Sunday, 28 December 2014

Campaign Game 1 - Where Are All The Horses?

This is the background of the first of the seven scenarios of the Russian Invasion of the Colony of South Australia campaign game:

Where Are All The Horses?

Dawn on Sunday 17th August 1879 found South Australians with a new view off their coastline a Russian invasion fleet! While a frigate acted as lookout for the fleet, an old monitor blockaded the port and four fighting ships bombarded the Fort Glanville building site ‘just in case’ the rest of the ships lay at anchor off Henley Beach disembarking the invasion force by row boat! It was a long and back breaking task! The first troops ashore were two rifle companies from the 36th Division and their task to secure a safe perimeter and they met no resistance. Later in the day the men of the 1st Transbaikal Cossack Regiment were ashore and they were relieved as they were more used to life on steppe than on the rolling waves. Lieutenant-General Lazarev and his staff were ashore by nightfall.

While a few junior officers urged the army commander to push to the city of Adelaide with the four companies he had at hand Lazarev was a wily old bird and was not going to risk his troops in small packets at least not without a complete picture of the South Australians positions. The failure of the fleet to secure an intact jetty was telling and he was painfully aware that to get his full force ashore with all their equipment was going to take at least 48 hours!

Monday afternoon Lazarev was at last confident to move, he looked to the Cossacks who had now rested and were eager for action. They were ordered to advance from the beachhead in small groups and obtain intelligence on the enemy’s dispositions and more importantly begin foraging for victuals, horses and vehicles.

Lazarev's opposite Lieutenant Colonel Downes the commander of the South Australian military forces was meanwhile working like a man possessed he had no sleep in the nights before the invasion as he busily reacted to the initial sightings of the Russian fleet and had instigated the burning of the jetties and the sinking of two steamships in the harbour entrance to block it. While Governor Jervios met with the Russian diplomatic mission that had been sent out from the beachhead Sunday afternoon he garnered all the knowledge he could about his foes. He learnt an important piece of information from various sources viewing the Russians coming ashore they appeared to have brought with them only ammunition and ordinance, there it was crate after crate of bullets piling up on the beach, he opined from this they would be reliant on various locally procured items so immediately dispatched riders and Constabulary to instruct all the residents to the west to withdraw to the confines of the city mile with haste and bring with them every item of food, all their livestock and any wheeled transport they may own so as not to leave them for the invaders. The squares in the city soon resembled farm yards but little was left for the Russians.

Sunday evening Downes spoke with his available company commanders and selected squads of expert marksmen were dispatched westward toward the beachhead to lay in wait for the expected Russian reconnaissance parties ambush them and retire promptly, his aim was to inflict maximum casualties on his foes at the minimum cost while he concentrated his defending forces.

The stage was set, Monday the 18th of August 1879 would see the initial clashes of the campaign and it was men from the Unley Volunteer Rifle Company and the 1st Transbaikal Cossack Regiment who would exchange the first shots...

AAR and scenario forces, set up, special rules and victory conditions to come next!

Friday, 26 December 2014

Captain Darling & The Russian Army....

The Russian Invasion of the Colony of South Australia was not Captain Darlings first encounter with the Imperial Russian Army, he had fought alongside them during the Second Great Martian Invasion of Earth with the 3rd Steam Powered Armoured Brigade comprising men from the British, French and Russian Empires in the Crimean theatre of operations during 1875. It was during this period of Darling's life that he acquired his fondness of vodka and caviar. He got on well with the Russian warriors of the Brigade and preferred their company to that of the French,he was heared to have said:

"You know where you stand with simple Russian folk but how can you trust a Frenchman who scoffs frogs legs and washes it down with red wine that would be best used to strip paint from a privy door!"

The 3rd Steam Powered Armoured Brigade fought continuously against the Martian invaders until their defeat in 1876 and was looked upon as an elite force with a prestigious reputation.

There is only one known picture of the good Captain from that era it is of poor quality and is below. He was photographed by the wreckage of a Martian Scout Tripod Machine in the company of a Russian staff office called Colonel Ovsiannikov who is on his left and another unknown junior officer carrying a Russian standard to his right. 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Russian Invasion Force In 28mm

Replicating the Russian Invasion Force in 28mm required the purchase of figures from several manufacturers. Askari, OutPost and Perry figures have been used. I really like the look of the OutPost figures they have that stocky Russian appearance, the Askari sailors are very good but I was less than impressed with the four army figures from them they look 'odd' especially the drummer (a Wallace and Grommit extra perhaps?) and lastly the Perry figures and Gatling gun were up to their usual standard. They uniforms portrayed are from the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 - 1878.
The Army figures breakdown as:
  • 1 General/Staff Officer
  • 4 Officers
  • 1 Standard Bearer
  • 1 Bugler
  • 1 Drummer
  • 3 NCOs
  • 44 Privates
The Cossack figures breakdown as:
  • 1 Officer
  • 1 Bugler
  • 22 Cossacks
The Naval figures breakdown as:
  • 16 Ratings
  • 3 Gorlov Gun Crewmen
  • 1 "Gorlov" Gun
  • The Russian General/Staff Officer from OutPost:

    The Russian Command figures are mixture of Outpost and Askari figures: 

A sample of the Russian Army Privates all OutPost figures:

All the Russian Army figures!

A sample of the Cossacks from OutPost: 

Hide your women, all the Cossacks!

The Perry "Russian" Gorlov Gun and Crew:

A note regarding the "Gorlov" Gun - Since in this 'history' the Russian army hasn't included any artillery in the invasion forces order of battle there would have been no actual Gorlovs available as they included these in their artillery units. I have in my 'history' taken the line that Lieutenant-General Lazarev being a forward minded general wanted to include these in his order of battle so decided while in Vladivostok to puchase several British made Gatling Guns with Broadwell Drum magazines and ammunition through arms dealers in Hong Kong and then ensured they were aboard his ships. Russian naval crews were familiar with the Gorlov so would man these weapons.

Coming Next "the action" begins with Scenario 1!

Friday, 19 December 2014

South Australian Force In 28mm

We have seen Captain Darling rendered in 28mm well it's time to show the figures representing the South Australian Volunteer Riflemen and gunners.
Selecting figures to represent the South Australian militia forces was an interesting task and determining the paint scheme was even more challenging. In the years since the Colony of South Australia was declared the militia wore a wide variety of uniforms and this variety was still in existence in 1879 the year in which the campaign I am recreating was waged. After speaking with a local uniform expert (Grant Napier, his website is standardization of the militia's uniforms and equipment was being introduced at this time and unsurprisingly the British army was being used as the model. Also since I am looking at company level actions I could avoid the unusual and bizarre uniforms some companies fielded. I've gone with Zulu War British figures and they are painted in colours typical of the British of the time which fits in with the standardisation that was occurring. Regarding the painting the webbing there are references to white, black and brown colours for the various items. I went with white so these figures can easily be used for British.
The figures selected are from the Warlord range, the British Zulu War ones. There are a total of 48 figures from two boxes.

They break down to:
  • 2 Officers with helmets
  • 2 Officers with caps
  • 2 NCOs
  • 2 Buglers
  • 40 Riflemen, 20 in various standing poses and 20 in various kneeling poses
The Captain Darling figure previously shown is a Perry metal from their Zulu War Naval Gatling Gun set.

The South Australian artillery uniform was much easier to research as Fort Glanville in Adelaide has a dedicted group of reinactors and they are a perfect model to copy!

A Warlord metal Zulu War 7lber gun and crew were used to represent these.

The South Australian Command:
From left to right: Bugler, Officer in helmet, Officer in cap, NCO

Close up sample of Riflemen in a movement base:

Close up sample of Riflemen with Captain Darling in a movement base:

All the Riflemen available for use:

South Australian Gun and Gunners:


Coming soon the Russian Invasion force in 28mm...

Monday, 15 December 2014

South Australian Defence Forces

The defence forces of the Colony of South Australia had a chequered history since its establishment in 1836. Since South Australia was established as a free colony garrisons were not required as prison guards like the other colonies so very few British troops were at hand for use by the Govenor. Over the years mainly due to invasion fears from France and Russia militia forces were raised but the numbers then dwindled as the fear of invasion did.

The Russo-Turkish War of 1877 raised the fear of a Russian invasion yet again. At the same time a delegation from Britain was appointed by Government to visit the Australian colonies and furnish a report on the means of improving their defences. A memorandum on defence was laid before the South Australian House of Assembly on 12th of December 1877. It recommended raising a land force consisting of 940 men, for the building of two coastal forts; the completion of a military road along the coastline before the City of Adelaide, torpedoes to be placed across Port Creek and a supply of field guns to be amassed. A further recommendation was for the purchase of an ironclad. This plan was far from complete when the first Cossack placed his foot ashore at Henley Beach on Sunday 17th August 1879.

Two battalions consisting of 21 Volunteer Rifle companies existed when the invasion commenced. Company strengths varied from 45 to 100 men. They were deployed far and wide across the Colony and would need to be mustered for service. Luckily the strongest and best trained of these units were located in around the City of Adelaide so would be ready for action promptly. A couple of companies of Mounted Rifles were present in Adelaide too these were not cavalry and were not expected to fight on horseback.

The average South Australian militia man was enthusiastic to defend his homeland and well trained in the use of his rifle (the Martini-Henry) as attendance of training sessions and the many shooting competitions was very high. But these militiamen were untried in action and Lietenant-Colonel Downes believed he commanded a force that would be best used in shooting matches from good positions rather than used in grand charges and close combat his decisions during the campaign reflected his beliefs. Other South Australians (like Captain Darling) had complete confidence in the rank and file and thought if lead well could accomplish anything!

Two Batteries of relatively light artillery were available and they were manned by well trained and dedicated crewmen. They could not be expected to duel with the Russian fleet and its big gun ships hence the rapid withdrawal of the Colonies forces from the coast.

Regarding fixed coastal defenses in 1879 the Colony had nothing to offer, the Russians had selected the time of their invasion well the first of three proposed forts, Glanville was not anticipated to be even partially operational until 1880 and the others at Glenelg and Largs existed on paper only when the invasion fleet appeared on the horizon!

Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Downes (1834-1923)
Francis Downes was born in Dedham, Essex, England on the 10th of February 1834. In 1877 he was recommended for the post of Commandant of Military Forces of South Australia and when he was offered it he accepted with great pride. He was credited with changing a poorly disciplined volunteer force into a highly trained and proud ‘army’!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Captain Darling in 28mm!

During the 1880 campaign in the Adelaide surrounds Captain Darling was an officer serving with  Lieutenant-Colonel Downes staff and he dressed accordingly.

He wore a tailor made uniform and looked the epitome of the dashing Victorian officer: 
  • Foreign service helmet with cloth puggaree - reportedly stained with a good scotch rather than tea! 
  • Blue tunic styled on the 1878 pattern undress frock coat with gold plated buttons - Darling preferred blue to scarlet for his tunics he commented it complemented his deep aqua eyes better!
  • Tan baggy pants
  • Custom black boots from London with tan puttees
It was not unusual to see the good Captain at the front with a Martini-Henry rifle in his hands while in the thick of action but he usually sported the below weapons: 

  • A Webley Mk4 pistol in a leather holster on his belt
  • A  Pattern 1845 sword
His belt buckle was often remarked on as it was a custom item in gold and featured a crown over the Egyptian symbol of  the 'all seeing eye', it was said he acquired this during his African campaigning and many rumours abounded about its magical portent and some said Darling dabbled in the dark arts of the African healers, better known in Imperial quarters as 'witch doctors'!

How how does one represent a legend in 28mm scale for gaming purposes well with a Perry miniature that's how!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Russian Invasion Army

The Russian Army aboard the invasion fleet comprised a core of trained and battle hardened veterans who had served in the recent Russo-Turkish war of 1877/1878 supplemented with detachments from the units deployed in the Empire's far east provinces.

European Units Detached from IX Army Corps Orel
1st battalion 141st Regiment 1st Brigade 36th Infantry Division                       ≈ 1000 effectives *
1st battalion 143rd Regiment 2nd Brigade 36th Infantry Division                      ≈ 1000 effectives *
Siberian Units
Combined Battalion 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th West Siberian Frontier Battalions        ≈ 800 effectives +
Combined Battalion 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th East Siberian Frontier Battalions         ≈ 800 effectives +
Two Sotnia detached from 1st Transbaikal Cossack Regiment                      ≈ 340 effectives x
Four Gorlov guns on wheeled mounts - naval crews available
*            these units included their rifle company which could be detached for skirmishing
+            these units include one company from each of the parent battalions
x            the Cossacks travelled without mounts
-No artillery included in OOB the fleet would supply ‘big gun’ support when required
-Approximate strengths are based on numbers before the fleet left Vladivostok in July 1879 on arrival off the coast of South Australia on Sunday 17th August 1879 the unit returns showed effective’s numbers ranged from 50% to 70% of these totals
-Troops were equipped with the latest single shot manually cycled bolt action Berdan II rifle which used a socket style bayonet
-To supplement his units firepower as they had no integral artillery Lieutenant-General Lazarev personally ensured four Gorloff guns were included in the invasion forces armaments these were to be crewed by sailors from the fleet

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Russian Fleet

Armoured Cruiser General Admiral– Fleet Flagship
Displacement: 5,031 long tons
Length: 285 ft 10 in
Speed: 12 knots
Complement: 482 officers and crewmen
6 × 8 inch guns
2 x 1 inch guns
2 x 3.4 inch guns
8 x 1.5 inch guns

Armoured Cruiser Gerzog Edinburgski
Displacement: 5,031 long tons
Length: 285 ft 10 in
Speed: 12 knots
Complement: 482 officers and crewmen
6 × 8 inch guns
2 x 1 inch guns
2 x 3.4 inch guns
8 x 1.5 inch guns

Monitors Admiral Spiridov & Admiral Chichagov
Displacement: 3,505–3,587 long tons
Length: 254 ft
Speed: 10 knots
Complement: 280 officers and crewmen
6 × 9 inch guns

Ironclad turret ship Petr Velikiy
Displacement: 10,406 long tons
Length: 333 ft 8 in
Speed: 13 knots
Complement: 441 officers and crewmen
2 × 12 inch guns
6 x four-pounder guns
2 x 1 pounder guns

Armoured Frigate Minin
Displacement: 6,136 long tons
Length: 295 ft
Speed: 14 knots
Complement: 500 officers and crewmen
1 × 8 inch guns
12 x 6 inch guns
4 x 3.4 inch guns
8 x 1.5 inch guns

Seconded non fleet units:
Two Tramp Steamers
Four Colliers 

Friday, 7 November 2014

The Die Is Cast

The Russian invasion fleet cruised from St Petersburg to Vladivostok undetected by any major power and after a short stay in port to resupply and take reinforcements onboard it set sail for the Colony of South Australia! The trip was surprisingly uneventful until the ships neared their objective...
The first sighting of the Russian fleet in South Australian waters was made by an alert crewman on board the magnificent clipper ship the City of Adelaide. John Laverty noticed the armada steaming in an easterly direction through Investigator Strait to the south of the Yorke Peninsular. Captain Edward Alston was alerted and being an experienced mariner he knew a fleet of aggression when he saw it! The clipper that was cruising ahead of schedule was due in Port Adelaide on the 16th of August he told the crew and passengers with this development they would be there on the 15th! Full sail was deployed and the City of Adelaide hastened north east.
To the south west of the clipper on board the Russian flagship the General-Admiral Vice Admiral Lesovskiy shook his head as he watched the unidentified square rigger disappear over the horizon he wished he could intercept it but he knew all of his overloaded vessels with their fouled hulls had no hope of catching this 'hare'. He pondered that the fleet had slipped out of Vladivostok and sailed 1000s of miles unnoticed only to be revealed to the enemy on their doorstep. He cursed their ill luck!

The Russian leaders met an hour later and after a brief discussion they all agreed there could be no hope of the surprise landing that they had been hoping for. It was decided to slow the fleet so it would arrive on Sunday the 17th and start to disembark troops mid-morning, it was hoped that by landing at that time on a Sunday any alarm bells would be rung at the same time the local church bells would usually be ringing therefore they'd be less noticeable. An interesting stratagem to say the least!
Governor Jervios and Lieutenant-Colonel Downes met with Edward Alston from the City of Adelaide over tea and scones in the Royal Room of Adelaide Town Hall 11:00am on Friday the 15th. It was a congenial get together but Jervios and Downes left it in a haste to go straight into a meeting with the available members of parliament. This meeting continued until the early hours of Saturday morning.
Saturday morning August 16 saw the majority of South Australians going about their normal routines the minority on the other hand were frantically preparing for war! All the military units were alerted and orders issued for them to muster and converge at the parade ground in Adelaide as soon as they could. Steps were taken to prepare all the jetties for demolition and for the blocking of the Port Adelaide harbour entrance. The Governor and the rest of the parliament assured Downes that if there were any diplomatic approaches they would be rejected but only after any deliberations were as drawn out as possible to allow him more time to organize the defences.
Saturday evening after a surprisingly relaxed meal at Government House on North Terrace Jervios told Downes he was going to tell all he knew to the fourth estate so the people of the Colony would wake to the news, Downes agreed it was a good course to follow and promptly announced he was taking his leave of the Governor so he could begin a long night of jetty burning and harbour blocking! As he departed Jervios clamped his hand on the Lieutenant-Colonel's shoulder and said, "The die is cast, let us hope it rolls in our favour..."

This picture purports to be the Russian invasion fleet soon after departing St Petersburg:

Monday, 3 November 2014

The Russian Force Commanders

The Russian expedition was led by experienced men who could be expected to carry out a successful campaign while operating within the strict guidelines they were issued by the supreme command...

Force Diplomat - Aleksandr Genrikovich Jomini former Deputy Foreign Minister until 1878

1820 -

Fleet Commander - Lieutenant Commander Zinovy Petrovich Rozhestvensky

11th November 1848 -

Army Commander - Lieutenant-General Ivan Davidovich Lazarev


Monday, 27 October 2014

The Wheels Are Set In Motion

While the lazy summer of 1878/79 slowly drew to a close for the residents of the city of Adelaide in the Colony of South Australia sinister plans that had been made in the cold metropolis of St Petersburg were coming to fruition:

March 15th 1879 in the ‘Grand Audience’ room of the General Staff Building St Petersburg a large group of senior military staff officers and Foreign Ministry officials made themselves comfortable in the palatial surroundings for a presentation. 
The Russian Foreign Minister, Prince Gorchakov entered the room and brought the meeting to order, he introduced two junior officers who stood beside him and bore the attendees to offer them their full attention for the duration of the meeting.

It was Colonel Ovsiannikov who spoke, he had a noticeable tremble in his voice as he was not used to speaking before such a prestigious audience, “Good afternoon Gentlemen.” he then gestured to the large map of the world behind him and continued, “Yesterday an invasion fleet departed St Petersburg and is en route to Vladivostok from there after a maintenance and loading layup it will continue to its final destination, the continent of Australia where it will commence the invasion of the British Colony of South Australia…” he was interrupted by gasps and many excitedly whispered asides from the audience.

Prince Gorchakov stood and interjected, “Gentlemen please retain your composure and listen. Turning to the speaker he said, “Colonel Ovsiannikov please continue.” 
Ovsiannikov resumed his oration he continued for almost four hours!

His initial topic was the personalities who commanded this mission and the diplomats who accompanied it. The military men were all selected heroes of the recent great victorious war against the Ottoman Turks brave and experienced men who were trusted. No lesser person than the former Deputy Foreign Minister headed the diplomatic corps, they did not believe that the local government would be open to arbitration but as a matter of course an attempt to negotiate a peaceful surrender of the Colony would be carried out while the army landed and organised itself for action. 

The Colonel now gaining in confidence outlined in minuscule detail the makeup of the fleet already at sea and the army units attached to it. It was of note that no artillery was included in the force to allow room for extra men and munitions to be included; the fleet would have the responsibility of supplying heavy gun support to the army if it was required. Also and of grave concern to some of those listening the extra munitions cut into the victuals stowed with the fleet, there was enough food for the army for the journey to the Colony but it was to rely on foraging to feed itself the moment it landed! Ovsiannikov noted here the invasion was timed to be close to the local harvest ensuring the captured crops would be able to supply the conquerors! The ships carried no horses or vehicles either once again it was expected these could be obtained locally. It was stressed bullets for the soldiers Berdan rifles could not be found locally so it had priority in the ships holds. Next there was the listing of the Siberian army forces converging on Vladivostok that would supplement the European units when the fleet stopped there for maintenance and resupply.

The discussion moved onto the follow up fleet, it was assumed that even though British Empire’s main focus at the moment was the Dark Continent with the size of the fleet they fielded the setting up and running a reliable sea supply route from the Russian mainland to Australia could not be guaranteed. Again there was disquiet in the crowded room but Ovsiannikov impressed on all the planning of this whole enterprise had been developed with this in mind. This second fleet which was already in the process of being organised would be a settlement fleet! It would not only ferry a much larger military force to the Colony but include many civil servants and volunteer farmers! South Australia was selected not only for its lack of seaward defences and small military establishment but because it could become a self-sufficient and easily defended bastion for Russia on mainland Australia which could survive in isolation and expand to the east and conquer the lands there using the professional Russian army’s training and experience and bypassing those other Colonies seaward fortresses. The second fleet would not sail before confirmation that the initial forces had been completely successful in their mission.
The expedition’s commanders had been instructed to act conservatively with the lives of each of their soldiers they would be of great value and limited in numbers, the army would be far for from their homeland and reinforcements and replacements could not be expected at regular intervals.

Gorchakov stood and hushed the frenzied conversations that had started at the end of the presentation and announced, “Gentlemen the wheels are now in motion for what is the greatest feat of arms Mother Russia’s armed forces have ever embarked on, the Tsar’s eyes are on us and we must not fail before his glorious gaze!”

The figure in the centre of the below is believed by one researcher to be the only known image of the Russian Colonel Ovsiannikov: