own risk

Upto half your field force points on tribal infantry downgraded to Unenthusiastic 2pts per unit

1893-4 Jumbe. A local Arab potentate who could field several hundred-armed men.

Upto half your field force points on irregular infantry, poor shots, antiquated muskets 2pts per unit

1895 Nkonde warriors. After years of abuse at the hands of Mlozi and his slavers the Nkonde joined the British in attacking Mlozi’s stockade where they fought very well.

Upto a third of your field force points on Tribal infantry upgraded to fierce 4pts per unit

1899 Portuguese. I would suggest the joint operation by the British and Portuguese is best handled by having two separate field forces on the table in a multiplayer game rather than one combined field force.

British Central African Protectorate Forces 1889-1901 Part 1

This is my attempt at a Field Force list for the British Central African protectorate (later to become Nyasaland and today known as Malawi) for The Men Who Would be Kings rules. As is usual I’ll start with a wargamers history (part 1) to give the field force some context and then give a selection of units and special rules to help build a (hopefully) historical field force (part 2).

In 1859 David Livingstone “discovered” one of the African great lakes which he named Lake Nyasa he also explored the southern and western regions around the lake and reported the area would be ideal for missionary work due to the climate and fertility of the area. The 1860s and 70s saw a steady but small influx of British missionaries and settlers moving into the area. In 1878 The African Lakes Company was formed in Glasgow with goal of setting up a trade and transport network in the area. The company had hoped to receive charted status from the British government however the company’s lacklustre performance in the Karonga (or Slaver) war between 1887 and 1889 persuade the British Government they weren’t up to the task of administering the area.

The Berlin conference of 1884 and the subsequent “Scramble for Africa” saw tensions in the area raise between the British settlers and the Portuguese who were trying to claim ownership of the area to the south and east of the lake, In particular the Shire River and Shire Highlands. To try and prove control of the area the Portuguese sent several expeditions, in the 1880s, into the area to try and make treaties with local chiefs. The British government at the time wasn’t keen to commit to taking responsibility for the area though paradoxically they didn’t want to cede control of the area to the Portuguese either. Under pressure from the British missionaries and settlers in the area the foreign office appointed a consul to Mozambique and the Interior the position came with no real power but a remit to see what the situation with the Portuguese in the area was. Britain’s choice for consul, Henry Hamilton Johnston, travelled to the area and 1889 and met with Major Serpa Pinto. Major Pinto was operating on behalf of the Portuguese government with a force of 800 “Zulu” soldiers, but Johnston warned him not cross the Ruo River into the Shire Highlands. Shortly after Johnston headed back to the coast and left John Buchanan a local settler as his deputy. When Major Pinto’s successor crossed the Ruo River in September 1889 and clashed with some local tribesman Buchanan, against foreign office orders, declared a British protectorate over the Shire Highlands. Shortly after that Johnston declared a second protectorate, again without foreign office approval, called the Nyasaland Districts Protectorate over territories to the area west of the lake. Bowing to popular pressure, and with an offer from Cecil Rhodes British South African Company to fund the administration of the new protectorate, the British Central African protectorate was endorsed by the Foreign Office in May 1891.

Johnston arrived in Chiromo, in the south of the new protectorate, on July 16th, 1891, as the protectorates first Commissioner. The reality was he controlled very little of the vast area now claimed by the British, but he now had access to resources and money provided by the British South African Company. Johnston’s main obstacles to imposing British rule were the Yao chiefs in the Shire Highlands, The Ngoni of which there were two main groups one in the south and one in the northwest and The Swahili slavers under Mlozi and the north end of the lake. Johnston realized he didn’t have the resources to deal with Mlozi in the north until he had secured the south of the protectorate, so he signed a truce with the northern slavers to concentrate on the Yao chiefs in the south. To facilitate this Johnston, need a military force which had to be built from scratch using three main elements Africans, Indian soldiers and European officers in addition the Royal Navy would provide additional military aid with several gunboats.

The first Africans recruited by Johnston were fifty Makua that he had picked up as guards and porters in Portuguese territory on his way back from the coast to take up his role of Commissioner once in post these Makua men were formed into a native police force. Further Africans were then recruited from among the Swahilis, a contingent of 150 being recruited in Zanzibar in 1891 and given Sikh NCOs. The Swahilis didn’t prove to be particularly good soldiers and 1893, when their enlistments expired, they were mostly sent home and local Africans, mainly lake Tonga, started to be recruited instead. The initial Lake Tonga soldiers had in fact been recruited by the African lakes company for their war with Mlozi at Karonga they weren’t uniformed and had little formal military training but were employed by the Protectorate authorities in 1893 for an expedition against Liwonde and were employed thereafter, as irregulars, until 1895 when they were formal recruited and trained. Enlistment was initially for a year at a time and for service only in the Protectorate.

By 1896 the now formally titled Central African Rifles there were 3 companies of Tonga (A, D and E coys) 2 companies of Yao (B and C coys) and one company of mixed Chewa and Ngoni men (F coy). In later year the British tended to favour the recruitment of men from the Ngoni and the Yao tribes these being considered the most warlike tribes and thus the best soldiers.                      Each company was stationed at its own fort or Boma. A company was made up of 108 African soldiers 6 African sergeants, six African corporals and a British officer a Sikh colour sergeant and several Sikh drill instructors.                                                                                                                                         

 By 1898 the number of companies had been increased to eight as the need arose for border forts in Northern Rhodesia to be garrisoned (it should be noted North-eastern Rhodesia had no army units and only a constabulary thus it fell on the Central African Protectorate to provide military forces as needed in North Rhodesia). 1898 was also the year it was decided to use the Central African rifles for overseas service. First attempts to gain volunteers from the existing companies to serve against the Ashanti resulted in mass desertion of the African troops (remember these men had signed up for local service). On the back of this episode a 2nd regiment of Central African rifles was raised with new enlistment requirements of three years’ service with up to two years served overseas. The 2nd regiment was then sent to Mauritius in 1899.                                                                                                                         

In 1900 the two regiments were recombined and re-named the Central African Regiment. The 2nd battalion was then split half going to Somaliland while the other half of the 2nd battalion and half the first battalion were sent to west Africa in various campaigns. Finally in 1901 the Central African battalions become part of the Kings African Rifles and started a new chapter in their history. Uniforms were provided to African troops in the form of a khaki shirts, three-quarter length trousers and a black fez. Belts and equipment were provided in brown leather.  An undress uniform of blue with a red fez was also provided to the recruits. The khaki uniform was replaced once a year for free, but the dress uniform was only provided once and the soldiers becoming financially responsible for its upkeep. To start with armament was the aging but still effective Snider Enfield rifle. When they were first recruited by the African Lakes Company half of the lake Tonga were armed with muzzle loading Enfield rifles and it is not clear if they continued to use these early in their British service but by 1896 at the latest the snider was in use by all. The snider was replaced in 1899 with the Martini-Henry Enfield rifle firing smokeless .303 rounds. Interestingly a Captain Manning reported that initially the upgrading to Martini rifles caused a drop of in musketry standards as the African troops were in awe of the new weapon and confused by the lack of smoke, kick and barely perceptible puff of dust the bullet kicked up.

   Initially NCOs were provided by the Sikh soldiers but by the end of the period, as the gained more experience, local Africans provided most of the NCO positions. One incident that may well have pushed this development came from Captain Percival the commanding officer at Fort Mangoche in 1898 he was attempting to stop raids, by men loyal to the chief Zarafi, and having trouble pinning these raiders down he petitioned his commanding officer to drop the standing order that African troops were to always be accompanied by a Sikh NCO. He then organised small aggressive patrols of only African troops who lived of the land and as such were able to hunt down the raiders far more effectively than if they were accompanied by Sikhs and Europeans who couldn’t live of the land or move as fast through the terrain.


The Indian recruits were provided by an initial contingent of 40 Sikh infantry and 20 Muslim lancer cavalry under a captain Maguire in 1891. The cavalry proved to be of little use as their horses were quickly lost to tsetse fly and they had little training in fighting dismounted. So much of the early fighting fell on the shoulders of the Sikhs. The Sikhs proved so successful that when the original Indian soldier’s enlistments ended in 1893, they were replaced by a new contingent of 200 Sikh soldiers. The Sikhs were employed not only as frontline infantry but as NCOs and drill instructors, for the African soldiers, and technical specialists operating artillery and machineguns. As mentioned above Sikhs were attached to every African company as drill instructors, they also carried out other roles in the company including overseeing supplies and stores, guard duties, escort duties, running the fort in the absence of a British officer and being put in charge of any detachment of African soldiers without a British officer. As well as those Sikhs attached to each African company around 100 Sikhs in their own company were, in 1896, stationed at the military headquarters at Zomba were they seemed to have formed a strategic reserve. In 1898 with the increase in African companies and a reorganisation of the forts a detachment of 40 Sikhs were sent to garrison Fort Maguire.     

 Captain Percival who arrived in 1898 to command a fort made some interesting observations about the Sikhs including that they had much of their rations imported from India which had to be transported with them and that they tended to pick up a large following of non-combatants including tailors and cobblers all of which tended to be a supply burden when on campaign especially when compared to the African soldiers who were paid a few pence a day to buy food locally. 

   Harry Johnstone is said to have designed a fetching undress uniform for the Sikh soldiers which included a black turban and Zouave jacket with yellow trim, a white shirt and cummerbund and yellow trousers. Sadly however, for miniature painters, in the field the Sikhs wore the usual khaki Indian field dress and brown leather equipment though it seems that they retained the black turban. Like the Africans the Sikhs were initially equipped with Snider rifles latter upgrading to Martini Enfield’s firing smokeless .303 rounds.

The British officers came from a variety of sources many, like Captain Maguire of the Hyderabad lancers, were seconded from the Indian army, but captains Gough and Percival were both officers in the Rifle Brigade. In 1898 when Percival arrived in the Protectorate the regiment was under command of a Major H.E Brake of the Royal Artillery. Several officers were based at the military headquarters first at Blantyre and then from 1895 at Zomba while every African company had a single British officer in charge. It is interesting comparing the experiences of the officers in Zomba, like Gough, and those sent to command companies at forts on the frontiers like Percival. Gough mentions the good shops in Blantyre, the good hunting to be had outside Zomba he also mentions the gymkhana club were officers played football and cricket and the pool table at the mess. Meanwhile Percival talks about the loneliness of being the only English speaker at his fort the inability to get even simple supplies like string (while head quarters officers can decorate their houses with also sorts of modern luxuries) and the lack of medical support with only four qualified doctors in the whole protectorate and none stationed outside the main towns.

    Percival gives a good description of the duties company officers were supposed to carry out in addition to their military duties. The British had introduced Collectors, who were responsible for the civil administration in the protectorate, and the company commanders were expected to support the local Collector as required. However often the Collector post was unfilled, and the commander of the local fort was required to take on the collectors’ duties to. Percival lists the civil duties he was required to carry out during his two years as company commander which included road building, bridge building, post office services, law and order, running a prison service, collecting hut tax and dealing with refugees at the border and administrating a smallpox vaccine program. On top of that he had his usual military duties that included monthly fort accounts in triplicate, pay for the men, ordering of supplies, the upkeep and maintenance of the fort, recruitment and training of men and the suppression of the slave trade and raiders. Uniform wise there seems to have been some leniency on uniform for the British officers but as a rule khaki uniform with a sun helmet seems to have been the order of the day.

One of the advantages the British enjoyed over their various native opponents was in artillery. There was no dedicated artillery unit in the Central African Protectorate, but several guns and machineguns were available to the British forces and manned by men of the Central African Rifles. A few examples in some of the very early campaigns against the Yao in 1891 the British had access to 7pdr mountain gun. A second 7pdr gun was captured by the Yao chief Zarafi in 1892 after he defeated a mixed British/Ngoni force outside Fort Johnston. In 1895 the British moved against the Arab slaver Mlozi with a large force that included according to Harry Johnston “a strong artillery contingent of several guns” Johnston doesn’t say how many guns were included in this contingent, but we do know that it included a 9pdr gun and a Nordenfelt machine gun both crewed by the royal navy. In 1896 a British force including a 7pdr gun was sent to the lake Shirwa to deal with slave raiders.  In 1898 the Central African Rifles were deployed into North-eastern Rhodesia to deal with the Ngoni kingdom of king Mpezeni with them they took two 7pdr guns and two Maxim guns. Percival mentions that in 1898 the company based at Fort manning was larger than the other companies and included a gun detachment equipped with an “antiquated gun”. In the years 1899-1900 the British undertook a joint expedition with the Portuguese along their mutual border the British force included two 7pdr guns and a maxim machine gun.

Once the area around lake Nyasa became an official protectorate the way was paved for the deployment of the Royal navy to the lake. Even before the protectorate was declared the Royal navy ran two gunboats (HMS herald and Mosquito) on the Zambezi River. The Zambezi River was connected to Lake Nyasa via the 250-mile-long Shire River in theory boats could travel up the Shire River to lake Nyasa but in practice the upper Shire was very shallow only navigable by boats with a shallow draft and the middle shire had a series of cataracts that were impassable to boats. This meant the Zambezi gunboats could offer only limited help along the lower shire river.

   On the lake itself the African Lakes company already ran the unarmed steam ships the Ilia and Domira, the university missionaries also had a steamboat, and the German anti-slavery society operated another steamboat on the north end of the lake. These could be pressed into service by the colonial authorities as transport and supply vessels. Sometime around 1892-93 the gunboat HMS Dove was sent to the Protectorate she was a shallow draft, side paddle ship. Armed with a 3pdr Quick fire gun and a maxim machine gun her main job was to patrol the upper shire river. In 1893 a royal naval contingent of 27 men lead by commander Chas Hope Robinson arrived with HMS Pioneer and Adventure. The two boats had been disassembled in the UK and had to be rebuilt at fort Johnston by their crews. Each boat had two 3pdr quick fire guns and a Maxim .303 machine gun. These two boats were then replaced by the HMS Guendolen and HMS Chauncy Maples around 1900. The royal navy and civilian steamboats gave the British the ability to move forces and supplies quickly around the lake as well combat the Dhows operated by Arab and Yao slavers. The Royal navy men were also occasionally found fighting on land as already mentioned they operated some of the artillery used to finally defeat Mlozi and in fact the whole artillery force in that campaign was commanded by a Commander Cullen of the Royal Navy. Another naval officer was at the British defeat by Yao chief Zarafi in 1892 outside Fort Johnston. Petty officer Inge bravely mounted a one-man rear guard using a 7pdr gun, in the face of 2000 Yao warriors to allow the rest of the British to retreat before he managed to make his escape unharmed.

Finally, I thought it would be useful to give a brief detail of some (certainly not all) the campaigns and battles involving the British forces of the protectorate. Between 1891 and 1901

One of the first tests for the protectorate’s new army came in 1891 against the Yao chief Mponda who was raiding for slaves and causing trouble with the local British settlers. Harry Johnston and captain Maguire led a force of 70 Sikhs, 9 Swahilis and a 7pdr gun to deal with him. Close to Mponda’s village they built a Boma that went on to become Fort Johnston and then proceeded on to Mponda’s village which they shelled with incendiary shells from the 7pdr. Amazingly Mponda had an artillery piece of his own, and antique muzzle loader, with which he attempted to return fire. However, the artillery duel favoured the British and Mponda sort terms the other Yao chiefs soon followed suit at least temporarily.

Zarafi one of the most powerful Yao chiefs rebelled in 1892 after the British had suffered some battlefield reverses in late 1891 against other Yao chiefs. Zarafi started a loose blockade of Fort Johnstone. The local civilian Collector at Fort Johnston a Mr King managed to forge an alliance with a group of Maseko Ngoni and together with the fort’s garrison marched out to confront Zarafi. Sadly, the Ngoni fled on contact with the Yao and Mr king was badly wounded by a musket ball early in the battle. The British were saved from a worst disaster by Petty officer Inge, of the Royal Navy, who maned the expeditions 7pdr gun as a rear guard until he ran out of ammunition.

1893 saw the arrival of the Royal Navy gunboats and Captain C.E. Johnson of the 36th Sikhs, to replace Captain Maguire who had been killed in action, as well as the arrival of more Sikhs bring their number up to 200. In 1894 these forces moved against the Yao chief Makanjira who had attacked the British ally the Arab Jumbe. Jumbe’s followers joined the British in an attack on the village of Chiwaura an ally of Makanjira which was stormed by the Sikhs after some hard fighting. This was the start of the end for Makanjira who by 1895 had been driven out of his land, by a Major Edwards leading a mixed column of Sikhs and Africans, and into Portuguese territory the British then built a fort on his lands.

1895 saw the final showdown between Mlozi and the British. Harry Johnston had been forced to sign a peace treaty with Mlozi in 1891, due to the weak nature of British military power at the time, by 1895 the British were in a much stronger position. In the intervening years Mlozi had continued to terrorise the Nkonde people, carried on with the slave trade, building new stockades and recruiting more men from the Bemba tribe of North-eastern Rhodesia. The British forces consisted of 10 British officers 100 Sikhs, 300 Africans and a strong force of artillery which included a 9pdr gun and a Nordenfelt Machine gun crewed by Royal Navy sailors. This force was given the title of the “Ever Victorious Army” by Harry Johnston. Unlike the earlier Karonga war, were the African Lakes Company tried and failed to take several slaver’s stockades the British, and their artillery, captured three stockades including Mlozi’s in one day. The first two Stockades were abandoned by the slavers after a short artillery bombardment and the slavers retreated to Mlozi’s main stockade. The British were now joined by a large force of several hundred Nkonde spearmen and in the afternoon attacked Mlozi with an artillery bombardment. The defending slavers probably numbering nearly 1000 men attempted a sortie but the Nkonde spearmen, without orders, counter charged and drove the slavers back into the stockade with heavy casualties. The Sikhs then went into the attack scaled the stockade walls and entered the stockade. Commander Cullen of the Royal Navy broke down one of the stockade gates with an axe and the Nkonde stormed into the stockade at which point slaver resistance crumbled. Mlozi was found hiding in a secret tunnel under his hut, where he was captured by a Tonga Askari sergeant called Bandawe, tried by drum court and hung on the spot.

In 1896 Captain Gough was part of expedition to the region around Lake Shirwa (Chilwa) on the border with Portuguese territory against slavers and raiders. The expedition consists of four companies of Africans 50 Sikhs and a 7pdr gun. Much to Goughs disappointment the raiders fled upon the approach of the British and there was quote “Not much of a show”

In 1898 war broke out in Northern eastern Rhodesia with the Ngoni Kingdom of Mpezeni (mostly thanks to the German Karl Peters) the locally raised Askari constabulary weren’t equipped to deal with several thousand Ngoni warriors so military support was requested from British central Africa. Captain H.E.J. Brake, Royal Artillery marched six rifle companies of Africans, 118 Sikhs, Maxim Guns and 2 7-pounder field guns into Mpezeni’s kingdom and in a short campaign defeated the Ngoni. It must be said that given the resistance shown by the Matabele and Zulu against the British the Ngoni of Rhodesia put up a very poor show often breaking contact after a couple of artillery shots.

1n late 1899 early 1900 the British and Portuguese launched a joint operation along their borders around lake Shirwa. The borders were a good place for rebels, slavers and raiders as they could dodge pursuit by slipping across the border where colonial forces couldn’t follow. In this joint operation the British deployed 10 British officers, 500 African Askari, 135 Sikhs 2 7pdr guns and a maxim guns. The Portuguese deployed 200 European regulars and several hundred African irregulars. The British officers were less than impressed with the Portuguese irregulars many of them being Angolan convicts. Percival comments that the irregulars were given old British military jackets by the Portuguese, to help distinguish them from the local Africans. He even saw one wearing a green rifles jacket and that Portuguese irregulars were often seen carrying slave sticks for their prisoners.

Part 2 coming soon

Lomwe/Nguru tribesmen

Another group of tribesmen for British Central Africa. These miniatures were inspired by a single line in Chris peers Central Africa book where he describes what he calls the battle of Fletcher’s Boma. During this engagement a small British colonial force are attacked by a much larger fore of Yao and allied Nguru tribesmen. My first stop was go to Sir Harry Hamilton Johnston’s book on Central Africa he also mentions the fight “Mr. Sharpe sent a small force of Sikhs and Atonga under Corporal William Fletcher, and an Atonga sergeant named Bandawe, to defend Malemia’s principal village where the Scotch missionaries were. This expedition, which only consisted of six Sikhs and a few Atonga, built a boma to protect themselves against any sudden attack from Kawinga. It was fortunate they did so, because a day or two afterwards he descended on them with 2, 000 men, many of them recruited from amongst the warlike Anguru of the countries east of Lake Chilwa” other than that sir Harry only mentions the Anguru twice more in his book. This kick started my journey down another rabbit hole trying to research an African tribe. My initial google searches weren’t proving very helpful I found a village in Nigeria and a tribe of Australian Aboriginals with similar names neither seemed very likely allies for the Yao. What it highlighted is how tribal names in Africa can be a real headache for researchers. Firstly, some tribes have more than one name the one they gave themselves; ones other Africans gave them and ones the Europeans gave them. Then there are the spellings which aren’t always the same in European sources and can vary depending on weather the source uses prefixes like Wa, A and Ba in front of the name. In the case of the Nguru research was particularly difficult due to some issues with the name in colonial Nyasaland. It took me a long time to finally pin down who the Nguru were so here is a little background on the naming.

The term Nguru (or Anguru) seems to have found use among the Colonial British authorities though I haven’t been able to pin down its exact provenance. In S.S. Murray’s A Handbook of Nyasaland (1922). Murray comments on the vagueness the term ‘Nguru’. The Nguru are, he explains, a number of different peoples loosely allied in the Makua-Lomwe language group but bearing separate designations like Atakwani, Akokola, that refer to different districts of origin in Mozambique. As they migrated into the Shire highlands the local people sometimes referred to them as Akapolo which in the local language meant “slaves”. In 1915 there was an incident called Chilembwe Rising this short but violent raising against British rule in the southern districts of Nyasaland mostly involved people of Nguru origin. After the rising was put down the term Nguru took on very negative connotations and persuade the British to move forward with plans for indirect rule using the Yao chiefs, who hadn’t supported the uprising. The term became so negative that Lewis Mataka Bandawe formed the Lomwe Tribal Society in 1943 which succeeded in stopping the colonial government using the word Nguru in its correspondences and adopt the word Lomwe (or Alomwe) which is the name used today. Interestingly in her 1906 book The Natives of British Central Africa Alice Werner describes the Lomwe, Anguru and Akapolo as being different tribes based on language and tatu patterns.

Once I had finally figured out the naming issue I could research a little more effectively for information and managed to dig up some photos and a bit more history. The Lomwe/Anguru moved, from what is modern day Mozambique, into the area east of and the edges of the Shire Highlands in four major migrations but I’m only really interested in the first two migrations that took place in the 19th century. The first happened in the later 19th century before the arrival of the British and seems to have been driven by drought the Lomwe being an agricultural people searching for better land to farm. The second migration took place in the 1890s, at the same time the British arrived in the area, this second migration seems to have been sparked by increasing Portuguese control of the original Lomwe homelands, including forced labour and heavy taxation, which the Lomwe were keen to avoid. These migrations weren’t on a tribal scale but rather in large family groups. The local Yao and Amang’anja (the southern branch of the Chewa people) welcomed the Lomwe groups into their lands often giving them land to farm this may seem odd but both the Yao and the Amang’anja chiefs were in a power struggle for control of the area before then having to deal with the arrival of the British so the extra man power was useful to them. Secondly the three groups shared some common cultural traits especially matrilineal descent and their languages, while different, were close enough to make communication possible. Despite this it obvious reading British sources the Anguru/Lomwe were still instantly recognisable from the other tribes of the area rather than being absorbed in the local cultures and that although they were subservient to local chiefs whose land they entered they formed their own settlements.

Alice Werner proves helpful with some descriptions on appearance of the Lomwe/Anguru in her 1906 book on British Central African tribes (both the above pictures come from her book). Referring to the picture above she says “we find that he wears his hair fairly long and divided into strands, with beads tied to the ends of them” she also goes on to mention tatus (really more scaring than conventional tattoos) among the natives saying “The Lomwe tribes have various patterns — one a crescent, turned downwards, just between the eyebrows, others a series of from three to six crescents in the same position. The Akapolo have a mark on each side of the chest, consisting of a crescent turned up, and two short, vertical cuts below it.” The wearing of the pelele, a type of upper lip piercing, by women was common to the all the tribes of the area (see the picture above) according to Werner “The Akaplolo women, not content with the pelele, wear a brass nail, two or three inches long, in the lower lip as well.”

Of course as a wargamer my main interest was in the military side of the Lomwe/Anguru and how they fought as allies along side the Yao and here again my research was turning up very little info. Alice Werner has this small snippet in her book “The Lomwe country was for many years harassed by slavers, and its people were continually at war with one another — so much so that, in 1894, the villagers did not know the names of hills more than a day’s journey from their own homes, and travellers could not get guides except to the next village ahead of them. Perhaps this state of things accounts for the comparatively poor physique of the Akapolo”. The main question I couldn’t find an answer to was weather the Lomwe used guns obviously Werner’s picture above shows the young man with a spear and she also mentions hunting was carried out with spears, bows being the hunting weapon of the Amang’anja. Another strike against guns is that if the Lomwe were preyed on by slavers, most notably the Yao and the Makua both who took to using guns, they probably lacked many guns of their own, as it seems common practice for gun armed slavers (either Arab or tribal) to pick on victims without guns. If the Lomwe did lack guns then the assumption has to be spear and shield were used but what did they look like? Werner again has this little snippet when discussing the tribes of the Shire Highlands  “The bow was used as a weapon of war (with or without poisoned arrows) before the Angoni introduced the shield and stabbing spear”. The Ngoni in question are the the Maseko Ngoni. The Maseko were a separate group Zwangendaba Gumbi’s more famous Ngoni, and they migrated from Swaziland, travelling northeast of Lake Nyasa before settling at Songea in present day Tanzania. Sometime in the early 1860s the Maseko met the Gwangwara Ngoni who had migrated North up the western side of lake Nyasa before moving back south, down the eastern side, of lake Nyasa and were defeated by them. This resulted in most of the Maseko Ngoni moving south back into Mozambique through the lands of the Makua, Lomwe and Yao before settling on the southern end of lake Nyasa under king king Cikusi in the1870s. and then annually raiding the Shire highlands and surrounding areas. This would have put the Lomwe/Anguru (along with the other tribes in the area) in a position to have had plenty of interaction with the Ngoni these interactions all across east Africa frequently saw the adoption of Ngoni military equipment by the Ngonis victims and is one of the reasons the Nguni style shield is so iconic.

So at this point I have to admit I was reaching and with a lack of anything concreate on the Lomwe at war I had to just make some best guesses based on what little I did know and so I came up with these miniatures to act as allies/subjects of the Yao army I’m building. In the end I decided to plump for spears and shields because if nothing else they would be a nice counterpoint to all the musket armed Yao during games.

French Explorers

When I created my generic European Exploring expedition for TMWWBKs I painted up a number of Europeans and a flag bearer for each of the major nationalities who explored Africa to lead the expedition. All except for the French who only got a standard as I couldn’t find some miniatures that felt right for the Europeans. I finally found some French I liked in the Artizan miniatures French foreign legion range in their Senegalese Tirailleurs command pack. The miniatures have sat in my lead pile for some time but the other day I painted them up on a whim just for something a little different.

Unlike most of the other Europeans French explorers were rare in east and southern Africa and mostly stuck to west and central Africa places like the western Sudan, Chad, French Congo and Gabon. Some French explorers included Paul Du Chaillu an early explorer of Gabon in the 1860s. Pierre de Brazza (actually an Italian in the French navy) who explored the Ogouwe River and lower Congo River in two expeditions. Crampel and Dybowski both lead expeditions up the Ubangui River in the 1890s towards Lake Chad. One of the more famous French expeditions was the Fashoda Expedition because it caused an international incident with Britian. Captain Jean- Baptiste Marchand marched in 1897, with a force of less than two hundred men, from French Gabon to Fashoda in the Sudan (at the time under the rule of the Mahdists) with the aim of claiming the Sudan for France. The journey took two years across a vast swath of Africa that hadn’t yet been explored by Europeans.

Du Chaillu’s expedition was privately funded but he took 250 muskets, 12 better muzzle loaders and a breech loading double barrelled gun and revolvers for himself and recruited locals from the Commi river area as porters and bodyguards. De Brazza’s first expedition in 1876 consisted of 4 Europeans, 10 Senegalese laptots and 150 local boatmen in 10 canoes armament wise they only had 14 shotguns, several revolvers and some Winchester repeater rifles. For his second expedition into the Congo in 1879, he managed to con King Leopold of Belgium into funding it but planned to claim the territory for France. De Brazza took 87 Europeans and 291 Africans including European officers and NCOs, soldiers and sailors 27 Algerian volunteers with two French officers and the rest made up of newly recruited Senegalese laptots all armed with Remmington rolling block rifles. the Laptots wore an interesting uniform which Chris Peers in his Central African book shows as a version of French naval uniform complete with pompom beret. Marchand’s Fashoda expedition consisted of a 154 regular Senegalese tirailleurs with 12 French officers and were armed with 1892 French Berthier Artillery Musketoon which was a three round magazine carbine. Marchands porters were often just press ganged at the point of the gun rather than being paid workers like earlier explorers to the point that when left the French Congo he left the territory to deal with a number of rebellions caused by his actions.

The last two expeditions show how blurred the lines between exploring expeditions and military conquest became towards the end of the 19th century. On a wargaming note I would use my African explorer list for TMMWBKs here for Du Chaillu’s or De Brazza’s 1st expedition with no problem. The latter expeditions would probably need a new list given their military nature and large numbers of regular troops used. Any way time for the pictures.

The Ngoni in The Men Who Would Be Kings Rules

Here is my take on an alternative Feild force for using the Ngoni in games of TMWWBKs

The Ngoni were one of several groups of people from southern Africa displaced during the Mfecane of the early 19th century. Following defeat, at the hands of the Zulus, Zwangendaba Gumbi led his Nawandwe followers on a migration that eventually took them west of lake Nyasa and would see them reach the shores of Lake Tanganyika and settle on the Ufipa Plateau. Following Zwangendaba’s death in 1848 the Ngoni split into several groups. Some stayed in and around Ufipa and became known as Mafiti. A second group moved further north reaching Lake Victoria becoming the Tuta. A third group moved, under a chief named Zulu Gama, east and then south down the east side of Lake Nyasa and became known as the Gwangwara. Two other groups both led by sons of Zwangendaba (Mpezeni and Mhlahlo) would head back south around Lake Nyasa settling in the Heng valley and what is now eastern Zambia. 

A second group of Ngoni possibly of Swati (Swazi) origin also headed north in or around the same time as Zwangendaba’s Ngoni led by a Iduna called Ngwane. This group became known as the Maseko Ngoni, and they travelled northwest of Lake Nyasa settling at Songea in present day Tanzania. Sometime in the early 1860s the Maseko met the Gwangwara Ngoni moving back south and were defeated by them. This resulted in most of the Maseko Ngoni moving south into Mozambique and then west to settle near lake Nyasa in the 1870s.

When the Ngoni migrated north, they brought Zulu fighting techniques with them and this gave the Ngoni an advantage over the local peoples they encountered in battle. The early years of the Ngoni migration saw almost constant fighting in which the Ngoni were almost always victorious. The Ngoni would move into an area defeat the locals, enslave the men into their regiments, marry the woman and then raid their neighbours every dry season. Once an area was stripped of resources the Ngoni would move on and start the process somewhere else. This had two effects one was to give the Ngoni a psychological advantage over many of their enemies that lasted right up to the end of the period with many tribes living in abject terror of Ngoni attack. In reality this awe of Ngoni military power was probably not warranted in the closing decades of the 19th century. Certainly, Mpezeni’s Ngoni put up a very poor performance against the central African rifles compared to the resistance the Zulus and Matabele had shown in their wars against British.  The second effect was to spread the Zulu style of warfare to other groups like the Bena, HeHe, Mambwe and Henga to the point where the Zulu style shield and stabbing iklwa could be found all over east and central Africa.

Visually Ngoni warriors looked a lot like Zulus. The classic Zulu shield, stabbing spear called an Iklwa and tufts of a cow’s tail (amashoba) worn below the knee were all in use. There were also differences, as they migrated across Africa the Ngoni incorporated defeated local peoples into their groups. Local women were married off to Ngoni men, the young men were forced to serve in Ngoni regiments and others were turned into agricultural slaves. This resulted in the Ngoni language and traditions being supplemented with local customs and languages. Which gave Ngoni dress a style of their own. Red cloth was popular as wraps, belts or decoration. headdresses made of Zebra skin or black cock feathers were popular and not seen among the Zulus. The head ring (known as an isicoco and part of a man’s hair style) worn by married Zulu warriors seems to have fallen out of favour as the 19th century wore on. The Tuta around Lake Victoria took to fighting naked due to the climate. One interesting snippet in W.A.L. Elmslie book Among the Wild Ngoni is he reports Mhlahlo’s Ngoni daubing their faces with white clay as a sign they had killed a man battle. Throwing spears seem to have been more common among the Ngoni than the Zulus of Shaka’s time.

Ngoni military organization continued to be based on Zulu practices their armies were still called Impi and officers were still called InDuna even when other parts of the Zulu language dropped out of favour. It seems the Ngoni regiments came to be based on local villages rather than the military Kraals that the Zulus used. The Age set system was still used to recruit boys into the Ngoni armies but it’s not clear whether the regiments consisted of married men or unmarried men like the Zulus or just all warriors from the same locale. In at least one battle, against the Arabs, the young men (Amajaha) and the veterans (Amadoda) fought as two distinct groups. Regiments were organised into companies called Libuto by Lake Nyasa Ngoni. The number Libuto in a regiment nor the size of a Libuto seem to have been fixed.

Tactics wise the Ngoni seem to have continued with the time-honoured Zulu horns of the bull formation in open battle seeking to surround the enemy. Against stockaded villages Y.M. Cibambo mentions the Ngoni taking time to prepare an attack including the smoking of hemp and praise dances and not caring if their enemy knew they were there or not before rushing the stockade in the horns of the bull. Later in the century though the Ngoni had become far more cautious W.A.L. Elmslie describes two Ngoni attacks around lake Nyasa towards the end of the century in both cases the Ngoni opted for surprise attacks at night on villages. Elmslie describes an attack on a Nkonde village where Ngoni warriors placed themselves at the entrance to each hut in the dark and called out to the inhabitants. As the men came out, they were speared by the waiting Ngoni while the women were grabbed to be kept as slaves. In the second attack described by Elmslie the Ngoni attacked several villages near his mission station at dusk catching the defenders by surprise and forcing many of them to flee to his mission house for safety.

Guns never became part a major part of the Ngoni way of war. At the end of Mpezeni’s war, in 1898, the British found around 3000 guns in the king’s Kraal unused by the Ngoni against their British enemies despite facing a British army armed with breech loading rifles, machine guns and artillery the Ngoni had continued to fight with spears. Given the success of the Ngoni way of war and the fact many of the tribes they victimized had little access to guns themselves it is understandable they Ngoni didn’t see any need to change their methods. Giacomo Macola in his book the The Gun in Central Africa also argues the gun went against the Ngoni cultural ideal of a warrior.

Whatever the reasons the Ngoni disdain for guns it contributed to their decline as enemies, like the Yao and Bemba, became increasingly gun armed.  The Ngoni could still fight and prevail against gun armed opponents Mpenzeni’s Ngoni, for example, destroyed an Arab caravan of 400 guns in a battle along the Bua River in the late 1880s. However increasingly it seems the Ngoni disliked facing gun armed opponents. In both the attacks described by Elmslie above the victims (or in the case of the Nkonde traders from Karonga) armed with guns gave chase and caught up with Ngoni raiders and in both cases the Ngoni fled as soon as the victims started shooting (sadly Elmslie says not before the Ngoni speared many of their captives) despite heavily outnumbering their gun armed opponents. In 1892 the British at Fort Johnstone mounted an attack on the Yao warlord Zarafi along with a large group of Maseko Ngoni. The Ngoni however fled as soon as the Yao opened fire leaving the British in a very sticky situation. The nomadic Tuta around Lake Victoria were apparently so afraid of guns that they would pack up and leave an area if they saw a caravan flying the red flag of Zanzibar. During Mpenezi’s war with the British his impi failed to stand their ground over several days of confrontation the warriors breaking every time they came under fire certainly this performance doesn’t measure up well to the resistance mounted by the Zulus and Matabele against Colonial forces.

To create a Ngoni Field force in TMWWBKs we are naturally going to be using a lot of tribal infantry units. I’ve decided to split them into Amajaha (young men) and Amadoda (older veterans). On top of that I’ve split them into three time periods to represent the change in quality of the Ngoni as the century wore on and added two special rules to give some flavour.

Ngoni Field Force

1+ units of Amajaha – Tribal infantry 3pts

1+ units of Amadoda – Tribal infantry veteran (+1 Discipline) 4pts

The following options are available (but not compulsory) depending on time period

Migration period 1820 to 1848. (Early Migration from Natal until up until Zwangendaba’s death at Ufipa)

Upgrade any unit to fierce + 1pt

Upgrade Amajaha to veteran +1pt

Upgrade Amadoda to Elite + 1pt

Succession Period 1849 – 1885 (The period after Zwangendaba’s death that resulted in the Ngoni splitting in several groups and the rise of Ngoni kingdoms across central east Africa)

Upgrade Amadoda to Fierce + 1pt

Upgrade Amadoda to Elite +1pt

Downgrade Amajaha to represent conscripted non-Ngoni tribesmen (like Chewa or lake Tonga) to Unenthusiastic -1pt

Colonial Period 1885 to 1905 (The end of the Ngoni hegemony and subjection to the European powers)

Downgrade Amajaha to represent conscripted non-Ngoni tribesmen (like Chewa or lake Tonga) to Unenthusiastic -1pt

Theatre specific rules

Regardless of which time period you are using all Ngoni units are subject to the following rules

Character for Invincible Courage – All opposition Tribal Infantry not upgraded to fierce suffer -1 Discipline if any Ngoni units are on the table.

Fiendish Firesticks – All Ngoni units suffer an extra -1 Discipline whenever the take pinning tests caused by shooting from Irregular infantry or Regular infantry

Elephant Grass

Now I’ve got my wargames room back I decided to have a bit of a simple scenery bash, today, and make some new Elephant grass for my African gaming boards. I’ve tried to make Elephant grass before and although I quite liked the results it was a rather involved process which took a long time.

In reality battlefields in Africa, with Elephant grass, are covered in the stuff and you need rather a lot of model grass so I needed to find a simpler way of making elephant grass. As the name suggests Elephant grass is big, growing 12-14 feet high, and battles that took place among such grass saw the protagonists literally fighting blind.

So to represent this giant grass I went for the easy option of gluing, with my hot glue gun, plastic Aquarium grass, supplied by my local pet shop in a a foot square matt for £7.99, to bases and spraying it various shades of green and brown. Then I added some flock to the bases to match my terrain boards and done. You really can’t get a much easier terrain project. I made three decent sized clumps but I think I need to build several more to produce a really big area of grass perfect for ambushes.

Portuguese Cacadores for Moçambique

A while back I posted four test models I had painted to represent Portuguese Cacadores in Africa circa late 1860s to the mid 1890s. I’ve now added eight more to make a twelve figure unit. Surprisingly despite Portugal’s long history in Africa, and being a major player in the scramble for Africa in the late 19th century, information, in English at least, is really hard to come by on the Portuguese military forces in Africa. In the end I’ve had to rely heavily on Peter Abbots OOP Foundry book on Colonial African Armies. The internet doesn’t have much info either. If you type in “Cacadores” you get lots of information on the Peninsular War if you type in “Cacadores in Africa” you get lots of pictures of moustachioed, early 1970s Portuguese’s soldiers, with machine guns neither is much help to me.

A few things come up in Abbots’s book that I’ve tried to incorporate into this unit. First the Cacadores battalions in Africa recruited both local Africans, men of mixed race, Portuguese Goans and European Portuguese, and unlike most Europeans in Africa, mixed them all up in the same units. The Cacadores were issued with traditional Brown uniforms, but where also issued with a second white uniform, black leather equipment and kepis or white havelocks. Uniformity in the colonies was very variable though due to supply issues and so men could be wearing both colours of uniform as well as civilian and native clothing. It seems the further away you moved from the coast you went the more irregular the Cacadores looked.

Of course no one makes Portuguese soldiers for Africa (apart from Eureka’s massive three miniature range of 1890s soldiers) So I’ve had to improvise by finding suitable looking miniatures in other ranges like Foundry’s old west Mexicans and Darkest Africa, Copplestone Zanzibari Regulars, Perry Egyptians and Perry War of the Triple Alliance range. For conversions Perry ACW plastic heads and their black soldiers in Kepi head sprues are really helpful.

Ngoni Reinforcements

A short and not particularly exciting update today I continue to spend my hobby time between packing up the wargames room and trying to finish up stuff on my painting shelf of shame. These Ngoni were converted up from Warlord Games Zulus to bulk out the units in my Ngoni army so that I could use them with “The Men Who Would be Kings” rules. When I started my Darkest Africa project I was going to use “In the Heart of Africa” rules and made my Ngoni warrior units 12 figures each in TMWWBKs tribal infantry are 16 figures strong so I needed a few extra.

After I converted these miniatures I managed to get the skin blocked in and then never got any further so these took a bit longer than some of my other painting shelf of shame miniatures to finish up. I’ll admit these are not my best work but I’m not sure that will matter to much when they are mixed in with rest of my Ngoni horde.

New Gaming Board – Part 6 river test piece

Moving on to the river tiles for my modular African gaming board I thought it would be a good idea to do one tile as a test piece rather than jumping head first into doing all five at one. I did this because I wanted to modify the Sally 4th river tiles to make the river deeper and I wanted to make the river with epoxy resin. This gave me plenty of opportunity to balls things up so I figured wrecking one tile was better (and cheaper ) than wrecking five tiles.

I took a drill with a hole cutter to create a half circle, in the middle of the original river tile depression, for a deeper river (which you can see on the third picture down) that then meant, the original depression to represent the river on the tiles, could become steeper river banks which you often see, during African dry seasons, as the river level drops.

I had some fun with the epoxy resin as my attempts to block the ends of the river weren’t quite water tight which got a bit messy. I added a small amount of Tamiya mud green weather powder to the my first resin pour for some colour and then added a second clear top up layer of resin. The resin dries smooth so I used a gloss acrylic medium over the top to add some water flowing texture.

I added some plastic plants and used more green flocks closer to water of the river working out to the browns and yellows, of my other tile boards, at the tile edges. In theory when all laid out the river should look like a small streak of green life next to the water in a mass of dried out brown. In the end I think it came out pretty well so I just need to build the other four tiles now.

New Gaming Board – Part 5 High Ground

It’s taken a while, not least because I had a fun week tracking down the source of an electrical trip in my wargames room/ garage that turned out to be the ancient strip lighting and then replacing to old lights with some funky new LED ones, but I’ve final completed the hill tiles for my modular gaming board. Theses are a combination of flat double height tiles and slopes from Sally 4th I gave the slopes some rocky outcrops for fun and because a lot of photos I’ve seen seen of African Kopje seem to have a lot of rocks. one double height tile and one slope also had a road modelled on. other than that they where finished in the same way as my previous tiles.

This picture of a south Africa hill was my inspiration for the rocky outcrops on my hill tiles

and some photos on my tiles