Battle of Shaiba, Mesopotamia 11 - 14 April 1915


This Great War Spearhead battle report follows a re-fight of the Battle of Shaiba using the scenario written by Robert Dunlop, and available in the Files section of the Great War Spearhead Yahoo Group. The introduction below comes from Robert's own introduction to the scenario. Robert had compressed the actions of three days into the one scenario, creating a well balanced and very exciting game for both players.

"Meanwhile the British had landed the 12th (Indian) Division, which managed to get a brigade across the flooded area to the town of Shaiba. They built a fortified encampment at the entrance to one of two flooded walkways that could provide access to Basra from the Southeast. This defensive force was all that stood in the way of the Turkish outflanking maneuver"

The battle was fought between Andy Gorman and Robin Sutton, in Christchurch, New Zealand, in July 2005 using 20mm figures from their collections.


Forces of the 12th (Indian) Division wait in the fortified encampment for the Turkish attack to begin. Looking towards the Indian positions from the Turkish side of the table the Indian troops are seen deployed in shallow trenches, with a company occupying a fortified position immediately behind the front line. The town of Shaiba (represented by a village block in this scenario) is to the left of the position as seen in this view. An Indian Cavalry brigade, held in reserve, can be seen at the top of the picture. At the time this scenario was played I still hadn't developed a workable trench representation on the table, although I had experimented with trench sections of the type shown in the special features page of this site. Here painted card sections are used to show the trench line.
The Turkish commander decided to assault the town directly with the mass of his force, while keeping the British forces in the encampment occupied with a feint carried out with two weakened Turkish regiments on the Turkish left. The Turkish commander was supported by a large contingent of Arab irregular cavalry whose commander demanded that his forces be the ones to attack the town directly. With such forces behind him, the Arab commander was not going to be denied the honor of liberating the town, and the Turkish commander agreed, sending his two strongest regiments forward in support. The Turkish commander has set up his supporting artillery in a gun line seen at the top left of the photo. While they were grouped together, they could not be brigaded, as historically they were used in the direct fire role.
One of the Turkish right flank regiments can be seen making it's diversionary attack against the Indian fortified encampment. One stand has already been suppressed by Indian fire, seen by the suppression marker against the stand. Andy was prepared to sacrifice this regiment in order to hold the defenders here, preventing them from supporting the Indian Brigade defending Shaiba itself.
The size of the Turkish forces can be well appreciated from this view as they advance towards the waiting Indian battalion defending the front of the town. Indian forces were hurriedly passing behind Shaiba to take up positions defending the Indian right flank (the left of the picture as seen here from the Turkish side). Two of the three supporting Turkish regiments can be seen to the left, while the Turkish divisional command stand can be seen at the bottom right of the picture. The Arabs are the HaT Bedouin figures, and .. if you think you are seeing Russians and Germans in the swirling mass of horsemen, you are right, we didn't have quite enough Arabs for the forces required!!
Without waiting for the supporting Turkish attackers to 'soften up' the defenders, the Arab commander ordered his cavalry straight in to the attack: 'crunch time' for the Indian battalion defending the town, three companies at the front supported by an MG detachment positioned in the 'town' (an outskirts in Spearhead terms).
The first Arab charge is repulsed in a swirling melee of horses and men. Gaps are created as stands are destroyed, and others suppressed. The Arab forces took fire not only from the defenders to the front of Shaiba, but also from Indian troops on their flank in the encampment at the bottom of the picture. These forces were also supported by a battery of 4.5" howitzers, and another of 18 pounders, deployed within the encampment. The combined firepower was too much for the Arab cavalry.
Meanwhile three Turkish regiments pressured the Indian right (defending the flank of the forces to the front of Shaiba). The first outlying battalion of Indians has been over-run, although their MMG detachment can be seen on the hill holding out against the overwhelming odds of the attackers, while a second Indian battalion takes up position in the forest area forming a second line of defense, supported by a battery of 13pounders.
The Arab forces are weakening in the face of determined Indian resistance after repeated charges. Massive melees have  occurred around Shaiba as Arab horsemen repeatedly hurl themselves at the defending Indian troops. The Turkish  commander advances his gun line towards the Indian centre to apply more pressure, and to try to prevent the Indian commander from withdrawing troops from his centre to support his right flank.
Finally the Arab forces are defeated, and the Indian troops defending Shaiba can rest. Indian cavalry can be seen at the right of the picture passing through the village in preparation for an attack on the right flank of the Turkish regiments advancing at the top of the picture. These Turkish forces are the ones putting the Indian right flank under huge pressure. One of the Turkish stands is already suppressed: again a suppression marker can be seen on the stand.
The last straw!!!! The Turkish commander launches an assault with his strongest regiment against the remaining Indian right flank defenders. Here he assaults a suppressed Indian stand (just to the front of the yellow die). It was symptomatic of Andy's luck in the game when he launched three stands against the one suppressed stand: one of his stands was pushed back suppressed by supporting fire, while in the assault Robin threw a 4, and Andy through two ones for both of his remaining assaulting stands!!! (This was the third time in the game that Andy had thrown in at least two assaulting stands against a suppressed Indian stand, and come out the worse for wear!! But with his gun line deployed in the centre, and too few MGs, he just couldn't get the supporting fire in place to finish the job). We left the dice in the picture to tell the story. With this the remaining Turkish forces began a withdrawal, too weak to continue the assault. Shaiba, and Basra, were safe for now, but Andy vowed to be back!!!
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