Friday, 29 June 2012

In The Vale of Tears, 1745

To say that Captain Castagne was unimpressed by Father McCruil's victory at Lochlann's Tower was to compare drizzle to a thunderstorm. He tore up his quarters for two days, and for a week longer he sulked as his sergeants drilled the King's Own Royal Borderers mercilessly, hoping to avoid any repeat performances.

The Captain only brightened up when the Independent Companies under Captain Campbell arrived. With reinforcements to hand, he decided to personally lead an expedition against McCruil – and a certain garrulous peasant had given him just the information he needed...

McCruil and his men were hiding in Caleduin, a small village in the hills. For want of a simpler plan, Castagne decided to catch the rebels in a pincer movement, dividing his forces in an attempt to ensure the enemy's destruction. Would the Scots stay in the village and be surrounded, or would they sally forth to destroy Castagne's expedition piecemeal?

In jealous recognition of his sterling work thus far, Castagne ordered Frost away from his regiment to assist Captain Campbell, keeping Corporal Armstrong to help him with his own unit.
Royalist entries; Jacobites on blinds.

Campbell opened proceedings, moving his column towards the village. Castagne and his firing line were slow to follow – perhaps the captain was reconsidering the wisdom of his piecemeal approach? Eventually, the captain began giving orders, and at a cough from Armstrong, the firing line moved quickly over the open ground towards the village. Their speed was cruelly repaid as a group of Scots appeared from inside one of the houses, running to the wall and opening fire.
Scots appear!

At the sound of gunfire, Campbell – a Flanders veteran – moved his men into line, knowing full well the effect of musketry on a packed column of men. Still without a real target, the Scots marched bravely on, tensely awaiting their own black powder welcome. They swiftly received it, but as they ducked, they realised that these Scots fired no better than their grandmothers.
The lines advance on Caleduin.

Castagne's men returned fire, doing nothing to even upset the defenders. Campbell's independent company had more panache: they advanced to within spitting distance before unloading their muskets at the defenders.
I'm sorry, would you care to repeat that?

The stone wall stopped the greater part of it, but nonetheless the rebels were cowed by the weight of fire that fell upon them. Their return fire did nothing to shake earlier comparisons. Frost restored order to the line and, though unaccustomed to this English sergeant, the Scotsmen did his bidding, reloading their guns in record time.

Much aggrieved by the Jacobite show of defiance, Castagne ordered his men to reload and advance. Once again they moved into the teeth of enemy fire, but the bullets flew wild above their heads. Campbell's men advanced too, firing as they went; they were now almost nose-to-nose with Caleduin's defenders.

Again Castagne slowed down, his vacillation worrying the men almost as much as the chance of being shot. He must have caught wind of this, because all of a sudden he ordered a general advance against the village! The Borderers charged in, but the Scots, fighting with the ferocity of cornered rats, drove them off, killing almost a quarter of those sent in and wounding Castagne himself. Some distance from the walls, he managed to rally his men, and began preparing them for another charge even as Armstrong tended to his wound.
Walls: The great equalisers.

On the other side of the village, Campbell's men were getting the better of their exchange of fire with the defenders. Seeing no better moment, he stormed the walls himself, unaware of his commander's recent failure. The Jacobites again fought bravely, but were no match for their countrymen. Campbell barely avoided being stabbed in the throat, but his opposite number wasn't so lucky – Douglas, the Laird's brave young son, died in the melee. This was all too much for the Jacobites. Already wavering under the disciplined fire of the independent company, the loss of their lord and of the walls sent them into headlong flight, abandoning their friends to whatever fate awaited them.
The redcoats enter Caleduin.

Unfortunately for Campbell's men, there was not even time to breathe before a counter-attack came surging from within the village, flanking his force – and at its head, Father McCruil himself! It was a protracted, bloody fight, but at the end of it, Campbell's few survivors had been forced back, leaving Frost's detachment alone in the village to face the mad priest.
Campbell is forced to retreat.

Relying on the bond made on the march up, Frost pushed his men into order, and gave the command to open fire. By grim luck, and the by the beating Campbell's boys had given them, this was enough to break the spirit of the men threatening him, enough to drive them right off the board.

At this point, the last few Jacobites slunk away, happy to have given Fat George a bloody nose.
The end of play.

Butcher's Bill
Royalists: 11 men, Captain Castagne wounded.
Jacobites: 8 men, Douglas MacDonail killed.

A fun game, which got tenser than I thought it would. Father McCruil escaped again, the wily little beggar! Captain Castagne won't be happy about that, nor about Captain Campbell's professionalism, which rather showed him up. Despite the Independent Company's superior achievements, both detachments took roughly equal casualties, which certainly won't look good back in Edinburgh.
The Jacobite morale turned out to be very fragile. In future, I shall move all my Big Men off blinds as soon as may be. While the ambush against Campbell's men did well, it robbed me of vital Shock-reducing powers. Ah well, you live and learn.
And while loyal men live, the war continues... Long Live the King!

Friday, 22 June 2012

They Come To Stop The Rooster

17th May, 1967.
Bąd Phuc.
Contact: Easy Company, 42nd Airborne
Bąd Phuc: Villages, Hills, Roads, Jungle and Swamp.
Coming back from a pleasantly routine patrol, Easy Company, 2/42nd Airborne reunited at the hamlet of Bąd Phuc (bottom of the map). Little did they know that Colonel Luc Fan Huc of the District Local Force was plotting their demise...
Something must have warned them, because they left Bąd Phuc cautiously, scanning the fields and jungle around them for any sign of enemy movement. There were two possible extraction zones in the area, the steep Qong Lang, which could only take one Huey at a time, or the flatter, more distant Long Phuc which could take two.

As the Yanks moved north, a platoon of local VC moved into Bąd Phuc, and sent a squad after the Roosters to check their whereabouts inside the jungle. That squad, while valorous, was very much shot to death by Lieutenant Carlos' platoon, which they stumbled upon at the jungle's edge. Their mistake cost the lives of several of their compatriots in Bąd Phuc too as 3rd platoon extended their field of fire to encompass the village.
Just after contact. 3rd Platoon got the drop. A lot.

With 3rd platoon forming a rearguard, the rest of the company pressed on for Qong Lang. Hearing Carlos' men open fire, Captain Rodgers called for air support, while the FO Lt Janvier called the brigade's 105mm battery for cover. The hill loomed ahead of them as 2 platoon spread out, checking for ambushes. A Cobra/Loach Pink Team roared overhead, cheering that Saigon had very quickly given the go-ahead to strafe civilian areas, and minigunning the ever-loving thatch off the hamlet to Qong Lang's south-west.

The thing about calculated risks is that sometimes the maths are wrong. The first Huey had come down to Qong Lang, and 2nd platoon and 3rd platoon had things well in hand, especially with Pink Team's assistance. Captain Rodgers therefore decided to strike out for Long Phuc, opening up a second LZ for the transport helicopters. In the middle of the jungle however, the Roosters were suddenly swarmed by native fighters, egged on by their commanders. Captain Rodgers himself was shot down in the crazed melée, and a dozen of his men fell too. The two sides fell apart, both retreating in the melée, but Captain Ngu Hien had come south specially to fight the Roosters.
Behold the circle of retreating units.

Captain Hien chased his men into a semblance of good order and followed the Roosters towards Qong Lang, but an enfilade by 3rd platoon put paid to his notions of grandeur.

It was now Commissar Hong's time to shine. He had been left behind by Colonel Huc, the old warrior having no time for Peking's puppets. But now, he hustled the platoon he accompanied up Qong Lang. The Huey had left, the Cobra was busy, and now they fell upon the remnants of 1st and 2nd platoons with a vengeance, slaughtering yet more Americans. This exposed spot would be his men's death as over the next few minutes, more and more of the US assets were turned upon them. But for now, all was glory, and Hong pocketed a lieutenant's butter bars as a trophy.

The rest of the battle was goriness, as shots were exchanged throughout the jungle, and Hong's men grimly clung to Qong Lang. Hien and Huc held Long Phuc too – the Americans were trapped for now.

But casualties were mounting, too fast to be worthwhile. Night was falling. Better to live to fight another day. Uncle Sam already knew that Bąd Phuc wanted nothing to do with him.
The end of play.

N.B. It was later discovered that Hong's assault on Qong Lang had sent the survivors of one Rooster squad fleeing desperately through the jungle and into the waiting arms of the mortar squad.

This was my first game of Charlie Don't Surf, and also my first game using flats and mostly flat scenery, made from paper, rubber tiles from Poundland and flock. It all went pretty well, and both was and wasn't as bloody as we thought it would be. Finances being as they are right now, I'll certainly be doing a fair bit more of this to try out new games. We didn't finish this one as everyone had places to be, but we all enjoyed it, which is par for the course for a Lardie game.

Man of the Match goes to Staff Sergeant Rock, who was the only Big Man to activate regularly. As a whole, 3rd Platoon were on it like Grommit, doing incredibly well over the course of the game.

We did preliminary VPs for both sides, and it came to 25-10 militarily and 52-50 politically, both in favour of the VC. Of course, had we played longer, no doubt more of the Roosters would have gotten out, and the balance would have shifted accordingly.

All in all, excellent fun, and I'm seriously considering spending part of my upcoming tax rebate on Vietnam kit from Heroics & Ros.

N.B. The Vietnamese called the 101st Airborne “Roosters” because they'd never seen an eagle, and a chicken was their closest point of comparison. The scenario title comes from the Alice in Chains song “Rooster”, which was written by Jerry Cantrell for his father, whose stick-up hair earnt him the same nickname on two combat tours in the conflict.

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!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Approach on Kelana Hill

To Her Majesty's officers of the 6th Division, South Africa.
21st October, year of our Lord 1899.

Having advanced from their treacherous republics to seize British territory in Natal, the dastards have retired upon rumour of our advance. A sizeable number of them have been located on Kelana Hill, only an hour or so from our camp. It is vital to fall upon them with all haste in order to destroy the enemy piecemeal: our scouts tell us that a commando under Commandant Meyer is riding swiftly to their support.

Please cc this to all officers down to battalion level:

Major General Sir Archibald Munnery, Divisional Commander (Status 3)
     Officer Commanding, 1 Battery, 9th Royal Artillery (6 guns)
     Officer Commanding, 2 Battery, 9th Royal Artillery (6 guns)
     Officer Commanding, 3 Battery, 9th Royal Artillery (6 guns)
     Officer Commanding, 4 Battery, 9th Royal Artillery (6 guns)

“Fusilier Brigade” Brigadier-General Sir Patrick O'Cleigh (Status 3)
     Officer Commanding, 1st battalion Queen's Irish Fusiliers (600 men), machine gun support
     Officer Commanding, 2nd battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers (600 men), machine gun support
     Officer Commanding, 2nd battalion Cambrian Fusiliers (600 men)

“Royal Brigade” Brigadier-General Sir Russell Wodehouse (Status 3)
     Officer Commanding, 2nd battalion King's Own Royal Borderers (600 men)
     Officer Commanding, 1st battalion Royal Sherwood Rifles (600 men), machine gun support
     Officer Commanding, 1st battalion Norfolk Light Infantry (600 men), machine gun support

“Light Brigade” Brigadier-General Sir James Mordaunt (Status 2)
     Officer Commanding, 1st battalion Ulster Light Infantry (400 men)
     Officer Commanding, Canadian Mounted Infantry (250 men)
     Officer Commanding, Queen's Northern Lancers (150 men)
     Officer Commanding, Royal Norfolk Dragoons (150 men)

Under prevailing local conditions, the troops should be at the battlefield by 0740 local time. Sunset will be at 1820 local time, but care should be exercised that the battle not run on too long. It is vital that the foe on Kelana Hill not be reinforced by Meyer's flying column.

General White, Officer Commanding, South African Theatre

Of course, that last paragraph is needlessly prescriptive for a theatre commander, but there are two things to bear in mind: in 1899 this was a small theatre, and secondly, it's just the umpire's voice reminding the British players of the vital facts of the case. 

In Kop That!, the British have two stands per company, or one per fifty men, depending on how you like it. I thought this would be a nicely atmospheric way of giving the players both their army lists and their objectives. The game proper will be tomorrow, an ersatz version of General Symons' pyrrhic victory at Talana Hill. As the resident evil a-Historian, I will be umpiring/leading the Boers.

Some of you may notice that these are the same brigade officers as in the earlier battle at Brandswaterberg - what happened in the interim for the Lvl3 Sir Munnery to be replaced by Brassick? I guess we'll have to find out together...

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Slaughter at Blood Bridge, 1900

The Boer and his knavish tricks make a mockery of the soldier's art. Today is as much the proof of that as anything.”
Lt. General Orfal Ricketts, British Army

A Divisional assault across the the Caledon succeeded with heavy casualties today. Under the command of Lt. General Ricketts, battalions of the Wiltshire, Devon, Manchester, Lothian and Royal Norfolk regiments, with support from the Canadian Mounted Rifles and Queen's Northern Lancers, took upon themselves the task of securing a vital bridge.
Initial set-up, Brits advancing bottom right.
Moving swiftly forward in battalion columns, the division met no resistance until the Devons attempted to cross the bridge, whereupon hidden Boers opened fire at medium range, slaughtering the front companies. The artillery ordered by General Ricketts had picked firezones far from any Boer position, and staff riders were hastily sent to order a change in targets.
The Devons are stopped dead, mowed down in column.
Their tormentors appear, bracketed by useless bombardments.
The fire that fell upon them intensified until with over five hundred of their eight lying dead or wounded in the attempt to cross, the remainder broke and streamed past their comrades towards the rear. Meanwhile, still in formed order, the Lothians and Royal Norfolks had approached the river on the other side of High Hill, and had begun to cross under fire from Boer artillery. The Wiltshires and Manchesters had opened up their lines as they approached the river, chastened by the Devons' fate which the impetuous QNL now began to share.
The British flood the Caledon's banks.
At this point our honest Tommies had lost nigh on 800 of their fellows, with only an hour clocked on their advance, but they pressed on. The Wiltshires crossed the Caledon under heavy fire and began to press against the closest Boer position.
The Wiltshires begin redeeming the British left flank.
With a great shout, the Wiltshires shrugged their way past the withering Boer fire and drove them off without even coming to blows, such was the burghers' cowardice.
The Wiltshires take the kop and fire down at the enemy.
At the same time, the Queen's Northern Lancers, who had regained their composure after their ambush at the bridge, gallantly stormed the kop to the other side of the bridge from the Wiltshire's assault. They lost many men and more horses, but the Boers were thrown back in great disarray.
Pyrrhic victories don't get sweeter than this (doubling Boer losses)
Dissatisfied with this demonstration of martial prowess, the last few score Lancers girded themselves and charged again. They struck the Boer and struck hard, and sold their lives with honour – but foolishly. We are too short of cavalry in this campaign to hold them so cheap.
One-for-one losses are only fine for the infantry...
The day was pressing on, and so were the Lothians. Leaving the Royal Norfolk as a reserve in column behind the Caledon, their forward companies stormed up the hill that held the Boer guns and took them with some loss on the approach.
The moment just before the moment of truth.
Inspired by the QNL, the Canadians crossed Blood Bridge (as it will no doubt forever be known) and threw the Boers off the southern kop for little loss.
Charge! Charge for the Maple Queen!
It was now late afternoon, with dusk threatening the end of play, but companies from the Lothians and Wiltshires now combined and poured fire with 700 rifles on a Boer rearguard of only 180. When the smoke cleared these few brave Afrikaaners were no more.
The Great Red Line. Now available in khaki.
Undaunted by their casualties, or the appearance of Boer reserves on Hoek Kop, the Canadians charged again, slaying and routing yet more Boers in an orgiastic bout of violence.
A charge in column can be a terrible thing!
Tragically, this brought them too close to said reserves, and they were shattered and undone.
You can't argue with all those kills (6) and shocks (3+).
The Manchesters were still stuck on the wrong side of the Caledon having come under heavy attack, and needed several hours to sort their lines, their colonel and several captains being shot dead in the opening exchange of fire. But in the interim General Ricketts had gotten his orders through to the artillery, and Hoek Kop was being bombarded by the might of the Royal Artillery
They don't call that a proportionately large column of smoke for nothing!
That great host of Lothians and Wiltshires who had earlier routed the rearguard now charged Hoek Kop under the cover of encroaching darkness and began slowly but surely to drive the Boers back into the lyddite shells of the Royal Artillery. By nightfall, Hoek Kop was in British hands, the bridge over the Caledon was secure, and only a few score of our men lay as casualties to inspire closer co-operation between infantry and artillery.

On behalf of the Eastern Times, Mark Abelard esq.

The now much emptier field of battle.

Butcher's Bill
3,400 British killed and wounded.
350 fled and will be considered for court martial (Devons and Canadians).
800 Boers killed, 4 guns seized.

The British took 68% casualties in this Kop That! scenario. That's across the division, not one battalion. Great War battles averaged about 30% if I recall correctly, largely due to lessons learnt in this war. Lessons which Barbarossa picked up quite quickly after the initial slaughter at the bridge crossing, as evidenced by the opening of British lines after the first couple of in game hours, which drastically reduced the casualty rate.

The cavalry were a lot more useful in this game than previously, largely due to Barbarossa's Napoleonic glee in breaking light infantry with them, regardless of the later cost of their isolation (that cost, incidentally, was death and/or routing).

The period tactics which Mr Clarke kindly reminds us of in the playtesting notes are vitally important. Trade-offs have to be made between infantry moveability and survivability, and between maintaining close command of troops and a close relationship with supporting arms. The hard choices that the Big Man system throws up really were illustrated in this game and from Barbarossa's enthusiastic reaction seem to have won the TFL another admirer.

Man of the Match: General Ricketts. Unlike General Brassick, he got right in among the front line, doing his bit in every way, and also ordered the incredibly successful bombardment of the final Boer positions which were the key ingredient in the victory of the Lothian/Wiltshire charge.

Lochlann's Tower House, 1745

The Earl MacDonail lay feverish in his sickbed, recovering from wounds of ball and blade. For a man of his years, it might prove fatal. The English redcoats had brought him down in a needless skirmish at Glencrae, down in the dirt among the bodies of his faithful retainers.

The man who had brought him to his sorry state, Father McCruil, the Bonny Prince's own representative to the clan MacDonail, had fled that same fight in terror, leading almost a dozen of the Earl's men with him.

As his reputation suffered, so did that of the Prince. Determined to hush the whispers of his cowardice, he took the Earl's pious son Douglas into his confidence, and left for the hills with two dozen men in tow.

Captain Castagne had been most disturbed by his sergeant's report of bandits at Glencrae, and had moved a company of men forward to safeguard the town and its inhabitants. There the innocent villagers had insisted that they wanted no part of this King Across The Water and had stridently declared their hands to be clean of the recent skirmish. The news that these were not bandits but traitors brought new life to Castagne's deliberations, and he began daily sending patrols out to find where these traitors might be hiding.

Laird Lochlann had been dead four centuries, and his tower house had suffered in his absence. It was but a ruin now, its approaches covered by woods and by crofters' fields. But here McCruil laid his ambush, and here he was redeemed.
McCruil reached the tower under blinds, surprising the English.
The English advanced foolishly, ambling into the open without knowledge of their enemy's presence.
The English advance in open order.
Their first inkling was when McCruil led his men screaming from the ruins of the tower. There was a brutal melee where several fell on both sides, including the leader of the English patrol, shot dead by a bullet from Older Angus. Though McCruil's men suffered greatly, the English nerve broke at their highland wails and ran from the field to warn Castagne back at the village.
62.5% casualties don't always mean defeat!
Seeing, or rather hearing McCruil's success, young Douglas lead his men from the fields. There were Englishmen shooting from the woods, and with his father's honour on his lips he charged. There among the oaks there was blood, and there were bullets.
The English retreat and the Highlanders hold the field.
The English retreated, keeping up a ragged fire, but it was no good. The Scots were faster than they, and with a cry of “Remember Glencoe!”, fell upon them and killed all but the man wearing a sash, who Douglas let go to warn his fellows that the highlands had risen against them.

It was a true Scots victory that day. No doubt Lochlann's bones slept soundly that night.

This was Barbarossa's first game of Sharp Practice, and he thoroughly enjoyed it, despite a gallant loss. His best Big Man died in the first incredibly bloody mêlée of the game, from then on it was a slow but guaranteed defeat. He bled the Scots well, but it was no good in the end.

Man of the Match goes to Father McCruil for redeeming his atrocious behaviour at Glencoe and heartening his men with his leadership in the ruins.

Incidentally, this month's Wargames Illustrated 296 is largely concerned with the Rising of '45. It's the first one I've bought in years!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Saving Private Smith (and Corporal Brown)

It is early April 2007. For two weeks, no usable trace of Private Smith and Corporal Brown of the RSR has been found. But now, thanks to French UAV assets, they have been located in the isolated hamlet of Tel Ame. The prisoners' compatriots in the Royal Sherwood Rangers claim right of assault and 3 Platoon, Coruna Company drives out from Talavera Base to rescue them. Due to the presence of civilians, heavy air and artillery assets are restricted, so it is down to these light role infantrymen to save their friends from further mistreatment at the hands of the Milice Internale.

As the assault is about to begin, two pieces of information come through from Talavera: a civilian convoy has arrived at the hamlet, clearly bringing supplies for the insurgents; and more importantly, Commander Bartholomew Fasiq has been spotted. Such a high-ranking MI officer can only be present to interrogate the captured British – here is the Coalition's chance to turn the tables...

Victory Points
+5pts per prisoner rescued
+3pts per leader killed
+5pts for Fasiq's death
+10pts for Fasiq's capture

Milice Internale:
+5pts per prisoner led off the board.
+3pts per British death
+2pts per British heavy wound
+1pt per British light wound
+2pts for each civilian casualty

The Battle
On viewing the ground, Lieutenant Konwe decided on a "sneaky-beaky approach". Leaving the Land Rovers behind for the present, two fire teams encircled the buildings, approaching through the surrounding woods.
The Brits entered north and south respectively.
The northern fire team edged up to the nearest building, intending to swiftly overcome the occupants. It was a textbook entry, but little did Corporal Stone know that the enemy had seen him leave the woods. As the fire team entered the room and began to sweep it with fire, a hail of bullets came back at them, and within seconds, three British lay dead on the floor, a fourth wounded and prisoner at the enemy's feet.
The ill-fated assault.

The hamlet came alive with voices and gunfire, and at the LT's command, Land Rover WMIKs swept in from the south, spraying the buildings with gunfire. Williams led a large aggregate team against the closest building, swiftly overcoming the occupants.

Too swiftly...

As they searched the building, Williams realised that the enemy was retreating, prisoners in hand. The Land Rovers were shooting past the hamlet now, over the heads of the cowering traders, mowing down the Milice trying to make it up the hillside. They were taking fire in return, but the swaying corn they'd parked among was throwing off the enemy's ill-trained aim.

It was a chase now for the British, and a race against firepower for the Milice. Fasiq too was fleeing, acutely aware of his own sense of self-importance and kicking a hooded figure in battered fatigues in front of him. It was to be his last act of cruelty. Fire came from the hamlet, fire and lead and death, and the last thing he saw was his bodyguard melting away around him.

The other squad of Milice lasted longer, the last man getting halfway up the hillside with his prisoner before he went down, but his escape was not to be.
It was a case of mopping up now, and quickly. The initial firefight had taken minutes, but the weight of it would attract the enemy. They were already arriving in dribs and drabs, here and there on the battlefield, slowing the evacuation. A sudden screaming RPG round blew out the engine on Konwe's WMIK, and he scrambled from the driver's seat to take the main gun.
A man was injured in the hamlet, severely so. His squadmates tended to him as they waited for the fire to die down, then ran him and the newly freed Private Smith to the Land Rover where Brown was waiting for him.
A charge was laid on the immobilised Land Rover, and the whole party, some onboard a battered WMIK, some escorting it on foot, made their way east towards the extraction point, where more vehicles waited to take them to Talavera. 

Today in a daring assault, the Royal Sherwood Rangers rescued their companions, lost on the 19th of March this year. Though casualties are yet to be confirmed by the MOD, they are thought to have been light compared to the enemy's, whose losses apparently number over seventy, including wanted Milice Internale officer Commander Bartholomew Fasiq and several of his local lieutenants. This will surely be a great blow to Jonathan Nbeke's fading resistance movement to the legal government of Jebel Hadr. More on this story as it comes in.
BBC News, 4th April 2007

This game could have gone either way, despite the steep MI death toll: just a few pips more during any of the hits on a Land Rover would have made a massive difference, as would have skating off the board with a prisoner, which nearly happened several times. The final score was 36-11 to the RSR, but was very nearly the opposite. Iskander was very pleased to get his men back, if a little gutted at the result of the first contact/melee of the game.

A thoroughly fun game, and Man of the Match I think goes to Sergeant Williams, who led his men with superb aplomb within Tel Ame and led them out again with both prisoners and the wounded member of the first fireteam.

The Royal Sherwood Rangers will be known now in Jebel Hadr, and 3 Platoon is now at around 60% effectives, so will probably be rotated home for a while. But no doubt Konwe and Williams will be back, ready to fight the good fight wherever Her Majesty should need them...