Monday, January 28, 2019

Sudan: Battle of Gebeit - part one

Major General Graham suspected the Mahdist forces in the Eastern Sudan would not let the passage of his army through their territory go unchallenged, and so it proved. As his column approaches the small town of Gebeit and its vital water supply, Hadendowah and Ansar warriors alike begin to appear all around. Fortunately a signal flashes from a hill above the distant town, showing friendly forces are also at hand.

Friendly Amarar tribesmen look out across the Gebeit valley as their Imperial allies approach in the distance.
With two squadrons of the 5th Lancers and one of the 19th Hussars out scouting ahead, Graham feels confident he will reach and secure Gebeit. 

The lancers soon find trouble. Their first squadron comes under fire from a hundred or so Mahdist marksmen lurking by a rocky outcrop.

In the meantime the Amarar camelry descend from the heights, aiming to reconnoitre the town. Is it as deserted as it appears to be?

As the lancers ride nearer the marksmen, a more worrying vision appears out of heat haze, dust and scrub - some three hundred Ansar cavalry, desert warriors all, riding down upon the infidel. The tough Irishmen grip their lances and apply spurs to their mounts. The squadrons break into a trot. After their long posting in India it's high time they saw real action.

The 'rising tripples' sound and the 1st squadron of Lancers surge forward...

Overview of the cavalry deployment.

Another group of Mahdist marksmen had appeared on the left flank. Now they lurk the other side of a sand filled old wadi, and their sniping fire is causing casualties among the 19th Hussars. Their commanding officer knows he has to do something about the situation before many more saddles are emptied. He orders a charge, but it's slowed by the rocks and soft going.

On the right flank the lancers crash through their opponents, tearing the shocked Mahdists from the saddle. In a brief and vicious melee the lancers burst through the enemy cavalry and career on into the marksmen beyond, taking them utterly by surprise. Pinned in place and disordered, the Mahdist cavalry are sitting ducks for the 2nd squadron.

Marksmen and enemy cavalry alike fall easy prey to the lancers and are wiped out. Blown by the two fierce combats within minutes of each other the 1st squadron sits to recover - but to their dismay somewhere approaching five hundred fierce Hadendowah arrive on the scene...

Meanwhile on the left flank, the hussars have charged in, but the fight is not going their way. The marksmen are putting up an unexpectedly hard fight, and more hussars die in the desert dust.

Over in Gebeit, the Amarar find the town deserted and spread out to occupy the place. A band of Hadendowah watch from a distance.

The 1st squadron Lancers can't avoid combat, but the clash is brief. Realising they can't stand against the enemy the Colonel orders a hasty withdrawal.

The 1st squadron succeeds in pulling out of the fight and joins the 2nd squadron. The Hadendowah are pleased to have driven off the ferenghi horsemen. Now they decide to test matters with the infantry of the column.

But the affair isn't over for the 5th Lancers. As their depleted squadrons cross the front of the Egyptian troops, by a rotten twist of fate another large band of Mahdist horsemen appear close by and directly ahead. Again, the lancers are unable to evade, and the enemy charge in. The fight is quick and merciless. As the last cries die away the two squadrons of the 5th Lancers lie in the dust.

Encouraged by their comrades' success against the infidel, the Hadendowah charge, their terrible war cry ululating across the plain. The Grenadier Guards, bored by the long trek through the desert, perk up and prepare to give them a hot reception.

Up, Guards, and at 'em!
Perhaps it was all a case of mistaken identity. Perhaps the Hadendowah saw the Egyptian troops tagging along behind the guardsmen and took the Grenadiers in their pale and dusty tunics to be more of the same. After all, the Hadendowah were used to running down and obliterating the hapless askari of the Egyptian army, those fellaheen conscripted in chains and sent to a far and hellishly hot place to serve and be forgotten. They had never encountered British soldiers. Perhaps as the Hadendowah charged they wondered why the troops they charged down upon didn't loose off a few frantic shots at long range as usually happened before running for their lives...

The measured volleys crash out as the men from Birdcage Walk earn their pay with disciplined fire at close range. A and F companies didn't bother to so much as level their weapons, instead looking on with interest as their colleagues did the brutal business of war.

Brave to a fault, the Hadendowah die to a man beneath the rifles of the Grenadier Guards. As the powder smoke fades in the desert breeze, it's plain the threat is no more.

"Bloody hell!" A shocked voice from the nearby Egyptian company breaks the silence as an officer tries out his English language skills.

General Graham stationed the Egyptians to the rear of the Guards battalion to stiffen their morale, and the Grenadiers showed a rough, soldierly sympathy for the Egyptian troops. Now the recent demonstration showing the dreaded Mahdists could not only be beaten but annihilated gives the askari new resolve-and they will need it. Attracted by the firing, further enemy appear out of haze and scrub.

The two companies of the 1st Egyptian battalion level their Remington rifles and, with two quite decent volleys, succeed in killing most of the enemy cavalry and driving away the survivors. Now they await the advance of the enemy infantry...

As usual with that arm of service, once in battle the British cavalry displayed more enthusiasm than is wise. General Graham has lost most of his cavalry force, and has yet to reach Gebeit. What adventures lie in wait for the column as it nears its destination? All will be revealed soon...


Carlo said...

Now that’s a brilliant AAR AJ - stirring stuff. Looks your wonderful narrative and the collections looks sensational. Very enjoyable read.

A J said...

Thank you kindly, Carlo. I try to bring a narrative to each game, and the Sudan games seem especially open to such. More to come!


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