Dated: May 17, 2010
The following is a brief account of a fictitious Sudan game The Southern Strategists fought recently. The action centred around a combined arms assault on the fortified native village of Mhebja on the banks of a Nile tributary.
The village of Mhebja
Ist Infantry Brigade
Under the command of General Lord Fortesque Cutler:
1st battalion 42nd Highlanders
2 battalion 20th East Surrey
2nd & 3rd Battalions 89th Regt Royal Irish Fusiliers
1st battalion 3rd Sikhs
2 x 9pdrs Royal artillery
1 x mountain gun, 2nd Punjab artillery
1 x Gatling gun
1 squadron, 12th Camel corps
1 squadron 4th Mounted Infantry
They can also expect HM Gunboat Abukir , with a party of Naval Brigade, to arrive at any moment as it is steaming at full speed upriver to assist.
Numbers and exact whereabouts...unknown, but the village is expected to be heavily defended.
The British commander opts to send the bulk of his force including the artillery in a direct assault on the village. Concerned at the possibility of ambush from the rocky outcrops and cliffs of the Djebel located to the West he sends his the camel corps and mounted infantry supported by the Highlanders to cover his left flank .
British forces covering left flank
The camel corps led by Lt Willoughby advance to the base of the Djebel and dismount to begin a reconnoitre of the area on foot. Suddenly a fusillade erupts from the rocks as he has stumbled on their ambush! They beat a hasty retreat but not before Lt Willoughby is tragically struck in the temple by a well aimed shot, killing him instantly. The troopers regroup to form a firing line and alert the Mounted infantry and Highlanders of the natives whereabouts.
Er..... I think I found what we were looking for sir!
The British main assault force continue their advance on the village. Meanwhile on the left flank the Natives realising the element of surprise is lost unleash a horde of Hadendowa warriors who emerge yelling and screaming their war cries from the Djebel.
At the same time, to the north, the Mounted infantry spy a strong force of native camelry descending on their position. They dismount and prepare to receive the charge. The Highlanders fix bayonets and follow suit whilst hurriedly unlimbering the Gatling gun. Soon a steady volley fire is pouring from their disciplined ranks.
By now the British Artillery is within range of the village and unlimbers to commence a bombardment to soften up the defenders and cause a breach in the walls. The East Surreys, Irish Fusiliers and Sikhs advance resolutely onward.
On the Left flank all hell has broken out as the natives descend on the Brits. It seems as if the whole Dervish army has singled them out for special attention!! The Major orders Rapid Fire and soon the ground is littered with empty cartridge wrappers , but still the natives come gamely on...and then the inevitable happens...the damned Gatling gun jams!! It will take a 6 to un-jam it. The rapid fire is taking a toll on the ammo supply and the ammunition reserves are called for. The jocks will have to remain stationary for a turn without being contacted to replenish, otherwise they suffer a -1 in melee.
By now the Artillery has settled into a steady bombardment of the village and shells begin finding their mark amongst the defenders. Better halt the infantry and add some well aimed volley fire to make sure the natives are sufficiently shell- shocked before assaulting the walls.
British and Punjab Artillery shelling the Village of Mhebja
Left flank fanatic charge
It's an all in melee on the British Left flank as the Highlanders, Camel Corps and Mounted infantry are all charged by the Dervish warriors who have thrown a number of 6s on their movement phase causing them to go 'fanatic'...they are going to take some stopping and the Highlanders casualties are mounting.
At the sharp end, Highlanders face-off against a fanatic Dervish charge
With the combined negatives of high casualties, low ammo and facing fanatics, plus a jammed Gatling gun the result is inevitable....the dreaded 'R' word that every commander fears..ROUT. The Jocks are off with their backs to the enemy. The incensed Major Macintyre gesticulates wildly from his charger ..Yes you laddie...I'm talking to you..stop or I'll damned well shoot you! but to no avail.
Yes you laddie, I'm talking to you, STOP or I'll damned well shoot you!
Incredibly the stalwart Camel Corps and Mounted Infantry hold their ground whilst a poor morale throw by the native camelry commander causes them to recoil a full charge move back to the village. The bulk of the Dervish foot, sensing blood, pursue the poor Highlanders killing and butchering mercilessly...there's no room for pity on the blood soaked sands of the Sudan. Because the Highlanders are contacted whilst in rout they are destroyed and removed from play.
Is that a plume of smoke to the Northwest, Hurrah....yes HM gunboat Abukir has appeared round a bend in the river and is bringing down fire on those cowardly Camel riders. What a sight she is with steam hissing from her overworked boiler, her paddle wheel churning up the muddy brown waters of the Nile behind her, a spume of spray washing over her bow and her Gardner's defiantly spitting hot lead.
HM Gunboat Abukir firing her Gardner gun in support.
Abukir enters the fray.... and just in time.
Despite the debacle on his left flank General Cutler senses the time is right to press home his assault on the village. The Mahdist Commander has made a bad mistake by committing such a large force to deal with a covering force whilst leaving his village undermanned.
With the gunboat Abukir and her marines steaming to his aid and a number of gaping holes clearly visible in the village walls he calmly orders his bugler to 'sound the charge' and in one fluid motion four battalions of Britain and India's finest un-sheath Sheffield steel, fix bayonets and set off at a run for the walls cheering wildly to a man . All the while the gunners continue to rain shells on the native defenders.
The plucky Sikhs claim the honour of reaching the wall first and pour a withering fire into the somewhat depleted defenders.
The East Surreys and Irish Fusiliers get to work on the Tower in the North West corner and are soon storming through the breach and at the defenders with a vengeance.
C'mon lads lets be at em!, East Surreys attacking the Western tower.
Continuing her upriver passage Abukir pulls alongside the native jetty under a storm of hostile fire however the suppression fire from her two Gardner guns is having an off-putting affect on the Natives aim and she offloads her cargo of Jack Tars with minimal fuss. The naval brigade storm across the jetty straight into the teeth of a somewhat infuriated Mahdist welcoming committee and a furious melee ensues with the tars getting the upper hand.
Gardner gun and Naval Crew
The Sikhs are over the wall with their courageous Captain Ogilvie in the lead. Breaking down doors and clearing out defenders at the point of the bayonet they quickly make their way to the stronghold.
Captain Ogilvie is met at the head of the stone stairway by a fearsome Warrior wielding his razor sharp Tulwar. Coolly parrying his opponent's clumsy overhead strike Ogilvie slips inside his guard and strikes home cleanly for Queen and Country. Two more defenders get a killing round from his trusty service revolver and it's on to the top to finish the job with his loyal sepoys right behind. Ogilvie is to be awarded the Queens highest honour, the VC, for his outstanding display of bravery.
Captain Ogilvie, 3rd Sikhs, earning his VC at the storming of the North East stronghold
The East Surreys and Irish Fusiliers press home their assault with ruthless efficiency and with no fight left in the natives it's all over in short order.
With his defences breached on all sides and over half his army exhausted or too far away to offer any sort of assistance, the Mahdist Chieftain, Alzaabi Bashir, knows the end has come Aiiyee!! Allah preserve me.
For you the war is over. Alzaabi Bashir and his loyal bodyguard, Ishaq, surrender at the Battle of Mhebja.
Three Cheers for Queen Victoria..Huzza, Huzza ,Huzza!!
Hadendowa infantry , Nile river section, Naval Brigade
The amazing gunboat Abukir
Terrain, buildings, British Figs, scenario, narrative
Rules used were the excellent 'Battles for Empire'.
One adaptation we have made to the rules is to include an additional dice for firing and melee which gives a quicker result and tends to 'jolly up' the party a bit.
A plug for plastics:
The terrain, figures, models, etc were assembled and produced for little more than pocket money...in fact the buildings and terrain cost a grand total of $25. (Scrap polystyrene packing, cheap test pots of paint, PVA glue, twigs, sand and rocks from the garden, cheap bits & bods from craft stores)
I would urge all gamers to seriously consider 20mm plastics as a viable alternative to 28mm lead or plastics. My Front Rank, Foundry and Essex figs still have a place in my cabinet but I couldn't have dreamt of doing this scenario in lead without prior approval from my bank manager.
Gavin Bowden, New Zealand
Many thanks to Mr. Bowden et al.
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