Saturday, 8 April 2017

Affair at Wadi Yahmeen: a Sudan scenario

This week we were bank in the desert.  Steve had devised a scenario where the Egyptian troops are trying to disperse the Mahdist forces assembling at the remote desert oasis of Wadi Yahmeen. Reports suggest that the Mahdi himself may be there.  If so, capturing him would be a tremendous coup.  The Egyptian forces consisted of two brigades of infantry, each of three battalions, one brigade has a field gun, one a machine gun.  They are accompanied by a mounted brigade of one cavalry regiment and one regiment of mounted infantry.  The orders are:  capture the oasis, drive off any Mahdist forces and if possible capture the Mahdi.

The Egyptian infantry advance
Naturally, the Egyptians have no idea how many enemy units they are facing, or where they may be, so, under my command their advance was rather tentative.  I had decided to send the mounted brigade to the east of the oasis to scout for enemy units whilst the infantry would approach the  northern side.  As the leading unit of Sudanese infantry crested the final ridge overlooking the oasis they came under fire from a gun sited at the wall of the village.  The fire was very accurate, and stopped the unit in its tracks.  As they reformed into line they were hit again and refused to advance.  Whilst the officers struggling to regain control, their job was made more difficult as the Dervish riflemen opened up a steady fire from the village.

The Dervish defenders of Wadi Yahmeen
The cavalry had made good progress and soon spotted the dervish cavalry which had been placed behind the village.  Whilst the mounted infantry dismounted and formed a firing line behind which the cavalry could rally if required, the cavalry charged the nearest enemy unit.  After a fierce fight the Egyptians prevailed, though they had been reduced in numbers.  As they reformed they were charged by the second Dervish cavalry unit.  The Egyptian cavalry fought bravely, but the more numerous Dervish cavalry prevailed in the end, though at considerable cost.

The first cavalry melee
Meanwhile, other infantry units had come to the aid of the Sudanese.  The fire of the riflemen in the village had slackened as two Egyptian infantry units opened fire on them.  To increase the pressure, I rather foolishly sent a unit in column on a flanking march to add yet more fire and threaten to attack the western side of the village.  Naturally they marched straight towards the one Dervish unit positioned outside the village, hidden in some rough ground.  As the Dervish infantry appeared as if by magic and charged towards them, the Egyptians had just enough time to form line and fire a rather feeble volley before the Dervish mass hit them.  Amazingly they held the first rush, but then a second Dervish unit came out of the village, formed up and charged into their flank.  The Egyptians had almost destroyed their initial attackers, but this second attack proved too much and they were cut to ribbons.

The surprise attack

The end of the 'flank march'
The other brigade was also coming under severe pressure.  The Dervish riflemen in the village, who had fired off all their ammunition, formed up and charged.  Even though the field gun added a close range 'rapid fire' salvo to the volley from the Egyptian infantry, the Dervish line swept on, seemingly unaffected.  The Egyptian infantry had also tried a 'rapid fire' volley but as a result had run out of ammunition.  This counted against them in the melee and their losses were heavy.  The survivors battled on and managed to drive off the attack, but at heavy cost.   As the officers reformed the thinned ranks and sent runners for more ammunition from the brigade supply mules they were dismayed to see yet another Dervish unit heading towards them.  Again the supporting artillery fire proved ineffective and to add to the brigade commander's woes, the gun also ran low on ammunition. Unable to fire a volley the Egyptians awaited the attack with a bristling line of bayonets, determined to sell their lives dearly.

The dismounted infantry drive off the second Dervish cavalry unit
Over in the east, the dismounted infantry awaited the onslaught of the Dervish cavalry.  Their disciplined volley thinned the ranks of their attackers, but could not stop them and a tough fight ensued.  Eventually, the Egyptians prevailed, but their ranks were dangerously thin.  Led by the Dervish cavalry commander,  the final Dervish cavalry unit swept towards them.  Again the volley failed to stop the attack, but it did account for the Dervish cavalry commander.  After the initial clash the melee reduced to individual combats where the greater numbers of the cavalry gained the advantage.  Eventually, the final knot of Egyptian infantry was overwhelmed and the Dervish cavalry prevailed.  As they prepared to advance they came under fire from the reserve battalion of infantry of the second brigade.  Although at long range this was sufficient, given the death of their leader, to persuade the remaining cavalry to withdraw and eliminate the threat to the Egyptian flank.

The machine gun jams
The first brigades problems were multiplying.  The Sudanese were still suffering from the fire of the Dervish gun and with casualties now at over 75% the remaining men turned and ran.  The one remaining battalion fell back towards the 2nd brigade, which left the machine gun to face the attacking Dervishes on its own.  As the enemy massed, preparing to attack, the machine gun inflicted heavy casualties.  When the charge started a final close range fire was ordered, but after a few rounds the gun jammed.  Before the crew could get away they were overwhelmed by a wave of Dervishes.  Carrying on their charge the Dervish infantry swept towards the remaining Egyptian infantry.  The final battalion of the 1st Brigade fired volley after volley at them as they approached.  With a final effort, the Dervish flags were raised overhead and the remaining Dervish charged towards the Egyptian line.  None reached it.  The final 'rapid fire' volley reduced the attack to a bloody ruin with few survivors.

The Egyptians finally reach the outskirts of Wadi Yahmeen

As this attack was being dealt with the Dervish attack from the village struck home.  Casualties were heavy on both sides, with no quarter asked for nor given.  In the end it reduced to small groups of survivors, all weary and bloodstained, who, as if by mutual consent, agreed to fall back. A

An Egyptian attack was eventually launched against the village and managed to drive back the unit defending the northern wall.  However, before the Egyptians could advance, another Dervish unit came forward, with signs of another assembling further into the village.  With only half his infantry remaining, little ammunition and no cavalry, the Egyptian commander decided that honour had been satisfied.  When they viewed the extent of their losses, surely the remaining Dervish units would decide to drift home?

A most enjoyable game with action close throughout.  The Egyptians were plagued by 'low ammunitionitis' , perhaps they had not had time to check that all the ammunition boxes were full before they set off?

1 comment: