We've been wanting to play an Indian Mutiny battle for quite some time now and play test the Din of Battle rules from piquet.So we cooked up a scenario in which the French intervene on the side of the Mutineers (ok so it is not historical but who cares?). We had a double sized map (which meanth that we had lots of space to manoeuvre) and a lot of units.
The heat woke up Lord Mann, the British Commander. It was still dark but the heat of the Indian summer cloaked the plain like a sweltering blanket, squeezing the moisture out of tired men and horses alike, Mann groaned and wiped the sweat off his forehead.The Maharaja of Gwalior had been having nervous breakdowns at the thought of facing the Pathans and French in open battle and it had taken all his charm to persuade him to stay.The Maharaja had however insisted on putting his troops into cover and Mann had doubts on how well they'd fight . But the rest of his army though ,that was another matter, he thought , bursting with pride. The cream of the British army had been sent to him from England , along with instructions asking him to stamp the rebellion out fast, before more natives joined in.A full battalion of Gurkhas had marched down from Calcutta to reinforce the English, fine lads all of them .Their flashing kukhris had already put down a few mutineer strong holds and they were eager for more action.If the French tangled with these boys, they would have a fight on their hands Mann thought with grim satisfaction and their Pathan allies would be slaughtered by the rifle fire of his troops. They may be good fighters in the mountains of Afghanistan, he had told the Maharajah of Gwalior, but against massed rifle fire, the Pathans riders would be shot down long before they reached the British lines.
Mann was pulling on his gun belt when Lord Shard, his second in Command waddled in."Let's whip the Frenchies and go home eh milord? Bit of a bother though and why the deuces are we fighting over this puny town?" asked Shard. Mann sighed in exasperation and explained that the town of Srira pur was a key link in the Railway lines that unless liberated would hamper troop movements in the whole of North India.With the French providing help with Command and Control the rebellion was looking more and more dangerous each day and the whole of the subcontinent was ablaze with anti-foreigner fury. Not that you could blame the natives, reflected Mann glumly. He had been a lone campaigner against John Company's atrocities for a long time now and no one had listened, as usual and now the British were hunted in a country they had ruled for more than a century.
He gestured at Shard, pointing to the map that lay open on rickety table. As his orderly brought in his morning cuppa of Darjeeling's finest tea,Mann pointed at the still befuddled Shard, "You , my lord will take the Highlanders and the rest of the British troops and occupy Srirampur as soon as possible.You will then hold it against all French counter attacks till i wipe the rest of the field clean with my Gurkhas. The artillery and the natives from Gwalior should be able to guard our flanks in case of a flanking attempt by the Pathans. This time Le Mohane doesn't get away by Blimey!!"
Shard looked even more confused. But beneath his befuddled exterior Shard wasn't as stupid as he looked.he had heard of the redoubtable Le Mohane and the Pathans so he timidly ventured a question.
"Er..., your excellency, shouldn't we have a more detailed plan ?"
"Plan, schman " roared Mann,"go in and seize the town . I will clean up the rest and the Rajah of Gwalior guards the flanks.Site the machine gun on top of the hill to massacre any pathans who may attack us from behind. I'd love to see the machine gun open up on any cavalry foolish enough to try to outflank us .The artillery hits any trouble makers THAT is the plan. Let's get it over with and go home! And you milord will do exactly what I tell you to do and not one thing more . Is that clear ?" Shard blanched and whispered "Yes sir". Even as he snapped to attention and saluted, he couldn't help wondering " will this be enough to counter the French Fox? "
Marshal Le Mohane was an early riser and was talking to the Pathan leader Abu Mullah Khan when the British lines began a steady march towards Srirampur. Neither the Frenchman nor the khan deigned to look at the British advance.Both hard bitten fighting men , they knew that what counted in the end was not the bugles and uniforms but bullets and steel , hopefully in the enemy's body instead of one's own.The Khan's men had left early to outflank the British on both sides. Abu Khan had pointed out to Le Mohane that the British wouldn't really expect the Pathans to attack in strength, hoping they they would skulk on the hills and use their jezails to deadly effect as they had done in kandahar long ago.
"Art thou certain that thy troops will be all right , my freend ?" Abu Khan asked Le Mohane " Without my pathan cavalry to protect you , your infantry will be sitting ducks for the British and the Gorkhas." The Nawab of Oudh, who had joined the mutiny in its early days looked askance at the Khan and mumbled "I will take care of the Angrez and the Gorkhali, Pathan. Just take care your cavalry stays out of the way when we charge !!".
The Khan and Le Mohane glanced wearily at each other. They knew that the native infantry was mostly rabble and had planned to use them as bait to pull the British forward on the French left flank while the pathans circled behind the advancing British. Le Mohane had a battery of elite 18 pounders hidden on the hills just behind the awadh army and he hoped to use these to soften up any Britishers foolish enough to attack. the day before he had sent messages to the Maharajah of Gwalior asking him to stay out of the battle or face the consequences when the French emerged victorious. he was sure that that would cool the maharajah's ardor a bit.
Le Mohane turned to the Khan and said" Do not worry about it my friend. Magnificent though thy Pathans be, I don't want too many of them visible to the Britishers till they charge their flanks. The British rifles are too accurate in the open.I want thee to wrap up the flanks and leave their centre to me! If I know Mann well, he will try to charge into Srirampur where " he smiled wolfishly "I have a surprise waiting for them!!" . The Khan smiled equally evilly and sprang onto his black stallion and galloped away leaving the Nawab of Oudh coughing and spluttering.
Le Mohane gazed at the nawab without expression and said " Your Excellency , would you be kind enough to take up your position on the left . I will be on the right with my Frenchmen" The Nawab wilted under the gaze and then squeaked " All this talk of the left and right and flanks is all fine but the centre, Monsieur the centre---it is exposed! You are on the right and I am on the left but there is no one in the centre". Le Mohane did not bat an eyelid, just gazed at him coolly, "don't worry , Mon cher Le Nawab," he said , "let me worry about the centre. Well , here comes the man who will hold the centre for us"he said an a nondescript Frenchman walked quietly forward. Your Excellency , meet Richaud ,the best marksman in the French army. Richaud I want you to go to Srirampur and do your best to hold up the British if they come in"
The Nawab watched astounded as the Frenchman bowed to him and Le Mohane, and mounted an equally nondescript horse to trot towards Srirampur.
One man?! You are sending one man to hold the village against 5 regiments of British troops ?
"One man" he squealed at Mohane " you are sending one man to hold the village against 5 regiments of British troops ?". Le Mohane merely looked at him sternly and said, "To your post Excellency . Let me worry about the British . Try to stop your men from fleeing when the Gurkhas venture near.And if the British want Srirampur so much let them come and take it. "
And again he smiled that wolfish smile and turned away , flicking some dust from his immaculate uniform. "Bloody Firangi " cursed The Nawab in Urdu " Just you help us throw the Angrez out and then it will be your turn ".
Le Mohane , who understood Urdu very well, merely smiled and walked on when to the right of his lines, far away in the distance there was the rumbling of artillery. A frown creased Le Mohane's face "He had had reports of a British armoured train attempting to reinforce The British troops assaulting Srirampur and had sent his best lieutenant with a few trusted men to sabotage that attempt."No Matter if the British train does arrive" , he thought calmly " God is with us this time and even if the Train does arrive I would like to see it pull into Srirampur " he smiled his wolfish grin for the third time that day and walked towards his horse and all the French who saw that smile felt a sudden boost in morale because whenever their general smiled that evil smile , they knew that they would win that battle.
As the sun rose on the Horizon, the British troops were marching on the double, straight towards Srirampur , with general Shard leading them. Looking over his shoulder he could see along line of Gurkhas marching stolidly forward , covering his troops' flank and rear .At least no Pathans will attack me in the rear , thought Shard , wiping the sweat from his brow . He had been in the fighting along the Northwest frontier and the thought of the wild pathans rampaging in the rear was enough to turn his blood to ice . He urged his men toward the safety of Srirampur and hoped the promised armoured train would come through before the French counterattacked. One thing was for sure.His troops moved much faster than the Froggies. look at them, here we are, halfway to Srirampur and they haven't even moved. He could see the French lines now long lines of blue coated figures waiting in the dawn. where were the Pathans he wondered and where was the French Fox? He looked longingly toward the safety of Srirampur's tall buildings and led his men forward.
Meanwhile on the hilltop where the British machine gun nest was sited, a crowd gathered to inspect this new and unfamiliar weapon.Sgt. Haynes was explaining the merits of the weapon to the awestruck native soldiers
"You see, this gun shoots without reloading and spits many bullets in the time it takes one of you heathens,..er, soldiers to blink."
The suitably awestruck Indians watched in silence till Sipahi Mangal Singh dared to ask:
"Perhaps Sahib, you could give us a little demonstration? ".
Sgt. Haynes pretended to think it over but was inwardly delighted. Here was a chance to impress these native buggers with some advanced British Technology and if some of them were impressed enough to accept the One True God and abandon their heathenish ways then so be it . Smiling smugly Sgt Haynes took his position behind the gun and asked his long suffering subordinate to feed the belt into the gun .
"Now watch carefully ..." he said as the natives crowded around .
Grinning from ear to ear, Haynes took aim at the Frenchmen (he knew he wouldn't hit anything at that range but this was to be a short burst to impress the natives) and pressed the trigger......And the gun jammed!! The Indian troops were still waiting for the weapon to demonstrate its prowess and they didn't guess anything was wrong till Haynes started cursing and raving in a decidedly Unchristian manner. Then they grinned from ear to ear and wandered away to await the coming of the Pathans.
The French Artillery, meanwhile got into the action, firing a couple of shots at Haynes machine gun nest . Fortunately they didn't hit anything but The Indians scattered for cover and Haynes redoubled his efforts to fix the machine gun .He managed to un jam the Gun and turned to smile triumphantly at the Indians when a French shell landed right on the machine gun, blowing the still grinning Haynes to the afterlife!
General Mann heard the French artillery open up and was horrified to see the shells landing on the hilltop where the machine gun was sited. He was counting on the machine gun nest to keep the Pathans from outflanking him.He roared at our subordinate "silence those french guns , NOW " The subordinate blanched . "The artillery would have been deployed and firing by now you fool" he thought savagely "except for your inane shenanigans, changing the positions and siting of the guns five times in an hour . If the artillery arrive in time for the battle we can consider ourselves lucky . what do you expect me to do walk over to the Frenchies and ask them ' Could you please stop firing your artillery, our General is getting a bit upset' ? Humpf!! ' But he kept his expression neutral and snapped to attention and saluted "Yes sir! At once sir! I'll take care of it sir" and ran to his horse. riding aimlessly away , he muttered to himself "no wonder the bloody natives revolt, with fools like you in command..."
The fight begins
General Shard's column meanwhile had reached the gates of Srirampur which lay abandoned and deserted.Shard took some time to redeploy his troops from column of march to line . And with bayonets at the ready the British advanced into srirampur, while the French stood at their initial positions waiting, waiting.....For what ? Shard wondered , advancing down the main street with his drummer tapping out a smart marching beat.We have possession of the town and once we settle in the French will never boot us out of here..."Company HAAAAALT" Shard roared as the surprised troopers came to a sudden halt ,the rear ranks piling into those in front. Shard listened intently but the town lay silent and the only sound was a koel warbling in a tree. "I don't like this" Shard said " there is something wrong here " His second in command opened his mouth to say something when there was the crack of a single rifle.
A bullet slammed into Shard's horse, narrowly missing him and Shard went down, the horse kicking beneath him. Shard kicked free ,. His Sergeant was reaching down trying to help him as the troops looked wildly hither and thither trying to locate the source of the shots , when the rifle cracked again and the sergeants's head exploded . A horrified Shard pulled himself onto another horse and was trying to get some order into his milling troops when he spotted a flash of light on the steeple of temple located in Srirampur's central square. "There he is..." he yelled The sniper is over there" and Shard led a rush into the square.
On top of the steeple Richaud cursed fluently in French. He had fired two shots at the British commander and both had missed. And now the Redcoats were swarming into the square. He would soon be surrounded and shot down. Richaud shrugged . Well he had had a good life and if he had to die he was taking the British Commander with him. He ignored the Redcoats swarming round the temple and the bullets which were nicking the granite statues of the heathen Gods and sighted on Lord Shard . Merde but the British commander wasn't keeping still, rushing this way and that, trying to organise his men.Richaud squeezed off another shot but at the last moment Shard turned away again but the bullet struck him in the shoulder and he collapsed. Now the Br
itish troopers were crowding around the temple aiming and shooting upwards and Richaud had to duck for cover . But amongst all the shooting , he heard a single bugle ring and the sudden silence that fell amongst the British . Then he heard a deep voice roar in French " Grenadiers, select targets, aim,,, FIIIIIIRE!!" And a crash of rifle fire echoed off the temple walls, followed by the screams of agonised men.He peeked over the statue to see that every building on the square was full of bluecoated Frenchmen, aiming at the Redcoats, milling around in the square, sitting ducks for their ambushers.
"AMBUSH!!!!" thought Richaud exultantly , even as another crashing volley decimated the British survivors. The Highlanders broke and routed, crashing through and disorganising the British troops still crowding into the square. The Redcoats in the square were so jammed together that they could barely move. The French guns crashed again and another wave of men went down but the press of troops was so much that the dead and wounded were held upright and the square turned into a welter of blood and gore. The French commander roared "Grenadiers... fire at will " and the disciplined volleys of the Frenchmen died away to be replaced by the steady stutter of rifles as each trooper aimed at a fleeing Redcoat and cut him down. The British fled ignominiously, back the way they came, but alas every tree, rock and building sprouted french ambushers who dogged the retreat . Very few of the British who entered Srirampur made their way out alive and behind the fleeing British the French elite troops pored out of their hiding places and secured the perimeter of the town.
The French officer in charge of the ambushers restrained his men from pursuing the fleeing Redcoats beyond Srirampur and bought his exultant troopers into command.
A British officer seized the moment and rallied his men and had managed to turn them around when two things happened simultaneously.
Richaud, who had descended from his sniper's perch and was prowling the French lines saw a chance and took it, Bringing his rifle to the shoulder he squeezed off a single shot and the British officer went down, shot between the eyes.
The native cavalry of Gwalior had been skirmishing beyond Srirampur when they heard the shots ring out and had rushed over to aid the British . But they had run into the redcoats fleeing Srirampur and had been thoroughly disorganized. And yet, shouting their war cries they attempted to charge into Srirampur but were blasted into smithereens by disciplined volley fire from the entrenched French defenders.
The British had lost all hope of seizing Srirampur. The moment an officer stepped forward, trying to assert command the damned French sniper would cut him down. The advancing Gurkhas had halted, well out of rifle range while their commander tried to figure out what was going on.
Abu Khan strikes
Meanwhile a lone British artillery unit arrived on the battlefield, the men drenched in sweat and collapsing from the effort of manhandling their guns . The horse had wandered off and the men had been pulling the gun for the last mile. The artillery men collapsed, too tired to unlimber. The Pathans left behind by Abu Khan to provide some support for Le Mohane's troops couldn't resist and two Pathan cavalry units commenced a head long charge across the battle field trying to get to the Guns before they unlimbered.
The British artillery officer saw the Pathan charge commence and screamed at his men to unlimber before the charge struck home. Fear lent new strength to the British artillery men who scrambled to unlimber. On and on the Pathans charged as the artillery men wrestled with their guns and packing. And both armies stopped to watch this epic charge, the Pathans fairly flying down the battle field, crossing the railway line and galloping forward.The British troopers were screaming at their artillerymen to unload whereas the whole of the French army was egging on the Pathans. The Pathan cavalrymen were almost on the Guns when the shells snapped home into the breeches and the British artillery officer roared "FIIIIRE". At point blank range the Pathans stood no chance.They were not so much decimated as vaporised , one unit just ceasing to exist and the other halting in confusion and galloping back desperately for cover. A roar went up amongst the Britishers while the French groaned in dismay.
The exultant British artillery men were waving their caps at their cheering companions. The tide of the battle seemed to have turned, if fleetingly, in favour of the British.Srirampur was still in French hands but now the British were fighting back. Mann seized the moment. He ordered the artillery to open fire on any French unit within range.As the artillery men sprang to obey there arose on the hills to their left an ululating war cry and the feared Pathan cavalry led in person by Abu Mullah Khan swept down the hillside and toward the guns.
The British artillery men frantically tried to reload but luck was not with them this time as the Khan's troops sabred them where they stood and overran the guns. While his troops stooped to plunder, the Khan rode alone after the fleeing Commander Mann and before the Britisher could escape to the safety of any of his units , Abu Kahn bought him to bay and after a fierce hand to hand battle hacked his head off . With Lord Mann's head on his sabre, Abu Khan rode back to his adoring troopers who swept around the small wood where the Maharajah of Gwalior was quaking in his boots and started a charge towards the Gurkhas.
Train coming through....
The native cavalry of Gwalior had managed to reorganise themselves when a mournful whistle rolled over the battle field and a train chugged into view. The British troops rallied and a cheer want up among the British, The train had arrived and was steaming towards Srirampur. The Gwalior cavalry galloped beside the train trying to accompany it into Srirampur .The thoroughly disorganized redcoats made one final attempt to seize the town that had been so tantalizingly within their grasp. On the other side of the battlefield, the French began a general advance through out the line.
As the Redcoats started one final charge towards the French manning the walls of Srirampur, the exulting Gwalior cavalry galloped alongside the steaming train straight toward Srirampur .The French manning Srirampur deployed to face the threat from the train. The last surviving British officer rallied his men . He knew that the battle would be won or lost with this charge.
On the other side of the battle field Le Mohane too knew that the critical moment had come. He ordered the whole army to march at the double towards Srirampur with the intention of providing reinforcements. Abu Khan too seized the initiative , chasing down and slaughtering yet another officer.
The Britishers looked to the armoured train as their last hope. Alas it ws not to be. The Gwalior cavalry commander. riding close to the train and trying to climb aboard , was shocked when the machine gun swiveled to face him, the dead Redcoat gunner was pushed away and a grinning Frenchman squeezed the trigger. The cavalry commander was riddled with bullets and then the guns were turned on the cavalry racing alongside , even as the Frenchmen (who had captured the train soon after it left the last station), ran up a French flag.
The cavalry of Gwalior perished under a hail of machine gun bullets, most of them dying in the saddle without knowing what hit them. The remnants fled back towards Gwalior.
The Maharajah of Gwalior , who had watched from the woods , had had enough and fled off the field , ignoring the desperate pleas of the Britishers. With the betrayal of the train, the last hope had passed for the British.
As the French, the Pathans and their native allies surged forward, the Gurkhas who had taken no part in the battle so far , charged towards Srirampur in desperation. But with the entrenched French rifleman delivering volley after volley of accurate fire into their ranks and Abu Khan's cavalry charging them in the rear, it was a futile effort. Charge after charge was simply blown away until even the Gurkhas had to admit defeat.
The Battle for Srirampur was over.
The Gurkha survivors were escorted off the field with all due honour by Abu Khan's pathans who admired the Gurkhas' fighting skills. But the Britishers perished almost to the last man though General Shard managed to escape , hiding in the woods till the retreating Gurkhas discovered him and took him home. An exultant Le Mohane watched with tears in his eyes as the French flag was hoisted over r the town of Srirampur, even as the armoured train chugged into the station and Abu Khan rode in with his jubilant Pathans. Even the Nawab of Awadh managed a grin , but he had a new worry. getting rid of the English now looked to be a possibility but as he asked his favourite concubine in his harem that night:
"Now, How will we get rid of the French?"
- Always have a plan. You will get murdered when you play with the Piquet ruleset if you don't have a plan.And if one plan fails (and I am not talking of temporary setbacks here) make another AT ONCE. Never aimlessly turn cards hoping that the cards will suggest a plan of action
- Always scout out a building, woods etc before sending troops in. The British walked into an ambush which was almost guaranteed to be there, in their hurry to get into Srirampur.
- It doesn't matter if the other side gets large impetus runs Just keep cool and wait for the impetus to swing back. It generally does, eventually.
- The rifles, artillery etc have excellent range in the colonial period so think twice before charging home Because you may not be able to retreat outside the firer's range in a single move!
- (Suggested by Ken Baggaley) Thou shalt not ride beside an un scouted train!!