Old New Durban Times

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.

With the increasing importance which the Nku Khu wars are playing in the news of the day, we have thought that a little background work may be of interest. Naud  is a large island off the east coast of Africa.  The centre of the island forms a high plateau which descends through a range of rocky hills to the south and east to a fertile coastal plain. To the north of the plateau is a small range of mountains, which in turn descend through a rocky desert  to the cultivated fields of Wadi Foulyam.
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.

During the early 19th century, a party of Boers, led by Commandant Krasher, left South Africa and established themselves at New Durban on the south east coast. The Great Railroad And New Development or GRAND company was not far behind and the ensuing tension led to the establishment of a British garrison in 1845 and the construction of Fort Henry which the company was granted leave to garrison with its own troops. To date the garrison consists of a battalion of guards dressed  in the style of Her Majesty's troops in scarlet faced blue. Their are plans for a native regiment but none has yet been formed.

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.

British patience with Nku Khu intransigence has  finally run out and the Governor-General has  issued an ultimatum to King Goddiddal: honour Prince Kwannabe' s treaty and hand over any police deserters or face the consequences. It is expected that the King will refuse and  troops have been landing daily in New Durban and taking train for the frontier.

An attempt by  her majesty's forces to relieve Post Number 32 in lesser Nku Khuland went horribly wrong yesterday.
    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)

A shocking report has been received today of a bloody check delivered by the forces of King Nku Khu to the column under  Major Campbell of the 93rd Highlanders.    Acting on reliable information that King Goddiddal was hiding in the one of the twin villages located in the Tehste valley, Major Campbell launched a pre-emptive strike to arrest the king before he and his cache of war materiel could be removed to safety .
The column, composed of   a platoon of 20 Highlanders drawn from the 42nd and 93rd regiments and a composite troop of cavalry 5 men of the 17th lancers &  6 of the 10 th Hussars all under the command of Captain Scarlett, entered the Tehste valley from the south. To either flank were rocky, wooded slopes while in the centre was a low bushy rise, dominating two drifts over the Paynted River which runs east to west. Beyond the river,  to the north east and north west the land rises again to steep rocky knolls, each with a native kraal.
 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.
Looking about him this dogged hero could see that he was the last man of his troop left in the saddle, the gallant Scarlett was dead, buried under a pile of enemy bodies. Only a handful of wounded troopers were left making their way slowly back to the ford assisted by Trooper Yellowbottom whose horse apparently went lame just as the charge was sounded. Back on the south bank of the river, Major Campbell and the remnants of his Highland platoon were formed in square. having beaten off several fierce Nku Khu charges they were now faced by the fire  of 12 rebels who had emerged from hiding and opened a telling fire. Only the death of their leader, Top Hat, kept them at bay. By the time the ragged remnants of the force retired carrying their wounded on the cavalry's horses, the effective force had been reduced to the Major, the Captain of Highlanders, his sergeant, 2 Highlanders, Sgt Roch and Trooper Yellowbottom. The attempt to give  the Nku Khu to the Sword and the Flame underestimated this doughty foe indeed. Consult The Military Advisor about The Sword & The Flame

A second expedition to the Tehste Valley has gone some ways towards recovering British honour. Major Stuart RA seconded to the Nku Khu Field Force has smashed the rebel presence in the valley, reportedly killing King Goddiddal and seizing   several caches of ammunition and other war materiel. Major Stuart, determined to employ Big War  tactics led a column similar in composition to the first but comprised of a 12 man cavalry unit drawn from the 4th & 13th Light Dragoons and 17th lancers,  and 2 detachments of infantry, 10 men from the Ft Henry Guard and 10 from the Ross shire Ross hire Buffs. Nku Khu forces were the same as before but apparently split into 10 man groups to face the new expedition.

 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.

It appears that King Goddiddal was only knocked unconscious and did not die after all.  Within a week of his defeat he has gathered his tribesmen and reoccupied the Tehste Valley and recommenced gathering arms, ammunition and food. This time a force will be dispatched With MacDuff to the Frontier to settle the matter for once and for all.

For the 3rd time an expedition  crossed into the Tehste valley and engaged the Nku Khu.   Colonel MacDuff reports that the enemy has been scattered but that no arms or supplies were found. His column, consisting of a combined squadron of  light cavalry and 2 companies of the Rosshire Buffs (The only battalion still able to take the field after the first two unfortunate expeditions) entered the valley to find that the Nku Khu had been recruited back up to their original strength.    The cavalry spurred ahead, ignoring a ripple of fire from the Black Shields hiding on the first wooded hill. Splashing across the ford they quickly cleared the enemy from the first village and conducted a hasty but fruitless search.  Behind them, the Highlanders screened the hill and proceeded across the ford. Everyone expected the Black Shields to charge forth, but, they must have lost their faith in the King and sat on the hill with only a few timorous and halting advances towards the end of the day.
Across the stream King Goddiddal finally awoke to the fact that the untried but indecisive leaders he had appointed were not going to move without his personal intervention. Setting out at a run, he called the Brown Shields down from their village and sent them out to delay the oncoming Highlanders. Moving on to the ford he found TopHat and his rebels slowly edgy towards the second village and urged them on. 
 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!