Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chapter XIV: Terrible Battle

Date: 29-30 September 1900
Location: Into Open Country
Situation: Shocking Attack Upon Us

See Chapter XIII posted April 1, 2012 here:
Expedition To Alexandrapour
Colonel Lawford's Narrative Perseveres 

"On the 29th of September we abandoned Great Elk Meadow because it was deemed too dangerous to encamp there. Though picturesque with its lake, trees and verdant grassland, it would not allow the men a restful night given aroused animals and insects of a startling size there. Night would bring imagined and real terrors which would be too much within the enclosure. It would be better to encamp in open country. So we marched out."

"One never knows what fate prepares for those who contemplate it. Lucky are the people who rarely give such notions thought. They carry on apparently peacefully accepting and working with what each hour ahead brings them. Those in command can not be so blasé about the future. The officer commanding must always plan a proper response should trouble appear at any moment from any direction and not dither about it either. His considered judgement and right decisions will ultimately bring mission failure or success, disgrace or accolades and hopefully good stories at the bar."

"I rode just behind the cavalry screen on the march out. We had not gone a quarter mile before a new and startling event presented itself which might ruin everything. Had we exited the meadow too soon? Was it more defensible there with cover offered by wooded ridges or would open country with better tactical control and enhanced fields of fire be better?"

"The reason stood before us a half mile distant. In the open country beyond a band of dark skinned men armed with shields and throwing spears appeared before us. I rose my hand to halt the column."

"More appeared from behind a rise in the ground. Their vigorous gestures and repetitive rhythmic deep bass chant left no one in doubt about their displeasure. 'Mah Kowah AHN! - Mah Kowah AHN! - Mah Kowah AHN - AHN!' --- Terra Incognita was fast becoming a very disagreeable place."

"No time for dithering. The lancers were ordered to see them off."

"It worked. Was it too easy? Were the lancers being lured into a trap by a classic Parthian maneuver? The horde sped away curving to the right entering a defile. Fortunately Subedar Pratrap Singh halted the troop and watched them go. It would be too dangerous to follow them into the narrow gap."


"No further sightings were made of the warriors who appeared so suddenly yesterday. The afternoon was late by that time. Darkness would soon descend. The column was ordered to a nearby hilltop to form square."

"The men immediately set about cutting vegetation to be placed on the outside augmented by boxes of stores and our wagon that was overturned. We had good fields of fire in all directions and certainly locum tenens. Let them come in the morning if they dared. We controlled the hilltop and were ready."

"And on the 30th., they did come."

"Directly and forcefully into a corner of the square. We rapid-fired and still they came on. Through the smoke I could see more natives running towards us in the lowland ignoring our cavalry ready to take them in flank."

"The diminished wave fought through the zareba engaging our men in hand to hand combat. The foe was eventually driven away after suffering gruesome casualties. We were not unscathed however and a new assault was heading straight for a different side of the square. Officers and NCOs filled gaps in the line, the men reloaded and all prepared to fire. In those paltry few moments before the next storm broke on our wall...."

"Subedar Pratrap Singh's lancers with the hussars charged home on another band of warriors."

"Our cavalry charging without the advantage of ground lost more than half their numbers but dispatched the foe. The square was saved from being attacked by two war bands at the same time. I regret to say the Subedar was wounded by a stabbing spear."

"The cavalry rode off to reform when the next wave hit the square. Had they not done so a fourth enemy group (not in view to the right) armed with small bows probably would have cut down all our remaining horsemen in an instant." [See the bowmen in the upper right of the next image.]

"Men were pulled from unengaged walls of the square to help repel the new wave of attackers."

"It was the crisis of the battle. Amidst the chaos and noise of orders to fire, pot that fellow, stand your ground you malingering sojer' we continuously overheard the enemy's deep war chant, 'Mah Kowah AHN! - Mah Kowah AHN! - Mah Kowah AHN - AHN!' I drew my service revolver to assist where needed. Somehow we beat them off but...."

"Three new enemy forces were gathering to take us down. Our numbers by this time were much reduced. By half? No time to think about it. We fired again and again."

"Once more. Come on then! Fire!"

"It is strange to calmly contemplate potential and shocking defeat amidst the chaos of battle. For some reason my brain silently retold a portion of Shakespeare's Saint Crispen's Day speech when Westmoreland said, 'O that we now had here but one ten thousand of those men in England that do no work to-day!'

"And King Henry V answered, 'No, my fair cousin; If we are marked to die, we are now to do our country loss; and if to live, the fewer men, the greater share of honour. God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more."

"The bowmen were at the zareba.
Once more into the breach."

"And the Gatling jammed."

'Mah Kowah AHN! - Mah Kowah AHN! - Mah Kowah AHN - AHN!'

Closing Remarks
1. This was an actual war game using Peter Gilder's Sudan Rules with modifications for increased movement and enhanced opportunities for natives on the reaction table to be more aggressive. For the latter we allowed the native player to rethrow on the reaction table if the first reaction was unsatisfactory from the native perspective. This rethrow governed no matter the result.

2. The Gatling really did jam.

3. To be continued with credits to our players on 29 April 2012. Maybe!

4. And at Comments below - you say?


Paul´s Bods said...

Superb! The batrep was fast and exciting...kept me reading to the very (bitter) end. Excellent!!!

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Blimey!! More soon, please...

abdul666 said...

Excellent indeed!
Let's wish for the soldiers their next encounter will be a tribe of friendly cave girls -no Lost World without such (and Maidenhead Miniatures offers comely ones, btw, as does Shadowforge).

Hoping they'll not have the same... demobilizing effect as the vahinés had on the crew of the Bounty.

Fitz-Badger said...

I agree, excellent and exciting report! (with a bloody cliffhanger! ha!)
Whether the expedition wins or not they will be sadly reduced and encumbered by wounded.

Rodger said...

Excellent report and photos. Cool game.

Furt said...

Nice one - interesting opponent! Nice pacing in the report.


Larry Stehle said...

"and the Gatling jammed"

Oh Bugger!

another great AAR!!!

Bob Gallavan said...

Excellent! Can't wait to see what happens, a real cliff hanger.

A J said...

Desperate stuff indeed! The Gatling jamming is a real cliffhanger. I know all too well that sinking feeling, having the same happen to me under those rules. The only answer - Look to your front like a soldier!

Tom Campbell said...
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Tom Campbell said...
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Tom Campbell said...
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Tom Campbell said...

Heavens above! What a harrowing battle!

Stand fast Col. Lawford!

My apologies for the messed up comments - I thought I was having problems putting the check words in and they weren't posting...

Barks said...

I love the native's shields!

Gallia said...

You encourage me enormously. Thanks a million!
More soon with credits to owners of the lovely collections seen in this chapter.
Soon we must find out what has happened to the Romanov Expedition Lawford has been pursuing and....
What of the intoxicating Countess Alexandra Volkanskaya? Some may remember Lawford and Alexandra know each other. Any way, if Lawford has had trouble what kind has she encountered?