15mm Abbas from Khartoum
The Abbas Running the Gauntlet
One of the most memorable and exciting scenes in the movie Khartoum is the converted steamer The Abbas running through a gauntlet of Dervish fire from the river shore. This brief scene, however, does a great job of showing what a Nile river gunboat would look like. First, most of the crew would be Egyptian, the main weaponry would fit wherever it could, which in this instance is on balconies over the paddlewheels, and armor would be improvised, consisting mainly of sandbags, grain bags, and boards nailed to the sides of the ship. When I built the Abbas for our 15mm colonial games I tried to capture the version portrayed in the film. There are only brief glimpses of the boat in the film, so a lot of guesswork had to go into building a 15mm version. You could clearly see the unusual paddle covers in the movie, along with the superstructure, but the fore and aft decks were entirely made up as there were no views of them. Also, it was impossible to tell where the Nordenfelt machine gun was deployed on the vessel from its brief appearance in that scene. The boat is clearly designed for passengers, so in keeping with that thought the hull is pretty long and definitely longer than most river steamers would normally run. I made sure that the long, covered upper deck was the focal point of the model to hopefully convince everyone that this wasn't a combat vessel. In the end the model turned out pretty close to the one seen in the movie and hopefully it will inspire other colonial gamers to start working on their shipbuilding needs.