Thursday, 21 June 2012

Bells are Rung and Hands are Wrung

Following their orders from Major-General White, 6th Division approached the Boers at Kelana Hill early in the morning of the 22nd October.
The battlefield. Kelana Hill rocky and top left.

Rather than run the inherent risks of splitting his forces, Major-General Munnery put his entire division to the east of the River Boda, the Fusilier Brigade on the left flank, the Royals and the little artillery they had hastily dragged with them in the centre, and Mordaunt's Light Brigade on the right.
If only I'd had area-effect artillery...
A general advance began, when suddenly the Cambrians and Highlanders came under a storm of fire. Losing hundreds in mere seconds to rifles and enfilading machine guns, the Cambrians started a disorderly retreat that would remove them from the battle, and the Highlanders went to ground in front of the steep Reg Kop. With encouragement from Brigadier O'Cleigh, they stormed forwards anyway, and in a hard-fought battle pushed the Boers off the hill before retreating slightly under resumed fire from Verlang Kop on the other side of the road.
With eight Shock they still triumphed. Scotland the brave!
With the taking of Reg Kop by the Royal Highland, the way was open for the Light Brigade to move up the right flank. The Queen's Irish Fusiliers moved into a more open formation and began an approach on Boda's Kop and the kraal upon, suspicious of every wave of corn in the fields before it. Meanwhile, Munnery had ordered both brigade's Maxim guns into a park on Heerlik Hill, and they and the artillery were laying a dreadful fire on Verlang Kop. The Norfolks and Sherwoods moved into open lines, while Wodehouse kept the King's Own as a mobile reserve column.
The state of play. The sneaky Boers hide...
The King's Own pushed the Boers off Verlang Kop with negligible casualties, the artillery having stopped their bombardment just late enough. Having secured it, they pursued the enemy into the woods as sound of gunfire erupted on their left flank.

The Queen's Irish had advanced on Boda's Kraal, and were within two hundred paces of the ridge line when hidden Boers opened fire all along the line. Men fell, but the sergeants had their men well in line, and with new exhortations from Brigadier O'Cleigh they stormed the top before seeing off the survivors with a dramatic display of British musketry.
The QIR assault on Boda's Kop.
While this had been happening, the Light Brigade had come under fire from hidden artillery positions on Las Kruin, and were disconcerted to also get struck by rifles on Laekop to their left as they manoeuvred for an assault. Artillery fire was ordered on Laekop and the Canadians charged Las Kruin, overrunning the guns in a manner reminiscent of the greatest Napoleonic cavalry. Laekop was not budging under artillery bombardment, so the Ulster Light Infantry girded their loins and charged. They routed the Boers but then suffered the greatest tragedy of the battle – more than two companies were annihilated by their own artillery as Munnery's staff desperately tried to bring new orders to the artillery far to the rear. They suffered more casualties from Boer fire as they retreated, and were a shattered shell of their hard-marching selves by the end of play.
Woe to the Ulsters
The end was near now for the Boers. By half twelve, Munnery had finally gotten his orders through to the artillery park to the rear, and they were putting heavy shelling down on the last Boer positions on the Kelana and Indume Hills. The great mass of 6th Division, minus the Cambrians who had been excused combat, was advancing on Kelana Hill in open order, and the Canadians swept between the two hills to cut off any escape route.
The final advances.
Their daring was well rewarded – unable to stand the lyddite destruction wrought upon them, the Boer commandant and the last of his men attempted to retreat, and were captured. With that last blow, the battle ended at half past two. In two hours, Meyer's column would arrive to a very warm reception.
The end of play.

Butcher's Bill
British: 250 dead, 700 wounded.
Boers: 1,320 dead or wounded, 270 prisoners, 730 routed into the countryside.

It could only be expected, but Iskander had the best first time out of any of us as a British general. His casualties were negligible compared to what most of us achieved, despite his almost uniformly terrible dice rolling. This being the chronologically earliest battle fought so far (an ersatz Talana Hill), this is an excellent start to the British war-fighting attempt.

Man of the Match would probably be the Ulster Light Infantry, who did as well as the other larger battalions. Anti-Man of the Match is, by Iskander's request, the Royal Artillery, who killed more Ulstermen than Boers.

The title refers to Robert Walpole's quote about the War of Jenkin's Ears "Today they ring the bells - soon they will be wringing their hands". With Iskander's display of generalship, London will no doubt be ringing the bells while Pretoria wrings its hands.

It was a fun game, but I made the clock too long by about three hours. Tightening up the game would have made a big difference – not just in terms of Boer reinforcements, but in putting the British against it time-wise. Lessons learned!


  1. That's a great battle report, I really enjoyed reading it. The 2mm scale really suits the engagements as you can clearly see the deployment of the various battalions while containing the action on a reasonably sized table. I was interested that the "Light Brigade" did so well. Well done to the Imperials for actually getting to grips with the Boers - playing the Imperials, I've always found them very tricky to pin down. Very much looking forward to seeing more of your posts on the Boer War.

    1. Thank you! I do enjoy doing games this size on just 4x4. I may have been too aggressive with the Boers - I left many of my 3-400 man pickets in place hoping to get more fire in, but the cards were against me. Instead, they were routed at bayonet-point. At the total suppression of my last thousand men was also grimly effective, since I couldn't do anything to halt the last marches on Kelana Hill.