This is a series of "news reports" that were written in the 1990's for my old website. They introduce the first couple of games that were played in a fictional Colonial war.
The original inhabitants were of African descent but it has been over a thousand years since the first Arab slave traders from the Foulyami tribe established a fort in the Wadi that bears their name. In time the size of this establishment grew into a colony and was subjected to the Turkish Empire. As the Turks and Arabs moved south they mingled with the native population to form a new mountain and desert tribe about which not much is known at this time. The slave trade itself suffered a setback when Zulu refuges fleeing from Shaka, settled on the central plateau, marrying with the local tribes and founding a new, fierce warrior tribe, the Nku Khu. These warriors halted slave raiding incursions forcing the slavers to compete with Zanzibar for slaves imported from the mainland. In 1846, inspired by Egyptian example and disgusted by lack of Turkish support, the Emir declared himself an independent Sultanate, announcing that all the world would come to know Wadi Foulyam.
In 1856, three events occurred which have led to the current hostilities. First in the North, The Charleston Trading Company was given permission to found a trading post, which they have named Fort Retmus, leading to an infusion of American traders and fears that they will interfere in what has been a British sphere of influence. Secondly, the old King of the Nku Khu died and the succession has since been in dispute between his appointed heir King Goddiddal and his half brother Prince Kwannabee and lastly, gold was discovered in the Tsentral Mountains. The GRAND Company has supported the claims of Prince Kwannabee and signed a treaty with him granting them mining rights and a right of way for a railroad. Attempts to exercise these right led to increasingly violent confrontations with the Nku Khu, now increasingly equipped with firearms supplied by American and Arab traders not to mention by GRAND themselves who paid their workers partly by giving them old muskets. Cancellation of this short sighted policy led to a strike at the mines and a revolt by native police led by a radical known to the local Europeans as TopHat.
WAR LOOMS IN NKU KHULAND
Setting out from New Durban early in the morning, the relief column under Colonel H. MacDuff consisted of a 9 man squadron of the 17th Lancers, 2 companies of the Naval Brigade 17 strong in total, led by Commodore Throgmortan of H.M.S. Insolvent, 1 7pdr of the New Durban Volunteer Artillery and 4 wagon loads of supplies. Led by the brave and resourceful scout, Kit Wooderington, the column was approaching Tsentral Ridge only 3 feet south-east of the fort when several Nku Khu cattle boys were seen descending the western slopes overlooking the road. Suspecting the presence of Nku Khu warriors, MacDuff deployed the Naval brigade and gun to cover the wagons and sent Wooderington off hell for leather to the post with orders for the squadron of 16th lancers there to sally out and meet the column.
Swinging quickly into action, the sharp-eyed gunners spotted the white cowhide shield of a Nku Khu warrior creeping forward through the bush and blazed away with canister, scything down the long grass. Unfortunately, these experienced warriors threw themselves on the ground as the order to fire was given then rose and rushed the gun crew only to be driven back by a 2nd blast of canister. Before the gun could be reloaded a fresh group of warriors sprang from cover and rushed into contact wounding 1 gunner and driving the rest back from the gun. At the same moment a second impi rose and charged the Naval brigade only to be blasted by rifle fire while yet more impis suddenly emerged from cover closing at a run on the unprotected eastern flank and rear of the convoy. Quickly MacDuff ordered 1 unengaged company of the Naval Brigade back to cover the rear of the column while the lancers swung back to cover the eastern flank. By this time Wodrington had reached the fort but the post Commander Bartley Barrington-Blood refused to believe that this scruffy civilian could possibly be carrying valid orders.
Seeing a break in the enemy lines, MacDuff ordered the wagons forward at full speed towards the fort covered by a charge of 1 company of the Naval Brigade led by Lt. (RN) Horatio Trumpeter. To the east the lancers met the oncoming Nku Khu and drove them back into cover while to the south, the 2nd company of bluejackets assisted by the remaining gunners fell back slowly while fending off charge after charge by 2 complete impis. Despite the loss of the brave Lt. (RN) Cook, PO Bloggins and his little force never wavered through the long afternoon. Meanwhile, seeing the convoy appear and hearing the roar of battle, Barrington-Blood had the bugler sound "Stand-To" and ordered his men to "Man the barricades, Dig-In and Prepare to advance" while he called a council of war to discuss whether or not his orders to "Hold the Fort" allowed him to send out the cavalry to cover the approach of the supply wagons.
For a moment it looked like MacDuff's gamble in sending the wagons forward would payoff as the they neared the fort but suddenly, just to the east of the wagons, yet another Impi rose from the grass beating their spears against their shields and shouting the haunting battle cry which gives them their name (Ed note, this call is familiar to all veteran's of this war but is hard for the rear at home to imagine, it starts with that typical African sharp clicking sound (Nku) followed by a low undulating cry with a long koooh sound. I will leave it to the reader's imagination as to how the irreverent Tommy Atkins reproduces this sound). Behind the wagons, 1/2 an impi slipped past the sailors and headed in pursuit as a 6th impi came loping down the hillside towards the sailors.
It seemed like time paused as the garrison and escort watched the deadly race for the gate. Like a gambler, the fate of the garrison seemed to rest upon the turn of a card. Would they make it? But, no, with a burst of speed the Nku Khu warriors burst in upon the wagons slaughtering oxen and drivers. Rifles cracked from the fort driving them back as the 2 remaining wagons took cover in a gully. In the fort, Lt. Templehill suggested that he be allowed to ride out with a small escort to get a clarification from MacDuff, and at last Barrington-Blood agreed. Leading his small troop out of the gate at a gallop, Templehill led his lancers straight into the nearest impi at a gallop, not even pausing to form up. There was a tough struggle and 1 gallant lancer was dragged from his horse and disemboweled, but soon the warriors were streaming back to cover. To the south MacDuff had left the Naval Brigade to hold their own and brought up the 17th lancers at the gallop to disperse the warriors attacking the rear of the convoy. Bravely the wagon master rallied the last 2 wagons and led them back towards the protecting rifles of the garrison but the first of the eastern impis had crossed Tsentral Ridge and putting on a burst of speed, crashed into the wagons despite a hail of bullets and slaughtered the last of the wagon train before shrinking back into the long grass.
As the sun sank in the west, MacDuff rallied his men and counted up the dead as the Nku Khu faded into the hills. 4 sailors including the Brave Lt(RN) Cook and 2 lancers had given their lives in a vain effort to get the wagons through. Colonel Barrington-Blood has a lot of explaining to do as the reinforced garrison goes on 1/2 rations.
The Nku Khu To Be Taught a Lesson
In order to settle the situation, Her majesty's government finally agreed to dispatch an expedition in February of this year and now in July they ready for action but a fierce debate rages amongst the military leaders. Major Campbell of the 93rd favours the use of the Sword and the Flame to bring the Nku Khu to heel while Major Stuart, RA maintains that this should be treated as a Big War while public sentiment clamours for the Governor General to send MacDuff to the Frontier. An informed source has indicated that in an effort to smooth things over, the available forces will be divided into three equal columns, each free to follow its own rules of war. (ed note, what follows is an account of a scenario played 3 times, once with The Sword & the Flame, once with Big Wars and once using With MacDuff To the Frontier)
Suspecting an ambush, Campbell sent out 2 lancers to scout ahead. As the left hand man approached a patch of woods, a ragged volley rung out laying 1 lancer low. Hurriedly deploying into skirmish order, the Highlanders fanned out and returned fire at the unseen foe while the cavalry galloped forward to secure the ford. Unfortunately the current was stronger than expected and an hour was lost in crossing the stream. Scouts were sent ahead towards the north eastern kraal but another ringing volley laid 1 low. The bugles rang out Charge! Charge! but the stream was too fast and not a single man succeeded in moving forward. By the time the cavalry was formed up again under a constant dropping fire from the hill to their flank, fresh bodies of Nku Khu had appeared from both villages and rushed forward surrounding the cavalry. The bugles rang out Charge! again and the survivors spurred forward to be swallowed by the mass of black warriors. In a thick swirl of dust, horses neighed and men shouted over the clash of steel. For a moment it looked liked the natives would wipe out the gallant band but, taking the reins between his teeth with carbine in one hand and revolver in the other, Sgt Roch of the 10th Hussars charged forward, single handedly slaying the chief of the Western kraal and 7 of his men, putting the rest to rout.
Adopting the same general plan, Major Stuart sent his cavalry ahead. Splashing across the stream to the strains of Garry Owen, the cavalry spurred on ignoring a spatter of enemy rifle fire. Wheeling to the left the 13th Light Dragoons stormed up the craggy hill and scattered the natives hiding there. As they reformed, the lancers rode past and neatly jumping the stone walls, slaughter the warriors holding the cattle kraal atop the hill. The 4th Light Dragoons now came forward and spurred in to the village, riding down King Goddiddal and capturing the hidden munitions.
Behind the cavalry, the Fort Henry Guards traded fire with the Nku Khu on the wooded hill while the Ross shires forded the stream. As the Highlanders crossed over, the left wing of the Black Shields leapt to their feet and charged down the hill. A disciplined volley cut down swathes of brave warriors but the remnants pressed on to be slaughtered by British bayonets. It was too much, the few survivors turned and fled, pursued by the exultant soldiers, who, heedless of the bugler sounding recall, pressed forward to finish off their foes. Suddenly, another body of Nku Khu, the right wing of the Black Shields lepta out of cover and, rushing in amongst the disordered soldiery before a shot could be fired, cut them down to a man, only the young drummer escaped back towards the ford. This victory came too late however, across the river, the highlanders had coolly formed square in the face of waves of Brown Shield bearers, and, gunned them down. With over 50% of the Nku Khu force laid low or scattered, the remnants crept back into the brush, leaving the redcoats to see to gather the captured war supplies and see to their dead and wounded. Oddly, the slain body of the king had disappeared. Presumably in the confusion, some of his warriors had managed to drag off the body.
In the brush behind him, the Brown Shields pressed bravely on and attempted to make up for their dilatoriness by charging 'A' company the Rosshire Buffs, only to be repulsed by a ringing volley. Falling back, they rallied just in time to advance again and collide with the light cavalry who brushed them aside then charged up the hill followed by screaming highlanders. The rebels, hunkered down behind the stone kraal, fired until the end then broke and ran. Another quick search of the village revealed nothing and MacDuff gathered his men and returned to camp. The Nku Khu had been scattered at very little cost but with their supplies intact which meant that they will be back!