Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Battle of Toski with Science v Pluck (part 1)

One of our group is retiring to Cornwall, so we took the opportunity of a Bank Holiday Monday to have a farewell game of Science v Pluck in Shedquarters. Three MNG stalwarts were joined by my brother Richard for the event.

I have been looking at doing a game based upon the Battle of Toski in 1889 ever since I became properly aware of it a few months back through some traffic on the SvP yahoo group. To my shame I had never looked at the battles the Egyptian Army fought "solo" without British support, - partly through lack of sources. However, someone was kind enough to send me a link to a Kindle copy of Wingate's "Mahdiism and the Sudan" which is an absolute goldmine of information on all the military aspects of the Sudan campaigns with good orbats and maps.

Toski is the battle that finishes off the invasion of Egypt by Mahdist forces, and vindicates all of the efforts to reform the Egyptian Army and make it responsible for the defence of Egypt. I was confident my players would not have the details of the action, so I made no attempt to disguise the scenario. This did mean, however, that I did not distribute the briefings beforehand either.

The background to the battle is that a Mahdist force numbering about 8,000 warriors and non-combatants, lead by Abderrahman en Nejumi is pushing across the Egypt/Sudan border in late July 1889. Nejumi planned and lead the capture of Khartoum and is regarded as amongst the most talented of the Mahdist military leaders. The plan is for a combined Anglo-Egyptian Force to take them on and defeat them in battle. In practice the Mahdists present an opportunity to bring them to battle before the Anglo part of the force arrives. The Sirdar, Sir Wallace Grenfell, resolves to engage them with his forces then concentrated, being two brigades of foot, and a mounted column of 3 cavalry squadrons (including some British Hussars) and two companies of Camel Corps. Half of the force has already fought and won an action against the Mahdists at Argin on 28th June.

Grenfell's problem is that the Mahdists are moving through the desert, and his supply route is basically the Nile. Using steamers he can move up and down the Nile quickly, but even using Sudanese Battalions he can't advance deep into the Desert to track down the Mahdists without severe hazard from the conditions and also the desert offering Nejumi the opportunity to fight on ground more favourable to his forces. Having concentrated his forces at Toski, Grenfell is given intelligence that the Mahdists are encamped within a few miles of the village & river.

The game started on the morning of 3rd August, 1889. Grenfell and his staff have recce'd the Mahidist camp the evening before, and together with reports of his other scouting troops has compiled this map.

The map has been derived from the sketch map in Wingate's book, but with the troop dispositions and annotations removed.

The overall situation was described to the Sirdar and his senior officers, together with the intelligence that Nejumi was intending to break camp and go north, into desert areas where the Egyptian Army would be unwise to follow. The Egyptians haven't got their supply wagons and animals up yet, nor have the British troops arrived. However it is possible that the current forces could carry enough ammunition and water for a day's action and intercept the Mahdists and bring them to battle.

The Sirdar immediately convened a council of war and debated his options.

From left to right we have Colonel Wodehouse (Chris), Major Hunter (Ian), General Grenfell (Phil) and Colonel Kitchener (Richard).

As this debate went on for a while, I feel we can break the narrative here and return to the battle in a subsequent posting.


  1. It looks as if an excellent game is in the offing. Top marks for the hats too!

    Regards, Chris.

    1. They should all be in fezes really, as it's an Egyptian Army game, but you can't blame people for trying!