Thursday, 25 June 2020

Ambela Campaign: 101st Royal Bengal Fusiliers

I have for a little while now become increasing fascinated by the Ambela Campaign on the North-West Frontier in 1863. In October a British expedition of 6,000 troops was sent to destroy Malka, the base of the hostile Yusufzai Pathans, their route going through the Ambela Pass, the territory of the Bunerwal Pathans who were believed to be friendly. Unfortunately the Bunerwal believed the British intended to annex their land and fiercely resisted the expedition with 15,000 men and it took the British almost two months of hard fighting that ebbed and flowed to force the pass, see the Bunerwal surrender and eventually destroy Malka.

Not your typical North West Frontier action being two decades odd before the more popular 1880's period, I thought it would make for a decent Rebels and Patriots project with a colourful British force of British line, Highlander Light Infantry, Gurkhas and Sikhs to pit against George's Afghans when we get back to gaming.

The first unit I painted are the 101st Royal Bengal Fusiliers, an ex-East Indian Company regiment which was transferred into the British Army following the Mutiny.

The figures I used were packs BRV301 and 303 from the Wargames Foundry 2nd China War range as the uniforms are the same with the 101st wearing the 1864 wicker air-pipe helmets at this time.

As an experiment I undercoated the figures with a Red spray this time (with half an eye on future projects), block painted the trousers, helmets etc, then used Soft Tone dip on the top half of the figures and a black wash on the trousers. I then added some highlights before varnishing.

The flag is from GMB Designs, one of the Crimean range. They don't do a specific flag for the 101st so I picked the 13th Somersetshire (as they also had blue facings) and then painted over the XIII numerals and replaced them with CI for the 101st. Unfortunately the Foundry command pack only has one standard bearer so I went with the Queen's standard for the unit.

I must say the figures were a joy to paint, I'd forgotten how nice Foundry figures were to slap some paint on. Next up the 71st Highland Light Infantry when my order arrived from Perry Miniatures!


  1. Interesting Project. What source material would you recommend? If I were to do this it would be in 15mm - not sure if I would use Rebels and Patriots though (good set of rules that they are). Would The Men Who Would be Kings be a good option do you think?

  2. There is some useful stuff on the web (also try searching for Umbeyla Campaign) whilst John Adaye's Sitana: The 1863 Ambela Campaign is very good. R&P is a better set than TMWWBK for this. TMWWBK is great for mass stabby native armies like Zulus and Mahdists, for earlier colonial and games with shooty armies like Pathans R&P works better, allows more nuanced differentiation between similar troop types and has more ebb and flow than TMWWBK. Basic rule of thumb TMWWBK for colonials in Africa 1870 on, R&P for India and early colonial fighting.

  3. First point, these Fusiliers are lovely.
    Secondly, you’ve piqued my interest in this campaign
    Thirdly, damn you I didn’t need #2
    Looking forward to how this turns out

  4. A bit different but splendid nonetheless!

  5. Michael Barthorp wrote an article in Military Illustrated circa 1990 based on the journal and watercolours of an officer of the 71st- sadly lost in a fire but fortunately copied. Illustrated in colour by Barthrop himself. Apparently the white helmets presented too good a target and the 71st exchanged their white helmets for the diced Kilmarnock bonnet- as seen in the iconic photo of the regiment's sharpshooters.