Wednesday, July 3, 2019

From the Chronicles of Rajistan (3) - The Battle of Hak-al-Kumara

Opening dispositions, General Scarlett's battle plan (opening phase),
and Nasr-ed-Din's early moves.
In the following after-battle report, the narrative will follow the events of each sector in turn: the attack by 18th Brigade around Sinn Station; that of 16th Brigade between the Pardis River and the great Suwara Marsh; and then the flank march of 17th Brigade and 6th Cavalry Brigade. A brief final paragraph will gather the threads of the report.  The action was in fact to develop in this way, the 18th Brigade, with no obstacles to negotiate to reach the Turkowaz lines, making the first contact. 16th Brigade had to cross the canal to reach the enemy, whilst the remainder of General Scarlett's Division had to filter past the Suwara Marsh, and, under fire from a fortified pair of Turkowaz infantry regiments, ease their way into a position from which to attack.
Attack of 18 Brigade against 35th Division

Eighteenth Brigade vs 35th Division.

Eighteenth Brigade advanced astride the railway line in an extended line of battalions. Second Norfolk, on the right, had their right flank on the riverbank. For their part, the 35th Turkowaz Division facing them occupied field works stretching from the low ridge close by the Pardis River bridge crossing on their left, over a second small hill and past Sinn railway station, to the Umm el Karam Marsh on their right. The Divisional mountain guns were placed in support to their rear. 

Cavalry Brigade's flank march - running the gauntlet of
the Canal fieldworks.

The commander of 35th Division deciding that his artillery would be more effective in the line firing over open sights, he pulled 139th Regiment into local reserve to make way for the guns. This probably was a mistake, as it took time, during which Ruberian field and mountain artillery were playing effectively upon the Turkowaz defenders, the Gatling company had dropped into action within effective range, and the Norfolk Battalion had begun clambering the north slopes of the riverside ridge.
16 Brigade attacks against elements of 38 Division.  
So effective was the fire from rifle, machine gun and artillery that Turkowaz losses were mounting a deal faster than the Ruberian (at one point early on 35th Division had taken 6 Strength Point loss to 18th Brigade's 2SP). All the same, the Norfolks' assault upon the ridge was swiftly rebuffed by the defending 140th Regiment. Although the 140th had themselves taken heavy casualties, their effective rifle fire drove the Norfolks back down the slope and well back into the plain. It was the 110th Madasahatta  Regiment on hand to take up the cudgels in the fight for the ridge. 
2nd Dorsets secure a foothold in the Turkowaz entrenchments...
Although 140th Regiment stood off these new assailants, the latter were able for a considerable time to maintain themselves on the slopes. Meanwhile the 35th Division Mountain guns found themselves under heavy gunfire from two enemy gun batteries, and the deadly machinegun fire from the Gatlings. The earthworks proved scant protection; the Turkowaz guns were silenced after about an hour.  

16 Brigade has already lost its Gatling Company and its
Before Duya-ed-Din could close the gap in the line with 139th Regiment, the 140th now faced a new assailant, the 120th Rajinbul Infantry. The odds were too much. Having faced attacks by three separate Ruberian and Rajistan battalions, with supporting artillery, 140th Regiment at last gave way as 110th Madasahatta surged over their field works. The quickly mounted counterattack by 139th Regiment did, however, check the Rajistanis' further advance. Though the unhinging of the 35th Division's flank might have led to the whole line being rolled up, the Turkowaz infantry simply refused to budge. Losses among 18th Brigade began to mount more rapidly. During the course of the prolonged firefight Turkowaz losses in this sector reached 10SP; the Ruberians' 8SP.
110th and 120th Infantry, 18th Brigade, storming
the bridge ridge.  35th Div losses far heavier than 18th Bde's.
The final defeat of 35th Division coincided with the exhaustion of the Turkowaz Army as a whole. Despite being reduced to a single SP, the depleted 137th Regiment had held on doggedly for several hours (turns) against the 7th Duke of Connaught's Own Raginbul Infantry. Its collapse left both flanks of 35th Division 'in the air'.  At once Duya-ed-Din Pasha led 139th Regiment back across the railway bridge. Itself hardly engaged upon its hill behind Sinn Station, and apparently about to be cut off, the 138th was for a time despaired of by the Pasha. But the slowness with which the Ruberians responded to the victory (the Turkowaz 'won' the initiative roll at this point) allowed them to make off without molestation.  Duya-ed-Din Pasha eventually drew up his attenuated command astride the railway behind the Pardis tributary. Behind him in the town, lay one of the 37th Division regiments, the 146th,  with two field gun battalions between them and Hak-al-Kumara town.
140th Regiment finally routed and scattered and
the bridge ridge carried, but 139th Rgt has restored part of the
35th Div line.

What happened to 16th Brigade?

That formation's troubles began right from the outset.  Formed into columns (designed to activate more units in a turn, at the cost of flexibility and firepower), they took time to cross the canal (I allowed only one unit to cross from each grid area per turn).  Comprising the Dorset Infantry on the right, the Gatling Company in the centre and the Duke of Cambridge's Own Punjinjab on the left, the first line hurried towards the enemy lines, hoping to shorten the range, whilst the remainder of the Brigade struggled across the canal.
Intervention of 40th Sipahi throws the Dorsets out of the
Turkowaz lines.  16 Bde losses severe and mounting.
The Turkowaz line between the Pardis River and Suwara Marsh comprised half the infantry of 38th Division, namely 149th and 150th Regiments. So thin was the line, the local Division commander installed himself there, together with his own battalion of mountain guns. He felt secure in the additional support from the army's field guns behind the Pardis, near the town. Firing over open sights, the mountain guns concentrated upon the Gatling company. The hope that enough might survive to bring them into action were dashed by the accuracy and effectiveness of Turkowaz gunnery. Not only were the Gatlings erased from the 16th Brigade Order of Battle; the Brigade HQ company also came in for a pounding. Sir Rubeus Redmayne was seen to spin on his heel and fall, his left arm shattered. The fainting Brigadier was borne from the field.
Ruberian Cavalry and Royal Horse Gatlings shooting their way
past 151st Rgt fieldworks.  The garrison has already taken heavy
losses for doing little more than to delay the enemy.

The loss of the Gatlings were bad enough, but it was then found that the Brigade's supporting artillery lacked the range to reach the enemy works. The four battalions had perforce to struggle forward in the teeth of accurate gunnery and effective rifle fire (I discovered during this game something that had hitherto escaped my attention: that direct gunfire over open sights with the presence of the formation general to encourage performance, can not miss! Roll 1 + 2 (direct LOS) +1 (fired at the same target as last turn) +1 (friendly commander in same grid area = 5: Artillery fire lands on the target grid area. Although I let that stand, I decided right from the start that only the nearer of  two stands in the target grid area would take the damage.  Even with that unilateral decision, the Turkowaz artillery fire proved pretty effective all day.  Mind you, the Ruberians couldn't complain too much about their own, with three of their first four salvos rolling 6s to hit).

After surrender of 151st Regiment, cavalry move on to deal with
the Canal Redoubt, defended by the 152nd.
The Dorsets even managed to broach the field works hard by the marsh, where, with the assistance of the Punjinjabi infantry they tried to roll up the Turkowaz line. At the same time 103rd  Madasahatta Infantry tried to storm the gun line. Neither the 150th Regiment, nor the gunners, proved willing to budge. It was not long before this affray drew the notice of the Turkowaz cavalry, advancing north up the canal line. The right hand regiment, 40th Sipahi, directed to deal with the situation, flung itself upon the flank of the Dorsets.  Evicted from the Turkowaz works, the Dorsets fell back with loss.  At about this time, 16th Brigade had lost 9SP; their opponents, 4SP at most.
Counter-attack by 42nd Sipahi, support by
rifle fire from the redoubt, destroys 7th Lancers, and damages
16th Cavalry.
Nor was 16th Brigade to enjoy better fortune to come. Unable to drive home their attacks, the Ruberians were fortunate that 114th Wellesley's Rifle Infantry were able for so long to maintain a close quarter fight against the artillery. Gradually, however, the remnants of the Brigade fell back in disorder towards the canal. At the end of the day, they had lost 14SP, having inflicted not more than one-third of that many (I think 4 only; it was the artillery that finally broke 149th Regiment).
16th Brigade attacks become disjointed.  Desperate assault
by 114th WRI keeps Turkowaz mountain artillery busy...

The fight for the redoubts.

The action west of the Suwara marsh took a deal longer to develop than on the other two fronts, but was to be decisive for the outcome of the action.  This was partly due to the length of time for orders to filter through (Early on, priority was given to 18th and 16th Brigades, the cohesiveness of which formations was quickly compromised.  However, the local commanders' eagerness for close assault was due mainly to my treating all close combats as automatic, requiring no orders. Once the left and centre brigades were reasonably closely engaged, then the 6th Cavalry and 17th Brigades could be chivvied along more briskly. The second problem was the difficult defile by which they could be eased past the Suwara Marsh and the even larger one just off the map to the north of it. The method was to race the leading cavalry (7th Lancers) past the rifle fire from the earthworks manned by 151st Regiment, then bring up the Gatlings.  The Lancers did not come off unscathed).

120th Rajinbul Infantry thrown back, the Norfolks, advancing
up the railway, enter the assault.  Under the direct leadership
of Duya-ed-Din Pasha, 139th Infantry prove hard to shift.
It took some time for the Gatlings to get the range; the 7th Lancers took such losses getting by they soon so depleted as barely to maintain their cohesion (reduced to 1SP); and the next cavalry unit had perforce to drop into fire action to clear the 151st from their earth works. This was sufficient to secure the surrender of 151st regiment (SP reduced to 0), whereat the 17th Brigade found the passage a deal easier.
Canal Redoubt still held, help is on its way: 41st and
42nd Sipahi, and, farther off, most of 37th Division.

Although the 152nd Regiment, ensconced within the Canal Redoubt, now drew the entire attention of the 17th Infantry and 6th Cavalry Brigades, they proved stauncher defenders than their comrades of 151st.  Having tasted their metal, the Ruberian horse was inclined to keep their distance. Meanwhile, two Sipahi regiments (41st and 42nd, the 40th being otherwise engaged)) had crossed the canal and were rapidly approaching. Crossing first, the 42nd (3SP) galloped up to be met boldly by what was left of 7th Lancers (1SP). Although inflicting some loss, the Lancers were flung back.  That was the end of 7th Lancers.  Led by Brigadier Lord Garnet, 16th Cavalry surged into action. 42nd Sipahi in their turn made off, putting as much distance as they might between themselves and the Ruberian heavy horse.
The resistance of 35th Division is starting to hurt 18th Brigade.
Losses are becoming serious. In the distance,
 16th Brigade's attack finally repulsed.
Further help was forthcoming for the 152nd from three regiments of 37th Division (145th, 147th and 148th; the 146th having been held back at Umam al Mansur village to provide a local reserve for 35th Division). However, they were destined never to arrive close enough to make a difference.
Pressure mounting against 152nd Regiment.
16th Cavalry braved the flanking rifle fire from the Redoubt to throw back 42nd Sipahi before the 41st and the Turkowaz Cavalry general could get close enough to help. As the 42nd fell back, all the way to the Dahra Ridge, the 41st beat a hasty retreat back across the canal. 
Counter-attacks fail to save the Canal Redoubt, its depleted
garrison slipping out the gate and back towards friendly lines.
Subjected to heavy machinegun and rifle fire, the 152nd Infantry, reduced to half strength, finally abandoned the redoubt, and began to fall back across the plain. The 37th Division commander at once halted his advance, and drew up his three regiments in a line, slightly to the left rear of the trench line between river and marsh, still stoutly held by the right hand half of 38th Division. It was at this point that, on the far right of the Turkowaz line, 35th Division had at last been forced from their entrenchments and across the stream behind it. Nasr-ed-Din realised that further counter-attack was out of the question, but he also refused to abandon the field just yet - not whilst he still held a defensible line.

Collapse of 35th DivisionDuya-ed-Din leads 139th Rgt
across the rail bridge; 138th Regiment attempts to escape
via the same crossing.

The Battle Ends.

Of course, General Scarlett continued to press. His army had had some success on both flanks. His artillery were all now in action against the part of the line still held by 38th Division - under which storm of shrapnel and hot metal chunks 149st Regiment broke to the rear. But it soon became apparent that any further effort would be beyond his own men (Two turns after the Turkowaz Army reached its Exhaustion Point of 25SP lost, the Ruberian lost its 27th, to reach its E.P.)  

The battle was over.
Remnants of 35th Division form a line on the south bank
of the tributary; on the far side of the Pardis, 38th Div
still hold their fortifications in the centre.
As played out, it was certainly a tough engagement, with all manner of vicissitudes and unexpected events to keep my attention riveted. I have not yet played out a battle to the point that both sides reached their exhaustion points, but this was one in which it was clear that although no longer capable of offensive action, the Turkowaz army was still capable of, and in a good enough position for, defence.  The Ruberian army had by the end of the day, still not forced the line of the Pardis with its tributary.
The battered 16th Bde pinned down under fire.
Losses were not shared equally among the formations of either side:

Turkowaz strengths and losses:

  • Army Command 6SP
  • 35th Division 19SP, lost 14
  • 37th Division 19SP, lost 0 (not seriously engaged)
  • 38th Division 19SP, lost 11
  • 14th Sipahi Brigade, 10SP, lost 4
  • Army Artillery, 2SP, lost 0
Totals: 75SP, lost 29.

Ruberian strength and losses:
  • Army Command 6SP, lost 0
  • 16th Brigade, 19SP, lost 14, including Brig Redmayne WIA
  • 17th Brigade, 19SP, lost 0 (something of a surprise, this, as elements did receive fire)
  • 18th Brigade, 19SP, lost 9
  • 6th Cavalry Brigade, 12SP, lost 4
  • Army Artillery 6SP, lost 0
Totals: 81SP, lost 27.

Canal fortifications taken, but Turkowaz form a new line far
to their rear.
From the Turkowaz point of view, I was very pleased at the manner in which a rather tatterdemalion army stood to their work against the qualitatively superior opponent. 35th division had terrible luck to begin with, the two Ruberian artillery brigades against them rolling 3 6's among their first two salvoes each, and effecting SP losses each time. The mistake of placing the 35th Div artillery behind the line to begin with, probably ought to have been left 'as was', rather than trying to correct it. 
Of course, both sides claimed the victory. The Ruberians had driven the enemy out of its fortified positions on both flanks, and had inflicted heavier losses than they had incurred. All the same, Nasr-ed-Din could feel well satisfied that his army had stopped the invaders well short of their objectives, with his army still in being.  
Close of action.  Not much remains of 16th Bde,
but both armies have reached a state of exhaustion.


  1. Archduke Piccolo,

    WOW! What a battle report! Once COW is over, I want to mention this series of blog posts on my blog as you have pushed the boundaries back. You've taken a set of rules that were originally for an 8 x 8 grid and shown that they can work on a much larger grid.

    Reading your battle report was really inspiring ... and the fact that the action petered out as both sides became exhausted seemed to be the right result.

    All the best,


    1. Thanks for you kind comments, Bob. The unfolding of events I found quite satisfying, too. I think I'll write up a post-mortem, and discuss the rule set used, and the slight amendments I made.
      There may be a sequel...


  2. Hello Archduke,

    I have to say that this series of blog posts has been really inspiring and as Bob rightly pointed out you have 'shown that they can work on a much larger grid.'

    I am a sucker for a good back story and this was also very readable and eminently believable - I also enjoyed your choice of unit names and seeing Madasahatta used was an added bonus!

    Very well done that man and dare I say it? More of the same please!

    All the very best,


    1. Cheers, David -
      Well... maybe Hackett's expedition will get to resume its advance after all to Sakhdad. I just want to find out more about the Battle of Ctesiphon...

      I admit that 'Madasahatta' was a steal - but I could not find a better disguise for 'Mahratta'. 'Punjabi' became 'Punjinjab', 'Rajput'- 'Rajinbul' and the 119th Mooltan, the 'Myulshuh' Infantry.

      Although intended as a 'one-off', it seems that a second battle might well be joined, as Nasr-ed-Din takes a final stand somewhere near ancient Ctesiphon.

      On the matter of table size, I never had any doubt Bob's concepts would work on a larger grid. My one caveat was whether the appellation 'Portable' might be so appropriate!

      Kind regards,

    2. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

      Although I originally used the term 'portable' in the sense that it could be carried about, as the rules developed I realised that its alternative meaning - transferable - was also applicable as the game's design concepts could be used in wargames that took place on a tabletop that was larger (or smaller) than the original 8 x 8 squared grid.

      All the best,


  3. Note to readers: there will another battle - the Battle of Pistupon... The action and forces have already been roughly mapped out... But before then, the planned post-mortem, and then that Quatre Bras action.