Wednesday, 10 August 2011


This scenario was from "Fields of Glory" scenarios for the Shako rules. A Prussian force of 3 divisions (2 infantry and 1 cavalry) plus a wagon train are attempting to withdraw across the front of a french force of 1 division with two more coming up in support. The Prussians need to score 14 victory points (the wagon train can contribute up to 12 of those if it suffers no losses and leaves by the road nearest Halle). Any lost wagons (ie contacted by a formed French unit) result in a deduction of 2 victory points.

The wagon train has to stay on the road, so the crossroads just outside Halle are the key to the battle. The Prussian force can be seen deployed on the left of the photograph with the cavalry nearest Halle, 1 division deployed either side of the wagon train and the second on the right flank. Dupont's division of Bernadotte's corps is already in Halle, with Rivaud's division just beginning to arrive.
Wurttemburg, the Prussian commander ordered the cavalry forward to try and pin the French within Halle and allow the wagons to pass. His second infantry division (represented by Austrians), were to advance to the far side of the crossroads and contain any French forces which may attack from Halle. His first infantry division (Lilleborg), was to attack Dupont and act as rearguard. However, the initial deployment, on either side of the wagons (which couldn't be interpenetrated), meant that Lilleborg's command took too long to get into position and couldn't exploit the advantage gained by the cavalry.
The Brandenburg Hussars led the way, overran a skirmish screen but were then attacked by the 2eme Hussars. After a short melee the French prevailed. The colonel, perhaps seeking a medal, promotion or "gloire" charged the supporting Meveldt Uhlans rather than rallying back nearer his infantry supports. In the resulting melee the French were eventually obliged to retreat in haste. This allowed the uhlans to charge the 1st battalion of the 5th Legere, catching them in the process of forming square. Although they fought bravely, the infantry suffered heavy losses and were finished as a fighting force.

Although they had pushed back the French, the allied cavalry were unable to hold the ground and their infantry supports were too far away. Dupont ordered his men forward again and this time the allied cavalry were busy reforming, or blocked by the wagon train. The 2nd battalion of the 10th Ligne reached the crossroads, blocking the advance of the wagons. On their right the 3rd battalion moved forward and contacted a wagon, now the Prussians needed 16 victory points! However, this advance by the 10th had exposed their flank and the 2nd battalion of the Pomeranian Infantry regiment charged forward, supported by the grenadiers.

Although supported by their 1st battalion, the 3rd battalion routed and with one third of its effectives lost, Dupont's division began to edge back towards the cover of Halle. It was at this point that Rivaud's column arrived on the eastern bank of the river and attempted to move out of Halle. The Prussian cavalry had recovered from it's earlier exploits and charged forward. Once again a battalion was caught before it could form square and, also the sole artillery battery available was overrun before it could get into action. Things looked black for Bernadotte, but he could see Drouet's division arriving in support. Unfortunately, also arriving was Von Treskow with a detached brigade of infantry and hussars. With no cavalry himself, Drouet marched at the double for the bridge into Halle. He almost made it, but one battalion of the rearguard was left to try and fight off a combined attack of infantry and cavalry, with the inevitable result. Emboldened, Von Treskow attempted to force a crossing over the bridge, but his attacking battalion achieved nothing and incurred heavy casualties.

The first Prussian wagon had now reached the crossroads, but the driver, against orders turned to his right away from Halle. This turn slowed the column and caused even more difficulty for Lilleborg who was trying to advance on Halle. The second Prussian division was now in position to attack the northern part of Halle and prevent any French attack from that direction. However, the battered remnants of Dupont's division stood their ground, trading volleys with their attackers and stopping two successive charges with close range volleys.

Slowly, the battle began to swing in the French favour. Rivaud's men advanced and secured the crossroads again, contacting another wagon. The Prussians again attacked with their cavalry, but this time the French were ready with a volley and then unwavering lines of bayonets. All three units of cavalry tried and failed to break the French line and they retired to play no further part in the action.

Lilleborg tried to relieve the pressure in the centre by attacking Halle from the south. His militia did secure a foothold, but again, poor co-ordination meant that they were unsupported when the counter attack was launched. For Wurttemburg things got worse. The last remaining wagons were captured in spite of the efforts of the Pomeranian fusilier battalion. With the target now 22 victory points (14 plus 4 wagons at -2 each) and only sufficient units to secure 16 he ordered a withdrawal; this day belonged to the French.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Affair at the oasis

Earlier this year we met a group of characters in the "Last train to Handub" scenario. They appear again in this report of our latest Sudan game. Colonel Sir Wellesley Tankerton had been ordered south to assist in the latest 'push' up the Nile. He had taken a short cut across the desert to bypass a loop of the river and to secure his lines of communication had detached a force to hold the strategic water supply at the Furaat Oasis. The officer commanding this garrison of Indian troops was an 'old India Man'; Major C P (Clive Plassey) Bloodnok. In addition to the four companies of infantry, he had two gatling guns.

As he left Sir Wellesley assured Bloodnok that there was no immediate threat from the Dervishes; Karim Bey was reported to be further south causing mischief with the main column. As he watched the main force depart Bloodnok hoped his commander was correct, the force he had was not sufficient to hold the full perimeter of the oasis and there was broken ground far too close for comfort. Two days later a foot patrol captured a Dervish who boasted that soon the oasis would be in the hands of Karim Bey and they would all die. Bloodnok asked for a volunteer to try and reach Tankerton to ask for aid and after the gallant man set off began his preparations for the expected attack. Fortunately, the volunteer got through and Sir Wellesley dispatched Fitzwilliam Paget with two units of lancers and four of camel-mounted infantry, with two guns to help secure the oasis.
Learning from his earlier experience at Handub, Paget sent out scouts to try and discover the enemy positions. This did work for the lancers, but not one of the mounted infantry units, who found themselves beset by foes who seemed to 'rise from the ground'

After a fierce struggle the infantry prevailed, but they lost almost one third of their number in killed and wounded. On the far left one of the lancer units fared better against their Dervish opponents, driving them away whilst sustaining minimal losses. However, their captain showed his inexperience by assuming the enemy were no longer a threat and turning his back on them. In a trice they had reformed and surged forward to attack the cavalry again.

This time the ground was in favour of the Dervish infantry and although the lancers were again victorious, almost half the squadron were casualties.
Meanwhile at the oasis Bloodnok's fears about the length of the perimeter had been realised. From his position on the roof of one of the houses, he saw that the defenders of the eastern side of the oasis were in danger of being surrounded and overwhelmed. He immediately sent a runner, ordering the two companies to fall back, one did, but the second failed to receive the order. Dervish artillery opened fire from a nearby mound and the first shot hit the company commander and decapitated the unfortunate runner before he could deliver his message. Before order was restored cavalry had entered the oasis behind them and a body of Hadendoa were almost on top of them, the only option was to run for the cover of the buildings.
Bloodnok's compound was also under attack. 'B' company held the western wall and beat off a Dervish attack, but the gatling was overwhelmed by Hadendoa. It fired, but one of the crew had panicked and adjusted the sights for long range instead of point blank. As a consequence the attackers were almost unscathed and the gun crew paid with their lives.

Bloodnok decided that he should concentrate his forces in the compound closest to the relief column; therefore he led the remnants of 'B' company in that direction before the Hadendoa overan them. Moving around the outside of the buildings the small party of Indian infantry ran into a band of Dervish who were preparing to attack. In the confused melee both sides sustained losses, but it was Bloodnok, rallying the survivors who had to beat a retreat; fortunately his band were moving towards the relief column.

Karim Bey was feeling pleased with his progress. Three quarters of the oasis was now under his command. C Company who had not received the order to fall back, and had retreated to he buildings in their compound had not waited for the inevitable Hadendoa attack but had run for the perceived safety of the desert. Only one compound remained to be captured and the relief column was making slow progress. Two Dervish and two Hadendoa units charged forward against the outnumbered defenders. The Indian infantry stood their ground and fought like lions. The Dervish infantry pressed the attack in spite of their high casualties, but in the end, they had to give ground and fall back to regroup. The Hadendoa charged forward into a hail of gatling fire and infantry volleys, they almost reached the barricades, but supporting fire from the relief column, directed by Bloodnok, caused them to halt. Victory had been so close, but Karim Bey could see that with the added firepower of the relief column the defenders would not be defeated and decided to call off the action. Little did he know that the Gatling which had caused so many casualties to the first Hadendoa charge was now out of ammunition. A second attack may well have succeeded.

So, the water supply was secured and the Imperial forces could continue their advance. Losses had been high, but the troops had acquitted themselves well. Special mention must be made of Corporal Lanchester of the mounted infantry. His resloute action secured the right flank of the relief column late in the day as a late attack by a unit of Hadandowah threatened to halt the advance.