Monday, 16 April 2018

Action at Kawa

This week's game was set in the Sudan.  The affair began with a thoroughly disgruntled Brigadier returning to his command after being summoned to headquarters.  "I told them" he said later in the mess, as the brandy was passed around.  "They can march and manoeuvre to a good standard.  The majority are decent enough shots, but they need more time.  Time to be 'steady' in action.  They are just not ready".  However, his protests had been overruled by the 'powers that be' and he had returned to his desk with the dreaded instruction, authorising, nay demanding, that the Egyptian forces should be sent out on a mission which would prove to the great Egyptian public that their troops were as good as anyone.  "It's a damned poisoned chalice", he moaned," and the damned thing is, that the Kawa report landed on my desk this morning, it's almost as if the damned politicians knew it was there".

The town of Kawa
The former representative's house in Kawa
The Kawa report detailed the events in that small town just over the border in Sudan.  A local Dervish leader, Emir Waffoor, had gathered together a small number of men and managed to kill the government representative and his bodyguard and declare the town for the great rebellion led by Emir Khat.  Action was required and with recent reports placing Emir Khat near Dongola, threatening the Nile trade, only a small force would be required.  So, the following day, the Brigadier summoned Sharif Pasha, the commander of the Egyptian forces to his office.  He laid out the situation to the Egyptian and suggested that 3 brigades should be sufficient for the task.  "Recapture Kawa, disperse the Dervishes and if possible capture this Waffoor character", he ordered.  "You should be back within a week".  Returning to his camp, Sharif Pasha passed the orders to Khaled Pasha and Ismail Pasha, his infantry brigade commanders and also to Sedki Pasha who commanded the cavalry.  A plan was drawn up with the two infantry brigades attacking the town frontally, whilst the cavalry were to loop around to cut off any escape.

Khalid Pasha's men on the Egyptian right

Ismail Pasha's men on the Egyptian left
Three days later, after an uneventful march, Sharif Pasha's force began their final approach on Kawa.  Having fully absorbed the instructions regarding the need for scouting ahead and avoiding ambushes, progress was slow.  However, the lack of opposition began to weigh on the minds of the Egyptians, were there any Dervishes out there?  The leading units now saw the town in the distance, they were almost there.  Suddenly the sound of artillery was heard and the head of one of Ismail Pasha's columns seemed to crumple.  Then rifle fire began from behind the town walls, they were in for a fight.
The rebel defenders of Kawa
The Egyptian columns moved smoothly into line and began to fire volleys back at the defenders of the town.  Sharif Pasha ordered forward his artillery to try and silence the enemy gun and over on the far left, Sedki Pasha was beginning his outflanking manoeuvre.  Sharif thought that another 15 minutes would be sufficient to get the cavalry in position then the push forward by the infantry could begin.  He then saw a rider peel off from the cavalry column and gallop towards him.  The rider brought a report which stated that a large body of enemy cavalry was approaching and they seemed to be accompanied by infantry!  Where the devil had they come from?  There was no time to waste, orders were dispatched to Ismail and Khaled Pasha to advance at once.

The Dervish cavalry and camelry
As the Egyptians advanced more Dervish troops emerged from Kawa, their line became more extended as they attempted to cover the threat to their flank.  As the advanced continued, the rate of fire from the Egyptians seemed to increase and then from Khalid's men ebb away.  For some reason their ammunition seemed to be running low.  Mules were sent forward to resupply them, but of necessity the attack stalled.  At least, Sharif saw, his men had adopted the firing line so loved of their British tutors.  The defenders of the town would be suffering from the volume of fire (even though reduced), that they were receiving.

The Egyptians deployed in line
Over on the left Sedki was doing his best to hold off the Dervish cavalry.  One of his units of mounted infantry had dismounted and prepared to drive off the enemy by rifle fire.  The others charged the nearest foes.  A fierce melee ensued and although outnumbered, the Egyptian cavalry fought with great determination.  They managed to drive off the first attack, but at heavy cost, and fell back to their own lines.

On their right, the Egyptian line was coming under increasing pressure.  Two units of Dervish infantry had issued from Kawa and were moving through areas of rough ground towards the Egyptian line.  Behind them could be seen the massed ranks of the Dervish reinforcements, jogging forward, eager to join the attack.  However, in Kawa the defenders were feeling the effects of the Egyptian fire.  Their artillery had been silenced by counter battery fire and their riflemen had suffered so many casualties that they had ceased to be a viable unit.  The walls seemed to be free of defenders and open to attack.  Then the Dervishes launched a heavy attack on the extreme right of the Egyptian line.  One unit attacked from some rough ground and a second charged out from Kawa straight at the Egyptian line.

The Dervish attack
The unit charging frontally was shredded by rifle fire supported by the machine gun.  Those charging from the rough terrain almost hit home, but a final desperate 'rapid fire' stopped them in their tracks.  However, the respite was temporary and not gained without cost, as both units were now low on ammunition.  One of the junior officers galloped off searching for the supply mules, whilst the two
units nervously awaited the next onslaught.  It was not long in coming.  A large column of  hadendoa came on at the run.  The feeble volleys failed to stop them, but the machine gun did manage to cut down most of the leading group, which happened to include the 'brigade' commander.  However, this did not stop the Dervish warriors who crashed into the Egyptian line.  One unit managed to beat off the attack, but the other was less fortunate.  Some men broke and fled leaving gaps through which the Dervish flowed.  A final stand around the colours delayed matters only slightly.  All that stood between the Dervishes and the Nile was the machine gun.  Firing feverishly, the gunners managed to hold the Dervishes back long enough for another battalion to come forward.

The hadendoa charge home
On the Egyptian right, the Dervish cavalry was massing for another attack.  The second column of Dervish infantry was moving forward in support.  Rising to the challenge, the weakened cavalry charged to meet the Dervishes.  They stopped the cavalry, but could not push them back.  Gradually the Dervish's greater numbers began to tell.  Groups of Egyptians began to be surrounded and then cut down.  A few managed to cut their way through to make for their own lines, but as a fighting force they were finished.  It all now depended on the mounted infantry.  Sedki Pasha joined them as they began to fire volleys at the enemy cavalry.  One unit was driven off with heavy casualties, but another appeared in its place.  Once again an Egyptian unit ran low on ammunition and before the supply camel could reach them, the mounted infantry were fighting for their lives.  Urged on by Sedki Pasha, the mounted infantry fought like demons, but against overwhelming odds they were doomed.  A group around Sedki were the last to succumb and with them died the Egyptian cavalry brigade.

The end for the Egyptian cavalry brigade
Ismail Pasha's men were trying to hold back the Dervish infantry, with assistance from the field gun.  Unfortunately, one unit seeing an enemy unit wavering after being hit by a volley elected, (against orders), to charge.  Although they charged home, they were outmatched in the melee and very few made it back to the Egyptian lines.  Ismail Pasha moved forward one of his reserve units to fill the gap and then had to use his other to cover his flank now that the cavalry had been destroyed.  One success was that one of Ismail's units had reached Kawa.  Driving back the defenders they began to move towards the representative's house.  On their right, the Sudanese from Khalid Pasha's brigade had also reached Kawa's walls and began to fire on the artillery that was attempting to move forward to support the hadendoa column attacking the Egyptian right.  The rifle fire from the Sudanese was  ineffective, whilst the artillery fire soon began to inflict losses.

Dervish infantry attack Ismail Pasha's brigade
Khalid Pasha was beginning to think that he should begin to fall back.  Yet more hadendoa were moving forward and his line was becoming perilously thin.  The unit on the extreme right was charged.  Its volley was ineffective and the shock of the impact of the Dervish unit broke through the ranks and the remnants of the line were chased off into the desert.  Just as orders from Sharif Pasha arrived ordering Khalid to fall back to establish a united front with Ismail Pasha one of his two remaining units was charged by a fresh body of hadendoa.  They needed to stand because they covered the flank of the Sudanese.  The first push by the hadendoa was held, but a second surge proved too much.  Another Egyptian unit had ceased to exist.  The Sudanese quickly turned to face this new threat.  They stopped a charge by rifle fire, but with all their attention to their front, they were totally unprepared for the charge from a unit to their rear which cut them to pieces.  With the exception of the machine gun, Khalid's brigade had ceased to exist.

The end of the Sudanese
Ismail Pasha was fairing no better.  He had also received Sharif Pasha's order, but had been unable to disengage.  The Dervish cavalry was threatening his flank and masses of infantry were preparing to attack his front.  One unit formed square and the artillery turned to cover the flank.  A second unit, in line, prepared to drive off the Dervish infantry with volley fire.  The Egyptian gunners definitely earned their pay that day.  Their fire destroyed one cavalry unit and sent back a second with very heavy casualties.  The square was assailed by camel troops and infantry, but managed to beat off both. 

The square holds firm
As mentioned above, one of Ismail Pasha's units had managed to enter Kawa.  However, they quickly discovered that fresh infantry were coming to attack them.  With all their ammunition spent and no hope of replenishment, their captain decided to fortify a group of buildings close to the walls.  His plan was to hold off the Dervishes long enough for a rescue mission to reach them, or to try and escape under cover of darkness.  However, before any adequate defensive perimeter could be set up the Dervishes were upon them.  One by one the buildings were overwhelmed and yet another Egyptian unit was destroyed.

The last stand in Kawa
With the cavalry driven off, Ismail Pasha decided to deploy his square into line and use his two remaining infantry units to cover the retreat of the artillery.  They would then fall back alternately, hopefully holding off the Dervishes with volleys.  He had reckoned without the effectiveness of the Dervish riflemen.  Their fire whittled away one of the units, whose reply was hampered by low ammunition (again!).  A concerted Dervish charge overcame both Egyptian units and few survived to reach what remained of the Egyptian force.  This now consisted of the machine gun and they field gun.  The two brigade commanders had joined Sharif Pasha and all three elected to stay with the guns, sending an aide back with the remnants of the Egyptian force which had gathered around Sharif.

The machine gun overwhelmed
The gunners fired off their ammunition against the attacking hordes, but could not stop their inexorable advance.  With pistol and sword, the gallant band fought as long as they could, but were inevitably  overwhelmed.

Sharif Pasha is cut down
When the pitiful remnants of the Egyptian force reached camp, the Brigadier listened to the reports with increasing despondency.  He knew that 'the powers that be' would need a scapegoat and he was first in line.  Would it be a posting to some forgotten corner of the empire, a desk in a cupboard-like office in some provincial garrison or being sent home in disgrace?

Another enjoyable scenario by Steve.  We don't usually fight on to the 'last man', but it seemed to happen in this game.  The Egyptians were hampered on this occasion by some particularly bad dice when it came to ammunition supply.   They seemed to spend most of the game with at least a third of their units low on ammunition.  However, on another day they may well prosper !


  1. Wonderful game. A "fight to the last man" seems right in the circumstances.

  2. Fun to read and view, wargaming as it should be.