British Operations Against The mad mullah

A wargamer's Guide 


The British Empire Army

There were relatively few British Regulars in Somaliland.  Those that were there wore the standard desert dress of khaki drill uniforms, long puttees, boots or shoes with the regulation Foreign Service helmet.  Some officers favoured the Wolseley helmet.  The infantry wore mainly the bandolier equipment and carried the Lee Enfield rifle.  The tripod Maxim guns were carried on mules.  In the Fifth Expedition the standard khaki drill uniform with shorts was often worn in shirtsleeve order.  The other ranks wearing a grey shirt and the officers a khaki drill one.  Hose tops were sometime worn instead of puttees.  Ammunition was carried in two pouches attached to a brown leather belt in the early expeditions and was superseded by 08 Pattern Webbing.  In addition to their rifles the British employed Maxim, Vickers and Lewis machine guns and Stokes mortars depending on the period.

 The mounted infantry of both the British, Indian and Somali Levy units used horses, Somali ponies and mules as depicted in the photograph.

  Text Box: Telegraph Section (1903)
1 x officer (Lt Mackworth) 
45 x NCOs and men 
33 x native muleteers with 58 mules
26 camel drivers with 50 camels
The Telegraph Section in the 1903 Expedition came from the First Division of the Telegraph Battalion.  It was tasked with laying a telegraph line from Berber to Bohotle.  During the campaign the section laid 432 miles of line on telegraph poles and 504 miles along the ground. 

Naval Landing parties and Marines:  Tropical white uniforms with brown leather equipment, gaiters and black shoes.  They were armed with the SMLE and tripod Maxims.

 Boers:  Normal civilian clothes supplemented with British equipment.

 King’s African Rifles:  Before the Great War they normal dress was a dark blue, almost black jersey with leather patches, khaki cord breeches or shorts, blue puttees, black or red tasselled fez, khaki cummerbund and black leather equipment.  Sometimes the fez was replaced by a khaki kullah and turban.  By 1904 they had Lee Enfield Rifles. Durind WW1 and later the jersey was replaced by a khaki shirt.  

Text Box: Artillery Gun Section
1 x British Officer
1 x Sikh Havildar 
20 x Sikh gunners
2 x Somali Havildars
18 x Somali Drivers
1 x Somali Interpreter
1 x Somali Blacksmith
1 x Somali Saddle Maker

Camel Battery.  Again this was nominally KAR but was manned mainly by Indians.  The main armament was six 7pdr rifled muzzle loading (RML) guns.  These were divided into three 2-gun sections.  Each of the guns were carried on three camels and each of the eight ammunition camels carried two boxes each with 10 rounds.  This gave the section 120 rounds of shrapnel, 30 case and 10 star.  Another four camels carried the section stores and spare parts and the British officer had a riding camel and a pony.  Thus the section had 2 guns, 1 officer, 44 men, 18 baggage camels (6 gun, 8 ammunition, 4 stores) 1 riding camel and a pony.  Later the KAR used the 2.95” Mountain Gun.


Indian Troops

Camel Constabulary.  Formed in 1912 to protect caravans and maintain public order in the coastal towns.  There were two companies, each of four 18 man sections and a Maxim detachment.  In 1914 it absorbed the KAR camel contingent, which, despite its title was composed of Indians, to become the Somaliland Camel Corps (see below). 

52nd Sikhs, 27th Punjabis and Bikaner Camel Corps:  khaki uniform, cummerbund, turban and puttees with brown leather equipment and shoes.  Each had its own variation of turban.  The Camel Corps troopers rode one or two to a camel. 



Somali Levy.  The Somali Levy raised in 1901 and formed a major component of the British expeditions.  It comprised 1,000 infantry and 500 cavalry with 20 British officers and 50 Punjabi instructors.  Initially they wore their own clothes and were issued with grey cloth for making tobes and shirts.  As time went on they were issued with brown or khaki jerseys over their half tobe and then khaki trousers, a very tall kullah, white or drab turban, a cummerbund, dark blue puttees, brown leather.  However the issued brown shoes were seldom worn.  They were armed with either Martini-Henry or Martini-Enfield rifles.



Somaliland Camel Corps wore a long olive jersey, khaki kullah and pagri, khaki shorts and cummerbund, dark blue puttees and brown leather equipment and crossed leather bandoliers.  The troops from the KAR serving in the Camel Corps wore the same uniform with their pillbox cap.

Illalo Scouts wore British style shirts, shorts and socks with native sandals and a small khaki turban. 

Local Police wore a brown jersey and khaki shorts, kullah and pagri, blue puttees and sandals.

Two bodies of mounted warriors called the Gadabursi Horse and Tribal Horse were recruited in October and November 1903.  Each had a strength of 500 men and were mounted and supplied at British expense.  They were enlisted for 3 months and proved an expensive and unreliable force in action.  However, in scouting and reconnaissance their knowledge of Somali ways and eye for the lie of the land made them very useful.  At the end of their engagement they were reduced to a single body of 100 picked men.  

Modelling the Forces

It is not as difficult as might be expected to raise the forces for these troops: 

Waterloo 1815 in their Sudan Range provide two sets that form the basis of the troops required.  The Anglo Egyptian Army set is the basis for the British.  The British figures in the set depict a mounted officer, a dismounted officer and a rifleman.  All can be used as they are and many can also provide the basis of conversions.  The Egyptian and Sudanese riflemen are also able to be used as they are.  The ones in the Jersey are also useful for conversion to any of the troops wearing this.  The clubbing figure can have the rifle removed and replaced to make a soldier at the high port.  Even the apparently useless “General Gordon” figure in the set provides a very useful source of parts and heads for conversions.

The sitting rifleman can be carefully cut at the waist and the legs from a mounted officer grafted on to produce a Levy Mounted Infantryman.  The same figure can be used to make Maxim and artillery crews.

HaT Industrie provide the basis of many other troops.  The Egyptian Camel corps from the Sudan range provides the Somali Camel Corps, the Illalo Scouts and the Bikaner Camel Corps which can all be converted from these models.  Only the headgear needs to be converted or a head swop to make the different formations.

The HaT Colonial Indian Infantry set provides suitable figures for Sikhs and the Sappers and Miners as well as heads for the Bikaner Camel Corps, KAR artillery and so on.  The British officers can come from the Waterloo 1815 Anglo-Egyptian set.

The rather poorly made HaT WW1 German Colonial Infantry provides the basis of many of the Kings African Rifles troops.  WW2 Japanese infantry in peaked caps and neck cloths could also be converted.

The Red Box British Naval Landing Party from the Boxer Rebellion series is also most useful for recreating the bluejackets.  This set, like the German Askaris, are not the best model soldiers.

The RAF detachments can be modelled from Airfix DH-4 aircraft with any of the conversion sets to make them into DH-9As or by finding a Maquette DH-9A kit.   The ground crews can be converted from artillerymen or from the WW1 Pilots set.

The Esci Zulu War British Infantry may provide additional troops for Royal Marines and the infantry.


While HaT Zulu War Mounted Infantry are also useful as they are and also as the basis of conversions.

The “friendly” tribal forces can come from any of the sets described in the Dervish section with only minor variations and maybe a few head and torso swops for variety.

Motor transport can be modelled from suitable diecast trucks and cars.  I used some EFSI Model T Fords as the basis of my MT column. 

Mad Mullah Introduction


First Expedition

Second Expedition

Third Expedition

Fourth Expedition

First World War

Fifth Expedition

Air Operations 

The Mad Mullah's Dervish Army

The British Empire Army 

Inch High Page 

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