I mentioned Beersheba in my last post and as is usual with such a throwaway comment (at least it is for me!) it gave me an idea for a game, more specifically, a Portable Wargame. There is a fair amount of material on the net concerning this action and so I won't bore you with a rehash - read the following link for an overview of the events leading up to the action I am about to describe - Beersheba 1917.
From the point of view of a game several things need to be borne in mind. To begin with, the area over which the Australians charged was the part of the Turkish defensive position that although entrenched did not feature any barbed wire or other obstacles. The Turkish defences were fairly well set out with interlocking fields of fire and with machine guns as well - including some sighted to fire across the flank of an attacking unit. The Turks had fought the Australian horsemen before but expected then to fight as mounted infantry - which they were - rather than cavalry. In previous engagements the Turks had tended to wait until the Australians were dismounting and would then open fire. Clearly a change of tactics by the Australians would then have the element of surprise. To have any chance of success the mounted infantry would need to charge home, cavalry style, as quickly as possible. As mounted infantry the Australians did not possess swords and so sharpened bayonets were used as a substitute.
At first glance in order for this work as a game the scenario would be expected to be full of special rules due to the unique nature of the undertaking. I originally considered doing this in order to reflect ineffective Turkish fire and Australian dash and élan but then had a change of heart and so the game will be fought using the Big Battle Portable Wargame rules for the 19th century as written - and with none of my usual tweaks in evidence. The game will require some thought in respect of the set up though but other than that should be fairly straightforward.
1 x Commander (2)
4 x Infantry (3 - usual Turkish understrength units)
3 x Machine Gun (2)
Strength Points 20, Exhaustion Level 7
1 x Commander (2)
6 x Cavalry (3)
1 x Field Artillery (2)
Strength Points 22, Exhaustion Level 8
All the troops are classed as average - the Australians as they are being used in an unfamiliar way!
So what did we learn from this action then? Well, a cavalry attack needs to a) keep moving and b) make full use of the initiative. It was interesting that the Australians did far better on the turns in which they had the initiative simply because when the Turks had it they usually just fell back and shot at the pursuing light horse. The light horse would charge in and have a better chance in the ensuing melee rather than relying on rifle fire.
The artillery did exactly what it was supposed to do but sadly could not keep up with the attack which would have been very helpful to the light horse had such support been available.
The game was really decided on the last turn as the Turks inflicted two casualties on the Australians taking them to their exhaustion level but fortunately for them they were able to inflict casualties on the Ottoman infantry to take them to theirs.
I envisaged this action going one of two ways - either the Australians would blitzkrieg the Turkish position in fairly short order or else those cantankerous horsemen would be shot to pieces by machine gun and rifle fire.
I certainly did not expect the result that I actually got!