Wednesday 25 June 2014

Makalle Melee

Finally got round to using my 15mm Abyssinian and Italian figures once again after a long absence. A game of Principles of War, my colonial rules of choice.

This scenario is based on a reported incident that never actually happened but still made the press. It's January 1896 during the siege of Makalle\Mek'ele. The capital of Tigre is once more in the hands of the forces of Emperor Menelik, but with the minor wrinkle that there is a unit of Italian lead Askari that are holding up in the fort, on the heights of Enda Yesus, that overlooks the city.

From Furness Wargamers in the Colonies

New York Herald 1896-01-15

Rome, Jan. 14, 1896 - Several papers here announce that Great Britain has agreed to cede to Italy the town of Zeila, on the Somali coast. The acquisition of this town would enable Italy to throw troops into the southern and central parts of Abyssinia without their having to make the long march from Massowah, the capital of the Italian colony of Erythrea.

A despatch to the Capitale from Massowah says the Abyssinians yesterday attacked Makalle for the fifth time. The Italian garrison withheld their fire until the Abyssinians were in close quarters and then poured volley after volley into them with terrible effect. Just about the time the attack was made 4,000 troops under Colonel Albertone arrived at Makalle. They surprised the Abyssinians by attacking them on the flank, and completely routed them.

A column of 12,000 men under General Baratieri, the commander of the Italian forces in Erythrea, an another column 4,200 strong under Colonel Arimonde are nearing Makalle, and is expected that they will raise the siege of that place

With Jim leading the native forces camped outside the recently liberated former capital of Abyssinia, and Matt in charge of the Italians, who are trying to rescue the troops they had left behind when the Italians had retreated the previous December.

The far section represents the terraced heights overlooking Makalle, which is off the table. It is rough terrain, which does not effect the home side, but does slow down all Italians barring the light troops of the Bersaglieri.

The Abyssinians put a lot of effort into attacking the fort itself, which seemed to be a waste of time, and not actually a victory condition. This tied up their entire force of artillery which could have been moved to bombard the Italians who were slowly advancing in brigade square.

The Abyssinians instead tried to soften the Italians up with rifle\musket fire, but came off worse as the Italians stood their ground. The Abyssinian Cavalry just failed to penetrate the Italians Askari defending the right, and when the native assault finally went in against the corner of the square they were easily repulsed, leading to a shock victory for the Italians.

Of course in real life no such rescue attempt was ever undertaken, and was probably not even a practical proposition. The humiliation of the garrisons eventual surrender provoked such fury in Italy that it all but forced General Baratieri into the disastrous Adwa/Adua campaign.

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