Monday, 2 September 2013

The ongoing campaign against Marzibarian slave traders: The sea chase

As soon as he had all his men back aboard HMS Insolent Lieutenant Commander Chamberlain set off in pursuit of the escaping dhows. He had a good idea where they were headed – Marzibar – and knew that his steam-powered gunboat should be able to overtake the dhows within a day. When that happened he was determined to capture the dhows and their crews, and then to return any slaves that he found to their villages in Dammallia.

HMS Insolent in hot pursuit of the Marzibarian dhows.
The Marzibarian dhows. One of them has only half the number of crew that it needs, and it is already beginning to fall behind the others.
At first light on the morning following the attack on Raffia Island, the lookout aboard HMS Insolent spotted the dhows ahead of them.

As soon as it was possible, Lieutenant Commander Chamberlain brought as many of his crew that could be spared from the pursuit together, and explained what they were going to do. It was his intention to try to pick off the dhows one-by-one, starting with the rearmost. He called upon his engine crew – and especially his stokers – to do everything possible to ensure that the Insolent was able to achieve and maintain her designed top speed ... or to even better it!

Slowly but surely HMS Insolent shortened the distance between herself and the Marzibarian dhows.

Progress was slow, ...

... painfully slow at times, ...

... but eventually she came alongside the rearmost dhow, ...

... and for the first time in many years, sailors of the Royal Navy – armed solely with cutlasses and pistols – boarded an enemy ship at sea!

The fight was short and bloody, and after half of the dhow's crew were killed, the remainder surrendered.

When the dhow's hold was opened the sailors found more than thirty slaves in manacles ... and a stack of ivory!

Having left a small prize crew aboard the dhow, ...

... Lieutenant Commander Chamberlain continued the pursuit.

At this point the two dhows began to separate, and Lieutenant Commander Chamberlain decided to chase down the smaller of the two first.

HMS Insolent closed the gap between herself and the smaller dhow ...

... and signalled to it to stop by firing a shell across its bows.

When this failed, the British gunboat fired at the dhows mast ... which it hit!

HMS Insolent came alongside the stricken dhow ...

. and sent across an armed boarding party ...

... which quickly subdued the crew of the dhow. A search of the dhow revealed the presence of more slaves and ivory, and after leaving his Ship's Carpenter and a small prize crew aboard the dhow ...

... Lieutenant Commander Chamberlain went in pursuit of the third dhow.

As he got closer to the dhow HMS Insolent's lookout spied smoke on the horizon.

This indicated the presence of the Marzibarian gunboat Sultan Abdulla, which was sailing towards HMS Insolent and the dhow at maximum speed.

As the Sultan Abdulla approached, she began signalling to HMS Insolent. The signal enquired why the British gunboat appeared to be chasing a Marzibarian merchant ship.

Lieutenant Commander Chamberlain signalled back that he was in hot pursuit of the dhow, which he believed was carrying an illegal cargo.

Meanwhile, the distance between the two warships was shortening, and the Sultan Abdulla seemed to be trying the get between HMS Insolent and the dhow.

This reckless manoeuvre caused HMS Insolent to turn away in order to avoid a collision.

Lieutenant Commander Chamberlain was, however, able to get his gunboat astern of the dhow, but the presence of the Sultan Abdulla prevented him from getting alongside it.

At this point the Sultan Abdulla appeared to have given up sending a boarding party aboard the dhow, ...

... but then she cut across the bows of the British gunboat, ...

... forcing her to turn ...

... and giving the dhow the opportunity to escape.

By now Lieutenant Commander Chamberlain was becoming very frustrated by the actions of the Marzibarian gunboat, and signalled her captain to stop hampering his pursuit. The Marzibarian replied that he would do everything in his power to protect the Marzibarian merchant ship from 'the unwarranted attempts to seize and search the ship of another nation without due cause'. The Marzibarian did, however, offer to send a boarding party from his own ship aboard the dhow to ensure that there was no illegal cargo aboard it.

As neither slaves nor stolen ivory were 'illegal' in Marzibar, Lieutenant Commander Chamberlain regarded this 'offer' as nothing more than a delaying tactic, and the three ships continued to manoeuvre around each other. The result was inevitable ... and when the captain of the Sultan Abdulla 'misjudged' a turn, his ship collided with HMS Insolent.

Although his ships was not badly damaged (the hole below the waterline that was caused by the Marzibarian gunboat's ram was soon plugged, and the pumps were quite capable of dealing with the water that was seeping in), Lieutenant Commander Chamberlain realised that he had no alternative but to break off from the chase and return to port in order to repair his ship and to appraise Sir James Deville of recent events.

It gave Lieutenant Commander Chamberlain little pleasure to turn for home and to watch the Marzibarian dhow sail away, escorted by the Sultan Abdulla. One day he hoped to get his revenge on the Marzibarians who had cheated him of his prize ... and he hoped that that day would not be long coming.


  1. The story makes for great reading. Can't wait for the next installment.

    How I want Hexon for my own, future, gaming table...sigh.


  2. I'm assuming that you're using some variant of the Portable Naval Wargame, but there's obviously some add-ons for boarding and shooting masts in there as well. Will you be sharing the rules at some stage please?

  3. Justin Penwith,

    I am very pleased to read that you are enjoying these battle reports. I am not quite sure what is going to happen next ... but I hope that I will be able to carry on with this mini-campaign later this week.

    As to the Hexon II ... well it was the best wargaming investment I ever made.

    All the best,


  4. Kaptain Kobold,

    The rules I used were basically the ones I wrote for my MIMI AND TOUTOU GO FORTH game. I sketched out some basic outlines for the ships as per the rules and made the name cards for the ships using small pieces of card. The boarding rules were adapted from the battle rules in the latest draft of my development of Morschauser's 'Frontier' rules.

    All the best,


  5. What a gripping battle report - real cut-and-thrust action, I'm thoroughly enjoying reading these. I've just re-read Mini and Toutou Go Forth, really is an excellent book. Thanks for a great read.


  6. A brisk little adventure... One feels though, that perhaps Cdr Chamberlain fell just a trifle short of the Naval tradition set forth by Drake, Grenville, St Vincent and Nelson, and as portrayed by Horatio Hornblower. One feels sure they would have shoved a shot across the bows of the Marzibari gunboat as well, and made it clear the next would come through the bows did the latter prove importunate. Let the politicals sort it out afterward...

    Having said that, due credit to the Marzibari gunboat commander for facing down the mighty Royal Navy!

  7. Colonel Scipio (Ed),

    I am pleased to read that you are enjoying these battle reports.

    It was an interesting little battle to fight. I let the dice decide if and when the Marzibarian gunboat would appear, and cards to determine the order of movement ... which was quite crucial when the ships got in close.

    There will be more to come in due course.

    All the best,


    PS. Have you had a look at my MIMI AND TOUTOU GO FORTH rules? You might enjoy using them.

  8. Archduke Piccolo,

    Poor old Lieutenant Commander Chamberlain had a run of bad luck with the movement cards at the crucial moment, which rather hampered what he could do.

    The fact that his flatiron gunboat's main gun could only fire ahead was also a bit of a problem in a turning 'fight'. That close he could easily have found himself at a disadvantage, with the Marzibarian gunboat being able to fire at him ... and HMS Insolent being unable to reply.

    In this instance it was probably better that he withdraw and let the 'politicos' sort out what to do next ... though how quickly the will be able to do anything is anybody's guess.

    All the best,


  9. Ross Mac,

    Thanks ... and I hope that there will be more to come!

    All the best,