Monday, 26 November 2012

Siege of Manchester, 1642

This was another early ECW scenario with most of the troops being rated 'raw', which, as usual, created its own particular chgallenges for the commanders.  For the Parliamentarians, Colonel Richard Holland was in commnad of the garrison and had placed three units of infantry, a company of commanded shot and a light gun at the end of Deansgate under the command of Captain Bradshaw. In the Market square he retained a reserve of two units of the Manchester militia and his sole cavalry unit.  To cover the bridge over the Irwell he had the Cheshire and Wilmslow Trained Bands.
Lord Strange, the Royalist commander, had four units of foot, two divisions of Sir Charles Gerard's foot and two of the South Lancashire Trained Bands.  In support were Girlington's Horse and four pieces of artillery.  On his right, across the Irwell, Lord Molyneux had his own regiment of foot, two divisions of Sir Gilbert Gerard's Foot, a unity of dismounted dragoons and three guns.

Lord Strange's  'cunning plan' was to try and draw off the reserves by Molyneux attacking the end of Deansgate and then make the main push over the Irwell bridge himself.

This picture shows the Irwell Bridge with Deasgate in the top right corner.

Holland's men had not been idle and several barricades had been constructed to hamper the Royalist advance.  There were also plenty of buildings which may have garrisons that would pose a  threat to the flanks of the attackers.

The Royalists started with their artillery.  We were using the Warhammer ECW rules so the ranges were estimated then adjusted by dice throws.  There was always the chance of a misfire which could have a range of results from no effect to the destruction of the gun.  At first the Royalist fire, although inaccurate, did inflict casualties on the defenders.  One of the units of the Manchester Trained Bands was particularly badly hit and fell back to rally.  This prompted Molyneux to push forward his dragoons to outflank the weakened Parliamentary foot.  The Wilmslow Trained Band also suffered losses but held there ground.  Never one to be patient, Lord Strange ordered a unit of Sir Charles Gerard's Foot, supported by one of the Trained Band units to force the barricade on the bridge and push on towards the Market Square.  This they did, suffering no loss in the process and formed up ready to charge the Wilmslow Trained Band.  At this point they were fired from the house to their left and also from the churchyard which held the Cheshire Trained Band.  Although some casualties were sustained Gerard's charged forward, leaving the South Lancashire Trained Band to tackle the musketeers firing from the house.  Heavily outnumbered, the parliamentary musketeers were quickly ejected and ran towards the churchyard.  Gerard's was now in melee with the Wilmslow men and after a tough struggle pushed them back from the barricade.  Lord Strange had by now come forward and ordered Gerard's to dismantle the barricade and then push on to the Market Square. He also ordered forward Girlington's Horse and the remainder of the infantry.

At the Deansgate barricade Lord Molyneux had not had things all his own way.  Although he had pushed back one of the defending units, his own unit of foot had been hit by the Parliamentarian artillery.  One shot in particular had carried away a whole file of men and seeing the carnage, the unit began to edge back out of range.  Dismayed at this, Lord Molyneux galloped over to rally his men.  In this he succeeded, but he was unable to stop the gunners fleeing from the remains of their gun which had misfired and collapsed.  The continuing firefight at the Deansgate barricade was causing casualties to both sides and Bradshaw was glad to see a unit of the Manchester Militia sent by Holland, coming down the road.  Lord Molyneux had reinforced the flanking manoeuvre by the dragoons with part of Sir Gilbert Gerard's foot and the Militia would help to hold the flank.  Suddenly there was a loud explosion, heard across the town of Manchester.  Another of Lord Molyneux's guns had misfired, this time with disastrous results.  The barrel had ruptured and mown down the crew with shards of metal.

Lord Strange had also been plagued by misfires with two of his guns falling silent as the crews ran away, fearing the next misfire may result in their death.  However, his advance had masked the artillery fire on the Parliamentarians so he now had to rely on the skill of his men.  As the last elements of the barricade were cleared by Gerard's men they were charged by the reformed Wilmslow Trained Bands.  Caught unformed Gerard's were unable to stand and routed.  Seeing the rout, the men of the South Lancashire Trained Band lost heart and also ran for the bridge over the Irwell.  On the bridge Girlington's Horse refused to join the 'race to the rear', but were unable to move forward themselves.   Lord Strange galloped to and fro desperately trying to rally his men.  Eventually he restored some semblance of order and the Royalist advance began again.

Molyneux's dragoons had now begun to fire on the flank of the Deansgate position.  Bradshaw ordered forward  the Manchester Militia to disperse the dragoons.  Although they lacked musketeer support, the pikes moved forward quickly and after a ragged volley the dragoons fell back rapidly.  Refusing to be drawn too far from Manchester's defences the pikemen fell back to line the walls of the town.  Molyneux also had Gilbert Gerard's men threatening Bradshaw's flank.  As Gerard's musketeers moved closer they came in range of Bradshaw's artillery.  One discharge of hail shot caused such heavy casualties that the musketeers took to their heels.  Their accompanying pikes stood, but the sight of their dead comrades was enough to make them to reluctant to advance any further.  Molyneux recognised that he now had insufficient strength to carry the Deansgate position.  He had carried out his orders, drawing some reserves in his direction and honour satisfied he resolved to fall back and oppose any Parliamentarian advance.

Lord Strange's advance had also run into trouble.  Although Charles Gerard's foot had renewed their struggle with the Wimslow Trained Bands they had again been driven back,  Lord Strange had been unable to rally them and they were now dispersed across the battlefield.  The Wimslow men were now attacked by the South Lancashire Trained Bands who quickly avenged their fellow Royalists.  Carried away by their success the Trained Bands continued their pursuit of their foes too far.  They were caught in flank by the Manchester Militia and quickly became a disorganised rabble running for the bridge over the Irwell.  Looking around him, Lord Strange sensed that he would not capture Manchester today.  Half his infantry were dispersed and would take days to reform.  The defenders of the town seemed to be as numerous as before and were now encouraged by their successes.  He therefore sent a message to Molyneux telling him to break off the action and meet him at the Royalist headquarters to plan for the next day.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Abu Baig

This week we had a scenario from the early years of the Sudan campaign, before the British and Imperial forces became involved.  An isolated garrison of Egyptian troops is holding the oasis of Abu Baig and a relief force has been sent up the Nile by steamer.  The relief force has marched for three days across the desert and is now within striking distance of the oasis.  All the while they have been shadowed by enemy cavalry; always a few men watching from a distance.  However, the relief force commander knows that a large enemy force is hovering just out of sight.

A large force of Nile Arab infantry is besieging Abu Baig and they know that the relief force is approaching.  Ahmed Mustafa, leading the relief force, had ordered his camelry to scout ahead and they soon discovered Arab infantry amongst the low rocky mounds lying between Mustafa and the oasis. The section on the left drove off the Arabs before them with little difficulty and moved further forward.   Their colleagues faced stiffer resistance and in an exchange of fire lost their commanding officer.  Eventually, they too prevailed and then moved further to the right towards the village of Tek.  As they neared the village swarms of Arab infantry appeared and attacked them from all sides.  Leaderless and isolated they were cut down.   The section on the left had pressed forward ignoring the inaccurate fire of an Arab field gun and intent on reaching the oasis.  Unfortunately they neglected to send out scouts and they were surprised by a group of infantry.  Attacked from the rear they had no chance and only their officer escaped the carnage to seek temporary sanctuary within the oasis.

Meanwhile behind the camels the infantry and artillery had arrived and Mustafa formed them into a rough battle line, expecting more Arab attacks.  In this he was not to be disappointed.  The 1st battalion, holding the left flank was the first into action.  Their steady volley stopped their assailants in their tracks and then further volleys drove the Arabs back into cover.  To the right the 2nd battalion was not so fortunate.  The Arabs opposing them were far closer when they broke cover and ignoring the losses from musketry closed to hand to hand combat.  Fortunately for Mustafa the discipline of his men held and the Arabs were repulsed with heavy losses.  To reinforce his line he moved the 4th battalion froward to support the right flank of the artillery and the 3rd battalion to his far left.  The cavalry were held in the centre as the reserve.

At the oasis Osman Ahmed had made preparations for the defence of his position.  His force was too small to venture out to aid the relief force, but he did what he could, ordering the artillery to fire on the Arabs massing to attack his comrades.  The Arabs did what they could to tie down the defenders by attacking one side of the village.  One Sudanese company was attacked twice but in spite of casualties held their position

The 3rd battalion took up their position just in time as the Arab cavalry now entered the fray.  Flowing around the village of Tek they charged the Egyptian line.  The first wave were repulsed with the aid of  artillery fire, but the second charge was helped by Arab infantry making a suicidal charge against the artillery.  Although the machine gun jammed, the field gun inflicted crippling losses on the Arabs as they came into close range and the infantry attack melted away.  However, their sacrifice meant that the Arab horse and camel troops charged home on the 4th Battalion.  Hewing left and right the cavalry broke into the infantry formation.  Order disintegrated as some men ran, whilst others gathered into small groups desperately fighting for their lives.  Within minutes the battalion had ceased to exist and victory seemed certain.  Mustafa ordered forward his last reserve, the cavalry to hold the Arabs long enough for the artillery to redeploy to cover his flank.  This they did and in a melee which swung back and forth they eventually gained the upper hand.  With his line now restored Mustafa could begin to think about moving forward.  He seemed to have beaten off the Arab forces, but there were many potential ambush sites before he could link up with the forces at the oasis. 

At the oasis Osman Ahmed was reasonably satisfied.  He had seen the destruction of several units of Arab infantry and also the dispersing of the cavalry.  There seemed to be nothing that would hinder the approach of the relief column and he could look forward to a quiet few months back in barracks.  But then a runner approached from the southern wall of the oasis. A large force of Hadendoa were massing for an attack.  Osman quickly ordered the deployment of all the troops he could spare to the threatened sector.  As the first unit of Hadendoa moved forward they were targeted by every gun and rifle that would bear, but in spite of the losses they continued to advance. 

That was when time caught up with us.  The Hadendoa's arrival had been conditional on a dice roll and the unlucky Sudanese commander had a succession of low dice.  He was also unlucky in that the cavalry, (also arriving on a dice roll), arrived early and were thus unable to outflank the relief column.   For more photos and the Sudanese view see the report on Will's blog.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Novskya Zol

We're back in 17th century eastern Europe this week with a scenario for Cossacks and Muscovites.  The scenario comes from Scenarios for All Ages by Grant & Asquith; it is number 20, "Taking the Initiative - 1".  A small force is watching the crossing points of two rivers, when an enemy force appears they must decide whether to conduct a forward defence or fall back and hold the second river line.  The attackers must make a decision whether to attempt to force their way across immediately or wait for reinforcements.  They will have numbers in their favour but delaying may give the defenders time to make seizing the second river crossing impossible before nightfall.

The two players knew what reinforcements they would receive (3 lots for the Cossacks, 4 for the Muscovites), but not the order of their arrival.  This was decided by drawing lots.  If the Cossacks opted to make a stand at the first river, the Voyna, they had the chance to erect a barricade at their side of the bridge.  Success for the Muscovites was holding the crossings of both rivers, for the Cossacks it was denying the crossing of both.

[map scanned from "Scenarios for all Ages"]

The Cossack commander decided to contest the crossing of the Voyna and the officer in charge of the picquet passed the dice roll to construct a barricade.  His force consisted of a company of infantry (8 figures) and 5 skirmishing light cavalry.  He placed the infantry in the village with the cavalry covering their left flank.  The Russian vanguard was one unit of Streltsy and one of light cavalry.  Their commander, Prince Dimitri Pozharski, saw the barricade and decided to deploy his streltsy to fire on the village; hoping to reduce any infantry fire from there when he attempted to force the bridge.  His plan seemed to be working as not only did his men win the fire fight with the Cossacks in the village, but they also caused the Cossack cavalry to pull back out of range.


However, Borotnikov, the Cossack commander had gathered the rest of his force (the remainder of the Godicz Cossacks and a unit of cavalry) and was marching to the aid of the picquet.  Seeing the Cossack reinforcements, Pozharski decided to try and force the bridge.  His first reinforcements were now arriving but he sent forward the light cavalry.  They advanced quickly across the bridge, ignoring the ragged volley from the village.  When they reached the barricade they found that it had been too hastily constructed (they rolled a 6 on a d6) and did not delay them at all.  To the dismay of the approaching Borotnikov the Muscovites had crossed the river.  However, the Muscovites had no room to deploy and use their superior numbers and the Cossack cavalry charged forward to try and contain the incursion.  A swirling melee took place and against the odds, the Muscovites were pushed back in disarray.  As they streamed back over the bridge they impeded the advance of a cavalry unit Pozharski had ordered forward.

By now the Godicz Cossacks were near the village.  Their arrival was timely because the original defenders had been all but wiped out by the fire of the streltsy.  Behind the Godicz Cossacks two further units of foot were beginning to make their way forward.  Pozharski had received further reinforcements in the shape of a unit of 'German' mercenaries, some boyar cavalry and a light gun.  The gun deployed on the river line on Pozharski's left, where it could fire at the troops approaching from Novskya Zol.  The cavalry and infantry were held by the bridge, ready to advance.  First into action were the mercenaries who advanced with elan, expecting no resistance from the defenders of the village.  However, Borotnikov had re-garrisoned the village and as the mercenaries neared the ruins of the ineffectual barricade they received a sharp volley.  To Pozharski's dismay, the mercenaries stopped and then fell back, to the jeers of the streltsy units by the river.  Pozharski turned to his cavalry and ordered them to cross the bridge.  This they did and had some success, pushing back the light cavalry until Borotnikov countered with the cavalry he had brought forward from Novskya Zol.  Again a swirling cavalry melee took place in the confined space between the village and the bridge and again the Cossacks prevailed.  This time they pursued the fleeing Muscovite cavalry across the bridge and suddenly found themselves surrounded by enemy horsemen.  With no hope of regaining their own bank of the river they tried to cut their way out, but were overwhelmed.

The slaughter in the village continued.  Borotnikov needed to hold it to keep the Muscovites from crossing the river, but Pozharski was concentrating the fire of three units of streltsy on the defenders.  Even the fire of the Cossack light gun offered little help.  As the fire from the village slackened Pozharski pushed yet another cavalry unit across the bridge.  As they reached the far bank the Muscovites moved to their right, away from the Cossack gun.  They were charged by Cossack cavalry, but they had been weakened by straying into range of the streltsy.  As the Muscovite cavalry gained ground Pozharski led the boyar cavalry forward and then joined the melee.  Behind him, the Suzdal streltsy began to cross the bridge, to be followed by the mercenaries.

The Muscovite cavalry prevailed over their Cossack opponents and Pozharski could see only one unit of infantry between him and the ford over the second river.  Leaving the boyar cavalry behind he led the first unit of cavalry forward hoping to seize the ford. Unfortunately he had missed seeing the Cossack light cavalry close to the wheatfield and they charged the rear of the Muscovite cavalry, catching them unawares. Disordered and dismayed, the Muscovites routed, leaving Pozharski to cut his way free to rejoin the boyars.

Even though they suffered heavy casualties the Suzdal streltsy secured the village, allowing more Muscovite troops to cross the river.  Borotnikov could see that if he delayed any longer his force would be insufficient to hold the second river line and so he gave the order to fall back.  The infantry on his left was allowed to fall back unmolested as Pozharski struggled to restore the boyar cavalry to some semblance of order.  On the right the infantry, covered by cavalry fell back slowly, taking their wounded with them.

Borotnikov had lost approximately half his force, but he had delayed the Muscovite advance.         

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Lobositz part 2

A couple of weeks ago I began a report on our recent Lobositz game and the first evenings gaming came to an end with the Prussian infantry massing before Lobositz and their cavalry threatening the Austrian centre.  The Austrians were desperately trying to redeploy their infantry to shore up their centre following the destruction of two thirds of their heavy cavalry.  Meanwhile on the Lobosch the Austrian light troops were being driven back by the Prussian grenadiers.


Bevern was watching the progress of his grenadiers with some satisfaction.  The front units had almost reached the summit of the Lobosch and although they had suffered some casualties, the Austrian musketry seemed to be slackening.  As the grenadiers approached the wall manned by the Grenzers they fired a volley and prepared to charge.  The Grenzers' reply was supplemented by canister from a light gun which temporarily stalled the grenadiers.  Before they could fully recover they were fired on from their right flank.  Some Grenzers had moved down the slopes to assist the defenders of the wall.   With casualties amongst the officers mounting, command began to falter and having suffered 50% losses the first line of grenadiers reluctantly retraced their steps back to the open ground at the foot of the Lobosch.  The first attack had been held and to Bevern's dismay he could see that the reinforcements sent by Lacy had now arrived strengthening the defence even more.

Lacy's attention was by now fully focused on the defence of Lobositz.  One of his flanking batteries had been lost to the Guards attack and the infantry holding the line between Lobositz and the Lobosch were coming under increasing pressure as they became targets for the Prussian howitzers.  Behind the howitzers a brigade of Prussian infantry was moving up in support and Lacy moved quickly to rally battalions which had fallen back out of the line.

Lobositz itself seemed secure as the original garrison of two battalions had been augmented by two more of grenadiers.

Browne's main concern was his centre.  His grenadiers would hold to the end, but they were faced by heavy cavalry, jaegers and artillery.  The former were waiting for the latter to whittle down his strength before charging.  All he had to cover the vital bridge over which his reserve infantry were marching was a unit of converged elite companies from his mounted dragoon regiments.  This was the unit which the Buddenbrock Cuirassier, victors over the Austrian cuirassiers now attacked.  Buddenbrock had to run the gauntlet of fire from the village of Sullowitz which had a garrison of Austrian light troops and also the fire of batteries on the far bank of the Model Bach.  They suffered losses, but charged home.  The crucial melee swung back and forth, but eventually the Austrians prevailed and the Prussians were driven back.

Frederick now directed Winterfeldt to capture Sullowitz and four battalions of line infantry advanced on the village.  Marching through artillery fire and the musketry from the village the first line stopped to fire a volley, and the attack stalled.  Reinforced by the second line the attack went in and the light troops were driven back across the Model Bach.  Having removed this irritant attention now returned to Lobostiz.

The second Austrian battery defending the village had been inflicting heavy casualties on the  Prussian infantry even as they were forming up.  As the infantry approached, their losses increased.  However, by broadening the attack the battery was outflanked and a vigorous charge drove off the gunners.  This increased pressure on the Austrian grenadiers as the Prussian jaeger could advance closer and inflict more casualties.  Lobositz would now have to rely on the volleys of its garrison to keep out the Prussian infantry, which continued to advance.

This is where affairs ended on the second evening of gaming.  The Prussians had made progress, but had concerns about their left flank.  For their part, the Austrians had managed to reinforce their centre but had had most of their guns over run.  Unfortunately it also where we had to end the game as Alasdair, our host is moving house shortly and his armies need to be carefully packed away pending the arrival of the removal men.  So this will be the last appearance  of his magnificent SYW collection along with the Schleswig-Holstein collection and many others.  Alasdair will be beginning his own blog once he settles into his new home and I will provide a link at that time.  Over the next few weeks I will add a page to the Gallery with photos from the SYW battles we have had over the years.

Here is a photo of the three of us prior to that final nights gaming.