Hicky's Bengal Gazette
(under new ownership)
1st August 1882
Dire news from Anarakistan
Massacre at Shawadi-wadi
Spliffers wiped out!
Empire mourns loss of magnificent military moustache
Hicky's Gazette delivers an exclusive report on the sad fate of our gallant boys as they raided Anarakistan for the glory of the Empire. We have eyewitness accounts from the only surviving officer, Lieut Knobsworth who barely escaped with is life and sideburns intact, and a nameless Guides cavalry trooper. We have added sketched drawings of the action from a local Reuters correspondent who had been heliographing us from his hidden cave until his disappearance at the end of the battle. We wish him well in whatever dungeon he is now chained and thank him for his rudimentary yet functional reports and pictures.
Our readers will recall that the dastardly Amir of Anarakistan, Wali Riffraffi, had once again failed to pay his subscription to the Gazette and compounded this heinous crime by forgetting to sing "God save the Queen" on her majesty's official birthday. This caused outrage at Calcutta's Luncheon, Bridge and Sherry club, where it was decided that a full-scale invasion would be a proportionate form of retaliation.
Tasked with gathering the overdue subscription was the infamous Capt Cockanney (6+) of the Corps of Guides Cavalry; noted as a meek and cowardly man by the footman of the Sherry Club. This is the same Cockanney who refuses to charge in battle and has earned the nickname "snake eyes" at the club for his dastardly low rolling. He was joined by Capt Randy Rummage (6+) of the Guides Infantry, a noted weakling who can barely raise his sword-arm. Alongside them, the gallant 13th Punjabi Regulars were led by Lieut Knobsworth (6+) described by the Brigadier's daughter as an "Up and At Them" kind of man. Rounding things off, a detachment of Ghoorkas was commanded by that damned fine fellow and my bridge partner, Capt Clutterbuck (7+), with his memorable military moustache. Quickly dubbed the "Southern Punjab Light Infantry Fighting Force" (or "Spliffers" for short), this raiding force had been cheered out of the barracks and city on their way north. Rumours that everyone was happy to see the back of these underwhelming officers were both unkind and ultimately true.
Having invaded Anarakistan, it seems that the Spliffers had been caught on the hop by Riffraffi and a motley collection of Mullahs before they managed to collect the vital subscription. Short on ammunition and outnumbered, the Spliffers had no choice but to retreat in good order towards a small farmstead and hold out to the end of the day. This sounds similar to Scenario C in MWWBK but any resemblance is surely coincidental.
Above - our Reuters correspondent makes a reasonable effort at sketching the opening deployment, although some of the trees are not exactly to scale and the hills are perhaps a more verdant shade of green than in reality. Also, the rocks seem to have little bases on them which surely cannot be worthwhile? Anyway, please excuse any inaccuracies as it is notoriously difficult to relay drawings by heliograph.
Note the Spliffers were arranged around the centre of the battlefield and Riffraffi's surprisingly professional army are arriving in the far distance. We showed this sketch to Knobsworth who is lying in the Calcutta hospice whilst he recovers from wounds. The poor man has lost his senses after days without bridge or sherry. He snorted rudely and stated that Riffraffi's army was at least twice the size and that he surely did not deploy out in the open and centre of the field as the hordes advanced.
Despite his wounds, Lieut Knobsworth clearly recalls Riffraffi (5+) leading a large group of tribal cavalry onto the field of battle (top right). In our injured hero's words, "That man was so ugly I could recognise him at any scale and distance". The names and characteristics of the Empire's other dire foes will be revealed as the story unfolds.
The next sketch shows how the initial phases may have panned out, with Clutterbuck's Ghoorkas digging in on top of a hill (mid-left), the Punjabi Regulars in the open in the centre, flanked by the Corps of Guides infantry who have skedaddled to a handy building. Cockanney's cavalry was just off the picture to the left of the Ghoorkas on the hill.
Knobsworth recalls, "There was a terrible hullabaloo top left, where Derek's Mullah Nuttah and his veteran, fierce, tribal Ghazis bounced about, slapping their heads and hurling crude insults at our Empire's finest." Unfortunately despite (or because of) Nuttah's "fine bushy beard" they activated on a terrible 9+ and spent much of the game rooted to the spot. "Once they did move," recalled Knobsworth thoughtfully, "they were pinned and then forced to retreat off the field." Mullah Nuttah later admitted, "my boys are really quite the shite."
A passing balloonist witnessed this fuzzy scene (above) which shows Mustafa Wazz (5+) and his red-coated sharpshooters (rated irregular) moving up to the infamous Shawadi Wadi, accompanied by Riffraffi's tribal cavalry. They can be seen to the right of the sketch. Stumped by this piece of scenery, they stopped to admire the view until the following turn. Meanwhile, the unmistakable noise of squeaking wheels and knees heralded the arrival of Guzzlah's regular artillery (6+) outside the walled house. Choices, choices ... would he fire at the Punjabi regulars in the open or the troops in the house?
After examining the battlefield, our Reuters correspondent concluded that there was some fierce skirmishing up to this point but nothing spectacular came of it. Of course, unbeknownst to the Anarakistanians the "British" forces were using up some of their limited ammunition.
Suddenly, the action swung around to our left flank. A straggler from the Corps of Guides cavalry describes the action (above). "We was rounding the hill, waving and cheering lustily to the Ghoorkas, when we was hit by a very excitable charge from Fayiktahn's red-tunic'd irregular cavalry in their funny beehive hats. As everyone knows, we was led by that coward Cockanney who would not move within charge range of the enemy. So being charged was pretty much the only way we could actually get stuck into combat, which was a stroke of luck." A confused melee seems to have ensued, with Fayiktahn's troopers eventually being thrown back in disarray and they subsequently routed after taking hits from the Ghoorkas and the Guides cavalry carbines. First blood to Spliffers but would they rest on their butt-ends?
But slowly the Punjabis were whittled away by a combination of fire from Guzzlah's artillery and sharpshooting irregulars from the wadi (of Shawadi.) The coup de grace was delivered by Mullah Bushtuqqa's (7+) tribal jezails (whose longer range was amplified by the good fortune that Bushtuqqa was actually Riffraffi's favourite nephew and had chosen the sharpshooters upgrade for free - ed.)
The picture above attempts to depict the moment when the last brave Punjabi Regular fell. At this point, Knobsworth was muttering incoherently to us about his troops being wiped out and how he was forced to retreat to safety. How he survived the battle is a mystery, particularly given that he emerged back at barracks accompanied by a harem which he certainly did not have at the outset of the campaign. Turn to page 23 of next week's issue for that particular scandal and whether he has "gone native", dear reader.
We are fast heading towards the conclusion of this grim affair. Fire continued to be exchanged and Cockanney (6+) failed the first of 8 consecutive activation tests. Coward indeed ... but in fairness those dice had been cursed in a pre-game ritual by the dastardly Anarakistanis.
Above, we might just make out the ugly visage of Riffraffi leading his tribal cavalry on a swift flanking move. Note he is safely hidden behind a hill. The noble Rummage and the Guides infantry are embedded in a light copse (mid-left) which is also protected by the Wadi (of Shewadi). Riffraffi was heard to think about what to do next.
At this point, Derek was receiving clear "advice" from Jack and John to charge into Rummage's company. The British also goaded him a bit - sledging, really. Derek expressed his deep concerns at the wisdom of such a move. But being outvoted, he threw caution to the wind, advanced to the wadi (of Shawadi) and the next picture says it all.
Ouch. 8 dead. And Riffraffi will be running away, then.
Undoubtedly the Anarakistan bards will sing long songs about the bravery of this charge, which in fairness did stop the Guides from shooting the red-tunic'd irregulars in the wadi (of Shewadi). In turn, this allowed those red tunics to fire into the Guides. Our Reuters correspondent captures the moment perfectly in the next two sketches. The sharp crack of well-aimed but outdated rifles was met with the muffled groan of Capt Rummage as he slumped to the floor, very much dead. The remaining Guides infantry would only activate on an 8+ which rendered them pretty ineffectual. Although they wisely decided to leg it back to the safety of the farmstead in a heroic last stand, they never quite made it. The tattered remains of this unit have not yet been located.
Oh, and just for completeness, top left = Derek's absolutely "pish-poor" (direct quotation) Ghazis wave goodbye as they rout off the table, having moved forward once in the whole battle.
And now, dear readers, the finale of this sorry episode. Whilst Cockanney studiously avoided moving by failing to roll 6+ on 2D6 yet again, the Ghoorkas clung gallantly to the top of the knoll. They pinned Mullah Pohtt's tribal infantry (6+ but cowardly - not exactly a helpful attribute for another close-combat unit) and sniped at both Arfanarz's Brown Trousered Irregulars (6+, Up and At Them) and Bushtuqqa's OP jezails. But there was to be no happy ending for the heroic Nepalese. The words, "Never give a sucker a chance" were heard to drift across the battlefield in broad Pathan. Yes, we are sad to report that the brave but headstrong Clutterbuck was cut down by a hail of bullets, defending his post and men to the last. He was heard to utter, "At least I'll be mentioned in the Gazette," with his last breath. We would whisper our sympathies to the Brigadier's daughter, but she must maintain a stiff upper lip. There are rumours that Clutterbuck will be recommended for a VC for his actions, according to his father at Horse Guards. Meanwhile we are left to weep at the untimely loss of a fine military moustache and excellent bridge partner, the likes we may not see again.
It seems that the end came swiftly after the fall of doughty young Clutterbuck. It saddens me to report that the final message relayed by our heliographing correspondent included the words, "Cockanney failed to activate again ... surrounded on all sides ... no bullets ... might be home for tea," as the Spliffers threw in the towel. No word has reached us about the whereabouts of the liability of a man that is named Cockanney, but there are garbled reports that he and his men remain motionless on the field of battle to this day.
And there we must leave it. We hope to have relayed some of the drama that unfolded around the wadi of Shewadi, where the free forces of Anarakistan delivered a bloody nose to the British Empire. Yet do not lose heart, for this was a noble sacrifice in the name of honour, capitalism and civilisation!
Now, on to more important business. The Polo match between the Gin Club and 13th Punjabi Regulars was abandoned as a scoreless draw owing to several tigers gaining access to the refreshment area and elephants being discovered in the ladies salon.