Friday, 31 July 2020

Talana Hill – Take Two

As the figures were still laid out on the table, I decided to have another crack at the Talana Hill scenario. I’m not going to show a blow by blow account here, but I can say that this time the British managed to achieve a victory.

They were helped by two major events firstly, once again on the first turn the British artillery knocked out the Boer artillery with a fluky roll of 5 x 6’s. Secondly, the Boer ‘Flee test’ severely weakened their right flank taking the Commando at Smith’s Farm down to just 7 men.

The British were also a bit more tentative about their attack with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers lying down to return fire to cover the advance of the other two regiments. The Ross Commando at Smith’s Farm was soon reduced to below half strength and forced to retire with a similar fate awaiting the Jacklex Commando a couple of turns later.

A costly victory for the British but a victory nonetheless!

Friday, 3 July 2020

Talana Hill - The Game

The British got off to an unbelievably good start when the two RFA batteries managed to roll 3 x 6's. 
And the Boer artillery on the receiving end failed to make a single saving throw (they were saving on a 3,4,5 or 6!) result - battery destroyed.
A further consequence of the British fire was that the Boers had to make their 'flee' test as per the scenario rules. A total of 6 Boers took to their ponies and decided to go home. So far so good for the British.
The Royal Dublin Fusiliers begin their advance. They take a few casualties but nothing to slow them down.
Behind them the Kings Royal Rifles cross Sand Spruit and prepare to deploy into line.
The Boers at Smith's Farm are starting to take casualties from the British artillery fire. It all seems to be going so well for Penn Symons!
But of course that's where the luck ran out for the British as the Mausers and the  Pom-Pom sprung to life. The Dublin Fusiliers were decimated and pinned (In the heat of the action I forgot the rule that Penn Symons had to attach himself to them, not that it made much difference).
The Royal Irish Fusiliers hurried forward to lend support.
And Penn Symons tried to steady the Rifles as they too started to take heavy casualites.
By the end of Turn 7 the Ross Commando had been forced to retire from Smith's Farm but the British force had now lost 50% of its total strength. Under my rules this was a victory for the Boers and even if I had played on I doubt whether the British could have made further headway. At least Penn Symons survived.

An enjoyable but frustrating game from the British point of view. It started so well that I thought a spectacular victory over the Boers was on the cards but once again, when the Mausers got going, everything fell apart.

The constraint of having all the British troops in close order did lead to extra casualties but I think the real problem was the unimaginative frontal attack. In the real battle the British did force the Boers off Talana Hill but they took heavy casualties in the process. It’s probably worth me playing the game through one more time though just to see if I can get a better result for the British.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Talana Hill – Scenario

Special Rules
1. In the real battle Penn Symons instructed his infantry to fight in close order. Rule: British units may not use extended order.
2. At this early stage of the war officers still displayed obvious signs of rank making them easy targets for Boer marksmen. Rule: Officers become casualties from rifle fire on a die roll of 1, 2 or 3 (rather than the normal 1 or 2).
3. The Boers waited until the British had closed the range before firing on them with their concealed pom-pom. Rule: The British artillery may not fire on the pom-pom until the turn after it opens fire.
4. This was the first time the Boers had been under shrapnel fire and many of them fled the field as soon as the British guns opened up. Rule: On the first turn that the British artillery fires roll 1xD6 for each Boer Commando, the result is the number of Boers who panic and flee.
5. Penn Symons rode forward and took personal control of the battle when the British advance stalled and received a mortal wound as a result. Rule: The first time a British infantry unit receives a Pin marker Symons must be attached to that unit and remain as an additional officer for the remainder of the game.

The view looking from Dundee towards Talana Hill (left) and Lennox Hill (right). Smith's Farm is the white building in front of Talana Hill. The Royal Dublin Fusiliers have just crossed Sand Spruit and deployed into line ready to advance. Behind them are the Kings Royal Rifle Corps followed by The Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Order of Battle

British C-in-C Major General Sir William Penn Symons
Royal Dublin Fusiliers
Kings Royal Rifle Corps
Royal Irish Fusiliers
2 x Batteries Royal Field Artillery

Boer Commandant Lucas Meyer
Ross Commando
Jacklex Commando
Newline Commando
Field Artillery
Pom Pom

Victory Conditions
If the Boers have not been defeated by the end of turn 12 the game ends in a British defeat.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

First Blood

20 October 1899, Dundee Natal, 5.40am – the British forces under Major General, Sir William Penn Symons have mustered in the town square for drill.

"Keep em' at it Sergeant Major, drill, drill and more drill until this sorry lot really start to look like soldiers of the Queen begad!"
"That's better, much better - but what's that infernal banging?"
"Look lively lads, jump to it someones bleedin' well shootin' at us!"

As the early morning mist clears it becomes obvious the Boers have stolen a march on Penn Symons and occupied Talana Hill overlooking Dundee. The Boers have had the audacity to place artillery on the hill and fire shells down towards the town.

They've also occupied Smith's Farm at the base of the hill and taken advantage of the stone walls around the property to create a strong defensive line.
As well as taken positions on Lennox Hill to the left of Talana Hill.

There’s only one thing for it – a frontal attack in close order to clear the rag-tag of farmers away, that’ll show them!

Friday, 26 June 2020

1st Devonshire Regiment

The Devons are finished and based ready for action. There are 24 riflemen plus the usual 3 officer figures to make my standard British infantry unit establishment. This brings the total number of British infantry regiments to four which must surely be enough to beat the Boers?

That’s probably it for the British forces now but I will add another Commando to the Boers at some point just to be fair.

I’m hoping to play a solo game of Talana Hill soon but just need to complete some scenic items first.

EDIT***updated photo***

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Talana Hill

Below is a scan of a map I drew of the Battle of Talana Hill for my 4th Year school history project back in 1970. I can’t remember where I copied it from, or in fact where I got the information about the course of the battle, but it may have been Montgomery’s A History of Warfare which is the one book listed in my project bibliography that I no longer have.

There are four pages of my hand-written burb on the battle and I was fascinated to re-read it 50 years on. I’m not sure why I wrote so much about this engagement but in my text I declare "I have decided that Talana shall be one of the battles that I describe, not because it was the first engagement but because of the lessons it taught". And in my summary, I concluded, "The lessons that it taught were, firstly, a steep-sided hill occupied by the Boers offered no sound defence owing to the dead ground between its base and the summit. Secondly, officers holding swords and wearing marks of rank were easy targets for Boer marksmen. Thirdly, a frontal attack was no way to deal with an enemy armed with the Mauser rifle". Hmm, possibly I plagiarised that but whatever, it sounds authoritative – possibly I will need some rule amendments!

So, it makes sense to have Talana Hill as the starting place for my re-fights in miniature.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

British Reinforcements

As is common to all commanders who have just lost a battle I have called for reinforcements to my British army. I felt during the test game that if only I had one more infantry unit, I would have swept the Boers from the field!

I have completed the first batch of figures for the next unit; these are more from the superb Raventhorpe Miniatures range. The British ‘standing at ready’ are BO19 and the officer is BO21. At the same time, I couldn’t resist painting the very nice Boer Commandant figure BO08.

When finished the unit will be nominally designated as the 1st Devonshire Regiment who fought at Elandslaagte.