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The Purwa Raid, 1857


Queen Victoria’s Little Wars, Sharp Practice, 28mm

This small game was all about getting players used to the new Sharp Practice rules. It was also a chance to “blood” my new buildings, built for me by the talented Nick Buxey. All that, and having a rollicking good game. It was a simple rescue mission. The wife of the British assistant commissioner in Lucknow was being help prisoner in nearby Purwa, having been captured by the newly-risen mutineers  as she returned from a visit to friends in Cawnpore. The mutineers were holding her in a little Hindu shrine on the outskirts of the village, and so a snatch squad was sent from Lucknow to rescue her. The mutineer force consisted of an 8-man guard detachment at the temple, 6 more skirmishers in the village, and 42 more – just over half poor quality sepoys and the rest local musketeers – encamped in a nearby wood. For their part the British had 24 EIC European infantry, 16 loyal sikhs and a unit of 8 Volunteer Cavalry. The game began with Bill and Campbell sending the cavalry and the loyal sepoys across the table, hoping to get to the temple before the guards there could be reinforced. The rest of the British force would form the blocking force, to cover their escape. At first the plan worked really well. the guard tumbled out of the shrine, and only got off one ragged volley before the cavalry charged them. Those sepoys who weren’t ridden down retired precipitately towards the table edge. Meanwhile the loyal sepoys covered them from behind the village, trading shots with the village garrison which was now fully alert. It tumbled out of the buildings to form up on the road, while the mutineers camped in the wood also made their appearance. it was clear that extricating the hostage wouldn’t be as easy as rescuing her. Fortunately the assistant commissioner’s wife was an accomplished horsewoman, and so she was give n a spare horse, which allowed her to accompany the Volunteer Cavalry. Covered by the loyal sepoys they backed away from the village, and dropped the lady behind the relatively safe lines of the EIC European foot. By now though, a major firefight had developed, and the EIC foot and the loyal sepoys were faced with a growing band of mutineers to their front and flank. Actually, Michael who ran the sepoys only used part of his force to fight them. The good quality sepoys set off to outflank the British, and it soon became clear they were making for the British deployment point, which was left undefended near the British table edge. To win, the British needed to get their hostage off the table, but the loss of the deployment point would make their morale drop, and could potentially lose them the game, even if their hostage made it to safety. The photo below shows the general situation. The EIC European foot were still holding their own, but they’d been steadily taking casualties, and things were looking a little shaky for them. the loss of the deployment point  might tip them over the edge. The loyal sepoys were heading towards the vulnerable deployment point, but the mutinous sepoys were closer to it than they were.That’s when Campbell remembered his Volunteer Cavalry. He launched them round the back of the square farm building near the British table edge, and launched a charge straight at the sepoys clustered next to the deployment point. Despite being heavily outnumbered the charge worked a treat – the sepoys were sent fleeing back towards the cover of nearby woods, having taken almost 505 casualties, while the Volunteer Cavalry – or what was left of them – advanced to occupy the position – and secure the deployment point. That’s where we ended the game, which was a real nail-biter right to the wire. Of course, we probably got the charging rules wrong, but the main thing was the game was great fun, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

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