Wednesday, June 27, 2018

From the Archives: Rebel Island 2001, The First Faraway Wargame.

It was around 1995/96 that my friend Tom and I started wargaming with plastic 54mm figures. We started with the War of 1812, ACW and AWI then hooked my friends Ron and Jerry into 54mm WW2 and Punic Wars. By the end of the century I had started work on some Turks to fight my British in Egypt in 1809 and had indulged myself by buying some Britains recasts. I had intended them for the Indian Mutiny and Crimea but they ended up fighting Turks and NkuKhu warriors  in an imaginary Colonial setting, or else ACW armies which led me to the Fenian raids.

It did not take long to want a wider scope of action and under the influence of the Colonial Wars group (including a certain Bob Cordery), I decided to embark on a wider Imagi-nation adventure. For some reason Oberhilse and Faraway came to mind. I must have been watching my Sharpe VHS tapes too often!

Anyway, below is a report of the very first Faraway battle to hit my  tabletop. This was in 2001 on the occasion of a visit by my Virginian friends, the Daniels. This was in my old games room on my 6'x10' table and based on a CS Grant scenario from Scenarios for Wargames.

The report was first published on my old website: With MacDuff on the Web. I manged to rescue the text and some of the photos but have had to reformat and edit it for the blog so it looks a little different and is missing some pictures and some obsolete stats and so on, but the story and most of the pictures were saved to be shared again. The rules in use were With MacDuff to the Frontier which had variable length moves based on a die roll plus modifiers as well for Control Checks for units not within the command radius of a Commander.

These were early days, long before I discovered that the land was actually called Atlantica and this was just a reporter's story but it is the best reference of those times that I have and will be taken into account as I again search out and relive in 54mm the turbulent years starting in 1868 in Atlantica.


August 19 1861

Dundee Highlanders marching past Governor General and Lady Beaverbrook on their way to embark for Rebel Island.


OC: Brigadier Daniel Johns (John Daniels Jnr.)
2ic: Colonel H MacDuff (Ross Macfarlane)
British Units
11th Hussars
17th lancers
Scots Fusilier Guards
Grenadier Guards

Faraway Forces
New Dundee Highlanders
A and B co. Ft Henry Guards
Lawfordton University College Rifles
Naval brigade with field gun and rocket

Pandora leading her Volunteers into action on Bighil Heights.

The Fenians

OC:  General Jack Daniels (John Daniels )
McAlpine's Fusiliers
O'Reilly's Regiment
O'Carroll's Chasseurs
Harper's Battery
Farrel's Fenian Dragoons

Local Forces
Colonel "Annie" Pandora (Pandora Daniels )
New Waterford Volunteers
Tipperary Tigers

Rebel island as seen from a hot air balloon as the action begins.
The general layout of the island can be gathered from the accompanying photos.  The Redcoats had a choice of  3 beaches, one to the East, one to the Southwest, 1 right under the guns of Ft. Daniels. There were sufficient boats to land the troops in 5 waves,  the waves appearing every 4th turn.

Gen Jack Daniel's men were encamped in an earthwork on the Western end of the island, Pandora and her Volunteers in billets in New Waterford and the Tipperary Tigers billeted in Farmton in the south.

The game began with the Dragoons departing for their daily patrol of the island heading east from Fort Daniels through New Waterford, while the 1st wave came ashore at Souwest beach, hidden by a screen of trees and the lower slopes of  Bigill Heights.
The fight begins.
By the time the Dragoons stopped to chat with local inhabitants, frolicked on East Beach and finally topped the crest looking down onto Souwest beach, the first 3 waves of Red troops were ashore and running out of dead ground to hide in. At the same time as a courier was sent galloping back through Farmton and
over the saddle, sounding the alarm "The British are coming, The British are coming" (sad but true),  an alert sentry in Ft Daniel spotted the first company of Fort Henry Guards emerging from the woods and sounded the alarm.

Bluecoats spilled  from the fort forming a skirmish line along the creek and up into the hills while the gunners quickly (two 6's in a row for movement) wheeled the gun from its position overlooking North Beach to face the attackers.

Brigadier Littlejohn ordered the cavalry to sweep away the enemy skirmishers as the rattle of musketry disturbed the morning's peace. Hearing the bugles ring out from behind the musket smoke, the Fenian skirmish line fired one last hasty volley and scrambled back towards the fort or up the grassy slopes of Bighil Heights. Incredibly one of those bullets, flying high, reached back and plucked the unfortunate Brigadier Littlejohn from the saddle. As his aides gathered round the stricken general,  the 11th Hussars emerged through  the lingering smoke and seeing only the sharpshooters climbing the slopes, spurred
after them.

Despite the uneven, rabbit hole strewn hillside, the Hussars caught up with the fleeing Fenians and laid nearly 1/2 of them low in a running fight . Seeing Pandora and her Volunteers emerge from behind the crest to cover the sharpshooters, the Hussars spurred forward yet again but a burst of musketry from the volunteers and cannon fire from the fort tore into them  and sent the dazed remnants staggering back to the beach where they spent the rest of the day tending to wounded men and blown horses.

Desperate stand of local Fenian Volunteers.

As the hussars retreated, the 17th lancers spurred forward, but, falling foul of the rabbit holes, they too were gunned down , only Col. Flashinpan and 1 trooper making it back down the slopes to the beach where they hastily re-embarked.

As the cavalry charged to glory, MacDuff took  command as best  he could. The Naval Brigade was now up and he ordered them to bombard the fort  while a company of Scots Fusilier Guards moved up into line. After a sharp exchange of fire, the Fenian gunners were driven away from their guns and  the British infantry which had been standing under a peppering long range fire from the fort and from the slopes of Bighil Heights, prepared to advance.

On the right, a company of Fort Henry Guards reinforced by another of Grenadiers, was trading fire with the Tigers and dismounted Dragoons. Despite the steady conduct of both companies it was soon seen that standing in close order  trading fire with an equal number of  skirmishers was not going to win the day. (esp when rolling fistfuls of ones ) Beating up their men's muskets, the British officers ordered bayonets fixed and led them forward into a withering blast of musket fire which laid low the colour party and 1/2 of both companies. The red coated soldiers fell back, rallied and advanced into another furious hail of fire then broke and ran covered by a handful of Grenadiers.

The last wave of troops was not quite up yet and  the command was badly scattered with only 2 companies in the main battleline but with the enemy artillery silenced, it was now or never if an assault was going to go in.  Slowly the Red line moved forward under a hail of  rifle fire from the fort.

Then, suddenly,  a blaze of fire came from the flank where Pandora and her crack shot volunteers had crept forward along the slopes into close range. In an instant the British line was a bloody shambles  and reluctantly MacDuff ordered a retreat to the boats covered by the Dundee Highlanders and the boys of the College Rifles who had just arrived.

HMS Invisible  covers the retreat.

For a moment it looked like the Fenians would press their advantage but then like a deux-ex-machina, HMS Invisible appeared bristling with guns, and the Fenians crept back to cover. (Actually, it was deux-ex-machina, it was bad enough the British got drubbed in the opening battle (very traditional wot?) I wasn't about
to allow them to be annhilated !)

Billy Russell covers the retreat in a different manner.


  1. As always an enjoyable account!

  2. Replies
    1. It was a fun day, hard to believe it was 17 years ago!

  3. Ross Mac,

    It read just as well now as it did back then! A wonderful battle report and some great photos as well!

    All the best,


  4. It's what toy soldiers were made for! I'm trying to figure out the origin of the Pandora figure, did she start life as a Marx Maid Marian?

    1. Nothing so clever, not even a conversion. She was a metal kit made by....not sure, Sarum possibly? of a member of a Woman's Rifle Volunteer company in Saint John New Brunswick in the late 19thC. My google fu has failed me and I can't any of the details but picture of the unit used to pop up in various Colonial gaming related books.

  5. Replies
    1. I think sometimes I forget how much pleasure I got/get from these!

  6. Like the 'Rebel Island' and very Old School look of it all in 54mm. Was this a 4' x 6' table - Ross?

  7. The troops and tabletop layout captures the imagination.

  8. Stirring stuff! And very Wellsian if I might say so.

    Best Regards,


    1. Well, like Lawford and Young, once these sorts of authors get into your head as a young fella.....

  9. And there was me thinking of war with The Folk of the Faraway Tree!

    1. My education was obviously lacking, I had to google that. Hopefully my blog won't become a source of disappointment to thousands of googling fans of Enid Blyton!

  10. Causes me to rush even faster to get my own chaps ready for the table. Excellent read and full of dash and splendour. If you received 10 copper pennies for every time I open this page to look at your Dundee Highlanders, you`d be rich by now.

    1. Ahh, those were the days. The Dundee lads are in the queue of units needing a refurbish before taking the field again.