Thursday, January 28, 2021

First Blacklands War - Battle of Vladicin Han (2)

The action as we left it in the previous post.

We left the narrative last time with the action having reached a momentary deadlock: both flanks stalled, and in the centre the battle raging for the ridge just southwest of Vladicin Han. Stranded on account of the field battery between themselves and a safe retreat, 5th Bejelan Infantry found themselves flailed by incoming rifle fire from the ridge and from the woods overlooking their left flank.

For their part, their opponents of the veteran Turcowaz 3rd Infantry, were finding their position equally uncomfortable: field artillery to their immediate rear along the ridge, and another flanking them astride the road as it turned westward behind the high ground.

The field of battle.

The imminence of 5th Infantry's disintegration persuaded General Bojovic to withdraw the field artillery from before the town, back across the bridge. The 'golden bridge' thus provided, 5th Infantry - such as remained (1SP) soon availed themselves of it. Their place taken by 6th Infantry, the enemy Turcowaz on the hill were not long to enjoy their victory. Once the Bejelan Medium Artillery joined in, and the 1st Field redeployed into battery action, their combined weight battered the Turcowaz artillery into silence. 
Overall view...

At first abandoning the position, they tried to reoccupy their battery position along the ridgeline, only to lose more horses, personnel and guns.  
9th Turcowaz Infantry and 2nd Cavalry sideslipping
to their right to prevent any crossing via the railway
bridge. 10th infantry occupy the woods flanking the road

Then it was the turn of the Turcowaz medium artillery, but it was not long before they too shared the fate of their lighter brethren - knocked to pieces by double their strength of shellfire, and shredded by machinegun and rifle fire from across the road. Third Infantry remained alone on the ridge, reduced to a third of the strength with which they began. From the cultivated fields adjoining the town, 6th Infantry at last nerved themselves for an assault upon the elevated position.
Bejelan 8th and 9th Infantry arriving;
1st Fld Arty withdrawing to the east side of the river.
Unfortunately, it seems I chose this moment to let the excitement of the action take over, and forgot to take pictures. Sixth Bejela Infantry swept over the ridge and the remnants of 3rd Turcowaz, and onto the flank of 2nd Field Artillery, which had shortly before silenced their counterparts across the river. Fighting desperately. the gunners almost fought off their opponents, but, already weakened by past battles, they too were finally overrun.

Having cleared the high ground, 6th Bejela
Infantry strike Turcowaz field artillery in flank

Their centre driven in, the Turcowaz Army had little more to offer by way of counter-action. On the right, the silencing of the enemy artillery beside the railway bridge brought 9th Turcowaz onto the hill opposite, to engage 4th Bejela by distant rifle fire.  The cavalry were on hand to discourage the enemy 2nd and 4th from crossing.  The situation in this sector remained deadlocked.
Firefight near the railway bridge, but the 
Turcowaz centre had been driven in.

Events were taking a turn for the better for Bejela along the Monastir Road, as well. Third Bejela Infantry got the better of its musketry duel with 25th Bashi-Bazouks. Driven back into the woods, the cover therein availed them nothing. Within a short time, the unit disintegrated. Behind them, 15th and 16th Infantry had lined the woods overlooking the road, but seemed unable or unwilling to help out their irregular comrades. 

The fact is, in this battle, the martial shortcomings of Ali Riza Pasha became painfully apparent. In his previous battles, he had been fortunate in his initiative and activation dice rolls. Not this time. In initiative he was probably out-rolled two to one, or close to it. But his initiative rolls were woeful. With a minus for his ability rating, half his rolls at least must have been low, and I remember but one high roll, and that late in the day. His far more 'able' counterpart, General Bojovic, rolled rather more than his fair share of high activation rolls, again especially as the battle wore on. When you can activate 9 units for your opponent's 6, matters are likely to go fairly well, even when they have gone ill hitherto...

Bejelan forces regroup into line: 2nd and 4th 
Infantry lining the east side of the river; that
line continued on the opposite bank by 8th and 6th.
If Ali Riza lacked something in the handling of his army, he was not wanting in courage. As enemy infantry triumphantly advanced down the road, the Pasha joined 15th Infantry to oppose them, throwing them between the oncoming Bejelans and the baggage train just beginning to pull out. In the close quarter battle that ensued, twice did bullets pass through his attire (twice I had to roll for risk to his person), but he remained unruffled and unhurt. Eventually the Turcowaz held, and 6th Bejela Infantry pulled back to the high ground. There they might have remained, as the Turcowaz Army was clearly beyond any further offensive action. Unfortunately for them, they came under renewed fire from 10th Turcowaz in the woods on the other side of the road. Already much diminished during the course of its attacks, 6th Bejela disappeared from the high ground and scattered. Thereafter, the Turcowaz Army pulled back to form a rather tenuous line some distance south of the ridgeline they had earlier occupied.

The 6th Bejelan Infantry scattered by rifle fire; but
the Turcowaz Army reforms a thin -
 and gunless! - line to the south

Close of the action: the Turcowaz draw off, 
Bejelans too exhausted to pursue...
Having cleared the high ground and woods lining the southern side or the Monastir Road and forced back Second Turcowaz Army, the Bejelans had won an undoubted victory. The 37,000-strong Turcowaz, though defeated, were not, however, routed, and were able to draw off in good order. Even so, the loss had been grievous: 8000 casualties (16SP, halved) and its artillery decimated (all 4SPs lost).  

According to none other than Carl von Clausewitz, there are times at which the cost of victory may be such as to compel a retreat.  Such was the case, as General Bojovic surveyed the damage.  His army (46,000) had also lost some guns (2SP worth), though fewer than had the enemy, but all of 8,500 (17SP, halved) dead, wounded and missing.  There would be no march to Monastir, no summons to surrender, no siege.  Resting upon the field overnight, his exhausted army began the next day their weary march back to Vardar Province. By some miracle, Ali Riza Pasha had in defeat pulled off something approximating a strategic victory... 

To be continued:  Convoy!


  1. A fine conclusion to the game Archduke. Ali Riza Pasha may be a bit inept but he's certainly lucky!

    1. Hi Maudlin Jack. Possibly Ali Riza pasha was helped by the tangle the Bejelan centre got into early on. Hard to say, really. At SP=1, the Turcowaz field artillery both lasted well into the battle - that, too was surprising.
      Archduke Piccolo

  2. Archduke Piccolo,

    Wow! That was a real ‘skin of the teeth’ action ... and the fact that both sides are falling back from the battlefield to recover from their losses seems to indicate that the war is gradually becoming a stalemate.

    Perhaps one of the major powers might offer to act as an ‘honest broker’ at an international congress. I’m sure that all the nations involved in the war would welcome an armistice ... at least until they have time to recover, reorganise, and rearm! I can imagine that the boardrooms of Krupps and Vickers-Armstrong are already discussing how quickly they can send sales teams to the area to sell new weapons to the combatants.

    I can hardly wait to read what will happen next.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Bob -
      You might be right! Methinks that a post about the political manoeuvring at the diplomatic level might by now be in order. Mind you, given the attitudes of the 'great powers', it might not be easy to find among them anyone - or any collective - that could convince the Sultan of their honest brokerage.

      On the other hand, Turcowaz remains in a strong negotiating position. She MIGHT allow Vardar and possibly Scutari pass from her possession, but only at a high price. On top of that she would have grounds to demand war reparations from all four belligerents.

      Altogether, the Allies might consider themselves fortunate if Turcowaz allows then to get away with the 'status quo ante bellum'. On the other hand, no doubt they would reconsider their position subsequently and seek the opportunity for another 'suck at the sav'. And I agree there will no doubt be very interested parties among the Great Powers anxious to drum up business.

      After all, calling this the 'First' Blacklands War leaves open the possibility of a second...

      Archduke piccolo.