Thursday 16 February 2023

The Battle of Bavai August 1914

It has taken me a few days to bring myself to write this post. I've been too busy crying into my sauerkraut with the muffled cries of "das ist nicht fair" occasionally being heard. But I'm jumping ahead of myself, so let's start at the beginning of this sorry tale. 

Over the weekend five members of Posties Rejects came together in the shed-o-war for a WWI game using Stuart's early war rules and his massive 6mm collection. Ray and Mark played a small British force tasked with holding back a numerically superior German offensive led by myself, Surjit, and Steve. Sides were determined as usual by picking from a metaphorical hat (bits of folded paper tossed on the table for us to scramble over!) and then the British players were taken out to see the battlefield and be introduced to their mission objectives. The German players sat and waited...and waited...and waited. We could only assume one of two things. Either they were crying into their warm beer over the situation they were handed by the umpire or were arguing between themselves about what to do. After the battle, we found that it was both, so potentially a good start for the German players. 

Order of Battle (lifted from Ray's Blog post for this battle, Don't Throw a One)

2nd Corps 5th Division BEF (C/O Ray, 2ic Mark)
13th Brigade
2/Kings Own Scottish Borderers
2/Duke of Wellington’s
1/Royal West Kent’s
2/Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

14th Brigade
1/East Surrey
1/Duke of Cornwall’s LI

9 Batteries of Field Artillery
2 Batteries of Heavy Artillery (off table)

5th Cavalry Brigade – attached
2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys)
12th Lancers
20th Hussars
1 Battery of Horse Artillery

1 Ambulance
1 Field Hospital

1st Army 3rd Corps
(C/O Lee, 2ic Surjit, 3ic Steve)

5th Division
9th Brigade
   8th Grenadiers (3 Battalions)
   48th Infantry regt (3 Battalions)

10th Brigade
   12th Grenadiers (3 Battalions)
   52nd Infantry regt (3 Battalions)

11th Brigade
   20th Infantry regt(3 Battalions)
   35th Fusilier rget (3 Battalions)
   12 Batteries of Field Artillery

Additional units attached
   3rd Uhlans
   3rd Jagers
   1 Battery of Horse Artillery

Engineers and Pontoon Bridge
1 Ambulance
1 Field Hospital

The Action

The following is brief and I would recommend taking a look at Ray's post on this battle on his Blog Don't Throw a One for more pictures and some naturally biased analysis 😉

We were told at the start that this game was all about terrain objectives. The battle started with 30 points of objectives all in British hands. The Germans would need to capture enough objectives to win the game, so destroying enemy units was not necessary to win, although we would still need to force the Brits off objectives to claim them. Speed and the correct application of force where necessary were vital for the German players.  

The starting positons with virtually no British on the table and lots of German units primed and ready to attack. The Brits don't look very happy. 

My troops in the center were destined for some hard fighting.

The first nasty surprise of the day. One of two off-table artillery barrages. The brits would place the grid and roll a d10 for where the barrage landed (10 on a d10 moved the whole grid closer to their line). From the start, their artillery was very effective/lucky! 

The German offensive begins. Moving at double speed I instructed both my sub-generals to move as quickly as we could. This would mean applying overwhelming force to sweep away opposition so that the following units could leapfrog to the front and continue moving swiftly. 

On our right flank, Surjits Brigades move forward but some are pushed back by accurate artillery fire from the Brits. 

In the Centre, my troops push forward quickly overwhelming the first British defensive line and helping to clear defenders from the village on the crossroads. These were our first points for the villages, crossroads and the T junction seen in this picture. 

On the left flank, Steve's engineers are taking their time building a pontoon across the river, but the infantry Brigades under his command are sweeping forwards and keeping pace with mine. 

My Brigades push forward, largely foregoing a chance to fire their rifles in favor of the extra movement. But there were some strong points that needed to be overcome.

This building represented a small village. We needed to capture the village and the crossroads for the terrain points. For the units involved this was achieved in just one turn, while other units passed by and continued to advance on the British second line of defense. 

Steve's Brigades have likewise cleared the small village by the T junction and now push towards the center, adding their numbers to my Brigades also heading that way. The British players looked understandably flummoxed at this point. There was nothing they could do to stop us and both sides knew it!

Except over on the right flank Surjit seemed to be having problems taking a field. The British here were spared German artillery fire because Surj decided (against my advice) to target the British artillery on the hills at the back of the table. This lack of artillery support for the infantry advance would prove very costly indeed.  

Meanwhile, after what seemed like an eternity, Steve's engineers had finally constructed their pontoon bridge, and his Lancers and Jagers swarmed across quickly. There looked to be several possible terrain objectives and not a sign of any British troops defending them. Ripe for the picking? 

But of course, that wasn't the case. Dismounted cavalry and a machine gun stood in their way. Steve weighed up the possibilities and decided his lance-wielding Uhlans would charge...

Meanwhile, our offensive has reached the British second (and only remaining) line of defense. Again Steve and I used artillery and some rifle fire to soften up the opposition while other units leapfrogged to the front and charged the positions. The Britsh hardly put up a fight and were forced out of their slit trenched with barely any pause. 

However, over on the right flank two combined attacks by one of my Brigades and one of Surjits, failed to dislodge an increasingly weakened British unit in trenches next to the filed. And in the field, Surjit had not taken full control with the British fighting for every inch of dirt (and the terrain point it represented). 

Meanwhile, in the main town, a single British Brigade knows it cannot possibly hold its ground when the German offensive reaches it next turn. 

Over on the left flank, the Uhlans charge the dismounted cavalry and push them back easily.

A swift follow-up charge wipes the defenders out easily. One more terrain point for us and now there truly is nothing stopping us from taking the undefended village on the left or the undefended hill before us in the next turn of movement. 

The fight on our right flank grinds on, but British defeat here can only be one turn away.

But this is the point at which our host and umpire Stuart said the game had come to a conclusion. We assumed we had played out the set number of turns but we later found out that the end was rather more arbitrary than that, with the game scheduled (unbeknownst to either side) to end at a set time regardless of the situation on the table. The German players had taken a lot of terrain objectives and one more turn would have seen us take at least three more without any opposition. By my estimation, we would have gained an additional 4 or five points by playing one more turn...but the Umpire had spoken and both sides waited as he counted up the terrain points held or captured. 

The Germans had captured fourteen points out of thirty, meaning the British had held onto sixteen points to win the game! 

Moments before these two knew they had lost and had faces like slapped arses. Then Stuart announced. As you can tell, Ray was very happy with the result!! 


What can I say that doesn't sound like sour grapes... The British put up a good fight, making us battle for every inch over on the right of our line. Their tactics were sound, but they were also impossibly unlucky with their dice rolls. They lost every initiative roll of the game and consistently failed morale checks for units following melee, far beyond the bounds of normal probability. They were understandably and justifiably unhappy, right up to the announcement of the winners! 

On the German side, I think we performed well. We kept moving (ignore the pro-Britosh propaganda on Ray's blog) and I don't see how we could have progressed any further across the table. Having cleared all opposition, one more turn would have seen us sweep up a load of terrain points for a decisive victory. But as is often the case, we had a great time and were not so much beaten by the opposing players, but by the Umpire. Such is the price of gaming in the shed-o-war, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 


  1. Still sounds like sauerkraut to me! You guys needed to move faster. You should have pinned us then kept moving double move and by passed our troops. What could we have done? Nothing at all.
    Now eat your pickled cabbage and stop whingeing.

    1. We must have been watching different games because I though that was exactly what we were doing (well, two of us were!). It is what it is, enjoy the hollow victory 😉. I'm recording it as a German win 🤣😂

  2. Excellent battle account, Lee! Great photos too! I enjoyed the battle told from your perspective. Could the Germans have pushed just a little harder and faster to secure victory before the sands of the hourglass drained out?

    1. Despite what Ray said, I genuinely don't see how. Our lead units pinned - or sent packing - British defenders while our other battalions leapfrogged forward. We were moving at pretty much full speed the whole game (except on the right flank). The crucial factor for me is that there was nothing between us and four more victory points except the umpire and his wristwatch. Of course if Ray had spent less time distracted by the football results on his phone we may have had time for that precious extra turn... 🤣

  3. Great report Lee.
    Sour grapes? I don't know. What I do, is that when I spoke to Stuart he said that the Germans spent too much time talking over things. Less chitter chatter would have given you that 1 extra turn. His words.
    Regardless, it sounds like you played well.

  4. That's a big old game..looks great!

  5. Nice report from the German side Lee - I think we can all see that the British victory was pretty Pyrrhic - mind you, they had very few troops with which to hold off an overwhelmingly superior German force, so you guys only did what seemed pretty inevitable anyway - and the referee's decision IS final!


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