TMT - History in Miniature

Rorke's Drift, 1879

Rorke's Drift, one of the most famous battles in British military history. 4000 Zulus fought off by around 100 men from the the 24th Regiment of Foot- just what legends are made from.
The battle is well known but it was nothing other than a morale boosting victory for the British. There was no strategic advantages gained and all it did was to go some way in rescuing the reputation of the British Army. Lord Chelmesford had just taken a beating at Isandlwana so Rorkes Drift was the good news in a sea of bad coming out of Zululand.

map of compound taken from Rorke's Drift 1879, Osprey Publishing, Campaign Series No 41

W Britains on the steps to the stores attic Rorkes Drift consisted of a couple of buildings. Originally built by Jim Rorke as a house and store building. Jim had died in 1870 and his widow sold it to the Swedish Missionary society who turned the store into a church.
The Drift offered a good route into Zululand so when Chelmsford moved his ill fated column he used the outpost as a makeshift hospital and store room. The buildings offered a secure base for the columns supplies and with it being half a mile from the river on a raised sandstone shelf it was in a commanding position. The scene was set for the Battle of Rorke's Drift, 22-23rd January 1879.

The commission of the model came from a South African customer who I met at the London Toy soldier show in 2008. He wanted both the store house and hospital buildings but not the other parts of the compound, all in 54mm scale. He supplied me with the colour scheme- the colours of traditional South African stone along with the irregular pattern of the stone work. Over the next couple of months I researched where I could and we sorted out a few questions and doubts (for example- shutters on windows- yes or no and what colour they should be). I even watched the film.

more W Britain figures around the compound

The buildings were made on separate bases so can be displayed in a variety of ways (as you can see on the above photos) The buildings are about 45cm long and around 20cm deep. Each one was made from a strong framework of 5mm thick foamboard. This is great to work with- very light, easy to cut with a sharp knife but very strong. It can warp so it needs some good bracing behind it. Once the structure was built I covered it with air dried clay and when that was dry I carved the stone work. A long job but worth the effort.
I then started the paint job. After a couple of false starts the best way I found to get the effect I was after was to paint each stone individually and then wash the walls with a brown wash to blend everything in. I use brown washes alot as it tones down colours, adds age and wear and tear to a subject. The result seemed to compare well with the information my customer gave me.
Once the photographs were taken, they were parceled up and shipped to South Africa.

hospital3both together1both together2both together3

All the figures are from the W Britain's range.

If you have any questions on any of these projects or they have inspired you to ask about your own commission then please contact David.