Saturday, 5 October 2013

Capture the enemy supplies! a Sudan scenario

We return this week to the continuing adventures of Lieutenant C V Firth-Newsome in the Sudan.  Following his successful 'rescue mission' he has been promoted to acting captain, (the brigadier and Firth-Newsome's father happened to go to the same school) and in his new capacity has been given command of a force which has been given the task of depriving the local dervish forces of the supplies they have been accumulating at an oasis inland from the British base at Atbara.  "Bit of a picnic for you", the brigadier had said.  "Take Stapleton-Darcy, (the new cavalry officer), with you, he needs to get to know the country".

This is the view from behind the oasis looking towards where the British force will appear.  As the Dervish commander, I had 5 units of Nile Ansar infantry, one of which was riflemen, the remainder being mainly melee troops; a field gun and the prospect of reinforcements both infantry and mounted after five turns (depending on the dice of course). I could deploy the Ansar anywhere, but decided to put three of the units in the village,close to the supplies with the riflemen in the wadi at the top left of the photo, the gun on the central palm-topped hill and one melee unit on the hill to the gun's right.  This deployment was unknown to Steve, who took the part of Firth-Newsome.  He had opted to put all his cavalry and camel troops in a flanking manoeuvre which would arrive roughly where he intended at some stage, again dice dependent.  His infantry force comprised four units of British infantry plus one unit of blue jackets,the latter under the command of Lieutenant Bolitho.  His artillery support consisted of one field gun and one machine gun.
The British infantry force marched onto the table in a commendably tight formation, Firth-Newsome had been listening to some of the 'old hands' back in the mess at Atbara and they had impressed on him the need to keep his units together and not chase off in all directions.  He ordered the three units leading the advance to deploy scouts to investigate the broken ground ahead.

His two reserve units, the blue jackets on the left and Loyals on the right maintained close support for the line ahead.  Firth-Newsome took his position behind the fusiliers who were in the centre, flanked by the guns.  As the advance continued the units on the right seemed to be making better progress and Firth-Newsome sent a runner to request that MacDonald, the commander of the Highlanders rein in his enthusiasm.  The action started with a shell from the Dervish artillery exploding amongst the ranks of the fusiliers. NCOs quickly closed up the ranks and had the wounded taken to the rear.  This would obviously not be the 'picnic' the brigadier had expected.  Firth-Newsome called forward his field gun and ordered fire on the enemy position.  Whilst his attention was focused on the centre, his flanking units were beginning to extend the line.

The riflemen in the wadi, instead of shooting at the approaching British, instead tried to charge.  They were saved from this folly by some low dice which meant that they failed to reach the enemy unit, the Highlanders, and in the following move withdrew to the wadi.  This worked in the Dervish commanders favour because the Loyals were now drawn further to their right to deal with this threat.  On the British left, the Berkshires' scouts discovered an Ansar unit hiding in the dead ground, which after a volley charged forward.  The Berkshires stood their ground and fired a volley which inflicted some casualties, but not enough to stop the Ansar.  As the two forces came together, the blue jackets moved further to the left, covering the flank of the Berkshires line.

The melee went against the Ansar and the remnants fell back towards the village. However, the Berkshires had lost a quarter of their strength and Firth-Newsome's tidy formation was now a straggling line across the desert.  The Ansar gun had taken casualties from the British artillery and volleys from the Fusiliers and so it too, fell back to the village.

With the village and oasis now close, Firth-Newsome was beginning to feel more confident. Two enemy charges dealt with and enemy artillery driven off.  His flanking column was due shortly and that should end the matter.  On the British left, Lieutenant Bolitho was not feeling quite so 'chipper'.  There was a lot of broken ground to his left and front and he kept his scouts close to the main body of blue jackets.  Suddenly a cry of "Sir, dust cloud to the left".  Raising his telescope, (a true navy man would never use binoculars), Bolitho looked left and discerned shapes amidst the dust.  Cavalry.  "Form square!, prepare for cavalry" he bellowed.  Lady Luck had smiled on the Dervish commander and his cavalry reinforcements had arrived on cue and where he had intended.   Even better, the Hadendoa units also arrived on time, behind the oasis and began to move forward to support the Ansar.  With the blue jackets pinned in square by the cavalry, the Hadendoa sprinted forward, one unit making straight for the jack tars.  Although under fire from the Arab mounted troops, the seamen kept their cool and fired a telling volley at the charging Hadendoa.  Against other foes it may have been effective, but these tribesmen ignored their fallen comrades and fell on the square.  The clash of cutlass against scimitar rand across the desert sands.  It was a short, brutal fight, but the discipline of the blue jackets carried them through and they managed to drive off their attackers.  Cheers rang out from the battered square and Bolitho was proud that his men had upheld the highest traditions of the service.

Whilst the seamen were fighting for their lives, the remainder of the British line continued its advance.  Firth-Newsome's men were now exchanging volleys with the defenders of the oasis. As the volume of fire from the Ansar diminished he felt sure he was gaining the upper hand.

On the British right, the Loyals had reached the Wadi and exchanged fire with the Ansar riflemen.  These now withdrew towards some broken ground from which they could fire on the flank of any attack on the village.  The Ansar moved just in time, because, as they streamed across the desert a cloud of dust announced the arrival of Stapleton-Darcy with the cavalry and camelry.  He was just too late to catch the riflemen, but, Stapleton-Darcy led his lancers towards the village, hoping to catch the defenders unawares.  The two units of infantry mounted on camels were left under the command of his fellow lieutenant, Witherington as  Stapleton-Darcy galloped off with the lancers.  Ignoring the scattered shots from the broken ground the British cavalry swept into the village.  As they neared the oasis they saw a unit of Hadendoa and charged.  Just before they closed a round from the Ansar artillery tore through their formation and ended Stapleton-Darcy's short career in an instant.  Trapped in a narrow area the cavalry could make no impression on the Hadendoa formation and lost many horses to the stabbing spears.  A bugle sounded and the lancers fell back, many men having to 'hitch' a rider from comrades.

Witherington now deployed his infantry into a firing line to cover the withdrawal of the lancers and add to the fire from the main British line on the village.

Meanwhile, in the centre Firth-Newsome had decided it was time to push forward.  He was just about to give the order when the Highlanders reported enemy cavalry to their rear.  The cavalry which had forced the blue jackets into square and by now moved round behind the British line and were in position to charge.  The rear rank of the Highlanders turned to fire at the cavalry and the machine gun also re-deployed.  Anxious that everything was done to preserve his line, Firth-Newsome ordered the field gun to move to the centre and add their fire to stop any cavalry attack.  As the massed Arab cavalry swept forward a hail of bullets and shell met them.  Their commander, resplendent in his antique armour was in the lead and was one of the first to fall.  Despite their courage, none of the Arab horsemen reached the British line.  Turning his thoughts once again to the attack on the village, Firth-Newsome was interrupted by a runner from the Fusiliers.  "Sir, the Berkshires have gone!.  the enemy is on our flank!"

The Berkshires had advanced in line with the Fusiliers and although suffering a few casualties from Ansar fire had inflicted some on the defenders in return.  Then, in a fewminutes, three rounds from the Hadendoa artillery had torn through their ranks.  As the NCOs restored the line, the Ansar defenders left the village and swept towards them.  The fire from the Berkshires killed the first line of Ansar, but they kept on coming.  Then, from the left a unit of Hadendoa charged the British flank.  Some men changed front to meet this new threat, but it was like trying to stem the tide.  Assailed in front and flank the British line crumpled.  A corporal managed to get a few wounded men away, covered by the knots of men who fought to the last.

Luckily for Firth-Newsome,  a second unit of Hadendoa, which had been ordered to charge the Fusiliers had not moved quickly enough.  This gave the Fusiliers enough time to change front and, bolstered by the return of the field gun, prevent the British line being 'rolled up'.

With his chance of seizing the supplies now gone, Firth-Newsome gave the order to return to Atbara.  The 'picnic' had not been a success and the Brigadier would not be happy about having to write a letter to Stapleton-Darcy's parents.


  1. A rousing action, sir. What rules were you using, if I may inquire?

    -- Jeff

  2. Hello Jeff

    We use the "Sword and the Flame' rules with a few house amendments to speed up the melee resolution.



  3. Excellent! I enjoyed that - like Jeff, what rules are you using??