Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Swatembe Raid 1879

Last Sunday saw the return of the Zulu Wars to the club.  Myself and Jez, who had recently got the Black Powder rules played out a simple scenario with Brevet Colonel Woods Northern Column.  Their orders were to locate and steal away the Zulu livestock locally which was supporting the operation of a Zulu army.

 The British formed two commands, that under Wood of the 1st Coy, 13th Light Infantry, Natal Native horse and a 7lb mountain gun; and the command of Major Hackett, with three companies of the 90th foot and their own 7lb gun. 

There were three suspected locations for the livestock, marked with bases of goats.  Jez, as the British commander, did not know hat was at any site, but would be able to identify them once within 18cm (we played in cm rather than inches, as befitted the 15mm models).  I wrote down the locations as follows:

1:  The Livestock, plus a large number of skirmishing Zulu youths (the Boys)
2:  Nothing
3:  A Zulu Impi in three warbands waiting in ambush.

Jez set off, and at first headed straight for the correct objective with Woods command, however he turned away from it at the last moment to focus on the farms.  Part of the reason for this may have been the reluctance of Hackettt to issue orders, rather he malingered a long time in camp over breakfast.  The 13th were to find the native farm empty, but from it could make out in the distance a Zulu impi on the march (my reserves arrived on turn three).

 At this stage the Zulus seemed to use shock and awe the force the British back; the 90th formed a disjointed line near scrubby trees as the Zulu's roused their brothers from ambush and began to advance down from the heights.  Still, despite apparent danger, Hackett malingered over his kippered Herring.

 Wood sensing the Danger, sent his native horse to fill the gaps and began to intervene with the troops of his erstwhile junior commander.  At one point in the day, going to his very camp to remonstrate with him most severely; "Dammit sir, in Gods name do you not see the natives approach, would you rather disturb breakfast, or the security of our Queen?!"

 Withering fire of the Martini Henry and the Mountain guns was all that allowed the British line to hold, as the issue of the day became less about raiding cattle and more about the saving of red coated lives.  Wood hurried to dress the lines and succeeded in breaking one of the Zulu Impi's, but still the other two came on.

 The Natal Horse made an effective strike at the Zulu's as they approached , but then a second warband threatened their flank, they retired, hoping the thin red line and a stern volley or two would resolve the problem. 

Instead, charging through dense scrub the Zulu made good their attack and at the tip of their Asegai's cut down a faltering company of the 90th.

By this point the British were forming two sides of a square in the hope of staving off a reinvigorated assault by the warbands, now aided by the Boys.  British artillery was lost to the hordes of Zulu and the infantry were soon overwhelmed.  Wood could only look on in despair as Hackett tried to extract his forces in the face of massed Zulu attack.

And so the day ended.  The Northern column had lost well over two hundred men, and failed to capture the livestock it came so close to discovering.  Despite that losses to the Zulu were later counted by scouts at over four hundred dead, but with their far greater numbers such casualties were easier to absorb.  Probably their losses were even greater for many of the wounded would not return to this or any other campaign. 

However, any such losses would remain insignificant next to the irreplaceable losses to the British.

A great little game, but bad luck for Jez who game within a gnat's whisker of finding the loot and getting away with it.  The scenario was stacked so that if the British stood and fought they would be hard pressed indeed, and that was what the unfortunately did.  They were really hamstrung by the dismal performance of Hackett, who truly failed nearly every command roll, despite a leadership of 9!

Until the next time, I wonder if Wood's column can recover...

1 comment:

  1. Really cool battle report. Thanks for posting.