Friday, October 7, 2011

The Attack on Yabhouti

In the hour before dawn, two dhows manned by British soldiers approach the shore near the slaver port of Yabhouti. All is quiet. No lights show in the town. Its denizens sleep peacefully, unaware of the coming might of the British Empire.

The red dhow under the direct command of Lt. Fred Pike.

Propelled by the fitful pre-dawn sea breeze, the green dhow under the command of Sgt. Albert Harrington follows in the leader's wake.

The two dhows containing the attacking force made their way to shore without incident, the red dhow grounding on the beach south of the town as planned. As the green dhow approached difficulties arose. Thanks to the inexperience of the soldiers manning her, they only avoided a collision with the lead vessel by running alongside her port side. Unfortunately, this placed them on the beach directly in front of a mass of scrub trees.  

The British stumble ashore, the landlubbers of the Barsetshire Regiment all too glad to tread dry land again. In spite of attempts by Lt. Pike and his NCOs to keep order, the confusion of landing causes noise. Over at the town gate, a sleepy wangwana sentry rouses himself and peers into the darkness toward the beach.   

As Harrington directs his men to skirt the blockage caused by the mountain gun, the sentry at the gatehouse sees starshine glinting off bayonets. Certain someone's out there by the shore who shouldn't be, he raises his musket to his shoulder and fires a warning shot into the air.   

The shot rings out loud in the African night, stilling the insects in the trees. Up in the watchtower, the Sheik's deputy, Mehmet Ali, stirs himself. Taking a party of men he heads for the battlements and peers toward the town. The sentry's shouts can be heard, and he seems to be saying something about intruders. Beneath the tower, the stealthy tread of many feet show an ally has also heard the alarm, and is moving from their camp in the valley to investigate. Mehmet Ali settles down to await reports.

Frustrated by the alarm being raised so soon, Pike grits his teeth. He can practically feel the sun getting ready to climb over the horizon behind him, and urges his men to greater speed before daylight exposes them to greater danger. Finally, they shake themselves into order and head up off the beach in rough column, aiming toward their target.

The tower looms up against the night sky -- but Pike sees movement in the darkness ahead and stops his men in their tracks. A party of natives has appeared between the attackers and their target. Seeing no other recourse, Pike gives the order for those who can to open fire, action front. Martin-Henry rifles bark -- screams and groans mark targets struck and injured.

In the town, the sentry's shot calls forth the rest of the wangwana garrison. Another askari takes post in the embrasure. With the first light of dawn exposing the crowd of red coated soldiers on the shore, the two men open fire.

The tower garrison also benefits from the growing light, and the rifle flashes of the attackers below mark their position nicely. As of one thought, they unleash a full volley. The Barsetshire soldiers curse and duck as musket balls pepper the ground around them. Full of pep the minute before, they waver under the onslaught even though no one is hit. 

Sgt. Harrington's orders are to screen the flank of the attacking party from the town, and that's just what he sets out to do. Barking orders, he leads his men in column at the jog toward the gate. A man is struck by fire from the walls and falls wounded, but the Soldiers of the Queen move forward unfazed. 

Lt. Pike sees his chance of surprise is lost, but the poor accuracy of fire from the tower gives him hope. "Steady, lads!" he shouts. "They have the rising sun in their eyes. They can't see us for toffee! And see there..." He points at their erstwhile target, a band of local natives higher up the slope. "Those fellows have had enough and are falling back. Advance when I call, and the day will be ours!"

To his right, a full volley crashes out, raising echoes from the town walls. Sgt. Harrington has dealt with the sentries at the embrasures in the most expeditious way, and they now measure their length on the parapet.

Pike's analytical mind sees a definite advantage for his men. Although the geography restricts them to column for the moment, the tower's position on the ridge allows the entire section to fire up at it. A few quick orders and the Barsetshires open fire, smothering the firing loops with accurate rifle fire.

At that moment Mehmet Ali decides the time is ripe to use his battle winner - a four barrel rocket launcher purchased through various nefarious means and loaded with Congreve-type rockets. He orders his men to fire the first shot. With a hiss and roar the missile leaves the tube - and disappears southward, causing no harm to man or beast.  

Having cleared the wangwana from the battlements, Harrington leads his men forward. The chosen landing ground is more constricted than anticipated, and he sees no advantage to remaining in the open. He orders three men to begin battering down the gate. The old wood is rotting and sun-bleached, and soon begins to give way.

In the street beyond, the wangwana leader has seen his men shot down, and knows exactly what awaits the other side of the wall. Steadying his askari, he waits in firing line for the first soldiers to come through the gate.

The rocket surprises the British troops at first, but its lack of accuracy is reassuring. Bugler Bates sounds the advance, and the soldiers of Barsetshire run up the slope to the tower's door. Another volley from the tower brings down two of their number but they carry on regardless. 

Out to sea, a large silhouette can be seen against the rising sun. HMS Arthur has closed the shore with naval punctuality, and stands by to give fire support if needed.

The Coming of Arthur.

At the tower door, days of practice pay off when the petard is emplaced and primed swiftly. The section retreats to cover behind a stack of goods in the nick of time. The device explodes, a little prematurely, shattering the door. Private Burke later commented "It was so close, I felt it scorch my bloomin' arse!"

Sgt. Harrington's section forces open the door, to be met with a crashing volley from the wangwana.  In a fierce exchange of fire, two of his men fall before the doughty wangwana are killed to a man. 

The native levy's defence proves all in vain. With Corporal Gedge's section providing covering fire, Pike and his men rush the door. The explosion killed all the defenders on the lower level, and the effects of the earlier suppressive fire can be seen from the bodies littering the floors by the firing loops. Within minutes the tower is in British hands, and the Union Flag flies above the battlements. Their primary means of defence lost, the remaining warriors of Sheik Yabhouti slip away -- to fight another day.

The town of Yabhouti in British hands.
* * *
So there we have it - a British victory. I'll post some thoughts on mechanisms and the game play soon.


Chris Stoesen said...

Good write up. Sounds like a fun game. I really like the Dhows. Good stuff.

Furt said...

Very nicely done and with such good looking toys! Love the little town in particular.My only complaint is the lack of larger pictures - would love to have seen some close-ups.


Cindy A. Matthews said...

Thanks, gentlemen! Furt, I'll see what I can do about some close-ups for you next week.

Tim said...

A very nice write-up! Looks like you had a fun game. The town looks great!

MiniMike said...

Good looking game and an enjoyable report. Cheers, Michael

A J said...

It certainly was fun. I'll post a write up on the game and how the Sharp Practice rules ran later this week.

Bluebear Jeff said...

A good write-up, AJ. I will be interested in your thoughts on "Sharp Practice".

I am currently using "The Sword and the Flame" rules for my Colonial campaign.

-- Jeff


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