Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Battle of Dundee's Zeriba

The Dervish emerge from the Acacia trees and get ready to charge the Oasis.
Click or Double Click all pictures to enlarge the view

While Lt. Simon Ward and his troop of Camel Corps were transporting their valuable passenger (Colonel Barlow) back to Dongala, they could hear the crackle of rifle fire in the distance. It was a sure sign that the Dervish had indeed launched a dawn attack against Major Dundee's zeriba at the Oasis of El-Dubie.

The Dervish had 70 sword and spearmen plus 10 rifles at their disposal for the attack, against a defending force of 40 British and 10 Sikh infantry. Only one unit of Beja warriors were rated as "fanatical" (saving throws on anything but a "1") as the rest were everyday run of the mill Ansar.

The first wave of three warbands (20-15-15 figures) emerged from the scrub bush and rushed the Oasis. However, the British had the advantage of rifles over melee weapons, which allowed them to thin down the ranks of the Dervish charge before it could reach the zeriba:

Turn 1 -   3 Dervish casualties
Turn 2 -   6 Dervish casualties
Turn 3 - 13 Dervish casualties
Turn 4 - 20 Dervish casualties

As you can see, the closer the Dervish got, the more casualties they took, losing 40 to riflery

Dervish charge Dundee's zeriba at the Oasis

Aerial view of the mass Dervish charge. The 21st Lancers support the flank of the British zeriba.

Dundee shifts all of his fire power around to the western side of the zeriba in order to train every possible rifle onto the Dervish charge.

While Lt. Simon Ward and his Camel Corps troopers were carrying their valuable cargo, Colonel Barlow, back to Dongala, a new battle erupted back at the Oasis of El-Dubie.

The Surreys and the Sikhs brace themselves for the impact of the charge.

The first British volley thins out the Dervish mass considerably.

Yet they still come on...

...but the result is inevitable  when steady hands calmly volley fire from behind a secure zeriba.

The 21st Lancers hew into the flank of one of the Dervish warbands.

The survivors rout! Some supporting Beja fanatics, decide that today is not a good day to die, so they pull up and watch the Ansar run past them.

The 21st Lancers resist the urge to pursue the foe (thankfully).

The British scored a lopsided victory, inflicting 42 casualties on the Dervish, while only losing 3 of their own (all of which came from the Lancers (2) and the skirmishers (1) of Colonel Burnaby's force. There were no British casualties inside the zeriba due to the fact that the Dervish were mostly cut down before they even reached their target. Only 2 of 50 Dervish made it as far as the zeriba. The game was over in four turns, so decisive was the action.

Major Dundee undoubtedly sent several messengers back to Dongala to report the events of the battle to Colonel Sinclair. Sinclair would send one of his gunboats down the Nile to the telegraph station so that the news could be relayed first to Cairo and then on to London. This more than made up for the setback that the British faced two weeks ago. In fact, Sinclair was considering keeping Dundee's force at the Oasis of El-Dubie and reinforcing it with several more companies. Another possibility was to build another zeriba half-way between Dongola and El-Dubie to secure the supply line from the base camp to the Oasis.

No matter how one looked at it, Dundee's victory gave the British campaign along the Nile a huge lift for it achieved the aim of securing the water wells at El-Dubie, but also gave the army a morale boost, while sapping the morale of the local Dervish forces.

It was time to go back on the offensive, reasoned Colonel Sinclair.

Final Notes

There will undoubtedly be another small skirmish within the next month, a sort of prelude to our next big toy soldier battle in the Sudan in late October 2016. British reinforcements continue to flow into the British camp at Dongola with the notable arrival of more Camel Corps and the Yorkshire & Lancashire Regiment at the camp.


  1. Sharp little engagement. Maybe the dervishes may change their attack style after that lesson ...

    1. The game highlights the need for the Dervish to attack with mass or. Overwhelming numerical advantage if the hope to win. We didn't even have a melee at the Oasis because the attackers were all cut down by fire. Melee is the one advantage that the Dervish have in the rules.

  2. Stunning photographs. Every single one. The story ain't bad either.

    Best Regards,


  3. Excellent series! Classic Old School action resolved on a striking desert table.

  4. A cracker - the Dervish need to mass more and make better use of terrain perhaps? Does the Mahdis army have any artillery?

    1. I don't have any Mahdist artillery yet. I might try to find some plastic Eqyptian artillerymen and use them as captured artillerists for the Mahdi.

  5. Suspense, color, several threads moving almost simultaneously and highly appealing terrain and toy soldiers woven into an interesting story. Cheers,
    Bill P.

  6. Fantastic games lads and I enjoyed the after action reports as well...Love the Sudan

  7. Ha, that looks loads of fun!
    Not my thing but could be...
    Best wishes,

    1. Jeremy: it gets very contagious very quickly. I can attest to that, LOL.

  8. Jim,
    Looks fantastic and it appears you have fallen under the Colonial spell. Especially playing with 54mm fantastic

  9. Really enjoyed this, the more I look at colonials, the more interested I become, love the naval brigade, ands I think the rules will work for my 40mm Napoleonics in Spain.