Tuesday 12 April 2022

Modder River - The Game


Things got off to a good start for the British when a die roll of  5 allowed them to discover Bosman's Drift. Methuen immediately ordered Colville to send half of the Scots Guards, supported by a maxim and the 9th Lancers, on a flanking movement against the Boer left.
Watching from the far bank of the river, Cronjie noted the enemy manoeuvre and issued orders to extend his flank. This is one of the few times I have actually moved any Boer units in one of my games!

9th Brigade begins to advance and the Northumberland Fusiliers start taking casualties as they lie in direct line of sight of the Boer artillery.

De la Rey looks on as the British forces move forward on either side of the railway line. The Boer guns are laying down an effective fire with no retaliation as they have not yet been 'spotted'.

The view from behind the now extended left flank of the Boer force. The Jacklex Commando and a pom-pom open fire on the Scots Guard column as it deploys into line.

Colville leads the rest of the Guards Brigade forward. At this stage they have only lost one man and one officer so confidence is high.

The 4.7" gun 'Joe Chamberlain' gets into action having finally spotted the Boer guns. This gun didn't arrive in time to take part in the real battle but as I have no 12pdr Naval gun model it seemed only fair to include it in the OOB.
Ouch! The Northumberland Fusiliers receive a devastating barrage from the Boer artillery backed up by accurate Mauser fire. They are reduced to 9 figures and removed from play - and it's only the end of Turn 2.

The left of the British line has advanced as far as the farm opposite the dam crossing point. The half-battalion of the North Lancashire's have taken a couple of casualties as have the A&S Highlanders on their right but nothing to slow up either unit.

Opposite them, good shooting from the British artillery has caused some of the Ross Commando to flee with the Commandant himself amongst the casualties. There is a chance here for a successful charge if the A&S Highlanders can just get a bit closer.

On the other flank the Scots Guards detachment have deployed but the heavy casualties received means that they become the second British unit to be removed from play. However, the maxim gun and Lancers are about to deploy.

Back at the dam, the A&S Highlanders and the North Lancashire's advance to within charging distance of the Boer line but the latter take a 'pin' which will prevent them from charging next turn.

In the centre the Coldstream Guards have no pins so are able to fix bayonets and charge forward. The result is that half of the Kraaidorp Commando is destroyed and the rest take to their ponies.

At the same time the British artillery take out both the Boer guns - well done Joe!

And to top it all the A&S Highlanders led by Methuen himself see off the Jacklex Commando at the point of the bayonet. Methuen received a slight wound in the process and had to be taken to the rear but a complete victory was now within his grasp.

On the British far right the maxim was now bothering the Boers whilst the Lancers looked for an opportunity to use their pointy sticks - but it was not to be.

A further spirited charge by the Highlanders broke the Newline Commando. With three Commandos now destroyed a British victory was declared.

Somewhat demoralised the Boer army withdrew.

It was a brief game lasting only five turns which surprised me a bit and I think the main reason for the British success was that I allowed them to start in a position too close to the Boer front line. If I had deployed them 6" further back it would have allowed a further turn of Boer firing before any British troops were close enough to declare a charge. This would have kept the result more keenly balanced as the British were only 14 casualties short of their breakpoint when the game ended.

However, I should not detract from the great pluck and determination displayed by the British soldiers and the personal valour shown by their general-in-chief. I have never played a game where I had three successful charges so the Empress Queen will undoubtedly be justly proud of this great victory!

Tuesday 5 April 2022

Modder River - Scenario

Following the Battle of Graspan Methuen’s force continued to advance along the railway line towards Kimberley. Very little was carried out in the way of reconnaissance and even though Methuen himself reconnoitered the crossing at Modder River, the British failed to spot that the Boers had a large force dug in along both banks.

Fortunately for the British the loyalist station master at Modder River managed to get a message over revealing the true strength of the Boers although even then Methuen would not believe that their full force was present and decided once again on a frontal attack.

The Boers had indeed been “digging like rabbits” as the station master reported and had created substantial trenches on either side of the river line, the river itself was mostly fordable along its length. Furthermore, General De Le Rey was now fully reinforced with Cronjie’s excellent Transvaal Commandos to help shore up the wavering morale of the Orange Free State Boers and the whole line was backed up by an impressive array of artillery and pom-pom guns. 

This is a map of the battle from my well thumbed copy of "Battles of the Boer War" bought from WH Smith in Bury St Edmunds in 1972. An excellent read.
The table laid out and ready to play. As you can see I've had to adapt the battle area so it fits within the confines of my terrain unit system. The number of British units has also had to be slimmed down slightly but I'm happy that this will be a fairly decent representation of the battle.

Special Rules

1. The British were unaware that the river turned along their right flank although there was a crossing at Bosman’s Drift that they never identified. Rule: At the start of the game the British role a D6 and on a 5 or 6 discover Bosman’s Drift and are free to move troops across it.
2. The river could be crossed along most of its length but could be easily crossed at the dam and the railway bridge (even though this had been destroyed). Rule: Troops may feed across the river at the dam and railway bridge 3 figures abreast. To cross elsewhere roll 1 x D6 crossing at half speed on a roll of 4, 5 or 6.
3. Cronjie’s men had high morale having just come from the siege of Mafeking. Rule: Cronjie’s Commandos are elite troops in this scenario.
4. In the actual battle the British suffered demoralising casualties from their own artillery as they approached the river line. Rule: If British troops are within 12” of the river 50% of fire from their own artillery will fall on them and they will suffer the morale minus for shrapnel.
5. In the actual battle Lord Methuen at one point led a bayonet charge. Rule: each time a British unit charges roll 1 x D6 and on a 4, 5 or 6 Methuen will accompany them adding +1 to their melee score but also becoming liable for the fallen officer test. This can only happen once in the game.
6. De La Rey deliberately placed some of his Orange Free State commandos with the river to their backs to stop them fleeing. Rule: Any Boer figures forced to flee with the river to their back must make a further die roll and on a 5 or 6 they stay put.

Order of Battle

British C in C Lord Methuen
Guards Brigade (Colville)
Coldstream Guards
Scots Guards
1 x Maxim
9th Brigade (Pole-Carew)
North Lancashire Regiment (half battalion)
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Northumberland Fusiliers
1 x Maxim Gun
3 x Batteries Royal Field Artillery (62, 75 & 18 batteries)
Naval Battery
9th Lancers

Boers C in C Commandant Koos de la Rey (Orange Free State)
Ross Commando
Newline Commando
General Cronjie (Transvaal)
Jacklex Commando
Kraaidorp Commando
2 x Field Artillery
2 x Pom Pom

Victory Conditions

To win the British must force three of the four Boers Commandos to flee by the end of Turn 12 or take the dam or railway bridge and force two Commandos to flee. The Boers win if they can reduce the British force to below 50% strength.

Saturday 2 April 2022

Modder River

It is dawn on the 28th of November 1899 and, having recovered from the hard fighting at Graspan, Lord Methuen's column is nearing the Modder River as they continue the advance to relieve Kimberley.

Colonel Colville is reporting to Lord Methuen.
"Sir, the Modder River is just ahead shall I order scouts forward?"
"No need Colville, I reconnoitered there personally yesterday and the crossing is not defended." 
"Perhaps so sir but it wouldn't hurt to send forward a troop of cavalry would it?"
"You worry too much Colville, the Boers will likely have headed to the high ground at Magersfontein, they wouldn't stand here against British troops on level ground!"

"Dig in lads and adjust your sights to 600yds, that's where we'll hit 'em!"

"Site those guns carefully so you can sweep the open ground if the Brits dare to advance!"

Next up the battle of Modder River.