Raid on Rad

Raid on Rad
Part of Columbian War of Independence
The Royal Marines from 1664 to 1896.jpg
Tyrannian Royal Marines against the Themiclesian countryside
DateFeb. 2, 1791
Location
Result Tyrannian victory
Belligerents
Kingdom of Tyran Themiclesia
Commanders and leaders
Lord Northbrook
Mark Beauford
Cmdr. 'ron Kug (行人殷祮)
Lt. Cmdr. Gwrob Nib (假行人淮懧)
Units involved
Royal Navy (incl. Royal Marines) South Sea Fleet (incl. Marines)
Army Artillery
Army Cavalry
Strength
est. 2,500 2,721
Casualties and losses
50 killed
100 wounded
204 killed
92 ships burned to the waterline

The Raid on Rad (睞汜之襲) was an ambush by the Tyrannian Navy on the Themiclesian port of Rad. The Tyrannian object was to destroy the Themiclesian fleet that recently assisted the Organized States in expelling Tyrannian colonial authorities and reinforcements from the metropole. The Tyrannian Navy accidentally discovered the Themiclesian South Sea Fleet, or at least a large portion of it, docked at Rad for repairs or reprovisioning. The ensuring attack took Themiclesian forces by surprise, inflicting considerable casualties against Themiclesian Marines, who protect the ships. The Tyrannian Royal Marines set fire to the Themiclesian fleet, burning most of it to the waterline. Themiclesia responded with artillery fire seconded from nearby Army garrisons but did not succeed in destroying the Tyrannian invasion force. Before the defence further gathered strength, the Tyrannians repaired to their fleet and sailed away.

Background

Themiclesia enjoyed relations with various nations in Columbia for several centuries prior to the arrival of Casaterran colonists and governance. After the Battle for Columbia (1596–98) ended in favour of Rajamaan Yhdysvallat and Sylva, Themiclesia lost most of its influence in the continent, though it retained some presence on the Halu'an-facing coast. In 1632, this was subject to Tyrannian contest. Initially, the Themiclesians sought to remain on the Tyrannians' good side by offering them commercial privileges and a non-aggression treaty, but when Themiclesia imposed a tariff on traffic entering and leaving the mouth of the Halu'an Sea, relations deteriorated. Initially leading to revolts and skirmishes, in 1670 Tyrannian colonists united against the few Themiclesian-controlled cities on the coast and expelled the administrators from the east, claiming the entire east coast for the Tyrannian crown, while steadily expanding westwards, eroding Rajian and Sylvan positions. Themiclesia delivered letters of protest to several Casaterran governments, claiming that Themiclesia's control of those cities was legitimate and endorsed by treaty, to no avail.

However, a century later, colonists began to resist administration from the Tyrannian crown, which sought to impose taxation on said colonists without allowing them the traditional privileges and liberties, including a seat in parliament, of incorporated towns. Though political reform was underway in Tyran by this time, the colonists' demands were not met, and open rebellion began in 1770. The Tyrannian Navy blockaded the coast of Columbia on all sides, intending to famine them into submission; however, Themiclesia accepted the rebels' appeal for assistance and opened a naval conflict with the Tyrannians, allowing goods to cross the blockade. Themiclesia claimed that it was only pursuing its interests in trading with Tyrannians living in Columbia, a treaty right recognized since the 1600s. The Tyrannian crown, miffed, could not respond because it claimed it was suppressing a rebellion in Columbia, which implied that the rebels were Tyrannian subjects as defined by the Treaty. While the legal soundness of this impasse is debated, it undoubtely engendered misgivings between Themiclesia and the Tyrannian crown. As the Tyrannian crown considered recognizing the secession, the Imperial Parliament voted to sanction an attack on Themiclesia's territory and fleet, which had ceased engagement for several months by this time.

Themiclesia's unpreparedness

While replenishing on the Isle of Rayleigh in the Halu'an Sea, Tyrannian scouts discovered that the Themiclesian South Sea fleet was sojourning at the nearby port of Rad around three days' voyage east. The admiral in charge, Lord Northbrook, previously Secretary of State for the Colonies, ordered the Tyrannian fleet to sail east to attack what he thought was the same fleet that had broken the blockade months ago and allowed supplies to reach the Columbian rebellion. In this respect, Northbrook was proven right, as the ships' officer complement had left their fleet behind for the season, returning to the capital city to report on their activities, leaving only the Themiclesian Marines to defend the ships. The officer in charge of the Marines fully expected a summer free of conflict, thinking the Tyrannians could ill-afford to remain in the Halu'an for much longer, Sieuxerr almost certainly plotting an invasion in Tyran's moment of defeat. Spring winds across the Meridian Ocean were favourable to a fleet returning to Casaterra.

In the late morning of Mar. 9th, the Tyrannian fleet approached the harbour cautiously and with guns loaded. On shore, midday attendance roll was just called, placing the commencement of the attack around 10 a.m. Surviving records indicated that of the 2,450 naval infantrymen that were to be present, 2,302 were actually in their positions. The ships' attendance records have not survived the ensuing fire. The overall officer in charge of the port's affairs was unclear due to the absence of key officers. In case something happened, the nine captains and naval infantry officers agreed that the county magistrate, who outranked them all and was conveniently located, should be in charge.

Skirmish

Tyrannian ships opened fire on the port in earnest. When the attack did happen, the country magistrate declined to be responsible for the situation and left the port. Alarmed, the Themiclesians realized that they could not open fire in return because the ships were not provisioned adequately with ammunition or anchored in battle formation. The geography of the alcove in which the Navy ships were docked was highly unfavourable to manoeuvring into such a formation, and the Themiclesian ships could not turn around in time to open fire. The Themiclesian sailors attempted to hoist the masts, while the Marines used mooring lines to tow the ships out of the corner to futility. The ships collided violently with the embankment.

The officer in charge of one ship ordered his crew to evacuate as soon as possible; this sight triggered a cascade of evacuations across the part of the fleet that could see the Tyrannians on the horizon. A considerable number of ships could not see where the attack was coming from, and communication seems to have broken down. Several captains, learning of the Tyrannians' presence, anticipated that their tactic would revolve around concentrated fire on the small alcove to destroy the fleet rapidly. They then decided that the chances of counter-attacking while still in port was impossible and ordered bells to be rung throughout the port, the signal for all vessels to evacuate immediately. While few civilian casualties were recorded, the Tyrannians were able to land the Royal Marines at port with little resistance. The Themiclesian Marines were ordered to assist in the evacuation of the sailors sitll on board, propping ships apart to avoid squishing those in the water and helping them onto land wherever possible. The closely packed ships ironically provided an excellent cover as the sailors evacuated with almost no casualty.

Messages were relayed to the County Magistrate to mobilize nearly Army units for a possible invasion; similar messages went out by courier with all haste to the Appropriations Secretary (who controlled the Navy) and the War Secretary (contolling the Army), where they were received and read before the Correspondence Council several days later. In the meantime, around the afternoon, the Army did mobilize and took up key defensive positions around the vicinity, including major roads out of the area, vantage points, arsenals, fortifications, and large public structures. Apparently, the Army was reluctant to defend this area, believing instead the Navy was already there and had more than sufficient arms to fend off the invasion; yet after Naval Staff made a point by sending soaked sailors to appeal for assistance, and with the tacit approval of the magistrate, the Army relented. After the Royal Marines landed, they immediately began to attack the Navy's office building on shore, which quickly collapsed, and to raid civilian warehouses for valuables. Casualties were high in some areas, though limited for the most part to combat personnel. The Army proceeded to shell the Royal Marines' landing area, which was poorly defended after the latter had set off westwards to burn the ships that were not yet on fire.

The Army was not able to respond due to the restrictive geography of the port, and the leadership expressed doubts about the intention of the Royal Marines who, when setting fire to the fleet, were out of firing range from the Army's fortifications. Colonel (in translatio themicleiensis) Blob asked his second-in-command, "If we fire in that direction, would that not trigger a landslide on the west side of the port and block ingress and egress?" He replied, "Yes, but the Navy do not want that. A fleet can always be rebuilt, but a port cannot be re-made, and the County Magistrate would also not permit it, since the port creates considerable commercial activity." The County Magistrate affirmed the Army's reservations. The Army leadership then deliberated about possible tactics the Themiclesian Marines would employ, assuming they would see the cannons and consider their possible employ. The Navy's captains and officers, who just reached the Army's parlour, then rigorously objected to firing, knowing that the Marines would attempt to corner the enemy when their intention to destroy the fleet became clear. Further, they stated that regardless of the outcome of this battle the Tyrannians would not attempt to establish an actual invasion, given their men and arms are severely spent fighting in Columbia only recently. The Army's officers were not impressed with this assessment, citing the Navy's decision to station the bulk of their South Sea Fleet in a completely indefensible position.

Meanwhile, Themiclesian Marines, who were cut off from the conference by presumed shelling across the landing area, schemed to allow their enemy to set the fleet on fire and then push them against the shore full of burning ships. The plan, as later recounted, was that the burning fleet would serve as a barrier to further Tyrannian fire from their fleet, while the Tyrannian Marines would be trapped in a position of vulnerability and limited manoeuvrability. However, Themiclesia's Marines noticed soon enough that the Army had a position on a nearby ridge and had their cannons pointed precisely where they intended to engage the Tyrannians; neither unit was sure whether those cannons had sufficient range to hit. When the invaders reached the place where access to the ships was most convenient, they too took notice of the cannons facing them, which were not visible from the position they initially landed. They made quick work of the ships, whereupon Themiclesia responded by blocking them from reaching the place where they initially landed. Tyrannian units became impatient and redoubled on their offensive, met by Themiclesian resistance immediately. An unnamed Themiclesian Marine commander apparently asked his staff, "Do you think the Army's cannons are in range to hit the Tyrannians?" His interlocutor tried to get a better view of the cannons but denied knowledge.

The discussion, spread over three non-communicating places on the Themiclesian side, then turned to a tree of possible outcomes:

  • Cannons are not in range
    • Army does not fire
      • Tyrannians outnumbered if engaged against the ships they burned
    • Army does try to fire
      • Tyrannians would realize the cannons are not in range and possibly plunder for longer
  • Cannons are in range
    • Army does not fire
      • Tyrannians outnumbered as before
    • Army does fire
      • The ensuing landslide would reverse the positional advantage the Themiclesian Marines intended to create and kill them first

Realizing that they were standing between the burning fleet and their own fleet, which may also fire at any time to expedite the destruction, the Tyrannian Marines attempted to break the Themiclesians, who were still attacking their flank. Due to the Themiclesian Marines' own indecision over the Army's indecision over the Themiclesian Marines' indecision, the Tyrannians came to associate the defenders' reluctance to push into the alcove and constant shoulder-checking with the Army's cannons vaguely in its direction. Then, they realized that the cliff side was liable to landslides and made an immediate and concerted effort to return to the landing area for evacuation, which promptly was countered pushed back. Interpreting this as a tactic to entrap them into a landslide, Tyrannians fought quite fiercely and partly broke through the defensive lines; at the same time, Themiclesia's units gradually tired and became frustrated over lack of movement. As the dusk neared, failing light would disadvantage Tyrannian Marines' crossing into their boats to return to the fleet; then, winds started blowing west, which nudged the burning Themiclesian ships into the open harbour. Fearing that the slowly-migrating burning ships would sever them from their fleet, the Tyrannians mounted a powerful push on the coast-side flank of the Themiclesians. Finally, they gave way and permitted the invading force to repair. It is possible that the Tyrannian Royal Marines were weary of the burning ships' floating into the open port, which could force the Tyrannian fleet to abandon them.

'ron Kug's caution

The Themiclesian Marines' commander, 'ron Kug, was quite silent throughout the entire battle. According to his own recollection, his silence was attributed to initial ignorance of the Tyrannians' intentions. Though he could have ordered his men to deal more aggressively with the invading force, he was primarily concerned with the Army's and Navy's interpretations of this event. One theory championed by Columbian history C. Burke (1892–1960) was that 'ron did not want to face the enemy will full force, as that would discredit the Navy leadership's decision to moor the ships very tightly together, expecting peace with no contingency for an event such as this raid. If a dispute were to occur between the Army and Navy, the Army will all but certainly fault the Navy for this surprise attack; the only way to defend the Navy's (mis)judgment in this case was to downplay the scale and ferocity of the attack, to relegate it to insignificance. To do so, he had to give the Tyrannians safe passage out of the harbour, which would discourage them from sending for assistance or establish a permanent, visible base on land. 'ron's plans implied if a hypothetical Tyrannian land army did materialize later in the day (i.e. the Tyrannian Royal Marines were only there to clear the beachhead), his own position would become indefensible, and he would have no choice except to commit all his resources to destroying the invading force. This led 'ron to maintain a very cautious posture for the entire afternoon, closely observing whether Tyrannian reinforcmenets were forthcoming. When the burning ships floated into open port, and the Tyrannian fleet failed to respond, 'ron became certain that the attack was not part of a more general invasion and felt at liberty to let the Tyrannians depart in peace. That being vindicated, 'ron did eventually claim that he avoided a true invasion that could happen if he eradicated the Tyrannian Royal Marines.

Tyrannian historian L. Sable disagrees with Burke, stating that 'ron could not, by virtue of the geography of the port, have been privy to the Tyrannian fleet's actions at an early-enough time to contribute to his judgment. Sable does conceded that the same would have been possible for the Navy's and Army's commanders, who were on the opposite side of the harbour and looking downwards at the Tyrannian fleet, but there is "no evidence that the Army was able to communicate with the Themiclesian Marines at any point after the initial shelling by the Tyrannian Royal Navy".[1]In his book, The Final Battle for the Empire, he presents a topographical survey showing that the only way 'ron could have seen the Tyrannian fleet's actions was to scale the very cliff that, according to 'ron himself, the Army could shell at any time and there trigger a landslide. Considering 'ron's hyper-cautious personality, it is unlikely, Sable believes, that 'ron could have followed the same reasoning outlined by Burke, and it is more likely that he simply decided to fall back and hope (correctly) the Tyrannians would retreat.

Aftermath

References

  1. Sable, Larry. The Final Battle for the Empire.

See also