Captain Darling's extraordinary exploits and fearless feats of daring do during the Victorian Era of colonial expansion are legendary!
This blog interweaves his fantastic tales of adventure in an alternate late Victorian history with 28mm table top gaming.
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.
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
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.
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
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!”
figure in the centre of the below is believed by one researcher to be the only
known image of the Russian Colonel Ovsiannikov: