Sunday, October 4, 2020

First Blacklands War - Battle of Stalacz

Following their victory against the Ist Bejelan Army, II Turcowaz found its lines of communication to North Macedonia and Monastir threatened by the small II Bejelan Army also at large in Vardar province. At once Ali Riza Pasha ordered the about face, and marched hot foot to the southeast.  He would brush aside, if he did not destroy, this enemy, and then march on into North macedonia.  

Ist Chervenian Army on the march through 
difficult country...
This confidence took a knock when rumours arrived at the Pasha's headquarters of a Chervenian army marching up in haste to join the Bejelan army (See previous posting). Their combined force was likely to exceed his own. Then, late in the afternoon of 20th October, the Turcowaz Army met up with the Bejelan force arrayed athwart the highway, offering battle.
Map of Stalacz region - a fairly populous tract 
of hill country.
General Stepan Stepanovic had selected a fairly dense tract of country in which to oppose the oncoming Turcowaz. In front of the Stalacz town, hills, forests and a monastery with its orchard offered a fine line of defence. Its right flank, where he had placed his artillery upon rising ground, being protected by a marshy riverbank,  his only concern was the open left.  

Meanwhile, the Chervenians, who had sent forward the message of their approach, were not yet up, but could be expected within two or three hours (actually arriving Turn 4). As their appearance upon the battlefield was subject to activation like any other move, the order of march had to be determined, with the leading units taking priority. As it happened, the activation roll was high, which meant that 9 units out of 15 arrived onto the table at once.  Note that although the initiative was diced for collectively - Allied vs Turcowaz - the armies were activated individually, and their losses assessed in the same way.  
Chervenian order of march: near column leading.

The Armies:

Turcowaz Second Army
Command: Ali Riza Pasha = 6SP (Poor)
1 veteran infantry unit (3rd) = 4SP
3 trained infantry units (10th, 15th, 16th) @4SP = 12SP
1 trained infantry unit (9th) = 3SP
4 green infantry units (25th, 26th, 27th, 28th) @4SP = 16SP
1 trained cavalry unit (2nd) = 2SP 
1 green cavalry unit (4th) = 2SP (cavalry somewhat depleted after previous week's battle)
1 field artillery unit (1st) = 2SP
1 field artillery unit (2nd) = 1SP
1 heavy artillery unit (5th) = 2SP
2 transport columns (2nd, 3rd) @1SP = 2SP.

Totals: 17 units; median 8-1=7 for activation.  52SP, exhaustion point = -18.

Bejela IInd Army

Command: General Stepan Stepanovic = 6SP (Average)
3 trained infantry units (2nd, 3rd, 4th) @4SP = 12SP
1 green infantry unit (7th) = 4SP
1 mountain artillery unit (3rd) = 2SP
1 transport column (3rd) = 1SP

Totals: 7 units; median = 4.  25SP, exhaustion point -9

Chervenia Ist Army
Command: General Vasil Kutinchev = 6SP (Good) 
2 veteran infantry (1st and 2nd Royal Guards) @4SP = 8SP
4 trained infantry (4th, 5th, 6th, 7th) @4SP = 16SP
1 machine gun unit (1st) = 2SP
1 veteran cavalry unit (1st RG Cavalry) = 3SP
1 trained cavalry unit (2nd) = 3SP
1 field artillery = 3SP
1 medium artillery = 3SP
2 transport columns (1st, 2nd) @1SP = 2SP

Totals: 15 units; median 8+1=9.  46SP, exhaustion point = -16.

I am beginning to form a convention for this campaign that 1SP represents 1000 officers and men. Losses in battle are determined by halving the actual SP loss.  The half, rounded up, are returned to the army. So in the previous week, First Turcowaz Army of 50,000 defeated the 25,000 of Black Mountains Army. Losses were 4500 Turcowaz against 9000 Black Mountaineers. Second Turcowaz Army had a much tougher fight against Ist Bejela Army. Sixty thousand Turcowaz faced just 39,000 Bejelans in a hard fought victory, in which losses were nearly equal: 8000 Turcowaz compared with 7,500 Bejelans.

In this coming battle, 52,000 Turcowaz will be doing battle with 25,000 Bejelans and 46,000 Chervenians.  The outlook is not bright for Turcowaz...

Bejela II Army awaiting the enemy assault.

Hoping for a quick victory against the Bejelans before the Chervenians should come up, Ali Riza Pasha ordered a rapid advance, though this was somewhat hampered  by 'poor' staff work (i.e. the 'poor' command rating). Placing most of his artillery close by the main highway, he opened a counter-battery fire against the enemy guns on their hill. His better quality trained and veteran infantry advanced between road and river.
Turcowaz Second Army, on its start line.
The Turcowaz artillery made good practice. Apart from some early damage, the Bejelan guns were twice driven from their position. This augured badly for the integrity of their line, as the unreliable 7th infantry, even with their general present, was also coming under rifle and gunfire. Losses began to mount there as well.  
Early moves.  The Bejelans have adopted a tactical 

For a third time the Bejelan battery took its place in the line, but had barely got off a salvo before 10th Turcowaz infantry swarmed up the slope and overran the position.  Remnants of the battery attempting to escape through the village to the rear were caught by the oncoming Turcowaz and there destroyed.
Early developments.  Map in lieu of pictures.

By this time the Chervenia Ist Army had for some time been spilling onto the battlefield.  Most of its strength, including all of its artillery and machine guns, were deploying to cover the left flank left open by the Bejelans,  but three infantry units were coming up the main road.  They quickly drove out 10th Turcowaz, who fell back, over the hill and into the cornfield to its front.  In the meantime, there was nothing the Chervenians could do to prevent the 7th Bejelan Infantry disintegrating under the pitiless artillery and rifle fire, despite the protection of the village buildings and the presence of their commander.  Lucky to survive the ordeal, General Stepan Stepanovic removed himself to the open field behind the 2nd Infantry position.  
Well after the arrival of I Chervenian Army...
The Turcowaz right flank, peopled by unreliable Bashi-Bazouks and a weak gun battery, had advanced much more slowly. Though taking slight losses from Bejelan infantry from the monastery and its grounds, the Turcowaz was also causing casualties among the Bejelans. An attack never properly developed, as Chervenian horse, foot and guns extended and strengthened the Allied line. The firefight between Bejelan and Turcowaz went in favour of the former, with losses of 3SP against 4, and the Turcowaz battery forced off its hill position.

View from behind Turcowaz right flank.  The Bejelans
evacuating the monastery and its orchard.
But those three strength point losses were enough to take the Bejelan to its exhaustion point. The Allies could expect no help from them in any subsequent endeavour against the Settee troops. Eventually, 3rd and 4th Bejelan infantry were withdrawn from the monastery to make room for Chervenian foot. Only the 2nd Bejelan Foot remained in the front line, a position from which it never moved all day.
Turcowaz left.  The Cervenians beginning their 
Gradually the Turcowaz laft drew back to for a line alongside the Medveda village. The veteran 3rd infantry occupied the place, with 10th, 15th and 16th covering the open ground extending to the river. The weak 9th Foot remained in support in the rear. It was not long before the Chervenian foot in this part of the field, 2nd Royal Guard, with 4th and 5th Infantry, began their own advance against this line. The losses so far taken by the Turcowaz in this sector served to encourage the Chervenian attacks.
General view.  Chervenians pressing forward...

The early exchanges seemed promising for the Allies. The Turcowaz infantry were driven back beyond the line of a field battery, which came under a direct attack from the lead Chervenian unit, the 4th. Fifth infantry charged into the village, driving back the garrison and capturing half the place. The battle between 5th Chervenian and 3rd Turcowaz infantry was to rage for the remainder of the battle. Three times the Chervenians were thrown back out of the town; three times they surged back in. Not for a moment did they shift the garrison from their half of the village, though among the latter, losses steadily mounted.
... Turcowaz being edged back.

Late in the day, with the depleted 3rd Infantry barely clinging to the village, Ali Riza Pasha organised a counterattack with the aid of 28th Infantry. Although successfully repelling the 28th Infantry flank attack, for the fourth time the Chervenians were forced back from the town. Second Turcowaz Infantry were unable to follow up.
Counter-attack at Medveda

Losses on both sides had in this region been so severe that the combat petered out on this flank.  

End of Counter-attack at Medveda.

Events developed a deal more slowly on the Turcowaz right. Adopting a policy of 'yielding defence', the green Turcowaz troops gradually fell back under Chervenian pressure. Abandoning the woods to the front of the right flank, the Bashi-Bazouks fell back behind the ridge as well. Fortunately losses remained relatively light - aided by woeful Chervenian gunnery. The Chervenian machine gunners' practice was scarcely better. 
Losses mounting on both sides.

Whilst 7th Infantry penetrated the woods to bring the enemy beyond under fire, 2nd Royal Guard mounted the ridge.
Chervenia checked on their right, but have 
carried the woods and the ridge on their left.
It was to be the high point of the Chervenian attack. Although Turcowaz casualties had been fairly light so far, they began suddenly to increase at an alarming rate.  It became plain that they could not for long sustain a firefight.  
Worrying losses for Turcowaz late in the battle.

In a desperate move, Ali Riza Pasha ordered a counter-attack - a close assault from three sides against the Royal Guardsmen on the ridge. Once more 28th Bashi-Bazouk Infantry was called upon, attacking from the left, in support of the 27th's frontal attack, and 26th's from the right. This was to be the last act of the day. Outnumbered three to one (in SPs actually three to two), the Royal Guards took 50% casualties, but the already depleted 27th was decimated.
Bashi-Bazouks counter-attack the ridge.

It was during the course of ridgeline battle that I had determined that a count of the losses was indicated. I waited, of course, for the whole turn to be finished. It seemed to me that the Turcowaz losses must be taking them close to their exhaustion point. Although the Guardsmen remained on their ridge position under heavy attack, it was by now plain that the Turcowaz were not going anywhere. Was there a surprise in store! The Chervenians had just reached it exhaustion point with the 2 SPs lost to the 2nd Royal Guards. But the Turcowaz Army!  I had to count the losses at least three times to confirm that not only were the Turcowaz not yet exhausted, but still had 3SP still in hand before reaching their exhaustion point.
Second Royal Guards heavily outnumbered 
and taking losses...

The Chervenians had exhausted their attacking resources; the Bejelans were quite incapable of helping: the battle was over.

Last Act.  One bashi-Bazouk unit destroyed, but
heavy losses to the Royal Guardsmen are enough
to discourage the whole Chervenian Army.

The seeming impossible had happened: the Turcowaz  - an army of predominantly green troops, and with an unreliable commander to boot - had won a famous unlikely victory. The 'butcher's bill' according to a convention I have adopted for this war, read like this:

Bejelan Army: Strength, 25,000; lost 4500 plus about 40 guns
Chervenian Army: Strength, 46,000; lost 9000
Turcowaz Army: Strength 52,000; lost 7,500 

This unexpected victory threw upside down the entire strategic situation west of Salonika. Both Bejelan and the Black Mountains Armies had been driven back into their own realms, where they might be contained by one First or Second Turcowaz Armies whilst the other set off in pursuit of the Ist Chervenian Army, also forced into retreat. There being nowhere else to go, that army would find itself in Northern Macedonia, in the midst of hostile territory, with but one army that might be of assistance: the Hellenic army to the South.  And that army had yet to bring Fourth Turcowaz to battle.

Meanwhile, what of events in East Thrace?  Turcowaz was doing well on the periphery of its empire, but what of the situation much nearer the centre? 

To be continued... 


  1. Another great report Archduke. I hadn't thought of equating SPs to actual troop numbers; nice idea.

    1. I forgot to ask, is your railway track Hornby Dublo 3 Rail?

    2. Hi Maudlin -
      Equating SPs to actual troop numbers was rather experimental, and left even the major armies about half the size of the major armies in Bob Cordery's original scheme, but otherwise they seemed to come out 'realistically'.

      The rail I used for this battle is indeed the 'Hornby Dublo' 3-rail system. I actually have the tank engine set that was a birthday(?) present from when I turned 4. Unfortunately the engine doesn't go (it MAY be repairable), but otherwise the set is all there.

      In the next battle you will find a different rail system, bought solely for war games terrain.

  2. Archduke Piccolo,

    An outstanding battle report! I like the idea of equating SPs to an actual number, and it is a concept may well borrow and use myself.

    The Turcowaz have performed much better than I would have expected, and the result of this battle might have great significance to the outcome of the campaign ,.. but I suspect the events in East Thrace may also be very significant.

    I am impatiently lookIng forward to the next battle report!

    All the best,


    1. Hi Bob -
      I really did think Turcowaz chances in this action were problematical at best - and they would be doing well if they fought the thing to a draw. One thing that appears to be emerging, though, is that when sides are fairly evenly matched, who chooses to attack is likely to take the heavier losses. We might have to try cannier attacking tactics!
      Archduke Piccolo.