Thursday 15 October 2020

Galleys & Galleons - The Siege of Kupang (part 2)

With everything in place, the siege started in earnest.

2 The Siege begins
“Our siege battery opened fire, and the Kupang fortress responded. The bombardment continued for four days, by which time the fortress guns facing us had been silenced and a large section of the wall had been reduced to rubble. Regrettably the siege battery also sustained serious casualties. Bombardment by the galleys on the seaward side of the fortress however, had little effect. Tomorrow at dawn we will launch as assault that (God willing) is certain to overwhelm the Portuguese dogs” ... That’s how the progress report from Eunos Abdullah to the Sultan of Songkhla read. 

What happened in G&G terms was a succession of 12 paired dice rolls pitting the Attackers (C5, no modifications) against the Defenders (C4, Master gunner), representing the siege battery shooting, and the fortress responding. At first the Attackers made little headway, but gradually they got the upper hand and the fortress was gradually overwhelmed and ended up in ‘excess damage’ territory: guns silenced and wall breached on the bastion facing the besiegers. No fires or explosions (critical hits) though. Meanwhile the Knights had decided there was no future in staking their galleys against the seaward bastion, so they contented themselves with firing a few shots each day from safely out of range, to keep up appearances.

Here are the photographs. This high angle shot shows the scene as a whole, including the exchange of battery fire, and one of the Knights’ galleys appearing to keep up the pressure from seaward while the rest of them enjoy some R&R in port.

This shot from the landward side shows the siege battery firing some of the last shots. The brown markers along the fortress wall indicate the bastion has been breached / destroyed. The row of dice (read L-R, only the colours count not the spots) shows the shooting results, omitting two drawn salvos that occurred in the L wing of the line. Yellow is a Defender win, Red is an Attacker win. There were no doubled results. You can see how the Attackers started poorly (including the draws) but finished strongly.

Tomorrow the Alliance will assault the breach, with the two companies of elite assault infantry, supported by the auxiliaries. The Portuguese will be able to bring men from the other bastions, and maybe get some guns into place overnight to shoot at the assault formation, all with the (-) factors mentioned. And they won’t be able to claim the High Castles wall defence. Eunos Abdullah’s prediction of how the day will go looks likely to be correct. Unless ... is that a smoke signal from the distant hills that Sir Oliver can see as he scans the horizon anxiously from the battlements?

3 The assault on Kupang
The assault was handled as if it was a slightly more complex boarding action, with each attacking infantry company counting as a vessel, and the garrison able to call up troops from other bastions, at (-) factors, similarly.

The breach is on,y side enough for one company of attackers at a time.

The first wave of attackers (one company of elite infantry) approached the breach just after sunrise. The garrison had managed to move a few artillery pieces into position from other bastions (so -1) and this caused significant casualties. Fierce hand to hand fighting saw the attackers pushed back, and losing so many men they would be unable to mount another assault any time soon, but the defenders had also suffered heavily.

The second wave attacked, quickly carried the breach as the defenders fell back. One more successful round of combat and Kupang would fall.

Just at that moment, when another supreme effort would almost certainly mean success, two companies of auxiliary infantry emerged from the jungle behind the siege lines and charged into the camp. These comprised a Timorese native levies with some Portuguese officials and settlers. 

The photo shows this moment ...

The two Green markers on the fortress wall represent the successful storming of the bastion, although the fortress still has a weak final defence that must be overcome. The single Green marker below the hill is what is left of the first atta I, which was repulsed with heavy losses. The Yellow marker shows the siege battery, which was damaged by counter battery fire. The Blue markers show the two units of Auxiliary infantry of the attackers, and the Brown markers show the ambushing units.

The ambush seems to have caught the besiegers totally by surprise. One company quickly overran the siege battery which was defended only by gun crews and labourers from the Songkhka galleys (who mostly fled). The other got into a fight with one of the enemy infantry companies. 

The key question was - how would this affect the assault company in the breach? At the siege of Malta (1565) there was a moment when Birgu (the main part of the City) seemed about to fall to the Ottomans, but just then a tiny Christian force from the inland town of Mdina (which the Turks has not bothered to capture) raided the Ottoman camp, and terrified  camp followers flooded into the siege lines and panicked the assaulting troops, who fell back. 

Not this time though. My contingent dice rolls determined that the assault was pressed despite the furore back at the camp, and Kupang fell to the Songkhka / Knights alliance.

The Timorese ambush was held by the besiegers troops, and the ambushers broke contact and retreated i to the jungle.

Counting losses on both sides: the Portuguese have lost their fortress, and Sir Oliver Starkey has been captured. But the attackers have also lost heavily. Only a single weakened unit of elite assault infantry remains, evidence of how desperate the defence was. The auxiliary infantry companies are intact. The siege train has lost heavily though all the guns should be recoverable in time. But, the losses incurred during the siege, and when the guns were overrun by the Timorese, have ground down the galley crews landed to assist the siege force. Enough remain to equip only a single galley at full strength, or two with a fighting & shooting factor reduced by -2 because of losses of officiales and ciurma.

And now, just as the alliance is faced with the myriad problems and decisions arising from the capture of Kupang*, a despatch boat brings news that a Portuguese squadron has been sighted off Rakyat Point, less than a days sailing away.

* Including the basis of the alliance which is that Songkhka gets to occupy the fortress, but the Knights get to loot it. How’s that going to work out?

To be continued ...

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