Friday, March 26, 2021

Bad News In The Sudan - The Movie


Head Cinematogher, Der Alte Fritz Himself visits the Sudan.


I was thrilled to be able to throw dice and move figures around the table last evening as I journeyed to Chez Protz and the Pettygree Barracks to play a wargame. We staged a game with our 54mm toy soldiers featuring the British Camel Corps versus the wily Osman Digna in the Sudan.

The game was an excuse for me to pick up all of the figures that I left at the Pettygree Barracks last October, when we last convened for a wargame. We kept this game purposely small with only three players and proper social distancing. Our week day wargames always have a hard stop at 9PM so that there is time to pack figures, load up the car, and return home at a reasonable hour. I think that this is a good idea.

I elected to play Osman Digna's Beja and Haddendoa warriors from the eastern littoral area of the Sudan that is bordered by the Red Sea. Ostensibly, elements of the British Camel Corps were retreating back to a port on the Red Sea where they would board Royal Navy transport vessels and sail home to Olde Blighty. The Beja et al were pursuing the Camel Corps and ushering them out of their lands.

The initial deployment of forces on the table top. The Camel Corps are at the far end of the table
and the Dervish are in the foreground

"Escape From Suakin" - the movie

I will let the pictures and the captions tell the story in our exciting movie. There were no animals hurt during the production. Our film is based on a screen play by der Alte Fritz 

Our story begins with a close up shot of Richard Caton Woodville, Jr. who is the noted artist employed by The Illustrarted London News. Caton Woodville and his film crew scan the horizon looking for signs of a large Dervish army commanded by Osman Digna.

Times correspondent and illustrator, Caton Woodville (mounted), and his photographer
 were on hand to record the events of the day.

Narrator (James Earl Jones): The Crown Forces had set up a skirmish line of Camel Corps troopers ahead of a wet donga, where the main battle line formed. The skirmishers would fall back to the main battle line before the Beja closed in on them. Should the line along the donga become precarious then the Camel Corps were to execute a fighting withdrawal to the beaches and hope that the gunboats and transports arrived on time.

(Sound of war drums in the distance. A cloud of dust can be seen along the distant horizon. The dust cloud gets larger and larger as it approaches the British front lines. We pan back to Caton Woodville and we see what he now sees).

The Beja have been sighted by the Egyptian Lancers, who ride back to the
Camel Corps skirmish line to give them the news of their discovery.

The natives move rather quickly, eh wot?
The Camel Corps skirmish line must fall back before they are overwhelmed.

Armies In Plastic ("AIP") 54mm plastic Beja warriors are on the move!
The Camel Corps skirmishers skedaddled just in time.

The Egyptian Lancer reach the safety (really?) of the main Camel Corps battle line, deployed behind a wet dongha.

A close up view of the AIP Egyptian Lancers, expertly painted by Major General Pettygree.

(The camera pans back from the action, showing the sea port and the panoply of the battlefield)

Overhead view of the table top showing the Camel Corps battle line and the
 port  area where, hopefully, the transport ships await.
Major Glenbrook and his batman scan the horizon for the Royal Navy transports and gunboats..

(The tune "Rule Britannia" plays as the British gunboat steams towards the sea port)

The vanguard of the fleet arrives and attempts to navigate the harbor,
which is filled with many a treacherous sand bar.

(Music fades as the camera focuses in on a battle line of Camel Corps soldiers)

Three companies of Camel Corps and a section of Navy Gatling Guns defend the high ground.
The British troops have pulled back from the untenable position behind the donga.

The Beja surge over the donga. It's a good thing that the Camel Corps fell back to the next position.
The Beja war band second from the left has lost two stands of ten figures from a 50-figure unit.
The British concentrated their fire on one or two groups of warriors so as to whittle them down.
Should they close with 40 to 50 warriors, the British chances of surviving the melee are slim.

The left wing of the British army holds their ground closer to the donga.

Narrator (James Earl Jones): The British left wing held off the Beja for much of the contest, but eventually the Beja drew within charging distance and closed into contact with the Camel Corpsmen. Alas, the latter were obliterated by the ferocious Beja and the few British survivors fled for their lives to the beaches.

The left wing has a Gatling Gun and one company of Camel Corps.
The Beja can be seen amid the trees.

Bill P. (left) and Chuck the Lucky (right) take stock of their British forces.

Narrator (James Earl Jones): Meanwhile, back to the action in the center and on the right wing of the Crown Forces:

Egyptian Lancer spy an opportunity to charge into the flank of a Beja warband.

Tacka, tacka, tacka, here come the Lancers.
They crash into the flank of the Beja, who seem nonplussed by it all;
the Lancers are repulsed.

CUT!!!! The film director is very upset. Hey Lancers, you did not follow the script. You were supposed to win the melee! The scene will have to be refilmed later.

The right wing of the British force prepares to receive the Beja charge.
Note the Egyptian Lancers charging into the flank of the mob.

It's Picture Time! The 54mm toy soldiers are so photographic.
The gunboat is still trying to negotiate the sand bars in the harbor, rendering no help to the Crown Forces.

The grand finale of the battle; this is the stuff of legends and Victoria Crosses.

While the Beja - Lancer melee reaches a conclusion, another band of Beja crash into end of the right wing.

A desperate struggle finds six stalwart Camel Corpsmen from Sussex staving off the savage surge. Two go down and four live to fight a few more minutes. The Beja are pushed back.

Fresh from having defeated the Lancers, the Beja regroup and attack the Camel Corps
troopers who are hunkered down behind a wall of camels. The four remaining Sussex heros lend their weight to the fight.

Colonel Fred Burnaby wades into the Beja hoard, seeking glory and fame.
Now we are back on script.


Narrator (James Earl Jones): The British left wing was demolished by the Beja, but the right wing and center fended off the Beja and gave hope that they might successfully leave this dry, bloody and foresaken land. Osman Digna listened to the whistle of Royal Navy artillery shells overhead and decided that he had done a good day's work and it was time to melt back into the landscape and allow the remaining Camel Corps to leave his lands. 


I hope that you enjoyed our film today. Stay tuned for Part III of The Sudan Campaign movies.


Major Glenbrook.................Wm. Protz

Captain Cavendish...............Chuck the Lucky

Osman Digna.......................Der Alte Fritz

Richard Caton Woodville....Hugh Grant

Freddy Burnaby...................Liam Neeson

Mrs. Glenbrook....................Emma Watson

Bobby the Dog.....................Rocket

Director & Producer............Wm. Protz

Costumes - British...............William Britains' and Trophy of Wales

Costumes - Beja...................Armies In Plastic and John Jenkins Designs

Cinematography...... ............James Purky

Film Editor...........................James Purky

Dialogue Coach......... .........Henry Higgins

Film Location(s) ................Wisconsin and Morocco 

Based on a screen play by Der Alte Fritz.


  1. Ah! Just the thing for a Friday evening. The account of your game (and 'stills') brought a smile to my face.

    Best Regards,


  2. Another classic! Thank you very much.


  3. Sorry for the double posting!


  4. A very exciting (and entertaining) description of a fascinating game. Looking forward to Part III!

  5. We are so very glad you could break away Jim into the wild and strange interior of African Sudan. Twas a classic story of desperation against impossible odds as soldiers of the Queen awaited embarkation for home, to England --- when an energized host appeared to prevent their escape.
    Bill P.
    Chronicler for The Adventures of General Pettygree

    1. Thank you for sharing your home pitch for the Sudan match.

  6. A most excellent write up of an excellent game.

  7. Wretched Autospell!! That should read "Well done to you all!" Doesn't correct the real typo's either! Excellent pictures and great figures. I do like the photographer model.

    1. It happens to me all the time. Autocorrect works when you don’t need it and it doesn’t work when you need it.

  8. A wonderful "Ripping Yarn", Jim. just like a thrilling afternoon at the movies! Well done tool, and looking forward to more Tales fromm the Sudan. Cheers to all, Rohan.

  9. Absolutely fabulous! Glad Professor Higgins was able to teach you the correct Sussex lingo and suitably British upper crust patriotic expressions. A wonderful account and I enjoyed my Sunday morning at the movies immensely. Thank you both Jim and Bill. Chris

    1. Thank you Chris. Sometimes it’s hard to take the Professor’s advice and limit conversation to the topics of Family and Weather. 😄

  10. Another beautiful and exciting game! Great narrative and photos. What will befall the Camel Corp next….