Sunday, February 26, 2017

Diary of A Subaltern in the Sudan #2

23 February 1896

Our scout of the 21st. instant found a Dervish screen south of our post at the village and ruins of Akasha. Thinking the enemy mighty bold being this close to us, General Shearing resolved to take most of the garrison out to punish their impertinence. After a hearty breakfast on the 23rd., the Column marched to the ruins where Freddy Grandmaison and I had just been two days before. The distance was not far.

We were assigned to Colonel Burnaby's Advance Guard given our recent familiarity with the ruins. He spread out our twenty-three sailors demanding they have a care to take cover.

Freddy and I were posted on the extreme right flank.  High bushes along the bank of the Nile River covered us well. Some of the detachment that had been with us before noticed observable Dervish were more numerous today. I thought they meant to falsely taunt us showing themselves so impudently. Our vigilance was high and our weapons were loaded as....

General Shearing brought up the Main Body on our left. Surely the enemy's bravado would evaporate not because of the blazing morning heat but because they might now comprehend our overwhelming numbers.

They could not hope to delay us more than moments once the order to advance came.

We awaited Burnaby's order to open fire and advance.

When the order arrived, we fired and quick marched to the oasis supported by dismounted Camel Corps on our left. The Dervish remained strangely silent.

They fled to low Mimosa trees. --- We had them!

But our cheering overconfidence immediately vanished when clouds of Dervish abruptly erupted from the Village of Firket in the distance.

Now --- whom had whom?

On they came with a vengeance.

Steady men. --- Mark your targets. 

For a time they faltered and we fell back to cover. Along the way Burnaby shouted to Freddy and I, "Get mounted! Gallop to General Shearing, report and ask for help." 

But too soon the maddened foe was in our midst shouting and chanting with blood lust in their eyes.

I remember the Colonel's exhortation to this day. 

Churchill, Grandmaison! Tell the General we've lost the right flank.
Off with you!

I would not leave without a few parting shots in support of our brave tars.
Could I really abandon them?

One, two and three shots found their marks but nothing except a miracle could stem the Dervish tide.

Over the cacophony of battle I barely heard Freddy demand, "Winston!" I knew what he meant. I daresay he was right to remind me for had we not left, an instant later we would have been overcome. The consequences of our demise would undoubtedly place the whole Column in jeopardy of collapse. As I turned whipping my horse into a gallop, Burnaby was last seen hacking away at a fierce Hadendowah tribesman bent on his destruction. 


1) Is this the end of Burnaby, Churchill and Grandmaison? Indeed, what will become of the flanked Main Body of General Shearing?

2) Miniatures are largely 54mm Britains, John Jenkins Design and Armies in Plastic.

3) Your remarks are welcome below at the word Comments.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Diary of A Subaltern in the Sudan #1

21 February 1896

Vulnerability of the new rail line between Wadi Halfa and and Kosheh was never more apparent now that the Dervish were said to be moving into Northern Sudan again. An energetic and far thinking enemy could disrupt the rails and trains almost anywhere along it's nearly one-hundred mile length. This would greatly inconvenience and delay the Army's build-up and eventual march south to the heart of the Khalifa's empire and to avenge Gordon of Khartoum.

Upon the next reconnaissance to inspect the track and find the foe, General Shearing granted my request to accompany the scout. This would hopefully provide another opportunity for action, a medal and mention in a dispatch to enhance my political fortunes one day.

The sun was not quite at it's zenith when Freddy Grandmaison and I took cover behind curious ancient ruins half-buried at a bend on the east bank of the Nile River.

Terrain stretching southward along the track was mostly hidden from view by a verdant oasis. We needed to ascend one of the structures to sufficiently make observations beyond it.

We began by spreading out within the ruins being careful to avoid Nile crocodiles and any hidden Dervish. There were none though reptilian tracks were conspicuous.

Freddy and I dismounted to get a better view. We saw nothing but an indolent water buffalo casually walking away from our invasion of his realm.

We moved forward using overgrowth to hopefully conceal our approach. I amused myself thinking a palm branch or tall grass might alter the path of a Dervish bullet away from it's intended target.

 We saw nothing on the left and....

 Observed only the meandering herbivore on the right.

Just as I was about to leave to ascend the small pyramid on my left, Seaman Armitage quietly said, "Sir, I see something in the back center."

Sure enough a solitary Dervish was leveling a rifle at us. Yet he did not fire then or at all while we were in the ruins. Did he think remaining unobserved was best but if spotted would discharge a deadly round to raise the alarm? He perhaps thought as did Freddy and I, it would be better to report back to higher authority rather than die with knowledge gained.

After this I bravely or imprudently ascended the pyramid to look into the vista beyond. You will be the judge regarding my necessary attention to duty or foolhardiness. Thankfully a column at the apex afforded some protection. Yet General Shearing needed information about what lay in wait to the south. I was there to discover what I could.

As I looked along the track my eyes came to rest upon a small bridge crossing a watery ditch. Within were ensconced a small number of jibba-clad Dervishes. Were they waiting for the next supply train?

I even imagined friends might bring explosives to destroy the crossing.

After this vision, Freddy called up to me saying it was time to report back to headquarters and so we departed as quietly as we had come.



1) The Diary of a Subaltern in the Sudan is the prelude to a 54mm war game in The Sudan. 

2) Combatants are mostly 54mm Britains and John Jenkins Designs painted collector's miniatures which Jim P. and I are disobediently using in table top war games.

3) Your remarks are welcome at Comments below.