Rorke’s Drift Part 26 – Corporal Schiess 

Before we get into the next instalment I have a question. Can you spray varnish metal miniatures once they’ve been based (flocked)? Cheers. 👍🏼

This poor chap was the first VC recipient from Rorke’s Drift to pass away at the young age of 28, just five years after the battle. 

This next pic was a little out of focus but note the bandaged foot.

Christian Ferdinand Schiess was born in Burgdorf, Switzerland on 7 April 1856, and spent time in an orphanage after his parents died. In 1870 he joined the French Army and fought in the Franco-Prussian War. 

He went to South Africa in 1877 and volunteered for the last Xhosa War. When the Anglo-Zulu War began the 22-year-old veteran was made a Corporal in the Natal Native Contingent of the British army in South Africa. 

Despite suffering with problems to his feet, and being in the hospital, he displayed great gallantry when the garrison had retired to the inner line when the Zulus were upon the mealie bags. He crept along the wall to dislodge them, killing three before returning to the inner defences. He was 22 at the time of the defence.

In 1880 he was awarded the Victoria Cross by General Sir Garnet Wolseley for his services at Rorke’s Drift. Schiess was the first man serving with a locally raised native unit to receive the Victoria Cross, the “British-only” rule being broken under political pressure, also being the first Swiss national to do so.

He died in poverty on board ‘Serapis’ on route to England and he was buried at sea. He had been unable to find employment in South Africa, even from the British Army.

Despite his poverty and reports of him living on the streets a lot of the time he died with the Victoria Cross medal in his possession. He could’ve sold it I guess but it says to me that he was very proud of his achievement.



28 thoughts on “Rorke’s Drift Part 26 – Corporal Schiess ”

  1. Great work on the model Luke, sounds like that man had a short hard life, even with his bravery.
    As Dave says shouldn’t be a problem spray varnishing at the end, just do a test figure to make sure the varnish hasn’t gone off.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Luke I agree with the two Dave’s must be a Dave thing. I always varnish with Tamiya TS3 after they are flocked. This also helps to “set” the flocking to avoid flaking. Another great story, albeit quite a sad one, and great paint work to match.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Sad story mate, but interesting still.

    I always stray varnish after the figures are flocked, and never had a problem, makes them more hard wearing too, so a good idea, but I’d check your paint if you’ve had it for a long while first.

    Cheers Roger.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I tend to varnish after adding static grass. So far I haven’t had any problems. I like that mini, but that’s a sad story for a soldier. Interesting tidbit, in German “scheisse” translates to “shit”. I don’t know if it’s similar in Swiss, but it would explain the poor guy’s life!

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Maybe a bit of confusion with the spelling here! “Schiessen” (pronounced sheesen) means to shoot, “scheissen” (pronounced shysen) means to shit! Schiess is probably quite an apt name for a soldier! A nice mini of yet another brave soul! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I always varnished before adding flock so I’ve learned something useful from the answers above too. Shame about poor Christian Schiess, a sad end for a brave man but at least all these years later there’s a nicely painted miniature of him now.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The mini looks great as always and that is a tough life he had. While I love reading about history, this man’s life is a great example of why I don’t think I could go back in time and live in another era. Life was rough for many in the various epochs of history!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Pal of mine varnished his finished army all in one go. Turned out he was holding a can of white primer that had been miss-labled. Since then I’ve always made sure to do a test first – but to be honest I’m very much with Alex, I used to do it when I started out but I don’t think I’ve varnished a model in the last decade. (Well, I’ve probably done it occasionally, if a model is both metal and going to get used for regular gaming, but it’s very rare). At best it knocks a lot of the life out of the paintjob, it’s extra work and I’ve just never found it was needed. If someone regularly goes to their local store or club and plays lots of games with strangers who may well be clumsy, filthy and careless and liable to abuse (accidentally or otherwise) the miniatures, then I think it’s worth doing but that’s not something I’m interested in. Anyway, glad to see I’m not alone – I thought if I admitted to not varnishing I’d be a social outcast! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re already a social outcast mate which is why we get along so well haha. Yeah I hear ya. I think I’ll give varnishing a go, being sure it’s varnish and not white paint haha (poor bastard).

        Liked by 1 person

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