Glasgow & District Wargaming Society
The Dreikaiser-Bund Strikes!
This is the scenario used for the double header in January 2008 using 19th Century PoW. Whilst it sounds a bit far fetched the background history actually happened. Diplomacy just strung matters out a bit and war broke out later in the year between the Serbs and the Turks and the following year the Russo-Turkish War started. The Germans and Austrians remained neutral but there was a British expeditionary force ready to intervene from Egypt (it was going to occupy Gallipoli – Churchill didn’t dream it up himself in 1915!) and the Mediterranean fleet sailed up the Dardanelles to warn off the Russians. 1876 therefore offers an interesting historical ‘what-if’ with interesting army combinations, tactical systems and technology.
The year is 1876. The ‘Eastern Question’ is the focus of attention of all the main powers. The Ottoman Empire is in crisis with revolts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, internal political strife and the suspension of loans on the London and Paris financial markets. The newer Balkan states of Serbia, Romania and Greece see an opportunity to expand their territory whilst the Russian Pan Slav movement wants to exploit the break up of the Ottoman Empire and gain an outlet to the Aegean. The Austrians want to ensure that a Slav state does not border the Empire stirring up trouble with their own nationalities. The British with French support generally favour sustaining the Ottoman Empire against Russian expansionism. The Italians play both sides but are generally hostile to Austria.
The German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck is indifferent to events in the Balkans but is concerned to maintain the Dreikaiser-Bund (the League of the Three Emperors). For this reason he supports proposals tabled in January 1876 by the Austrian Foreign Minister Andrassy and Prince Gorchakov the Russian Foreign Minister for a major reform of the Ottoman Empire.
March to War
The Porte rejected the proposals as the effective dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and mobilised their army in Rumelia (modern day Bulgaria). The Russians send forces to support the fledgling Romanian army and Bismarck, reluctantly to maintain the Bund, agrees to support them with German and Austrian troops. The British send their expeditionary force and the French and Italians agree modest support to secure their financial investment.
Race to Plevna
The main Russian army crossed the Danube at Sistova and sealed the Turkish forces into their fortress strongholds in Eastern Rumelia. General Krudener’s ‘western’ army supported by the Romanians advanced along the Danube to capture Nikopol. The Austro-German army crossed the Danube west of Nikopol at Orjahovo and was advancing south to join up with the Russians at the important road junction of Plevna.
The Turkish commander at Nikopol, Hassan is retreating back to Plevna. The Western army commanded by Osman Pasha remains in the west covering Sofia. Meanwhile the Anglo-French Expeditionary Force commanded by Sir Garnet Wolseley and Marshall Faidherbe is crossing the Balkan Mountains approaching Plevna from the south. An Italian Division is marching via Sofia and is expected to arrive from the west.
The Battle of Plevna - Briefings
You are General Krudener commanding the Russian and Romanian army. Your advance has gone well with little resistance from the Turks and the Tsar is pleased with your progress. You are ordered to occupy the town of Plevna and destroy any Turkish forces that may be there. You should attempt to make contact with the Austro-German army that is coming from the west although you do not believe they are required to defeat the Turks and they must be kept in a secondary role. You are hoping that they can deal with the Anglo-French force whilst you capture Plevna. Your Cavalry Division is screening the main advance of your two infantry divisions (1 Russian and 1 Romanian) as you approach Plevna from the north-east.
You are General Karl von Geoben commanding the Austro-German army with your Austrian ‘colleague’ General Hartung. Hartung was chosen because he fought in Italy in 1866. There is little enthusiasm for this conflict from your political leadership or the rank and file who are far from home and fighting with Austrians as allies! You are ordered to make contact with the Russian army who planing to sieze the important communications centre at Plevna. Your primary concern is the Anglo-French force heading for Plevna. You have ordered the Austrians to force a crossing of the Vid River in the west and cut the Sofia road to hold off any Turks or the anticipated arrival of the Italians. Your German troops including the most reliable Prussian division will advance south to Plevna with a strong cavalry shield to find the Anglo-French forces and destroy them.
You are Hassan Pasha commanding the Turkish army retreating on Plevna. The town has some limited fortifications and a small garrison. You have been told that an Anglo-French force is crossing the Balkans and will join you at Plevna. Some Italians are also marching towards you from Sofia in the west. You have three infantry brigades and a strong cavalry division although most are unreliable Bashi Bazouks.
You are Sir Garney Wolsley, hero of the Ashanti uprising and known in the popular press as “Our Only General”. Landing at Gallipoli your army has had a nightmare march north over appaling roads with the Turks being less than helpful with logistical support. You urgently want to make contact with your ‘allies’ to give them a piece of your mind and to get them organised. The French under Marsall Faidherbe are to your left. They have two cavalry divisions which together with your cavalry division gives a strong cavalry shield that you have sent well ahead of the infantry. You have agreed that Faidherbe will sieze crossings over the Vid River to allow passage for the Italians coming from Sofia. However, being Italians you are sceptical if they will ever arrive!
See map below.
Eight players (4 per side) took part in the game over two days with a total playing time of around 12 hours. 12' x 8' table.
The Turkish cavalry were allowed to deploy north of Plevna and their infantry started on the table edge at move1. All other armies (except the Italians) started their cavalry divisions on the table edge. Infantry divisions started to dice for arrival on move 4.
After the initial cavalry battle infantry divisions started to arrive. The French were drawn across the River Vid to engage the Austrians stretching the British who also had to cover the Turks who were outnumbered by the Russians. Valiant resistance by the Bashi Bazouks and other Turkish troops delayed the Russian steamroller. As the game ended the Allied centre was at risk from Prussian and German infantry but without a decisive breakthrough.
The Italians didn't arrive and if used they would unbalance the scenario without a similar Prussian or Austrian Division to compensate. Otherwise the scenario worked well and gave an enjoyable game.
The Russian commander disguises himself as a Turk in a desperate attempt to get past the Bashi Bazouks!
The orbats are set out below in PoW format.