Sunday, February 26, 2017

Diary of A Subaltern in the Sudan #2

23 February 1896

Our scout of the 21st. instant found a Dervish screen south of our post at the village and ruins of Akasha. Thinking the enemy mighty bold being this close to us, General Shearing resolved to take most of the garrison out to punish their impertinence. After a hearty breakfast on the 23rd., the Column marched to the ruins where Freddy Grandmaison and I had just been two days before. The distance was not far.

We were assigned to Colonel Burnaby's Advance Guard given our recent familiarity with the ruins. He spread out our twenty-three sailors demanding they have a care to take cover.

Freddy and I were posted on the extreme right flank.  High bushes along the bank of the Nile River covered us well. Some of the detachment that had been with us before noticed observable Dervish were more numerous today. I thought they meant to falsely taunt us showing themselves so impudently. Our vigilance was high and our weapons were loaded as....

General Shearing brought up the Main Body on our left. Surely the enemy's bravado would evaporate not because of the blazing morning heat but because they might now comprehend our overwhelming numbers.

They could not hope to delay us more than moments once the order to advance came.

We awaited Burnaby's order to open fire and advance.

When the order arrived, we fired and quick marched to the oasis supported by dismounted Camel Corps on our left. The Dervish remained strangely silent.

They fled to low Mimosa trees. --- We had them!

But our cheering overconfidence immediately vanished when clouds of Dervish abruptly erupted from the Village of Firket in the distance.

Now --- whom had whom?

On they came with a vengeance.

Steady men. --- Mark your targets. 

For a time they faltered and we fell back to cover. Along the way Burnaby shouted to Freddy and I, "Get mounted! Gallop to General Shearing, report and ask for help." 

But too soon the maddened foe was in our midst shouting and chanting with blood lust in their eyes.

I remember the Colonel's exhortation to this day. 

Churchill, Grandmaison! Tell the General we've lost the right flank.
Off with you!

I would not leave without a few parting shots in support of our brave tars.
Could I really abandon them?

One, two and three shots found their marks but nothing except a miracle could stem the Dervish tide.

Over the cacophony of battle I barely heard Freddy demand, "Winston!" I knew what he meant. I daresay he was right to remind me for had we not left, an instant later we would have been overcome. The consequences of our demise would undoubtedly place the whole Column in jeopardy of collapse. As I turned whipping my horse into a gallop, Burnaby was last seen hacking away at a fierce Hadendowah tribesman bent on his destruction. 


1) Is this the end of Burnaby, Churchill and Grandmaison? Indeed, what will become of the flanked Main Body of General Shearing?

2) Miniatures are largely 54mm Britains, John Jenkins Design and Armies in Plastic.

3) Your remarks are welcome below at the word Comments.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Diary of A Subaltern in the Sudan #1

21 February 1896

Vulnerability of the new rail line between Wadi Halfa and and Kosheh was never more apparent now that the Dervish were said to be moving into Northern Sudan again. An energetic and far thinking enemy could disrupt the rails and trains almost anywhere along it's nearly one-hundred mile length. This would greatly inconvenience and delay the Army's build-up and eventual march south to the heart of the Khalifa's empire and to avenge Gordon of Khartoum.

Upon the next reconnaissance to inspect the track and find the foe, General Shearing granted my request to accompany the scout. This would hopefully provide another opportunity for action, a medal and mention in a dispatch to enhance my political fortunes one day.

The sun was not quite at it's zenith when Freddy Grandmaison and I took cover behind curious ancient ruins half-buried at a bend on the east bank of the Nile River.

Terrain stretching southward along the track was mostly hidden from view by a verdant oasis. We needed to ascend one of the structures to sufficiently make observations beyond it.

We began by spreading out within the ruins being careful to avoid Nile crocodiles and any hidden Dervish. There were none though reptilian tracks were conspicuous.

Freddy and I dismounted to get a better view. We saw nothing but an indolent water buffalo casually walking away from our invasion of his realm.

We moved forward using overgrowth to hopefully conceal our approach. I amused myself thinking a palm branch or tall grass might alter the path of a Dervish bullet away from it's intended target.

 We saw nothing on the left and....

 Observed only the meandering herbivore on the right.

Just as I was about to leave to ascend the small pyramid on my left, Seaman Armitage quietly said, "Sir, I see something in the back center."

Sure enough a solitary Dervish was leveling a rifle at us. Yet he did not fire then or at all while we were in the ruins. Did he think remaining unobserved was best but if spotted would discharge a deadly round to raise the alarm? He perhaps thought as did Freddy and I, it would be better to report back to higher authority rather than die with knowledge gained.

After this I bravely or imprudently ascended the pyramid to look into the vista beyond. You will be the judge regarding my necessary attention to duty or foolhardiness. Thankfully a column at the apex afforded some protection. Yet General Shearing needed information about what lay in wait to the south. I was there to discover what I could.

As I looked along the track my eyes came to rest upon a small bridge crossing a watery ditch. Within were ensconced a small number of jibba-clad Dervishes. Were they waiting for the next supply train?

I even imagined friends might bring explosives to destroy the crossing.

After this vision, Freddy called up to me saying it was time to report back to headquarters and so we departed as quietly as we had come.



1) The Diary of a Subaltern in the Sudan is the prelude to a 54mm war game in The Sudan. 

2) Combatants are mostly 54mm Britains and John Jenkins Designs painted collector's miniatures which Jim P. and I are disobediently using in table top war games.

3) Your remarks are welcome at Comments below.


Saturday, December 24, 2016


Date: December 24, 2016
Location: Stable in Bethlehem
Situation: Adoration of The Christ Child
++++++++++          ++++++++++          ++++++++++

General Pettygree and an ADC arrive at a stable in Bethlehem. 

Paying homage to....

The newborn Christ child plus parents Mary and Joseph.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Chapter 78: The Fate of Mary Pettygree

Date: September 9, 1904 (2015)
Location: Ramanujam Village
Situation: Replenish Locomotive 1300's Water 
Sept. 25, 1900: Thugee armistice, recall from India and retirement.
April 30, 1903: Learns armistice broken by resurgent Thugee Army.
May 9, 1903: Recalled to duty in India to break the Thugees.
June 1903: Assumes command in Egypt as a ruse.
September 1903: Secretly departs Egypt for India.
Next four months: Assembles the Army.
Feb. 22, 1904 Gen. Pettygree Arrives at Tapi River Camp near Burhanpur.
Feb. 23, 1904: Battle of Burhanpur.
Feb. 23, 1904: Skull fracture caused by sniper
Mar. 4, 1904: Arrived at St. George Hospital, Bombay, India
Sept. 7, 1904: Train Back To The Field Force
Sept. 9, 1904: Station Stop To Rewater Engine 1300
See Previous Chapter 77 here:

Very early in the morning General and Mary Pettygree's train stopped at the village of Ramanujam to water the nearly dry locomotive. Infernal heat since departing Bombay had evaporated more water than expected. Further travel would seize up and stop the black behemoth.

Thinking she might find fresh fruit at the station stop, Mary rose telling a very sleepy William Pettygree her intention. "I'll dress and be...."

"Back soon dear with something scrumptious --- I daresay."
"Mary darling, though trouble is far to the north....have a care and...."

But seconds later, the General saw Mary abducted from the train!

Disappearing into the bush.

Crushing darkness overcame his senses immobilizing every muscle. 
He was breathless as torrents of sweat drenched his clothing.
Utter helplessness and mortification tormented him.

"Oh Mary!"


Conductor Prettie, American Game hunter Mr. Winslogic and the station master had other troubles. The track ahead was blocked with felled trees. No forward progress would occur until the massive entanglement could be cleared. 

"Conductor, we must tell the General there is serious trouble."
"Right, let's go."

"Sorry to trouble you General, but the track ahead is badly blocked."
"Winslogic's my name, Sir, at your service. An attack may be imminent."
"Assemble all armed men in the station. I'll be a few minutes."

"I'm glad you never got dressed and left the train, Mary."
"Your bad dream --- a premonition?"
"No. Dress quickly. Then get into the station."

"Your wife, General?"
"Right behind us."


Villagers gathered to gawk at the obstruction.

As seven armed men from the train assembled on the station roof.

Even Siraj Jafer came to view the incident.

"How many more armed men do we have Conductor?"

Before he could answer, Pettygree exclaimed....

"Look. All the locals have disappeared. What shook them?"

"Load your weapons men and make ready."

Fortunately more travelers from the train gathered on the balcony.


"Here they come!"

Siraj Jafer's men.

Taking care to use covering terrain.

Knowing the Europeans would not fire on the water buffalo,
swordsmen shielded themselves behind it.

Arquebusiers approached the station behind buildings.

Then opened fire from front and....


Defenders spread out onto an adjacent roof to compensate.
None too soon because....

The swordsmen bolted into a charge....

Covered by arquebusiers on their right and left.

The charge was hopelessly suicidal. What could they hope to accomplish under the withering fire coming from the station? Much I'm afraid because the charge and covering fire was a ruse de l'guerre.

Diverting defender attention from the hidden menace creeping beside cover to the right.

They intended to scale the station....

Hopefully unnoticed.

The storming party could not believe it's luck coming this far without loss.

The ladder rose and the raiders climbed as their allies died for them.

Mr. Winslogic! Turn about Sir!
General Pettygree. You too!

Is this the end for the General?

But just then a slender arm fired a revolver through an open window.

Causing a devastating blow to one of the climbers.

Hearing the shot, General Pettygree whirled about. He fired into the body of a raider brandishing the yellow rumal of the Thugee strangling cult whilst another strangler killed Winslogic.

But he did not live long enough to earn the promised reward from his goddess Kali. Meanwhile, from that second story window below another shot fired.

Toppling another cultist to his death.

Nearby deadly comrades finished off a defender fallen from the balcony.

Then in an instant --- the storming party fled.

Followed by the swordsmen routing as well.
Siraj Jafer's attack had failed and the battle ended.


"Mary, you saved us. Had you not fired that first shot, I might never have turned about. God knows if the cultists would have swept us all from the roof. A proper thank you must wait my dear because the foe may rally and attack again."

"I don't think so William because Siraj Jafer is coming in."

"The General Pettygree, I beg your forbearance."

"For what, I dare say?"

"The Thugees live here --- farm here --- some are relations.
They would kill all of us had I not attacked you."

"Siraj Jafer, my politicos pay you a handsome annual subsidy to keep the peace and the track open."

Shah-an-Shah Pettygree, you can rent us, but not buy us."

"You are a scoundrel. I should order you shot on the spot for this betrayal."

"Gladly Bara Sahib. --- If it is the will of Kali."


"No Siraj Jafer. You will not be shot today. Execution may be your fate but only after the divan decides your guilt or innocence."

"It will be the welcomed gift of Kali for my failure."

"Conductor Prettie, take him away and get the track cleared. Let's get underway again." 

1. Thank you for your previous expressions of concern and alarm about the fate of Mary Pettygree. I appreciated that very much.

2. So no cliff hanger this time. All is well for the time being.

3. Please continue to follow the Pettygrees in their journey to Delhi.

4. Kindly place your remarks below at the word Comments. We all enjoy reading them.

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