Monday, May 14, 2007

"Tipperary Mbali Sana Sana"

"Tipperary Mbali Sana Sana"*

*"It's a long, long way to Tipperary." King's African Rifles marching song, and also a favourite of the UBootwaffe (well, U-96 at any rate).

German Central Africa, 1916. With the Germans surrounded by land, and cut off from the sea by the British blockade, von Hanneken's forces seemed to be in a tight spot. Yet his guerilla army was still somehow receiving supplies from some unknown source. So Intelligence Man, amateur orthnithologist, bush fighter, female impersonator and general all-round nut-job, Dick Bremerhaven of the King's African Rifles was put on the case to find out exactly what was what. Taking with him Bremerhaven's Irregulars (also known as BAREFORCE) , he soon discovered a secret German U-Boat base, nestled deep within the Ufifi Delta. The dastardly Boche were breaking the blockade with submarines! So an ad-hoc force was quickly assembled to put a stop to this naughtiness.

Having had our fill of disasterous opposed landings, it was decided that a small Anglo-Belgian force would land some way off from the base, march over land, rendevous with BAREFORCE, and quickly overwhelm the defences and capture the U-Boat intact.

Unfortunately, German scouts spotted the approaching force, and so there was time to take up their prepared positions on the landward side. Although the defences were somewhat hastily prepared, the Germans would be waiting, and so there was the distinct prospect of a tough fight.

(click on pics for larger versions)

The German Defenders

On the German left were a section of askaris armed with obsolete black powder rifles.

The right was held by Naval Infantry under Leutnant von Domgoh. They were armed with Mauser rifles.

While in the centre was a Maxim gun under the command of cowardly Leutnant (formerly Hauptmann) Pete Koch. Long-time readers will recall we last saw him abandoning his men after ordering them to their deaths, during one of the lake battles of 1914. It was thought that he might do less harm if left in charge of only a machine-gun this time.

Out in the bush forward of the defences were Von Zoogla's Irregulars, a rum band of local Ruga-Ruga. They were lead by an eccentric German civilian nicknamed 'Von Zoogla' by his men (from the Swahili meaning "He who wanted his name put in a battle report"). Their job would be to delay and harass the enemy, and blunt their advance on the dock.

The object of the raid, submarine UB40. Commanded by the valiant Kapitanleutnant Westphalen, she was still being loaded with provisions for the return trip, after dropping off her supplies.

A gang of native porters had the job of loading the U-Boat. If they could complete their task in time, the U-Boat would be able to escape from the Allied attack. This mechanism would hopefully act as a countdown, and add extra tension to the game.

Finally, a great prize for the Allies, should they be able to grab him. Von Hanneken himself (with rifle), the famous German guerilla leader. If he were caught, surely all German resistance in this theatre would cease. Should it come to it, the German player had the option of letting von Hanneken flee in the U-Boat. He's seen here with the Askari colour-party, and his faithful assistant, von Bews.

Oh yes, the Germans also had an emplacement containing a 1pdr gun. But as it was situated to defend against attack coming from the direction of the delta, it wasn't in a position to play much of a part in the game.


The Raiders

The Anglo-Belgian task force arrived after its march through the swamps from the landing beach. Here we see some Welsh lads from the Brecknock and Radnorshire Workhouse Pals Battalion , lead by the plucky and dashing Sgt. Plynkes.

Next the brave boys of the King's African Rifles, under the command of Sgt. M'mala Mute, and complete with Lewis-gunner.

Two squads of Force Publique askaris made up the Belgian contingent.

BAREFORCE, commanded by Dick Bremerhaven (with revolver and Knobkerrie), with his trusty second-in-command Rick Rattrap. Rattrap was an American journalist, author, alcoholic, and big-game hunter, who found himself in British Central Africa at the start of the war, and helped form Bremerhaven's Irregulars. Already something of a famous name, after the war he will go on to write such classics as "The Schmoes of Kilimanjaro", "The Cuban Guy and the Fish" and "A Farewell to Legs." Well, if he survives this day he will.

Commanding the expedition, and seen posing in front of the Rolls-Royce armoured car that was included ( somewhat improbably) to provide some vital fire support, is Major H. "Squinty" Whitehouse, and his Belgian Second-in-command , Commandant Geudens.


The Game

Final tweaking of the German dispositions.

So, the Anglo-Belgians got the ball rolling, with the armoured car zooming ahead, the Belgians advancing on the left, the Brits on the right, and BAREFORCE down the middle. Von Zoogla's folorn hope of Ruga Ruga took cover in the bushes and waited for a target to present itself.

The advance got under way.

Spotting figures moving in the distance, the Germans opened the bowling with some long-range machinegun fire...

...Sending the Pals scurrying for cover. Some harsh words from the major would soon get them moving again, though.

Seeing the armoured car passing nearby, von Zoogla saw his chance for glory. He and his irregulars charged headlong at it, and began uselessly bashing it, and clawing at the hatches, trying to find a way in. They could find none...

Quickly moving into position to support the car, BAREFORCE opened fire on von Zoogla's men. Some particularly fine shooting from Rattrap's hunting rifle dropped several of them. The rest panicked and fled, including (to his eternal shame) von Zoogla himself. So much for that. The British irregulars had proved the betters of their German counterparts.

Meanwhile at the docks, the porters were bringing the first load of supplies into the submarine.

With the minor interruption of von Zoogla dealt with, the Allied players could now ponder how they would carry out the main assault. Which they did, ponderously...

30 minutes later...
The pondering continued. Slowly all the allied units took up their positions for the attack.

One Force Publique squad slowly worked its way into position on the left.

While the boys of the KAR moved into place on the right.

The plan of attack. Basically: Everybody charge! But with a little bit of nifty flanking down the one side. The armoured car would provide fire support. They had more than a 2-1 advantage in men and machine guns. Would it be enough?

Blow the whistle, ref! Let's get this thing going!

BAREFORCE had the honour of starting the charge. They broke from cover in the centre, followed by a squad of Force Publique...

...Right into the teeth of a storm of flying metal! Maxim and Mauser fire exploded all around them, sweeping the poor souls away like so many skittles. Almost immediately BAREFORCE were virtually wiped out. Bullet after bullet thudded into the massive frame of Rick Rattrap as he charged at the forefront of the attack. His twisted body fell, and lay on the bloody ground among the corpses his loyal men.

On the right the KAR and British were halted too, and had lost Sgt M'mala Mute to boot, so they exchanged fire with the enemy from the cover of the bushes. The Lewis gun was taking its toll, and the German Askaris were soon taking serious casualties. Bravely, they stood firm.

The survivors of BAREFORCE, including a stunned Bremerhaven , fell back into the cover of the bushes. They were shocked at the violent end of the big American they had all considered to be immortal. The Belgian squad, now half its original size, bravely struggled on. But everywhere along the line the attack had stalled.

On the left the flanking attempt failed, sent back the way it came by accurate Mauser fire from the German sailors.

With things seeming somewhat desperate, Sgt. Knox in the armoured car took matters into his own hands, speeding in front of the halted advance to give support with his Vickers MG and to draw some fire away from the infantry.

In the latter he succeeded better than he may have wanted, for suddenly the car was engulfed in hostile fire, bullets zinging about and bouncing off the armour all over the shop. One single round somehow managed to make its way into the crew compartment, and pinged around inside to the dismay and alarm of the crew. Nobody was hurt and no damage was done, but the experience was unnerving enough to make the crew bail out and cower pathetically behind the car.

With that, Major Whitehouse realised the game was up. The attack had failed miserably almost all the way along the line. The German left flank was terminally weakened, but the KAR and Pals couldn't exploit this fact due to the failure in the centre. They would still have to run the gauntlet of Maxim fire before reaching the enemy entrenchment. The major wasn't prepared to throw their lives away and so reluctantly called off the attack.

Von Hanneken had prevailed! And yet another loss to the literary world. Never would Rattrap's wonderful tales be known by a wider public. Well, they would actually, as Ernest Hemmingway would go on to steal all his ideas and then cover up his plagiarism by claiming Rick Rattrap never existed. Boo!

Butcher's Bill
6 Askaris
5 of von Zoogla's Irregulars
(3 Irregulars plus von Zoogla himself ran away)

Total Dead: 11

3 KAR (including Sgt. M'mala Mute)
5 Brecknock and Radnor Pals
7 Force Publique askaris
9 BAREFORCE (including Rick Rattrap)

Total Dead: 24

So there we are. That was our first game using the newish rules set "Price of Glory" from Iron Ivan Games. I think the rules work very well and it was most enjoyable. But realistically if you're going to assault troops that are dug in, you're going to need better than 2-1 odds, and probably some kind of artillery support, too. And they weren't even in a proper trench system, just light fortifications. The KAR did well, with the aid of their Lewis Gun, but the failures elsewhere rendered their success irrelevant. Perhaps if every squad had had a light machinegun, things might have been different.

Can't wait to play this game again, and to find out just what is needed to shift the Boche from a well-defended position. As the KAR seemed to have performed the best on the Allied side, we'll leave the last word to them, with another tune from the King's African Rifles Songbook:

(To the tune of Men of Harlech)

Haya! KAR askari,
Sasa kazi ya safari.
Kazi yako kazi gani?
Vita kali leo!
Amri ya Serikali!
KAR tayari...



tim said...


I laughed, I cried, I felt the urge to go paint some more askaris...

An excellent report as always!


charla said...

Once again, your game report and pics warmed the cockles of m' 'eart -especially since it's bl**dy freezin' today. Love the sporty tyres on the Roller.

freaky fre said...

like your battle reports, come and see my blog .

Guido said...

Thanks, chaps.

I did visit your Blog, Freaky Fre. But that scary Rat Warrior frightened me away.

We hates ratses!