I just read the post on the official blog for the project detailing the opening of the diorama today in Wellington. Wow. It is even more visually stunning than I when I last saw it – when it was 99% complete but in a room that resembled a construction site with no lighting in place and you were practically tripping over buckets of flock, paint, spackle and of course, hundreds of miniatures. I am incredibly proud of all the effort that went into this. New Zealand wargamers, painters and modellers can be justifiably proud.
Given the incredibly short time frame – mid December 2014 to now – I think it is nothing short of a miracle that this was done. Sir Peter Jackson copped a lot of flak on modelling and wargame sites around the world and even here in New Zealand. People saw a rich guy getting plebs to do his painting for him. I hope that they have seen that while Sir Peter could have got all the models painted in Sri Lanka or some place – and probably to a much more uniform standard, they would not have been painted with the love and dedication that was put into it by the New Zealand gaming community who did get involved. Every miniature that came back – even the ones that were not painted that well and had to be redone – were done by dedicated people who wanted to be involved. The way I look at it those redo’s just got some extra love. I have only met Sir Peter in passing at Weta and the museum when I was volunteering there and I never got the opportunity to personally thank him for coming up with the idea in the first place and then fronting the wedge to pay for it.
This project brought a lot of people together and I imagine more than a few old acquaintances were rekindled and new friendships made. On a personal note I met up with Roy Martin at Weta on the first weekend we volunteered there. It took a day for us to realise that we once worked in the same office for eight years (it was a while since we had seen each other) and more amazingly, neither of us knew we were wargamers with basically the same hobby interests.
While my father was a WWII veteran, I couldn’t but think of him while I was working on this WWI project. Reality is that when the 100th Anniversary of WWII rolls around and the great battles fought by New Zealand in that conflict are commemorated I will either be dead or past being able to paint or participate in anything like this so I dedicated my time and effort on this to his memory. It was kind of nice that the Prime Minister noticed the photo I had of Dad in my painting box when he and the Governor General had their visit after they opened the War memorial garden outside the museum.
These photos are from my poor eight year old 2mp phone camera. Compare these work in progress shots with how the diorama looks now. One of the Turkish platoons that I inserted into the diorama. It was, as Roly said on the official blog, tough work. Bent over, trying not to step on anything you shouldn’t – not easy on middle-aged backs. Then you had to poke a hole with an awl through the terrain – and bear in mind this could support the weight of overweight wargamers – and then position the figure.
We have this biscuit (cookie to you Yanks) that has traditionally been made on Anzac Day. Story is that these were sent to the soldiers from home and they ate them at Gallipoli. However, that is not quite the case – those poor souls had to break their teeth on Ships Biscuits.
From the NZ Army Musuem:
The Real ANZAC Biscuit Story
“Biscuits! Army Biscuits! Consider the hardness of them. Remember the cracking of your dental plate, the breaking of this tooth, the splintering of that.”From Army Biscuits by Ormond Burton.
Does this bring to mind images of our troops at Gallipoli eating the ANZAC biscuits we know and love today? Staff at the National Army Museum did some research and found that contrary to popular belief there were no ANZAC biscuits at Gallipoli. The standard Army biscuit at this time was a rock hard tooth breaker also called the ship’s biscuit.
Although it’s a myth that ANZAC biscuits were sent and eaten by troops in Gallipoli, some evidence suggests a rolled oats biscuit was sent to troops on the Western Front, although this was not widespread.
The majority of rolled oats based biscuits were in fact sold and consumed at fetes, galas, parades and other public events at home, to raise funds for the war effort. This connection to the troops serving overseas led to them being referred to as ‘soldier’s biscuits’. Fundraising was co-ordinated by local Patriotic Funds, raising 6.5 million pounds for the New Zealand war effort. Read More Here
RECIPE: From the Edmonds Cookbook (A sort of NZ Kitchen Bible found in almost all homes in NZ – usually very tattered and well thumbed)
1/2 cup Plain Flour
1/3 cup Sugar
2/3 cup Coconut (dessicated)
3/4 cup Rolled Oats
1 Tbsp Golden Syrup
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
2 Tbsp Boiling Water
*Mix together flour, sugar, coconut, and rolled oats.
*Melt butter and golden syrup.
*Dissolve baking soda in the boiling water and add to butter and golden syrup.
*Stir butter mixture into the dry ingredients. Place level tablespoonful of mixture onto cold greased trays. Bake at 180’C for about 15min or until golden.
This was the last figure I painted for the Anzac Diorama – a piece of luck as it happens. Good luck for me and terrible luck for McBeth who painted the original who got lost. For the full story check this post on the official blog out. Johnston is an interesting character. He was a New Zealand born British Army officer seconded back to the New Zealand forces. He had some successes but his judgement at Chunuk Bair has been questioned – whether he was drunk or just out of his depth is open to conjecture in my opinion. He commanded the New Zealand Infantry Brigade (later the 1st NZ (Inf) Brig) throughout the Gallipoli campaign.
He was killed by sniper fire on the Western Front on the 7th of August 1917 while visiting front line trenches of his 3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade. Three New Zealand Brigadier Generals were killed in action in WWI. Not so safe for the generals after all.
Remember that Alan Perry made that figure of Brig-Gen Johnston in about half an hour in poor light. He really looks “ill” and completely out of his depth.
I am really happy with how the maps on the table turned out. They are all actual period maps of the battlefield that I reduced and printed. I didn’t reduce them to the size shown, but to a larger size and cut out pieces of them otherwise any detail would have just disappeared into a few pixels.
I finally had to pack up the paints and return home. That is my involvement with this fantastic project officially at an end. Been a long week – I worked my real job during the day and went to Weta and/or the Museum to paint in the afternoons and evenings. I had a bitch of a cold for most of the week that didn’t help much. My last day was spent like most others – doing last minute painting. I started the day out at a McCafe where I had breakfast and mostly finished the Brig-Gen Johnston figure that we ended up going with. Back at the museum I had barely finished the miniature when the original “lost” Johnston was found with a pile of Turks. Alan and Michael decided to use the new figure and the old Johnston became a field officer. The last thing I worked on was adding pegs to the canvas cover over Johnston’s command dugout that had been sculpted the night before and giving it a coat of paint – the paint was still wet when the VIPs visited. On Friday the Te Papa WWI display was opened. To say it is larger than life is an understatement.
Today was spent at the Museum doing figure placement, touch up painting, painting a NZ Staff officer that Alan had just sculpted this morning and fixing broken models. Having sculpting talent these guys tell you that your repair on the model he just broke was ‘a good job’ is rather gratifying. Two knights visited today – Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Richard Taylor. Sir Peter had a look at the staff officer that Alan had made and I was painting and didn’t send it back to be repainted – which was good for me 🙂 I spent most of the day at a desk with my trusty portable paint box (Complete with picture of Dad for inspiration). Continue reading Another day closer to completion…still painting→
After work yesterday I went down to the Museum to help out with the diorama. My first task was to assist Russel Briant dirtying up some Turkish boots. Then I got to actually place figures on the diorama. I positioned a Turkish platoon of sixty men advancing up a hill in support of the platoon in front of them. It was a little daunting to be honest, but a lot of fun if not hard on the knees and ankles. Do the right poses work with the terrain? Make sure that the figure’s mounting pin is properly seated into the hole you have made. Don’t step on any other models already in place. Pick up any bits of polystyrene you see sitting on the diorama base.
On to my homework. Those Perry’s are hard taskmasters – I may not have a life but they don’t need to keep reminding me 🙂 Another 36 Turks and some Anzacs – and some furniture for the New Zealand commander’s dugout. I think that is about it as far as figures go.
Once again – sorry for the poor photos but using my phone camera which is not very good in low light.
More Turks. A variety of poses from the charging/attacking to wounded and falling wounded. These mostly need dry brushing, lightening and a few more colours on places such as sashes and some more definition on rifles.
For those who think that this level of detail is lost on a huge diorama, you are probably right but it says a lot about the standards that Sir Peter Jackson asks for. A little anecdote. I couldn’t help myself and had to look inside a German mannequin’s ammo pouches the other day at Weta. The insides of these pouches wont be seen by the public. The pouches were not padded with card or paper. Nope. In each pouch were cast clips of painted ammunition. If it is worth doing it is worth doing right.
The three kneeling firing poses are resin figures. These had been quite badly painted – no undercoat and paint really daubed on. I think someone may have given them to their kid to paint. The resin .303 barrels were also bent so had to use the old hot water trick to straighten them out. Worked a treat. Anyways, I think I did a reasonable job in bringing them back to life, given the time constraints. Also a few wounded, and a standing machine gunner and a Maori loader.
The table and chairs for the commander’s dugout. I imagine there will be some miniature paper maps – but just in case I will print some out myself.
Yesterday after work I went to Weta to do more painting. There was only The Armchair General’s son there and soon after I was left alone for the evening. Apologies for the poor photographs but I left my camera at home and could only use my rather old and crappy phone camera that has a resolution of about 3 pixels – and I don’t mean 3mp. The workshop we have been working in was freezing – an blast of cold has come up from Antarctica and I swear Mirimar is the coldest hole in New Zealand.
I drilled and pinned over a hundred more casualties – Turk, Kiwis and Gloucestershires. I only managed to do two drill throughs – well I was getting tired. The drilling is one thing – cutting all those brass pins is another.
I also painted about fifteen crouching Kiwis waiting to go into the attack. These were done from scratch rather than fix-up jobs. Also six wounded – four for the Maori contingent and two others.
Finally – and there is no photo – I repainted and freshened up fifteen Turkish officers and another thirty charging Turk infantry. This was mostly dry brushing to tone down some colours and I had to totally paint the rifles and equipment on these guys. All in all I think I had a pretty good evening at the painting bench, even if I was freezing my raho off.
I knocked off these 25 casualty figures last Saturday night when everyone else was at the pub and I had to work. Alan Perry did manage to buy me a beer though.
I seemed to become the Dremmel King and must have drilled holes in about a thousand casualty figures in the past week for the mounting pins to be inserted. Had several figures with air bubbles inside – one of which sort of exploded and took off across the workshop at 20,000 rpm when I let go of it in fright.
A big bunch of painters were beavering away at Weta over the weekend. The painting side is definitely nearing the end-game. I have another twenty or so Anzacs to paint and hopefully will have them finished today.