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Thursday, 28 April 2016

A British Army for the First Sikh War


The four pillars of British rule in India were control of the economy, military discipline, fire power and political intrigue.  Before we move on to military considerations we can note a little about the economy and intrigue.

The wealth extracted from India by the Company was colossal. The control of the Company was entrusted to members of the British elite who moved seamlessly (mainly) between Government and Company and back again. The tension between General Sir Hugh Gough a valued and proven military commander (an old Peninsular man) and Governor General Sir Henry Hardinge (also a Napoleonic Veteran) an actual member of the elite was informed by that reality.

From the time of Plassey political intrigue had been a major element in British sub-continent military operations.  In India’s shifting kaleidoscope of loyalties key elements of the opposition forces could be bought off before the decisive clash. 

As we learn from Sir Richard Burton’s diaries this had, on the eve of the Sikh War, been done to enable the conquest of Scinde.  It is therefore surprising to note the hostile and contemptuous post war attitude of British officers towards the Sikh generals who did so much to enable a British victory in the Punjab.

British military might on the sub-continent relied on the Company’s army and various Queens regiments posted to India as part of the garrison.  For major campaigns irregular troops, mostly cavalry would be signed up. Ghurkhas were of course already highly valued auxiliaries.

The shadow of the Duke still hung around the army.  Senior staff had often served under him, infantry formed square to repulse cavalry and the sight of the French tricolour at the head of the Sikh infantry must have jolted a few memories.  A couple of volley’s and at them with the bayonet was still a military reality.



At the end of the war much criticism was made of Gough’s “Tipperary tactics”.  When Gough said it was better the army all died than it retreats, it was cited as evidence of his limitations as a military leader.  Yet Sir Colin Campbell said much the same about the retreat of the Guards in the Crimea.




I’m inclined to think Gough knew exactly what he was doing. General Sir Hugh “Paddy” Gough was an Anglo Irishman and as such I think he knew just how tenuous the Company’s hold on India was. The sight of a British army running away from the Khalsa might well have been the beginning of the end.  A British army fighting to the last man was a different matter.

By the time of the Sikh War the old British way of life in India was passing away and a racially defined muscular Christian society was taking its place.  The old Colonel with his chillum pipe and Indian wife or even wives was becoming a figure of fun. 



These attitudes impacted upon the military. The Queen’s regiments were regarded as superior to the Company’s white regiments who in turn were deemed superior to the Sowars and Sepoys of the native regiments.  

Such categorization, and it extended to the relative seniority of white officers, had little foundation in reality. Company officers and troops often had much more experience of active service than their equivalents in the Queen’s regiments. A study of the career of the very capable General Nott, a Company officer, is very instructive in this regard.


Accordingly, we won’t be using that tripartite division of military assets here, rather the starting point will be that the British Army in India in its entirety was a good professional army.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Thank You and What's Coming Up Next.

Just a note to thank all of you who have found my blog worth a visit and to outline what’s coming up next.

Having discussed the Khalsa we turn to the British Army in the First Sikh War. As usual there will be some thoughts and a Field of Battle Army list. The information should be of use to other systems too.

Then we will consider the battle of Mudki, including terrain, order of battle for both sides and a game with an after action report.

After, or indeed in between all that, I’ll review the ranges for both the Mutiny and the First Sikh War currently available in 15mm. 

Then we might see how the Rani and Brigadier Wilson are getting on.

Thanks once again for your interest.  As I write this “With Peril in Jeopardy!” is approaching a thousand page views. It is very encouraging.


There will be a break for a few days and the next Sikh War post should be up next Friday.



Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Khalsa Part 2

Khalsa Cavalry, Gorchurra and the irregulars

The Khalsa regular cavalry were trained by veteran soldiers who had military experience in European wars.  Accordingly, they could carry out all of the evolutions and manoeuvres expected of their European counter parts.  There were three branches of the Khalsa cavalry, cuirassiers, dragoons and lancers all fully and appropriately equipped.  They could be supported by Khalsa horse artillery.



The Punjab was horse territory however the numerous and more socially prestigious Gorchurra seem to have had their pick of the horse flesh available.  The Khalsa cavalry chose from what was left.  It also seems clear that the cavalry was the least prestigious branch of the Khalsa.  This inclines me to rate them all simply as regular – if you disagree upgrade or down grade some of them.



Unit
Armament
Combat Die
Defence Die
Short Range
Medium Range
Long Range
Cuirassiers
Sword
D10
D6
-
-
-
Lancers
Lance
D10
D6
0-1
-
-
Dragoons
Carbine
D8
D6
0-1
2-3
-
Dragoons
Carbine
D10
D6
0-1
2-3
-


The Gorchurra were the nobility and gentry of the Sikh kingdom and their immediate followers.  They were well equipped, often armoured and sometimes rode barded horses.  Their weapons were of good quality and included lances, swords, axes and long Jezzail like matchlocks.  They were all excellent horsemen.  

Before Ranjit created the Khalsa they had been the mainstay of the army and with the Alkali its battle winners.  Their favoured tactic was to wear the enemy down by firing from the saddle in a skirmishing or caracole fashion followed up by a fierce charge.   

Such tactics were less effective against European regular infantry who could both out shoot and out range the Gorchurra.  That said there is no reason to believe that a new tactical repertoire was adopted and so my Gorchurra may both charge or skirmish or both if they carry matchlocks.


The question arises of how to model the effect of armour in respect of the wealthier Gorchurra and Khalsa cuirassiers.  Plainly this is an advantage in melee and we should also note that even unarmoured Gorchurra were reported by British cavalry as very difficult to hurt as they leaned over their horses presenting only a thick turban and a shield on the back as a target.  A unit of Bengali irregular cavalry proved to be the British exception (as Brent Nosworthy noted) and caused havoc among the Gorchurra with their razor sharp swords.

Unit
Armament
Combat Die
Defence Die
Short Range
Medium Range
Long Range
Fully Armoured
Lance
D12
D10
-
-
-
Armoured
Matchlock
D12
D8
0-1
2-3
-
Unarmoured
Matchlock
D10
D6
0-1
2-3
-

Let’s look at the remainder of the irregulars now.  Many of them had previous military experience and all owned and practiced with weapons. For convenience I have divided them into matchlock infantry and melee infantry in reality the division would not have been so hard and fast.  Also it seems a good place to include the camel gunners.

Unit
Armament
Combat Die
Defence Die
Short Range
Medium Range
Long Range
Matchlock men
Matchlock
 D8
D4
 0-2
3-4 
 5-6
Swordsmen
Sword
 D10
D4
-
-
-
Camel Guns
Up to 3lb Gun
 D8
D4
 0-3
4-5 
 6

There are a couple of points here that could be reflected in the rules to add flavour when gaming Sikh War battles.  I'm minded to adopt the following:
  • British cavalry,except lancers and a single unit of irregular cavalry, are down 1(in FOB terms) in melee against Gorchurra or Cuirassiers
  • The Matchlock was clumsy compared to the Musket so down 1 (FOB again) for all firing
Finally a word on the Sikh command, treachery only infected the highest level of command below that officers were as able or otherwise as in any other professional army. 

Friday, 22 April 2016

An Army List for the Khalsa

Part 1

In writing this I have mostly drawn upon Sidhu’s First Anglo Sikh War and I have applied the information therein to the ratings in Piquet’s Field of Battle (FOB).  I hope it is of use to those interested and obviously if you disagree with my ratings change them to suit yourself.

Let’s take the infantry first.  They are the backbone of the army, well trained, often by French Napoleonic veterans, and fully equipped to the best European standard.  Apart from the British there was nothing like them in India.  

Following the death of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, creator of the Khalsa, some commentators feel the disciple of the infantry broke down effecting their battle worthiness.  I find no evidence of this in the first Anglo Sikh war. That said I’m mindful of making the Khalsa over mighty in game terms and therefore have opted for a crack brigade and a regular one both of three battalions.

Unit
Armament
Combat Die
Defence Die
Short Range
Medium Range
Long Range
Crack
Musket
D12
D8
0-2
3-4
5-6
Crack
Musket
D12+1
D8
0-2
3-4
5-6
Crack
Musket
D12
D8
0-2
3-4
5-6
Regular
Musket
D10
D6
0-2
3-4
5-6
Regular
Musket
D12+1
D6
0-2
3-4
5-6
Regular
Musket
D10
D6
0-2
3-4
5-6

To this we can add a battalion of Sikh Ghurkhas, one of Dogra Light Infantry and some Alkali devotees of God the Immortal.  The Ghurkhas and the Dogra are regulars.  The Alkali are a sort of Sikh version of the Knights of the Temple.  I have given them only short range fire power to reflect a mix of matchlocks, pistols and quoits but if they close they will be formidable.

Unit
Armament
Combat Die
Defence Die
Short Range
Medium Range
Long Range
Ghurkhas
Musket
D10
D6
0-2
3-4
5-6
Dogra
Musket
D10
D6
0-2
3-4
5-6
Alkali
Various
D12+1
D10
0-2
-
-

Now, to consider the artillery.  The Khalsa often used very heavy calibre guns and the Muslim gunners were very skilled indeed. Consequently, I’ve rated the gunners as crack and the guns as heavy.  The Khalsa also had horse artillery and I’ve included the ratings for them too.  Irregular artillery could also appear but I don’t yet own any and so have not listed it.  I currently field three batteries of Khalsa guns.



Unit
Armament
Combat Die
Defence Die
Short Range
Medium Range
Long Range
Heavy Art
12lb Smoothbore
D12
D8
0-6
7-10
11-18
Heavy Art
12lb Smoothbore
D12+1
D8
0-6
7-10
11-18
Heavy Art
12lb Smoothbore
D12
D8
0-6
7-10
11-18
Horse Art
6lb Smoothbore
D10
D6
0-4
5-8
9-16

In part two we will look at the regular cavalry, the Gorchurra and Sikh irregulars including camel guns and at the command issue.