Friday, June 15, 2012

The Relief of Pond's Landing

And so, at last, to the second of the battles fought in the Raid on the Tembe mini-campaign. The previous encounter saw the British column victorious after engaging the defenders of a Ukrazi tribe village. A day or so farther on, and a different situation has arisen.

That incorrigible merchant-adventurer Willoughby Pond, Esq, succeeded in establishing a trading emporium on the shores of the might Ukrazi River. Utilizing an abandoned Arab house on land owned by the friendly Kumyonda tribe, he surrounded it with a palisade and built a go-down (warehouse) and jetty for the goods which soon began to flow through his business.

Unfortunately for Pond, the Ukrazi tribe disputes ownership of the land. Furthermore, they had issued a warning to Pond the previous year detailing exactly what would happen to him should they catch him on "their" turf again. A recent defeat at Pond's hands notwithstanding, the Ukrazi are still sore at this upstart white interloper - and Pond no longer has his infernal battle machine with him...

Cut now to the British column, plodding its weary way through Africa's infernal heat. Captain Fred Pike of the Barsetshire Regiment is satisfied at the performance of most of his men so far, although one signally failed to come up to snuff. 

Lance-Corporal Powell, previously known as "Nosher" for his voracious appetite, now has the alternate nickname of "Moses." Pike, the adopted son of a Church of England parson, named the hapless non-com thus, for like the Biblical patriarch, Powell "wandered forty days and nights in the wilderness," after taking the wrong path to the previous skirmish, and failed to show up until the battle was well over.

It could've had serious repercussions in the fight. Powell's section formed a third of the composite platoon's numbers and half of its best fighting strength. Needless to say, Captain Pike resolved to make sure Powell wouldn't get lost in future.

Around mid-morning, the sound of sporadic gunfire begins to carry on the south-easterly breeze. "What do you think that's in aid of, Sergeant?" Pike asked CSM Harrington. 

Harrington pushed his pith helmet back on his head and gazed in the direction of the distant river. "I suspect it's coming from half a dozen or so muskets, sir. The timing suggests a skirmish of some kind, rather than a hunting party."

"Who do you think is out there?" 

"I'm not rightly sure, sir." Harrington rubbed the sweat from his neck and face with a grubby handkerchief and regarded his Captain with a wry smile. "Rumor has it an old friend of ours has established himself in these parts."

Pike looked blank for a moment then realization dawned. He groaned. "Oh, no! Not him!" He shook his head. "Very well, Sergeant, break out the ammunition and issue sixty rounds apiece."

Harrington saluted and went about his business. Pike stood and listened to the distant musketry, slapping at mosquitoes and cursing quietly under his breath. Within fifteen minutes Harrington returned, his expression clouded. "Sir, I beg to report a problem with the ammo. Some silly bugger in ordinance allowed the cases to get wet. The cartridges are corroded."

Pike stared at the non-com. "Is any of it usable?"

Harrington shook his head. "I'm afraid not, sir. All we have is what the men already have in their pouches. I've checked, and it amounts to four rounds apiece, shared out, like."

Pike uttered a soft exclamation that would've brought his schoolboy self a severe hiding from his foster father. He rubbed his jaw and thought hard. "We'll get to the river and signal the Lady Cynthia for resupply. For now, we'll have to do what we can with what we've got. Get the men fallen-in. We'll advance momentarily..."   


The initial set-up.

Pond's Landing, with native deployment and a pod of interested hippos.

The Barsetshires arrive on the scene, the Ukraziland Rifles coming through the wood on their flank. Harrington waves the men forward.

Harrington is all too aware of the need to conserve ammunition, yet a golden opportunity presents itself as his section encounters an unwitting warband.

With tribal musketmen sniping ineffectively from the brush, the war leader decides to take the bull by the horns. With an ear-splitting shriek, the warband rushes the gate.

Most of the doughty defenders stand their ground atop the house, leaving a pair of guards to defend the gate itself. Pond's Dutch lady friend Miss Calida van Wert lets loose with her shotgun at a promising target.
A volley reduces the warband to near-impotence. Pike leads 1st section up on Harrington's flank.
All too aware of the ammunition shortage, Pike gets the bit between his teeth. Bayonets fixed, he leads his men in a fierce charge that slams into the warband. 

Unable to resist the fury of the Barsetshires, the tribesmen break and flee.

Over at the gate, the situation becomes desperate as the tribesmen break in.
Pike spares a few rounds for a volley to drive the warband away from the palisade.

Harrington also uses some precious ammo to the same end. Casualties on the warband are few, but, loaded with shock, they won't stand and fight any longer.

The shrieking warriors trample on one defender. His mate dead, the survivor makes a break for the stairs but is cut down in turn. Only the little band on the rooftop can stem the tide now - if they can.  
After a brief flurry, Miss Calida van Wert shows it's possible...
And help is at hand! Inspired by their victory, Pike and his men charge for the gates, catching the tail end of the warband as it tries to enter the compound. 
Between a rock and a hard place. The warriors stand their ground but fall beneath the sword and bayonets.

The end. In the skirmish that won him his nickname, "Furious Fred" Pike and his men break through the press and engage the remaining warriors, as Harrington deals with the musketmen and wards against further interference.
Trapped between the British redcoats and the stubborn defenders of the house, the leader of the warband asks for quarter.

Pike saw to the disposition of his men and the roundup of prisoners, before climbing the stairs to be greeted by the merchant, whose relief was evident on his face. Pike managed a smile for the man. 
"So, we meet again, Mr. Pond..." 

As evening fell on the bloody day, the surviving tribesmen met other bands of their fellows. A conference of tribal leaders and the witchdoctor sat around a solitary camp fire, and discussed the situation.

"The red soldiers are too much for us," a sub-chief complained. "Our men fall like a wildebeest before a pride of lions."

"We must fight harder!" a chieftain insisted, stabbing at the ground with his spear. 

"No," the witchdoctor said quietly, his tone cutting through the growls of agreement like a knife. 

"What would you have us do?" the Chieftain protested.

The witchdoctor stared into the flickering flames, reading who knew what in the images. "We don't fight harder," he said. "We fight smarter..."


Bluebear Jeff said...

Another lively little affair. However what a nasty bit of business with the ammo, eh? Someone should pay for that . . . but won't, I'm sure.

-- Jeff

Fitz-Badger said...

What Jeff said.
Excellent report and looks like fun!

Scottswargaming said...

A very entertaining read, what rules were used?

A J said...

Thanks, gents! Scott, the rules are Sharpe Practice, with some adaptations to suit the period.

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