Thursday 7 July 2022

Home Thoughts from Madasahatta and 1891

Bob Cordery’s updated version of the map of Madasahatta - it looks a whole lot more legible than the original version!

The original Madasahatta campaign organised by the late Eric Knowles was set in the early years of the Great War. As you can see from the map above - expertly updated by Bob Cordery and available from the The Madasahatta Campaign book available as a download from the Wargames Vault - the main breakdown of the nationalities involved consisted of the Germans in Hansaland and the British in New Surrey. There is of course the Arab concession as well as numerous local tribal types. 

According the ‘official history’ of the island it was primarily populated with various local tribal groups and an Arab trading concession granted by treaty between the Sultan of Zanzibar and the Whoppituppas (one of the indigenous tribes) in 1784. Gold was discovered in 1891 which led to European interest with the Germans arriving in 1894 under the auspices of the Hansa Ost Afrika company followed by the British two years later. The boundary between the two European powers was defined by the Treaty of Badlikortout in 1898 and ran along the centreline of the Bloeminstip Mounains, effectively cutting the island in two. The British came out worse from this treaty as the bulk of the gold deposits were in fact on the German side of the boundary - a fact that displeased Her Majesty Queen Victoria considerably - and so since then a succession of governors have looked to extend the northern boundary as far as possible where able to. That was the situation at the outbreak of the Great War.

This is where things get a little complicated, or not depending on how you view these things.

Bob Cordery’s map of Africa taken from his ‘Imagi-World of 1891’. Note the island of Madasahatta bottom right - with New Surrey, Hansaland and Fezian Madasahatta.

Bob Cordery’s outstandingImagi World of 1891’ shows the island of Madasahatta split between three blocks - Hansaland, New Surrey and Fezian Madasahatta located primarily where the Arab Concession is located. The implication is that the island featured a German and British presence earlier than mentioned in the ‘official history’. I have no problem with this as all three nationalities being in situ earlier than expected makes my plans a little easier to formalise.

My plan would be take things back to the mid 1880s with the forces already attempting to ‘stake a claim’ on the island - initially mercantile but supported by troops for local protection etc. Look upon it as being a kind of mini scramble for Africa. Ironically it means that the Fezian presence is the most established one although given the precarious state of the Fezian Empire at the time is probably the most tenuous. 

So what exactly is all this leading to?

I rather like the idea of the earlier period but with a small difference from the 1891 set up. The Fezian/Arab Concession will feature a small French enclave - I have written about this previously - that the Germans are keen to oust by any means short of all out war. 

Soon (actually not that soon but you get my point!) to be seen in British, German and French forces with a suitable paint job

The figures I shall be using for the French, Germans and British infantry will be those from the War in the Age of Imperialism board game. The overall cut of the uniform and the distinctive pith helmet will stand up to my efforts at paint conversion readily enough and there is an absolute wealth of other figures available for native tribal groupings, volunteers and locally raised Sepoy/Askari types.

The key thing behind all of this is of course the naval dimension as I will be able to deploy British, German, Turkish and French ships - all of which will need building. 

I have previously toyed with this idea but until now have never really ‘drilled down’ into the feasibility of it. At one point I planned to use the block armies for the land side but to be honest using something like the Portable Wargame as the basis for such a set up means that actually using figures is a lot more attractive and best of all can be done at my own pace. 

For sure liberties will be taken over uniform details and the ships being used will probably span a decade or so either side of the planned timeline but you know what? Who cares? It is the fun that matters!


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


It’s good to see that you’ve decided to take the story of Madasahatta forward … and very much in the same vein as Eric’s original.

Having looked at the various nationalities you’ve chosen to build forces for, the figures in pith helmets are ideal. The British can wear a mixture of redcoats, grey frocks (as they did in Egypt), and khaki, the French can wear white and/or dark blue or light blue, and the Germans can wear dark brown/dark kharki.

I’ll be following your latest project’s progress with great interest.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hello there Bob,

I kept circling around it and had the occasional nibble but I think getting War in the Age of Imperialism from you really put it into focus. Seeing the island included in 1891 also gave me something to think about especially with the Fezian tie in.

For the Fezian/Arab Concession I am thinking about a small nucleus of fez wearing Egyptians and then assorted auxiliary Arab looking tribesmen.

To be honest it is a while away yet but I will certainly have the material to tackle it. The naval side will probably see the light of day first though.

Meanwhile though, back to the ACW!

All the best and thanks once again,


nundanket said...

Sounds like a fun plan David.

Charles Litka said...

Madasahatta sounds and looks a little like Austin Tappen Wright's Karain continent in the South Atlantic, the setting for his novel Islandia.
In any event, have fun!

David Crook said...

Hello there Nundanket,

I hope so and if it manages to recapture even half of the fun of the original then I shall be well satisfied! A long way to go though although having said that the naval side could be much sooner, albeit in a reduced form.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hello there Charles,

I must admit to never having come across Austin Tappen Wright and his work before so thank for you passing on the link. I see what you mean about the map - I have no idea if Eric was familiar with it - but in itself it would be great as the basis for an imagi-nation style set up!

I may well take a look at Project Gutenberg to see if Islandia is available as I am quite intrigued by it based on the Wikipedia entry.

Many thanks for sharing!

All the best,