Sunday, April 25, 2010

Indian Mutiny Sepoys

 Indian Mutiny, 1857: as the last rays of light set a horde of sepoys rushed our lines...

 ...then began a lively fire upon us from the edge of the ditch

After completing the dismounted French dragoons, before starting the mounted dragoons I had a commission for our Black Powder gaming group for an Indian Mutiny game we're about to have.  I had 48 mutinous Sepoys to paint up.  As with all my pictures posted on this blog, click on them for the enlarged view.

For those of you visiting this blog who may not be familiar, the Indian Mutiny 1857-58 was the uprising of both Muslim and Hindu native troops (known as 'sepoys') against British rule in India.  While the mutiny of Indian troops was not universal it was very widespread, being worse in some areas such as Bengal and the Punjab. The Mutiny (or First Indian War of Liberation if you are an Indian nationalist!) involved some famous sieges such as that at Lucknow near Dehli and months of hard campaigning and fighting. The British were shocked at the scale and ferocity of the rebellion and it took over a year of hard fighting against rebel armies (with a high percentage of British-trained troops!) by the British and loyal native troops before the mutiny was finally suppressed.

Indian Mutiny 1857: the old Subidar urges his men on...

Most of the mutinous Sepoys retained their British uniforms in particular the traditional red jackets.  The figures I've painted are Old Glory and while not the most beautifully sculpted figures around, make up for it with the wide range of animated poses and the general accuracy of appearance.  I've painted these Sepoys up as Bengali native infantry which being very dark skinned, with simple uniforms made them straight forward but also a challenge to make them look the business.  I used a Scorched Brown as the undertone and then a Dark Flesh over to highlight, followed by a Brown Wash to tone.  In hindsight I'd use a lighter base colour or just Dark Flesh  with the brown wash over for a better effect.  While what I achieved may be close to actual appearance - for 28mm figures on a table top you need to exaggerate the tones a bit to make them stand out.  I finished them using my own 'Mediterranean' semi-arid mix for the flocking on the bases.

 Indian Mutiny 1857: as the sepoys came to the ditch in front of our lines, they hesitated...
 ...before being urged on for one last charge!

'Allah Akbar!' 'Death to the Infidels!' they shouted as they came on!

All in all I'm happy with the overall result.  The flag on the command stand is conjectural - the Bengalis are largely Muslim so I've given them an Islamic green battle flag with 'God is Great' in Arabic script as I couldn't find a suitable reference for 'British Go Home!' written in Bengali!

Mutinous scum they may be, but there is no denying their courage!

It was a nice interlude from painting Napoleonics and hopefully I will have some more pics of the game using these figures to post next week.

Meanwhile, as Homer's mate Apoo says 'Thank you -come again!'

Thought I'd edit this post just to add a brilliant bit of artwork of one of your actual Bengali Sepoys at the time of the Mutiny.  I'd like to attribute it but I do not know who 'WRJ' might be - although it looks like a typical Osprey illustration. 

As you can see, there was a large amount of variation in the uniform with many local versions.  The usual adaption being the shortening of the jacket and the removal of the collar, which would have been irksome  in tropical India to say the least. This lad has substituted a frilly cotton one, as seen on yer more debonair sepoys. 


Note also the knife tucked into the cummerbund - most 'cutlery' seems to have been worn this way.


  1. Very impressive - mass amounts of troops real quick. From what little I've read on the mutiny, wasn't it something about the Muslims troops thinking the cartridges were soaked in pig grease - and they'd have to bite/tear into it? BTW, I think Old Glory are a great deal - the sculpting and poses, if you accept them as such, as just fine. I saw some OG 25/28mm Napoleonics yesterday at a LGS and thought they would look fine on the table along Victrix & Perrys - maybe their bayonets were a little thicker, but still. Regards, Dean

  2. Very, very nice Doc, those are great looking figures. I have always been fascinated by India and it's history. It is too bad that the British army uniform had changed by then from what was worn in the Napoleonic wars or I would be very tempted.


  3. Dean - it was a 'speed' job but only because the colour scheme was so simple. Probably took twice as long as it should of just to get the right finish (and still not 100% happy with the flesh tones). You are right about the cartridges and the mutiny. Basically the Hindus were told they were made out of cow parts and the Muslims that they were greased with pig fat. Neither was true but once the stories spread it was impossible to convince Indians of either religion and it did provide the catalyst for the rebellion.

    The Old Glory are great utilitarian figures - I'm told they've re-done many of the Napoleonics range. They were some of the best 'bang for buck' (and still are for all I know) getting 25 or more figures in a bag for about $30 with plenty of different poses plus command figs etc etc. The guy I painted the Sepoys for reminded me that OG were amongst the first I ever painted up (about ten years ago now!) - Revolutionary Wars French for the Egyptian campaign. Its one I'd love to do again and I thought OG were great figures.

    Actually John the jackets were very little changed from that worn 40 years earlier - mainly just some concessions to the tropics like short sleeves and lower collars etc, and made out of cotton or cannabis (the latter being a very resilient natural fiber bit like canvas - and still the 'secret ingredient' used in making US currency!)

    The French and the English fought for possession of India during the SYW and I'd like to do a 'what if' scenario for Napoleon in India - which may well have happened if he had won at Acre. Some fascinating possibilities. And you could do a lot worse than using hordes of Old Glory figures - they certainly have the range to cater for it.


  4. I know you guys are in to 28mm, but GerMan have released a 20mm plastic kit that contains John Co. troops that were sent to Egypt to help expel Boney. see for details. DeanM, the Muslims were convinced that the cartridges were smeared in pig-fat and the Hindus, cow fat and neither would be convinced otherwise. It was more a reflection of the growing gulf of understanding between the British officers and the sepoys and the resentment high caste Hindu soldiers felt at being treated little more than animals by a new generation of officers who didn't know or care about the intricacies of Indian culture and society. By the mid-1800's it was a powderkeg waiting to blow, and the cartridge issue was the spark.

    First time posting, Doc. Love your blog.

  5. Thanks for the comment Rosbif - I also checked the figures out on the link you sent. Very interesting - the only Brits in Tarleton helmets AND Sepoys I've seen for that period. Don't know why you'd include a large Egyptian 'ruin' in the set tho - probably could have included quite a few more figures without it! The best range of figures for this neglected period (25-28mm anyway) were the old OG but I haven't seen any others for years.

    I recall reading somewhere (Hibbert's "Mutiny"?) that the process of making the greased paper of the cartridges actually used rendered animal fat - most likely cow - to make them waterproof. So the Hindus may have had grounds to complain but you are quite correct in saying it was the spark that set the mutiny off - avoidable if some British officers had not treated their men with such contempt.

    Thanks for your informative comment.