Sunday, June 28, 2009

North West Frontier

Colonel Smythe's reconnaissance in force crosses Selmond River. Seaforth Highlanders advance in square as they await their turn to ford the river. 9th Bengal Lancers preceed them.

Major General Pettygree summoned Colonel Smythe to his office and informed him that rumors of Tug unrest in the Selmond Valley required some investigation. To that end, he ordered Colonel Smythe to lead a recon in force to cross the Selmond and establish a base camp atop of Hill 610 and to report back with his progress as soon as practicable. Smythe selected the following units to comprise his expedition:

1st Sikh Battalion - 7 coys (72 figures)
1/9th Bengal Lancers - 3 sqds (36 figures)
1st Mountain Battery - 4 sections

The Royal Berkshires - 9 coys (108 figures)
The Seaforth Highlanders - 5 coys (62 figures)

The Sikh infantry and cavalry were rated as Veterans, the Mountain Battery was Elite, and the two British regiments, both newly arrived at Fort Grant, were rated as Trained.

Colonel Smythe was advised that enemy forces could arrive from any direction (front, rear or flanks). Accordingly, he formed his infantry into moving squares as it entered Tug territory, preceeded by the advance guard of Sikh foot and horse.

The 1st Sikh Battalion forms a protective bridgehead on the far bank of the Selmond River crossing. The 1/9th Bengal Lancers are seen fording the river.

The Royal Berkshires (foreground) and the Seaforth Highlanders await their turn to ford the river. Infantry figures from Connoisseur Miniatures, sculpted by Peter Gilder.

Negotiating one's way through a defile is always dangerous business. The 1st Sikhs clear the woods on both sides while the Seaforth Highlanders send a company ahead in open order to screen the passage of the Mountain Battery. Two squadrons of Bengal Lancers protect the rear of the party.

A band of Hostiles await the passage of the Advance Guard through the defile.

The column emerges from the defile with 1st Sikhs operating out front in open order. To their left, a company of Highlanders screens the deployment of the Mountain Battery atop a well-sited knoll. The rest of the Seaforth Highlanders are marching through the defile, ready to deploy on the plain to the left of the Sikhs.

The Seaforth Highlanders deploy into line just in time to receive a charge from the Black Guard of Surat Khan (who had been occupying Hill 610). The Highlanders barely have time to let loose a rapid fire volley before the Tugs are upon them. Colonel Smythe can be seen on the knoll at the right next to the Mountain Battery.

Colonel Archibald Sinclair of the Seaforth Highlanders had only arrived in The Raj a few short weeks ago. Five companies had been sent to increase the garrison at Fort Grant, while the remaining four companies were en route from the Homeland. Colonel Sinclair had welcomed the opportunity for his men to gain some experience on this mission, but he wasn't certain how well the lads would perform in their first battle. He was about to find out as the personal Black Body Guard of the sadistic Surat Khan swarmed over the crest of Hill 610 and continued to run down hill towards the defile. The Mountain Battery scored a few hits among the Tugs, but they moved so fast that they could only fire off a single volley. The Highlanders delivered a point blank volley into the screaming Tugs as they hurdled down the hill and into the thin khaki & tartan line of Highlanders.

The Seaforth' s get initiated to the fighting ways of the fierce Tugs in a desparate hand to hand melee. The Highlanders get pushed back a short ways after the initial onslaught, but they hold a firm line and continue the fight. Company E is seen on the left hand side of the picture. It would eventually charge into the flank and rear of the Tug attack and send them home.

Colonel Sinclair (on horseback), with Piper McLean at his side, directs his reserve of Company E into the fray.

Colonel Sinclair was getting a little bit nervous as the lads retired 50 paces and presented their bayonets to the furious foes. He ordered Piper McLean to play a lively tune, "Black Bear", to get the blood of the Highlanders up for the next round of melee. He also ordered his one reserve, Company E, to work its way around the flank and rear of the Tugs and give them a fire and bayonet charge combination.

The Black Guard gives it one last push, but they can not budge the steady Seaforths. The left flank of the Tug unit is shattered by Company E's addition to the fight and the whole band is seized with a panic and retreats back to Hill 610.

The Black Guard can not resist the weight of British numbers, now reinforced by Company E, and they rout away from the fight. The Highlanders hold their ground, rather than pursue, and raise a loud "Huzzah" as the enemy retreats.

Colonel Sinclair looks through his field glasses and sees ever larger hoards of Tugs assembling on the horizon. It looks like Imperials won't be camping atop Hill 610 this evening. Colonel Smythe has seen the same thing and is already in the process of ordering the 1st Sikhs and the Mountain Battery to retire back to the Selmond ford. Lieutenant Vickers rides up to Sinclair and hands a paper of new orders to him from Colonel Smythe. The Seaforths are to fall back into the defile and cover the retreat of the army as it attempts to reach the near side of the river bank. Unbeknownst to Sinclair, Tug cavalry has broken through behind them and will eventually wipe out the Mountain Battery as heads unprotected towards the fords. The 1st Sikhs finally have enough of the fight and run away, leaving the Seaforths to fend for themselves. Nevertheless, the Highlanders maintain their cool, retiring by companies and turning around to fire volleys at the pursuing Tugs (who don't care to get too close).

As the sun begins to creep below the horizon, the last of the Highlanders make their way across the Selmond ford to safety. Their first battle, while a tactical loss, proved their meddle and their coolness under fire. Major General Pettygree would certainly be pleased with the performance of his new regiment.

We used a new variant of Bill Protz's BAR rules for this colonial game, so most of the players were already familiar with the basic mechanics of movement, firing and melee. So there was not much in the way of a learning curve for us. I commanded my own Seaforth Highlanders ( I painted up a fifth company of 12 figures the day before, thank goodness) and the Mountain Battery. I found the artillery to be relatively useless and relied on rifle fire to do the dirty work for me. I thought that the melee with the Tugs worked fairly well, although I came within one pip on the dice of routing after receiving the most casualties (11 Highlanders vs 9 Tugs) during the first round of melee. I won the second round and drove off the Tugs. Then it was time to high-tail it back to the ford. This was the first play test of the BAR variant rules for 19th Century Colonials, so there were a few things to tweak and adjust, but on the whole, I found the rules to be very enjoyable to play and look forward to giving it a go again.

I'm sure that there will be more news of the battle on Major General Pettygree's blog within the next several days.


  1. Looks great!
    p.s are you going to share the amendments eventually with us?

  2. Excellent report! Stuff like this tempts me to get back into Colonial gaming (some day...).

  3. I'm letting Bill do all of the heavy lifting for the Colonials. All that I have painted is the one regiment of Highlanders and eventually I will add two squadrons of cavalry. And that's it. They are for my own personal use in Bill's games. If I need more figures, then I can use Bill's figures. Easy peasy, eh?

  4. Nice battle report! Well done!


  5. A direct hit on the "colonial bug" I've been having lately! Love the big units.

  6. This is one of those time-periods wherein one can get by with a few large units, if one wants to. As long as rules don't make morale brittle, a good game results.