It was towards the end of the second week in May when I received the communication from Sir Roger at the Residence, brought by a galloper who had sustained several wounds in his attempt to locate my outpost and deliver his message; a message which only served to confirm what we had been already told us by several civilians who had joined our party in the preceding days. The Sepoys had mutinied, the country was in flames and terrors were abroad.
My small party had for the previous month been surveying areas of Keemananistan around the Great Northern Trunk Road. It was planned to provide enhanced draining for the road whilst improving irrigation for the natives who toiled in the neighbouring fields and villages and our party were due to complete our works before June, allowing the work to begin before the worst of the monsoons in late July. It was, however, to be a deluge of rather more sinister nature which now threatened our very existence.
What Sir Roger’s letter did make clear was that I was to hold my position, encamped as I was around a small mission over which the Union Flag fluttered. Here I was to serve as a mustering point for any British civilians who had managed to avoid the slaughter. Thus ensconced, I was to await the arrival of Major Piles and his relief column. What concerned me was that the galloper seemed to have no appreciation of when Piles would arrive, whereas I was quite clear that the local ruler, the Khazi of Keemanan, was indeed revolting and was amassing his troops and those of his ally, the Nabob of Banagaraja, and any vile trouble-makers they could rouse from the local bazaars, in preparation for an attack on our position. The question was simple, could our small force hold out before we got relief from Piles?
The very next morning, as the sun cast long shadows across the plain, our worst fears were concerned by a thunderous clap and a round of solid shot ploughed into our makeshift defences. Looking to the West we could see the mutineers deploying, some still flying their colours, others in such a state of ill-discipline that they appeared as unruly in dress as they were disloyal.
The initial advance of the rebellious Sepoys came from by the Showadi Wadi and behind the Hindu temple which lay set back from the road. However, soon the horizon was a mass of men as their force arched across to a small compound to our North West.
Our own gun under Sergeant Seymour Organs opened up in response and a party of men armed with the new rifled muskets were able to do some damage at the longest of ranges from atop the mission house.
Yet, whatever small damage we could wreak within their treacherous ranks, they numbers dissipated barely at all and the tide of mutinous wretches surged on. In their very centre the most vile Khazi and his red flag signifying his arrogant opposition to the forces of civilisation and downright opposition to highway and drainage improvement programmes which could benefit the subjects he relied so heavily upon for taxation. One could only marvel at his ingratitude.
But now, as this seeming tidal wave approached out positions, our own muskets began to take their toll. One party of Sepoy rabble were halted some forty yards before us in a state of some disorder, whilst Sergeant Organs’ gun used what small supply of canister we had to hand to stop another party in the wheat field. And now, from the South can the crashing sound of a disciplined body. On the trunk road a party of Sepoys who previously we had presumed to be part of the Khazi’s force were firing in our support. A cry went up, the Major Piles’ Relief Column was in sight!
Yet even as we cried out our cheerful welcome, the enemy continued to press on against the defences of the mission. The Nabob’s troops in their yellow turbans who had previously been tardy in their advance, now swept on and came into line, delivering a volley of some effect against us., At that point I fell wounded, stunned as a I was by a musket ball carving a furrow across my brow and, for some hours, knew no more.
When I awoke it was dark. Only the stars lit the skies and here no sound could be heard but the call of the insects whose voices fill the Indian nights with such a rich cacophony of resonance and reverberation. I felt my head to be a mass of dried blood and it was with some difficulty that I found my feet and moved into the mission compound. All was silent, but the very stench of bloody and death meant I was grateful that the darkness concealed what I suspected, all too correctly, was a terrible sight of what had been my small force, now slaughtered around the flagpole where, strangely, I could still see the flag still flying among a garrison of ghosts. I lowered the flag and wrapped it around body under my tunic before making my way, with some trepidation, through the fields to the South. Moving by night and lying up by day, often assisted by the villagers in whose lands I had been surveying, I found my way after some six days to the Residence and safety. Of Major Piles and his force there were only rumours of defeat and massacre. What hope do we few Britons have against such numbers? Only time would tell.
And, strangely it did tell, as that very afternoon we fought the same scenario only to see Major Piles rout the naughty Nabob and secure a British victory and relief of the mission. Two very big games of Sharp Practice played out at Deep Fried Lard 4, the annual Lardy Games Day at Musselburgh on the outskirts of Edinburgh. I had flow up on the Friday so was very grateful to well known author and Pirate Angus Konstam who supplied the figures from his truly colossal collection for the period. Twenty Groups of Mutineers ran up against Captain Curtin-Powl’s Survey part of four Groups of HEIC troops with some civilian volunteers and Sergeant Organ’s gun, whilst Major Piles’ relief column comprised of a mixed HEIC force with volunteer cavalry, loyal Sepoys and Ghurka riflemen. All this was played out on a 6′ by 9’6″ table with no changes to the rules. The narrative in both games made for a real story line, both games going right to the wire although being VERY different in detail. I must, once again apologise as my photo taking was rushed as I was umpiring the games. As a consequence I missed taking any photos of Farooq Farzi and the Khazi’s Ghazis who did a sound job of slicing up the Ghurka flank guard and cutting of the relief column’s lines of communication in the first game.
As always, Deep Fried Lard was a smashing couple of days enjoying the company of gamers from all corners of Scotland. We had a great selection of games on offer including Charlie Don’t Surf, Dux Britanniarum, Chain of Command, Bag the Hun, Sharp Practice, Kiss Me Hardy and even the prototype General Bonaparte Chain of Command which was much enjoyed. My thanks must go to Wee Derek for his sterling effort in making the event run so smoothly and be such fun and to all who attended for playing the games in the true spirit of Lard. Looking forward to DFL5 in 2017.
Here’s some snaps of the other rather spiffing looking games.
A jolly VBCW game played with Chain of Command. Some really great work here by Gerard and Roderick.
A Peninsular War Sharp Practice game with some very nice looking figures.
John runs Bag the Hun in the afternoon, having already run General Bonaparte Chain of Command in the morning. Stirling service from him (geographical joke of the day).
Wee Derek and friends chase a magic cow in Dux Brit with a truly magical Roman gatehouse on display.
Apologies for missing out on snaps for several games. I really need to clone myself at events like this so I can multi-task. Not least because that would allow one of me to remain in bed nursing the hangover I always end up with thanks to the Ayr lads and their mobile bar which I am (almost) FORCED to enjoy every year. Will I ever learn? I do hope not…
With the publication of the second edition of Sharp Practice, one of the things we are very keen to do is to work with other Lardy gamers to get as wide a range of Army Lists available for all sorts of different conflicts which the rules can be used for. This must be a co-operative