|Early attacks by BARFist left flank.|
This 'final' action of the Baluchistan Armed Revolutionary Front (BARF) offensive proved to be one of the most surprising of just about any table-top battle I have ever fought. The Government forces were well-prepared, their front protected by anti-tank obstacles and barbed wire entanglements, and a couple of field fortifications, one on the extreme left, protected by a minefield; two on the right. For all that, the Revolutionaries faced battle with considerable confidence.
|25pr in action. The Quad tractors in separate grid areas|
for the moment to minimise potential damage from incoming.
As before, this action was fought with Bob Cordery's Portable Wargames game system with some (very minor) amendments to suit my own set-up. The main one was to increase the movement allowance for armour, up one, to 2, 3 and 4 grid areas for heavy, medium and light armour respectively. As it happens, neither side had heavies; the Government with 3 medium tank (Sherman) squadrons, and the Revolutionaries with 1 medium (Grant) and 3 light (Stuarts). As usual, however, the BARF Commander, Colonel Peenut Buttahjars placed his faith upon his numerous and motivated infantry, all 3 battalions of which had been recently augmented by a fourth rifle company.
|Overall view. 2nd Volunteers still on their start line.|
The BARFists opened the ball, and began their advances in the left and centre. The limits of the activation systems rather mitigating against a general advance all along the line, the 2nd BARF Battalion stayed pretty much on its start line until the action elsewhere was well under way. Ordinarily, once part of the line becomes closely engaged (in which fights are 'automatic') the rest gets the chance to come forward. This was one action in which that didn't happen quite as expected.
|Tanks of both sides becoming engaged.|
Perhaps 3rd BARF Battalion, in the centre, ought to done the same, rather than the riflemen boldly charging forward without their vital support. Ordered to attack the town directly, the battalion ran into a storm of machine-gun and rifle fire from two companies of 31st Kashinkari and a company and MG platoon of 22nd Punjanjoodi. Now, when attacking, I have been inclined to accept 'retreat' outcomes as 'SP losses' in order to maintain the momentum of the attack. The city garrison companies were plying their weapons with uncanny accuracy, and very shortly drove back two of 3rd Battalion's companies, both reduced by half their strength. To have accepted the third hit on each would have reduced their SP to 1 only. Although 4th Coy Revolutionary Rifles reached the Punjanjoodi machine gunners, they could make no headway. Within a short time, the Revolutionary Rifles withered away, and fell back. Scant were the survivors at the end of the day, though it was not the end of 3rd Battalion's attack.
The BARFist main thrust was, of course, on the southern flank, carried out by 1st 'Sons of the Revolution' Rifles, and the four tank squadrons of 1st 'Scimitars of Revolution', supported by the 6-pounder anti-tank guns. The incoming fire from the Government defenders was not especially effectual, but a lucky early salvo from the 'Sons'' mortars dropped straight on to the fortified 2-pounder anti-tank position, halving their strength at once (ANY hit would cost the guns, as they had no means of retreating). It seemed a good augury of the outcome of the battle.
In response, Major-General Lord redford ordered up his own armour rather earlier than intended. 'C' Squadron took up hull-down positions along the crown of the ridge behind the front line, whilst 'A' Squadron deployed in the plain south of the feature, flanking it. At once they began a brisk long range duel with the BARFist tanks. This rather irked the light Stuarts, as to obtain the range, they had to drive right up to the fortified positions. At one point the 2-pounders withstood five separate close assaults, by infantry and armour both, in a single turn, the BARFists unable to maintain contact, though losses were fairly light. (This was phenomenal dice rolling by the 2pr guns, scoring hits against all five separate attacks, and forcing retreats each time. I don't think any of 'hits' achieved caused actual loss to the BARFists, but it was worse. It meant delay, and delay was very much in the Government interest! Whether they closed again, or stood off and tried to destroy the guns by fire, it would have soaked up BARFist 'activation' points in the subsequent turn, whilst the surviving guns continued taking pot shots at the enemy armour.)
|The 2pr gun battery - half strength - has just seen off five|
separate close assaults by infantry and armour.
This episode was a memorable one. So determined to break through the AT gun position, as each 'retreat' result lit upon the assailants, they pulled back to make room for the next wave, rather than take the hit to remain in close contact. It might have worked. It didn't - not at once, at any rate. Meanwhile the tank duel, 'C' Sqn, on the ridge, took some damage from the 6-pounders, and returned the favour by knocking out some portees. (This was another of my modifications to the PW rule set, hits and damage being rolled for separately by portee and guns. However, I had not yet decided whether portees at 1SP could transport AT guns at 2SP. I'm inclined to think not, which would have meant the AT guns dismounting at full strength or taking the 1SP loss to stay mounted. Be it noted, though, in an early PW set, transport units are just 1 SP. Something to think about, maybe?)
|2pr at last overrun, but 'A' Coy 31st Battalion hurry across|
to seal the breach.
The battle between 'A' Sqn Shermans against the Grants was beginning to tilt in favour of the former, the Grants already reduced by a third. At last, 'C' Company of the Sons of Revolution at last burst over the 2-pounder anti-tank position. There they were halted by 'B' Coy, 22nd Punjanjoodi in the outskirts of the town. The 3rd Revolutionary Rifles having been definitively repulsed in front of the town - their 4th Company being entirely destroyed achieving a single hit upon the Punjanjoodi MGs - Lord Redmond drew 'A' Coy of 31st Kashinkari out of the centre of the line, to bring it behind the Punjanjoodi companies, thence to counter-attack the lost gun position.
This left a gap in the town's front, but for the moment the BARFists were in no position to exploit it. The 31st's MG platoon was in turn drawn out of their position (intended to flank any advance skirting the north the north side of the town) to fill the gap. If anything, that served to make the city defences stronger, at the slight cost of weakening the left flank line. By that time, however, the 2nd 'Volunteers' Battalion was largely committed towards the northeast corner of the town, a part of the Government line that the battalion's mortars could reach.
|Government troops are holding...!|
The whole BARFist attack was fast becoming gummed up on the left. Having burst into the anti-tank gun position, the infantry were struggling to break out. Not even the arrival of 'B' Company to assist on their right flank ('A' Coy was attacking the railway station ('D' Coy, 3rd 'Rifles' having been finally repulsed) levered them forward. The fact was, the defenders at this point outnumbered the attackers. Nor were the infantry in the not far distant field works any more inclined to yield their position, however determined the assaults.
|2nd Battalion make their first advances.|
The lull in the battle in the centre gave plenty of time for the 31st MG Platoon to occupy the position formerly held by 'A' Company. However fresh the 2nd Volunteers, the city defenders had taken few losses so far, and had the support of both 25-pounder batteries. So confident had Lord Redmond become, withal, that this part of the front would hold, he ordered 'A' Artillery Battery to limber up and move across to the south flank, the better to bring the revolutionaries there under fire. It was still more than possible the BARFist Revolutionaries might break through on the south flank.
|One 25pr battery limbering up to move off |
and join the action on the south side.
Despite the already noticeable huge disparity in losses taken by both sides, the issue remained in doubt whilst at least two Revolutionary battalions, and their armour, still retained most of their strength. The tank duel forced back 'A' Squadron, and drove 'C' Sqn from the ridge. Fortunately. 'B' Squadron had come up to occupy the defile between ridge and town. There they were to hold back the enemy armour until the other squadrons could reorganise and reenter the fight.
|Showing just how reduced 3rd battalion has become - just 5|
rifle stands remaining out of 16.
Held up by barbed wire entanglements, 'B' Coy, 1st 'Sons' Battalion successfully negotiated the obstacle under fire, but found themselves faced not only by counterattacking Punjanjoodi Infantry in front, but also by MGs from the town. 'A' Company had simply melted away under the defensive fire. Having drawn upon themselves so much of the defenders' attention might have assisted 'C' Coy to the left, but they, too, were facing two-to-one odds. Further to the left, 'D' Coy were also making little progress against the fortified defenders.
|Outnumbered Revolutionaries beginning to realise that|
the town is to be denied them.
A final attempt by the remaining shreds of 3rd 'Rifles' Battalion was too feeble to help much, except to draw fire momentarily from the MGs still ensconced just south of the railway station. The 31st MG Platoon having entered the Government line astride the main street leading into the town, were ordered to return to their original position, when it seemed likely that the BARFists might mask the 31st 'B' Coy, and try to get by the undefended AT obstacles close by the town.
|2nd Battalion at last gets to attack...|
However, the companies of 2nd 'Volunteer' Battalion seemed to be focusing their attention upon the 'B'/31st position. Although doing some damage, their attack was destined never to be pushed home. It was too late.
|Losses much too heavy; BARFists ae about ready to quit|
now and try again another time.
For, late in the action, the BARFist losses, already severe, mounted at an alarming rate. Returning to the battle, the Shermans of 'A' Squadron finally knocked out the remainder of the Grants. Losses to 1st 'Sons' Battalion also became too heavy to promise any success on their front. The Revolutionary attacks, for some time promising imminent success, abruptly faded away. (Whilst checking the SP losses, I miscounted and thought the BARFist exhaustion point has been reached. It hadn't, but was close enough. It was really the disparity of damage taken that decided the battle.)
|End of the action.|
It was an emphatic Government victory - the 'Miracle of Nawabisbad' it came to be known. The determination of the BARF forces to conquer the capital city may be inferred from the summary of losses:
Losses by BARF:1st 'Sons of Revolution' Battalion - 9SP
2nd 'Volunteers' - 1SP
3rd 'Rifles' - 11SP
1st Armoured - 4SP [3SP from 'D' (Grant) Sqn, 1SP from 'B' (Stuart) Sqn]
Atni-tank - 1SP from portee mounts.
Total: 26SP (C.f. exhaustion point, -28SP)
Losses by Government:|
Tank Regiment: -1SP ['C' Sqn]
2pr AT: -2SP [destroyed and overrun]
22nd Battalion: -2SP [ -1 MG Platoon; -1 'A' Coy]
31st Battalion: -1SP ['B' Coy].
Total: 6SP (that's right, SIX, c.f. exhaustion point at -19SP).
It was scarcely credible! How could that happen? The fact was the BARF dice rolling in this action was about as miserable as it had been pretty good during the campaign so far. After a promising beginning, the mortar fire proved woefully ineffective against the protected Government defences, the BARF infantry could not break through, and the tanks could make no progress. To what extent did the 14SP worth of defence works make? Clearly some - quite a bit, probably. This will have to be tested in the next action...
For all that it was so decisive for the protection of the capital, it was a negative victory in the sense that the Government had merely held off a determined attack. (Had I continued the fight, I have no doubt the BARFists would have extracted their troops with little further loss, and the Government might well have been held up by their own defences). The Revolution was still at large, popular enough to represent a clear and present danger, and therefore to be put down for good and all.
Disappointed in his ambitious hopes, Colonel Peenut Buttahjars brought his troops back to Maibad Station. There he would await the counter-attack he could trust the Government forces to mount.