The events of the first month of the First Blacklands War had on the whole gone well for the Turcowaz Empire. Though battered by several invasions, the Turcowaz armies, against all expectation, had beaten them back. No Hellenican or Chervenian now stood on Imperial soil; the Black Mountains and Bejelan forces, their invasions already repulsed, were each attempting a second. The Black Mountains had the remote and isolated city of Scutari under a none-too-secure siege, and the Bejelans, having consolidated their two badly mauled armies into one, were marching south, through Vardar, into Northern Macedonia, in the hope of taking Monastir City, the provincial capital.
|Situation and moves, first week of November|
By now, a degree of mutual exhaustion seemed to be settling over the whole conflict. During the first week of November, two of Chervenia's armies were retreating into their own country for rest and recuperation, as was Hellenica's sole army after their defeat at Kozani. Indeed, the Hellenic government of Ephtherios Overzelos was beginning to wonder whether the campaign was worth continuing. Embarrassed in one naval action and worsted in two subsequently, the campaign at sea was going as badly as that on land. Now a fast Turcowaz commerce raider - ITS Hamidiye - was at large in the Eastern Mesogesean Sea.
|Battlefield of Vladicin Han.|
For their part, however, the Turcowaz armies were, too, becoming badly worn down. Having seen off the Hellenes, Second Army had to turn about, retrace its steps and attempt to take on the freshly reconstituted Bejelan Army. So far Ali Riza Pasha, not known for his martial capacity, had performed well above expectations with two victories to his credit. Could he pull off a third?
After the mauling received near East Thrace, Fourth Army was retreating to Salonika. The equally damaged First Army was abandoning its raid into South Chervenia. Apprehending a contact with an Army issuing forth from Sofia, Nazim Pasha elected at once to retire into Rhodope, rather than take the longer route into North Macedonia. Probably that was just as well, for he might well have run into the much more powerful Bejelan force, or even the Ist Chervenian Army marching from Sofia. For the moment, and for the next fortnight, only the Second and Third Armies would be available for operations. There was certainly no prospect of relieving Scutari at any time soon. Turcowaz was scarcely better off than the Allies.
|General view of the battlefied, looking northwest, |
as the heads of the armies march up.
With most of the armies of both sides retreating, or marking time, the only battle of note to begin November took place in Northern Macedonia. The Bejelan Army had taken the route to Vladicin Han, a small town but important crossroads, whence the west road would carry the army to Monastir. It was to intercept the Bejelan Army that Ali Riza Pasha directed his own forces thereto.
|Head of the Tucowaz column.|
The Second Turcowaz Army comprised this order of march:
- 2nd Cavalry (trained) = 3SP
- 3rd Infantry (veteran) = 3SP
- 3rd Field Artillery (trained) @ 1SP with Army Command @6SP = 7SP
- 26th Bashi-Bazouk Infantry (green) = 4SP
- 9th Infantry (trained) = 3SP
- 10th Infantry (trained) = 3SP
- 4th Field Artillery (trained) = 1SP
- 15th Infantry (trained) = 3SP
- 16th Infantry (trained) = 3SP
- 7th Medium Artillery (trained) = 2SP
- 3rd Transport Column = 1SP
- 4th Transport Column = 1SP
- 25th Bashi-Bazouk Infantry = 3SP
- 14 Units: Median 7-1 ('Poor' general) = 6 Activation Points
- 37 Strength Points: Exhaustion Point = -13SP
|Head of the Bejela Column.|
They had a formidable foe to face, the Bejelan Army comprising:
- 1st Cavalry (trained) = 2SP
- 2nd Infantry (trained) = 4SP
- 3rd Infantry (trained) = 4SP
- 1st Machine Gun Company (trained) @ 1SP plus Command @6SP = 7SP
- 1st Field Artillery (trained) = 2SP
- 4th Infantry (trained) = 4SP
- 5th Infantry (trained) = 4SP
- 6th Infantry (trained) = 4SP
- 2nd Field Artillery (trained) = 2SP
- 10th Medium Artillery (trained) = 2SP
- 1st Transport Column (pack horses/ mules) = 1SP
- 2nd Transport Column (pack horses/ mules) = 1SP
- 3rd Transport Column (carts and wagons) = 1SP
- 8th Infantry (green) = 4SP
- 9th Infantry (green) = 4SP
- 16 Units: Median = 8 + 1 ('Good' General) = 9
- 46 Strength Points: Exhaustion Point -16EP.
|Bejela occupies the town...|
Route march along a road gave an extra movement allowance to all troops provided the entire move was along the road. I made no allowance for the proper depth or intervals of individual units, and even allowed two units into the same grid area if they could fit (not possible with the horse drawn units of course). As the columns stretched along 12 grid areas of road or thereabouts, I figured that was enough to represent our route marches. On reflection, though, it might have been more 'realistic' to allow but one unit, of any type, onto 1 road hex whilst on the march - a thought for another time, perhaps.
|... as the rest of the column moves up behind.|
The successive sections of troops off table but following on from the first arrivals, did not require activation to enter the table, it being assumed that the route march was their 'default' state. Once having arrived, though, then they did require activation. This method permitted a fairly rapid deployment of the heads of the columns, which would be slowed as the reinforcements arrived.
|Move 2, and the Turcowaz column has yet to deploy.|
So it was that armies clashed at the crucial crossroads around Vladicin Han, the Turcowaz arriving just in time to intercept the invaders. The heads of the Turcowaz column quickly seized the ridge southwest of the town, at the moment the leading Bejelan units were entering the place, the cavalry exiting by the south road. The Turcowaz cavalry covered this move by charging their counterparts and chasing them into and beyond the town.
|Turcowaz seizes the ridge and lines it with |
infantry and field guns.
The following Bejelan units were more circumspect. Second Infantry lined the riverbank whence they could bring under fire the southern approach road and eastern end of the ridge beyond. The 3rd passed through the town to take up positions in a small wood to the west, whilst the machine gun company established itself in the fields close by the built up area. First Field artillery took up a battery position upon the outskirts of the town facing the ridge, whilst 5th Infantry carried on through to clear the pass between ridge and river - the victorious Turcowaz cavalry having withdrawn, betimes. Forcing 9th Turcowaz Infantry back beyond the bend that took the south road behind the ridge, the 5th turned to flank the ridge itself, where stood the veterans of 3rd Turcowaz Infantry.
|Bejela establishes a bridgehead about the town. |
Although their cavalry have taken a drubbing,
the Army extends the bridgehead west and south.
The ensuing firefight between 3rd Turcowaz and 5th Bejela proved costly to both sides - neither able to retreat on account of obstructions behind them. Meanwhile, both sides extended their lines to both flanks. Led by 25th Bashi-Bazouks, 15th and 16th Infantry penetrated the wood west of the main ridge, overlooking the Monastir road. The Bashi-Bazouks actually reached that road and began advancing along it towards Vladicin Han itself. Flanked by 3rd Bejela Infantry and faced by machine guns, that advance was quickly halted. The Bashi-Bazouks fell back with some loss.
|The battle develops...|
To the east, 2nd and 4th Bejela lined the riverbank either side of the railway bridge. Unwilling themselves to make the crossing, they awaited the approach of the enemy. So far, nowhere along its length, was the river found to be fordable (This was decided by a die roll for every river grid edge except where there was a bridge, a 'six' revealing a ford. Do you know, for not one of the ten river edges, did I roll a 'six'. As the onus of effecting crossings came down upon the Bejelans, that rather cramped their style... a little). The enemy were, however, content in this sector of the field to maintain a watching brief.
|Firefight! 3rd Turcowaz vs 5th Bejela|
Ninth Turcowaz Infantry and the cavalry stood at a distance from the railway bridge, ready to contest the crossing. The Bejelans brought up a field battery in support of 4th Infantry, but soon found themselves caught up in an artillery duel with Turcowaz field guns standing between the main ridge and 9th Turcowaz's wood.
|Both sides pinned down in the centre...|
For a time, so matters stood: a small, but bloody, battle taking place at the east end of the ridge, the Turcowaz flanking move from the west stopped and driven back, and the Bejelan left flank waiting along the riverbank. Losses had so far redounded to the advantage of Turcowaz, but not so much as to offer a predictor of victory...
|Event slow to develop on the flanks...|
To Be Continued...