Captain Darling's extraordinary exploits and fearless feats of daring do during the Victorian Era of colonial expansion are legendary!
This blog interweaves his fantastic tales of adventure in an alternate late Victorian history with 28mm table top gaming.
The Russian Army aboard the invasion fleet comprised a core of trained and battle hardened veterans who had served in the recent Russo-Turkish war of 1877/1878 supplemented with detachments from the units deployed in the Empire's far east provinces.
Sotnia detached from 1st Transbaikal Cossack Regiment≈ 340 effectives x
Gorlov guns on wheeled mounts - naval crews available
*these units included their rifle
company which could be detached for skirmishing
+these units include one company
from each of the parent battalions
xthe Cossacks travelled without
artillery included in OOB the fleet would supply ‘big gun’ support when
strengths are based on numbers before the fleet left Vladivostok in July 1879
on arrival off the coast of South Australia on Sunday 17th August
1879 the unit returns showed effective’s numbers ranged from 50% to 70% of these
-Troops were equipped with the latest single shot manually cycled bolt action Berdan II rifle which used a socket style bayonet
-To supplement his units firepower as they had no integral artillery Lieutenant-General Lazarev personally ensured four Gorloff guns were included in the invasion forces armaments these were to be crewed by sailors from the fleet
The Russian invasion fleet cruised from St Petersburg to Vladivostok undetected by any major power and after a short stay in port to resupply and take reinforcements onboard it set sail for the Colony of South Australia! The trip was surprisingly uneventful until the ships neared their objective...
The first sighting of the Russian
fleet in South Australian waters was made by an alert crewman on board the
magnificent clipper ship the City of Adelaide. John Laverty noticed the armada
steaming in an easterly direction through Investigator Strait to the south of
the Yorke Peninsular. Captain Edward Alston was alerted and being an
experienced mariner he knew a fleet of aggression when he saw it! The clipper
that was cruising ahead of schedule was due in Port Adelaide on the 16th of
August he told the crew and passengers with this development they would be
there on the 15th! Full sail was deployed and the City of Adelaide hastened
To the south west of the clipper on
board the Russian flagship the General-Admiral Vice Admiral Lesovskiy shook his
head as he watched the unidentified square rigger disappear over the horizon he
wished he could intercept it but he knew all of his overloaded vessels with
their fouled hulls had no hope of catching this 'hare'. He pondered that the
fleet had slipped out of Vladivostok and sailed 1000s of miles unnoticed only
to be revealed to the enemy on their doorstep. He cursed their ill luck!
The Russian leaders met an hour later
and after a brief discussion they all agreed there could be no hope of the
surprise landing that they had been hoping for. It was decided to slow the
fleet so it would arrive on Sunday the 17th and start to disembark troops
mid-morning, it was hoped that by landing at that time on a Sunday any alarm
bells would be rung at the same time the local church bells would usually be
ringing therefore they'd be less noticeable. An interesting stratagem to say
Governor Jervios and Lieutenant-Colonel
Downes met with Edward Alston from the City of Adelaide over tea and scones in
the Royal Room of Adelaide Town Hall 11:00am on Friday the 15th. It was a
congenial get together but Jervios and Downes left it in a haste to go straight
into a meeting with the available members of parliament. This meeting continued
until the early hours of Saturday morning.
Saturday morning August 16 saw the
majority of South Australians going about their normal routines the minority on
the other hand were frantically preparing for war! All the military units were
alerted and orders issued for them to muster and converge at the parade ground
in Adelaide as soon as they could. Steps were taken to prepare all the jetties
for demolition and for the blocking of the Port Adelaide harbour entrance. The
Governor and the rest of the parliament assured Downes that if there were any
diplomatic approaches they would be rejected but only after any deliberations
were as drawn out as possible to allow him more time to organize the defences.
Saturday evening after a surprisingly
relaxed meal at Government House on North Terrace Jervios told Downes he was
going to tell all he knew to the fourth estate so the people of the Colony
would wake to the news, Downes agreed it was a good course to follow and promptly
announced he was taking his leave of the Governor so he could begin a long
night of jetty burning and harbour blocking! As he departed Jervios clamped his
hand on the Lieutenant-Colonel's shoulder and said, "The die is cast, let
us hope it rolls in our favour..."
This picture purports to be the Russian invasion fleet soon after departing St Petersburg: