Fire & Sword Battle 04: Sally at Abu Hamed

As referred to in Turn 03: January 1884, at Abu Hamed Sayed Bey decides to sally forth from the town and endeavour to temporarily break the siege. While Abu Hamed is now plentifully supplied with resources (it has over 6 months of supplies on hand) Sayed Bey determines to take the opportunity to procure more, and while he has a relatively fresh & strong force available to hopefully inflict a defeat on the local Mahdist forces. Unbeknown to Sayed Bey, he sallies forth only two days after Sir Henry’s victory over the Dervish force at Baqah al-Garbiyyah Oasis, intent on breaking the siege of Abu Hamed…

C Battery, Egyptian Artillery

1st & 2nd Sections, ‘C’ Battery, Egyptian Artillery supported by Talahawiyeh’s detachment of armed Sailors

Sayed Bey elects to commit his entire garrison to the venture, and Talahawiyeh‘s detachment of armed sailors are also disembarked to participate in the action, Talahawiyeh herself will then provide flanking fire support from the Nile – as the main attack will be conducted close to the river bank to maximise this support. Sayed Bey deploys his two infantry companies on his left adjacent to the Nile, while on hsi right he deploys his full artillery battery supported by Talahawiyeh‘s provisional marines (i.e. armed sailors). The full Anglo-Egyptian force was thus:

  • HQ, 1st Egyptian Battalion – Colonel Ilyas Sayed Bey [1m + 3]
  • 3rd Company, 1st Egyptian Rifles [20] – Lieutenant Musabeh Zulafiqar
  • 4th Company, 5th Egyptian Rifles [15 + 2W] – Captain Wahab El Zahra Agha
  • Talahawiyeh‘s Provisional Marines [6] – First Mate ‘Bukey’ Robinson
  • HQ, C Battery Egyptian Artillery [1m] – Kaimakam Khatib Gadelrab Bey
    • 1st Section, C Battery Egyptian Artillery [4 + Krupp 6pdr] – Shawish Rabou Faiz
    • 2nd Section, C Battery Egyptian Artillery [4 + Krupp 6pdr] – Shawish Ziyad Qureshi
  • Steam Gunboat Talahawiyeh – Captain Farouk Zulfakar
    • Field Gun [4 + Breech-loading 9pdr]
    • Machine Gun [3 + 1W + 3-Barrelled Nordenfelt]

Note: W = Wounded; m = Mounted.

Meanwhile the Dervishes besieging Abu Hamed have been a little depleted, some of their force has obviously been drawn north to oppose the advance of Sir Henry at Dongola, and other forces are out foraging – so the Egyptian attack catches them somewhat unawares…:

  • C-in-C: Amir Hilal & Escort [2m]
  • Red Rub: Amir Ibrahim & Escort [2m + 3]
    • 2 Bands Dongolavi Ansars [20 each]
    • 1 Band Dongolavi Riflemen [10]
  • Green Rub: Amir Guhbaisi & Escort [2m + 3]
    • 1 Band Beja Hadendowa Fuzzy-Wuzzies [20]
    • 2 Bands Dongolavi Ansars [20 each]
    • 1 Band Dongolavi Riflemen [10]
  • Miscellaneous Artillery [4 + Krupp 6pdr]

The Egyptian forces rapidly deploy at dawn and soon head off, with the rising sun over their right shoulders and helping to conceal their initial deployment – However the alarm is soon raised in the Dervish camp and they stream forth, to oppose the advancing garrison. Amir Ibrahim’s “Red Flags” Rub is in the lead, and approaches quickly, but not without the Dongolavi Ansars immediately taking several casualties from both the artillery fire of Talahawiyeh and the guns of the Egyptian ‘C’ Battery, but also accurate rifle fire from both the Egyptian rifle companies. On the Egyptian right, Dervish Riflemen approach the artillery, sniping at the crews, and are engaged by the guns and the Talahawiyeh ‘Marines’. As more Dervishes deploy, their artillery opens up on the Talahawiyeh, and she rapidly steams downstream to close the range on the new threat and engage…

By this stage the ‘Red Flags’ have reached the Egyptian Infantry line, and to shore up the weakened 4th Company, 5th Egyptian Rifle Battalion on the left Sayed Bey personally joins them to lead from the front. The small 1st Egyptian Rifle Battalion Headquarters detachment meanwhile moves round to their left, to plug the small gap between them and the Nile. As the Dervishes look to charge both companies their Riflemen (now depleted of ammunition) look to charge the artillery battery in support of them,  as the Ansars of the “Green Flags” Rubs rapidly approach in support. Meanwhile Talahawiyeh has begun to get the upper hand in her duel with the Mahdist Artillery, while her Nordenfelt Machine Gun continues to support the Egyptian Infantry, firing into the flanks of the bands of the Red & Green Flag Rubs as they pass.

4th Company, 5th Egyptian Rifles in the thick of it

3rd Company, 1st Egyptian Rifles in foreground, beyond 4th Company, 5th Egyptian Rifles is in the thick of it and narrowly avoids being overrun, but it’s commander El Zahra Agha falls leading from the front…

On the left the 4/5th Rifles are caught in open order by the first wave of Dervishes, and a furious mêlée ensues, with casualties to both sides before the Ansars are thrown back, and only after the loss of the Egyptian Company Commander; Captain Wahab El Zahra Agha. On the right the Red Flag Riflemen have been despatched by the Anglo-Egyptian Artillery & Sailors, but more riflemen (from the Green Flags) are now approaching. In the centre the main body of the Green Flags Rub, including a band of fanatical Beja Hadendowa Fuzzy-Wuzzy Warriors, is now bearing down on the Egyptian 3/1st Rifle Company. Downriver Talahawiyeh has silenced the Mahdist Artillery and commencing focussing it’s attention on the rear of the advancing Dervish Infantry. The Red Flags meanwhile pick themselves back up and charge again at the 4/5th Rifle Company!

The battle reaches it’s climax, with the 4/5th Egyptians almost being overrun – however they hold on and throw back the Red Flags again – however in the midst of the carnage Colonel Ilyas Sayed Bey falls to a Mahdist Spear whilst leading the mêlée from the front – the Egyptians losing their Commander in Chief! As the remnants of the Red Flags retreat past the approaching wave of Green Flags, there is a an almost perceptual pause across the Egyptian side as they all hold their breath (will their morale survive the loss of their brave leader?), and the subsequent relieved exhale (as all units successfully passed their Major Morale test for loss of the C-in-C). The Egyptians regroup and consolidate – all their fire is now concentrated on the approaching Green Flags, and the latter stagger, then halt, in the face of this fire – the Dervishes are unable to push their attack forward and further and it falters. They hold their ground for a short while, before retiring, and are seen off by the unremitting fire of Talahawiyeh and the Egyptian Artillery. While the 4/5th Company regroups, the 3/1st & Talahawiyeh‘s Marines rapidly pursue the retiring Mahdist force and enter their fortified encampment & village before they regroup – the battle is over and a large stockpile of supplies are secured.

While not a Pyrrhic victory, the battle was costly for the Egyptians, aside from the loss of 2 experienced officers (Sayed Bey & El Zahra Agha), their were a further 7 dead & wounded – overall about 15% casualties. However the victory not only secured several months more of supplies and food for the town, it also provided a temporary check on the Mahdists, and combined with Sir Henry’s victory the day before almost imperceptibly started to dampen the fury of the revolt in Northern Sudan.

War Correspondents’ Images

About The Game

All the terrain & figures are from my collection, except the Palm Trees which were supplied by Kieran Mahony. The figures are mostly 28mm Perry Miniature’s with the odd Wargames Foundry (Sailors & Steamer Crew and Civilians) & Castaway Arts (Steamer Crew, Arab Civilians, & a couple of Dervish Riflemen) mixed in. The Talahawiyeh is the John Jenkin’s African River Steamer with minor modifications and the addition of some London War Room guns…

Return to Turn 03: January 1884 of the campaign.

(This game was played in April 2011).

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  • Michael Peterson

    A terrific looking table and figures, it really captures the spirit of colonial warfare. A most enjoyable AAR.

    • Thanks Michael – appreciate the kind words. And yes really starting to get a good set of terrain for Colonials now so the games are really looking the part! Luckily there are 3 of us at the AWC who are really into 28mm TSATF Colonials and we all have variety of armies and lots of good terrain, so we can cover lots of theatres (and armies) such as Sudan, Darkest Africa, Zulu War, and NWF easily between us. And these are easily morphed to comparable theatres like East Africa, Germans in the Pacific, plus of course WW1 in Africa, Middle East, China, etc, not to mention any pulp-like stuff set immediately post WW1. Glad you liked the AAR – it’s a bit brief but sets the tone I think (as it was a very fast moving battle)! 🙂