Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The night before Alamein

Obviously, the initial attack would have to take place at night: we should be slaughtered to no purpose of we tried to advance in daylight. Equally obviously, many thousands of men trying to form up without landmarks and in darkness on our start line (which was a thousand yards out in No Man's Land) would become hopelessly lost before the battle began unless steps were taken to prevent it. Our battalion's first task was to lay white tape along the whole of the Highland Division start-line, a distance of two thousand five hundred yards, and from there tape back nine separate routes by which the other battalions could advance on to the line. After that their fate would be in their own hands, but at least they would start in order.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Somewhere in France

Mike and I played a Franco-Prussian war game using Neil Thomas's 19th Century rules. For full retro effect, the rules were in a hardback book, and the figures were 25mm. I had never played these before and I don’t think Mike had either, but he had prepared a cheatsheet so we got by reasonably well.
The scenario was what Neil calls a ‘pitched battle’, which was actually a meeting engagement with both sides advancing from their base edges onto the battlefield, the objectives being in no-man’s land at deployment. As the defender, a random dice roll resulted in three of my units being delayed in reaching the battlefield, whilst another random dice roll resulted in two of Mike’s going missing completely. As a result, he had a slight numbers advantage in the first 6 bounds, and I would have a larger advantage after that if I hadn’t lost too many units first. We each had a single cavalry unit, half a dozen infantry units and one or two guns and skirmishers. I did not have a good sense of the scale of the game, but if infantry units represented battalions, cavalry units would be regiments and skirmishers companies.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A Zulu Battle

On 21st January 1879, colonial horse and Natal Native infantry of No. 3 Column conducted a reconaissance of the Mangeni Gorge. In the late afternoon, a strong force of Zulus was discovered in the broken ground at the head of the gorge, near the Mdutshana hill. Major Dartnell,. commanding the volunteers, decided to remain close to the enemy overnight, calling on Lord Chelmsford's main force for help.

When the news reached him shortly after midnight, Lord Chelmsford ordered out the second battalion, 24th Regiment, 4 guns and the imperial mounted infantry (men recruited from the regular infantry regiments in Natal) to reinforce Dartnell and attack the Zulus. On the 22nd, Chelmsford thus found half his No. 3 Column, with himself at the head, skirmishing against a handful of scattered Zulu irregulars whilst the main Impi attacked at Isandlwana. The 'strong' force at the Mangeni thus turned out to be nothing of the kind, but Dave and I 'refought' the battle that Chelmsford expected to fight on the 22nd against a body of several thousand Zulus. I knew the rules better so gave him the choice of sides and, after consulting the dice, he opted to be Zulu.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

La Forbie Refought

The Guildford Wargamers played Ironbow again on Monday night. In a scenario ‘inspired’ by the battle of La Forbie in 1244, an Ayyubid Egyptian army led by Baibars (Andrew D), consisting mostly of Kwarismian mercenaries, took on an alliance between the Ayyubids of Syria (Dave) and the Kingdom of Jerusalem (Daniel). I (Andrew F) umpired and generally criticised. Although the Christians provided the majority of the troops on the allied side, it was Dave, as al-Mansur of Homs, who was C-in-C.

The allies deployed with the village of La Forbie and some scattered olive groves on their right. Into these constricted areas they packed all their Frankish foot – 8 elements each of sergeants and crossbows. Two commands of knights, one secular one Order, (with a few Turcopoles) filled the centre, then a command of less-than-useful Syrian foot, al-Mansur with a single unit of 4 Ghulams under his own command. On the far right wing a command of irregular Turcomen was under an Nasir Dawud of Kerak.