Colonial Amazons: Women Soldiers of Dahomey and Siam

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Women warriors of Dahomey from a Victorian print

Looking for #FEMbruary inspiration, I found in my scrapbook an old Victorian photograph of the King of Siam’s ornate bodyguard. I wanted to know more about these exotically costumed figures.

Looking around for more information I found more inspiration for my possible Pound store figure conversions to celebrate  #Fembruary and female figure in our collection https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/fembruary-hobby-challenge-conversions/

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From my scrapbook,  Victorian  photograph by  John Thomson of the King of Siam’s female bodyguards in Bangkok.

I found a fascinating article by Mike Dash on the King of Dahomey’s female bodyguard  that also mentioned the King of Siam’s female bodyguard:

https://mikedashhistory.com/2011/09/23/amazons-the-king-of-dahomeys-all-woman-army/

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Dahomey is now known as Benin and these were the “only female soldiers in the world who then routinely served as combat troops.”

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As Mike Dash writes “Dahomey’s female troops were not the only martial women of their time. There were at least a few contemporary examples of successful warrior queens, the best-known of whom was probably Nzinga of Matamba, one of the most important figures in 17th-century Angola—a ruler who fought the Portuguese, quaffed the blood of sacrificial victims, and kept a harem of 60 male concubines, whom she dressed in women’s clothes.”

Other Warrior Queens?

There are several websites linked to African Warrior Queens. The Kingdom of Fon had female Regiments in the 19th Century https://uncensoredopinion.co.za/african-queens-series-ahosi-female-military-regiment/

https://uncensoredopinion.co.za/african-queens-series-queen-amina-zazzau-west-african-warrior-queen/

https://uncensoredopinion.co.za/african-queens-series-queen-iyoba-idia-world-renowned-warrior-queen-first-queen-ancient-benin-kingdom-nigeria/

With so many different types of female Warrior, a Generic female warrior troop is probably the best response to the FEMbruary challenge using Pound Store Plastic figures.

But what about the Siam Warrior Women? 

“Nor were female guards unknown; in the mid-19th century, King Mongkut of Siam (the same monarch memorably portrayed in quite a different light by Yul Brynner in The King and I) employed a bodyguard of 400 women.”

“But Mongkut’s guards performed a ceremonial function, and the king could never bear to send them off to war.”

Dahomey Amazons in Action

Mike Dash made the distinction between these ceremonial female troops and the Dahomey warriors.

“What made Dahomey’s women warriors unique was that they fought, and frequently died, for king and country. Even the most conservative estimates suggest that, in the course of just four major campaigns in the latter half of the 19th century, they lost at least 6,000 dead, and perhaps as many as 15,000. In their very last battles, against French troops equipped with vastly superior weaponry, about 1,500 women took the field, and only about 50 remained fit for active duty by the end.”

Who had heard of this one, The First Franco-Dahomean War“, certainly a new one to me, “which ensued in 1890, resulted in two major battles, one of which took place in heavy rain at dawn outside Cotonou, on the Bight of Benin”, quoted from Mike Dash’s article. This pitted French colonial troops against male and female Dahomey troops.

More pictures including coloured veteran postcards can be found at this website: http://solarey.net/dahomey-amazon-women-benin-west-africa/

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Veteran Amazon warriors from Dahomey – a coloured or tinted postcard giving some idea of colour scheme for clothing.

Further staged photographs and dramatic battle pictures can be seen here:

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Dahomey women and men warriors at  a French Exposition Exhibition c. 1911

http://www.africanamerica.org/topic/fon-people-benin-s-empire-builders-of-the-past-kingdom-of-dahomey-and-an-unrepentant-practitioners-of-voodoo-religion

 

So what of the King of Siam’s Female Bodyguard?

From the Daily True Delta newspaper, New Orleans, USA, March 15, 1857

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These details seem to tally with John Thomson’s photograph (below).

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The photograph came from torn out part of a magazine page in my scrapbook of a tiny picture by John Thomson, Victorian pioneer photographer. (Stephen White wrote the featured book on Thomson). Exotic, fantastic and ceremonial uniforms. Part of the Victorian and ongoing fascaination with the exotic and the Orient.

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Famously Mongkut the King of Siam offered elephants to the US President for use as heavy transport in the American civil War, featured in The King and I film

https://www.civilwar.org/learn/primary-sources/lincoln-rejects-king-siams-offer-elephants

The idea of these women duelling in front of the other splendidly dressed women soldiers clearly caught the attention of the American journalist for the Daily True Delta newspaper in 1857. This would fit with the Gerard De Gre / Bartitsu duelling rules that I featured last year.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/more-duelling-inspiration-bartitsu/

Some of these ideas can be brought into creating a fictional women’s troop made from Pound Store Plastic Warrior Conversions. They would serve well for Bronte inspired Imagi-Nation troops in the Pacific or African realms that the Bronte family created as part of their Gondal, Angria and GlassTown sagas.

So as  part of my FEMbruary challenge on Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog, I will be attempting to turn this Poundland penny dreadful Plastic Warrior into a Generic Amazon warrior within the next few weeks? Tissue paper, PVA, Scalpel at the ready.

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2018/01/28/pound-store-plastic-warrior-conversions-and-comparisons/

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This pound store plastic figure has a suitable ‘hairstyle’ and with some tissue paper robes, which  should make a female Warrior with spear or sword. The breast pockets or pouches even add to the appearance of what Donald Featherstone coyly calls “feminine attributes.”

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN blog on his Pound Store Plastic Warriors sister blog site, FEMbruary 15 2018

 

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#FEMbruary challenge for Pound Store Plastic figure conversions?

 

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Pictured: Some interesting old metal female civilian figures to match my usual 32-36mm Pound Store Plastic soldiers, found in a job lot of figures, previously shown at  https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/a-good-size-match-for-my-36mm-poundland-warriors/

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A Westair metal WREN (WW1? WW2?) on first left.

My #FEMbruary challenge on Pound Store Plastic Warriors?

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/fembruary-hobby-challenge-conversions/

Ross Macfarlane of The Battle Game of the Month blog wondered what my Pound Store version of my #FEMbruary challenge might be?

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Interesting ideas – not sure what #FEMbruary Pound Store figure conversion I might attempt yet.

Looking back through this blog there are a fair number of female plastic figures ranging from pirates to space princesses, pioneer women and native Americans, zoo staff and visitors, to police officers.

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2016/09/06/first-blog-post/

What female gaming figures might you paint up or convert for #FEMbruary?

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One of Steve Weston’s plastic Mexican Civilians who may well become a suffragette this FEMbruary.

The FEMBruary challenge seems to have started at the Leadballoonery blog.

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN on 9th FEMbruary 2018

Pound Store Colonial Skirmish part 1

Late last weekend my Colonial pound store plastic desert warrior conversions went into action against my Redcoats.

I have been working on these figures for many weeks and finally it was a chance to use them on my 192 Hexes of Joy game board, complete with extra added pink deserty Hexes.

Somewhere in the foothills of Generica, a patrol is overdue.

The initial dispositions are shown below, a Redcoat column marching up the valley to rescue the missing Patrol of the 3rd (Foot and Mouth) Highlanders, who were camped at the old gatehouse in the Pass.

Either side on the high ground of the valley are amassed Generican desert Warriors with rifles (bottom left) or long spears and shields (top right).

A heliograph operator flashes back information, summoning reinforcements. The Redcoats look to be outnumbered!

Generican desert riflemen with their long jezails or muskets line the rocky valley walls.

Will any reinforcements arrive in time? A slouch hatted company of local Militia are in Reserve nearby.

Will Private Widdle and the other 3rd Foot and Mouth Highlanders be rescued and the Pass held?

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2018/01/28/pound-store-plastic-carry-on-up-the-khyber-colonial-highlanders/

Opening Moves

Being bunched up by the terrain, the first few volleys from the Redcoats were ineffectual before the Generican spearmen charged down the right hand Valley slopes into melee. With no savings throws, the initial casualties were high for both sides. Fixed bayonets met sword and shield. The Redcoat officer, leading from the front sword in hand, was soon downed.

Luckily, the d6 was rolled for when the Redcoat reinforcements of rifle militia would arrive in game turns. They rolled a two, so soon more rifles and boots on the ground will be stomping up the valley.

This weekend should hopefully see the conclusion of the skirmish.

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Rules are my hexed up Close Little Wars, some of the simplest Donald Featherstone rules designed for natives and troops in cluttered terrain, originally in North American forests but here used in rocky desert. The cluttered terrain is made up of Heroscape hex tiles, now many percent extra deserty with the help of some painted Hexes!

Previous posts illustrate the conversions of cheap Pound Store 32-36mm plastic modern infantry into colonial figures.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN on Pound Store Plastic Warriors, 3 February 2018

Little Green Men Pound Store Plastic Space Warriors

I wanted to create a race of opponents for the Space Marines that I had previously made. I also wanted to capture that highly colourful 1950s Space look of Dan Dare or the 1930s Flash Gordon serials that survived into the 1980 Flash Gordon movie. To make these figures different from my blue and silver Space Marines I have painted them orange and gold, the joy of gloss Revell acrylics.

I also added a golden mantle or shoulder armour section using simple card label or hole reinforcers glued on and held in place with clothes pegs whilst they dried. When these ran out, I cut out the patterns in stiff drawing paper.

You can see their opponents the blue Space Marines here

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/11/05/poundland-space-marines-platoon-on-parade/

This is an attractive original figure, one of the ones that first attracted me to these penny figures in their £1 Poundland tubs.

The Space Commander figure is one of the most badly moulded and distorted of all the 12 pound store plastic warriors in the Poundland tubs. They make a possible space officer figure with a machine or Space pistol, along with a possible Desert Warrior with robes, shield and sword scabbard.

I look forward to getting these into action soon, using scaled down hex gameboard versions of my Close Little Star Wars rules.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/25/close-little-space-wars/

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN on his Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog, 28/29 January 2018.

Pound Store Plastic Warrior Conversions and Comparisons

In this post I am going to compare different figure conversions from the same few Poundland 36mm pound store plastic figures, available for £1 for 100 (now 80).

Above are 19th Century / Victorian style Colonial infantry variations converted from a modern infantryman.

These Boer / Confederate type figure conversions are made from some of the odder Poundland figures.

A heliographer figure is made from a modern machine gunner.

This marching figure has many possible uses from desert warriors, to Colonials and Boers or Confederates.

These figures have been shown on a previous blogpost during conversion, including the bush or slouch hat using a label reinforcer.

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/11/26/pound-store-plastic-colonial-infantry-on-the-painting-table/

Next to come – little green men!

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN on Pound Store Plastic Warriors, 28 January 2018.

Pound Store Plastic Carry on Up the Khyber Colonial Highlanders

The original pound store plastic 36mm figures are shown alongside the conversions. These kilted colonial figures have been made and painted from modern figures using kilts from PVA glue and tissue paper.

These are inspired by rewatching Carry on Up The Khyber and represent the 3rd (Foot and Mouth) Highland Infantry, those ‘Devils in Skirts’. This isolated guard patrol of three Highlanders form part of the focus or rescue part of my latest Colonial skirmish game.

You can see more of these pound store conversions and of Carry on Up The Khyber film stills that inspired the painting scheme:

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/11/26/pound-store-plastic-colonial-infantry-on-the-painting-table/

More 36mm pound store figure conversions on the next blog.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, on 28 January 2018.

Pound Store Desert Warrior Spearmen Conversions # 2

A new set of Desert or Ancient Warriors to add to the Desert Warrior Riflemen previously shown here on the blog:

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/11/06/pound-store-desert-warrior-unit-completed/

The “penny dreadful” Pound Store figures £1 for 100 (now 80) plastic 36mm figures from Poundland offer great conversion potential.

These spearman are converted from a Rambo-esque machine gunner. Desert robes are added with PVA, tissue paper and paint.

The patterned shields are upholstery pins ordered online from China.

The hands are drilled to take a garden wire pin or shield and ridiculously long spears seemed to work best.

As well as white desert robes, I tried a black robed warrior as well. The modern water bottle becomes a mysterious bottle or dagger and sword hilt

Officer type figures with swords were made from different figures.

More conversions rolling off the painting table on the gaming hex boards in blogposts this week.

Desert spearmen on the heights – A glimpse of my current colonial game on my portable 192 hex game board.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 28 January 2018.