Sunday, October 30, 2016

Battle of El Teb in the Sudan

British Heliograph & Signal Corps team  and Indian screw gun (Little Legion 54mm toy soldiers)

NOTE: click or double click all pictures to enlarge the view. They are spectacular when you look at the full size picture.

Yesterday six of us gathered in the cellar of Schloss Seewald to play with our toy soldiers, um I mean, to conduct a serious study and re-enactment of the Battle of El Teb, complete with all of the excruciating fine details.

Nah, we were just having some fun with our toy soldier collections. It is nice to get the big 54mm figures out on the tabletop every once in awhile because they are fun to play with and they photograph nicely. This was a real visual treat.

El Teb was fought in the eastern Sudan on February 24, 1884 between the British force commanded by Lt. General Sir Gerald Graham, VC. and the Mahdist forces commanded by the wily Osman Digna. Historically, the battle was a British victory and was also the first encounter with the Dervish. Enough of the potted history, let's get on with the wargaming! The story will be told through the picture captions of the pictures below.

British scouting outpost established to the east of Suakin. Its apparent isolation was to be the bait that would draw Osman Digna to battle.

The view towards the village of El Teb as seen from the British outpost.

Dervish camel riders observe the goings on in the British camp.
A patrol of Camel Corps signal back to the camp that they have found Osman Digna's army. The Camel Corps mounted figures are from Red Box Miniatures and the foot soldiers are from Little Legion.

A scouting patrol of Camel Corps was sent out into the desert from the outpost to see if they could find any signs of Osman Digna's army of Beja, Haddendowa and other Eastern Sudan tribes. These were the famed and fierce "Fuzzy Wuzzies", so named due to their distinct hair style.

With the location of Osman Digna's army, General Graham ordered the brigades of Sinclair (newly promoted to brigadier general from colonel) and Sir Charles Barclay to advance towards El Teb and attempt to attack the Dervish on their left flank. Sinclair's brigade square would lead the advance, with Barclay's brigade square initially "refused" on the right flank.

Captured Krupp gun and Egyptian gun crew overseen by several Dervish to provide "encouragement". This gun played havoc on the British forces as they marched towards El Teb.
In our previous game, the Dervish howled and complained about the lack of artillery in their army. So being the Good Host that I am, I drafted an Egyptian Krupp gun crew into Osman Digna's army and added a couple of Dervish officers to keep the Egyptians from running away.

This sole gun seemed to have Sinclair's Brigade zeroed in with its sites all day and I lost the majority of my casualties from the artillery fire of this one gun. Yikes! I don't care to run into that death machine again. My Gatling Guns did not have the range to reply to the Krupp's fire for several turns. So I sent a company of skirmishers out ahead of the square and they were able to mow down 3 of the 4 gun crew (the Dervish officers having bolted before the British skirmishers fired), causing the Krupp to fall back below the crest of the ridge where they were deployed.

An abandoned sugar refinery - the boiler is all that remains, but the site provides good cover for  Dervish riflemen.

Brigadier General Sinclair's square of Camel Corps and the York & Lancaster Regiment, augmented by some Naval gun crews manning the Gatling Guns. These figures are the Britains "War on the Nile" range of large matte painted figures.

A close up (a Selfie?) picture of one of the Navy Gatling Guns (Trophy Miniatures) and the Camel Corps.

A 16-figure squadron of the 21st Lancers were all the cavalry that the British had today. They protected the rear of my square for much of the game, enabling me to keep one side of the square open so that I could place more men in the firing line. The Lancers are Britains figures.

Bill Protz sets up the second square of British infantry: Marines Light Companies, Naval Ratings (sailors), and several companies of Black Watch and Gordon Highlanders.
Most of the figures used in the game were single figures and not mounted on any kind of a movement base or tray. Bill and I were getting fairly adept and moving our British figures with speed and it was no big deal to move 100+ figures each turn.

One of the Dervish players (scheduled as such) asked if he could have a British command, so we carved out a few units of Camelry and Sudanese regulars for him, also giving him most of our artillery pieces to game with. He did a rather fine job of holding down the British right flank against overwhelming Dervish numbers, although by the end of the game, the Dervish were about to move into the British camp.

A small Sudanese command in the Imperial service. Approximately 35 figures consisting of Aylmer  and Trophy Miniatures figures.

An overhead view of the British squares forming up. Sinclair's square is in the foreground and Colonel Barclay's second square is forming up in the background.

Barclay's square begins its advance across the tabletop. Figures are from Britains and John Jenkins Designs. A few single King & Country personality figures are sprinkled in amongst the troops

It took the two British squares maybe four turns to advance towards the center of the table. We halted our advance in front of the ridge where the Krupp gun had been deployed, figuring that the whole Dervish army must be hidden on the other side of the ridge.

And they were:

The first wave of Dervish attack Sinclair's square and are largely whittled down by gun fire before they can get within melee range. The Beja are easily driven off.

But this is different! A wave of fierce Beja and Hadendowa warriors crash into the York and Lancaster Regiment. Many of the Beja warriors are plastic figures from Armies in Plastic.

We were feeling rather cocky at this point in the game, having driven off two major Dervish attacks. It was then that the Mahdists remembered that they had a large contingent of River Arabs, perhaps as much as 25% of their entire army.  I allowed them to have the Arabs arrive at ANY point along the table edge and how do you think that they repaid my kindness? Why of course, sending them ALL after Sinclair's command (me). I felt like the poor colonel in the Normandy beach bunker when he first sees the allied invasion fleet in front of them - THEY ARE ALL COMING AT ME!!!!!!

The British had little in the way of reserves that could be used to shore up the right flank, save for the squadron of the 21st Lancers. Sinclair cobbled a weak defensive line facing to the right, hoping to at least slow down the expected Arab assault. The Lancers would have to pull a forelorn hope charge into the Arab infantry (well it worked for Winston Churchill at Omdurman) with the hope of scattering them before they could attack.

You can see the awfullness in the pictures below.

Late in the day, after most of the Beja have been driven off, a new threat arrives on the British right flank.  There is a risk that the Arab river tribesmen might roll up the British army from its right flank.

A few scattered remnants of the Camel Corps and the York & Lancaster regiment throw up a last ditch defensive position on the army's right flank. These are desperate times!
The above picture is one of my favorite snap shots of the day. You can almost feel the sense of desperation as a few soldiers crouch down behind their kneeling camels. They also have one Camel Corps Gatling Gun at their disposal. There are a number of instances where the Dervish broke a British square, but the British soldiers were able to rally behind all of the camel baggage train that was placed in the center of the square.

The Arabs commence their advance around the right flank of the British.
We actually ran out of time so we will never know how the remnants of Sinclair's brigade would ahve fared against a hoard of 80+ Arab figures. Barclay's brigade was engaged with another hoard of Beja, who had rallied and were coming on for a third attack. So they would not be able to assist Sinclair.

Who won? I can't say for certain, but we all had fun playing the game, so everyone was a winner in my book.

One of the hazzards of playing with toy soldiers - a good solid bump of the table with one's knee can send a line of troops tumbling into the sand. The 21st Lancers are Britains figures.

The Butcher's Bill: I didn't keep track of the Dervish casualties but in my own brigade of around 100 figures I lost 45 killed or wounded or missing. That is a fairly high casualty percentage and reflects the number o melees that I was in. Approximately 15 casualties were sustained from the Krupp gun before I could even close with the Dervish. I think that Bill suffered a similar percentage of casualties in his brigade.

York and Lancaster Regt. = 19 casualties out of 60 figures
Camel Corps                     = 22 casualties out of 46 figures
Naval Crew                      =  4 casualties out of 8 figures (one gun was wiped out- 4 figure crews)

The Next Day:  This morning, rather than putting all of my soldiers away in their boxes, I decided to set up a diorama of a British square under attack from the Dervish. I will leave this setup for a week or so and then take it down so that I can set up some European scenary for 28mm Seven Years War games.

This morning, after clearing the battle debris off of the table, I set up a new square of just my troops: York & Lancaster Regiment and the Camel Corps.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Day 10: Sans Souci

We visited Frederick's palace of Sans Souci in Potsdam on Wednesday October 12, 2016. I will just post some of the pix for your viewing pleasure. Sans Souci is a small palace by contemporary standards and Frederick had a large hand in the design of the building and interiors.

Sans Souci: Without a Care
The front facade presides over a terraced garden.

Andy Warhol's take on Frederick II

His grave. Visitors traditionally place a potato on his grave (for good luck?).

The graves of Fritz and his dogs. No spouse though.

Frederick died in this BarcaLounger. In his last days he couldn't breath unless sitting upright. A hidden foot rest folds out as needed.

His writing desk.

His Music Room

Picture gallery in a separate building contains lots of Reubens and Van Dyke paintings.

That is the end of the Duffy Tour of 2016. A good time was had by all, including yours truly, and it was great to see some long time friends from Sweden, Italy, Britain, Germany, Canada and the USA. It will probably be Christopher Duffy's last guided tour due to health problems, but I did a terrific job of presenting the facts about the battles and produced many a laugh with his wry, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.

Best of all though, I feel my SYW mojo coming back and look forward to hitting the painting table and game table once again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Day 9: Kunersdorf & Zorndorf

Roundshot (12-pd) on the lower left and a unicorn shell on the lower left/right. Gregory hold a piece of grapeshot in his right hand and a 6-pd roundshot in his left hand.

We left Dresden this morning in sunshine, but soon encountered pouring rain which lasted all the way to Frankfurt on the Oder. We then crossed the Oder where we entered the town of Slubice and met up with a battlefield archeologist, named Gregory, who has been searching the Kunersdorf battlefield since 2009 and documenting where he found metal. His findings are the basis for some new interpretations of what actually happened at Kunersdorf.

We entered Gregory's laboratory/office where we found a number of artifacts layed out across several tables, including musket balls, artillery roundshot and howitzer fragments, and buttons from both sides.

Large cartridge box emblem (left) and Russian grenadier emblems, center and right.
Prussian cartridge box emblem.

Gregory (right - grey sweater) explains his findings to Christopher Duffy (center ) and the rest of the group.

This is what the plateau looks like where the Russian army deployed. In 1994, this was an open field without a single building in sight. I'm afraid that Kunersdorf will be over run with development in 5-10 more years.

Kunersdorf map from Duffy.

Based on the volume of bullets recovered on the Grosser Spitzberg, which was the midpoint in the Russian line, the Prussian infantry advanced this far as many Prussian bullets were found here. Russian bullets were larger than Prussian bullets so the difference is readily apparent. Previously thinking was that the Prussians only advanced as far as the Kuh Grund.

Gregory also surmised that Russian musket fire was more measured and deliberate whereas the Prussians expended far more ammunition than the Russians at Kunersdorf. After the battle, the Russians would have scoured the field to collect all unused bullet cartridges to replenish their supplies. Fired lead bullets were also collected, when available, as lead was valuable and could be melted down to form new bullets. Most of the bullets collected on the battle field were unfired, suggesting that they might have been in ammo pouches ( cloth or leather which deteriorated when buried underground ).

The distribution of buttons also provides some clues to events on the field. Soldiers were usually stripped of their clothing and then thrown into a common grave for burial. The Russians stayed on the field the first day to perform burials, they did holy services on the second day, and left the field area on the third day so that soldiers were not exposed to disease.


It was getting late in the day when we arrived at Zorndorf and it was cold and rainy, so most of this tour was done by bus, with one stop near a monument that the Poles have erected on the battlefield 

The Zabern Grund lies at the treeline in this picture.

The Zabern Grund lies over the horizon 

Site where the Prussian advanced guard of Manteufel advanced, from right to left. The buildings in the distance are the town of Zorndorf 

Get out the maps and compasses and figure out where we are.

That's all for now.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Day 8: Koenigstein Castle & Dresden

A drawing of Koenigstein by Canaletto, circa 1756.

Today we started our journey by taking a ride from Dresden to Pirna and a final destination at Festung Koenigstein.

Koenigstein provides a commanding view of the Elbe River.

Another view from Koenigstein looking at the back side.

One of the many Saxon 24 pound siege guns. Note the traditional Saxon carriage colors of black with yellow iron work.

Can you identify these people, circa the early 1730s?

Another view of the gentleman in red.

A gorgeous model of Augustus II's entourage for road travel done with figures of approximately 70mm.

Repairing a broken wheel.

The Saxon Garde du Corps surround the king. The common folk bow as the King passes.

A traveling wagon was not a spectacular parade coach. Note all the room for baggage storage.

The Liebkuirassiers escort the royal coach.

The King riding his white steed. 

More Garde du Corps.

And now for a couple of pictures of Dresden. We spent several hours visiting the Residence Museum of the reign of Augustus the Strong. Dresden is a beautiful city and many of the historic buildings have been rebuilt since WW2 using the paintings of Canoletto as their guide.

Street scene in Dresden.

Restoration of the Royal Palace is nearly complete 

Mural depicting every ruler of Saxony from the beginning of time to the end of the monarchy.

Jeweled miniatures depicting the Grand Mogoul of India receiving his nobles. This display cost 60,000 Thalers in 1750 ( estimate) which was a veritable fortune in those days.

Display of Medievil Armor.

Turkish artifacts on display.