Sunday, November 17, 2013

Colenso, 15th December 1899

I'm finding myself quite inspired by Ross's efforts on the Boer War at the moment and as a result have taken up reading Pakenham at the moment as well as warious other bits and bobs including the Practical Wargamer Yearbook for 1999.This has led me on to read up a little on Colenso, Buller's last battle before he was superceeded as the commander of thritish forces in South Aftrica by Roberts.

Colenso was planned as a battle fought in the cause of the relief of Ladysmith.

As far as battles go, it was something of a flash in the pan as things went wrong for the British from the get-go. The boers would see it differently, of course! and indeed they had made masterly use of terrain and concelment in preparing their positions which, in conjunction with the smokeless powder used by their rifles and artillery used, rendered them practically invisible.

Buller wanted to assault the Boer positions on the far side of the Tugela which meandered through the battlefield by means of certain drifts (or fords) which provided crossing points. It would have been a bloody business for obvious reasons, but Buller had numbers (21,000 men in five brigades) and ought to have been able to do it.

However, things went terribly wrong, and the battle turned more into a rescue operation.

Rather than fight the whole battle out, the following possibilities come to mind:

Pulling Hart's Head out of the Noose.
*Hart believes his own maps rather than his native guide and actually finds the Bridle drift. The battle is then a straight crossing of the Tugela by his four Irish battalions in the teeth of the fire of one Boer unit.
*Hart's western-most unit stubles across the Drift by accident.
*Hart sees that he's heading straight into a salient, realises his error and sends out patrols left and right to ascertain the location of the Drift. This could make an interesting game. Sort of a river crossing where you have to find the ford!

Pulling Long's Fat out of the Fire.
*Long realises he's too close to the boer trench lines and pulls back, covered bu the naval guns.
*It's all gone horribly awry for Long, and it's down you you to save some honour by retreiving the guns in the face of intense rifle fire. This might make a good skirmish game. The British player might be tested by deciding on more or less infantry fire-support at the expense of additional gun teams.

Keep the Kop!
* Your Cavalrymen and Mounted Infantry have taken Hlangwane. If you had some guns and infantry to protect them, your fire could enfilade the whole Boer position, rendering it untenable. But could you hold out against increasingly strong Boer counter-attacks and will the Staff reply to your pleas for re-inforcement in time... or at all?

1 comment:

Gerald said...

Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.