The Seymour Relief Expedition - June 1900
With the increasing threat posed to the foreign legations in Peking by the rise of the "Boxer" movement, the plenipotentiaries telegraphed to Tien Tsin on 9th June to request further reinforcements for their protection. Various forces were raised by those nations with ships off the mouth of the Pei Ho River. These were combined under the command of British Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Seymour (the senior officer
present) and set off for Peking on 10th June.
The combined force, drawn from 8 nationalities (Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the USA) totalled some 2,066 men, with contingents ranging in size from 25 Austrian seamen to over 800 British bluejackets and marines. Half a dozen guns and double that number of machine guns, of various types, were taken with the force. The plan was to advance quickly from Tien Tsin to Peking by several trains. No delays were expected and only the bare minimum of supplies was carried with the men.
From the start things began to go wrong. Boxer activity was much more widespread in the area than had been thought. Despite heroic efforts to drive the Boxers off, the tracks were being torn up in front of and behind them faster than they could be relaid. On 19th June the relief column had to concede defeat; they were not going to reach Peking and, worse still, they would have to abandon the trains. With an
increasing number of wounded from constant skirmishing, the force managed to commandeer some junks to transport them whilst the main force marched along the river bank heading back towards Tien Tsin.
At every village the Boxers had to be driven out at the point of the bayonet before they could move on. On 21st June a fortified Chinese government building was spotted, which proved to be the Hsiku Arsenal, they seized it and held out against several counter-attacks. They were also able to replenish their nearly exhausted supplies from stores of rice found there. Now, however, the relief force had become besieged themselves!
Eventually, a loyal Chinese messenger managed to slip through Boxer lines to Tien Tsin and pass on
what had happened. At that point there was no chance of a rescue mission as the Europeans in Tien Tsin found themselves besieged in their enclave fighting off Boxer
attacks. Eventually, on 25th June the position in Tien Tsin had stabilised enough for a relief force of Russian troops to reach the Hsiku Arsenal. Overnight the arsenal was abandoned and its store of weapons destroyed to prevent them from falling into Boxer hands. By the afternoon of 26th June the relief column was back where it had started having lost some 295 officers and men killed and wounded and the legations in Peking no nearer being relieved.
Our game is based on these events, with a little "gaming licence". The relief force (at 1: 10 scale) abandons their train at one end of the table and attempts to seize the "Hsiku Arsenal" at the other whilst the Boxers and Imperial Chinese try to impede their progress. Can they make it to the safety of the fortified Arsenal or will they get cut down by the rampaging Boxers...?
Petard Wargames was established some 20 years ago to cover the wargaming activities of a group of friends, in the Bristol area, keen to get away from the petty rulemongering of competition gaming. It remains a small, friendly club that meets weekly at the home of one of the founder members. We have tried most things in the past but remain dedicated to staging fun games that are also good to look at. For
more information see our Website on www.petardwargames.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk
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