On Saturday I set up a fictional Crimean War battle for the guys to play with Paul umpiring and using his own Panoply of War rules. I’ve created a different narrative for this period whereby the allies decide to use the French to take Sebastopol on their own (and therefore probably with more success) while the British advance to the Ottoman-Russian frontier in Bulgaria to bolster the Turk’s defence and then press on to push the Russians away from Silistra and capture their fortress at Izmayil, thus strengthening the Ottoman hold on the Danube where it enters the Black Sea. Very fanciful but why not?
So, the Turks are deployed defending a fort armed with heavy guns able to command the Danube and discourage any hostile shipping from passing. They have a smallish force of six infantry battalions, a battery of guns and a cavalry brigade of two regular regiments. They also had some Bashi-Bazouks.
The Russian force was made up of my fictional 29th Corps under Lieutenant General Buggarov, comprising the 16 battalions of the 29th Division, six regiments of cavalry of the 29th Cavalry Division and the 29th Artillery Brigade. With hindsight I should have allowed the Russians some reinforcements as I still had two dragoon regiments and four infantry battalions in the box. Oh well.
The British expeditionary force was made up of the 1st (Guards and Highland brigades) and Light Divisions and the Light Brigade of cavalry. We played down the length of the table, which is nearly 14 feet long and 6 feet wide. The Turks were at one end, the British were at the other and the Russians in the middle. The latter had to hold of the British while trying to capture the fort and destroy the Ottoman troops before the British were able to interfere. Paul umpired while Dave (Major General Trupsov), Mike (CinC Buggarov) and I (Major General Nikolai Frankivali) were the Russians. John the Red the was the Ottoman General Yahya Kirmizi Pasha, and Conrad (Raglan) and Jim (Duke of Cambridge) the British.
Here are some pictures of the game with a brief narrative which will I hope give a good idea of how the game went. This is of course the ‘official’ Russian account of the engagement, but is not in least bit biased…….
|The Russian cavalry under my command, together with a substantial part of our artillery held the ridge with the intention of slowing the British advance lmg enough for the main body to deal with the Turks.|
|The Russian infantry stretch out into the distance, all16 battalions, under Mike and Dave.|
|Conrad and Jim’s British. What they lacked in numbers they more than made up for in quality. In the background you can see a surfeit of cupcakes, courtesy of the ever efficient commissary department.|
|Johns Turks held a nice little fort on the river bank. It would be a tough nut to,crack.|
|The British begin their advance, 1st Division on the right as you look at them, the Ligjt Division on the left and the Light Brigade to the rear.|
|One of the brigades making up the Light Division.|
|More of the British.|
|The British came on really quickly and were soon putting my Russians under some pressure. My Cossack horse artillery suffered from the rather effective fire of the Rifle Brigade and Royal Horse Artillery.|
|Dave and Mike made a very tortoise-like amble towards the Turks advancing heroically slowly, their feet dragging in the grass..|
|The view from behind the British advance.|
|Ottoman infantry ready to resist the Russian assault.|
|And the Ottoman cavalry was also keen to get into the fray….er sorry I read that wrong, it should have been keen to get away!|
|These were the chaps that broke my cavalry charge.|
|On the other flank the Guards were almost across the stream having driven my ineffective riflemen before them.|
|My battered cavalry recovered from their failed attack and began to withdraw in the face of the steel tipped line of redcoats.|
|Dave’s command finally changed into second gear and hit the Ottomans, although not before they had to deal successfully with some aggressive moves by their cavalry.|
|Smile please! The Middlesbrough Gazetteer’s not so famous war photographer Robert Mortimer in the thick of the action with his assistant Victor Reeves.|
|The Guards drove all before them, overrunning a battery of Russian artillery and almost catching another.|
|The Russians press the Turks hard. They have their backs to the river so will undoubtedly be a tough nut to crack.|
|Mike had been struggling to get his men to advance but they were slowly closing in on the redoubt.|
|I extracted my now almost leaderless cavalry, followed shortly after this picture was taken by the demise of my cavalry divisional commander (me on the table).|
|It’s that same bloody battalion again! They picked off my cavalry commander from afar with their Minie rifles.|
|In a final desperate attempt to slow the British my final cavalry brigade launched a suicidal charge against the British. They were shot down in droves and retreated, leaving their commander dead on the field of battle.|
|Dave holding John’s cavalry at bey (😫 groan).|
|The Ottoman battery was destroyed but a flank attack by their cavalry saw off a battalion of Russians.|
|It was all going wrong for the Russians.|
|The Ottomans in the fort.|
|The British kept their cavalry well to the rear, and as a consequence the only damage they suffered was to their outfits which would need a good clean in due course.|
|More of the Light Brigade.|
|HM 17th Lancers.|
It was pretty obvious that the valiant Russians would fail to defeat the Turks before the British technology rich infantry hit them in the rear, so an Allied victory was declared. It was despite that an enjoyable game, although the rules were ones unfamiliar to most of the players, and perhaps fighting down the length of the table was a bit ambitious on my part when working out the scenario. Anyway, we might even replay the game before I pack it all away, and this time I will not be leaving any Russians in the box!