December 27th 2008
DARKEST AFRICA Battle of “WATAHTA Point”
Well determined to get in a bit more gaming than normal this holiday season Steve Gausche, Doug Kendrick, and I (Bill Witthans) all Members of the prestigious Bengal club decided to reserve a table in the Bismarck room annex of the club. I was put in charge of the scenario and setup. Well after watching the movie “African Queen” and a late night reading TANGANJIKASEE a Gunboat War in Deutsch-Ostafrika 1914 – 1916 by Dennis L. Bishop and Holger Dobold, found on the “By Jingo” website by Chris Ferree, I was ready to go!
The Period would be late 1914 during the First World War. While the battles raged in Europe the “Side Show of a Side show” began in Africa. British, German, and Belgian officers found themselves at war but with few resources and little guidance as to what to do in their theater of war. What they did do was mostly based on commerce and the raw materials available to them. The results were a whole bunch of little inventive fights perfect for Wargaming! Quick someone call the Discovery channel! Its Bigfoot’s cousin! “The Ten Thousand Foot General” No its long time west coast gamer Steve Gausche, great, great, great, grandson of Frederick the Great! Steve is standing in a swampy area in the direction of the German colony. The “Wasserhund” followed by the “Schildkrote” can be seen steaming down river after dropping of the German force north of the native village. Oberst vonSchlitz’s force can bee seen entering the village just right of the picture center.
Central Africa has several major lakes and rivers that commerce flows along as well as serving as the border lines of colonial power. They became the focal point for many of the battles fought in Africa. These battles were not fought by the same type of troop fighting in the European trenches but by mostly Native troops led by European (colonial) officers. Most of these troops had no idea of what the war was about or why they were really fighting but most of the time were motivated by local issues, loot, or territorial gains weaved into it by their colonial masters. The Battles on these lakes were fought by all sorts of dilapidated steam vessels impressed by the military and armed with whatever guns were available at the time.
So the Scenario was this:
A German led force has navigated down the Ulongo River (not thought possible by even shallow draft launches) to where it empties into Lake Victoria. There is a Belgian fort at this point and a large village north of it. This fort is has been forcing the local chief to provide young men for the formation of Belgian Askari units. The Belgians hold the local chiefs nubile young daughter as a hostage to insure the local tribes cooperation. Also there is a large new Belgian Steam ship the “Saffron” operating on the lake now! It was portaged from the coast in pieces by 3000 native levy and rebuilt at the lake. This threat to German power in the area must be stopped! To this end the Germans have assembled Oberst vonShlitz, 5 regular German Marines, flag bearer, two steam powered river boats, one armed with a quick firing 37mm gun. The other launch is equipped with two homemade “torpedoes” built by an American Machinist a “Mr. Charlie Allnut” who had some minor function at one of their mines. This “Torpedo” boat is their best hope of destroying the Saffron! The “Torpedoes” are hard mounted in the boat and the boat must ram the Saffron to be effective. The Germans also hope to enlist help from the chief of the village in the form of “musket men” he has been training for the Belgians.
The Belgians have a Fort with a Muzzle loading cannon, 10 local Musket men, 10 Askari musket men; both groups have a White officer, and their commander Colonel Bris Ket Beffe and his retainers. The Saffron is patrolling waters near here and will be diced onto the board. She also is armed with a small artillery piece on deck. The 10 Belgian musket men are also on patrol up the beach and are able to be diced for as soon as gunfire is heard.
Neither the Saffron nor the German armed river boat can pass the river mouth area as it is too shallow for them the “Torpedo” boat can cross it!
At the start of the Game the German objectives are:
1 Destroy the Saffron
2 Take the Fort
3 Free the Chief’s daughter to ensure his allegiance to Deutschland!
The Belgian Objectives are simply to prevent the German from their goals and send them scurrying back into the jungle or die!
In their usual subtle way the German colonial force marches into King “Boingo’s” village and explains the benefits of being under the protection and indeed allied with German OstAfrika (east Africa). The witch doctor puts a curse on vonShlitz “you will never leave Africa alive” Of course the Oberst laughs it off but it will affect his future! see the footnote at the end of the report.
The game began with the Germans dropping their troops off up river as the land near the fort was swampy. The Germans also needed to obtain support from the local chief “Boingo” of the Wahzoo tribe. I did not tell the Germans that at first and as they approached the town they where confronted by young natives in a very hostile mood. Their reaction would determine if troops would be given willingly or the natives have to be subdued to provide help. The Germans held their fire and Chief Boingo sent ten native musket men to help the Germans and free his Daughter. The Germans advanced to the fort and came under fire by the Belgian askaris who moments before had come under fire themselves from the German riverboat “Wasserhund”(Waterdog). The second German boat “Schildkrote” (Turtle) hung back looking for the Belgian ship “Saffron”
The Germans fire had alerted both the Saffron and the patrol down the beach. They both arrived in short order. German gunboat fire was telling on the fort and the forts gun after being moved into position only managed one shot before being silenced by the “Wasserhund’s” deck gun. Heading towards an outbuilding of the fort the German forces came under fire from the Belgian musket me who had been down the Beach one German marine fell to this fire all others were out of range. Return fire from the German marines was devastating! 5 musket men down! Soon what was left of the musket men who by some miracle survived their morale checks fled into a patch of jungle leaving the entire German force to attack the fort.
The “Saffron” steams into sight and ads its fire to the fight. Princess “Wahooii” is seen under guard in the forts tower. Belgian askaris line the forts walls as the Muzzle loader is wheeled up. The flags on the “Saffron” and the fort are that of the Belgian Colonial navy. The Arab flag is from the Mercinary arab gun crew in the paid employ of the Belgians. The “Arab” dhow that was seen in the earlier picture was full of drunk arabs who fled as soon as they woke up!
The Belgians in the fort were taking heavy losses from the “Wasserhund” but some relief came as the Belgian ship “Saffron” steamed near the fort and engaged the German gunboat. The Belgian gunners were in good form causing enough damage to the German ship to cause 2 morale/damage checks but Herr Gausche passed his morale checks and the Wasserhund stay in the fight. German fire now poured into the fort and soon it was empty except for its commander Colonel “Bris Ket Beffe”, the Belgian Standard bearer, and Chief “Boingo” of the “Wahzoo’s” daughter “Wahooii Tah Tahs” The Belgian commander used his saving roll and his 2 “soak off” casualty attendants to escape German fire and ride up the beach to be picked up by the “Saffron” while the Belgian standard and its bearer were captured. The native princess “Wahooii Tah Tahs” was reunited with her father.
As a purely historical footnote “Wahooii” later married the German commander Oberst vonSchlitz and opened a very successful big game / Safari business. They had 6 children, their eldest son “Boingo Boingo vonSchlitz” became famous locally as the head technical adviser for American director John Huston when he came to Africa and filmed the “African Queen”. Oberst vonShlitz guided safari’s for over fifty years untill being killed in a hunting accident involving the Marx brothers. VonShlitz as the witch doctor had predicted would “never leave Africa alive”
It was a moderate German victory, The fort falling to them and local support assured by the hostages release. However the big prize, the “Saffron” slipped away! The Belgians still controlled the lake and another opportunity would not come so easy!
All terrain, troops, and beverages used in this game are not coincidental! their mine! The rules used were “In Darkest Africa” by Chris Peers”
Princess “Wahooii Tah Tahs” the future Mrs. Hubert vonSchlitz watches the battle while the Belgian standard bearer watches …….