Taken from the memoirs of “With Keen in Indostan” by Major Archibald Keen (Click the images to enlarge)
…And that is how the deplorable Lieutenant Maggot got laid up with dysentery, a turn of events that would lead to my first active role in command and the commencement proper, of my distinguished military career. Unbeknownst to myself, the Peafowl, was about to embark on a series of perilous assignments.
A week later I found myself on deck with Captain Makepeace, whom was discussing (and liberally quoting from) his work, “A Treatise on Flux and other Rectal Ailments at Sea”, when shouts from port alerted us to a burning hulk on the horizon. Promptly changing course we came upon a scene of great dismay and horror, a ship burnt to the waterline with near all hands lost. Our crew pulled from the water three survivors whom at once relayed information to Makepeace that the ship was once the Mary Anne, a Company brig out of Bumbay, on route to Madapras, and confirmed our gravest fears, pyrates. To make matters worse the cutthroats had taken a hostage, a young daughter of a Company director, Miss Elizabeth Jovejoy, fresh in from London, whom was engaged to marry an infantry Captain of some repute. There was a glimmer of hope though, as the survivors revealed that the pyrate ship had been holed during the exchange and did indeed seem to be taking on water.
With great fury Captain Makepeace hobbled across the deck screaming orders; and with her sails billowing, the Peafowl set course in the direction the pyrates had headed. As a mere Ensign, I feared my first engagement in command would be fraught with uncertainty, so took the opportunity to immediately drill the Marines, Sergeant Maddox at my side. Thankfully, the giant Welshman thought good of me and had long ago earned the respect of his men. While I put the Marines through their paces I spied Lieutenant Wigglesworth watching intently. Despised by most of the crew, the gentleman dandy looked on in disdain at the rapport I shared with Maddox and I felt his stare burn right through me. Indeed, he would prove a rival to watch.
By noon a small sail appeared on the horizon and the Peafowl moved in to give chase, pursuing her quarry throughout the rest of the day. Captain Makepeace commanded the ship with great skill, alas the smaller craft, even though impaired, gave us the slip amongst the island sandbars and reefs off the coast of Pisswah, our frigate being too deep drafted to follow. As night was falling, anchored off shore from where the ship had escaped us, undeterred, his sense of pride and duty driving him, Captain Makepeace ordered landing parties arranged. He surmised that the pyrates would be forced to make land fall and careen their vessel, lest they flounder and sink. And so he planned at first light to take to the boats and scour the island sandbars for them, a risky, but profitable venture, for if we found them careening, there was little chance of their escape.
Through the predawn fog we rowed, a mere three boats, as Makepeace was unwilling to leave the Peafowl unmanned, lest she fall foul to lurking pyrates herself. The jack tars strained at the oars, with no man uttering a word, as we silently glided towards the shore. Dull glows greeted us through the mist and we knew for sure then, that Makepeace’s gamble was correct - we had chanced upon their encampment. As we closed we could see the dark form of a beached vessel ahead and to it the men rowed steadily. The Captain’s prearranged orders had been clear, we were to land quietly ashore, catch the pyrates dozing and bring them quickly into custody, before they put up too much of a fight.
Captain Makepeace’s own boat, for he had insisted on leading the party personally, made sterling time. Alas, I had found myself the only officer aboard my launch and without a proper navy man to keep step, we quickly lagged behind. On the other hand, Lieutenant Wigglesworth, who commanded the last of the boats along with Sergeant Maddox, cut through the surf with the swiftest of speed. Spurred on by menacing glares and cursing oaths, Wigglesworth’s jack tars easily outpaced us and were about to reach the shore, when a single shot rang out. We had been spotted!
The pistol shot had come from the careened vessel, where a sure eyed pyrate sentry stood, scanning out to sea. When Wigglesworth’s boat struck the beach, pyrates were already leaping to their feet and arming themselves within their camp. The pyrate quartermaster, a bald giant of a man, was wailing like a banshee as he spurred the drunken rabble to arms. I saw the sailors and Marines accompanying Lieutenant Wigglesworth disembark the boat and gather on the beach. I knew Sergeant Maddox would keep the men in order until I could arrive, which unfortunately would be for some time yet.
The pyrate camp was now astir with activity, as even more pyrates awoke, and following hastily shouted orders were gathering to make a defense. The pyrates were not the only ones shouting. As Captain Makepeace’s launch hit the beach, he threw himself over the gunwale and in his seaman’s voice, shouted at Wigglesworth to get his men to the cover of the beached pyrate ship. Wigglesworth complied and he led the jack tars he had arrived with to the safety of the careened vessel, which proudly bore the infamous name, the Blue Raja. The ship was none other than that of Captain Thomas “Indigo”, a despicable Englishman turned pyrate, who had plagued this stretch of Indostan coast for many years.
Almost on cue, “Indigo” showed his face amongst the mass of gathering pyrates and with him, he dragged a slight form, that of Miss Lovejoy no doubt. The pyrates were moving out to meet us with new vigor and some of the musket armed blaggards even opened fire, although they posed no threat at this range. Wigglesworth moved forward tentatively, as he too had spied the mass of pyrates gathering before us. I finally reached the shore, after what seemed like an eon, and the men and myself quickly disembarked, mingling with Makepeace’s men in a knot. The Captain ordered the remaining jack tars forward, leaving only the Marines at the boats, which Sergeant Maddox had the enterprise to quickly organise into some semblance of a fighting force. I acknowledged the competence of the veteran soldier and gave him command of his own troupe.
Maddox wasted little time and quickly opened fire on the musket armed pyrates gathering amongst the rocks, but at this range and cover, caused little threat. I heard Captain Makepeace give command of a group of sailors to Lieutenant Wigglesworth, ordering the fop to “Man those guns!!” He was referring of course to the light naval cannons that had been removed from the Blue Raja and were sitting half buried in the sand before us. Makepeace then moved off through the underbrush uttering phrases from his work, “A Treatise on Naval Military Tactics and the Modern Commander”, a small band of jack tars in tow.
Wigglesworth quickly followed the order and while his men moved hurriedly forward towards the guns, a large gang of pyrates, led by the giant Quartermaster Briggs, moved menacingly close towards them. Seeing the threat almost instantly, the pyrates in the rocks opened fire on Wigglesworth, by fluke, killing a sailor, but the other men were safe under the cover of the guns and cargo stacked before them. Sergeant Maddox and his Marines moved up to cover the Lieutenant, sheltering behind the gathered cargo, and delivered a return volley that had the pyrates ducking.
While all this occurred, I am embarrassed to say, my mind was lost to me. My first real engagement in command and our late arrival on the beach had put me all in a spin. I saw the faces and expressions of my men pleading for direction, but the sounds of musket volleys and the roaring din of the pyrate mob drowned my senses. I heard Wigglesworth’s whining screams cut above the clamor, yelling at his men to man a cannon, and I suddenly thought that I could not allow that cad to see me falter like this. I took a deep breath, gathered my wits and ordered the Marines forward. We almost instantly came into sight of the gathering pyrates and I quickly ordered Halt! - Present! - Fire!! The volley felled a cutthroat, but failed to check the pyrates and the giant, Quartermaster Briggs, pushed through the powder smoke urging his dogs on. With a frenzied yell, a mass of pyrates rushed for Wigglesworth and the guns.
By the guns, Maddox and his Marines were engaged in an exchange with pyrate musketmen, but as both parties had ample cover, little damage was being dealt. Lieutenant Wigglesworth had his rapier out, dashing it about, slashing and cursing at the jack tars to position the gun. They were struggling with turning the heavy piece around to face the enemy, when a bloodcurdling roar heralded the arrival of the vicious charge. In a haze of pistol smoke and flashing cutlasses, the pyrates washed over the jack tars like a deadly wave. Wigglesworth was struck by a pistol ball that grazed his cheek, close to his beauty spot, and fell back beaten, with his surviving men to the boat. Before the pyrates could pursue them, Maddox’s Marines, turned and fired into the pyrates as they clambered over the guns. The volley ripped through them and they turned and fled, already exhausted from their fight with Wigglesworth.
I had been making short work of a gang of cutthroats on the left, who had failed to follow the charge home. The Marines were about to deliver a fatal barrage, when the fleeing pyrates crossed our vision. I checked their aim and ordered them fire on this new target. The volley saw them drop their weapons and flee completely, running for their very lives. Captain “Indigo” moved to halt their course, but there was nothing even he could do, those men were beat. Spotting the infamous pyrate Captain, I ordered the Marines quickly forward, firing on the remaining enemy as we advanced. The delicate form of Miss Lovejoy gave a squeal of despair, as “Indigo” dragged her back towards his camp.
Back at the guns, the big Welshman, Sergeant Maddox, faced the bald giant, Quartermaster Briggs and his band of cutthroats. The pyrates leapt upon the cargo gathered there to reach at the Redcoats, firing their pistol and screaming a war cry. They proved no match for the disciplined Marines, who stalwartly defended their makeshift barricade and the pyrates were killed to a man, dropping like chaff to their bayonets. Even the giant Quartermaster was felled by a mighty blow from Maddox’s halberd, that near took off clean, his ugly bald head. A marine took the giant pyrate prisoner, half dragging him to the boats, a trail of dark blood marring the sand.
With the threat at the guns eradicated, Wigglesworth skulked back, having steadied his men’s retreat. He furiously dabbed at his wound with a kerchief, which was stained with blood, while he screamed profanities at the jack tars. The sailors gathered around the gun’s carriage again and with a mighty heave, spun the piece around to face the enemy, and next set about loading it with grapeshot. Events had suddenly taken a turn for the better and it looked like we were finally in command of the field, although “Indigo” and a knot of pyrates were still at large, defending their camp.
My men and myself were drawing near to the camp proper and driving before us a few fleeing curs, when from out of the undergrowth charged Captain Makepeace and his men. They quickly overwhelmed the fleeing pyrate rabble, who threw down their arms, begging for mercy. Makepeace flashed me a wink as he had his prisoners gathered up and put under guard. Free now to concentrate on “Indigo”, we left Makepeace and marched boldly towards the camp where we could see the pyrate captain preparing to make his final stand. He still clutched Miss Lovejoy close in his filthy hands, no doubt to use her as a shield against us.
I checked the Marines, ordering them to hold their fire and pushed to the front of their ranks. Holding my sword level at the cur, I screamed out his name “Indigo, you dog! Come face me!” To my surprise the pyrate captain pushed through his own men, shoving his lovely hostage into one of their filthy embrace. His tongue dripped with ire and he spat at me “Come on then, little boy. I’ll ‘ave your head off, whelp!” I stepped forward warily, meeting him in the space between both our men and he rushed me with his cutlass raised. Although skilled, he proved little match for me and I soon gained the upper hand in the duel, delivering him a terrible wound. He had cut me also, albeit lightly, but the cheers of my men sealed his fate, and I soon had him surrendering at sword point, his eyes wide with fear. He meekly began to appeal to his crew for assistance, but I cut him off quickly, dragging him back to my men and dashing any hopes he held for a rescue. I had captured the infamous pyrate, Captain Thomas “Indigo”. I was about to call for the surrender of the pyrates when an almighty explosion erupted to our right.
Lieutenant Wigglesworth and his sailors had finally managed to load and fire the naval gun. The grapeshot blasted the pyrate musketmen still firing from behind cover. The effect was totally demoralising and although none of the pyrates were killed, they were near ready to flee. Surprisingly, Wigglesworth abandoned the gun, ordered his small band to charge and they rushed at their enemy screaming wildly. The pyrates shrank back defeated, losing one of their number in the process, and withdrew hurriedly back into the camp.
And so it was that Wigglesworth and myself now stood facing down the remaining pyrates, a ragged band of cutthroats, that still posed some threat to Miss Lovejoy and the men. I was concerned only for the safety of the lady and knew our next move must be a cautious one, but Lieutenant Wigglesworth had a different plan. He skittered down into the camp, his few sailors in tow, calling out the pyrate first mate, who led the band now, slashing his rapier left and right. Although I detested the man, I admired the brave gesture. ‘Twas the very pyrate mate that had led the charge on Wigglesworth at the gun earlier and seen him off. Thinking the dandy Lieutenant a push over, the first mate moved forward issuing his own challenge, “If I defeats ye, me and the men go free – agreed?” Wigglesworth agreed to the proposal with a nod and stepped forward, saluting with his rapier. As soon as the first mate closed, Wigglesworth shouted back to his men “Take him!” Instantly the jack tars set upon the lone pyrate and quickly overpowered him, before any of the others could join the melee. A cowardly act for sure, but now leaderless, every remaining pyrate threw down their arms in surrender. The day was won!
I rushed to the aid of Miss Lovejoy, but Wigglesworth moved to her too. She was near swooning with relief and sobbed tears of elation at her liberation. It was Captain Makepeace that tended to her thankfully and immediately seen to her needs. “Well done Gentlemen, well done indeed!” Makepeace blurted out to us, “Young Mr. Keen, you have captured “Indigo”, what a splendid effort, the Directors shall hear of this.” Wigglesworth scowled in my direction, but nodded politely when Miss Lovejoy caught sight of the action. “Gentlemen” she said, panting in her pretty voice, “I owe you both a debt of gratitude. You are both so very brave, my father and fiancée will be ever so grateful.” We both bowed courteously and when Miss Lovejoy had been escorted off to the Peafowl, eyed each other most untrustingly. Wigglesworth helped himself to a small chest amongst the gathered booty and headed off himself and while the men rounded up the pyrate prisoners and fired their ship, I contemplated quietly to myself the great deed we had accomplished that day.
|The landing parties approach the beach|
|Lieutenant Wigglesworth's is the first boat to make landfall|
|The alarm is raised!!|
|The bald giant, Quartermaster Briggs, shouts commands to the pyrates|
|Wiggleswoth and his men disembark|
|Captain Makepeace and Ensign Keen are closing|
|The pyrates are stirring like angry ants|
|First Mate, Razuul rouses the cutthroats|
|Korsan Gurpreet and a mob of pyrate musketmen|
|Hoorah! Captain Makepeace arrives|
|Makepeace orders Wigglesworth into cover|
|The infamous Captain Thomas "Indigo" and his hostage, Miss Lovejoy|
|The pyrates move into a defensive position|
|Wigglesworth chances a look at the enemy|
|Keen arrives finally and orders his men to disembark|
|A chaotic scene at the boats|
|Under orders, Seaman Sprays moves off with his men|
|The jack tars round the Blue Raja|
|Pyrate musketmen take up positions in the rocks|
|Quartermaster Briggs, leads a band of pyrates headed for the British|
|The jack tars gather out of sight|
|Sergeant Maddox organises the Marines into two units...|
|...and opens fire!|
|The pyrate mob gets closer|
|Wigglesworth is ordered to "Man those guns!!"|
|The sailors rush to take the guns...|
|...and come under fire from the rocks.|
|Sergeant Maddox moves his Marines up to support Wigglesworth...|
|...and returns fire on the enemy|
|Keen suffers from tactical indecision...|
|...but eventually moves his men toward the pyrates|
|The jack tars throw their backs into positioning a cannon|
|The pyrates spy the threat and charge ahead, through a volley from Keen's Marines|
|The pyrates in the rocks pour fire onto the Marines|
|Maddox's Marines try to check the charge...|
|...but fail, and a bloody melee is joined over possession of the guns|
|Lieutenant Wigglesworth is wounded and retreats to the boats|
|Maddox's men fire on the victorious pyrates...|
|...which sees them flee right into the path of Keen's men|
|Even "Indigo" can't halt their flight and they flee|
|Quartermaster Briggs orders a charge into Maddox's Marines...|
|...with the pyrates being killed to a man - Briggs himself is badly wounded and captured|
|Wigglesworth skulks back to the guns, now the danger is past|
|His men position and load the cannon|
|Makepeace performs a classic flank maneuver...|
|...overwhelming a fleeing band of pyrates and capturing them alive|
|Keen confronts "Indigo" and calls the cur out|
|The pyrate captain accepts and Keen soundly out swords him|
|The gun fires grapeshot into the pyrate musketmen...|
|...and Wigglesworth follows it up with a wild charge...|
|...that drives the pyrates from their defensive position|
|Keen drags "Indigo" back to his men - the pyrate captain is captured - Hoorah!!|
|Challenging the last remaining pyrate leader to a duel, Wigglesworth has his men apprehend him|
|The day is won, the remaining pyrates surrender...|
|...their leaders captured and chained|
|But the real reward is the rescue of Miss Elizabeth Lovejoy|
As is typical of these games “our hero”, Ensign Archibald Keen, had an amazing run of bad luck with regards to having his Big Man card show up. It took Dave ages to get Keen into play, but eventually he did and things started to look up for him. Lieutenant Wigglesworth was Christian’s own doing. He had converted and painted up his figure and wanted to play a dandy. What better man than Wigglesworth to serve as Keen’s adversary. All in all a great effort by the British, having fulfilled the scenario goals wholly and completely.
Unfortunately the old Kodak ran out of batteries just as things were hotting up and I was forced to resort to my HTC mobile phone. The resulting images were less than great, but under the circumstances had to suffice. Apologies for the poor pics.
Most of the pirate figures belonged to our late friend Rotary, who had them painted up for a LoTHS campaign, but unfortunately never got to play a single game with them. Let’s hope they did him proud in their inaugural battle. This one’s for you old mate.
Lastly the small spiky bushes you see scattered about the table were kindly donated to Indostan by Mad Guru, of the amazing Maiwand Day Blog. Anyone with an interest in the British conflicts in Afghanistan must check this site out. I owe Mad Guru a long overdue thanks for being such a kind bloke and sending me a small package full of plastic bushes for free, and at considerable expense to himself. I would have publicly thanked him much earlier, but this is the first game I have used them in. The generosity of gentlemen wargamers never ceases to amaze me – hats of to the Mad Guru!!