The opening weeks of the First Balkan War were little short of disastrous for the Ottoman Turks. They had been comprehensively defeated by the Bulgarians at Kirkilisse and Lulaburgaz and were being steadily pushed back towards Constantinople in a state of complete disarray. The Turks were harried from one defensive position to another and were frequently overrun at bayonet point by the seemingly unstoppable Bulgarians. Fortunately for the Turks, the Bulgarians were somewhat tardy in following up having completely outrun their logistical support, so rapid and unexpected had their successes thus far been. The Turks were eventually able to disengage relatively easily whilst the Bulgarians paused to draw breath and so were able to both consolidate and reorganise their shattered armies. Being a lot closer to their supply centre than the Bulgarians (Constantinople was a major centre of supply and was only some 40 kilometres from the Catalca position), they were able to take full advantage of the unexpected lull in the fighting and so the already strong position was rendered virtually impregnable. On the overall scale of things though, it was very much a damage limitation exercise as the war was effectively lost already. However, the Bulgarians would not be allowed to take Constantinople!
The Catalca position has been described as the strongest position in Europe and it is easy to see why. From the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara the peninsula has a single ridge bisecting the entire distance. In some places this rises to 200 meters above sea level and is fronted but flat and gently rolling grass land. The attackers would need to cross this and attack uphill in the face of a heavily fortified and dug in Turkish army - an army that was desperate to avoid the Bulgarians marching on Constantinople. At the Black Sea end of the ridge line (the right hand side of the picture) the Turks also had the support of the Turkish Navy although the gunfire, whilst morale boosting for the Ottomans, was largely ineffective.
The Bulgarians, under Lt. General Radko Dimitiev, outnumbered the Turks but not excessively so. In truth, their hard fought but easily gained victories had served to make the Bulgarian high command somewhat over confident in their abilities - it was felt that cold steel would carry the day as it had done so far. They had not reckoned on the Turkish obstinacy when defending a secure position - a position flanked by the sea at either end and with forts and trenches in between, all overlooking the gently rolling countryside over which the Bulgarians would have to advance.
I used Bob Cordery's Memoir of Battle rules to fight the action - the version with the use of the Battle Cry/Napoleonics combat dice to determine how many units could be activated each turn. The only amendment I incorporated was to allow any rolled pairs of icons to be exchanged for a single unit type of the players choice e.g. two cavalry symbols rolled could be changed for a single infantry figure. The net effect was to lose a symbol from the number rolled (in this case 6 dice each side) but with a slightly better degree of control over the orders of a game turn. The action was fought on a 9 x 8 hexed playing area and with the majority of the Turks on the ridge. The infantry and machine guns were in trenches with the artillery in the two fortifications. I chose to have the action starting at relatively close range as the actual battle started under a morning mist which served to disorder the advancing Bulgarians.
1 x 1 Commander (Nazim Pasha)
6 x 4 Infantry (elements of the 1st and 2nd Eastern Armies - regulars in the front line, reserve or Redif infantry in the rear)
1 x 3 Cavalry
1 x 2 Machine Gun
2 x 3 Field Artillery
33 strength points with an exhaustion level of 16.
1 x 1 Commander (Lt. General Radko Dimitriev)
8 x 4 Infantry (1st and 3rd Armies)
1 x 3 Cavalry
2 x 2 Field Artillery
40 strength points with an exhaustion level of 13.
The Catalca, European Turkey, 5am the 17th November, 1912....