Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Action at El Ammoh; a Sudan scenario using Battles for Empire

For our last wargames meet of the year Steve organised a Sudan scenario.  The village of El Ammoh is a staging post along the lines of communication towards Khartoum and has a standing garrison of 4 units of Egyptian/Sudanese infantry and one of cavalry together with artillery support. There has been a history of unrest in the area and the village has been fortified to improve the defence.  Word has reached the British garrison at Aswan that more trouble is brewing and therefore whilst the main force is gathering a 'flying column' of two units of mounted infantry, one of lancers and attendant artillery has been dispatched.  Their task is to  assess the situation and if necessary  cover the withdrawal of the Egyptian force to a more secure location.  Command of this column has been given to newly-promoted Captain Firth-Newsome.

As the British near El Ammoh they can see that the garrison has manned the walls and clouds of dust can be seen in the distance.

The village of El Ammoh
Firth-Newsome went with one of his lancers to discuss the situation with the Egyptian commander of El Ammoh, Mohammed Bey.    The Egyptian was glad to see the Imperial reinforcements and suggested that the main Dervish attacks would be along the eastern and western faces of the village. Firth-Newsome offered to deploy his troops to flank any such attacks and this was agreed.  

The British begin to deploy
Once back with the column, Firth-Newsome orders Lieutenant Fairbrother to take the two mounted infantry units and the machine gun, to the west and deploy on a ridge of low hills from where he could  fire into the flank of any Dervish units attacking the town.  Firth-Newsome would cover the eastern approaches with the field gun and the unit of lancers.  The deployment took longer than expected and as Fairbrother neared the hills he saw large clouds of dust approaching from the west.  Quickly he deployed the South Essex into square, whilst the machine gun and the North Rutlands, being further back, deployed in line to lend support with rifle fire.  Out of the dust appeared two units of camel troops and three of cavalry.  Two cavalry and one camel units headed for the South Essex, whilst the second camel unit moved towards the North Rutlands.  Riding through the fire from the British square two mounted units charged home, leading to a desperate melee.  Meanwhile disciplined volleys from the North Rutlands plus fire from the machine gun, deterred the other camel unit from charging, at least for the moment.

The attack on the west wall of El-Ammoh
Back at El-Ammoh the Dervish infantry were closing in.  Even though the Egyptian defenders on the south wall poured volleys into the masses as they passed, the Dervish pressed on, swinging round to attack the east and west walls as Mohammed Bey had forseen.  There they were met by resolute defensive fire from the garrison.  On the western wall, the Sudanese unit, supported by a field gun stopped the first Dervish in its tracks and inflicted such casualties that it took no further part in the battle.  Undaunted the second wave of Dervishes swept forward.  Now the defensive fire slackened as the garrison on the south wall ran low on ammunition, as did the field gun.  Sensing victory the Dervishes crashed home though the stolid ranks of the Sudanese held them off and sent their assailants reeling back in disorder.  The gun crew were not so lucky.  Heavily out-numbered, they fought like demons and felled many opponents but in the end were overwhelmed.  Possibly stunned by the ferocity of the defence, the Dervishes did not follow up their success, giving Mohammed Bey just enough time to move up some reinforcements.

The South Essex under attack

On the east wall things had not gone well for the defence.  As the Dervishes closed the machine gun had jammed.  Quickly, Mohammed Bey had ordered the crew to pull the gun back to try and clear the jam away from the threat of attack.  The dismounted cavalry were to advance and hold the wall. They arrived in the nick of time and after a fierce struggle pushed back the attackers.  The Dervishes on the eastern attack had more to concern them than the fire from El-Ammoh.  Sweeping towards them were the British lancers.  They hit the first unit at a gallop and scattered them to the four winds. Sweeping on, they crashed into the flank of a second unit sending it reeling back in total disarray.   Blown and disordered the lancers paused to reform.  Their ranks had been thinned by casualties to both men and horses.  Looking about them they could see more Dervishes massing to attack.  Sensing the lancers' confusion, Firth-Newsome galloped over and ordered them to fall back with him to regroup.  The lancers only just made it, a few troopers on wounded horses fell victims to the pursuing Dervishes.

The lancers strike home
Over in the west, the South Essex's square was shrinking as the struggle the camels and cavalry continued.  Fairbrother was desperate to help them with the North Rutlands, but they were now trying to stop a fearsome charge by the camel troops facing them.  As the camel troops closed. Fairbrother ordered 'Rapid Fire' and the infantry responded with a will.  Gaps appeared in the enemy ranks has the bullets struck home.  As the camels crashed to the desert floor they impeded those behind them and the pace of the attack slowed.  This gave more time for the infantry to fire and cause yet more devastation.  All at once the remaining camel troops  turned and headed off to the west, the line had held.  Fairbrother was about to order the North Rutlands to advance when he saw that it was too late, the South Essex had been overwhelmed by the masses of mounted troops.  Even worse, to his right their were more enemy cavalry approaching.  His machine gun was firing for all it was worth but could not stop the mass of cavalry.  The North Rutlands turned to face this new threat, but they were again too late to aid their comrades as the enemy cavalry swept over the gun crew.  All that stood between the victorious enemy cavalry and the North gate of El-Ammoh were the North Rutlands.  Taking his station in the centre of the North Rutlands' ranks, Fairbrother drew his revolver and was preparing to order rapid fire when Firth-Newsome, with the remains of the lancers swept onto the scene and hit the enemy cavalry in the flank.  A short brutal melee ensued, but the Dervish cavalry broke and headed back into the desert.  Behind them they left a pitiful remnant of the lancers, barely enough to mount an escort for a general.  The gallant survivors made their way into El-Ammoh with the field gun, whilst Fairbrother took up position with the North Rutlands to cover the northern gate of the village.

The end of the South Essex

From the village Firth-Newsome and Mohammed Bey could see more Dervish infantry milling about. However, the sight of the heaps of their dead comrades around the walls of the village, gave them cause to pause and consider whether it might be better to await a better opportunity to seize the village.  As night fell, Firth-Newsome considered his options too.  Should he order a withdrawal, or hold on in anticipation of the main column arriving.  Indeed, how should he write up the events of this bloody day, could it be a victory with such a loss of life to the Imperial forces?

For this scenario Steve tried out a new system for randomising the arrival of the Dervish forces.  He compiled a deck of cards with half the cards representing units and half blanks.  He gave the deck to me to shuffle and then I dealt three cards to represent the first three chances for units to arrive.  Steve rolled dice to indicate where the units arrived.  The units indicated by the cards were actually groups of 5 infantry or 2 or 3 mounted troops.  Move two Steve received two more cards and in subsequent moves 1 card.  This worked rather well and we will probably use it again.

During the day my camera battery was playing up so Steve took a couple of over-view shots with his phone, which show the layout of the table

1 comment:

  1. A great outing for the 'last game of the year'. I like the idea of the card deck.