domingo, 7 de julio de 2013

Skirmishes on the Frontier 1901-1908 II (UPDATED)

Jalalabad Hills
Tactics and Terrain.
Following the reading of "Small Wars and Skirmishes 1902-1918", I´m going to put here a bit of information about the terrain of the Frontier and the tactics of the combatans taken directly from that book (I suppose some people have not the book so it can be very useful).
The North West Frontier had 800 miles from the borders of Kashmir in the north to Baluchistan in the south. In this mass of mountains and valleys lived the warlike, fiercely independent and great opportunistic Pathans, raising their modest crops and fedding their meager livestock. And, of course, fighting all the people that crossed their lands...

The variation of climate could be really extreme. In winter and spring the climate in the plains and lower valleys was pleasant and the mountains were really cold; in summer, those valleys and plains sweltered in the heat, and the barren mountain were "like the inferno". The rivers changed dramatically depending of the season, from mere streams or dry riverbeds in winter and summer to rock-strewn rivers in the spring. There are few fords over the main rivers, the Kabul the Kurram, the Kaitu and the Tochi, but they are not necessary but during floods.
The roads are very, very bad, and there are not railroads in Afghanistan, so wheeled vehicles are really scarce and camel are generally the prefered method of transport.

As can be see in the different pictures of this blog, the country of the North-West Frontier form an area of inhospitable hills. The valleys are, most of them, narrow and little cultivated; water is scarce and many of the slopes are bare of forest. These stony hills have an scanty pasture for the rickety flocks and herds of the inhabitants, grouped in a great number of hill forts and small villages.

The Frontier tribes had two main characteristics: oustanding bravery and a fantastic ability to cover rough terrain at a fast speed. But they had not the weapons and discipline displayed by the British Army in set-piece actions. The effect of the new artillery pieces and the fast and flat trajectory of the new rifles had much to do with the recent reluctance of the tribesmen to come to close quarters, so sniping at columns on the march and small ambushes to advance parties were the more efective ploys. In this way, any manoeuvre involving the withdrawal of picquets and rearguard actions were really a time of danger for the British and Indian troops.

The tribesmen made an effective use of the rugged terrain and were very agressive as long as the prospects of the fight were good; they were the perfect opportunistic, watching closely the enemy columns and waiting for the perfect moment to attack. For their defence, they constructed sangars, fortified riflepits, in almost every hill side and practically every village on the Frontier was enclosed by thick walls of mud and stone, with watchtowers enfilading every approach so every one of them needed a carefully planned assault.
Between 1907 and 1910, the smuggling of modern firearms reached a climax on the Frontier when 30,000 Martini-Henry rifles were brought in to Kandahar via the Persian Gulf. They were mostly rifles made redundant when Australian and New Zealand forces received new .303 rifles at the time of the Second Boer War. French and German arms dealers had bought up the surplus of weapons and shipped them via steamers and fast dhows to customer on the Frontier. With these weapons, the tribesmen were able to cause a lot of trouble to the Frontier Constabulary and British Indian Army forces.

The mission statement for the new Indian Army, restructured in 1902, was to defend the Frontier from Russian and Afghan incursions, with internal security as a secondary role (the tribes were left mainly "beyond the pale"). In practice, only with the Third Afghan War materialised the international threat so most military activity was concerned with punitive expeditions to restore Imperial order on the Frontier.

As I have said, my first game will be about one of the first of such expeditions in the XX Century, the attack against the bandit stronghold in Gumatti.

This is the fort I´m going to use (with a bit more modern enemies...):

This wonderful model has been built by Timmy from Wargames News and Terrain and I expect to put the scenario in a next entry. In this moment I´m thinking about the ruleset I´m going to use with the small skirmish I have planned.
To finish this entry, here are some pictures about another old Foundry figure I have painted, a Punjab Lancers Officer:

8 comentarios:

  1. Sounds like an interesting period and just like the guerilla style warfare combined with the construction of fortified villages and forts by the afghan tribesmen. Will certainly follow your progress and the pianted miniatures look great!


  2. Hi, Timmy. I'm now begining to paint some Empress' Afghans so, if this really hot summer is not too hot, I expect to play this game next month.

  3. Great looking fort. When you get the scenario together, you should submit it to Society for Twentieth Century Warfare. This looks like it would make for an excellent article there.

  4. Haven't got Small wars and skirmishes, so that was interesting reading, the 30,000 Martini's supplied indirectly by the British government selling of colonial forces old rifles is fascinating. Like that fort is very nice looking, at some point down the line you might want to add a tower to it, as a most of the fortified villages at that time had some form of tower. Like that Lancer officer, very nice paint job. Is the turban based on actual details or conjecture. Turban colours in the Indian army is another subject that seems to have very little information available. W.Y. Carman's 2 volumes on Indian Army Uniforms provides almost no detailed information on turban's. The best reference I've been able to find are A.C.Lovett's paintings and as there is no written reference with them, they can only be used for the ranks shown, and as far as I can tell turban patterns were different for Officers, Indian Commissioned Officers, senior NCOs, NCOs and other ranks. I think some regiments may have even had slight variations for different races within the regiment. I am unable to find clear concise information as to which regiments wore their full coloured turbans on active service and which wore just a plain khaki(or maybe just a coloured fringe)and when all regiments started to use plain khaki turbans on active service.
    I was fortunate to pick up most of the Lovett paintings as postcards from the National Army Museum back inn the eighties. There is a nearly complete set of his paintings as colour plates in The Armies Of India by Lt. Gen.Sir George MacMunn published by Crecy Books(ISBN 0-947554-02-5). I believe this is now out of print( my copy was originally printed in '84) but worth looking out for. The book itself is interesting, it was originally published in 1911 and his a brief history of the Indian Army from its beginning with the HEIC up to the present date(1911) but is primary an argument for the commonly held belief in the British and Indian armies of the Martial races and why certain Indians make better soldiers than others. Nowadays it would be regarded as the burblings of a right wing racist, but in its time it represented mainstream thought and influenced recruiting policies in the Indian Army.

  5. @Chris: A great idea, Chris. I´m going to prepare it carefully.

    @Moonshadow: Yes, I have been thinking about a tower. In fact. I need one! It´s time to ask Timmy for one of them...
    The turban of the Officer is based slightly in one of the illustration of the Osprey MAA #72, that of the Sowar and also some illustrations of British Indian Cavalry (Lovett´s in fact) I have found in the web. As you have said, it is horrible to find information about this question, and in Spain it is worse. I was thinking about to left it in a khaki colour but the blue is better!
    I don´t like to conjeture about the painting of uniforms, but this time it has been inevitable.

    Very interesting the information you are putting here, it is heightening my humble blog.
    I have bought a PDF copy of Lovett´s book; it is very nice, and useful for me. Now, for the Infantry´s information!

  6. I´m going to agree with you, Moonshadow. I have been reading something about Indian Army uniforms today, and think that the turban could be plain khaki on the field.

    But my small unit will have their in blue!!!

  7. It seems reasonable that the cavalry would have continued wearing coloured turbans longer than the infantry, as the plain turbans were presumably an attempt to make you harder to spot, which is a decent idea if you are an infantryman crouched behind a rock, not so useful if you are a trooper sitting on top of a bloody big horse in the open. Anyway it would be a crime to do the cavalry in plain Khaki turbans when you are so good at painting the coloured versions.

  8. Another good reason!!!

    Thank you a lot, sir.


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