Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The War of the Pacific – First Milestone

That’s one of the problems when you start to research the war between Chile and the Peruvian Bolivian alliance in the late 19th century. “War” and “Pacific” tends to give you results to do with the Second World War. In terms of the relative importance in world history that’s probably right, but the inhabitants of that part of South American still feel the effects of the war. Hardly surprising , - people in the UK still get worked up about the ECW.

Any how, the last week has seen me hit my first milestone on this project. Despite erratic train times and other commitments (“Avengers, - Age of Ultron” for example) I’ve broken my duck on the painting schedule.

I must say that I’ve taken some short cuts. Usually when I start a project like this I split the manufacturer’s packets up as soon as I get then and divide them up into units, ready for painting. This time I’ve skipped that stage as it usually takes most of a Saturday or Sunday morning and I thought I’d just get into the painting as soon as I could.

Plunging my hand at random into the box of goodies I plucked forth some Peruvian infantry, so that’s where I started. My uniform research is based entirely on that marvellous book published by Partisan Press that I have written about in a previous blog ("Uniforms of the Pacific War 1879 - 1884 - The Land Campaigns"). Unit selection for the first trial paint job was based upon units that (a) saw action in the second land campaign and (b) appear in the uniform book. The armies changed uniforms for each of the three land campaigns (some Peruvian units had the picklehaube for the first campaign) but the second campaign has the most battles and there are fewer changes from there to the third campaign.

As I’m doing these I’m also reading “Andean Tragedy” by William Sater on my morning commute. This is the most recent academic study of the war in English and has the benefit of being much, much, cheaper than “The 10 Cents War” the other standard English text.

“Andean Tragedy” has a better analysis of the causes of the war and the overall political situation than the other books I’ve got (including “To the Last Cartridge”) which are really books for the wargamer or military modeller. Whilst that probably won’t bother most of my readers I find it interesting. I was always a better political historian when at University rather than anything else, despite my desire to excel at military history since then.  I’m beginning to get a better idea of why the war erupted when it did and I’m not sure the writers in the books I’ve read have got it right. Same with the Wikipedia pages where Peruvian and Chileans still do battle over the conflict. I’m also starting to think that with my range of interests over the last 5-10 years that I should probably learn Spanish.

This book is relevant here as not only does it have the political background it also has a good chapter on the formation of the armies and navies of the various belligerents. In particular it has some information on the racial mix of units. Peruvian cavalry, for example, had no native Indians in their ranks as they were regarded as poor horsemen. Accordingly they were made up of black and mixed race recruits with, presumably, officers of European descent. Infantry units were less discerning although there was no reference to any of Lima’s large Chinese population joining the ranks. What this means, however, is that these units have me reaching for at least three different skin tone paints as they are the most racially diverse I’ve had to paint.

I succeeded in finishing off a couple of infantry units on Sunday evening, and quite nice they look too. The Peruvians didn’t necessarily get the idea that all units should wear the same colour uniform (the Bolivians decidedly didn’t – every unit pretty much has a different colour jacket) so I have a blue coated and white coated unit for my first pair. The blue units is the Victoria Battalion and the white with green kepi chaps are the Cazad. Officers paid for their own uniforms and like big bits of the army chose the colour and style of the contemporary French Army whilst looking a bit like Union forces in the ACW.

I think they’ve come out quite well. I’ve switched my varnish to Homebase Quick Drying Antique Pine in Satin as the Ronseal equivalent is becoming difficult to hunt down – I bought the last can on line and did not get a discount for shopping in said fashion.

Other comments. The figures are my first from Outpost and they were bought off the website pictures. OWS don’t do shows any more but they’re good people when you contact them through the website and answered questions promptly and with good humour.  The figures are crisply cast with little flash. The poses are okay, - some of the advancing figures are less than inspiring, but the chap taking a cartridge from his cartouche box is nicely realised. A couple of figures suffer from unnatural limb length but overall they present a pleasing aspect and I’m not regretting my purchases.

Enough of this waffle. Here are some pictures:

Battalion "Victoria"

Cazadores del Misti
They both deserve a bit better camera work, but I think you get the general idea. The unit flags will follow at a later date. These will be generated on the PC in Serif Drawplus, so I'll wait until I've done enough units to warrant printing out a sheet.

A satisfying start, i think.


  1. Great stuff - it's always good to see something off the beaten track.

    Best wishes


    1. Thanks. I reckon with two ranges and several specialist wargames publications it's not that far off the beaten track.

      Or do we only become mainstream when we have an Osprey!

  2. Hola! Looks interesting, Graham.

    1. Early days yet, but interesting so far, I'd agree.