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Saturday, 4 March 2017

Battle Report - Part 1 - Tchernaya River

As mentioned earlier, my plan was to test out the newly published 'Portable Wargame' rules by Bob Cordrey - although my battle is far from being portable, but it is grid based!

Unlike the actual battle, which saw the Russians doomed from the outset following confused orders and an unprepared assault, I decided to give my Russian force time to deploy and coordinate the attack. The Russian commander decided to attack on the right flank with Read's Corps to force a crossing of the river and tempt the Allies to reinforce that flank. The plan below shows this attack at '1', while an attempt would be made at '2' to drive the Sardinians off Telegraph Hill. Finally, once Read has successfully assaulted the Allied left, Liprandi would assault with his Corps in the centre '3':
The battle kicked off with a Russian artillery barrage in support of Read, whose Corps began to advance towards the river:

As they closed in on the river they began to take casualties from the French infantry and guns on the heights.

Despite this, several Russian Regiments crossed the Tchernaya and assaulted up the slopes on the far bank:

The French counter attacked and after a bloody struggle the Russians were repulsed and driven back across the river, following a charge by French Chasseurs d' Afrique .

However, Russian morale held and Read rallied his troops for a second assault:

This time the already weakened French could not stop the Russians and the dense columns stormed into the allied lines:

Despite several counter attacks the French are forced off the ridge, losing their artillery and cavalry. A regiment of Zouaves fought on valiantly, but were also overwhelmed. The Russians consolidate their gain and swing towards the Allied centre:
Seeing the gains made by Read's Corps, the Russian commander initiates phase three - the assault of the Allied centre by Liprandi's Corps. Liprandi's troops begin to move forward towards the Tractir bridge:

In the background a brisk firefight continues around Telegraph Hill, but so far the Russian fail to dislodge the stubborn Sardinians.

Part two to follow.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Russian Reinforcements

I was about to start the Tchernaya action knowing that I was short of Russian infantry and planned to recycle some units as they became casualties; however; on the spur of the moment I decided to paint up some more of the ESCI stash. In the end this worked out to be five battalions and a marathon painting session:

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Battle of the Tchernaya River 16th August 1855 - War-game

This was to be the last major land battle during the Crimean war, fought between the allied French, Sardinian and Turkish forces against the Russian field army. The Russians launched their attack in the early hours of 16 August 1855 with around 58,000, mainly infantry, troops. Their plan was to attack the allies in the rear across the Tchernaya River in an attempt to break the siege of Sevastopol. This would be their third and final attempt to do so, having failed to succeed in doing this at Balaclava and Inkerman.

The allied force consisted of mostly French troops, supported by Sardinians and some Turks, that were positioned along the North edge of the Fedioukine Hills. The photo below gives an overview of the main part of the battlefield, with allies at the top of the map and the Russians at the bottom:

For this game I am using a gridded board, with 5 inch hexagons. The rules I will use will be an adaptation of Bob Cordrey's portable war games system. Here are some further views of the battlefield and opposing forces:

Off to the right, not shown above, are the Turks, the Sardinians can be seen in the background:

Forward of the allied line is a small hill, known as Telegraph Hill, which covers one of the river crossings. This was defended by Sardinian light infantry behind some field works:

 This is the allied centre, with French troops guarding the key Tractir Bridge.

 The French left, with the Tractir Bridge in the background
 An overview of the allied centre from the left.

 Now the Russians:

On the Russian right is Read's Corps:
While in the centre and left we have Liprandi's Corps:
From the Russian left the Telegraph Hill feature can be seen in the background:
Finally a look along the Russian line from the left:
Some notes:
The Tchernaya River was a deep wade, with difficult banks. There was also a second water obstacle; an aqueduct which ran parallel to the river. I have not included this using the river to represent the complete valley floor, as in reality there were also ditches and dykes. To reflect this the river will restrict movement, taking a complete turn to cross, except via the two bridges.

The hills are quite steep giving the defender higher up an advantage.

In the real battle the command and control of the Russian forces was poor, leading to a piecemeal attack before they were properly prepared. I will reflect this at the outset.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Battle Report - Game Number Three

Short, but not so sweet...............

I started off by deciding by dice whether the opposing commanders were bold, average or cautious. The Rebel General, Brig Gen Stone Jaw Mackeson proved to be bold and aggresive, whilst his opponent, Union Brig Gen Nate Burman was deemed to be cautious.

Turn one:

The rebels kick off by ordering the cavalry to sweep around their right flank behind the wood to threaten the union line:

Also, Mackeson ordered the two infantry Regiments, Alabama (nearest the camera) and Kentucky to rush forward, take and hold the wall, supported by the gun, which also advances:

The more cautious Burman decides to sit tight, making slight adjustments by ordering the New York Regiment up to the Turnpike aligned with the Ohios on the left; although he orders his cavalry to sweep around to the right and threaten the Kentucky regiment:

 The New Yorkers advance to the Turnpike:

The Union gun fires an opening salvo, but misses its target.

Turn 2
The rebel gun unlimbers and both the Alabama and Kentucky regiments continue their advance. Now the rebel commander shows some indecision, as he sees the union cavalry sweeping around the wood on his left flank and the solid line of the Ohio Regiment; so he orders his cavalry to halt and about turn to meet the Union cavalry. The rebel infantry. spurred on by 'ol Stone Jaw reach the wall

While the rebel cavalry about turn:
The Union side have now formed a defence line consisting of the two infantry regiments and the gun, which fires a salvo into the Alabama regiment, causing some casualties. However, worse still for the Kentucky boys is a ripple of volleys from the Ohios, which drops 5 figures. The rebel infantry take a morale test and both regiments stand.

Turn 3
Turn three turns out to be pivotal. Both sides exchange fire at medium range. The rebel  infantry volleys drop 3 New Yorkers and one Ohio; however, the union fire is devastating - the Kentucky regiment loses 13 and the Alabamas take three more casualties. Worse still, General Stone Jaw falls from his horse mortally wounded. The rebel infantry are shaken and the Alabamas break and pull back, leaving the exposed Kentucky regiment.

Meanwhile on the flank union cavalry surge forward to assault the Kentucky regiment.
The rebel cavalry rush to assist the infantry, but are still some way off.

Turn 4
The situation for the rebels looks dire; their general is gone, their infantry have lost over 50% of their number and one regiment has broken. The Kentucky regiment is about to be smashed by Union cavalry. On the Union side, despite a few casualties morale remains solid.

As the Kentuckys attempt to meet the oncoming Union cavalry the charge goes home and Union general Burman orders the New Yorkers to advance:

The Kentucky Regiment is slaughtered and the union cavalry take just one casualty. In the background the retreating Alabama regiment rallies and the rebel cavalry are almost in position to attack their union counterparts. A lucky salvo from the the Union gun destroys the rebel artillery, knocking it out completely.

Turn 5
It looks like the  end for the rebels, however the Alabama Regiment fires into the rallying Union cavalry bringing down several men and horses, and as the Union horsemen try to withdraw the rebel cavalry crashes into their flank completely destroying the regiment.
The Ohios have by now moved forward to the wall and prepare to fire at the Alabama Regiment.

Turn 6
The rebel cavalry quickly reorganise and decide to charge into the New York Regiment, but before they make contact they are met with 4 volleys of rifle fire, and are destroyed.

On the other flank the Ohios fire into the already weakened Alabama Regiment and are reduced by half their strength. It is the end. The Alabama Regiment breaks and flees the field and the Union forces are victorious.

Verdict? The Union forces have swept the field, losing just their cavalry, while just about destroying the rebels. This is the fastest wargame I have ever played; just over one hour and 6 moves. The rules work - they are very simple, but give good results. I will use them again in the future - being more aware of the devastating effect of rifle fire.


Sunday, 12 February 2017

Game Number 3 - Donald Featherstone

Continuing the revisit of my vintage wargame books, I stumbled across a demonstration game in "Battles with Model Soldiers" by Donald Featherstone, which pitches two small forces together on a basic wargames table.

The battle is designed to demonstrate the horse and musket rules described in the book. The rules are not set out as tables, so I had to pick through the text - although that did not take long as they are very simple:

The game is played on a balanced table with a road running diagonally across it, a single wall and two woods, one on each flank:

This is my interpretation of the map with the troops set out - a gun, two regiments of infantry and one regiment of cavalry each side:

I had planned to use my Airfix ACW troops, but they are not organised as per these rules, so I dug out the box of Britains plastics. Infantry Regiments consist of 20 men, a standard bearer and an officer. I had just enough for the two the regiments needed for each side. The guns are by Timpo, with four Imex gunners. Cavalry regiments consist of nine men, one officer and a standard bearer. Some views of the troops:



I will report on the battle and how the rules worked in my next post.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Action at Twin Farms - by Charles Grant

Over Christmas my wife and I headed for the sun, which is the reason that I have not posted for a bit; however, as part of my reading list I took two of my favourite books - "Battle" by Charles Grant and "Operation Warboard" by Gavin and Bernard Lyall. Now, whilst I have had these books for decades and thumbed through on countless occasions, I had never actually read them from cover to cover.

I was taken by the introductory scenario in "Battle", the Action at Twin Farms and was inspired to have a go. I did not use the rules in the book, chosing to use my own, for two reasons. First I am not keen on the machine gun and artillery grid system and second, I wanted to introduce the idea of suppression, suppressing fire and the effect this has on command.  This allows some fire and manouvre.

Also, I changed the forces from Russians versus German to British versus German. I  gave the British a carrier platoon as a substitute for the third half track. The Germans have a platoon plus, while the British have three platoons, including a light mortar. Here is the scenario from the book:

This is how the battlefield looks when laid out on my 6 x 4 table:
The table is 180 degrees different to the map. North is to the left and I have called the top farm' East Farm and the bottom farm, West Farm.  The German dispositions are also shown; on the far top left is the anti tank team supported by a machine gun in the copse to their rear. Around West Farm are the remaining Germans, with a second machine gun by the gate covering the road. British forces are off the table.

I decided to start the scenario as Grant did, with the first (1 Platoon) half track coming into range of the German anti-tank team:

The action kicks off with the Germans firing the panzerschreck, which misses and a burst of machine gun fire, which hits one of the British infantry in the half track. They throw for suppression but they are OK.

The British cry, "ambush left" and debus from the half track fearing another anti tank round and the vehicle machine gun pours fire into the anti tank team eliminating the loader.

A second half track comes onto the board.

In round two the remaining German anti-tank gunner decides to make a run for it and is cut down by rifle fire and the half track pours fire into the corner of the copse taking out the machine gun and loader, but not before they cut down two further members of 1 platoon. The German ambush is eliminated. The 2 platoon half track continues to move around the east flank and the first vehicle of the carrier platoon arrives:

On move three the German commander is concerned about his exposed east flank and orders additional infantry to reinforce East Farm. At the same time the second German machine gun, forward of West Farm, opens up on the now debussed 1 Platoon, causing a further casualty and suppressing 1 Platoon.

The British dismount 2 Platoon, while the german machine gun continues to take its toll, eliminating another rifleman in 1 Platoon.

British command falters and for a while they are halted by the heavy fire coming from West Farm. Meanwhile the Germans pull back some forward infantry on their left flank and continue to reinforce East Farm as infantry dash across the road:

On move 5 the german machine cuts down another member of 1 platoon, which remains trapped on the edge of the field next to their vehicle. The British commander, again with a weak command throw, decides to try to out flank the Germans to the east by deploying the carrier platoon.

Also 2 Platoon pushes forward and engages the Germans in East farm causing one casualty:

In move six, the german reinforcment from West Farm arrives in East Farm and the machine gun causes another two casualties in 1 Platoon, which breaks and pulls back out of range.

On move seven, the German commander decides to redeploy some of his forces in West farm, including the machine gun, so that they can engage 2 Platoon. Meanwhile 2 Platoon accounts for one German in East Farm.

This creates a slight lull for the British, who despite the loss of 1 Platoon reorganise and push forward, with the carriers sweeping around the flank and a 2" morter is deployed, which engages the german machine gun, but the rounds fall short:

On move 8 number 2 Platoon is swept by fire from the newly deployed machine gun and lose 3 men, including their officer, meanwhile the British pour fire from the carriers and the 2 Platoon bren gun into East farm to little effect. This exchange of fire continues and 2 Platoon lose another man, and they too pull back. The British carriers open up on the Germans in East farm causing two casualties and the defence of the farm begins to collapse as the Germans are suppressed.

On move nine the German commander decides to withdraw as British mortar fire takes out the remaining machine gun and the carriers eliminate the defenders in East Farm.
The British carrier platoon dismounts to sweep through the farm while the Germans escape off the to the southwest.

Having lost over half of his troops the British commander decides to advance no further and consolidates around East Farm. The battle ends. While the British have control of the field the German commander has done well to halt the enemy advance and inflict heavy casualties. A thoroughly enjoyable scenario.