Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Follow Up Edition: War by Sea, Air and Land!

New report from the expedition up the Newwaussie River

"As we descended a shot rang out..."

We have a new report for the Newaussie Expedition from Lt. V______ of the Faraway Trading Company Aeronautical Service.

"In all my years with the FTC Air Service we have never tried carrying troops into battle before. It wasn't easy but by gathering every balloon and stripping them down we managed to cram 2 platoons of Riflemen on board our small flotilla.  Luckily the balloons had first been introduced to carry a fair cargo of supplies as they went from trading post to trading post so the baskets were larger than normal.

The wind generally was light from the West which could have been a problem but we took off early and were able to catch a good onshore breeze which carried us right up to and around in behind the battery though we had to stay low to get the best effect. The vegetation was pretty thick but we caught glimpses of movement down near the native huts. It was a bit of shock as we started our descent to see a puff of smoke followed by the report of a musket. Evidently a long rifle and well aimed as the basket was soon riddled and several men wounded. We quickened our descent but as we neared the ground there was Boom from beyond the river and a cannon ball whistled past our ears. Soon we were on the ground and the Riflemen struggled to get clear while shot plowed through their ranks. As we fired our burners and started to rise again, I looked across at our sister ship and saw it swarmed by savages and 2 of their white spiritual advisers who seemed intent on smiting us harder than one would expect from men of God but its not the first time they have taken up arms against the Queen."

A fierce struggle around the balloons as the Buffs prepare to scale the cliffs in the teeth of the cannister.

" It was hard to abandon the soldiers in the midst of such confusion and danger but it was our duty to get the balloons safely away and stand by for orders. So it was that we hung back over the strait with a bird's eye view of the action. It was hard to see the details through the smoke at times but we could clearly see the savages leaping back down the hill and into the bush and we could see the red coated bodies strewn across the cliff face or limping back towards the boats while yet more men rushed ashore cheering. Suddenly the great gun above the cliff went silent. The surviving Riflemen had done their job!

The climax approaches.
"As we drifted across the river we were surprised to see the chain still in position. We had understood that a party was supposed to have it down by the time our assault was over. Something was obviously wrong and judging by the heavy billows of powder smoke on the bank around the chain, opposition had been stronger than expected. (Ed. Note: See the Early Edition)

To add spice to the soup we could make out a pirate brig working its way down river, a great gun booming from her bow. The shot was splashing all around the Reuse and occasionally smashing in to her. She had been pointed ashore to lend her gunfire to the landing party but we could see the water churning as she reversed her starboard wheel and spun to meet this new and more deadly threat. 

Atop the hill a fresh wave of pirates joined the savages and rushed upon the jumble of Tigers and Buffs but a volley or 2 and a loud ringing cheer as the bayonets came down soon sent them all packing. We could see the fort's gun opening up again and watched the redcoats falling back into dead ground.  The fort was on the far bank and without the flotilla, there was no way to ferry the troops across. All eyes turned on the duel between the Reuse and the Brig". 

The 20 year old steamer MacDuff coming into action for the first time since her refit. 
"It was a tremendous strain to hang in the sky unable to help but while we serve the company rather then her Majesty, we do our duty. Perhaps one day there will be a way for a balloon crew to join in the fight, maybe when Governor Lawrence's steam powered double balloon airship comes into service but that day we could just hang above watching the battle while keeping an eye on the signal flags. 

It seemed like an eternity that the two ships pounded at each other and we could see that the Reuse was taking a pounding. Why didn't she pull back? But we knew, Her Majesty's navy was not about to give way to a pirate brig. Suddenly we noticed the MacDuff swinging around and pushing up river to join the fight. We couldn't believe it! Her balsa wood hull must be 20 years old and since her recent refit, when her stern wheel was replaced by a new fangled screw, she didn't even carry a gun! All she had was an rocket tube from the landing party. Their gunner know his trade though. The first rocket went a bit wide, as they do, but the second landed plumb amidships and in seconds there were explosions and flames reaching up from her hull. Those lubberly pirates must have left gunpowder and tar and gawd knows what else lying about. In any event we could see them emulating rats as they dove from her decks and this disaster for their cause seems to have taken the starch out of the rest of the enemy. The fighting in the jungle faded away and as a party of Jacks rowed ashore and lowered the boom chain, smoke started to  rise from the fort as well." 
Archive print of the MacDuff when she was first commissioned 20 years ago.

So it would appear that our brave soldiers, seamen and  air-sailors have smoked that old Black Fox from another lair.  Is this the end of him or will he reappear where we least expect him? Is he a Black Fox? or a Black Cat with Nine Lives?
For those who have not seen plans for Governor Lawrence's proposed Steam Air Ship, these plans were published 3 years ago. The craft has yet to be seen in public., 


  1. Awesome to see the ole' MacDuff from first commission!

    1. Yes, esp since she was "this" close to being scrapped for parts.

  2. Reads like it was a very enjoyable struggle, Ross. And jolly good for the MacDuff in her first action since her refit. Well done!

    -- Jeff

    1. Truth be told Jeff, I'm not sure she has seen action since the first time, 20 years ago.

  3. A Close run thing and a good job the crocs in the swamp stayed basking in the sun that day.

    1. and a good thing no one went in the swamp, I might have felt compelled to improvise a rule.

  4. Ross Mac,

    I hope that the rocket-trough operator gets a seriously good medal for his most excellent work! Without him and the good old MacDuff things might not have turned out as well as they did!

    All the best,


  5. Ross:
    I don't doubt that the Newwaussie River will feature as a textbook case in future junior officers courses, along with questions such as, "Was this a Combined or a Joint Operation?" and "How did the FATAC extend the Faraway commander's capabilities?" Show your work.
    A terrific battle, and good to see the old MacDuff back in action. Al Stewart should write a song about this.

    1. mhmm, perhaps but I suspect junior officers of the day having courses were more likely to face questions like "red or white?"

  6. If this keeps up I may have to raise a special unit.

  7. Super Photos- Stirling Write-up...great Scenery and Troops...great Imagination Ross- most enjoyable! KEV.