Friday, 12 May 2017

Battle of Ctesiphon Nov 1915 : Scenario and AAR

This post shows how far behind I have got on the blogging front as this was our Xmas game ! Admittedly it rumbled on for a few sessions but the festive season is our little groups opportunity to continue with our "Carry on up the Tigris" adventures.

Early in the game, Sikh Troops in a motor launch
Historical Background 

Last year we re fought Es Sinn and this year it was the turn of Ctesiphon. General Townsend has been leading his British and Indian troops gradually towards Baghdad and had been involved in a series of victories over the previous year leading upto this point where at the historic Arch of Ctesiphon the Turkish Troops turned to face the advancing Empire Forces.

Gurkhas come under sporadic Artillery Fire whilst waiting to advance
Townsend was in command of around 11,000 mostly Indian troops supported by HMS Firefly and another gunboat. The defenders had a numerical advantage with their 18,000 soldiers, they also had the bonus of around 52 Artillery pieces and a good strong, prepared defensive position.

Brownlows Punjabi Regiment start their advance.
As in the previous battle at Es Sinn, the Empire Forces were split into three columns with a fourth more mobile Cavalry based column sent to probe the left flank of the Turkish Line (this 4th column is not represented in our game). A dawn attack was planned to start the battle on the morning of the 22nd November 1915.

We used the Toofatlardies rules, If The Lord Spares Us, so all Morale and Officer classes refer to that set. The rules are designed for 15mm with 2 figures per base however we have been playing them for years with 28mm figures counting 2 figures as a base (subtle eh).

Empire Forces Set Up

Sikh Troops on launches pass the Ox Bucks waiting to jump off.
To represent the Empire Forces I divided my collection into three columns as on the day, the game highlighted my lack of Indian Figures, it did prompt the painting of Brownlows Punjabi Regiment but I still needed to co opt my Australian Gallipoli collection  (and 2 rogue Desert Rats, see if you can spot them ?) to make up the numbers.

The gunboat arrives.
Column A - Commander classed as Harrow.

1 British Battalion - 2 Command Figs, 4 Coys each of 8 Figs plus a supporting MG base, classed as Jolly Good Fellows.
1 Sikh Battalion - as British Battalion but classed as Havildar Heroes.
1 Indian Battalion classed as Havildar Heroes but with 4 Coys of 6 Figs each.

Supported by 1 gunboat armed with a 4 inch gun and a 12pdr (I counted it as an Artillery unit of 2 guns) and 2 unarmed launches.

The British and Indian troops start the game in the light cover along the banks of the Tigris. The Sikhs start with the HQ, MG and two Coys on the gun boat and 1 Coy in each of the launches.

Part of Column B in pre advance position.
Column B commanded by a Harrow Class Officer.

1 British Battalion of 2 HQ, MG and 4 x 8 Fig Coys classed as Jolly Good Fellows
2 Indian Battalions of 2HQ, MG and 4 Coys, 1 unit has 8 Fig Coys the other 6. Both Havildar Heroes.

The set up in the "open" ground between the Tigris and the Wadi.

The Signals go out for column C to advance.
Column C commanded by a Harrow Class Officer.

1 Gurkha Battalion of 2 HQ, MG and 4 x 8 Fig Coys classed as Kukri Killers.
1 Indian Battalion classed as Havildar Heroes organisation as the Gurkhas.
1 Mass of Arab Irregulars with 2 HQ and 2 x 8 Fig Coys classed as Damned Sods, they may use Camels to move.
1 Artillery Unit, on table.

Column C sets up along the Wadi.

The mound
Turkish Forces Set Up

The Turkish position is a strong one consisting of 2 lines of trenches.

In the front line positions there are the following,

2 Battalions of Turkish Infantry each with 2 Fig HQ and MG and 4 Coys of 8 Figs each rated as Johnny Turk.

In the second line of trenches contain 3 Battalions of Arab Turkish Infantry each with 2 Fig HQ,  an MG and 4 Coys of 6 Figs each rated as Pasha Bashers. The second line also contains the 4 fig Regt HQ (rated Young Turk) for both Regts present.

Looking down the Turkish position.
There are 4 Turkish Artillery Batteries 2 on table with a free set up and 2 off table.

In reserve are 2 further battalions, 1 of Regular Turkish Infantry which is organised as and part of the front line unit and finally a Veteran Turkish Battalion with a 2 Fig Hq and 4 x Coys of 8 Figs  (but no MG) rated as Mehmetciks. The battalions can be requested when Empire Troops come into close range of the trenches lines, place the requested units card in the game deck from that point and on its first activation roll 1d6 and that is the number of activations required before it arrives on the Turkish table edge where required.

Table and Game Set Up 

In haven't done one of my usual maps this post as I have been having a spot of difficulty with the mapping program I was using, however I do believe that the photos would give you a good guide to table set up. If you are looking to stage the game yourselves and have any questions please feel free to get in touch.

Looking over Column C as they jump off.
Our table is 12 ft x 6 ft.

The Turkish position is as shown with two lines of trenches the rear trench should fill most of the table length, the front line just over half with a redoubt at the "open" end.

In between the lines near the Tigris I placed a couple of buildings and further along a couple of gun emplacements with a general spread of scrub areas (Light cover).

Arab Turkish Infantry waiting for the attack
The Terrain on the Empire side of the table is split more or less into three areas corresponding to the three Columns.

The Tigris initially runs along the Empire edge of the table for about 4 ft before it turns 90 degrees so that it runs down the table edge through the Turkish lines. The banks of the river along the Empire edge are covered in vegetation and this is where the 2 Battalions of Column A who are not in the boats start the game. There are random areas of light scrub between the vegetation and the Turkish front line.

Column A under way and under fire
The centre where Column B begins is open and this represents an area of unscouted ground. Each time a Coy moves in this area roll a d6. On a 4 to 6 the unit finds some cover at the end of its advance. Roll another d6 and on a 1 to 4 it's Light cover or scrub on a 5 or 6 it's a Wadi offering hard cover. The cover is only rolled for if the unit moves, it stays whilst the Coy remains in situ but disappears if it moves, giving the Commander of column B some interesting choices.

Column B on the move showing the temporary cover markers.
The Terrain in front of Column C is more varied, there is a low hill on the Empire side of the table with a deep Wadi running in front of it, the rest of the area in front of the 2nd Turkish Line is covered in random scrub, mounds and vegetation.

So there you have my set up notes, it's a straight forward enough battle with the Empire Troops trying to break through the Turkish lines whilst the Turkish are trying to hold and and prevent Townsend reaching Baghdad.

After Action Report

So how did we get on with the battle. For those of you who don't know I am lucky enough to have a permanent set up here at YG so we are never under pressure to finish games quickly, I can't recall how long we spent on the game probably a couple of Sundays and a couple of evenings.

We had 5 players most of the time, with one player in charge of each of the Empire Columns and 2 for the Turks.

All the Empire Forces Set off on turn 1, column C had the furthest to go whilst Column A started softening up the Turkish position whilst waiting for the Gunboat to come into action. The main action therefore was with Column B in the centre as their troops set off at top speed  (no point hanging about with MGs around) towards the Turkish position to their front which included the mound at the end of the front line which had been reinforced by MGs.

The British Battalion in the column was quickly in range and deadly poured down on the advancing troops.

Don't go anywhere without your stash of "Yarkshire Tea"
Casualty Rates are high.
An almighty battle took place for the "Mound" with both sides committing everything they had to taking control of the feature. The pressure of Empire Artillery and Suppressive MG fire initially won the day as the British unit captured the mound. However the supporting Battalions of Indian troops were stalling in their advance and the victorious Coy was looking at bit exposed.

Round 1 to the Empire as the Mound falls.
Elsewhere on the Battlefield Column A was starting to make in roads into the Turkish position causing lots of suppression which the Turkish with their extended front line were struggling to keep under control.

The Gunboat was also proving to be effective causing casualties amongst the Turks. Initially the Turkish Artillery had targeted the Gunboat and had started to cause some damage, however the fire was switched to the advancing land troops and the Nautical element of the attack was able to continue.

Gunboat Diplomacy at its very best.
Meanwhile Column C was struggling to make any real headway. An initial surge of Camel mounted Arabs was quickly stopped and the troops quickly dismounted in the nearest cover spending most of the rest of the game removing suppression. Brownlows Punjabi Regiment pushed forward the furthest but started to get bogged down by enemy fire.

Brownlows under fire
Back in the centre of the table the Turks threw everything at the Brits in the mound and it wasn't long before the Turks were able to recapture the feature. But another Coy had got a foot hold in the trenches by this point as the advantage in the centre swung back and forth. To add to the tension one of the Turkish Reinforcement units was rushing to that sector of the line.

A badly shot up Indian Coy reaches the Turkish front line 
Whilst the Mound is back in Turkish hands
Things had hotted up in the Column A area and with a combination of Artillery, Gunboat and supporting MGs the Ox Bucks Battalion captured the large section of Turkish Front line.

Column A is in the trenches

But as Column A got into the trenches the Veteran Turkish Battalion arrived in the buildings in front of it, queue an epic firefight. But with the high quality Ox Bucks unit in the cover of the trenches with covering fire from the Gunboat the British supported by the now disembarked Sikhs cleared the village and comfortably held the trench line.

The end of the game for Column A as the Turkish front line collapses
Column B was spent, it held the trenches in front of it but didn't have the strength to push on.

Turkish MG keeping the heads of Column B down
However at the end of the game Column C suddenly came to life. The Punjabi Regiment had had enough of the heavy fire and we're streaming back to the start line however the Gurkhas had sneaked up almost unseen and launched a vicious attack on the end of the 2nd Turkish Line.

It must have been an inspiring site as even the Arabs who had been hiding in a Wadi all day got up and joined the Gurkhas in the attack. The poor quality Arab Turkish Infantry didn't really stand a chance, the Turkish support weapons were keeping Column B at bay and the Gurkhas were in.

And that was where we called it a day. Column A had captured the front line in front of its positions and with it Gunboat support it was comfortable but with its Indian Battalion shot to pieces and the Sikh Battalion needed to secure Column Bs position the second line was a "Trench too Far".

Column B had been destroyed, the British Battalion had a single company left as did one of its Indian Battalions. It had gained it's objectives but at a very heavy price.

Column C had lost its Punjabi unit and had gained glory at the end of the game but a single Battalion, even of Gurkhas wasn't going to roll up the whole of the 2nd Turkish Line.

A cracking game all round and enjoyed by all. We had reached, at the end of our refight, the exact position that Townsend found himself in. Partially successful in the battle but without the strength to push on, history tells us he retreated to Kut-al-Amarah where he was surrounded and besieged.

The game highlighted my lack of Indian Figures and I purchased another 2 Battalions at York this year,  I also have a unit of Highlanders for the theatre to paint, having done a test company early this year & some Aussies I picked up off flea bay. Add to this I have some Cavalry for both sides ready to go. I have decided to put these figures to one side for now whilst I concentrate on other projects and I plan to do the lot this winter as a theme for my Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge 2017.

It's all Naval at YG at the moment with our ongoing Baltic WW2 Campaign however I hope to get back on land soon with our delayed Jarama refight, I am also starting to look longingly at my WW2 Desert collection !

We will return to Mesopotamia and the efforts to relieve Kut at Xmas.