Monday, 16 April 2018

Action at Kawa

This week's game was set in the Sudan.  The affair began with a thoroughly disgruntled Brigadier returning to his command after being summoned to headquarters.  "I told them" he said later in the mess, as the brandy was passed around.  "They can march and manoeuvre to a good standard.  The majority are decent enough shots, but they need more time.  Time to be 'steady' in action.  They are just not ready".  However, his protests had been overruled by the 'powers that be' and he had returned to his desk with the dreaded instruction, authorising, nay demanding, that the Egyptian forces should be sent out on a mission which would prove to the great Egyptian public that their troops were as good as anyone.  "It's a damned poisoned chalice", he moaned," and the damned thing is, that the Kawa report landed on my desk this morning, it's almost as if the damned politicians knew it was there".

The town of Kawa
The former representative's house in Kawa
The Kawa report detailed the events in that small town just over the border in Sudan.  A local Dervish leader, Emir Waffoor, had gathered together a small number of men and managed to kill the government representative and his bodyguard and declare the town for the great rebellion led by Emir Khat.  Action was required and with recent reports placing Emir Khat near Dongola, threatening the Nile trade, only a small force would be required.  So, the following day, the Brigadier summoned Sharif Pasha, the commander of the Egyptian forces to his office.  He laid out the situation to the Egyptian and suggested that 3 brigades should be sufficient for the task.  "Recapture Kawa, disperse the Dervishes and if possible capture this Waffoor character", he ordered.  "You should be back within a week".  Returning to his camp, Sharif Pasha passed the orders to Khaled Pasha and Ismail Pasha, his infantry brigade commanders and also to Sedki Pasha who commanded the cavalry.  A plan was drawn up with the two infantry brigades attacking the town frontally, whilst the cavalry were to loop around to cut off any escape.


Khalid Pasha's men on the Egyptian right

Ismail Pasha's men on the Egyptian left
Three days later, after an uneventful march, Sharif Pasha's force began their final approach on Kawa.  Having fully absorbed the instructions regarding the need for scouting ahead and avoiding ambushes, progress was slow.  However, the lack of opposition began to weigh on the minds of the Egyptians, were there any Dervishes out there?  The leading units now saw the town in the distance, they were almost there.  Suddenly the sound of artillery was heard and the head of one of Ismail Pasha's columns seemed to crumple.  Then rifle fire began from behind the town walls, they were in for a fight.
The rebel defenders of Kawa
The Egyptian columns moved smoothly into line and began to fire volleys back at the defenders of the town.  Sharif Pasha ordered forward his artillery to try and silence the enemy gun and over on the far left, Sedki Pasha was beginning his outflanking manoeuvre.  Sharif thought that another 15 minutes would be sufficient to get the cavalry in position then the push forward by the infantry could begin.  He then saw a rider peel off from the cavalry column and gallop towards him.  The rider brought a report which stated that a large body of enemy cavalry was approaching and they seemed to be accompanied by infantry!  Where the devil had they come from?  There was no time to waste, orders were dispatched to Ismail and Khaled Pasha to advance at once.


The Dervish cavalry and camelry
As the Egyptians advanced more Dervish troops emerged from Kawa, their line became more extended as they attempted to cover the threat to their flank.  As the advanced continued, the rate of fire from the Egyptians seemed to increase and then from Khalid's men ebb away.  For some reason their ammunition seemed to be running low.  Mules were sent forward to resupply them, but of necessity the attack stalled.  At least, Sharif saw, his men had adopted the firing line so loved of their British tutors.  The defenders of the town would be suffering from the volume of fire (even though reduced), that they were receiving.

The Egyptians deployed in line
Over on the left Sedki was doing his best to hold off the Dervish cavalry.  One of his units of mounted infantry had dismounted and prepared to drive off the enemy by rifle fire.  The others charged the nearest foes.  A fierce melee ensued and although outnumbered, the Egyptian cavalry fought with great determination.  They managed to drive off the first attack, but at heavy cost, and fell back to their own lines.

On their right, the Egyptian line was coming under increasing pressure.  Two units of Dervish infantry had issued from Kawa and were moving through areas of rough ground towards the Egyptian line.  Behind them could be seen the massed ranks of the Dervish reinforcements, jogging forward, eager to join the attack.  However, in Kawa the defenders were feeling the effects of the Egyptian fire.  Their artillery had been silenced by counter battery fire and their riflemen had suffered so many casualties that they had ceased to be a viable unit.  The walls seemed to be free of defenders and open to attack.  Then the Dervishes launched a heavy attack on the extreme right of the Egyptian line.  One unit attacked from some rough ground and a second charged out from Kawa straight at the Egyptian line.

The Dervish attack
The unit charging frontally was shredded by rifle fire supported by the machine gun.  Those charging from the rough terrain almost hit home, but a final desperate 'rapid fire' stopped them in their tracks.  However, the respite was temporary and not gained without cost, as both units were now low on ammunition.  One of the junior officers galloped off searching for the supply mules, whilst the two
units nervously awaited the next onslaught.  It was not long in coming.  A large column of  hadendoa came on at the run.  The feeble volleys failed to stop them, but the machine gun did manage to cut down most of the leading group, which happened to include the 'brigade' commander.  However, this did not stop the Dervish warriors who crashed into the Egyptian line.  One unit managed to beat off the attack, but the other was less fortunate.  Some men broke and fled leaving gaps through which the Dervish flowed.  A final stand around the colours delayed matters only slightly.  All that stood between the Dervishes and the Nile was the machine gun.  Firing feverishly, the gunners managed to hold the Dervishes back long enough for another battalion to come forward.

The hadendoa charge home
On the Egyptian right, the Dervish cavalry was massing for another attack.  The second column of Dervish infantry was moving forward in support.  Rising to the challenge, the weakened cavalry charged to meet the Dervishes.  They stopped the cavalry, but could not push them back.  Gradually the Dervish's greater numbers began to tell.  Groups of Egyptians began to be surrounded and then cut down.  A few managed to cut their way through to make for their own lines, but as a fighting force they were finished.  It all now depended on the mounted infantry.  Sedki Pasha joined them as they began to fire volleys at the enemy cavalry.  One unit was driven off with heavy casualties, but another appeared in its place.  Once again an Egyptian unit ran low on ammunition and before the supply camel could reach them, the mounted infantry were fighting for their lives.  Urged on by Sedki Pasha, the mounted infantry fought like demons, but against overwhelming odds they were doomed.  A group around Sedki were the last to succumb and with them died the Egyptian cavalry brigade.

The end for the Egyptian cavalry brigade
Ismail Pasha's men were trying to hold back the Dervish infantry, with assistance from the field gun.  Unfortunately, one unit seeing an enemy unit wavering after being hit by a volley elected, (against orders), to charge.  Although they charged home, they were outmatched in the melee and very few made it back to the Egyptian lines.  Ismail Pasha moved forward one of his reserve units to fill the gap and then had to use his other to cover his flank now that the cavalry had been destroyed.  One success was that one of Ismail's units had reached Kawa.  Driving back the defenders they began to move towards the representative's house.  On their right, the Sudanese from Khalid Pasha's brigade had also reached Kawa's walls and began to fire on the artillery that was attempting to move forward to support the hadendoa column attacking the Egyptian right.  The rifle fire from the Sudanese was  ineffective, whilst the artillery fire soon began to inflict losses.

Dervish infantry attack Ismail Pasha's brigade
Khalid Pasha was beginning to think that he should begin to fall back.  Yet more hadendoa were moving forward and his line was becoming perilously thin.  The unit on the extreme right was charged.  Its volley was ineffective and the shock of the impact of the Dervish unit broke through the ranks and the remnants of the line were chased off into the desert.  Just as orders from Sharif Pasha arrived ordering Khalid to fall back to establish a united front with Ismail Pasha one of his two remaining units was charged by a fresh body of hadendoa.  They needed to stand because they covered the flank of the Sudanese.  The first push by the hadendoa was held, but a second surge proved too much.  Another Egyptian unit had ceased to exist.  The Sudanese quickly turned to face this new threat.  They stopped a charge by rifle fire, but with all their attention to their front, they were totally unprepared for the charge from a unit to their rear which cut them to pieces.  With the exception of the machine gun, Khalid's brigade had ceased to exist.

The end of the Sudanese
Ismail Pasha was fairing no better.  He had also received Sharif Pasha's order, but had been unable to disengage.  The Dervish cavalry was threatening his flank and masses of infantry were preparing to attack his front.  One unit formed square and the artillery turned to cover the flank.  A second unit, in line, prepared to drive off the Dervish infantry with volley fire.  The Egyptian gunners definitely earned their pay that day.  Their fire destroyed one cavalry unit and sent back a second with very heavy casualties.  The square was assailed by camel troops and infantry, but managed to beat off both. 

The square holds firm
As mentioned above, one of Ismail Pasha's units had managed to enter Kawa.  However, they quickly discovered that fresh infantry were coming to attack them.  With all their ammunition spent and no hope of replenishment, their captain decided to fortify a group of buildings close to the walls.  His plan was to hold off the Dervishes long enough for a rescue mission to reach them, or to try and escape under cover of darkness.  However, before any adequate defensive perimeter could be set up the Dervishes were upon them.  One by one the buildings were overwhelmed and yet another Egyptian unit was destroyed.

The last stand in Kawa
With the cavalry driven off, Ismail Pasha decided to deploy his square into line and use his two remaining infantry units to cover the retreat of the artillery.  They would then fall back alternately, hopefully holding off the Dervishes with volleys.  He had reckoned without the effectiveness of the Dervish riflemen.  Their fire whittled away one of the units, whose reply was hampered by low ammunition (again!).  A concerted Dervish charge overcame both Egyptian units and few survived to reach what remained of the Egyptian force.  This now consisted of the machine gun and they field gun.  The two brigade commanders had joined Sharif Pasha and all three elected to stay with the guns, sending an aide back with the remnants of the Egyptian force which had gathered around Sharif.

The machine gun overwhelmed
The gunners fired off their ammunition against the attacking hordes, but could not stop their inexorable advance.  With pistol and sword, the gallant band fought as long as they could, but were inevitably  overwhelmed.

Sharif Pasha is cut down
When the pitiful remnants of the Egyptian force reached camp, the Brigadier listened to the reports with increasing despondency.  He knew that 'the powers that be' would need a scapegoat and he was first in line.  Would it be a posting to some forgotten corner of the empire, a desk in a cupboard-like office in some provincial garrison or being sent home in disgrace?

Another enjoyable scenario by Steve.  We don't usually fight on to the 'last man', but it seemed to happen in this game.  The Egyptians were hampered on this occasion by some particularly bad dice when it came to ammunition supply.   They seemed to spend most of the game with at least a third of their units low on ammunition.  However, on another day they may well prosper !





Saturday, 7 April 2018

Back to Kelhamshire

After a lengthy break, we return to Kelhamshire this week for another instalment of the ECW campaign in that benighted county.  The Royalist forces in the port of Fairhaven are under siege and Sir Royston a Dammes, (victor of the affair at Richards Smithy ) has been ordered to advance quickly and raise the siege.  His scouts have reported that the Parliamentary cavalry have mostly been relegated to foraging expeditions and he is unlikely to meet serious opposition.

The Parliamentary siege force is under the command of Sir Francis Spencer, (Sir Victor Meldrew is currently engaged in protracted negotiations to retain some element of command in the county).  Sir Francis was not the first choice of the committee, but he hadn't ruffled any feathers and he was a good natured, if naive man.  The progress of the siege had been steady, if uninspired and Sir Francis was undoubtedly a good administrator, as the regular rations supplied to the troops testified.  However, he had yet to be tested in battle.

Having had word of who the opposing commander was encouraged Sir Royston to be bold, (in truth he needed little encouragement). He addressed his staff at a 'conference' at the well appointed White Hart Inn suggesting that the affair to come would be little more than a skirmish and several rounds of toasts were drunk to that belief.

The battlefield from the south
The field of battle (see photo above) was around the Red Post crossroads.  By the crossroads is the Packhorse Inn, and just to the west of it can be found Woodman's Copse.  Closer to Fairhaven the land is more enclosed, not ideal cavalry country, but this is where the two cavalry forces clashed.
Sir Francis was fortunate that one of his more experienced commanders, Colonel William Clegg was already in the area.  His force consisted of 2 units of horse and one of dragoons.  The dragoons had been deployed in Woodman's Copse whilst the cavalry were approaching along the road leading north east from the cross roads.  Sir Francis (with 3 regiments) was approaching the crossroads along the road from Fairhaven (ie from the north),  whilst a third brigade, also of three regiments, under Colonel Ralph Bates  was to arrive on the road from the north west.

Sir Royston ordered Sir Benjamin Havers to take his brigade (3 regiments) straight along the road to Fairhaven.  He expected Havers to run into some opposition, but he, together with Sir Thomas Linley's brigade (3 regiments) were going to advance over the more open country by Woodman's Copse and outflank any defenders.  Sir Royston ordered his dragoons to attack the White Horse Inn, expecting that his opponent would have placed any musketeers/dragoons there to command the crossroads.

The Royalists advance
Havers made good progress along the road, his leading troopers growing more apprehensive as they neared the Inn, expecting to be swept by musketry with no room to manoeuvre.  Surprisingly no musketry greeted them, but to their right they could see Clegg's troopers approaching.  Havers sent one of his units into the open ground to his right, but as they deployed they were charged by the Parliamentary horse.  Caught at the halt they were quickly bundled backwards in disarray with their opponents hard on their heels.

Sir Francis' troops near the battlefield
In spite of all Sir Royston's roaring, his regimental commanders seemed lethargic this morning, (perhaps too much wine the night before?), and their slow progress gave the dragoons in Woodman's Copse ample opportunity to snipe away at them.  The Royalist dragoons were also slow to approach the Inn; tired of waiting for their support Havers ordered his leading unit to gallop forward anyway.  The Inn remained silent, but his men did suffer casualties from pistol shot.  Clegg had deployed his remaining unit behind the hedges lining the road beyond the Inn and they inflicted several casualties as Havers' men galloped past.

Havers' men pass the White Horse Inn
Ignoring the fire from Woodman's Copse, Sir Royston led his brigade to the left around the western side of the copse.  Linley moved forward between the Inn and the copse.  His troops suffered yet more casualties as they crossed the front of the dragoons' position in the copse, the leading unit becoming so disordered it needed to halt to reform.

The delays to Linley and Havers allowed just enough time for Sir Francis and Colonel Bates to reach the battlefield.  Although the enclosures hampered a full deployment, they each managed to get one unit through the bottleneck and ready to charge.  Sir Francis sent his unit against Havers, who managed to get his leading unit into line before the Parliamentarian charge hit them.  Although all the advantages lay with the Parliamentarians, it was the Royalists who prevailed, pushing back their attackers.  When they followed up, it was the Royalists' turn to be repulsed.  Eventually, both sides fell back to reform.

The Parliamentary dragoons keep up a harassing fire from Woodman's Copse 
Colonel Bates was hoping to keep Sir Royston's forces bottled up near Woodman's Copse where the dragoons could continue to whittle away at their strength.  His lead unit managed to drive the nearest Royalists off in total disorder, but then found themselves attacked to front and flank.  They too were forced back, disordering their supports in the process.  Both Parliamentary units were now forced back and Sir Royston's advance continued.

The fighting in the centre was intense
Seeing the stalemate in the centre, Colonel Clegg led his nearest unit through a gap in the hedge to attack Havers.  Once again, although having the initiative, the Parliamentary cavalry were bested. and Clegg's men were driven from the field.  Clegg's remaining unit was just returning from destroying their opponents and seeing that the focus of the battle was moving north towards Fairhaven, he led that unit that way, hoping to reinforce Sir Francis.  Clegg's attack had given Sir Francis's units time to rally and now they returned to the attack.. Once again they swept forward, but once again, the Royalists prevailed.  The Parliamentary retreat turned to rout and in their haste the defeated troopers disordered their supports.  Only the close terrain, which hampered pursuit, saved the Parliamentarians.

On the opposite flank, Colonel Bates was also struggling.  With two of his units in need of time to reform, he deployed his remaining unit to cover the gap in the hedges through which Sir Royston's troopers would have to pass.  He assumed that Sir Royston would pause to gather his strength before attacking again.  However, the "Damned a Dammes" disdained such an approach.  Raising his sword aloft he ordered another charge and once again the Royalists swept forward.  To Colonel Ralph's shame his men put up only token resistance before they and their comrades turned, and raced for the safety of their own lines.  Sending one unit after the Parliamentarians to "keep them running" and with orders to "save any claret for me"; Sir Royston led his remaining men, plus Linley's depleted, but fairly fresh units, against the remains of Spencer's command.

Sir Royston orders the attack
Once again it was the battle for the gaps in the hedges that decided the issue, and once again the Royalists prevailed.  Sir Francis sent messengers to warn the siege lines of the coming Royalist attack and then joined a final charge against Sir Royston's troopers.  At first it seemed that the Parliamentarians may just turn the tide, but with Sir Royston hard pressed, Havers made a vital charge and completed the Royalist  victory.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Cavalry and yet more cavalry

Steve and I have continued to 'tinker' with the Pike and Shotte rules and our next target was the cavalry melee.  It seems odd that they are limited to one turn and no reinforcements, although contemporary accounts do mention units being 'seconded' by others.  Steve therefore devised some 'tweaks' to enable cavalry melees to continue, (but not endlessly with 'rubber swords' ie successive rounds with no casualties).  To try them out we needed a cavalry scenario and where better than the open spaces of Eastern Europe?

I therefore put together two forces, one of Muscovites with Tartar allies and a smaller force of Poles and Cossacks.   Purists would raise their eyebrows (at the very least) at the sight of my 'Tartars', who actually included Huns and Scythians in their ranks.  However, they were all skirmishing light cavalry armed with bows and needs must when the finances are tight.

The Polish right

The Tartars

Boyar levy
A roll of the dice allocated the Muscovite/Tartars to Steve, whilst I took the Polish/Cossack force.  I was outnumbered roughly 3:2, but did have better quality troops.  My plan was to hold off the Tartars with the Cossacks and try and drive off the Muscovites with the Poles, spearheaded by my Hussars.

The Cossacks advance
Early on the Muscovites proved unwilling to advance, though the Tartars were more aggressive.  Fortunately, the Cossacks managed to hold the Tartars whilst my centre moved forward.  The first clash took place there with my hussars punching through the leading Muscovite unit and then engaging the one behind.   After a fierce struggle the Hussars came through again, but at the cost of going Shaken.  Supported by the Pancerni they managed to hold the attack of Steve's bodyguard and after two turns the two units fell back.

A rare sight, Polish Hussars routing
On the Polish left it took some time to get the units moving and my reserve (a unit of Hussars and one of Pancerni), proved even more reluctant to advance.  When the clash eventually occurred on the left it was the Poles who were routed, my best troops, the Hussars ignominiously scattered by the Noble Levy.  Only some stout fighting by the Pancerni managed to stabilise  the situation.

On the right, the Cossacks were pushing the Tartars back, though the latter's 'fire and evade' tactics were inflicting casualties.  I was moving the reserve unit around to try and cover the gaps and prevent any Tartars sneaking through to cause mayhem.  However, when one of my units went Shaken they were charged by the Tartars and pushed back.  The reserves steadied the line, but then the other unit went Shaken.  My left was looking vulnerable.

The central melee

The melee continues
In the centre units were charging, meleeing and then after two turns of no decision pulling back.  My reserve eventually moved forward and the fresh units gave the necessary impetus to break the deadlock.  The Muscovite centre was all but destroyed.

The Polish left routs
However on my left, the boot was on the other foot.  Slowly the Noble Levy were gaining the advantage and my troops were being pushed back.  Then a unit broke, leaving a gap and through this moved a Muscovite unit.  If that unit could sweep round and attack the rear of my centre, the day would be lost.  Only the difficulty of issuing orders to the unit saved me.  It gave me enough time to organise a new flank and then counter attack.

With the reserve and two units from the centre the Poles pushed the remaining Noble Levy back and from the field of battle.  It was just as well, because on the right the Cossacks were facing defeat.  One unit had been destroyed, another was in danger of going the same way.  They were saved by the Tartar Khan ordering his men to fall back.  He recognised that they could not prevail against the Polish cavalry and so narrowly, the day belonged to the Poles.

How did the new amendments work?  Well some melees were 'seconded' and the new support mechanism seemed to work well.  We found that the polish Hussars were just too powerful and in the afternoon session educed their advantages.  This resulted in closer melees, as the +3 made a Polish victory far too likely.


Thursday, 22 March 2018

Lincoln

Family commitments recently required a trip to Norfolk.  Along the way we called in at Lincoln, taking the opportunity to visit 'The Collection' the local museum.  The museum charts life in the Lincoln area through time from prehistory to modern times.  A few items in particular caught my eye.




Now the Ancient period is not really an interest of mine, but seeing the shield took me back to the days of Airfix Romans and Ancient Britons (at that time I had at least one box of nearly all their sets).

Close by was this diorama of a Roman legion leaving Lincoln.




The top photo gives an idea of the scale, 1:1, in the distance are the walls of the town. 

If you have an hour spare when visiting Lincoln, the museum is well worth a visit.  It is relatively small, but free, though donations welcome. (but not compulsory).

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

WMMS 2018

Although the weather did it's worst the show went ahead.  Some of the traders didn't make it, but  a good selection did and there were several interesting games to look at.  With my principal interest being in the Horse and Musket era those games dominate the following photographs.

The Phoenix Society did this 25mm Napoleonic game, with some very nicely painted figures






A very eye-catching game was a Russo-Japanese Naval game, which I think appeared at Derby last year.








The Cheshire and Staffordshire club put on Guildford Courthouse.



Wyre Forest Gamers did well to put a game on at all.  Their terrain was snowed in, as were a good percentage of the figures, nevertheless they managed to stage a Jacobite Wars scenario.




The Oudenarde game was in 10mm (I think), but looking at the painting alone it would be difficult to tell.




There was also a GNW game using Prince August figures (a particular favourite of mine)



Also in small scale was this Varna game from Kallistra




Finally from this period was a Peninsular game



There were modern games, I particularly liked this Far Eastern scenario with a Japanese landing in China.  It was nice to see the beach uncluttered with armoured vehicles as so often happens in D Day games.




I do hope that the poor turnout due to the weather doesn't prevent the organisers from putting on a show in 2019.  Alumwell has had (at least for the last three years when I attended), a good range of games and traders and is a friendly local show.